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.

Kindness As A Mindset

Selfishness forces us to use tunnel vision to get to where we want to go. Kindness removes those clouds, so we can see that our worlds are so beautiful exactly where we are at.

We see over, and over, and over, and over again in the media how small acts of kindness quite literally change a person’s life. Smiles to strangers give them hope, a random compliment turned an entire day around, one small act of kindness was the difference between life and death. It seems dramatic to put it that way, but in a world so quick to jump to conclusions about people, so quick to judge, so quick rip others down so we can make it to the top, it means the world to stop and be kind. We live in a quick, fast-paced world. It’s not right, but it’s understandable to see how we have come to a point where people are caught up in their own unique and complex miniature universes, and that they sometimes forget everyone else’s is just as intricate. We are all just doing our best. In a society that is moving faster and faster, pushing and shoving to get to the next destination, screaming for answers to questions that don’t have solutions, how do we slow down and make an active effort to live a life driven by kindness?

This week we look at some out-of-the-box ways to go beyond a few intermittent acts of kindness, and lead a softer life, understanding why it’s important, and how to stay centered in a world that isn’t always as kind back to you.

Start with small acts. Weaving kindness into your everyday life can be as simple as letting a car that has been waiting to turn go first, or as complex as changing your entire attitude towards driving, transforming into a less aggressive driver. Those larger changes stem from a series of small changes. Kindness isn’t always paying for the order behind you in the drive thru or donating a bunch of money and stuff to charity. Those are kind acts, and are wonderful places to start if you are looking to integrate more kindness into your life, but kindness goes much further than material objects or isolated instances. However, every act of kindness is beautiful, and every act of kindness makes a difference. Never be afraid to do something you think will make someone else feel good, because you think it won’t make a difference. It will. Tell them their shirt makes their eyes pop, volunteer for a day, start a “pay it forward” at your local coffee shop. Your single act might just be the relief someone needs today.

Kindness as a mindset. Kindness as a mindset means intentionally slowing down in a world that pushes and shoves and presses forward. It means stopping to look around, take in your environment and be aware that your intricate universe is special, beautiful, magical, full of wonder, and so is the personal universe of the person walking next to you. It doesn’t mean you don’t look out for your own well-being. But when you have the understanding that you have a beautiful life with value and that the person across from you does too, life becomes a little softer to handle. It means you can give the time you need to show yourself kindness. Take time to care for your needs, your wants, your dreams. Don’t allow the harshness of this world to harden your heart so you forget to show yourself kindness too. It doesn’t matter what you have been through, the things you have seen, what other people have done to you, or what you have done to yourself. From this day forward, you are worthy of kindness. You always have been worthy of kindness. Some days that may only come from yourself, which is why it is so crucial to be gentle on yourself. You are doing the best you can. Give yourself the love you need. When you feel overwhelmed from the stress of the day, if there are people who one, after the other, after the other try to bring you down, remove yourself from the situation for 30 minutes and give yourself the space you need to breathe. Understand that you are doing the best you can with what you have at this time, and allow yourself to release that tension instead of beating yourself down further. Be kind to yourself. When you are kind to yourself, it will be much easier to be kinder to other people. Cut them a little break as well. We don’t know everyone’s entire story, just as they don’t know ours.

One of the kindest things you can do is be interested in what excites someone else. Imagine how much you could learn from listening to other people talk about the things that bring them joy. World history, technology, art, music, business, animals, engineering, intricate details of wondrous things in the world you may have never even knew existed. Listening is one of the kindest acts we can do in a world that does a lot more speaking than learning. Listen to understand, listen to learn, listen to grow. Have you ever had a time when you were talking about something you were passionate about, only to stop and say “This is probably boring, sorry, I’ll stop,”? Did they answer with, “No, keep going, I want to know more.” How did that feel? Awesome. Have you ever been cut off and told to stop when you were really excited to share something? It felt awful, didn’t it? When we listen to others, we give them our time, our attention. We give them a tiny piece of our own beautiful world, and they share a tiny piece of theirs. That engagement, a genuine connection between two people, grows so much more than a moment of conversation. Learning leads to new ideas. Innovative ideas. Collaboration. All key aspects of success and development. Growing your own garden requires pollination from plants that grow in a garden far away. Diversify. Open your mind. It all blooms from kindness.

Create systemic changes in your perspective. Actively incorporating kindness as a mindset means going against the grain of a society that demands you rush through your life to push your way through to the next stop on your journey. It means slowing down, and being okay with the fact that there are others who are not as kind. It means avoiding those aggressive drivers, blowing off those rude comments from a passerby, patience in tense situations, patience with yourself. It means freedom. Living a life with intentional kindness lifts the weight of the pressure society places on your shoulders. You don’t have to push your way through crowds of bickering bodies, dragging behind the weight of your personal pain behind you. When you are kind to yourself, you can drop those weights, and you can help others set down their own baggage. It’s okay to be a few minutes late because there was traffic. It’s okay to give up some time. Talk to some one new, go to a friend’s art show, read the rough copy of a book they have been working on, support a local business, ignore rude comments on the internet, skip the urge to scream when you’re upset, learn about someone else, pet a dog, bring cookies in for the office, send someone a meme that made you think of them. Small acts ripple to a big impact. The wave of freedom that comes with a life lived through kindness, will carry you further than you could have ever made it pushing your way through alone with the burden of all those weights.

Live softly. Live fully. Live kindly. When you open your heart to accept and share kindness from within, the world becomes a little easier to navigate. Selfishness forces us to use tunnel vision to get to where we want to go. Kindness removes those clouds, so we can see that our worlds are so beautiful exactly where we are at.

When Your Best Isn’t Enough

If you have done the very best you can do, no one can ask any more of you- not even yourself.

Sometimes you try the best you can, you give your absolute all, and it’s just not enough. It’s crushing. Devastating. It’s the setback in life that hurts the most. How do you pick up and try to do better next time when you gave everything you had to give?

First of all, recognize that you did your best. You gave your all, and that is enough. Be proud of the work you did, because even if it was unsuccessful, or no one else saw it, or they did and it didn’t matter to them, you gave it everything you had. That is crucial. Reflect on everything you did right, not with resentment, but with a love for the work you did and a love for yourself. If you have done the very best you can do, no one can ask any more of you, not even yourself.

Next, get upset. After the initial shock of failure, then processing it through the lens of recognizing your work, grieve the loss of the effort you put in. It’s okay to be upset. It’s okay to get angry. It’s okay to question why this happened, and to feel hurt by rejection, or dismissal, or ignorance. Process that pain, and feel it in its entirety. You put your whole heart out into your work, and you put your time, and energy, and your intellect out on display only to have it be turned away. It’s okay to get upset.

After you’ve processed that pain, it’s time to analyze. You’ve reflected on everything that you’ve done right, you’ve felt through the wrongness of the situation, and now your head and heart have a clear space to freely analyze the what happened. If you plan on trying again, what went wrong? Where can you make changes? Can you tweak the project? Does it need fundamental changes? Was it just a fluke? If the next step is to move forward to something new, analyze the specific reason for the downfall, and brainstorm a list of ideas as to how to prevent it from happening again.

Sometimes in life we encounter roadblocks. But when we put out best foot forward and it doesn’t work out, it doesn’t feel like a road block. It’s more like a bridge on our life path crumbled while we were crossing it. And sometimes it’s your fault for choosing an old, rickety bridge to cross, sometimes it’s the bridge builder’s fault for building it with cheap materials, and sometimes it’s no one’s fault at all. Sometimes things just happen. What matters is how we respond to them. Will you lie in the river and let the current take you away? Will you swim out, and climb back up to the top? Or will you find a new path at the edge of the river? It’s up to you how to proceed.

Always try your best, because when you do, no one can ask anymore of you- not even yourself. When you do your best and it doesn’t work out how you hoped it would, do not let it deter you from doing your best in the future. People will respect you for trying your hardest and failing, much more than they will for only doing half the work and sort of succeeding. You will respect yourself more for trying your best, than if you only put in the minimal effort. If things don’t work out, you will know in heart you gave everything you had, and will be able to move onto other endeavors without regrets about how you handled yourself. You can not control the actions of anyone else but yourself. When you put your best foot forward it will pay off. Consistency, hard work, passion. Let them flourish in you. Take the time you need to heal from a set back, and then forge your new path that will take you to heights you may have never imagined you’d see. No matter where your path has taken you, split off, diverged, or turned around, you will find your way. You can accomplish so much with the vision that is in your heart. You can do anything, right where you’re at.

Every Season Has A Purpose: Do Not Waste Your Winter

A morning snow fall was a pleasant surprise yesterday morning. I was surprised that I found it to be a pleasant surprise. Winter is my least favorite season by far, and I do not do well in the cold. Most winters I tend to bundle up, muttering through the wind whipping my face, under grey skies, and shivering as I struggle to find the car keys in my purse, that I should have pulled out when I was still inside. Anyone else been there? A few weeks ago we talked about drawing inspiration from (and the actual physical benefits of) house plants during the winter months. Beyond setting up a comfortable and personally inspiring indoor space, it’s also important step outside during these cold months and embrace the winter weather. Take a even a few moments to appreciate the unique happenings that occur at this time of year.

Don’t waste your winter waiting for the warmth of summer to return. Go out and enjoy what you can. The perfect day, the perfect time, the perfect opportunity to start whatever it is you’ve been putting off will never come. Go and start that project you’ve been planning, talk to the person you’ve been thinking about, plan that vacation you’ve been wanting to take. Stop allowing reasons and seasons to hold you back. Those roadblocks don’t matter. What matters is your attitude towards those roadblocks. It’s okay to get discouraged sometimes, and you may have to change your course because of those roadblocks, but do not let them put your entire life on hold. I only spent half an hour outside in the snow, when on a summer day I might have spent 3 hours if I had the time. Do what you can, when you can, where you are at. Then when your summer comes, imagine how much more you will be able to do, because of the ground work you laid out while it was cold.

Every season has a purpose, and even if you are not in bloom, it does make you any any less stunning in the snow.

Jump on moments of inspiration. If you suddenly feel an urge to work on a project you’ve been waiting on, to get back into a hobby you’ve stopped, to try something new, to go outside because it’s snowing unexpectedly one morning, do it. Explore. Follow those urges. Live in the moment and embrace life to its absolute fullest, because you don’t know how long the winter will last, or even if you will make until next summer. Every day is a gift, and everyday you are able to pursue the things that fill your heart with warmth is a greater gift. Do not take them for granted. Do not let this winter keep you feeling stuck inside. Do not let your road blocks turn into walls that keep you in an inescapable prison. Face them. Find out what you can learn from them. Find what is beautiful in them. Grow from them. Step outside into winter and see what you can build with your snow. You can create magnificent things, during any season, from where ever you are at.

Make the Most of This Winter: Grow, Even If No One Watches

Winter is coming, and as the cold seeps in the leaves will finish falling, the plants will go to sleep, and the sky will turn grey for the next few months. The colder temperatures will mean less days outside and the winter time blues will dampen the golden freedom of fall afternoons. Winter offers its own opportunities however, with time to rest, reflect, and learn. Spend your time inside to grow. Read a book, take an online course, or put extra effort into your self-care.

To help combat those dark and frigid days, I recommend reading Brilliant Green: The Surprising History and Science of Plant Intelligence, by Stefano Mancuso and Alessandra Viola. The book is the perfect winter time read to bring you back to the warmth of summer days. It offers a unique and inspirational look into the world of plants that is for more fascinating than your 10th grade biology class.

The general focus of the work centers on the notion that most people tend to ignore plants, viewing them as unintelligent and passive beings. People overlook how vital plants are to the survival of all other living creatures. Perhaps because they are immobile, or because they are ever-present, they are seemingly silent, or that they are easily manipulated by humans. But imagine a world without plants. To quote the authors, “They… are the link connecting the activities of the whole organic world (that is, of everything we call life) with our solar system’s energy center.” Without plants we wouldn’t have food, clothes, breathable air, energy supplies- life would be unsustainable.

This notion does not just apply to plants. If people do not notice all that you do, it does not mean that you are not important. The things you are doing, the projects you are working on, the time you are investing in yourself and in others is valuable. Your work is beautiful. What you create and contribute to the world is worth creating, even if no one is paying attention. Just because people tend to pass you by does not mean you are any less vital to the larger ecosystem of the world, and if you left, people would definitely notice. Just like the plants.

The book goes into detail about the complexities of plant intelligence, explaining how they use their senses to engage with their environment (yes they have all 5 senses we do, plus 15 more!). It examines the historical reasons plants have been glossed over in philosophical, religious, and scientific texts. It even poses its own philosophical questions such as, are plants altruistic? Check out the book for the entire explanation, but in short I was inspired that this question could even be asked. This suggests kindness is an innate characteristic so fundamental to living things that even plants exhibit signs of a moral compass. Imagine being a plant: you can’t move, you have to fight all other plants around you for resources, avoid being eaten entirely by animals, protect yourself from the elements, it can’t be easy, and yet, you have a sense to help out other plants around you in need. This level of thoughtfulness existing within in plants means kindness must be a core trait within people too. Be kind to others. The world might have made some hearts hard, but they can be softened. Even if it goes unnoticed, even if people do not immediately pay attention, your efforts to be gentle will help reshape the world.

Another fun fact presented in the 2nd chapter is the positive benefits plants have on the human mind. Cited are studies showing that the presence of plants in classrooms improve student concentration, and neighborhoods with greener spaces tend to have fewer car accidents and suicides. The impact of plants on mental health is remarkable. Maybe that has something to do with the recent houseplant comeback. Another way to help battle seasonal depression is to bring the outdoors in. When you pick up this book, snag a few house plants to brighten up your room too. Your plant will love you just as much you will love the life it brings you this cold season. If you don’t know what kind of plant to get or tend to kill anything green you touch start with one of these beginner options and work your way to building up a collection.

Overall, Brilliant Green, offers a lot of interesting and detailed information about how plants work. In it’s own way though it is a work of inspiration, with an underlying message that the moments overlooked are often the most important and beautiful in life. Don’t waste your winter this year. Take advantage of the time you have to try something you wouldn’t normally. Don’t let people overlook you either, and if they do, it does not mean you are any less wondrous. Keep on putting in the work on your dreams, keep focusing, keep creating, keep doing your very best. Your actions today have the power to impact the hearts and minds of those in the environment around you- just like a plant. Keep growing towards the sun, and when the spring comes you will bloom the most vibrant flowers that will capture the eye of everyone who passes by. Plants are stationary beings, but without them, the world would crumble. You have been planted in your own unique situation, and your soil may not be rich, your water supply may be weak, but even cacti in the hottest deserts blossom the loveliest flowers in their own time. You are creating amazing work exactly where you are planted, and one day the seeds of your efforts will spread across the world. You can do anything exactly where you’re at.

Cleaning Your Space Through Clearing Your Mind: 9 Tips To Tidy Up

Depression and anxiety manifest in many forms, and sometimes they become so draining that keeping your home clean is overwhelming and seemingly impossible. Or maybe you have physical limitations that make doing more than a few tasks a day too much. Or maybe life is just really busy right now. I’ve been battling all of these obstacles for quite some time, and as much as I wish I could be a tidy and organized person, I am just not. However, I have not given up on my mission to devise a system that works for me, so this week I have composed a list of tips to help other people who just can’t seem to get organized either.

  1. Change Your Mindset Towards Cleaning: I saw a quote a long time ago floating around on Pinterest that changed my outlook on cleaning. The essence was this- You deserve to live in a space that is clean and comfortable. You have worth and are full of love and creativity and passion and are worthy of a place that reflects your finest features. When you haven’t been able to muster up the strength to start cleaning for a while, the mess can be overwhelming to say the least. You might be thinking, “what’s the point? I won’t finish, it’s been this way so long, it doesn’t matter anyway.” It does matter, and no matter how much of your space you can sort through, it will make a difference and you are worth it.
  2. Reward Yourself Before You Begin: You read that right. You made the decision to start this task and you deserve to be rewarded for that. Something small that will help you while cleaning is probably the best idea for a treat. Maybe grab your favorite drink to sip on while you work, pick out a movie to play in the background, a new candle to burn while your cleaning instead of waiting until your done. Some positive recognition for yourself that you have decided to finally do the thing will help you want to do it again in the future, and help make the actual work not so bad.
  3. Start With One Area: If the room your working on is in a real rough state, break it down by section or task. Maybe pick everything up off the floor. Or just begin with one table. Or do the entire closet. This way if you run out of steam or have to go because of other obligations, you have a better chance of completing that smaller scale project. That sense of completion will bring pride, and if you can’t get to the rest of the room it can help serve as a positive reminder that you are capable of finishing a project and you can and will do it again. Embrace your accomplishment and allow yourself to fully feel that pride from your achievement too- don’t dwell on the rest of the room that remains. You will get there.
  4. Dedicate One Spot In Each Room To Stay Clean: If you finish only one area, or when you finish getting a room nice and tidy, designate a clean spot for yourself. Maybe it will be the dresser, or a certain part of the kitchen counter, or the night stand, or the chair, pick one spot that you will commit to keeping clean. If you walk in the door, you will not just throw down your coat in the that spot, you won’t pile the laundry that needs folding there, nothing. If you keep up with this spot and make it a habit to break the urge to allow it to go back to being a mess, eventually you can work up to more spots, then a room, then more rooms, then your home. It will be a long process, and if you break the commitment, forgive yourself and think about why. Were you tired? Were you upset? Did you just not care? Remember, you are worthy of a space that is comfortable. A space you can move in, stretch out in, breathe in. Commit to one spot and commit to yourself.
  5. Work Whenever You Have A Sparkle Of Motivation: If you feel any urge at all to start tackling the mess that’s been calling you for months, jump of it. Even if it’s an inconvenient time, do what you can in the amount of time you have to work with. If you’re getting ready for work but your bathroom is too frustrating to get ready in, and for some reason right now is your breaking point, wipe out the sink while you swish your mouth wash. Clean off the mirror before you go. These small steps, while only a piece of needs to get done, will help you to feel better about your space, and help you feel better about taking care of your space.
  6. Remove Any Barriers To Tasks That Bother You: I am a texture person, and hate the feeling of grime and dust on my skin. I also can’t touch dirty dishes that are already in a sink. If they are on the counter next to the sink, that’s fine, but once they go in, I just can’t. The thought grosses me out, the texture of the slime that forms on them is repulsive in every way. To overcome this, I use cleaning gloves, so I don’t have to feel dust or grime on my skin when I wipe off particularly dirty surfaces. Or I place my dishes next to the sink, and try to skip the sink altogether by putting them straight in the dish washer after rinsing if it is empty. Similarly, if you don’t like the noise of a vacuum, get a pair of good noise canceling headphones or earplugs to help muffle the sound while you clean. If the smell of cleaning agents bothers you, look for ones with limited to no fragrance and wear a face mask. By identifying what it is about a task that hinders you from performing it, you can figure out a way to overcome that barrier. This can be such an empowering step. You are not lazy, you are trying, and now that you have eliminated the physical reasons a chore was difficult, it will be a little easier to start doing it more often.
  7. Stop When You’ve Had Enough: Once you feel the aches in your bones creeping in, or your brain starts shutting down because you’ve been at it for too long, stop. It’s okay if you don’t finish your whole list today. If you keep pushing yourself when you’ve hit your limit, that will only cause you to need time to recover from your efforts. Do not keep going. I have an autoimmune disorder that causes a lot of joint pain, and sometimes there are okay days and sometimes there are really bad days. I don’t want to turn an okay day into a bad one because the societal norm that you must always finish what you start or you are a failure. If you push your self past your limit just to say you got it done, you might end up doing more harm than good, and you won’t be able to keep up with the room you just cleaned. You can always come back once you have had some rest and finish organizing your space. When you wrap up your work, step back to admire what you did accomplish. This positive reinforcement will help you to continue to look at cleaning as something that you do to honor yourself instead of a chore that just needs to be done.
  8. Ask For Help: This is definitely the scariest and most uncomfortable piece of advice on this list. It can be hard to open up about what happens when life just seems to hit you all at once and then everything else gets away. Then to tell other people that you haven’t been able to keep up with what is typically seen as basic daily tasks can be embarrassing. But your friends and loved ones do not want to see you sad and stuck. If you confide in a few close people who you trust and ask if they have an hour or two to help you fold some laundry or clear out a space, they can help get you farther in your efforts to get organized faster. They might also have a few tips and tricks as to how they organize their own stuff that might help you stay on top of things.
  9. Don’t Allow Negative People To Bring You Down: If you live with other people who make negative comments about where you are at in your life right now, do your best to ignore them. Keep trying to get yourself back on track, and do not allow their influence to limit you from working on getting better. If they say things like, “Wow, look who’s finally cleaning,” or “That looks nice but it won’t stay that way long,” take a breath. Then take one more. Do not engage with people like this who cannot see the power of their own words. Instead, wield the strength of your own voice, and remind yourself that you are doing this for your own benefit and no one else’s. You will do the best you can to ensure your space is clean and comfortable. If you fall behind again, you will pick it right back up. You accomplished so much by deciding to make the conscious choice to make a change, and your work is for your self care.

Some people have found cleaning as a source of relaxation and a method of coping with troubling times. Other people have just always been tidy and organized. And other people are just messy. There are many complex reasons why some people have a hard time staying on top of caring for their spaces, but there are ways to overcome the barriers that impede our journey to healing our hearts and homes.

Caring for your personal space is an extension of caring for yourself. It’s not as glamorous or peaceful as a face mask or a massage, but it is important. You could even put on a face mask while you clean and do a “quick clean,” just picking up as much as you can while you wait for it to dry. You deserve a space that makes you comfortable. A space that makes you feel safe, and welcome, and like you are at home. Sometimes you might not feel worthy, but you are. You are capable of accomplishing amazing feats, and in your clear space you might just find some clean head space to figure out those goals. No matter where you are at you can and you will do beautiful things.

Begin The Climb, Even If You Don’t Have The Gear

Ever put off a project or idea because, “I could never do that”? Maybe you thought you didn’t have the talent to accomplish that dream, or there weren’t resources at your disposal to execute your vision exactly how you would like. Maybe it’s just not the “right” time. When you maintain this fixed mindset, you limit your potential for the progress and growth that comes from learning as you go.

It’s crucial to think of life in terms of what you will learn from an experience rather than how you will perform while executing a task- particularly for the first time. If your project turns out different than you imagined, it is not evidence of failure, but a reflection of progress.

Don’t put off doing something because you don’t have the resources you need to do it or don’t know exactly how to do it. If you want to get into photography but can’t afford a high tech camera, start with your phone while you save up to buy one. Although it might not have the fancy features more advanced equipment can offer, it will teach you how to be resourceful, play with lighting and focus to create interesting shots. This might even lead to you becoming a better photographer once you get your hands on a camera since you will have had to learn how to take advantage of your space and environment to get those jaw dropping shots.

Similarly if you want to become an artist but don’t know how, or don’t have the means to obtain premium art supplies, start with any pencil you have around your house and draw on any piece of paper you can find. Use a pen and your grocery receipt, just keep working and trying and practicing your skills. Sculpt out of empty containers and candle wax. Then once you save for the supplies you need you’ll have the skills and ideas prepared to execute a vision that’s been mulling to perfection.

Maybe you just want to get out more, but don’t know where to go. Start by going for walks at the park closest to your house. Check out the fliers they have pinned on board, see if anything interests you. Look around while you’re there and see what you can see. Do you see any buildings? Any other trails or parks? any people? What are they doing? Just by gong somewhere, anywhere, it can lead to to your next step, even when your not sure where you want that next step to be.

More importantly, start talking to other people about what you want to do. You never know people’s stories, just like they don’t know all of yours, and they might also be interested in your passions, or have a friend of a friend who is and can help you. They might know a lot about grant writing, or showcase events, or where to get cheap courses in a particular subject. Or they might just be a place to come to for support. Talking to people is probably the scariest piece of advice from this article, but always remember that when you are doing your best to build the life you want, if someone has a problem with that it is a reflection on them and not you. Connecting with your community will open so many opportunities that you didn’t know existed. They may start small, but the more time and love that grows from you persistence, the more you will see your relationships, and dreams expand to places you didn’t dare dream possible.

If you start doing what you want with what you have, you will begin to develop the skills to become a master at your craft when you get to where you want to be faster. You are also training your brain to act resourcefully and always stay on alert for opportunities that are around you. As you immerse yourself in the world you want your life to become you’ll find a new perspective on what it is you wanted to do that will help you to evolve. The key is beginning. No apologizing for not being prepared, no procrastinating because you are not ready, no waiting because maybe there is something you might want more later. Begin today. With exactly what you have. Right where you are at.

You never know what can grow from those first steps

Conscientious Consumerism: Why the smallest steps towards sustainability are still important

There seems to be a rift in the rhetoric surrounding the impact consumer choices have when it comes to helping the environment. Last month’s enormous demonstration of students (and other activists) demanding systemic change from political leaders in a world wide movement was largely inspired by the work of activist Greta Thunberg. It brought enormous attention to a wide range of industries and powerhouses impacting global climate change. Many argue corporate power houses need stricter regulations, and that nonrenewable energy needs to be immediately banned for any measurable change to take place. Many critics of small scale changes claim metal straws, package-free shampoos, and meat free life styles just aren’t enough to save the planet. Why bother with small changes like that?

Ignoring the power of small changes is the result of small thinking. These people think they are doing a service by pointing out the deep rooted societal issues that prevent immediately impactful change, but they ignore the critical benefits small efforts towards sustainable living offers. The mindset developed from making small changes keeps the concept of environmentally conscious practices in the forefront of people’s minds. It can start with switching to reusable bags when grocery shopping, and then move into reusable cups, then bringing silverware for lunch to work, and then choosing to purchase from companies who put effort into sustainable practices. The growing movement of people concerned about the environment compared to even just a few years ago shows evidence that knowledge and small changes to instill a sense of personal accountability do matter. The more we learn to then come together then in mass, the more we have the ability to send a powerful message to the powerful how we want the larger contributors to climate change to be handled.

Since small changes are so important here is a short, and by no means complete list of ideas as to how you can make sustainable and impactful choices everyday:

  1. Reusable Bags: basic, essential, and impactful. Many grocery stores sell canvas bags to pack with products, and there are insulated ones to keep frozen foods cold the entire trip home. These bags often hold more food- so less trips when unloading later. You can even find bags with fun designs that are personal to you. My favorite to take is my Spider-Man grocery bag that has tons of room to fill up. Keep a few in the car so you don’t forget them for any spontaneous trips. Here are some for as cheap as 54 cents.
  2. Take your lunch to work/school: preparing your own food will save you money, but many frozen meals or fast food places produce a lot of waste. The packaging and products are harsh on the environment. Packing your lunch in reusable containers, bringing reusable silverware, and cups/bottles for your drinks will cut an enormous amount of waste.
  3. Get crafty: re-purpose old materials to make something new instead of buying brand new from the store. My dad and I built the headboard for my bed from pallets that were going to be thrown out at a warehouse. Not only was this saving waste, it saved a ton of money, only costing a few dollars for a can of stain, and a day of our time to piece it together. Check out resources like Pintrest, YouTube, and HGTV’s website to find tutorials on how to transform old materials into something entirely new.
  4. Thrifting: Thrifting doesn’t just have to be for clothes- although I have found many of my favorite pieces second hand. I have an enormous desk that was only 10 dollars (chair included) I got when a local hotel redesigned their rooms and sold off all their furniture. Check yard sales, the oldie but goodie thrift shops, and also locally owned specialty thrift stores. These shops tend to select pieces that are more unique and stylish than a generic second hand shop.
  5. Shop Small: speaking of locally owned, shopping from small businesses and from businesses local to your area is a great way to connect with your community and to help the local economic environment. Your dollars go even further as demonstrated in study published on score.org, small businesses tend to pay it forward with 75% donating an average of around 6% of their profits to charities each year.
  6. Insulate your house: Make sure your home has proper insulation to prevent heat and cold from escaping during the particularly hot and cold months. Also make sure to keep up with windows and doors to ensure they are properly sealed. This will save energy and money on your bills.
  7. Stay informed: The more we learn about climate change, they more we know how to prepare and the steps we can take to help. This doesn’t mean you need to read piles of scientific journal articles or dry publications (although if that floats your boat, go right ahead). There are many sources to get information and stay up to date about what’s going on. Many Youtube channels offer sustainable solutions and ideas for limiting waste. Here is a link to one of my favorite channels offering a ton of sustainable content, run by Madeleine Olivia, who also has a book about sustainable living tips launching in January of 2020. Other fun ways to find information are websites set up by people you find interesting that are creating change. Rapper Lil Dickey released a song called “Earth” last April, and with it launched a website dedicated to providing information on climate change, with a plan of action as to how experts say we can battle the issue at hand.
  8. Speak up: If you see people littering, disrespecting the planet, or denying scientifically backed facts, stand up for the Earth. We may not be able to live completely waste free lives at every moment of everyday, but we can do our best and encourage others to do their best as well. Greta Thunberg started out as one activist who inspired millions to take to the streets. Kindly, respectfully, and courageously speak up when you see gross circumstances of denial and mistreatment of the planet.

This list is no where near complete, but offers a brief look into how no matter where you are at, you make choices everyday that will impact the world around you. Mass and systemic change will be necessary, but the shift in mindset of the general public is also a crucial component to overcoming the climate crisis. When we start thinking about putting the needs of the Earth before our immediate convenience, it begins to change a self-centered mindset to a more caring one. You don’t need to change every aspect of your life all at once, and be able to fit your waste for a year in a mason jar to make progress. Every choice, everyday is a step in the right direction. Even if it just means skipping on the meat twice a week and bringing your own silverware to lunch at the office everyday, every choice counts. You count. Your ideas and decisions matter, big or small , at the corporate level, on a personal level, in your home, on the street, you change the world from where ever you are at.

Microworlds Move Mountains

Your world is tiny, but it’s detailed and it’s beautiful and it’s you. There are somewhere around 7 billion people living on this planet and yet you will probably never see most of them. You’ll never hear their voices, or see their faces, or know their stories, and they won’t know yours. An article published by Forbes explains, that the average person can create meaningful relationships with around 150-250 people at a time. This is known as “Dunbar’s Number,” which addresses the limits of the mind’s ability to retain information about other people and incorporate them into our own tiny worlds.

This notion at first seemed disappointing, and creates a sense of serious FOMO for all the people you might never meet who could really change your life for the better. Looking deeper, I find this concept beautiful, in that it allows us to build our own worlds and create more detailed relationships with the people around us. Quality friends over quantity. The natural world reflects this with tiny creatures creating their own little spaces within a vast ecosystem.

These baby slugs and millipedes have created a world of their own on a tree stump in the forest. Their whole life is on or near this stump of tree that once was so much more, and now the stump, and the slugs, and the mushrooms, and me all coexist in one moment. Then I left their tiny world, and went back to my own.

That’s the strange and wonderful part about being the center of your own universe. You have the power to determine where you build it, who is allowed in an out, and how you want to impact those 150 people Dunbar says you’re going to change. Some spiders build their webs between the bark of a dark tree, others in between a flower and it’s leaves. Some people spend more time going through the grass like this caterpillar. It doesn’t matter where or how or why you build your world the way that you do. All that matters is that you fill it with people who bring you joy, pass by the ones who cut you down, and are conscious that you might one of those 150 people leaving a mark on someone else.

Even if you are the smallest, palest, loneliest flower among a field of big orange blossoms, you matter. Your world is important, and it is vital to the the larger ecosystem around you. At the end of the day our worlds might be small, but the chaos and magic you create while wrapped up in the bubble of your inner circle can make a difference that stretches across oceans and back again. What you are doing is important, where ever you are at.

Floating Towards The Sun

This year from July 26th- 28th Readington, NJ held their annual Festival of Ballooning at the Solberg Airport. This field at a town in New Jersey transformed into a playground for people of all ages and backgrounds. Vendors from internationally recognized brands handed out samples and sold new products in between classic fair style rides. The festival also featured performances from groups such as The Band Perry and The Beach Boys.

The main event, of course, is watching 100 hot air balloons float across the sky, and for half an hour thousands have a reason to keep their heads held high. They stop thinking about the problems at home, the pain on the ground, all the reasons they stare at the sidewalk. Right now they can look all the way up.

I often wish I could fly away from everything on my mind. I feel like if I could climb into a hot air balloon and float off into the sun, I wouldn’t have to ever look back. But that’s not how hot air balloons work. They go up above the crowd of hate and negativity, dropping the weight of sand bags that keep them tied to the ground. Then they just float for a while. They get to rise and see things from a new perspective. Eventually, they must come back to the ground. When they do, they can touch down knowing how to get a little closer to the sun.

Standing in the crowd I heard at least 5 different languages, saw people of all ages around me dancing, laughing, and taking pictures. We were all so different, still on the ground, and yet so lifted during the experience. Taking the time to stop and drop the weights of whatever is weighing you down for even a few moments can be so freeing. Instead of running away from your problems, float above them for a little while. Then come back down with a clear mind, and a warmer heart. You will rise above whatever is hurting you, and you can float towards to sun, where ever you’re at.