On Giving Up

Hello friends (it’s meūüé∂)

I’m pretty confident we all have moments in our lives where we try something new, and we absolutely, completely suck at it. And that feeling is trash, isn’t it? You think¬†what’s the point and continue begrudgingly, or quit entirely.

My question is, why as human beings think do we think that we’re¬†so¬†special that everything we try is going to go our way, the FIRST time we do it? Is anyone good at¬†anything the first time they do it? Yes, I’m here to inform you that your first performance in bed fucking sucked, as the evidence suggests that it only gets better with age¬†and in the same breath, practice.

Practice makes perfect. Three simple words that are much easier uttered than adhered to. Is the ego really that fragile that we can’t take when we’re bad at something? I see this cropping up in my own life often. I’ve played guitar since I was 15, but haven’t made much time to do so in recent years. Should I be¬†surprised¬†when it’s a little harder for me to get back in the groove and have to practice the music I look up to play, instead of getting it instantly? Short answer: no. Long answer: You only get good at things by being bad at them first, but by the time we’re self aware adults, we’re already pretty good at a variety of things. Therefore, it’s disheartening when all of our accumulated life experiences¬†haven’t properly prepared us for this very moment, in which we have to face our obviously less than versatile skill set. Bummer.

Here’s the good news: everyone’s been bad at something before in their lives. Maybe you don’t feel that way as a first timer at the gym looking around at all the grunting, buffed out meatheads. You probably don’t feel that comforted by that when you’re interviewing for a new job fresh out of college and your interviewer has been doing this professionally for years now. And you certainly don’t feel like you have your life together looking at a Kardashian’s Instagram feed from your 9-5 cubicle (Okay, maybe you do, if you’re looking at Kylie Lip Kit reviews, but I digress.)

We all have to be bad before we can be good, or even mediocre at something. Have faith in your ability to be bad. Embrace it, because it’s what leads you to greatness.

If everything came to us easily, what would be worth having? And I don’t mean that in an American Dream late stage capitalism way, I mean that in a¬†maybe learning to meditate¬†for 5 minutes everyday doesn’t seem like that big of a deal, but it’s really making my mornings better¬†kind of way. Self improvement in any aspect is going to make us feel bad at first, because it forces us to own up to the fact that¬†we haven’t been doing something we could have been.¬†Everyone isn’t already ahead of the curve, we all have things we can be better at. Vera Wang made her first wedding dress at 40 years old, who says you can’t decide to become an avid runner tomorrow?¬†You.¬†That’s literally it. Allowing ourselves to stew in our own self doubt is a recipe for disaster (see what I did there.)

fartoosmart

Keep being bad, and then flourish in the fruits of your harvest later. And by fruits I mean newly acquired skills, because if apes can learn sign language, you can learn to do anything, you big self serving baby. Giving up is easy, sure, but believing in yourself is invaluable.

Now stop making this all about you and go be your best, awful self.

Tallyho,
Jeanine

 

Advertisements

Let’s Talk About Skin Care, Baby

Probably not what you were expecting as my first post back from my blogging hiatus, but as my mom would say,¬†here’s the scoop, poop:

Skin care is something that over the past year I’ve spent A LOT of time and money on. Here’s a brief timeline on why:

  1. Had perfect skin most of my life
  2. Was also on oral birth control
  3. Stopped taking oral birth control due to some unforgiving side effects
  4. VOLCANOS ALL OVER MY FACE FOR TWO YEARS STRAIGHT

So as you can see, as someone who didn’t suffer the pains of acne most of my life, this was severely embarrassing and debilitating. Not only did I have extremely painful cystic acne, but I’m prone to picking my acne too, so I had extremely painful cystic acne covered in scabs and scars from picking at it. Super fun.

I was devastated. My story isn’t unique in that I did everything in my power to cover it up with thick expensive foundations, harsh cleansers, electric cleansing brushes, the dermatologist, you name it I tried it. As one could imagine, it took a serious toll on my self-esteem. But I’ve finally managed to get it under control and I’ll tell you how, because like everything else I say, it’s important and interesting.

GET YOUR SKIN TYPE ASSESSED BY A PROFESSIONAL

SERIOUSLY. I was fucking murdering my skin with harsh cleansers thinking it was “oily” until my dermatologist told me I don’t have oily skin, I have dry skin that I’m exacerbating issues with by over cleansing and therefore, my face is compensating by over¬†producing¬†oil. Mind. BLOWN. Once I switched to a more gentle cleanser my face stopped behaving like a fucking lunatic and *surprise* the cysts went away. Also, going to a dermatologist you like and think has your best interests in mind is key for anyone struggling with chronic acne or other skin problems. Western medicine can be shit sometimes, but if you have skin issues find yourself a good derm and you’ll thank yourself later for it.

DRINK A METRIC SHIT TON OF WATER

Ok, not that much. Drink about half your body weight in ounces though. I.e. if you’re 120 lbs drink 60 ounces of water a day at the minimum. I know you’re so fucking tired of this clich√© advice but it’s clich√© because it’s important. I drink water all day long, but it wasn’t until I was consistently drinking enough water for my body and skin not to be dehydrated that my face stopped looking like the craters on the dark side of the moon. Great album, bad skin status. Drink your water. Download Plant Nanny¬†and keep a cute little plant alive while you log your water intake for the day. Your plant will literally die if you don’t take care of it, so you can wrestle with double the guilt of not staying on track by killing your cute, co-dependant plant AND your hopes and dreams of clear skin.

GOOD SKIN CARE DOESN’T HAVE TO BE EXPENSIVE, JUST CONSISTENT

Anyone who knows me personally is probably thinking, Jeanine, what the fuck, knowing that my current status at Sephora as a VIB Rogue (look up how much money you have to spend a year there to qualify for that and judge me later) makes me a bit of a douche for giving this advice but hear me out: Good skin care really doesn’t have to be all that expensive. Drug store products have come a long way, and gentle effective skin care products now exist at your local CVS and not to mention, The Most Beautiful Cyber Place on Earth, amazon.com. You don’t even have to leave your house to get toner, Amazon Prime that shit right to your door in two days time. Basic skin care follows the Cleanse, Tone, and Moisturize mantra. Finding good products for these tasks is no longer difficult. But you do have to be consistent with taking care of your skin. I know you already know this, but just don’t sleep with your damn makeup on. It clogs your precious pores and makes a mess on your pillow. It’s also really bad for your eyelashes to not remove mascara¬†so just do yourself a favor and take off your makeup no matter how tired you are. It’s a pain in the ass, I know. But so is every other damn thing us girls do to be beautiful, and at least in this case having healthy skin is less about vanity and more about your overall wellbeing. Your skin is your biggest organ, so be nice to it and give it the gift of consistency, since no man ever will.

IMPORTANT PRODUCTS

gentle-skin-cleanser-16oz_front__97600-1461256140-386-513

Cetaphil has literally changed my skin, no exaggeration and the very literal use of the word literally. It’s gentle on all skin types and $9 or $10 dollars at your local drug store. Get any sort of gentle skin cleanser, but Cetaphil is my choice as someone who has never gone to medical school a day in my life or even made a compulsive habit of self diagnosis on WebMd. You’re welcome.

450

I honestly don’t tone my face every night, sometimes my skin doesn’t need it. But when I do, I use this. Also about 10 dollars on Amazon, it smells amazing, is never drying, and primes your face perfectly for accepting that nice thick moisturizer. Mhm, girl.

2249249

FOR WIPIN’ THAT MAKEUP OFF and all of your sins too.

My final note on this, because I think moisturizer is so much of personal preference to people, is just find a good,¬†non-comedogenic (doesn’t clog your pores) one that you like the way it feels on your skin. Don’t be afraid of oils either, but we can talk about that another time. For now, here’s what’s helped me. 2017 is the year of good skin care people, and we can fight our acne with the same fervor our President-Elect embodies while using Twitter:

Swift, with no mercy, and at all hours of the day.

I don’t have any pictures of my skin before which is annoying, I know, but let’s just say it was so bad I couldn’t even take a picture of it without getting upset. I never thought I would even be here, to be honest, or able to talk about it, but here’s a picture of my skin in this very moment right now:

img_0479-2

It’s very new to me to be fresh-faced anywhere, ESPECIALLY in the harsh jungle of the internet. But I’m learning slowly to appreciate the progress my skin has made, even though I still have plenty of discoloration marks from picking at my skin like a caged animal and perpetual dark circles (it is what it is) but acne or not, I deserve to not feel ashamed of my face. I take good care of myself and my skin now, so if it’s not perfect, so be it. I’ve got this, and whatever your insecurities are, you’ve got this too. We’ve got this together.

Your Favorite Naked Face,
Jeanine

I Haven’t Felt Like Writing Anything

A pretty self explanatory title, but that’s how I’ve felt the past few months

I just haven’t feel like

writing

anything.

But I’ve come to realize it’s not my love of writing that’s faltered, it’s that I haven’t been doing anything to actively foster my creativity.

Like most, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking lately about what I want my life to look like in the new year and what I want to¬†be proud of in it come January 2018.

I think the biggest thing that I’m going to do is be open to trying new things. Failure doesn’t bother me nearly as much as it used to, and I’ve accepted it as a healthy part of growth. So I want to try at least a few new things every now and then that I find interesting. Even if I suck at it, I can say I did something different, I went out on a limb, and I made an effort, no matter how futile.

This applies to creative ventures too.

So hopefully you’ll be seeing a lot more of me here.

Until then,
Jeanine

P.S. Here is a picture of my dog because cuteness:

A handsome Christmas boy #helovedhisbarkbox

A post shared by JLH (@jeaninelauren) on

7 Jeans, True Religion

I’m lucky in that my mom taught me how to read from a young age. I gobbled everything up that I could once I knew how to read, and subsequently I find that it enhanced my language, my writing, and the way I see the world. Being literate, for example, was one of the first ways I was able to connect to a faith and absorb its teachings. Back when I was in elementary school, the parents of some of the kids I went to church with would have religion classes at their homes instead of at the church itself. So every week, on whatever night of the week class happened to take place, I would go around the block to the house of someone I was in elementary school with and learn about the bible, Catholicism, and God.

They used to hand out little pamphlets at the end of each class that would have some sort of religious fortune cookie type message. I assume most able minded kids would toss those aside, but I always read them. It was a story, and like any other story, I wanted to know what happened. Even though most religious teachings have some sort of happy ending goodness and kindness prevails theme to them, I think that having that sort of message as a catalyst that shaped the way I viewed the world did make me a kinder person. I was always nice to everyone when I was a kid, regardless of how they were to me. I felt protected by the way that there was a greater Goodness out there for us to aspire to and hopefully, extend to the world.

But eventually I outgrew my faith in the same way one outgrows a great pair of jeans that just don’t fit anymore in the same way- they’re familiar in that you can get into them, but they just don’t support your needs, or your ass, the way they used to. And thus, they have to go.

2ab80e820af7c9c2b2d00c35cbaab35e

Just because *technically* you can still fit into those jeans, doesn’t mean you should wear something that¬†doesn’t truly suit you any longer.¬†So you put on your new pair of leggings and pay homage to all the good those jeans did you at the time, but also move forward knowing that you’re better clothed now in an outfit that makes you feel like the most comfortable, authentic version of yourself. And then you also help yourself to three slices of pizza, because leggings stretch. #winning.

Your Carb Loving Gal,
Jeanine

Is the Opposite of War Peace?

If you are American, or at the very least a citizen of the world who is aware of things going on in other countries (often something Americans themselves falter at) you would be aware that November 8th, election day, is swiftly approaching.

It’s entirely possible that election season has been more volatile than it is in the present, but being that I’m now in my mid 20’s, I feel as though I’m hyper aware of political grievances. I think most would agree that this election is anxiety inducing at its¬†least, and utterly horrifying at its most. I think the majority¬†would tend towards the latter.

Obviously, as a millennial, my cellphone is my additional technological limb. Therefore, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to ignore the political hostility that has been slowly erupting on social media over the past year. It seems like it’s climbing to its peak over the last few weeks, and with that I want to explore a question: once we do reach the peak, where do we go from there to climb back down?

010959dddb71e5d9dfccc76c90f498b9

I’ve always found politics interesting for a variety of reasons. Lately, it’s piqued my interest for one in particular: what motivations shape your values, and how is it possible for them to be completely solid and founded to you, yet utterly nonsensical to another perfectly sane, intelligent person?

Of course, it’s understandable to become infuriated at the thought of someone opposing something you consider a basic human right and part as your identity as a self-aware human being. For example, I’m not shy about the fact that I am firmly pro-choice and support the funding of Planned Parenthood. To me this is completely non-negotiable. You will not change my mind about it. But just as I believe with all of my moral compulsion that this is what I stand for unequivocally, someone else has their completely sane and rational reasons why they are undeniably fixed in standing¬†against my beliefs. I have friends who I’m quite fond of and respect quite wholly who do not share these values with me. This is not a matter of intelligent¬†vs.¬†unintelligent. So what is it a matter of?

Our emotional relationship with the world is arguably one of the single most defining traits of our human experience. We have morals as humans, and we have consciousness. As sentient beings, we are set apart from other animals, and ultimately for the same reason, set apart from each other.

Emotions are the colors in which our world is painted. The way your chest swells at a gorgeous sunset, and on the contrary, the way it caves in at the crippling loss of a loved one, the way it feels like a wave of boiling water rushes through your veins the moment you see the person you are longing for, and the balloon pop of joy in your heart when you realize your love is in fact requited are just a few of the many impassioned experiences that contribute to our Technicolor consciousness. This is what makes us human, and behind every decision we make, every belief we bestow our faith in, is an emotion that is unique and paramount to us personally. And so it seems, there are times in which we share these sentiments with our fellow human beings. Just as contrarily, there are times in which we categorically do not.

7e4681302735b34bd679c9a63da4c318

Is the opposite of war peace? Is the solution to a view you do not share or understand to not only shun it, but berate its advocate? Peace is lovely, and most of our lives would be very lacking without it, but I think the opposite we are looking for is compassion. Understanding. Empathy. These are what connect us to one another, and when tensions are high and we are at odds, they can bring us back together and bridge the divide that infects every single one of us.

Right now, we are all standing at the peak. Looking down at the world below you of human brothers and sisters, what do you want to be?

“Correct”, or compassionate?

I encourage you to join me in leaning towards the latter.

Tenderly,
Jeanine

Embracing the Ugly

I’ve spent the larger part of my 24 years running from or denying ugliness.

A natural response to said ugliness is often some variation of “why me?” Why am I being forced to deal with this? Why is this happening to¬†me? Me, me, me.

The fallacy in this line of thinking is considering pain and ugliness as something separate from us. Pain and misfortune aren’t something that’s inflicted upon us, it’s something inherently apart of us as human beings.

“Why me’s” are useless. The only thing I’ve come to know for certain is that nothing is certain. When we look at¬†the¬†pain from the ugliness and¬†turn it into an¬†unwanted intruder,¬†we lose out on on the experience of taking our pain along on the ride with us. When we make our pain¬†into a feral animal that’s somehow broken through our backyard fences instead of living in the shadows of our humble homes, it becomes easier to dissociate from it. It’s something different from us, something “other,” and as a result of that we don’t allow it into our consciousness as a part of ourselves, which is a disservice to the very real pain that is apart of everyone single persons human experience.

I think it’s part of most of our defaults, however, to run and deny pain and ugliness. Myself included.I’m still learning how to turn the “why me’s” into “where can I go from here’s” as best as I can.

Despite this, a blessing I’ve come to acknowledge with time is the extent to which other people are dealing with ugliness in their lives as well. Newsflash: we all are. That’s one of the most bittersweet realizations I’ve come to as a young adult: you think that you’re the only one knees deep in a steaming pile of shit, meanwhile the people you meet threw their jeans in the washer just prior. We’re all knees deep in shit, some of¬†are just better at washing it off before heading out the door.

Undertaking the process of becoming more self aware has lead me to realize the extent to which I’ve tried to deny, numb, or run away from acknowledging unpleasant things. Grasping how often I clung to this unfortunate method of coping with unpleasantries in my life, it’s easy to see why I dissociate myself from pain. In many ways, it’s been part of my survival. But I know too much now to deny myself the experience of sitting with my pain.

cheryl-strayed-quote-9

Writing is often how I deal with my inner and outer turmoil. Sometimes I run from that too, because once you put the words to paper, or keyboard, they materialize. They are real. And then you have to deal with them. It’s a lot easier to run from things, we all know this. And we also know it makes the inevitable worse in the end the longer we put off dealing with whatever it is we’re running from.

It’s time to take ownership of your¬†my misfortunes and deal with them.

Are you dealing with your ugliness, or just ignoring it?

To My Future Daughter

I hope that you know you are loved. And that all the love bestowed upon you will outweigh the indignant burdens placed on you from the moment you are declared a daughter, and not a son.

I hope you know that if a boy does something mean to you, it’s inexcusable regardless of if he “likes you.” I hope you know that even in “harmful” adolescent play you have a right to feel safe and like your body belongs to you, regardless of what anyone tells you. I hope you know that if anyone touches you in a way that makes you feel uncomfortable, you know it’s okay to speak up, and you use your voice. “Good girls” don’t have to keep quiet and play nice. You are not a pretty little doll on a shelf for other people to admire, you are the ocean; beautiful, vast, unwavering¬†in kissing the shores of your ambitions.

I hope that when you cry you know that you are not weak or just “being a girl.” I hope you don’t come to believe that a lack of tears makes you strong, and that the people who choose not to¬†feel are any better off. I hope that when something stirs in you, you honor it. When the time comes that you are thrust into the evils of the world with no warning, I hope that you have the courage to acknowledge the madness, and know that it is normal to feel¬†dismay at the unjust chaos of the universe. No, it’s not because you have your period.

I hope that the first time someone makes a negative comment about your appearance, you don’t remember it well into your mid 20’s, or forever. Because I hope you know that your appearance is only a fraction of¬†your being as a woman. I hope you never feel like you’re a prisoner in your own skin in a system that was rigged from the start: none of us were ever really meant¬†to win.

I hope the first time a man yells something at you out of car window and you feel your blood turn to hot lead in terror and violation, that you don’t believe you deserve it. You’re allowed to walk home from school without feeling threatened by strangers; your right to feel safe is more important than their need to comment crudely about your appearance. I suspect you’ll be about eleven or twelve at this time, and I hope that your shoulders don’t slump and arch with the weight of the cross you never asked to bear.

I hope that when you’re walking down the street and someone tells you “you’d look much prettier if you smiled,” that you tell them to go fuck right off. You have my permission on that one.

I hope that someday if¬†your partner makes a joke at your expense you turn your head in contemplation and look them straight in the eyes and say, “that’s not funny.” I hope you know that you don’t have to pretend boys are funny if you don’t think they really are. I hope you know that you’re probably pretty funny yourself, even if there are men that just insist woman comedians¬†hardly ever are.

I hope that you always know that “no,” is a complete sentence.

I hope the first time a man harasses you on the¬†internet you know you don’t deserve it. I hope you know that if the term “feminazi” still exists and is used against you for standing up for yourself, that anyone who has the audacity to combine woman’s rights with one of the most horrific genocides in recent history is not someone¬†who’s opinion you should ever consider. I hope you know that if a boy from your high school asks you for a blow job over social media, his mother would probably be mortified. And so should you, because you don’t exist to pleasure men. I hope you never feel like that is your purpose no matter how frequently that message is shoved down your throat.

2031f9d3ff80580233f0dfa2feec81e0

I hope that the first time a man talks over you in class you say, “I wasn’t finished speaking.” I hope his face turns bright red.

I hope when someday I drop you off at college and¬†we pass banners hanging from the fraternity house windows that say, “Freshman Daughter Daycare” that somehow, you can manage to feel safe and at home. I won’t blame you at all if you don’t.

I hope that if one day you’ve had too much to drink, and the room becomes fuzzy and the furniture is spinning and the nausea begins to creep up into your throat and you feel his unfamiliar hands on your body, that you know that doesn’t give anyone the excuse to take advantage of you. I hope and pray when that happens that you are not alone, but I hope more that I don’t have to rely on the hypocrisy¬†of telling my daughter how to stay safe in a world that doesn’t tell men not to rape. I hope you too, can see how fucked up that is.

I hope if a man ever lays a hand on you, that you know to run hard, long, and fast away from him. I hope you can see the signs of emotional and physical abuse in any relationship when they arise, but if you don’t, I hope when you hear “why didn’t you just leave,” you don’t feel the weight of the world caving in your chest. I hope you don’t, but I’m sure you will.

I hope you never feel that you are a statistic, that your worth isn’t made up in numbers, your weight, your height, the amount of people you’ve slept with. I hope when you hear “not all men,” you repress the urge to commit homicide, since you’ll undoubtedly do more time for that than rape, anyway. I¬†hope that the potential of the life you can have isn’t¬†thwarted by a world that¬†allows injustice against woman at an infinite degree.

I hope that when I tell you all these things, you truly hear them. I hope that you stay vibrant, stay passionate, and stay angry. I hope you never accept that you are less than. I hope that you are steadfast in that you are already whole on your own, and that you always will be.

I hope.

Hope is all I have.

 

Embracing Failure: What Happens When You Leap and the Net Doesn’t Catch You?

Have you ever considered before, what would you do if you could not fail? Probably, and at the very least you’ve heard¬†that idea proposed before. You might have an answer, or a few, but honestly, that’s a pretty loaded question. I don’t know about you, but shit, I’d do literally everything. Spend a year sailing a boat around the world with nothing going wrong? Done. Become an Olympic athlete, sure why not? Write a novel that will certainly become best-selling because, you know, that whole can’t fail thing. I would do it all. Think about it, the world is your oyster and your dreams are the pearl. But once I tackled that question,¬†it began to morph into an even more deeply existential one with the help of one of my new favorite pastimes: podcasts.

“What’s worth doing, even if I fail?”
-Brené Brown

With complete certainty, we will all fail at some of the things we put our best efforts towards in life. In our ventures to become our most fulfilled and actualized selves, trial and error is the most used tool in our belts. You will find the courage to try new things and yet still, you will be met with disappointment because your efforts did not materialize. Such is life. However, after¬†hearing this quote by Bren√© Brown on Elizabeth Gilbert’s Magic Lessons podcast (WHICH YES, I’M VERY ANNOYED I DISCOVERED AFTER¬†I WROTE A POST ABOUT MY FAVORITE PODCASTS BECAUSE IT’S¬†A FUCKING TREASURE)¬†I’ve done myself the liberty of obsessively mulling it over to the point of countless caffeine driven headaches. “What’s worth doing, even if I fail?”

Failure isn’t anyones favorite option, in fact, it’s usually everybody’s least. But it would be foolish to ignore its stark probability in our lives. And so I ask myself, what¬†is¬†worth doing with my life, even if there is an incredibly high probability that despite my fervor for success, I’ll still fail?

13266859_1752006541687076_1678282018_n

Those of us who are into personal development and self-help literature are probably very familiar¬†with idea of leaping into the deep, dark, petrifying abyss of our creative dreams. Usually, amping ourselves up to take that leap that’s the hardest part. And then there’s that smug, entitled part of us every one of us that almost expects to be rewarded for taking that initial jump into the unknown. And yet even with our hearts full of creativity, longing and passion, we are still¬†met with failure. We leapt, and the net didn’t catch us. And we’re left on the ground,¬†shattered and lost as to where to go from here. But what if hitting the net, or the ground, was never the point at all?

When we free ourselves from the idea that we’re too good to fail, or that failure is the ultimate destruction of our dreams, we open ourselves up to the extraordinary possibilities of the things that can come out of just simply trying to achieve our goals. It’s not about the net, it’s not about the accolades, the money, or the success. It’s all about the fall and how you choose to let it cultivate you. Once you accept and embrace failure as a necessary part of your journey, it stops being so God damn scary. Once you stop thinking of your life goals as always being linear, you start to embrace your journey for what it actually is: an incomparpable process we all have to navigate as individuals.

Every decision and risk you take that you feel is right for you at the time is the¬†best you can do at being true to yourself and your goals. So what if it doesn’t work out? Would you rather live your whole life in the shadows of what your life¬†could’ve¬†been if if only you had the courage? Or would you rather give it the ol’ college try despite the way it turns out in the end? I’m choosing the latter.

Learn to embrace the failures. The only true failures are the ones you didn’t learn a damn thing from.

aaeaaqaaaaaaaajlaaaajgu0njjmnzizlwiwnzatndbizi1indnilwu2zwvkzde3zte5nq

So, what is that¬†thing that keeps you up at night that you’re too afraid to try? What would be that one thing worth doing that even if you failed miserably at it, you went for it anyway? What are those several¬†things worth doing despite the outcome?¬†Sit with that for as long as you need, and once you figure it out if you already haven’t, decide to forgo the net from the equation. It’s not about the net, it’s about the journey your soul takes on the way.¬†

I have to say, I’ve never been so excited to fail.

~JLH

Defining Your Identity When Faced with Loss

Being a person who’s lost someone in their immediate family at a young age is an¬†identity that’s foisted upon you and made a part of your story without your consent. In this metaphor, of course, we are all the authors of our own life stories, except you’ll find that this chapter, someone else was holding the pen for you. You may feel this chapter is marred and burned into the pages of your story, and the great big Editor in the sky made you include this excerpt against your will with the threat of the rest not being published.

And it is quite easy, and normal, after such an indignant violation, to feel like you do not want the rest of your story published.

In many ways, it feels like the story ends there. It almost feels like that chapter brought you a very haphazard ending and that you have no other option but to write a new one, if you even want it to continue. Your metaphorical writers block leaves you stagnant.¬†Where do I go from here?¬†You had an outline and now the story has gone entirely¬†off the rails, taken on completely new direction, and at best you are left to untangle whatever new identity it’s transformed into and make sense of it.

e1dc4a8622ec16e2bbd272bb465e934f

This is loss.

There is no clear outline. There is no roadmap or GPS to dealing with grief, as it’s something that is deeply personal and unique to every single one of us. It tries us and changes us in ways that are unpredictable and wholly our own.

And while for many it feels like the end of a story, the unexpected plot twist that leaves you breathless and disoriented and wondering how it’s possible for something to leave off that way, such is an illusion. Death is the end of a physical body.

But it is not the end of you.

Or  your story.

Fuck it, let’s ditch the metaphor, shall we? Someone else’s death is not the end of your¬†story¬† life. It isn’t. It may feel like your life¬†in many was as you knew it will end, and in some ways this is certainly true. Your life will be altered, and in some ways irrevocably changed, but just because you may take on the new identity of “the boy whose sister died” or “the girl whose father died” you are still¬†you.

You are not defined by the summation of all that you have lost. 

Rather, you can choose to define yourself based on all that you’ve become¬†in spite of devastating loss.

And that can range from merely surviving and being okay, to thriving, and using your loss as something that helps you grow into a person who is both grateful for your moments with the people you love, yet starkly aware of how fleeting and subject to change they can be at any moment.

So yes, I am a girl whose father died when I was 16. But I am also a college graduate, a writer, a musician, a daughter, a sister, a friend, a runner (albeit a bad one), a macaroni and cheese enthusiast, and so many more things that I choose to continue to nurture everyday.

I am definitely the victim of tragedy, and while that is a part of my identity, I choose to define myself for¬†all that I am and have become in the story of my life, not just that one hijacked chapter. I certainly have the choice to be bitter about the¬†parts of my story that were written without my consent.¬†However,¬†I choose to not¬†be defined by what I couldn’t control as a teenager, because I can also choose to define myself based on the person I’ve consciously become today.

So who will you become in the face of loss?

The choice is yours.

Terminally,
Jeanine

 

The Quarter Life Crisis and Why Success Isn’t Linear

This past August 1st was my half-birthday, and for whatever compelling reason, I felt the need to tell people. I was met with “half birthdays are a thing?” and “happy half birthday” laced with the undertone of¬†exactly¬†why are you telling me¬†this?¬†Yes, my half-birthday is a thing, and I’m telling you about it because in exactly six months from August 1, 2016, I will turn the ripe old age of twenty-five. Which at that point, will only be another 5 years till 30. And after that, I might as well just be dead. Kidding, (kind of.) To anyone older than me, twenty-five is not¬†“old.” To a 12-year-old, you expect to have your whole life figured out, a fiance, and a 2-year-old golden retriever named Buddy who repeatedly tries to escape from¬†your white picket fence by age twenty-five. Which means in what would be now¬†five¬†months time, yikes, I will officially be qualified to have a quarter life crisis.

Let’s see if this scenario happens to sound familiar: You log on to Facebook and someone is engaged. Pregnant. Buying a house. Made partner at their law firm. Adopted a dog. Just got back from Thailand helping underprivileged children for 6 months. Discovered fitness and lost 30 lbs. Married in the countryside at a vineyard. Working for MTV. Just moved to the big city. Which then begs the question,¬†what am I doing?

Comparison is the death of joy.

– Mark Twain

So what are you doing? You. You’re doing you. No, not in the Drake “Over” kind of way, but in the way that you’re doing the best you can with the information you have at this very moment in time. For some, it doesn’t make sense financially to backpack through Europe at twenty-three. Or ever. And that’s okay.

Success isn’t linear.

And it means something different to everyone.

We hear this all the time. And yet for whatever reason, we rarely give ourselves the leeway to let it actually apply to us. And why would we? We live in a comparison culture¬†of¬†highlighting our best moments on Instagram for our peers but saving the Snapchat with the double chin for our closest friends. We forget that everyone has, more often than not, an abundance of double chin moments as compared to their sparkling wine glass photo against the scenic beach background of The Hampton’s ones. Let’s be real, the effort put into getting those angles just right for your Insta worthy moment probably produced a double chin on its own, but, I digress.

It was banged into my head from the second I crossed the stage of my college graduation that I had to get a job, a¬†real job, nonetheless, and have everything figured out as soon as I could. You know what that mentality lead me to? A lot of unhappiness. You expect that once you put in the work, you’ll be rewarded with a career that fulfills you, or one that you think will at the time. Do you know how many articles and podcasts I’ve come across in this week alone of people who left their law degrees behind in pursuit of teaching yoga? Powerful men and women who woke up and realized their six figure job was only feeding their wallets, and decided it was time to feed their souls?

Leaving a six figure job to sing “Kumbaya” in the mountains certainly doesn’t¬†reflect the lineality¬†we equate with modern success in this culture. But if that¬†happens to be what¬†you need to feel whole, then you are perfectly aligned with yourself, which is infinitely more important.

So maybe you’re reading this right now from your office job that’s soul crushing, but practical. Maybe you’re an A+ student and you realized despite the effort you put into your Bachelors, Masters, or PhD, you want a life of something other than what you’ve achieved academically. Or maybe you’re exactly where you want to be right now, but come to find in a few years that your work no longer helps you grow and you’re paralyzed at the thought of moving on from something you put so much of yourself into. Either way, remember that¬†we’re not always meant to go up.¬†The periods of uncertainty, the lulls, the worries, the anxious endings and the endless questioning of ourselves is what eventually leads us¬†to exponential growth. A smooth sea never made for an experienced sailor.¬†

8124feff6ba68e47a20c8968f1aeae1c

Feeding into the phenomenon of only publicizing your highlight reel is a disservice to all the very authentic moments that make you, you. The lows are just as, if not more, important than the highs in this great voyage we call life.

In five months time if I haven’t achieved anything Facebook worthy,¬†I’ll take solace in the fact that I’m always working to strengthen my sense of worthiness from within. Mine, yours, and everyone’s journeys are incomparable to anyone elses. I invite you to take solace in the fact that you’ll grow while figuring yours out along the way. And in the fact that Buddy the golden retriever probably hasn’t even been born yet, and when he is, will gladly chew up your white picket fence when the time is just right.

We cannot direct the wind, but we can adjust our sails.

Yours Truly,
Jeanine