If SOmeone SHares Their Dreams With You, meet them with kindness, not criticism

We don’t scatter seeds across the ground and hope for the best if we want to harvest from a fully flourished garden. A garden needs care. The most prosperous gardens grow with fertilizer, a regular watering schedule,and consistent weeding. Dreams need care too. They need support.

You have the ability to tend to the seeds of your dreams all on your own. If the passion, the love, lives within you, overtime your garden will bloom across acres. There is the no denying however, that with some help your dreams might flourish a little faster and extend a little farther.

When someone shares their dreams with you, don’t immediately meet them with questions of “how?”, and “when?”, and “if?”. Meet them with encouragement. Meet them with a bag full of fertilizer and the belief that they can over come any potential droughts. Some people think posing challenging questions is a form of support. They think that through their interrogations they are offering insight for dreamers to help them face the realities of the work it takes to maintain a garden of wonder. It doesn’t.

The dreamers know. They have run through those questions in their minds a million times before mustering the courage to share those secret visions with you. They’ve thought it through, and now they are coming to you for help. Not for more questioning or judgement. They’ve come to see if they have support. They want to know that on days when they are covered with weeds, are dry from the drought, and are lonely before the harvest that there will be someone to help them.

They know that it will be difficult. They just want to know who they can count on, if anyone, to support them along the way.

And the dreamers don’t want you to do the heavy lifting that will propel them into the sunlight of their final destinations. They want to do the work. They need to experience that journey. And they want you to fully experience yours too. But gardens bloom bigger, and faster, and wider when they are pollinated by bees that have visited other gardens too. Collaboration creates innovation. Support creates abundance. Kindness, empathy, compassion, produce growth.

If you want to support the dreamers, help them tend their garden of dreams. Picking out where all the empty plots are does nothing to help fill them up with more seeds to grow.

Let Your Day Dreams Be Your Compass

I started this blog as a way for myself and others to embrace the places we are at in life. Be it where you live, where you are in your career, education, mental state, physical health, this is a platform to examine the potential that comes from embracing the present circumstances under which you currently reside.

It can be difficult to face the facts of your current situation. When you live for the present and you aren’t particularly pleased with the place you are at, sometimes the bigger picture of what’s happening around you starts to blur. I know that I can get so caught up in the moment, thinking about how if only I could leave where I am then I could start fresh and solve all my problems. If I lived somewhere else then maybe I would like my house better, so I would keep it cleaner. If I lived somewhere warmer maybe I would be happier and accomplish more during days that I spend wrapped in blankets. If I was done with school I could be working at a job I enjoy, earning tons of money, and living my best life. But none of these day dreams are likely to be true. If in some parallel universe I was a wealthy entrepreneur that lived on an island, I don’t know if I’d be happy.

We can’t know how we will feel in a world of what ifs. All we can do is embrace where we are now. Ignoring your problems, pushing them off, or dreaming about starting over without any action won’t take you to where you want to be, and it won’t make your current situation better. Work to remove what makes you unhappy by focusing your energy on what does make you happy. If you fill your time with more things that bring you genuine joy, you will have less time to overthink the darkness. Fill your life as it is right now with more of what you see in your day dreams, and eventually they will look the same. Instead of getting lost in your day dreams, use them as your compass to lead the way to where you want to be.

“Situational Best”: What Does It Mean+Ending Toxic Self Comparison

Life gets tough. “To-do” lists get long, tragedies happen, life changes, you change. Our ability to deal with change changes. That’s okay. We often see the quote, “Comparison is the thief of joy,” floating through Instagram and Pinterest boards. When we consider those words, we tend to think about them in the context of comparing ourselves to others. It serves as an important reminder to ground our mindset regarding where we feel we are in our lives compared to where others are in theirs. Personal success has an intimate definition that is unique to everyone, and focusing on what brings you love, and light, and joy will help you to manifest your dreams in a much more positive way than through spite or harnessing disappointment, because you don’t resemble someone else. The flip side to that quote, which is equally important to keep in mind, is to not compare your present abilities to those of your past or future self.

What do we mean by resisting the urge to compare your present abilities to your past and future self? You can only do the best to your abilities in this present moment with the resources, knowledge, and time you have to work with. Those key factors play a large role in the outcome of a situation. When reflecting on your past self, you might feel that you were able to accomplish more at a different part of your life. Maybe you were faster at reading, or juggled more activities, or read more books, or woke up earlier, or cooked from scratch everyday, or went out with your friends more, or were more involved in your community than you are now. If any of these, or whatever it is that you feel you did better in the past than you do now, is weighing down on you, let it go. Your life circumstances have also probably changed immensely since then. Have you had financial troubles? Personal traumas? Health issues? Changes in daily routines? Moved? Expanded your family? You are at a different place in your life, and because things are different now, does not make you less of a person, and does not make the work that you do accomplish any less worthy of celebration.

When you think of your future self in relation to your present self, approach it with a similar mindset. It can become overwhelming and discouraging to constantly stay in a mindset of escaping your present life for the dream of a new one. Thoughts like, “Once I get this promotion it will all be better,” “Once I finish this project I can finally be happy,” “Once I finish school everything will be okay,” “Once I move to this place I will finally be happy,” are all examples of extreme cases of comparing your present self to your future self. These types of thoughts place a heavy emphasis on your happiness relying on the outcome of a future external event. When your personal peace does not originate from an internal source, it becomes unstable. If things don’t work out or get prolonged, then the emotional consequences can be devastating. Overarching peace stems from within you, and from your ability to appreciate the wonderful love you have to share everyday. Thoughts that place your happiness largely on the outcome of how future events turn out, also limit your ability to appreciate what is good in your life right now.

This does not mean you shouldn’t plan for the future. Plan. Create goals. Dream big. Dream so big that the entire world can’t contain those dreams. You can do anything you set your mind to. However, it is important to not put off working on those dreams, because you are waiting to get to where you want to be to start working on them. Start working on them today. Start with the resources you have. Do not think that your present self is incapable of greatness, and that your future self will be the one who will take you to your dream destination. Begin today. For more details on how to get started on that project that is burning in your heart, even if you don’t feel ready, check out our article “Begin The Climb, Even If You Don’t Have The Gear.”

You have so many beautiful and wondrous thoughts and ideas every single day. Even if you feel that your thoughts don’t matter or won’t get you very far because you won’t be able to make extensive progress on your goals at this present time, that does not mean you shouldn’t start. Do what you can with what you have to work with. Then when you can do better, do. Don’t beat yourself up because you’re not in the position you want to be yet. Don’t put off starting something altogether because you don’t have all the tools you need to execute it in the exact way you want yet. If you wait until you are ready, the ideas might slip, the right time might pass, or the window of opportunity might fade.

This brings us to the main point of the week. It is okay to work on somethings at your situational best. If you have a vision in your mind of what you want your life to look like, or how you want a specific project to turn out, it is okay to work on it, even if you can not make it look like the final image you are trying to achieve yet. Starting somewhere is better than not starting at all. Challenging self imposed perfectionism is an extremely difficult battle. What’s important to remember is that you are doing the best you can do given the resources at your disposal, the time frame you have to work with, and the knowledge you have about the situation at hand. Maybe your past self would have done something “better.” However, you can’t know that. Your past self hasn’t seen what you’ve seen or felt what you’ve felt. Your past self might have frozen in the face of some challenges your present self is dealing with. Maybe your future self would be able to handle this more efficiently. However, if your future self hadn’t learned how to be resourceful through making the best of tough situations, they wouldn’t know how to act so efficiently either.

“Comparison is the thief of joy.” You can only do what is possible in the now, but make the absolute best of your now. Learn from your mistakes. Forgive yourself for setbacks. Allow yourself time to rest. Enjoy the present. The present is your experience of life. It is your feelings, it is your thoughts, it is your place in the world. It is where you’re at. You are here, and what you are doing is wonderful, because it comes from inside you.

Visions VS Goals: How To Stick To Your New Years Resolutions

Resolving to improve. This year is going to be better. I will be better. Kinder, healthier, grander, more present, more aware, more lovable, just more. Happier. That’s what we all hope every night on December 31st. Then January drags, we lose course, and next December we’re back where we started. Hoping that next year will be our year. It’s got to be.

Stop. It’s time to end this cycle of regretting the year before, with grand visions of the year to come. Life happens, and it’s never what you plan. But does that mean we shouldn’t plan anything at all? Of course not. How do we balance our dreams for a future that “could be,” without neglecting to appreciate the past that gave those dreams life? How do we make resolutions that we can stick to? How do we make it, so that come December, 2020 we can look back and smile, knowing we did our absolute best, and 2021 will be a continuation of dedication instead of a start over?

This week on Where You’re At, we are going to dive in deep, reflect, brain storm, and set up a beautiful vision of where you can take yourself on your journey in the new year.

  1. Begin With Reflection: Before you start listing off everything you want to change about your life, reflect on where you’re at right now. When you reflect on your past, start small and specific, then work your way back to the bigger picture. (This is the opposite of goal setting which we will discuss in #3.) Key questions to ask yourself include: What have I done today I am proud of? What was I hoping to get done today that I was unable to accomplish? Why didn’t those things get done? You can then replace the word “today” in each of those questions with “this week,” “this month,” and “this year.” These questions will help you lay out your strengths and weaknesses, and help you to map your progress over time. When you reflect through your past year, think about your favorite memories too. Where did you go? What did you see? Who did you meet?- How much of that was planned? Probably not much of it. You can do your best to plan, but much of life (both beautiful and tragic) happens organically. Life is a balance of planning and going with whatever comes your way. As you close your time of reflection pick out the moments you are most grateful for. Then thank yourself for a year of perseverance, patience, and experience.
  2. Visualization: Next begin the process of developing plans for where you want your next year to take you. Visualize. The process of goal setting begins broad and imaginative. This is not the time to be “realistic” or doubtful about what you can manage. Think even beyond the year to come. Where do you want to be in 2 years? 5? 10? What kind of life do you want? How do you want to wake up feeling everyday? What do you see yourself surrounded with? What do you want your daily routine to be like at the end of next year? These big questions will help you to open your heart to the potential you have within you. Brainstorm big. This time is all about the “big-picture.”
  3. Get Specific With Goals: After you’ve thought about where you have been and where you want to go, it’s time to figure out how to get there. This is done through setting goals. Breaking down dreams into steps. Then breaking down those steps into smaller steps. Soon you’ll have a staircase leading you to your destination. When we reflect, we map where we have been by working from small and specific to larger and more broad. Goal setting is the opposite. Take your vision for the future, and write down what it will take to get there. Then break it down again, and again, and again, and again. Soon you’ll see how you can create daily habits that will lead you to tackling bigger projects. Those projects will lead you to conquering more complex steps which require more time, connections, homework, and effort. Your daily habits build the steps you climb through life. It all begins at the micro level. It’s okay if your long-term goals take a long time to accomplish. That’s why they’re called long-term. Move at a pace that is comfortable and manageable for you. If you push too much you’ll end up burnt out and giving up. If your long-term goal is to become more clean, start with making your bed everyday and vacuuming once a week. If your goal is to start performing your music live, begin by committing to your practice everyday, attending more local shows, and marketing once a week. If your goal is to write a book, write a little everyday-even if ‘s not for your book (keep up with the practice), talk about your intentions with others to grow your ideas, and create a tentative schedule for yourself. Start small. Then build from there. It begins with daily practice. Daily habits form life long changes. It won’t happen overnight, but when you come back to reflect again on how far you have come, you will be so proud of how you expanded the map of your life. For more information on setting daily-level goals check out the SMART goal system, which poses questions to help you keep the goals you set at attainable levels. When you use smaller goals as a means to accomplish your dreams, the steps you climb become a manageable hike rather than impossible leaps.
  4. Gratitude: After you reflect on where you have been, envisioned where you want to go, and determined how you will get there, take a few moments to be grateful for where you are at. Gratitude is a powerful tool that will keep you grounded on your journey of change. It is also important to recognize that your current situation whether difficult, painful, or one of the best times of your life is a piece of who you are and who you will be. Periods of our life don’t define us, but they can drive us to where we go next. Everyday has something in it to be grateful for. As the new year progresses, and you check off the goals on your list, pause after you tick off each one. Take a moment to thank yourself and anyone who helped you along the way to get to that next step. On days you fall behind, instead of beating yourself up, thank yourself for trying your best and know that you will keep trying again until you get it next time. More information on overcoming difficult set backs and breaking down the process of gratitude can be found in our article “A Field Guide To Finding The Silver Lining.” Gratitude will serve as your life boat when you’ve been tossed out into rough water. Cling to it. Gratitude will also keep you focused as you keep moving along your list of goals and chasing your vision. It will help you to see your journey is just as beautiful as the dream.

New Years Resolutions are often seen as the beginning of a new chapter in the story of life. However, they don’t mean you have to burn the beginning of your book. You can choose to change your life on New Year’s Day, you can choose to change your life any day of year if you like. Or you don’t have to change it all. But if you’re looking to overcome the obstacles that have held you back from realizing the picture of what you see your life could be, be strategic in your attack. You can build the life you dream. You can overcome the pains in your past. You can learn how to grow in the future. It all begins with today. It begins with you deciding to take advantage of what you have, right now, right where you’re at.

The Things You Are Doing Now Matter

The things you are doing now matter.

A few weeks ago, I came across a concept that was put in a different context, but the way it was phrased resonated with me. I knew I needed to share it. It was a screen shot of a Tumblr post I saw on Pinterest, and the essence of the piece was this: Stop saying, “If you put your mind to it, you can do anything.” Instead, change your view point to something like “the things you are doing now matter.” This type of language is equally, if not more important and validating. Please remember that.

Don’t get me wrong, having the courage to pursue your dreams, to live your passions is beautiful. I do believe that we can reach the stars with hard work, determination, and love. It’s also important to set goals and look to the future. The problem lies in only setting goals, only looking to the future, only working for tomorrow.

Sometimes, we need to take a step back and validate the work we are doing at the moment. The things you are doing right now matter.

We live in a time of final products. We consume a constant stream of media, from all different outlets. We idolize finished products, and we never see the work that went into creating those ads, stars, songs, films, photos, books. We never see that all successes began with a seed of an idea, and likely took months to years of labor to bloom.

We don’t realize that the things we do everyday are what matter. Your smile at the stranger in the grocery store. Going the extra mile at the job you might resent. Writing one page of a book a day. Completing one piece of art for a portfolio a week. Cleaning off the table after putting it off for a month. Doing what you can, when you can. The things you are doing now matter.

Living with this mind set, alleviates some of the pressure to eventually reach some most likely unattainable standard set in your mind. The small steps you take each day are what will get you to a place you want to be anyway. Recognizing your own power and importance allows you to act with intent and love. To make choices that will actually help you feel good about yourself. To keep yourself healthy. To keep yourself sane.

We are always growing. From the time we enter this beautiful world, we grow. We will continue to change and develop until we leave this world, and when we do, what will have mattered most is how we felt and made others felt while we were here. Our actions everyday make a difference. The way you drive- aggressively or compassionately, the way you talk- kindly or spitefully, the way you worked- honestly or hastily; these are what change the world. If you put your mind to it, you really can do anything. But always remember, that every moment of your life matters. That doing your best even when you feel you can do better is still something to be proud of. You don’t always have to be working to some greater purpose. You change the world. Exactly as you are. Exactly where you are at.

Make Your Big City Dreams Come True When You Live In NoWhereVille

When I talk to people in my area about career goals, the first response I always get is, “There’s nothing here, get out as soon as you can”. Living in a small town- especially one outside of a declining city like Scranton can feel uninspiring and limiting. The opportunities in a small town are not as vast as those available to the urban communities. Even further than career opportunities, finding things to fill free time seems impossible too. We’ve all seen the meme floating around “You know you’ve grown up in a small town when Friday nights meant driving around the same streets for hours.” It’s true. While I firmly believe smaller areas offer unique benefits that cannot be matched in the city, big dreams die fast in small towns. Below I’ve compiled a very short list of the many tools you can use to begin turning your dreams into reality exactly where you are at.

Education is power, and no one can ever take away the knowledge you have gathered. The first step to growing your future and working on seriously pursuing your passions is to learn as much as you can about the field you want to enter. Even if you cannot afford advanced education, there are so many resources you can utilize for free or at a low cost. Here are some of my favorites:

  1. https://www.coursera.org/ This website offers a variety of courses in anything you can imagine, from business to photography, government to nutrition, astrophysics to foreign language. Some of the courses have a fee, but many are free and they are all taught by university professors. They also offer certifications, which are great resume builders. I took a free marketing course on here a few years ago after my dad told me about the site and had a wonderful experience. It can be a great tool to learn about finance if you want to start a business. It can also allow you to test the waters in a topic if you were thinking about going to school for a specific degree, and wanted to get a feel for what it might be like to study that area.
  2. https://www.khanacademy.org/ Khan Academy is a wonderful tool for students and also another resource to learn about an area that you want to grow your knowledge in. Their resources are free of charge, simple to understand, and engaging. While geared towards younger students, they have entrepreneurship classes, mindset growth classes, and personal finance as well. They also offer a variety of courses in computer skills that would be extremely helpful if you were looking to grow an online presence, or do some creative computer work- a field in high demand that you can find work for anywhere.
  3. https://publicdomainreview.org/ Another great resource for learning on a budget or with limited access to resources! This site monitors when resources, literature, and art become part of the public domain (aka the copy rights expire and it becomes free!). It’s a cool tool to find both work and leisure materials for free.

Beyond learning about achieving your aspirations, you also need tools to put your plans into action. Here are some fun sources that might come in handy for anyone who has an interest in starting a business, building a brand, and growing your passions into a career.

  1. https://buffer.com/ This site allows members to manage all social media accounts from one central platform. You can review traffic stats to your pages, and even schedule the sight to post your content at prime times for you if you won’t be available to do it yourself. You can begin with 3 social accounts for free or upgrade to 8 for 15 dollars a month. It’s a great tool to help out businesses get organized and analyze social media to maximize their potential with an online presence.
  2. Fhttps://fontstruct.com/ Font Struct is a free site where you can create custom fonts to spice up your business’ website, your business cards, or create a signature style of writing to help you with the branding process.
  3. https://99designs.com/ Essentially, if you need a logo designed for your business, self brand, etc., 99 Designs is a life saver for the artistically limited. You submit a request describing what you have in mind for your logo, book cover, site header, whatever you need, and artists will fill the order and compete for your business. You look at the designs and only pay for the one you pick to use.
  4. https://wordpress.com/ If you want to start a blog or build a website but are unsure how, I would highly recommend beginning your journey with wordpress. I am far from tech savvy, far far far from tech savvy. My mom had to connect my laptop to my wireless printer because I could not figure out how to set it up, and was on the verge of tears in frustration. WordPress is so user friendly that even I am able to manage a blog. It also has a massive community of users which connects you to limitless resources when building your site, and comes with the assurance of reliability.

I also found a few sites to help you focus and work on productivity. Simplifying your life and getting organized can clear away room in your mind to begin working on more important, bigger goals.

  1. https://ifttt.com/ IFTTT stands for “if this then that.” The site allows you to link your technologies and apps together to keep you organized and up to date on anything that interests you. It’s a cool and free way to connect your apps to work together and eliminate some of the extra steps from your day.
  2. https://www.any.do/ Any.do is the ultimate calendar app. You can create a to do list in a central space so nothing gets forgotten. You can also link other apps like email to immediately add meetings or requests directly to your list so you won’t forget to go back later, or have to leave the screen you’re currently on to grow your list. Anything from planning your day to groceries, Any.do is a perfect way to start getting organized with out paying 35 dollars for a fancy planner you’ll probably lose next week anyway.

Finally, I found some great resources for when your environment isn’t providing the inspiration you need to keep creating and working towards your goals.

  1. https://www.pinterest.com/ Pinterest is old news, but I utilize it everyday as a source of inspiration. It’s a personalized experience to the max, full of incredible ideas for personal and professional growth.
  2. http://www.languageisavirus.com/index.php#.XD4itlxKjIU Language is a Virus is a unique tool I recently found to inspire and motivate writers. Whether you enjoy writing for personal expression, or want to pursue the craft as a profession, or need help with ideas for an essay in school, this site is full of prompts and resources to light your creative spark into a full flame.
  3. https://wepresent.wetransfer.com/ We Present is a site that provides back stories to works of art, music, writing, etc. They tell how some of the most incredible creations on this world came to exist. Reading about the creative process of others might help you build or refine your own.
  4. https://www.artistsnetwork.com/ Artists’ Network is a site that posts inspiration, articles covering all things art, and posts dates for art competitions. It’s a great resource for anyone looking to get creatively inspired, grow their artistic abilities, and learn about the art community.

The physical opportunities available to you might be limited due to your location, finances, or situation. The internet has a variety of useful tools that you can take advantage of for free or at an extremely low cost to start taking over the world, even if you live in NoWhereVille right now. You can do anything if you put your mind to it. Reach out to people in your community who have found success, and learn from them. Reach out online to the people you admire and learn from them. The internet has opened an unlimited resource of knowledge and connection for people to be whatever they want to be. You might not be able to move to LA and become the next Food Network Star, but you can amass a huge following on YouTube with your own online cooking show, that might even bring in more viewers than the T.V. chefs. You can create an album and release it on Sound Cloud. You can open an e-commerce store if you can’t afford to rent out a building, or don’t live in an area where you would get enough traffic to sustain a brick and mortar store. You can do anything you want, right where you’re at.

If you have any favorite online resources for personal, creative, or career growth, leave them in the comments! We would love to see what else is out there to explore!

It’s Christmas Time in the Country

This past weekend I took the 1 hour and 20 minute drive from Scranton to the town of Bethlehem, PA- a perfectly named place to find some Holiday Cheer. They say there’s no place like New York at Christmas, and while I will admittedly also be traveling there this upcoming weekend, this PA market will be a life long memory. Celebrating 26 years, the Christkindlmarkt features over 150 vendors. After paying an entrance fee of 10 dollars, you enter lavishly decorated tents, all exploding with the scent of cinnamon and butter. 

The tents are packed with a wide range of businesses selling everything from alpaca wool socks, to local art, to gourmet peanut butters, and so much more. The fascinating parts of markets like these, is their ability to create personal connections with unique products that can’t be found in one place anywhere else. Even large corporations get in on the fun like Crayola, who had a creativity booth set up, perfect for young kids to design their own Christmas dreams. 

My favorite tent was the German company Kathe Wohlfahrt display. I had taken German for 6 years through school and have always wished to travel there and experience a real German Christmas market. I never knew I could get so close to the real thing without a passport. My former teachers would tell stories about the traditions of the German people, and their incredible artistry that is unmatched at Christmas. Detailed cuckoo clocks, nut cracker men, and wooden displays, all hand carved and painted lined a maze through the tent. 

I took home a stunning handmade ornament of a glittering green snail- my favorite animal, made in Germany. Never would I have dreamed of combining two of my favorite and seemingly random interests into one, but unique markets like these allow for those exciting connections to be made. 

We also found a stand specializing in creating family trees. The company would take the names of each member you wanted to include, and write the meaning of their name a next to a pressed flower. My dad has spent hours and hours and hours researching his family history, and piecing together the people of his past. We even took a trip to Canada a few summers ago to find the places where his family was buried and lived. I have a slight obsession with flowers and this small stand was an interesting way for us to connect with each other. 

On our way out, we got stuck in a crowd which turned out to be a line for a Danish desert called Stroopies. We decided their aroma was too enticing and since we were apparently in line anyway, to give some a try. The young woman in front of us gasped with excitement as she realized what she was inline for. My dad asked her if they were good then, and she went on to tell us about her recent trip to Copenhagen where she first encountered the cookie. It’s essentially two thin waffles with caramel sandwiched in between. When you’re ready to eat, you heat up a cup of coffee or tea and sit the pastry on top of the mug, letting the steam soften the caramel. To see a stranger have a beautiful moment of bliss as she found a connection to her life she never dreamed of finding in “nowhere Pennsylvania” was incredible. The Stroopie Co., are a Lancaster, PA based Sweet Shoppe that runs their business by employing refugees resettling in the area. This small business is taking their talents and creating good through extending opportunities to those in need while bringing immeasurable joy to customers. 

The market beamed with beautiful decorations, live ice sculpture carvings, and more elaborate booths than we could visit in one afternoon. Going into the market I had planned to write about the interesting finds and activities that can be found in my own backyard, but I didn’t realize how personal the experience was going to be. I challenge you to look at what’s close to your home. Who is making a difference near you? What opportunities can you find? What magic can you create?  

You’re Town isn’t Holding You Back- You Are

 

Feeling limited by the area you live in can be frustrating. When you focus on all the things you can’t do, you close off opportunities for things that you can. I find we tend to limit ourselves in this same way not only with physical location but where we are psychologically and emotionally. We get in our own heads with thoughts like “I could never do that,” or, “I’m not as talented as so and so,” or, “I’m not going to try because I don’t think I will be good.” We cling to the familiar while aching for change. We can’t have it both ways.

I am not particularly good at drawing and painting. I’ve always loved it though. My mom tells me stories how in preschool my friends would have to drag me away from the coloring table to play outside. Now I draw for a distraction, or as a form of self expression, or just to pass the time. I don’t practice frequently or try to actively improve my skills. It’s just something I do.

IMG_4426[1]Most of my pictures like the one above don’t have any type of deeper meaning, they just came out of my brain and onto the page. I think there is a toxic misconception out there that to engage in the arts, or gardening, or math, or cooking, or science, or writing, you need to try your best to be the best. You don’t. If you like to do something or want to try it out, do it. It’s okay to just do something because you like. Overtime you will probably get better at it because that’s what practice does, but if you don’t that’s okay too. If you love to bake but your kitchen concoctions never taste to delight, keep doing it. If you want to become a bird watcher, but don’t want to memorize encyclopedias of every genus, phylum, and species, don’t. Just watch your birds and soak up their songs.

IMG_4427[1]I could fill a sketch book with unfinished drawings like the faint outline of this would be elephant. Sometimes I have an idea but I don’t think I can do it the way I want, so I just don’t do it at all. This picture could have turned out beautiful. We’ll never know.

IMG_4431[1]Almost three years ago I made my first and only New Years Resolution ever. I decided to “Stop telling yourself you can’t”. I wrote it down on the first page of a new sketch book and told myself whatever went on those pages would not end up in a garbage bin, no matter how awful. I also needed to change my mindset about my life. I have so many ideas for what I want to do in my life, but I don’t think I could ever check off half my list. Then again, why couldn’t I? I have kept myself contained in a box built by what I perceived my limitations to be. If I want to publish a book I can. I can be a hair dresser. I can be a motivational speaker. I can be an actor. I can be an artist. I can be an explorer. I can do whatever I want. Other people do, so why not me too?

IMG_4428[1]There was a stretch of time that I stopped drawing. I stopped writing. I stopped exploring. I stopped acting. I stopped dancing. I stopped smiling. I stopped everything. I was so afraid of making the wrong choice, that I didn’t make any choices at all. We can not allow ourselves to shy away from what calls to us because of our perceived skill level. We miss opportunities we didn’t even know were available because we never try anything new.

IMG_4436[1]Most of the things I gave up weren’t even career aspirations. Hobbies are supposed to be fun. They help bring joy and purpose and love to your life. I think because in many hobbies there are particularly talented people who make money off their passions, we think we all do too. If we aren’t good enough at it to do so then we just don’t do it all. I wrote a poem a few months ago that expresses what I’m trying to say much better than what I’ve written so far.

IMG_4440[1]Don’t stay stuck up in your head. Try out what you want, and leave behind what doesn’t resonate with you. You can do more than you think, what matters most is that you are happy doing it. Go build a robot, write a novel, direct a play, take photos of clouds, draw the flower. It doesn’t matter where you are at, it matters what you do while you are there.

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The Secret to Surviving a Small Town

I have wanted nothing more than to escape the mundane life of a small town just outside a not so major city. The problem with small towns is most people feel the same way. We all want to run away to places where “there’s always something happening.” We don’t even know what that “something else” is most of the time- at least not specifically. We want better jobs, better homes, better parks, better art, better night life, better food, better anything. What job, what food, what to do, we don’t really know. We just want better. Life in a small town seems so insignificant when everyone doing anything of importance seems to be somewhere else. Small town America while seemingly unexciting can offer unique experiences with their own kind of magic. You just have to look for them.

I live just outside the Scranton area, and everyone seems to hate living here. Our own local news reported on a Gallup pole ranking the city as the 13th most miserable city to live in the country (placing first within the Commonwealth). Some people want to leave but don’t have the option, others stay and just complain. I can’t help but think if everyone spent their energy on building up the good in the area instead of bringing it down, what it might look like. The area has so much to offer. You just have to look for it. I have a feeling other towns in a similar position as us are the same way. We have incredible hiking trails, a vibrant artistic community, a rich classically American history, and several universities throughout the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre area. The pieces are here, so why aren’t they coming together? I think it’s a lack of appreciation for the resources at our finger tips.

Place has a lot to do with our mindsets as well. We get so stuck in putting off our dreams for the right time and place. People don’t think they can manifest their ideas where they are. Physically, they might think they have to move to LA, NYC, DC, Chicago, Seattle, or Portland to begin their journey to success. They put off starting a project until they can save to move away. Or they put it off until Summer starts, or until they get a new computer, or until they start school, or until they end school, or until the time just “feels right.” The time wont ever feel right. You won’t ever get past your initial  idea if you place constraints on yourself from the beginning.  To get where you want to be, look around at where you’re at and see what you can do today. Film that video on your phone. Write a few chapters for that book. Teach yourself the piano. Do what you can with what you have. There are resources in your neighborhood you probably don’t know exist. Go to your community centers, talk to the small business owners in your area. Pick their brain. The only way to realize your dreams is to begin working on them. Right now. Don’t wait for tomorrow, because you won’t start it then either.

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