Strong (adj.)

Today I would like to dissect what it means to be “strong.”

This has been a word used to describe me by so many people since I graduated college, got POTS, and went through a number of difficult trials, but it still feels kind of funny when I hear someone throw this adjective next to my name.

Dictionary.com defines strong as,

“Mentally powerful or vigorous,”

but it doesn’t offer any tips on how to be strong or what kind of trials make you strong.

I was made strong. I didn’t choose to be strong and I am in no way admirably resilient. Before getting sick I was used to a fairly comfortable life, and never in a million years thought of myself as tough or someone who would face trials well.

Almost 4 years later, though, and here I am. I had a choice to make when I got sick. I could take what the doctors said, admit defeat, and recognize that my life would never be the same, or I could fight for the best life I could possibly have. I quickly chose the latter. This involves keeping an open and optimistic mindset, being incredibly dilligent with my doctors appointments, physical therapy, and diet, and finally — learning how to rest.

When I first got my diagnoses I asked through tears whether I’d ever get better. The nurse laughed and told me I wouldn’t and my mind immediately went into a dark abyss, thinking about a long life of dizzy spells, fainting, and feeling miserable. I was incredibly lucky to have my incredibly encouraging mother with me, who followed me to the parking lot and said the nurse didn’t know what she was talking about. She said I needed to take each day as it came to me, and think positive thoughts. To this day I believe this is one reason I am slowly getting better and have been able to make peace with my new life.

I’ve had POTS for three-and-a-half years now and haven’t had a week off from going to visit some sort of doctor. I typically have 2 physical therapy appointments and either acupuncture or a massage to work on managing my chronic pain, as well as regular visits to my cardiologist, neurologist, and endocrinologist. I go to the gym 5 days a week — even when I am feeling awful — because the worst possible thing for a POTSie to do is get deconditioned. This involves a short 30 minute recumbent bike ride, as I could easily faint if I am in an upright position. I get B12 shots every other week since I am deficient in it and B12 seems to be a link to chronic pain. Then I have to take a lot of time to rest so that my body can settle down a bit. I get worn out incredibly easy, and a trip to the grocery store turns into a long ordeal because of the recovery time afterward.

Lots of POTS patient develop adult allergies, so I can’t eat many of my favorite foods anymore. I have given up nightshade vegetables (Potatoes are my favorite food and I miss French fries dearly!), gluten (Now I am the butt of so many jokes), and I really limit my dairy and sugar intake. I don’t drink coffee at all, partly because I can’t have caffeine, and partly because I just can’t have coffee, period, and I don’t drink alcohol at all anymore. The coffee is definitely a million times more difficult.

Screen Shot 2017-02-26 at 10.04.46 PM.png

Lastly, I have had to learn to listen to my body and rest. This is such a hard thing for me to do, as my mind is incredibly active. Anyone who knew me before I got sick knows I love to work and play, so sleeping and rest were never really a big part of my vocabulary. I joke to my friends that I’m just catching up on all the time I missed in my life before, but it really is a difficult thing for me to wrap my mind around. I always have a million and one things I want to do and write about, however my body isn’t very kind to me. Writing hurts after ten minutes, and the dictation software I have used is grueling. I can’t sit at a desk chair very long without having a lot of pain in my shoulders, and some days I can’t stand without feeling dizzy. Sometimes all I can do is rest, and I’ve learned that it’s okay to spend time listening to podcasts and watching HGTV when I really can’t do anything else. Yes, I would much rather be working and making a living for myself. I wish I could live in New York and write for a magazine, I wish I could have a paycheck to save for a new car or fun wardrobe, but that’s just not in the cards for me right now. Right now it’s my job to focus on getting better, keep taking care of myself, and trust that God will make something beautiful out of my struggle. 

The best advice I could possibly give anyone going through something tough is to take each day as it comes to you. Worrying about things in the future that you cannot control won’t help you change them, and looking back on the past won’t make your present any more satisfying. I know what it’s like to feel helpless and I know what it’s like to feel like life isn’t fair. The greatest feeling when your world is crumbling in on you is when you finally learn to give your problems to God and let Him take care of the things that are outside your control.

Today’s lesson: If I can be strong, you can too. I’ve always thought I am an incredibly average person in most regards, which should offer an incredible amount of encouragement to anyone reading this. If I can do, so can you.

Intentionally Intentional

“Wait, is this a date?”

As a girl, I have wondered this a few times in my life when a guy asks me to “hang out” somewhere. Depending on the situation, I usually err on the safe side and assume it isn’t if I’m unsure.

Dating can be awkward enough as it is, so why make things like simple communication difficult? I have been asked countless times by guys how to ask a girl on a proper date, and so many of my girl friends have called me confused with whether a male is interested in her or not. There is a very simple answer to all of our communication problems. Be clear in stating your intentions with someone!

You don’t have to be all weird about it, but by simply saying, “I would love to take you out to dinner,” you are making it very clear that you want to take the person you are asking on a date. First, if you already know them, I think dinner is a great option for date #1, as it’s a little nicer than just coffee or drinks. You can always change the wording around to do something else for a first date, however I would definitely make the activity one that is very clearly a date. Going on a run with someone is nice, but hardly leaves room for any sort of romance. Second, by using the words “take you out,” you are making it incredibly clear that this isn’t just an outing between friends.

date.png

On the flip side, if someone asks you to “hang out,” I’d say it isn’t a serious date, so take things slow! I’ve had relationships grow from friendship, which can be a great foundation for something wonderful. Don’t put your life on hold for someone who isn’t ready to date you or isn’t interested, though. Keep doing your own thing whether that is dating around or accepting an invitation from someone else you are possibly interested in. The best lesson we all learned from He’s Just Not That Into You is that if someone wants to be with you they will eventually try. If they don’t ever get the guts to ask you out they care about their pride more than they care about being with you! You want someone who will fight for you, right?

Today’s lesson: It’s better to be overly clear and upfront with your intentions than to be ambiguous when you ask someone out. Getting turned down sucks, but it’s so much better to find out sooner rather than later that someone isn’t interested in dating you… That way you can move on to another person who will totally want to go on a date!

Featuring The Face Behind SITS

I thought it would be fun for my favorite guest to do a little interview with me. I had a few friends help me come up with questions to ask him, and the gentleman I am oh so fond of answered some questions about what it’s like dating me. Enjoy!

Single In The Suburbs:
Tell us, what is it really like dating Krista?

Robert:
Dating Krista has been an awesome experience. Krista is somebody that is so positive about everything. She genuinely cares about others around her much more than she does herself, and she proves that in everything she writes about on this blog. I knew she is an amazing person from the beginning, but this was solidified the night before my flight from Virginia to Texas to begin my deployment when she gave me a book of letters she collected and laminated from my friends and family. She had reached out to them because she wanted to give me something nice from everybody before I left, and I was amazed with how many of my friends and family participated. Amazing.

SITS:
In a sentence, what is the best thing about dating her?

Robert:
This will be tough to do in just one sentence, but let’s try… The best thing about dating Krista is that she truly is a good person; that she is beautiful, inside and out; that she is an amazingly talented writer and I’ve enjoyed reading all her work, plus she sends me a lot of letters and cards (to include a letter for each week of my deployment); that she is extremely intelligent; that she loves playing Mario games, and is ok with me beating her; that she has sent me a million care packages while I’ve been deployed; that she trusts me, and it’s very easy for me to trust her; that she is open about everything; that we enjoy everything we do together. OK, I think that’s one good sentence.

Screen Shot 2016-09-26 at 3.52.16 PM.png
This is a photo Robert took of me in our first few months together. I always think it’s cute when guys take pictures of their girlfriends, but I’ve never had someone sneak attack take photos of me like Robert does!

SITS:
In a sentence, what is the worst thing about dating her? (Be honest!)

Robert:
Krista enjoys making cookies — and I enjoy eating them.


SITS:

Have you noticed any interesting or annoying habits she has?

Robert:
I haven’t noticed any annoying habits, but there are a couple interesting/funny ones. My favorite is probably when we’re playing super smash brothers (yes, we’re nerds). She does two things while playing this that crack me up. If she sees something funny happen in the game, she will start laughing hysterically, which in turn makes me, and anybody else playing with us laugh as well. Also when she sees an item that she wants she’ll say out loud, “HEY! I want that!” I think it’s really cute… But I still usually don’t allow her to get it.


SITS:
How do you feel about Single In The Suburbs?

Robert:
This is a tough one. I met Krista about a year ago and I knew what I was getting into with her dating blog. I understood where she was in her life, and that she needs this blog because it really is a part of her, who she is, and what she does. It obviously isn’t easy to read about when she goes on a date that isn’t me; however, almost everything I’ve read on her blog that was about a specific date was me… So I’m OK with that. My attempts at getting her to change her blog from “Single in The Suburbs” to “dating a really, really, ridiculously awesome guy who also went to George Mason and is especially cool because he’s a Patriots fan who is converting me to a Patriots fan as well” has thus far been unsuccessful. Maybe when I get back and can think of an even better blog title than that, we can make it happen.

SITS:
On a related note, how do you feel being written about so often? You are clearly “Boston” and “Army.”

Robert:
I am very glad to know that I am “Boston” and “Army”. I had some suspicions but I’m happy it is confirmed! In all seriousness, I enjoy reading all her posts. I love the posts about me because she finds ways to make me sound positive most of the time… but I particularly the ones that aren’t about me because I know about myself. I like to learn about new things about her.


SITS:
Tell us one of her deepest, darkest secrets. (Editor’s note: I will kill you if you say too much)

Robert:
This one will get me into trouble… Krista has told me a lot of secrets! I guess the one I’ll mention here is the fact that she NOPE NOPE NOPE NOPE.*

SITS:
What is the most embarrassed you’ve been on a date with Krista?

Robert:
I’ll name two… Number 1, when we were walking around Arlington on a date looking at Christmas lights, she got down on one knee and pretended to propose to me. That was pretty embarrassing because there were a lot of people around. Number 2, she threw me a surprise birthday at a hibachi place… In November… 4 months before my birthday. She had stopped by the place earlier to drop off birthday balloons and cupcakes so that they could present me with these gifts in front of the entire restaurant when I brought her back later.


SITS:

How did you feel going into the first date? What about after it?

Robert:
OK, this question requires some background knowledge for your readers… Our first date almost never happened. In fact, our original first date got canceled. In late September last year, I found out that I was going to be placed on active duty orders out in Staunton, Virginia in preparation for the deployment I am currently on in the Middle East. The day I found out about that was the day of our first date. When I learned that Krista was planning on with meeting up with her friends after our date, I thought that was her way of telling me that she didn’t want to be out with me very long that night, and since I would very soon be moving to Staunton, I decided maybe we should just cancel it.

The Army isn’t the best at handling money. So, I was in Staunton the last week of September, but because the government’s fiscal year ends on September 30th, there weren’t enough funds to keep me out there until they were able to pass a budget. So I moved back to Arlington for a couple weeks while they sorted that out, and reconnected with Krista.

For whatever reason, Krista decided to see me after that previous cancellation, and with the knowledge that I would be living in Staunton and deploying to the Middle East in March. To get to the actual question now –- I was very excited going into the first date with her. We talked a lot leading up to the date, so I was pretty comfortable with the whole thing. The date went very well,even through some awkward secrets and stories that we shared. When I left, I felt pretty happy about the way it went, but as most people do, I probably over-thought about some of the things I said or did. It turns out the date went pretty well and we had a great connection, so we saw each other again soon after. I was also able to be back in Northern Virginia Friday – Monday nights and was able to take a lot of leave as well. The only reason I made that commute several times a week was because of her.

SITS:
What is your favorite memory together?

Robert:
I have so many great memories with Krista that it doesn’t seem right to only pick one. However, I will say that if I HAVE to pick one, it would be the last time I saw her. My unit of 26 Soldiers flew out of Fort Hood and Dallas in April. Because of weather, flights were getting delayed across the country and they had to put us all on different planes. A group of us ended up in Baltimore, and were stuck there for 2 days until we could pick up a flight overseas. Krista came to visit me in Baltimore. Krista, do that thing where you put a link in to your previous story about this experience so everyone can read about our 2 day date in Baltimore…

Screen Shot 2016-09-26 at 4.05.33 PM.png
This was the most grateful I’ve ever been to have a tearful goodbye.

 

SITS:
Tell us the most interesting “Krista story” you have heard since meeting her.

Robert:
The most interesting story to me is the story about how her life changed after she was diagnosed with POTS. Krista doesn’t realize it sometimes, but she’s one of the strongest people I know. She always says things like “I wish you knew me before I got POTS”, but I can’t imagine a stronger, more beautiful girl than the girl I know right now.

Screen Shot 2016-09-26 at 3.59.52 PM.png
This is a fun photo my best friend Audrey took of me!


SITS:
Would you change anything about Krista? If so, what?

Robert:
Ha. I’m not falling for this trap!


*Some things are secrets for a reason. This is something only my best friend and Robert know, and we’re going to keep it that way.


If you are in need of a photographer in the DMV area please shoot me a message and I’ll connect you to my beautiful friend Audrey!

Boston

I sat in the passenger of his Ford F-150 as he passed behind the truck to the driver’s side. He never let me open my own door, and I loved that. Yet again it was just another bonus to dating him. I was beginning to find every little thing he did was just a bonus to how wonderful I thought this human was.

He slid effortlessly into the driver’s seat and leaned over to kiss me. I beamed. I felt like the most special girl in the world and we hadn’t even gone on our date yet. He took my hand and held it close to my body as we pulled onto the highway. I smiled as I gazed at his pretty brown eyes. I don’t think anything about men is supposed to be considered pretty, but there isn’t a strong enough word for a male that I can use — I have never been so mesmerized by a guy before. This isn’t a feeling I hear many girls describe about their boyfriends, and I noted the warmth fill my heart.

I blushed as he looked over and caught me staring. He smiled, and I melted a little more.

We parked the car and he didn’t let go of my hand until he hopped out of the car and ran around to my side to open my door again. How long had I been a Princess? It felt like a lifetime, but we’ve only known each other seven months.

I took his hand, made the leap of faith from the tall truck, and realized I had fallen in love as fast as the trip my feet took from the carpeted mats in his Ford to the gravel pavement beneath my sneakers. He closed the door with one hand and took mine in the other. He made a joke, I laughed, and fell just a little deeper.

This was a relationship unlike any that I have ever had the pleasure of knowing. The smallest trips to the grocery store became another page of our story. They weren’t errands — they were just spending time together.

Screen Shot 2016-05-25 at 11.22.37 PM


Some things in life you don’t think have an end in sight. It’s frightening when that thing is a romance. One of many dictionary definitions for the word is,

“A strong, sometimes short-lived attachment, fascination, or enthusiasm for something.”

I close my eyes and pray that it won’t be short-lived; the thought of that brings a sharp pain to my heart. A heart can be broken more than once, and there aren’t any promises things will work out. We’ve only been in each other’s lives for a short while, but one day a short romance is going to blossom into a lifelong love. I don’t have any way of knowing whether or not I’ll be caught or end up shattered on the ground, but right now I am closing my eyes, inhaling deeply, and taking the plunge.

Singleness Is Not The Same As Loneliness

I went through the first breakup of my entire life just over a year ago.

In all honesty I was absolutely terrified about re-entering the world without my significant other by my side. Many of my single friends seemed to hate being “alone” and I watched girl after girl get dumped, and either get back together with her ex or find a new guy within the matter of weeks.

Being single must really suck, I thought to myself. After all, some people I knew went to great lengths to be in some sort of a relationship, even when it wasn’t the right one. Others complained about how hard it was to find a great guy, and wondered aloud whether they would always be single.

I never had a problem being by myself before — I was actually super-single until I was nineteen. I was a late bloomer and honestly didn’t care about my relationship status (Or lack thereof); my first boyfriend just kind of fell into my lap, and then stuck around for another 5 years.

The scariest thing about a breakup, to me, was that I didn’t have any female role models in my life who I felt managed their breakups well. I’m sure I have plenty of friends who did, they just didn’t talk about how terrible a breakup felt while they were going through it, and I didn’t really realize at the time how hard it is to leave someone you are so comfortable with.

If I could get one message across to the girls (And guys!) who read this blog, it’s that being single does not mean you are lonely.

single.png

After months of fighting the inevitable, I finally took the leap of faith alone. The uncertainty of the situation was terrifying, but I knew I had an army of friends and family who would help me through my first breakup. Just because I didn’t have one particular person to look up to about being single didn’t mean happy single people didn’t exist. This was when I decided to be my own role model and choose the way I wanted to look at being single.

Part of our breakup wasn’t a choice; my boyfriend and I were going to break up, whether I liked it or not. The loss of someone who had been such a rock in my life was devastating, but I was strong enough to get back up on my feet and keep going through life. My friends were amazing and 100% there for me, whether it was during work hours or at 3 in the morning. I really do think breakups are one of life’s biggest pains that almost everyone can be empathetic toward. There is something about that terrifying time in your life that most people can relate to, so they gather around to help in any possible way they can.

Once I was out of the relationship I felt free. I realized being single meant I could find the right person for me one day and that in the meantime I could have fun with my girl friends and my family. I was no longer wasting time my time with someone who wouldn’t be there for me in the long run, and was able to build on other relationships — one of those being my relationship with myself.

I have so much more to write about singleness and breakups, but this is a good start. I just want to be very clear in saying that being single is not a terrible, lonely thing — it is a great learning experience and an amazing time to grow if you allow it to be. Just because you have a friend or two who don’t like being single, does not mean your fate is sealed. Be your own role model, and your own best friend. After all, you know what you need better than anyone else!

Today’s lesson: Instead of running into a new relationship you can develop your own interests, meet new people, and strengthen friendships with people who will be around for the long haul. No matter what happens in life, you will always have yourself, so you might as well become the best version of you to live with!

Feature Friday: One Fierce Female

I have known Emily for years now, and seen her go through several life transitions with grace and poise. Whether it’s a breakup, a new job, or falling in love, Emily is always classy while choosing to never settle for less than she deserves. Frankly, I think she’s the “real girls’ Beyoncé.”

emily.jpg

One thing I’ve always loved about Emily is how great she is at balancing life. She’s one person I’ve never seen ditch her friends when she got a new bae, and she’s one of the hardest workers I’ve ever known, but she never lets work get in the way of a healthy social life. She sings at church every Sunday, attends alum events for her sorority, celebrates her girl friends, spends quality time with her boyfriend, and manages to see her family on a regular basis. Basically, I am pretty sure Emily is some sort of superhero, and I haven’t seen any sort of Kryptonite yet.

Single in The Suburbs:
Emily! Would you please introduce yourself to my readers?

Emily:
My name is Emily, and as you stated, Krista and I met and became friends during our to time at GMU! I earned my Bachelor of Music degree in Vocal Performance there. I am currently the Lead Administrator at Robert Half’s DC office. I’m also a voice teacher and resident singer at a local church.

SITS:
You are fiercely independent. Do you think you were born that way or is it something you developed?

Emily:
Thank you, that means so much! I really think it was something I developed. Many people don’t know this about me, but I was born with an auditory-language processing disorder. It took me a long time to even learn to talk. I began taking some special education classes as a toddler, and teachers weren’t sure if I could succeed in our school system.

However, in the transition from elementary school to middle school, I truly began to understand the value of hard work. I studied all of the time and sought out help when I needed it. Soon enough, I was out of special classes and taking AP and Honors classes. I went to the top of my class in middle school, and that continued throughout high school and college. Those years were pivotal for me in helping me understand the value of perseverance. If you want to achieve a goal, you have to put in the work.

SITS:
You go girl! I didn’t know that about you, but it makes me love your story even more.

Here’s something I think a lot of people struggle with when they get into a new relationship. Why do you think it’s important to maintain close friendships even when you have a great guy?

Emily:
You have to have balance! Jarrod and I have to make time for our friends together and separately. I’d like to think we’re pretty good about that. We encourage each other to spend time with our friends, and invite them out so our friends can meet each other. It’s important to devote time to your friends, just as it is with your partner. If you claim to have some kind of relationship with people, you need to take the time to be there for those people.
ecarns2.jpg
SITS:
You seem to have a great work/life balance, as well as being able to juggle your time between the important people in your life. How do you do that? Do you sometimes have trouble choosing how to prioritize?
Emily:

Honestly, I have to work at this every day. Some days, I feel like I have this balancing act down. Other days I feel like I am completely out of whack. I work extremely hard at everything I do and sometimes I can give too much energy to one thing instead of keeping a balance.

I do think I’m improving every day, though! I make sure I take my full lunch break now, leave work on time instead of staying late, work out, and fit in time with the people I love — even if it means putting a reminder on my work calendar. The other day, I came upon this quote:
“If it’s not going to matter in 5 years, don’t spend more than 5 minutes upset by it.”
That stuck with me. It’s so easy to let the little annoyances of daily life get to you, but they just don’t matter. At the end of the day it’s not so much about making a living as it is about making a life.

SITS:
Those are great tips, Emily.
What kind of advice do you have for single girls who are currently looking for a relationship?

Emily:
DON’T SETTLE. Seriously. There’s nothing wrong with being single. Even if all your friends are married. So what? If you’re waiting for a partner to be happy, you’ll never be happy. Make sure you have a good relationship with yourself first. It might be a cliché, but it’s true. 

SITS:
What do you think some perks of being single are? What about being in a relationship?

Emily:
Disclaimer: I don’t want to go back to being single. I’m very happy with Jarrod, but…

When you’re single, you only have to be concerned with your schedule, which is convenient. You can go on dates if you want, or if you don’t want to, then don’t! I went through periods where I dated, and then times where I didn’t. It really helped me focus on accepting and loving myself for who I am. I feel like that really prepared me for being in a relationship.
Relationship pros include: having a best friend who’s always there, someone to share your life with, having someone there that helps you grow as a person. The important part of these pros is that you have the right person there as your partner, and that can mean different things for different people. Everyone has their own idea of what a relationship should look like, and that’s great as long as it works for them! Jarrod and I challenge each other to be the best versions of ourselves in every way, and we teach each other how to love better.
ecarns4

SITS:
You recently got a pretty sweet promotion at work because you took initiative and asked for it — congratulations! How did you feel before you asked? What kind of advice would you give for other twentysomethings in the work force?

Emily:
Thank you so much! I hadn’t really done anything like that before, but I felt confident going into it, which I think really helped. Preparation is absolutely key. I did all of my research on my position, compensation, and the marketplace, and then I presented my business case.

SITS:
What is the biggest dream you are working towards right now?

Emily:
My biggest dream now is moving on to grad school. I am looking at programs in Speech/Voice Pathology, so that I can use my knowledge and study of the voice to help those who have speech and communication issues.  However, I have a couple different programs in mind, so I’m continuing to gain experience in the workforce and research different schools until I am sure which specialization I want to pursue. I continue to teach voice and sing on the weekends to keep up with my vocal studies.


If you would like to be featured on Single in The Suburbs, send me a message and we’ll see if we can come up with a fun story to share!

Sometimes Plans Get Broken

The last three years of my life did not go the way I could have imagined in a million years. If you had told me when I was in undergrad that I would develop a debilitating chronic illness just weeks after graduating I would have gone into full-out panic mode. Despite typical teen struggles I had never really dealt with anything incredibly difficult in my life before.

My story certainly doesn’t mirror a typical twentysomething’s, but I have been able to learn firsthand how refreshing it is to focus on your own journey, rather than comparing yourself to others.

My Dreams were: to move to New York City, segue my editorial internship at Seventeen magazine into a job, pay off my own college debt, and enjoy a few more years in a teeny tiny apartment with a fun roommate while I was still young and unmarried. Towards the end of my time working in the city I felt like these dreams were so close I could almost taste them — after all, I was literally eating $2 New York pizza and garlic knots for dinner every other night, and I had become a pro in the city I loved so much.

seventeen.jpg
I loved incorporating some of my favorite clothing pieces from London into my New York wardrobe.

My reality is: I live at home with my parents in the suburbs, I physically cannot work despite spending so much time in school preparing for the real world (Where the fun should really begin in my field!), and I spend the same amount of time at the doctors’ office as many of my peers spend working. All of this topped off with the handful of POTS symptoms that remain and my chronic widespread pain make a perfect recipe for frustration.

The funniest thing about everything, though, is I am the most content and secure I have ever been in my entire life. I see so many of my friends succeeding in their own lives and careers and I am genuinely so happy for each and every one of them. I actually really like social media because I feel like I get to celebrate small and large victories not only with my close friends, but also with people I haven’t seen in awhile.

I would be lying if I said I didn’t sometimes feel a little pang of jealousy that most of the people I spend time with have normally functioning bodies, but it’s never in a way that I would want to take anything away from anyone; I just want to have my own health back. All of my friends are able to go to concerts and on road trips without having a care in the world, whereas it takes a lot of planning for me to be even remotely spontaneous. So in this way, I do sometimes struggle with the things I have to miss because of my illness.

I still feel a little heartbroken when I think about New York and wish I could go out my front door and see the beautiful lights shimmering around me at night. I want to be able to live life again without paying attention to dozens of little details to ensure I don’t feel incredibly ill, but that isn’t my reality at the moment. Right now I do have to take lots of extra care of my body and I can’t do everything that my heart desires.

17mag
This is literally the coolest couch ever. All the celebrities that come in sit here for their interviews!

So, how do I feel so at peace with my life? How can I be so happy for others when I don’t necessarily have the same privilege of a normal, working body?

My answer is actually really simple. I focus on the things I do have, rather than those that I do not, and I realize that there is enough room for everyone to be successful in their own way.

Here is the long list of things I do have in my life:

  • Amazingly supportive friends and family who love me very much. This already makes me feel like one of the most blessed and lucky girls in the world when I take the time to sit down and really appreciate them.
  • The best best friends in the world — this includes my little puppy, Macy.
  • My body works enough now that I can have some fun adventures, as long as I take it easy a few days before and after a big event.
  • I think there’s a good chance I might have found the best guy in the entire world and he likes me too (And is totally fine with the excessive amount of rest I need to feel good).
  • My heart has been broken into a million pieces and I still know how to love fiercely.
  • Even though I can’t be writing articles for Seventeen at the moment, I can share my thoughts with lots of young girls on this blog. At the end of the day I am still following one of the paths I really wanted to be on.
  • I may not have a snazzy New York apartment, but I have a warm place to stay and absolutely love my family — I actually think I am lucky to have a few extra years living with them!
  • The Office is available on Netflix (And so is Pokémon: Indigo League… I mean, what?).
  • And lastly, I have chocolate. I may have developed several new food allergies in the past few years, but I love chocolate and it loves me, so I think I can deal with any of the dietary restrictions that come my way.
Screen Shot 2016-08-22 at 12.04.39 AM.png
Macy is my sweet little guardian angel and has been one of the biggest blessings I have received since I got sick.

I really could go on and on about the things I am thankful for in my life. I’m not optimistic every day and I do struggle seeing the bright side of things sometimes, but my God is an awesome God and I know He is taking really good care of me. I have known from a young age that my purpose in life is to somehow help others, and the responses I have gotten from writing for this blog makes me feel like I am making an impact on people’s lives.

Thank you for reading what I write, and thank you for being so supportive of me. I love that so many of you have been comfortable enough to trust me with some of your struggles, and I feel blessed to walk alongside such wonderful people in their journeys through heartbreak or to find love. Each one of you has something absolutely amazing to offer the world. Just because your story might be vastly different, doesn’t mean that it is any less important or fulfilling.

Feature Friday: Kalika, Ben, & Trina

Kalika and I have been good friends since my freshman year of high school and I feel so incredibly blessed to still have her in my life today. She is one of the most creative, empathetic, bubbly, and thoughtful girls that I know. Kalika loves dogs as much as I do, and is currently the mother of one adorable crooked-tailed pups out there.

kalikatrina.jpg
Single In The Suburbs:
Where did you and Ben meet? What were your first impressions and how might they have changed over time?

Kalika:
Ben and I were both interns with Campus Special during the summer of 2012. We met at a training conference in Atlanta while waiting for the elevator. I immediately thought he was handsome and particularly liked his blue eyes. His nametag showed that he was the University of Delaware rep, and I know a few people that went there (thanks, Kate!) so I struck up a conversation.

We went to my first NBA and MLB games that weekend where I learned pretty quickly about Ben’s schemes, like sneaking down to better seats that were still available on StubHub right before tickets are taken down before the game (he’s only gotten better at scheming since I’ve known him).

My first impression of Ben was that he was shy and quiet, but that is not the case! As we got more comfortable with each other, he’s shown his true colors as SUCH a goofball. He makes the most ridiculous faces, sings along to songs with the wrong words or in goofy voices, wears collared shirts with sweat shorts in public, and makes me laugh all the time. When we had been dating no more than 2 weeks, he showed me a video of him singing “I’m Yours” by Jason Mraz that he made for a high school class. It was so ridiculous (and a little cringeworthy) – I couldn’t believe he showed it to me that early in our relationship!

I should note that it was not all sunshine and rainbows and dates immediately after meeting. I visited Ben and my friend/his sales partner Eva at the University of Delaware a few times during the summer and liked Ben more than he liked me. We fell out of touch during 4th year (that’s UVA speak for “senior year”). Ben moved to DC after graduating in 2013. Eva was visiting me in northern VA while I was home for a month before moving back to Charlottesville to start my job. We were at Mellow Mushroom in Adams Morgan when Eva suggested we meet up with Ben. I was reluctant since it had been a while and he wasn’t interested in pursuing a relationship with me but thankfully, Eva insisted.

Ben met us at Maddy’s for drinks and we hit it off again. Surprisingly, we continued to hang out after Eva’s visit, going to a few Nationals games and on our first real date in Arlington. In September, Ben came down to Charlottesville for the first time to attend the annual Top of the Hops beer festival. Once we arrived and started seeing many of my friends and coworkers I asked Ben, “How should I introduce you?” He replied with a smile, “You can introduce me as your boyfriend.”

SITS:
When did you first know Ben was the one you wanted to spend your life with?

Kalika:
I can’t think of an exact moment but I’d say sometime in the first half of 2015. I was already in love with Ben and really excited for him to move down to Charlottesville in May. I knew that living together would confirm that we would never be apart again!

Screen Shot 2016-08-07 at 10.16.39 PM.png
“One thing that affirmed that Ben was ‘the one’ is the way he is with Trina. He is such a great dog dad and I love how he snuggles with her and loves her so much.”

SITS:
What is your favorite memory with Ben?

Kalika:
Oh gosh, I definitely don’t have just one: our first first kiss on a bench at the University of Delaware when he finally opened up to me; our second first kiss after our first date in DC; relaxing in romantic hot springs in Costa Rica; hearing him say “I’d be down to come back next year” on day 2 in India; enjoying Valentine’s Day dinner that Ben put so much work into (see below); waking up next to him (which I really appreciate after 2 years of long distance); and feeling so at home while snuggling on the couch with him and Trina.

Screen Shot 2016-08-07 at 10.25.59 PM.png

Also, this isn’t a memory with Ben, but I love how he’s made friends with my friends and can hold his own with my family without me present. When Ben lived in DC, he didn’t have a car, so he would ride down to visit me in Charlottesville with my friends and get to know them one-on-one. He stayed an extra day in San Fransisco with my cousins and has gone out to dinner with my dad without me. He’s come a long way from the “quiet” guy I thought he was in 2012!

SITS:
How has your life changed since you got engaged?

Kalika:
1. Our day-to-day life is pretty much the same but with the addition of wedding planning!  In the spring we took venue tours, and now we are going to meetings and doing vendor research (and bugging Ben to fill in his addresses for the save the dates). I think we’ve done a good job of splitting responsibilities, for example, Ben’s managing our relationship with our caterer while I’m working on save the dates and photography.

2. We talk about our future more often and talk about long-term plans now that we know we will always be there for each other.

3. I get scolded if I forget to put on my ring (I don’t sleep with it on since that’s when the chance of a stone popping out is highest, and it doesn’t happen often, I promise!).

SITS:
TELL US ABOUT YOUR ENGAGEMENT CELEBRATION IN INDIA!!

Kalika:
What a whirlwind of a day… First let me explain that I had been expecting a pretty casual ceremony at one of my relatives’ houses, just involving a quick blessing by a priest. After traveling for over 20 hours, we arrived in Jaipur the morning of our engagement celebration and immediately went to my aunt’s house for mehndi. We were greeted by a loud traditional drummer and thrown into a dancing circle with several of my cousins. We had lunch, got our mehndi done and relaxed until it was time to get dressed. My dad and uncle whisked Ben away to get his outfit while my aunts dressed me up like a “Rajput princess” (warrior class), in an outfit very similar to what a bride would wear for an Indian wedding.

kalik2.jpg
Photo credit: Erin Kwon

We all drove together to the venue (an event lawn outside my uncle’s restaurant) but the car stopped on the side of the road before we were quite there. We were instructed to get out of the car, and into a horse-drawn carriage! After making a dramatic entrance, we were seated on a throne/couch/bench? in front of all the guests. Traditional dancers performed for us, spinning around with jugs of water then flaming pots on their heads. A CRAZY guy danced on nails and swords sharp side up with jugs of water on his head. He also breathed fire while Ben and I looked on in disbelief. I asked my dad if this performance was planned to ensure we stayed awake! After greeting many, many relatives, the night ended with dinner and fireworks. Ben said “if we had to turn around and go home right now, I’d be OK with it, but I’m glad we have 7 more days.”

kalik.jpg
Photo credit: Erin Kwon

SITS:
How do you manage having time for your calligraphy, work, a relationship, and friendships? What tips would you give girls for creating balance in their lives?

Kalika:
This is not easy. I still struggle with this all the time. I’ve learned to not try to do everything every day; balance is much easier for me when I allot one evening to grilling with friends, one evening to riding, and one evening to calligraphy, for example. I’ll even use my Google calendar to block off time.

Ben is really good about helping out around the house when I’m hustling to meet a deadline, but encourages me to make sure it doesn’t happen too often. So, after a few stressful nights, I’ve learned to give myself more time to complete a calligraphy order than I think I’ll need.

Screen Shot 2016-08-07 at 10.22.19 PM


Can’t get enough of Kalika? Neither can I!! Check out her amazing calligraphy work on her Facebook page or Instagram (She designed the Single in The Suburbs logo on my Twitter and Facebook!). Check out her website for beautiful wedding invitations, decorations, and pretty much anything paper-related you could ever dream of.

If you’re like me and love dogs more than anything, follow her pup Trina on Instagram. She is one of the most adorably quirky gals I know. 🙂

(Be)a(you)tiful

Giving away even small pieces of yourself at a time will eventually leave a big hole in your heart.

I’ve always hated seeing friends lose part of themselves when they met a guy. One thing I initially liked about my first serious relationship was that I was unapologetically myself, whether or not my ex liked it. I stayed true to my values and didn’t get rid of any of the activities that made me happy; I simply added my boyfriend to my life instead of working everything else around him. Being myself regardless of where I am or who I am with has always been one of my strengths.

Towards the end of our relationship, though, I lost so much of myself. I compromised on morals that I held close to my heart to try to fix a broken relationship, I gave up on several of my own dreams, and I decided my boyfriend was not only the most important thing in my life, but he became the only thing that was important to me. Since our love story was clearly coming to an end I felt crushed. I could never fully concentrate on anything that was going on in my life in Virginia because my mind was always with him.

When we broke up I quickly snapped back to reality (Oh, there goes gravity!) and realized I never wanted to become so lost in someone else that I, in turn, lose myself again.

This is easier said than done once you’ve given so much of yourself to someone else. Dating again was refreshing, but I have made an incredible effort to stay self-aware in every relationship that I have cultivated — whether it is with a guy I go on one date with or someone I am hoping to be exclusive with one day.

The new harmful pattern that had developed in the last few months with my ex shined brightly with the first guy I liked since we broke up. It happened with the handsome athlete from school and I noticed it as soon as I began to backslide. You see, this particular gentleman had seen my blog and absolutely hated it. He told me that he thought it was a terrible idea to write about my dating life and that he thought I was “better than that.”

Screen Shot 2016-08-16 at 2.23.56 PM

Dang it, I thought, If he doesn’t like my writing every great guy out there is going to hate it too!

I quickly began to rethink my decision to write about dating. Even though I didn’t want a relationship anytime soon, I did eventually want to meet someone. I was afraid that if this sweet, classy guy judged me for writing about my experiences that every single “good guy” out there would feel the same way. After going home and really meditating on it, I decided that I would just have to eventually find a different gentleman who actually did enjoy my writing and would be okay with the fact that I am so open about my life. This didn’t mean that he would be need to love being written about, but he at least couldn’t be someone who would judge me harshly for something I genuinely love to do. This particular man just wasn’t the right fit if he didn’t understand my writing, sense of humor, and ultimately the intentions of my heart.

Single In The Suburbs has become something that’s important to me and although I’ll give up the “single” part of my life one day, I won’t give up the things that I value, such as sharing my life experiences and trying to help others — whether it’s through my sense of humor or sharing mistakes I have made in my own life.

I am a huge advocate for being comfortable in your own skin and not changing just so people will like you more. The right people will love you for the things that make you unique, and the others just aren’t people who are meant to be a big part of your life.

Today’s lesson: One of the best ways to find the right people to surround yourself with is being unapologetically you and paying close attention to who sticks around. There is not a single person in the world who will be liked by everyone; no matter how nice or thoughtful you are, there will always be haters. The more genuine you are, though, the easier it will be for you to find relationships that will be a good fit for you. As Oscar Wilde once said, “Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.”

My Anniversary With POTS

Yesterday was my three year anniversary of being diagnosed with postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome. I actually went back to the scene of the crime — the beach — this weekend, and although it felt bittersweet being somewhere amazing and having to take frequent breaks to rest, it got me thinking about just how far I’ve come.

I decided to take a little time to list a few things I’ve learned the past couple of years. This has easily been the most I have grown in my entire life, as new challenges seem to arise every step of the way fighting for recovery. Having something life-changing pop up so quickly drastically changes every aspect of your life, but I do believe there is a reason this happened and that there are several positive things I have learned from this experience.


Things You Learn From Having A Chronic Illness

1. You learn how to ask for help. I have always prided myself on being incredibly independent, so one of the most difficult things with getting sick has been learning how to tell people I need help with really simple tasks. When I first got POTS I couldn’t even climb up a flight of stairs, so was constantly asking people to grab things from my room for me or running errands to get the salty snacks I needed so often.

It can still be frustrating, embarrassing, and uncomfortable, especially since I look so normal and sometimes have to enlist complete strangers to give me a hand. Although I am still working on asking for help when I need it, this has taught me just how beautifully kind people can be to one another. I have collected so many wonderful stories that I don’t even know which one I should choose for this post.

I suppose I’ll tell a very simple story that this person probably doesn’t even remember, but that left an impact on me. Last year in one of my PWR (Professional Writing and Rhetoric) classes, we had to gather a small collection of textbooks from the library and carry them back to our classroom. It was the first day of the semester and I didn’t know anyone in my class, but had to swallow my pride and ask a guy in the class to help me carry my backpack full of books back to our room, as I am not supposed to carry more than five pounds. He smiled, told me it wasn’t a problem at all, and asked me about other things in my life, rather than focusing on the illness that I had tried to quickly explain to him. I felt so much more thankful than this gentleman could ever know, and to this day remember this little act of kindness when I see him in class.

2. You lose friends, but also get to learn who will be a part of your life forever. I was shocked to see some relationships I thought would be lasting friendships crumble when I got sick. Towards the beginning of my illness I couldn’t do very much other than lie on my couch and chat. Sometimes I felt well enough to sit up and play N64, but that was only on a good day. Some of my friends decided they didn’t have anything in common with me anymore since I couldn’t really go out, and others just gradually drifted away. The most wonderful thing about this, though, was that I also learned that I have fiercely loyal friends who have kept in touch and loved me so selflessly since I got sick. Most of these people haven’t suffered from an illness themselves, but try their hardest to and realize I still have the same heart (Even if it does beat much faster than it used to sometimes) and am still the same person, despite not being able to do many of the same activities anymore.

Overall I have actually gained even more friends than I used to have in my life. Some people who have read my story on social media have reached out and formed friendships with me, and I have been able to empathize with so many other people I would not have originally realized I had things in common with. It’s great being able to empathize with people who are struggling with big life changes, as we can lean on each other for understanding and support.

Screen Shot 2016-08-15 at 11.07.04 AM

3. Meeting new people is a little strange. I’m different in so many ways since I got sick. I can’t control that I have to be high maintenance sometimes now, so even though my mindset is the same and I don’t like to inconvenience anyone, I have a little laundry list of things I must do to keep from fainting or feeling sick every day. I’ve had to be vocal about changing around plans a little when they don’t work for me or I sometimes miss out on activities I normally would have loved to partake in. A big part of my personality used to be that I loved playing sports and doing anything and everything outdoors. Now I have a hard time being out in the heat too long and I can’t really play a lot of my favorite games because of the chronic pain I deal with. The bright side of everything, though? I have actually found new activities that I really enjoy. I now love playing a few different video games, baking, listening to podcasts, strategic board games, and I still have room for my favorite activity of all — writing!

My new friends may not know the Krista that was carefree and crazily spontaneous, but they do still get to see my thoughtfulness and kindness towards others in our relationship. I have struggled a lot the past few years, but I like to think of the positive qualities I have gained, rather than the physical limitations that are now a part of my life.

4. People want to help. I’ve learned that so many people have such beautiful hearts and actually go out of their way to make things easier on me. I have a few friends in particular who consistently drive several hours to come and hang out with me since I can’t drive more than about fifteen minutes at a time without really feeling it the next day. My girl friends have gotten so used to helping that I don’t even need to ask them to carry my Smart Water around anymore — they just grab it from my hand without missing a beat.

5. God is good. I felt devastated when I first got sick, but I somehow have had an overwhelming peace with everything the majority of the time I have dealt with the loss of a normal body. I never in a million years would have thought I could deal with something like this, but I have been given a strength that absolutely blows my mind when I think about it. I am not someone who is just naturally great at dealing with curveballs life throws at me, (I’m actually notoriously bad at dealing with change) and the only logical thing I can attribute this to is Jesus and all of the people who have been praying for me. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.


Having POTS has changed my life in so many ways. If I could heal myself now I would in an instant, but I also would not trade everything that I’ve learned for the world. I have found the value of compassion and empathy. Dealing with a chronic illness has taught me to cherish the relationships I have and it has taught me just how important it is to choose people to be with who can handle hardships in a relationship.

I still don’t feel like some parts of this are real. Sometimes I feel like I’m going to wake up one day and this whole ordeal was just a bad dream and that I’ll have my old body back. I daydream about playing volleyball or running again. I sit by the ocean and remember the days that I used to skip around and play in the water and what it was like learning how to surf. Waking up one day and being completely better is pretty unlikely, but I’m going to work as hard as I can to have a normal life again, and if nothing else I realize how lucky I am for getting so much better. Even if I can’t play sports right now, I have so many things to be joyful for, and I thank God for these blessings each and every day.