Roundabouts.

I wanted to take the time today to reflect on the past month. Additionally, I want to explain exactly why I have held back from publishing any blog posts the last month.

This post may seem a little scattered, mainly because I wasn’t certain on how to approach this as I began writing. I just felt that it was important for me to keep The Journey as up to date as possible. So please bear with me as I try to piece all of these thoughts together.

If you take anything from this post today, let it be that stress can be turned into a positive experience. Let stress be that force that pushes you to do your best work, rather than something that holds you back.

If I could describe what this last month has been like for me in one sentence, I would say that I’ve been stuck in a never ending roundabout. Fortunately, even the most hectic roundabouts have an end, and that brings me to where I am now.

Thankfully in the last few days I have managed to find some sanity and, finally, have a pretty solid schedule again. Meaning I will have set times to write again- something that I have been missing from my life.

The reason why I had to hold back from publishing any work is for two major reasons. First and foremost, huge changes that took place in my life. For those of you who don’t know i began blogging in high school and I just graduated, so I’m currently planning for college which had to be my main focus. During this time, I had to figure out how to balance two jobs while trying to finish up my last few weeks of school before the summer began.

Second, is that I have been working on polishing up the first few parts of Don’t Speak. Since this new series is so important to me, I want to take time time to ensure that everything is thorough and complete before I share it on my blog. My long term goal is to turn it into either a podcast or a complete book, so I’ve been pouring so much energy into it.

So given these factors I decided to hold off on posting anything, knowing that I wasn’t in the right place mentally to publish work I was proud of. I began feeling really conflicted. I was a little disappointed in myself for not having created any content for my blog.

However, this past month has motivated me to keep writing, and has left me with some ideas I’m very passionate about, and many rough drafts for me to elaborate on. For a moment during this time the stress almost got to me. In the end, it ended up being the force that kept me on my feet through all the chaos. I believe a lot of bloggers can relate to this. Many of us feel this pressure to keep creating, even if we’re at a place in life where it’s difficult to.

I think it’s important that more bloggers take the time to do this no matter what situation you’re in. Even if you’re not in a place where you can share your work, never hesitate to jot down some ideas or a stream of consciousness. This is an amazing way to keep in touch with your voice as a writer and have some rough drafts prepared for when you are ready to write that next story or blog post.

If you feel like you’re in the same situation as I was in- don’t worry, that roundabout will come to an end! Don’t forget to take some time to relax and gather your thoughts once you do.

Feel free to share any comments below if you’ve come through any similar experiences. How do you currently feel about activity on your blog?

xx

Thank for for reading as always!

An Honest Review: “The Voice Of Knowledge” by Don Miguel Ruiz

I caved. I’ll admit it.

I finally read the infamous series I heard so much about.

My family told me to read it, every lifestyle blogger alive told me to read it, my dog told me to read it, even my my neighbor yelled over the fence, “You have to read this book!!”

I may be exaggerating a bit- but the point is, I heard a lot about the series before I finally picked it up for myself. For some reason, my very stubborn personality works in strange ways. Sometimes the more I hear about a book, the less I want to read it.

Despite this, the main reason I was so reluctant to read it was because it’s common for the reputation to precede books in this genre, and I couldn’t help but convince myself that this would be the case.

When I got stuck on a five hour flight I decided I would give it a chance, and to my surprise I couldn’t put it down. I was pleased to discover that The Voice Of Knowledge lives up to all of the praise.

After reading it thoroughly, I felt enlightened and refreshed with a more positive perspective on life. On some days when I’m feeling particularly stressed or negative, I find myself reaching for the book again.

Reading The Voice Of Knowledge took me on a walk down memory lane, reminiscing over the joy I experienced as a child before I let the the opinions of others affect my self image.

Any young adult will thoroughly enjoy this book because I’m sure we can all relate to Don Miguel Ruiz’s experiences growing up in a fast paced world. As he mentions in the first book of the series, so many of us let the opinions of others define our worth.

At one point Ruiz remarks that you must read his book multiple times in order to catch some of the details you missed the first time, and this definitely holds true. Depending on what your current situation is, you can apply lessons learned in the book to your own life.

Ruiz’s work in The Voice Of Knowledge stands out to me for his ability to take such a complex topic, finding inner peace, and breaking it down into a way that any reader can understand. Ruiz draws inspiration from toltec wisdom and applies it to the modern world.

There is a certain simplicity to the book that makes the message even more powerful. Ruiz stands by the “one simple truth”, inspiring readers to stay their most authentic selves. Ruiz motivates readers by telling them to take control of their own happiness again and embrace every little thing that makes them different.

Anyone who reads the first book of this series will take away so much knowledge, and get a step closer to a peaceful mind.

Now if you haven’t read the book yet- I’m adding myself to the list of people who recommend it.

xx

Thank you for reading as always. Have you read any of Ruiz’s work? Let me know in the comments!

Using Poetry To Discuss Mental Illness

Today I’m returning to a more personal topic, or what I originally began this blog for: understanding and recovering from mental illness.

Too many of us shy away from the topic in fear that we won’t attract as many readers, however we should all learn to make it a priority. After all, one of the best ways to provide support for others online is to discuss mental illness and raise awareness. I wanted to take the time to share an outlet of expression I use as a writer that may help other people.

After I experiencing episodes of depersonalization, a side effect of anxiety, I found it difficult to describe how I was feeling. Writing helped me stay in touch with my emotions, even when I felt disconnected from myself.

I wrote the poem “Blue” to describe what it feels like to lose yourself due to uncontrollable forces.

As somber as the poem is, it was the only way I could put what I was going through into words. I know that others reading it will have their own opinions; but at the end of the day it’s honest and true to my experiences, and that’s always how writing should be. Being able to describe my feelings through writing is always therapeutic.

I didn’t know what depersonalization was at the time because I never knew that there was a term to describe it, nor do I hear it discussed nearly as often as the other symptoms are. At the time it helped me pinpoint what the true source of my worries was.

Not only is writing my feelings out a process of catharsis, but it helped me realize that what I was going through was more serious than I thought at the time. It encouraged me to find an explanation to the distressing periods of depersonalization I endured. This realization ultimately became the reason I was able to combat that feeling of helplessness and take control of myself again.

I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember, and naturally the changes in the poetry I write reflect that changes I go through in my life.

It took me a long time to decide whether or not I should share it before posting it online about a month ago. I feared that no one would relate to where I was coming from. It can be terrifying to post work, especially personal posts like this, because there is that fear in that back of your mind that you’ll be misunderstood. But sometimes it is necessary to let go of that fear.

To my surprise, I received feedback from various people who said they experienced the same feelings before. In fact, the more I found other writers, the more pieces I found that I truly resonated with. Writing proved to be a common outlet of expression for so many people.

Writing isn’t the only form of art that can be very effective in portraying and educating about mental illness. Take music, song writing, painting and many other forms of art for example- they are outlets in which people can express themselves better than they can through a typical conversation.

xx

Thank you for reading as always.

Staying Authentic as a New Writer

Sometimes when I read through my own unpublished writing I look back and think, “That doesn’t even sound like me.

That’s because my voice as a new writer wasn’t entirely mine. It’s so clear to me that in the process of writing some of my older, unpublished pieces that I was holding back from stating my truth. I focused too heavily on the opinions of others that made me doubt myself and it showed in my work. I lost my voice.

I like to think of myself as confident when it comes to my blogging. I strive to encourage honesty and vulnerability. I highly emphasize the importance of authenticity in everyday life, especially when it comes to mental health. I learned the importance of staying truthful because there are people out there who will not only relate to my story, but need to hear it.

That is a responsibility every writer holds whether we’re writing a best seller or a post online. If we share our work and we don’t stand behind our message, then we lose our integrity. We can not expect readers to believe in our message if it doesn’t even hold true to ourselves.

This loss of authenticity in anyone’s writing can be attributed to a few factors, but my main focus will be discussing how the pressure to create perfect and ‘acceptable’ work actually took away my authenticity.

I like to compare this to voices in a crowded room, similar to a writer in a world full of opinions. When the voices around you become too loud, yours is dulled down. When you allow the opinions of others to dictate yours, your writing becomes weak.

You might be wondering, what does that have to do with keeping my authenticity? Surely I can rise above the voices if i’m loud enough; of course other opinions don’t have to influence mine.

However when I was first introduced to blogging and the idea of sharing my work publicly, my mindset shifted. Comparing my own experiences to others made me seriously doubt myself.

I’m going to pause for a moment and rewind to writing as a child. Writing as a child, we write purposely for our own enjoyment. We write our most authentic ideas in this time, creating bizarre characters and stories with no doubt in our minds. We are proud of our work and we feel such a great sense of ease. Because we aren’t writing to please others; we don’t feel the pressures of our work being edited and reviewed. We write as children as a tool to express ourselves, so of course we’re proud of our work. It doesn’t matter whether it’s perfect or not. Because it’s our own.

This changes as we grow up and learn that our work isn’t always as flawless as we thought. The value of our work is defined by the grades we earn. We begin writing essays and discover that what we want to talk about is not always acceptable. We take our first creative writing classes and we’re told that our work isn’t interesting enough. We grow up reading all of these prestigious authors and we realize that we have a long way to come before we’re ever as accomplished as them. We show our friends and families are work, and once we’re old enough, we discover that not everyone likes our work. Those are the voices. When we want to be accepted as a writer, they start to influence us every time we sit down to write.

Eventually the biggest critic is no longer those outside voices. It is ourselves.

In my case, I internalized these voices and it affected the way I approached things when I first started to share my work publicly. Rather than appreciating the fact that my experience was different than others, I thought that I had to put up a better image in order to seem appealing to my readers. So, I didn’t share the work I used to be so eager too. I tried writing in a completely different style, which didn’t work out for me.

When I first started The Journey on WordPress, I found so many blogs with talented writers. I convinced myself that I could never amount to them. I told myself, “I’m too young! I don’t have enough credentials. I can’t write in the same style that them. How can I compare?” Instead of considering what I do have to offer as a writer, I focused on all of the things I did not. As a new writer, it became so tempting to follow those voices. I started to doubt my own story. I grew worried that people would not relate to the stories I had to share, or find them acceptable, so I held back from publishing them.

It took some time for me to realize that I don’t want to be perfect on my blog, nor do I to be perfect to be a better writer. I don’t have to prove myself, or criticize myself down to the core.

Because to be authentic isn’t to be perfect. It’s to be real. After all, how can anyone write about growth and learning if we don’t share share the lessons we learned for ourselves? I’m not afraid to share my own experiences, imperfections and all, if it means helping someone else in any way.

xx

Thank you for reading. Be sure to comment below if you have any additional thoughts, or have any posts to share.

Changing The Way You Define Happiness

What does it mean for you to be happy?

For many of us, happiness is something we chase every day of our lives. Our own definitions of happiness are described by a list of achievements and assets we desire to call our own, and even after we reach these goals, the list seems to reach beyond infinity.

It means having the ideal body, obtained by endless hours of pushing ourselves to the limit in the gym, followed by scrutinizing our bodies in the mirror until we find something new to ‘fix’.

It means creating the perfect facade in our online profiles to convince our family and friends that we are living our absolute best lives. Sometimes we do this by posting pictures from last years spring break with the biggest smiles on our faces, or by flaunting how insanely in love we are with our significant other.

It means landing our dream jobs, often because they have higher salaries, and the feeling we get when we can finally say “Look, I made it!”.

We tell ourselves that it will not hurt to chase these goals and successes, certain that once we reach the next step we will finally be happy and content with ourselves. Just one more pound, just one more time, just one more day spent doing something we don’t want to do in hopes of creating a better future. Certainly there’s nothing wrong with pursuing any of these goals- in fact, a great sense of pride can be accomplished in working towards a better version of ourselves. This drive to better ourselves is what we need to keep ourselves moving.

The problem is that in constantly finding things to change about ourselves, our definition of happiness becomes perfection. By thinking that what we have in the moment is never enough, we are condition ourselves to think that we can never be happy in the present moment.

This is when it becomes necessary to draw the line between maintaining a healthy amount of motivation and chasing an unrealistic state of perfection. Because obsession with the distant future plants a seed in our mind that is difficult to uproot. It leaves us in a constant state of unease, trapped by the belief that we can never be happy by simply loving ourselves and our lives for the way we are now.

Sometimes it takes stepping back and assessing our current situation to realize what is worth pursuing, and why exactly we want to pursue these goals. Are we seeking change because of an intrinsic motives, or extrinsic motives? In other words, is it because it will bring us joy- or because we are seeking validation from others? Once we identify the true reasons we want to change, we can determine whether or not it will provide us with long lasting happiness.

The best way to find happiness is to stop associating it with perfection, and start associating it with peace of mind. The peace of mind that comes from knowing that it is okay for each of us to move at our own pace and choose the paths in life that we wish to take. Is is not until we learn to accept ourselves and our current condition, flaws and all, that we can finally be happy.