Je Ne Regrette Rien

Things about me that I know for sure: I read into anything and everything far too much, and I dwell on ideas. In fact, I often get fixated on a theory until I write it all out or talk it through with someone and can finally make sense of the thoughts in my mind. That made me sound more neurotic than I probably actually am. Awesome.

I have this print hanging in my bathroom that reads, “Non, je ne regrette rien“. Roughly translated, it means “no, I regret nothing”. As much as I’d like to believe that I live with this belief every day, I don’t. I over-analyze my actions, words, and thoughts until I’ve forgotten why I’m doing it at all, and I criticize myself endlessly.

One thing I’ve been thinking through quite often lately is past relationships. I don’t look on my former boyfriends with much favor, even though a couple of them really are good people. For two years, I’ve been working on trying to remind myself of the good things I absorbed while with them.

The first serious boyfriend I had was someone I had been friends with for a long time. We had grown up through high school together in church, and he was the perfect person to start venturing into romantic relationships with. We dated twice, neither time being very long, because high school relationships are unpredictable. I was moving off to college and was not a very good girlfriend because I hadn’t learned to communicate my thoughts and feelings yet, but I still look back fondly on the brief few months we had together. From him, I learned that love letters and rocks collected from mountaintops can mean so much more than shiny presents. I learned to enjoy stargazing and night time strolls. I learned about music that I still listen to today. I credit my first boyfriend as the tender-hearted soul who first introduced me to Damien Rice. I learned how tender innocent love can be.

My first college boyfriend was somewhat of a train wreck, but he meant well. We met through university concert choir, and our entire relationship seemed to center around music. My best friend and I had decided to go see his band perform right before Christmas break, and after he got my number at his show, we didn’t go a day without talking. He was older, experienced, and musically talented. The relationship was exciting, but wasn’t meant to last. I caught him in the middle of big lies at least three times and would run away instead of talking out our issues because I still wasn’t mature enough to deal with difficult communication. From him, I caught the love of live shows. I learned how to appreciate the different parts of a song and the technicality of writing music. I learned the simple joy of having a boyfriend make food for you, even if it’s just bacon and eggs. Most importantly, I learned that I could be desirable, even during the awkward first year of college.

That relationship lasted a bit longer than it should have, but after a few months, I had moved on. I had met the man I would marry. We started off as a fling. He had never actually had a girlfriend until me, just a string of girls he had partied with. We spent three months together before I had finally talked him into “defining the relationship”. It was another month before we got into an argument and his rebuttal was that he loved me. Soon, we were on a love high and nothing could separate us. When he got offered a good sales job in Dallas, he proposed in front of both our families, and that sealed the deal. We were going to be forever. We got married eleven months later, and soon after that, we had returned to the town we had gone to college in and settled down. There were bad times, abusive times, but I’ve written about those experiences before, and here is not the time nor place. Things eventually got so bad, so damaging, that almost exactly five years after we had first met, I told him I wanted a divorce. During that, I learned how to accomplish things on my own. My parents don’t particularly agree with divorce and were occupied with a death in the family, so I was left to navigate it by myself.

If I were to sum up my ex-husband in a couple words, I would label him the ideal salesman. He’s verbally charming and knows how to present his product in a way that appeals to all kinds of people. So from him, I learned people skills. I’m excellent at the people part of my job because I observed him for so long. I learned how to make things sound appealing. On a surface level, my favorite thing that I learned from him is how to appreciate beer. High-quality craft beer has become one of my go-to hobbies in the past few years, and I can fully admit that I learned the basics from him. On a much deeper level, however, I learned that people aren’t always as they seem. They can present themselves to the world one way, yet live a different private life. I’ve learned not to trust the people who seem too charming.

Several months later, I reconnected with a special person from my past. We had a different sort of relationship. He was in Alaska. I was in Germany. We spent the few hours that we were both available attached to our phones or computers. Communication was key. We shared poems, had intellectual debates, listened to each other’s favorite songs. We had a fourteen year friendship set on fire by infatuation, and it was the first time I was able to experience the joy that comes with being understood in a relationship for the first time. It was also the first time physicality wasn’t a deterrent in building an emotional and mental connection with another person, so the kind of love we experienced was refreshing. I discovered beliefs and ideas from Kahlil Gibran, Oliver Sacks, and independent rappers from the Midwest who actually had songs that spoke to me. I was appreciated for my contribution toward theoretical discussions, and I was encouraged to share my singing (a thing I hadn’t done in seven years). I learned that I was worth more than just a nice smile, a female body, and comforting words. I learned that I was smart, funny, someone’s dream girl. However, we were both damaged in very similar ways. We were damaged without having time to heal, and we leaned on each other to soothe that pain. Because of that, I learned that healing takes time, and mistrust will arise in a relationship when both parties struggle with the same problems. Eventually, I learned true and gut-wrenching heartache.

After not going more than six months relationship-free, I decided to step back and reevaluate what I wanted. There were men that were temporary during that time, but there were no true romantic relationships. I learned a lot about myself during that year of being single. I learned that I am a subconscious self-saboteur. I learned that I liked the idea of people falling in love with me before I was ready to love someone else because it made me feel worth something. I learned that I didn’t actually share the deepest parts of me with anyone, so I was unable to fully connect with another human being. I learned the first steps in becoming vulnerable.

I spent a year like that. I spent a year learning how to actually accept love from another person, but most importantly, how to love myself. When I spent an entire night talking to a man that I worked with outside on my front porch until the sun came up, I realized that I had also learned to trust. Sharing some of the biggest hurts in my life to someone that I only knew in passing showed me that I had allowed myself to become vulnerable. This man became my boyfriend, and during that time, I learned how healthy love can be when there’s a backbone of complete and utter trust. I learned that someone could actually see all of my flaws and not love me in spite of them, but could view my flaws as reasons to love me.  I learned what it meant to be understood completely, and I’ve gained so much confidence and assurance from that understanding. Now, that boyfriend has become my fiancé. With that stage comes more learning. I’m now learning how to be in a committed long-distance relationship with someone who I’m used to being with every single day. I’m relearning communication skills sometimes based solely on words, because facial expressions and physical presence aren’t always present. I’m learning to stop being so stubborn in my independence and to allow the person that understands me best in the world to show his love for me in ways that make him feel like he’s making a positive impact on our relationship. I am learning to allow this relationship to actually be a two-way street.

I suppose it all comes back down to trying to be a person who can say they regret nothing. It’s being able to completely own all of the decisions you’ve made and accepting what happens next, regardless of the outcome. I’ll need to consistently work on being someone who can be proud of their experiences and decisions, but making that a life goal is one of the healthiest plans I believe a person can have.

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Moving On

It’s almost time for my birthday again. Last year, I wrote a post chock full of lessons I believed that I had learned. I mean, I had learned them to a short degree, but as with all things, lessons don’t ever end when you think they will.

It’s been a strange year. For the past several years, each year seems to present an entirely new set of issues or changes that are greater than the last. This year was no exception. I moved back from Germany, encountered my most severe heartbreak, moved back in with my parents, and met most of my biological family…and those were just the big moments of the year. So many little experiences have been scattered in between the big ones that there’s no way to keep track of them all.

If there’s been one major theme or lesson from the past year, it’s been “move on and learn what you and you alone want from life”. I took a huge leap moving to another country during year twenty-four, but it was an experience I had always wanted for myself. Moving back to the town I went to high school in, a town that I never had a single desire to live in ever again, was another huge leap, but it was almost more of a desperate flailing into something because I had no other option at the time. I have no hesitation in saying that it’s been a rough year (my parents will probably be first to agree). I’ve lived at home and had to rely on other to drive me around because I’m carless for the first time in my life.

I realize this probably sounds like a entire post of complaints, but I’m coming around to the other side soon, promise. Because of the difficulties, I’ve again been reminded how resilient I can be if necessary. I’ve been inspired more than ever to dig deep and make something of myself. I think there’s something to be said for hitting rock bottom, looking around, and getting smacked in the face with reality. This life, this empty existence in Tyler, TX with so many people who are content to live the day to day life with no direction in life, is not what I want. I want so much more than that. I want to live an exciting life filled with stories of experiences that actually mean something to the development of a person.

In regards to that severe heartbreak mentioned before: I’m so thankful that it happened. It’s funny…this exact time last year, I was down to single-digit days counting down to my trip to Alaska. I spent twelve days with a guy that I’ve known for most of my life (had a crush on for several years) and who I had spent the previous five months skyping with almost every single day. There was love there. He got me, understood the pain of being in an abusive relationship, and was just so good. However, I don’t think either one of us were healed from those abuses, and instead clung to each other as a salve and distraction instead of really dealing with the pain. For me, it was insecurities. For him, distrust. It ended abruptly, and I spiraled downward for quite some time.

That was eight months ago. Since then, as cheesy as it is, I’ve really been able to focus on who I am and what I want without having to think of another person. I love that kind of solitude. I love making decisions that are selfish. I get such a guilty conscience when making decisions if they involve someone else because I’m always so afraid that I’m not doing what they want. Being able to make plans solely for myself is such a foreign concept to me, but it’s incredible.

Meeting my birth family came at the perfect time. A time where I’m already focusing on getting to know myself. I feel like it was just so appropriate getting to see the family that I could have grown up with and seeing who I could have been in a different life. Honestly, it wasn’t all that different from the person I’ve started to become now, which was a great encouragement. The thoughts in my head, the desire in my heart..they make up who I am and aren’t just products of my surroundings. The contrast between the two families in my life couldn’t be more opposite. I’m going toward what I want despite of what I am immersed in.

So what’s next? I’ve got a week of being twenty-five left. A week where I’m solidly in my mid-twenties, where I’ve only lived a quarter of a century. I’m not sure what the next year will hold yet. I know an outline of what I want to happen: I want to feel more in control of my life, more put together. I want to finally create a foundation that I can build a solid life off of. Traveling and living overseas is still the final goal, but getting there is going to take more work that I’ve previously wanted to admit.

Cheers to twenty-five: the year that forced me to work hard.

Schooner Zodiac in in Bellingham, Washington - June 2015
Schooner Zodiac in in Bellingham, Washington – June 2015

listening to: eastmountainsouth

Ten Years of Advice

I have this strange fascination with what I can only call “instagram poets*”. There are probably literally thousands of them out there now, but two of my favorites have been around for a while and will both be published authors soon. Imagine my excitement, then, when I found out that one of them decided to create a 30-day writing course.

I signed up right away. I’ve been whining and moping about this epic case of writer’s block I’ve been battling, so I figured this would be the push I needed to start getting over it. The two authors who created this course came up with writing prompts for each day and included other questions and quotes to mull over each day. It’s only been going on for three days as of today, but I think it’s already been really helpful if for no other reason than just delving deeper into my own thoughts and feelings.

The first day’s prompt has been my favorite so far: we were supposed to write a letter to a 10-years-younger version of ourselves. I’ve done a similar exercise before, but you always get something different out of something like this. In an attempt to get my words out of myself, I’ve decided to publish the responses to the prompts I really enjoyed through this blog, starting with a letter to the fifteen-year-old me:

“I know you’re stubborn and aren’t really fond of anybody giving you advice, so I won’t. I won’t warn you about the decisions and choices you’re bound to make because you’ll refuse to listen and you need to learn for yourself.

You’ve got so much ahead of you. You’ve yet to really get to know the friends that will become your tribe of people- the family you’ve dreamed of for years. You’ve got adventures headed your way. In fact, this summer, you’ll fly to Germany and experience your first real love. No, not some boy, but a place and culture that you fit into so well, it’s almost as if you should have been born there.

You’re also going to experience more pain than I can express. I know it would be more practical to tell you to try and avoid making the decisions and mistakes I’ve made, but they’ll be what makes you great. Being an overcomer will be your greatest quality- trust me when I tell you you’ll make it through, even in the darkest of moments still yet to come.

I know you are incredibly boy-crazy right now, but don’t worry about it so much. I’m not going to lie and tell you that the perfect guy will come along any time soon, because I’m not even sure I’ve encountered that magical person yet. Just don’t get so desperate to finally get that boyfriend and first kiss that you settle. You’ll eventually find somebody in a few years, but don’t take the friendship side of it for granted. Be a better communicator. If you don’t, you’ll lose years and years with someone who could be one of your best friends.

Speaking of communication, work on that with your family as well. Spend as much time as humanly possible getting stories from your grandmothers. They’ve lived such interesting lives and are incredibly strong in their own rights. However, age will inevitably catch up to them and their memories are stories will be lost forever if you aren’t careful. Eventually this will also happen to your parents, so soak up time and memories with them instead of avoiding them every second of every day.

College is going to be a weird experience for you. You won’t finish or be very traditional about it, but don’t worry about what that says about your character or intelligence. You’re much smarter than you give yourself credit, you just haven’t found the correct outlet for your creativity yet.

Writing is going to really help you find clarity when your life takes a nosedive. Trust your friends because they will turn out to be completely loving and loyal. Don’t lose your faith in humanity even when some guys down the road treat you without a speck of respect. Hold on to your love for the world and helping others.

When your gut screams that something isn’t quite right, follow the gut feeling. You might still have that pride that’s unwilling to let anyone see you’ve made a bad decision, but you have to let go of that. That pride will be your downfall. That pride will drive you straight to the pits of hell. Don’t let your pride define your decisions”

Lago di Lugano- Paridiso, Lugano, Switzerland (July 2014)
Lago di Lugano- Paridiso, Lugano, Switzerland (July 2014)

listening to: Portugal. The Man.

*poets mentioned in the beginning: Tyler Knott Gregson and Christopher Poindexter

The Struggle And The Growth

I spent yesterday wandering around what has easily become one of my favorite cities. I’ve got two weeks and two days left to say that I’m a resident of the Frankfurt area, so I’m trying to soak up every moment possible. I walked down Kaiserstraße, through the Zeil area, next to the Dom Römer, across the river on the Eiserner Steg (the bridge covered in locks), and along the banks of the Main River. In my opinion, the best part of the city is that it is situated around a body of water, and there’s nothing like being able to sit along the bank of that river and enjoy a sunny day. I also enjoy the face that Frankfurt still isn’t very touristy, but it’s a big international city, so you don’t often have to deal with massive groups of people.

I read an article months ago about the ex-pat life, and how it’s hard to really feel like you completely fit in back home after living in another country. I haven’t even moved back yet, but I’m already starting to feel that way. While the German culture isn’t as different from the American culture as some others might be, there are still many differences. I’ve gotten fond of the language barriers because I feel a strong sense of pride when I understand and can answer questions. My diet has completely changed, and the idea of throwing all of my trash in one big bin seems almost foreign now. Because of the heavy British influences in my friendships, some of the words I use in everyday language is different, and some people have even pointed out that my accent has changed somehow. Even now while I sit writing this, I think I’ll miss the German way of living far more than I would ever miss the American one.

Of course, whenever you go through a big move, you simultaneously go through a big change. If you chose to move back to your original location, it will never the same. You may look the same and you may continue to enjoy the same friendships, but you as a person will have grown and changed. With an international move, that change will inevitably include an expanded worldview.

I’m not looking forward to moving back to Texas (even though I know it’s just a temporary move) for that very reason. I’m excited to see friends and family, but I know I’m not the same person that I was when I moved away. In some ways, I feel like they might be meeting an entirely different person. At the risk of sounding conceited or overly proud or whatever you might call it, I feel like I’ve gained a sort of quiet confidence. I’ve become even more independent than before, and I know that the limits I used to believe were holding me back are now mostly nonexistent. I will have only been gone for nine months, but when you move away like I did, you’re forced to hit the fast forward button on changing and maturing.

F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote, “I’m not sure what I’ll do, but — well, I want to go places and see people. I want my mind to grow. I want to live where things happen on a big scale.” This sentiment is one of the biggest reasons I want to travel and live in different places and immerse myself in different cultures- I want to grow. I don’t want to be stuck in some small town and keep a small worldview. It’s been so long since I’ve lived in Alaska that I’m not expecting anything to be as it was when I was a child. I’m excited to be back because I know there will be struggles and lessons to go through. Of course, the gorgeous scenery and a wonderful man are big things to look forward to, but most importantly, it’s a chance for me to grow even more. It’s time for that next chapter.

Frankfurt, Germany- September 2014

Frankfurt, Germany- September 2014

listening to: Jason Mraz

Lessons

side note: this was written on 8/8, but I was in Alaska without internet for my birthday, and have been incredibly busy back in Frankfurt since.

The day is finally here..the day I turn twenty-five. This birthday has always seemed more of an obstacle to me than thirty for some reason. Perhaps it’s the fact that twenty-five makes me officially a quarter of a century old? That’s at least the only explanation I can think of.

At times, I don’t feel old enough to be this age. I don’t feel like I’ve accomplished the things that I thought I would be now. But then I really stop to think about all that I have done and I realize that maybe I’m doing pretty well after all. Maybe not all of the moments in my life have been pleasant ones, but I’ve learned from every single one of them and I truly believe they’ve helped me to become a better person. Yes, some of the lessons are textbook thoughts that you tend to read in every self-help or coming-of-age article known to man, but they don’t seem like that big of a deal until you really live them.

  1. The painful moments show your strength more than the pleasant ones
    • This past year was a particularly difficult one for me. Years 22 and 23 were hard with moving, family members with cancer, and a miscarriage, but then 24 came and hit me like a ton of bricks after the end of a marriage. I remember thinking so many times through those years that this was just my life now- a collection of sob stories and hurt. However, now that I’ve made it through that period, I know just how strong I can be when I need to be.
  2. Asking for help is perfectly acceptable
    • For the longest time, I felt like in order to be strong, I had to take care of everything myself. Nobody that knew me really knew how much I was falling apart inside because I refused to let it show. I finally realized that I simple was unable to help myself and be emotionally healthy, so I started seeing a therapist, and it was the best thing I could have possibly done for myself.
  3. Your comfort zone is meant to be broken down
    • Moving to a different country is obviously the biggest comfort zone I’ve stepped out of, but there are little ones that go along with that: learning a new language, trying to make new friends, eating new foods. Sadly enough, I think the food issue was the biggest one for me. Any of my friends and family back home can tell you that I’m an extremely picky eater. Guess what? Not anymore!
  4. Not everything is meant to be
    • Sometimes, the things you hope and dream for don’t come true. You see certain things lining up and you think it’s going to blossom into a beautiful story, but more often than not, it’s a passing coincidence. I’ve had to tell myself time and time again to not get hung up on what “could be”.
  5. However, once in a great while, fate can take over
    • I realize this is contradictory to the last point, but there can come a time when everything just falls into place and you have no idea how or where, but appreciating the magic of that moment is all you can do. I think almost everyone gets to experience this to some degree in their lives, no matter how big or small, so if and when it does happen, embrace it.
  6. Treasure the time you have
    • I think I’ve always intellectually known that being thankful for the time you spend with loved ones is very important, but in the day-to-day, I tend to forget it. In the past few years, both of my grandmothers’ health has dramatically gone downhill, and I find myself wishing I had been able to spend more time with them to learn from them and to just hear stories about my family. When I’m in the states, I spend as much time with them as I can, but it’s impossible to get any of that lost time back.
  7. Spur of the moment decisions can sometimes lead to the greatest adventures
    • When I took the au pair job in Germany, I had a week to get my plane ticket and pack everything. I’m fairly certain that everyone I knew thought I had lost my mind because it was such a quick decision. I believe that sometimes following your gut is the best decision. When you’re young and have nothing to hold you back in your life, seeing what else is out there is a wonderful option
  8. Creating good habits can be a mind-saver
    • When I moved to Germany, I started journaling. I can’t count the amount of times I had previously started to keep a journal, but this time I kept at it. It supposedly takes around a month to make or break a habit, so I just wrote every day until I had what can only be described as a compulsion to write. At times, it’s the only way I’ve been able to stay sane and in control of everything going on around me.
  9. Some things should be experienced by yourself
    • People will always come and go. Even family won’t always be there, no matter how close you are. There will be some times in your life that you have to learn to be alone. There’s a sense of accomplishment that comes when you successfully complete a task on your own. I thankfully learned this lesson young, but I know that if I hadn’t, I would be much more dependent on people around me. Independence is a good thing.
  10. Take time to reflect and improve
    • You can always be better in some aspect of your life. There is always always room for improvement. I think the times that I’ve grown the most is when I’ve just stopped to take a step back from my life and looked for the areas that are need for improvement the greatest.
  11. You cannot compare your life to anyone else’s life and expect to be content
    • For as long as I can remember, I’ve compared myself to the people around me. Other people always had better bodies, prettier clothes, nicer houses, etc. Instead of learning to appreciate all of the good things I had to offer, I was constantly trying to keep up or surpass what other people had. Trust me, it makes for a very unhappy life.
  12. Learn to stand up for yourself
    • There are bound to be people out there who will try to take advantage of you. It may be in a relationship and it may even be in a job. Knowing what your responsibilities are and what should be expected of you versus what actually is being expected of you is key. There can be a very fine line between trying to help someone and being taken advantage of. I’ve always been one to try and make people happy, even if it means not getting what I want or believe I deserve, but there are a few times where I’ve had to put my foot down and I’m glad I was able to stand up for myself when it was necessary.
  13. Not all friendships will last for all eternity
    • I had a friend in elementary school that I could have sworn I would have been best friends with for the rest of my life. Our friendship lasted through several different moves, but for some reason, the communication slowly faded to nothing. I tried and tried to reach out to her, but it was a one-sided attempt. I finally just had to tell myself that maybe she was just finished with the friendship and had moved on with her life. If I’m honest, it still makes me sad, but I also know there’s nothing else I can do to get that friendship back
  14. You don’t have to justify your decisions or actions to everyone
    • Sometimes, you are the only person who needs to know the reasoning behind the decision you make. Everyone and their mother is going to have an opinion on that piercing you got when you were 18, the dozens of different hair styles you’ve had, or the huge move you’re planning. Some of the big, life-changing decisions may warrant an outside opinion, but make sure it’s one that you trust. Just make sure you’re doing them for the right reason.
Alaska- August 2014
Alaska- August 2014