Saturn return. My golden birthday. This past Friday I turned 28, and wow, more than a quarter of my life has flown by.
The details stand still. Years mostly without a cell phone, hands deep in a creek looking for smooth stones, or stirring a plastic spatula in fat circles of sprinkled cake batter, and dollhouse with wooden walls, Saturdays for cartoons, soccer games, peeling a fruit roll-up, peeling a bandaid s-l-o-w-l-y out of fear, peeling sunburn out of curiosity for the human body. Getting to know the internet, getting to know my brain, crying over boys, crying over tests and grades. Bleeding. Leaking. Juice made from high fructose corn syrup, red dye #5, and cheap vodka poisoning my mind into a state of euphoric submission, climbing trees and kissing girls in the Appalachian night. Packing suitcases. Moving, believing. Allowing him to touch my body, allowing Him to stroke my soul. Across the country with a father, across the country with a boy, across the country all alone. Red mountains. Chasing dreams, essential oils in a bath, being foolish. Comprehending self-worth. Letting go of expectations, making decisions, building tents, following my heart, loving fiercely, crying again. Making coffee, swingsets, Vegas. Mountains and stars. Leaking again. Bleeding, always bleeding, in this cycle of living.
My birthday falls toward the end of September—the harvest time, the very beginning of autumn. A time for nourishing, reflecting, practicing gratitude. And slowing down. Always slowing down. Because this, my friends, is going very quickly.
Below are some lessons—not so much things I’ve learned, but the things I know are worth learning, strengthening, and re-learning. I make them my practice and I share them here with you today, in hopes that we can all can continue to grow and connect together.
You will never regret spending time with family. A simple drive to the airport, miso eggplant on the couch, grocery shopping with Mom. I tend to mull over thing and wonder if in fact it was the “right” decision—never family. In those moments, and especially afterward, I am so grateful for the time spent better knowing and learning my kin.
Trusting your intuition is imperative. It’s not pseduo-science (okay, maybe a little), but rather a deeply integral force resonating within your body. That’s not to say one doesn’t have to decide with their intuition, rather use it as a tool to know when a situation isn’t working for you. I’ve ignored my intuition even when it I knew what it was telling me and I don’t regret those moments because they overall shaped by ability to tap in and tune into those parts of myself. Give it a listen, trust it, and use that trust to fuel an informed decision before running off solely with intellect and emotion.
The outdoors is medicine. Simple and so true. I write this to remember the power of tall pines, dripping dew, lakes that absorb the clouds, sagebrush dancing through the desert, the hum of cicadas on a summer night, and mountains painted in shades of warm.
Occasional escapism is healthy. Just because you watch Netflix doesn’t mean you’re lazy. Just because you get a little high doesn’t mean you’re not processing. Just because you drink pink wine at the Ace Hotel with your buds all Wednesday doesn’t mean you’re lowering your consciousness. It just means it’s the Fourth of July and you like pink wine and bikinis. And if that’s true, we should be friends.
Books are amazing. When I’m sad or anxious, I read. It gives me something to look forward to and it often spurs my own creative ideas. I keep them around my apartment to remind myself of the plethora of adventure that literally lies just below my fingertips. Healthy escapism. Comforting. Travel.
And friendship is everything. Having a gang, regardless of the location, whether they are stretched far across the United States or in the bedroom next door, is a huge comfort and source for play. The best friends are genuine, good listeners, honest, available in times of crisis, playful, and inspiring. They will answer your flood of text messages begging for an outsider’s opinion, or bring you gluten-free pizza and weed when you are sad, and they will take your picture outside of silly attractions even when they are hungover. They do not ask much and always give. Give back.
Don’t drink when you’re sad or fighting. If you drink when you’re sad you become more sad. You stew in dizziness and numbness. You wake up worse for the wear. You count the clouds on your ceiling or get swallowed up the whale of Instagram. If you drink when you’re fighting, you fight more. Clarity and communication is important during an argument—drinking will only drive you and your loved one further apart and into your own dark holes. You will end up sleeping on the couch and not knowing why, and on top of having a hangover, you will have a backache from sleeping on the couch.
Sadness can come when you ignore your heart for too long. Sometimes we ignore the signs of our body in fear that listening to them will take us away from happiness—but the truth is that listening to our heart and gut will only take us away from certainty, which is okay. Everything is uncertain any way “Act upon which you cannot see, but you can feel,” Kyle Cease once said to me. Do not ignore your body—she will whisper until she needs to shout, she knows, she knows.
Don’t postpone meditation. Every day, at least five minutes, and soon you will see the space between your thoughts. You will be able to recognize the darkness versus the lightness, the things slow you down versus the things that lift you into effervescence. Find meditations specifically for anxiety, depression, or heartache. Find a comfy seat and sit.
Comparison is the enemy of creativity. This is a lesson I learned at 14, but have needed to re-learn again and again, and will likely do so for another few years. As someone who was going on auditions at a young age, it became part of my nature—is she better than me? How can I be better? I once had a college professor who laughed while training me for an acting competition, saying “The interesting thing about you, Amanda, is that you don’t just want to be good—you want to be the best.” And that’s true. I’ve constantly been comparing my plays, my acting, my words, my skills, my life to that of those around me, using it as a system to judge my own worth. And in doing so, have stifled valuable opportunities to strengthen my own, unique gifts and talents. Meditation (!!) helps to stop this sort of thinking as you can begin to recognize when your brain slides into comparison mode. It is a toxic thought. Let it go and then let go of letting go.
Turn your phone off (or put it into grayscale). I have also rarely regretted my time in turning off my phone, or even simply putting it into airplane mode. Grayscale works too. Fight the itch. Look at the world—there is also something beautiful.
Don’t postpone projects. Ideas are living things. They want to exist outside the mind. If you believe you have something special, and want to create it, do it. Otherwise the idea will float into someone else and they will do it. If you truly love something, seize the day and do it, even if it’s just a little bit every day. You never know when it might drift away from you.
Learn to recognize the inner critic. It is different from intuition. It is loud, inpatient, and easily fed. Once you start to give the inner critic your attention, it will demand more and more mouthfuls, it will take over your brain with analysis and condemnation. And when it gets to this point, you must find whatever ways you can to take control. For me, this is a good book, Sagely CBD supplements, tea, cuddles, writing, volunteering, or spending time with family.
Adopt the ability to listen well. If you aren’t a good listener, become one. It is such a gift to others to be able to offer your ear. You never know what people are going through, and you never will unless you allow your mind to go somewhere that is not directed to your own growth, problems, or ambition. Give your brain over. It is also incredibly therapeutic to help a friend, if you really need a selfish reason.
Give a shit about the planet. The White Walkers are a metaphor for climate change and if we don’t start listening we’re all gonna die. Maybe not us, but our grandkids. And do we want that??? I didn’t think so.
Sometimes 51% is enough. As one of the world’s most indecisive humans, I feel it’s important to recognize that sometimes you will not feel 100%, 80, or even 60. Sometimes you will feel the tiniest inkling and that is okay, that is enough. Life is a series of difficult decisions.
Your self-worth is not in your productivity. I wrote this in my diary a few days ago, because I truly believe it is the root of other issues. Just because you do not meet your word count doesn’t mean you are any less worthy of love. Just because you feel like you need to go to bed early, or go to yoga, instead of torch calories at the gym, you do not matter less. There is growth within the rest.
There are few things a road trip cannot relieve. A hand in the wind of an open window, a pitstop for vanilla ice cream and pictures on the roof the car, First Aid Kit blasting as you cross one state line into another. Everything keeps on going, we keep on rolling, and the only way we can look is forward.
Gratitude is an antidote to anxiety. Whether you’re fretting over something minor or major, grounding down and making a list of the things you are thankful for helps rid the mind of fearful thinking. Suddenly you have plenty, the anxiety seems small, and you go forward.
And alcohol anxiety is real. Even if you’re in a good place when you’re drinking, the next day can be brutal if you’re prone to anxiety. I’ve had full on panic attacks over what to order for lunch because of alcohol anxiety. Go easy the night before, or learn how to care for yourself the next day (talk long walks, cuddle, watch Gilmore Girls, bathe.)
“Now, it’s like this.” Chelsey Korus told me when I first met her three years ago and I have never forgotten it. It’s a reminder that no matter what we have, good or bad, things change from gold to red to brown to green. And again and again. The best we can do is put one foot forward, take moments to tap into our hearts and mind, and learn to accept the things we cannot change. It’s freedom to remember you have no control.
Eat to feel good. Food has been a struggle for me since 14. Food was about numbers and control. It’s been a rocky road, but for the most part I am proud of the amount of healing I’ve done since high school and how I’ve changed my outlook towards the things I put in my body. Food is supposed to fuel us, keep our bones sturdy, our skin soft, our eyes shining. It is a tool for connection, a door into communication and open hearts. Remember that will not solve anything but that it is good.
Natural wine is ten times better than corporate wine. I don’t drink corporate wine now unless it’s free. Natural wine is better for the planet, better for the growers, and better for us. I find the flavor profiles to be more unique, the stories behind the winemaker’s journey more engaging, and overall good vibes all around.
Confidence is key (and can be cultivated). For years my status quo has been “I can’t.” I assume things are too hard, or that I don’t have the necessary skill. But many aren’t prepared for the tasks they take on—they just look like they do. And furthermore, just because you may be lacking in confidence doesn’t mean it can’t grow. Just as we can feed fear, we can feed the thoughts in our head that inspire us to do better, be better, and act on our ambitions.
No experience is a wasted experience if you don’t want it to be. Basically, it’s your decision whether or not you choose to regret something. You can either consider something as a waste of time or find the lesson in the experience. Choosing the later allows you to keep looking forward and not in the review mirror.
Stay humble. Pull out your feathers, remind yourself of the bigger picture, volunteer, spend some time looking at the world around you rather than inside you. You are important—but so is everything else. Sometimes it is a relief to leave your own mind and nurture the world around you.
Control is an illusion. We don’t have it. The world ebbs and flows to it’s on accord, and as much as we would like to try to orchestrate the things we care about, we simply can’t. We can make choices with intention and hard work and love—but at the end of the day, it’s far easier (and healthier) to surrender to their journey. Let the ride carry you. When the roller coaster is filled with ups and downs, sometimes it’s better to put your hands in the air and feel the wind.
Practice presence everyday. Coming home to yourself is essential. Finding peace, even for just a minute, a deep breath where you truly feel the heat of the air moving through your body, is an opportunity to restore what you know to be true. Take those moments of serenity and balance, no matter how small they are. Walk barefoot. Touch a tree. Hug a friend for more than five seconds. Smell flowers. Show up for the moment—it makes life sweeter and slower.