The 30-Day Minimalism Game

Now that I have a house of my own, I’ve been trying to keep it clean and as junk-free as possible. I’ve been slowly getting rid of old clothes I haven’t worn in awhile, but it’s definitely a big process after moving all of my stuff in.

I got coffee with my sweet friend Melody yesterday, and she suggested doing something called the “30-Day Minimalism Game.” I was intrigued when she told me the very simple concept: get rid of one thing on the first day, two things on the second, three on the third, all the way up until you reach 30 days. By the end of the challenge — if you can actually complete it — you will have gotten rid of hundreds of things.

In all honesty I don’t think I can make it to day 30 because I really don’t think we have that much junk in our house, but I’m really curious to try and see how far I get. Go give my Instagram account a follow if you want ton see what I get rid of every day, and want a chance to take some of my stuff off my hands. I’ll be donating most of it to Purple Heart or The Salvation Army, but I’m always happy for a friend to get something they need, too!

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Here’s to decluttering my house and making some extra room for the things I actually use and to breathe. Day 1: Finally throwing out my old Brooks tennies!

Girl, Wash Your Face Review

One of my resolutions this year is to read one book a month. It isn’t a lot, but it’s realistic, so any extra reads will be a great bonus. For January, I chose Girl, Wash Your Face. It was interesting timing because I recently saw a Facebook post in a group going around talking about how Rachel Hollis’ book, GWYF, was close-minded and uptight. I hadn’t read it at the time I saw the argument going on, but I was surprised that so many girls from this group of typically very accepting people had such hard feelings toward the author of GWYF, so I became increasingly curious as to what fired people up about this bestselling author.

My best friend Audrey gave me the audiobook for my birthday last month, and I’ve finally listened to more than half of it. I feel compelled to write about it now, though, because while listening I have had several moments where I want to throw my hands up and scream, “YES. THIS IS HOW I FEEL!” It’s such a joy to find novels, blogs, and television shows that just get you. In a world that feels so incredibly big, it’s always comforting to know there are other people who have things in common with you. Whether it’s your beliefs, sense of humor, hobbies, or interests, knowing that you aren’t alone is so important for every human being.

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Instagram: msrachelhollis

I am sick of the old narrative that says just because someone is living their life a different way than the majority, that they are a judgmental bigot. One of the biggest criticisms I saw floating around was that Hollis wasn’t relatable because her ideas about sex weren’t realistic. Spoiler alert: she waited to have sex until she was with her husband. Something that bothers me is that there is no place in the entertainment world for virgins or people who want to save sex for someone special. Hollis is in no way the names girls called her; she is just different than what the norm of the group posts about.

Just because Rachel held her virginity close to her own heart does not mean she is shaming others for having sex with multiple people. I absolutely hate that women can’t talk about this freely without being criticized for being close-minded or a prude. Women in this typically nonjudgmental group began talking about how the author seemed condescending and high-strung. Honestly, I can see how Girl Wash Your Face might not be relatable to everyone, but I didn’t get this vibe at all. There is a reason this book became a bestseller; there are so many women out there who can relate and feel a lot less alone while consuming Hollis’ words. There is a need for women to speak out about virginity and waiting to have sex because they exist too. Instead of continuing the narrative that these women are boring, uptight, and judgmental, we need to move to a safe middle ground of realizing that sexual preferences do not make a person or dictate what their personality is like. Sex is a verb, it isn’t an adjective that describes what a person is like at their core. 

Hollis actually has an entire chapter about sex and I absolutely loved it. I don’t think anyone would actually keep calling her the names they’ve bestowed upon her after reading it, and her views on being intimate are actually really healthy. She talks about the way she views sex, and she isn’t boring or vanilla in the least. She writes about different seasons through her sex life with her husband and the realistic ebb and flow that most people will experience. This is just another opportunity Hollis takes to talk about something that could be difficult for some of her readers, and help them see that they are — in fact — normal human beings.

Women who choose to keep sex as something for a monogamous relationship or for marriage need to feel less alone too. We have moved to a time in society where we know that you’re not a bad person for sleeping with multiple people. We accept being sexually active as a societal norm, and as long as you’re a normal human being you don’t shame other people for their preferences. This should include the young people who are saving themselves for one person, though. There aren’t many positive examples of people like this in the media. You don’t watch a television show and see a badass virgin who has a likable personality and is someone others look up to. Talking about someone being a virgin in the media is typically not done, and if it is, it is portraying a young girl losing her virginity to “become an woman” or honing in on the storyline of a lack of sex for a nerdy character. You don’t see normal twenty-something virgins in movies or on television — in Hollywood, they don’t exist. In the real world, though, they do. They are normal people who just haven’t done the deed yet, and I think we need to do a better job of acknowledging that you aren’t broken if you haven’t had those experiences yet. Sex is a beautiful thing that shouldn’t be taboo to talk about, but it also should never be used to shame someone for their lack of experience either.

Imagine making fun of someone for running — or not. Picture judging their personality solely on being a runner, not based on anything else like how friendly they are, how kind they are, or how smart they are. Running an activity that people often enjoy or never participate in; it doesn’t dictate what they’re like as a person. Sex is the same concept. You don’t suddenly change drastically because you are sexually active; you just have a new activity in your life. Sex is fun, and an incredible way to connect with someone you love, but it isn’t something that will change the core of your being.

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Instagram: msrachelhollis

If you haven’t read GWYF yet, I highly recommend it. It’s a light read and Rachel is an awesome motivational speaker — it feels like she’s just a friend offering advice. I love her little words of wisdom on Instagram, and am obsessed with this quote she attributes to her therapist,

“Someone else’s opinion of you is none of your business.”

I think we can all learn a little lesson from this on fearlessly being ourselves. Many of our biggest fears stem from what other people think about us. This year I’m trying my best to put my blinders on and share my thoughts without worrying about the opinions of others. I think this is going to be the best way to really connect with people, even though I might also reach some people who just don’t understand my heart. Subscribe to my email list to get some extra premium content this year! I have a lot to say and am excited to be sharing more with you all.

Colton “The Virgin Bachelor”

Sigh, this season of The Bachelor is really going to be a drag. The ironic part this time around, though, is that despite Colton being a virgin, the biggest theme is going to be sex. How much do I care about Colton’s sex life? Not. At. All. I don’t care what he does or doesn’t do, and I certainly don’t need to be hearing about it over and over again. Something that bothers me about some of the conversation around Colton is that people are relieved to find that Colton isn’t weird — he just hasn’t found the “right person” yet. Some girls went into the season wondering what was wrong with him, and about a quarter of the introductions revolved around sex.

One point I am going to drill home in this, and a few upcoming blog posts, is that sex is a verb. It’s not an adjective you use to describe someone, and its presence or lack of is not going to drastically change someone’s personality. Sex is an action. It shouldn’t be a word that is used to completely define someone. ABC clearly disagrees, though. They’ve promoted him as “the first virgin bachelor” and have been hyping this entire season around the fact that Colton has yet to sleep with a woman. In the months leading up to the show they have made an ad based off of The 40-Year-Old Virgin, sent him on interviews where he has to explain over and over again why he hasn’t had sex yet, and have been using phrases like, “what does he have to lose?” constantly referring to his v-card.  It honestly feels like The Bachelor franchise has just completely been exploiting Colton for his [lack of] sexuality. He poses in next to nothing, then is filmed showering and rubbing himself all over while the camera slowly and awkwardly pans from his face to his waist. He excitedly says that yes, he might lose his virginity to one of these girls, and that he had been ready to give it to Becca Kufrin, but his time just hasn’t come yet.

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Photo Credit: ABC

It bothers me that Colton has been completely playing up the virgin thing with the network and is still going along with it as his primary storyline. At some point wouldn’t you get fed up with the narrative and just scream at the producers, “Yes, I am a virgin, but let’s move on from that! I also love dogs, football, The Chargers, and hiking.” There are six billion other things they could be talking about, yet every other scene involves yet another crack at Colton or Chris Harrison asking if he feels like “less of a man” for being a virgin. Like, what the hell?! Imagine if he asked one of the bachelorettes that. We would all be up in arms saying that her sex life does not define her worth as a human being. Rude, Harrison.

I’m predicting that this is going to be one of the lowest-rated seasons of The Bachelor. I really really hope I’m wrong, because I don’t want to be wasting every Monday night for the next 13 weeks, but unless they can find another topic to discuss, they’ve lost me entirely. I already can’t take it anymore and we’ve only had one episode. If this season goes as I think it will, ABC will need to reevaluate how they choose a lead next season if they want to gain a larger fanbase. Instead of choosing someone based on one thing, they will need to find people who are dynamic and have depth, then bring that out on camera. We love watching people with big personalities find love, and I’m not really for this whole cheering for a man to lose his virginity narrative. It feels incredibly creepy, invasive, and frankly, just downright boring. Here’s to hopefully learning more about Colton’s personality next week, and in the meantime enjoying some of the drama that is bound to ensue with twenty women living in the same house, dating the same guy.

Dating In A Technology-Saturated World

Love is difficult enough on its own, but when you add our little black screens to the mix, things become just that much more complicated. First, let’s talk casually dating. There are a million different apps and websites you can use to meet people. Making a choice — or three — of what you want to use can dictate the kind of people you will meet. There is a dating app for everyone, whether you are looking for a farmer, a fellow vegetarian, or someone who loves Disney just as much as you do. This is great because it takes searching high and low out of the equation and sets you up with a partner who has at least some of the same interests that you do. Even using the more standard dating websites makes finding a partner a little easier because there are usually questions to answer that calculate what percent of a match you are with someone, which saves the smalltalk and goes straight for some of the biggest deal breakers like religion, smoking, or even what kind of family someone wants.

The dating culture now is different than it ever has been before because we have endless options. It is so easy to go out with a person, see a flaw you don’t like, and think, “Well, on to the next one!” when you have access to thousands of profiles online. Odds are there’s someone who fits the bill of exactly what you want, right? The problem with this rationale is that there is no such thing as a perfect person. We live in a time where if something is broken, we don’t fix it — we just get rid of it and upgrade. It isn’t worth the effort of learning how to jump over a hurdle or adapt to a new way of using something; it is far easier to just throw away a broken object than it is to put the time and effort into making ours work again. The same goes in the dating world. Far too often, as soon as someone learns about an issue, they decide to move on to find a different person without said problem. This turns into a vicious cycle in embarking on the search for perfection which, in this world, does not exist.

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Now let’s touch on solid relationships. The little black box certainly doesn’t make finding a partner easy, but once you’ve gotten one they work their little plastic butts off to make everything a little more complicated, despite their initial intention of making life easier for us. Instead of reaching to hold their partners in the morning, people reach for their phones. Rather than sitting together at the dinner table they sit on the couch in front of a television. Hours upon hours each week are spent on Facebook and scrolling mindlessly through Instagram. This whole new age of technology has greatly changed the course of our lives — for better and for worse.

At the end of the day, despite what it sometimes seems, we own technology — it does not own us. We can make our own decisions on how to use it to better our lives and enrich our relationships instead of harming them. I like using my little silver laptop to type words onto a screen and share them on here with you all. I like playing Super Smash Bros and Fortnite with my husband, and I like that I can shop no matter how I’m feeling and that there are people who will drive to my house with a piping hot pizza if I use my phone to order one. Technology is great as long as you know when to use it and how to continue to connect with your loved ones in person. This is why I harp so much on the importance of quality time spent with loved ones, rather than just time. It can be so easy to think you are pouring into others when you spend so much time with them, but if that time isn’t spent wisely it won’t really make an impact on their heart.

I still haven’t finished making my resolutions for the year, but one of them is that I am going to be more cognizant of how often I am using my phone and to put it away more when I am with my loved ones. I am going to invest more time in journaling and having heart-to-heart conversations, and be more productive about reaching my goals for this year. What are your resolutions for 2019?

New Beginnings

I rarely go out for NYE anymore, but it’s still one of my favorite holidays. I love words and symbolism, so the idea of having a clean slate is such a beautiful thing filled with possibilities. This is my favorite idiom on January 1st, and I take resolutions pretty seriously.

The past few years I’ve been choosing a “word of the year” that I try to keep as the foundation of the decisions I make. 2016 was “perseverance.” It was the year of the deployment and involved a whole lot of patience, sleepless nights, and pushing through the really hard parts. Something I remember so well about this year was running away from my thoughts at the gym. I often rode the recumbent bike and pushed harder and harder to try to escape from the difficult parts of life. As I’ve grown up I’ve found my coping mechanisms for hardship involve either working out, or doing my hair and makeup for no reason other than to feel like I have control over something when I can’t do anything about certain things life throws my way. I have a hard time dealing when people do things that hurt me, and I begin to feel claustrophobic when I know there’s nothing I can do about the way others behave or the fact that my health is declining despite working hard to feel good. Finding things I can control when it feels like things are spiraling has been so helpful to my heart.

I skipped 2017 because I felt too busy and excited for Robert’s homecoming. I wrote all about trying to get Tom Brady to come greet him at the airport, then about what our reunion was actually like. It happened to be perfect, even without the greatest quarterback there with us. We started a normal life together this year, and I focused on being in the present a lot. This past year was supposed to be “Fearless,” but as I’ve said a few times before I failed miserably at this word for 2018. I didn’t leave my comfort zone enough, and I gave up on a lot of my writing because I felt scared of sharing my intimate thoughts with the Internet. One of the reasons Single in The Suburbs really took off in the beginning was because I was able to candidly talk about my life without much of a filter or fear of being judged. I loved being open about the dating world with everyone because I realized that my dating life was just as uncomfortable, frustrating, and fun as every other twenty-somethings. I embraced the awkwardness, shared my weirdest stories, and ultimately tried to help other people realize they weren’t alone in anything. We all were having a hard time trying to find love and meeting someone who really understood our heart.

My problem now is that I don’t always feel as relatable anymore. I feel like nobody understands the pain that I have (Even though I know they do, and so many have been through so much more), I am more guarded and protective of my relationships, and I am afraid of the shadows of strangers that lurk on the Internet. Instead of feeling like I have a nice space where I can share without being judged, I feel like there are so many people who are cruel to others for having a different opinion, and “different” is a word that seems to define me. I can’t always relate to normal twenty-something’s lives, but I rarely find myself feeling insecure about being different. I was raised to love and be kind to everyone — whether or not they are similar to me — and I don’t understand the culture that accepts being cruel as a way to show disagreement. The Internet is plagued with trolls and people who get a kick out of tearing others down, which makes sharing any sort of opinion frightening.

This year I asked my Instagram friends to help me choose a word. We were either going to focus on “Joy,” or try “Fearless” one last time. The vote fluctuated from leaning heavily on “fearless,” to giving “joy” the lead later in the day. They switched back and forth a few times, and I liked that people seemed interested in both words, but ultimately I landed on FEARLESS for my word of 2019. I chose it for a few different reasons. First, I think it’s more difficult for me. Joy is something that comes more naturally with my personality, and although it’s been more of a struggle through times of hardship, I am always going to try to be joyful — regardless of the circumstances in life I cannot control. It doesn’t matter whether it’s 2019 or a decade later, I don’t see that changing about me. I like a challenge and being fearless this year certainly is going to be just that. I don’t want to lose the part of my heart that makes me kind, but I need to get my edge back that makes me more resilient to other humans.

Finally, I got some words of wisdom from a friend that if I live fearlessly, joy will come along with that. This was exactly what I needed to hear to pull the trigger and choose 2019 as the year of living fearlessly. I want this to impact several parts of my life. I am going to start writing on here more about things that matter to me — even in the areas where I feel like I’m different than the majority. I am going to face my fear of rejection in more than one area of my life, and I am going to pace myself for the dreams I want to chase. Finally, I’m going to teach myself that I am more valuable than what my body can and can’t do. One of my biggest fears since getting sick with POTS has been whether or not I could still be a valuable part of the world, even when I feel like I’m at my worst. Exploring what makes me special is a surprisingly scary thing because what I used to really value and love about myself was different before I got sick. I had very different goals and things I wanted to do in my life, but my trajectory drastically changed five summers ago. This is going to be a year where I take care of myself and learn how to be brave, even when it’s hard. 2019, get ready to be fearless. 

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Photo Credit: Katie Nesbitt Photography