The Great Discontent & A Leap of Faith

I knew I needed to get out of Northeast Pennsylvania. I’ve known for years, persistent feelings of overwhelming isolation and sadness being a pretty clear indication that something just wasn’t right. But after graduating college, my first job offer was from the university where I had just completed my education, and while I love my alma mater, I knew I could not stay long-term. Well, unless I wanted to fall into a never ending pit of despair. I know, it sounds incredibly dramatic, but I think I spent more time laying on my futon staring at the wall than doing anything productive in the time I’ve been living in my own apartment.

So once I took the GRE and realized my score wouldn’t get me into any of the schools on my list, I panicked. I could not, would not, get stuck in NEPA. I did what any rational person would do and I decided to apply to teach English in South Korea. It seemed like a crazy whim to ride everything on, but within two weeks I had a job offer from a language learning academy in Jinju, South Korea, and without hesitation I accepted the job offer. It seemed right. My heart was content.

As I went through the process of applying for a visa, gathering my documents, and completing my Teaching English as a Foreign Language certification, I noticed that the discontent that had been lingering in my heart for so long had settled. I started reading again. I felt a sense of relief as I parted with material items that were cluttering my life. The Great Discontent had passed. And in its place I found that a desire to dive deeper into my spiritual life had taken over. This dramatic change in my life was not entirely a result of my own making, but a divine intervention, taking me down the path where I was needed most. While to some, the belief in a higher power orienting me in another direction might seem crazy, it is the most sane explanation I can come up with. Sure, I have never been afraid of taking chances and going abroad is something I think about with childlike excitement. But rather than seek a higher paying job within my current industry, within my own country, I took a leap of faith and completely changed directions, put aside all of my fear about living somewhere new where I don’t even speak the language, and dove in head-first. The burden I felt was lifted, and I just knew.

Easy Banana-Almond Butter Granola Bites

The weather in Northeast Pennsylvania has been all but predictable lately. With back-to-back Nor-easters, it’s easy to imagine that everyone gets sent into a panic about what the impending storm will bring. Due to fears of heavy and consistent snow, I got a snow day from work today, which gave me a lot of free time to catch up on some much needed cleaning I needed to do around my apartment. Once that was finished, and my GRE studying was complete too, I was at a loss for what to do with myself.

I really needed to use up one lone, over-ripe banana. I knew that one banana would not be enough for banana bread, and besides, I have given up bread for Lent, so that was out. I purused on Pinterest, but couldn’t find anything that really peaked my interest, so I decided to try a recipe of my own. The result was tasty, crispy, granola bites loaded with almond butter, flax seed, sunflower seeds, and banana. So if you have a banana laying around and aren’t quite sure what to do with it, why not give these quick and simple granola bites a try?

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Ingredients:

  • 1 cup of oats
  • 1 over-ripe banana
  • 1/4 almond butter or nut butter of your choice
  • 1 tbsp flax seeds
  • 1 tbsp sunflower seeds
  • Other nuts and seeds of your choice

Directions:

  • While pre-heating oven to 350, toast oats on the stove over medium heat for about 10 minutes, stirring and flipping often
  • Mash banana in a small mixing bowl until well-mashed and no lumps remain and add almond butter
  • Pour warmed, toasted oats into the almond butter and banana mixture and stir until well combined
  • Sprinkle in flax seeds, sunflower seeds, and any additional seeds you want to add! I just used whatever was available in my pantry
  • Form into patties in a small muffin tray and bake for 12 minutes

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This recipe is really so simple, yet so delicious. It can also be customized with whatever nuts, seeds, or spices you have in your cabinet. Next time I make this, I may try adding in some shaved apple and cinnamon! Let me know in the comments if you tried this recipe, what you think, and how you made it your own!

 

Embracing Life With Less

I have always been a messy person. My entire life my bedroom floor has been littered with possessions: toys as a child, CD cases and clothing as a teenager, and now, as a young professional, the outfits I try on in the morning only to fling off immediately in order to try something else on. I always wondered why I couldn’t keep my room clean. My the cabinet under my bathroom sink is so difficult to navigate. Why I could not fit everything into my car when I moved out of my college dorm room and had to call for backup.

And then one day, while browsing the documentaries section on Netflix, I came across a film on minimalism. Minimalism has definitely been a buzzword over the past few years. Hell, even Emily Gilmore dabbled in minimalism, removing anything from her life that did not bring her joy after the passing of her husband.

I was inspired by these two young men, who spend their days traveling around the country to share the joys of minimalism with millions of Americans. But this documentary found me at the wrong time. I was out on the road, traveling for my job, and spending five nights a week at the Hampton Inn. There was no way I’d have time to really embrace minimalism. So I set it aside, and forgot about it until one day in Georgia.

I traveled to Georgia to see two old pals who I met in a hostel in Ireland. (You can read all about my travels to Georgia here!) I arrived at their beautiful, vibrant townhouse, and Mackenzie said to me, “You can have whatever you like! I’m trying minimalism.” and that’s when I was really struck by it. I saw how simple, but comfortable their home was. Her bedroom was nearly spotless, but also cozy and lived-in. That’s when I knew that the problem that had plagued me all my life was not a lack of self-discipline to put things away neatly (although that certainly doesn’t help), but owning too much stuff! So I ordered a book called The More of Less (yes, I bought something to help me own less, I recognize the irony), and set out to own less.

Minimalism-the-less-that-owns-you.

The first thing I tackled was my sock and underwear drawer. Getting rid of these types of textiles always plagued me with guilt. Most places do not accept donations of used socks or underwear (understandable). So instead, I’d wear these things under they no longer resembled the original product, all so I’d feel less guilty about them winding up in landfills. That’s when I discovered Planet Aid. They recycle and redistribute old clothing, even the clothing with holes and stains, even socks and underwear. When I learned that there is a Planet Aid donation bin just blocks from my apartment, I went from two drawers full of socks that could barely close to one that opens and closes with ease. I also cleaned out my pajama drawer, donating clothing I haven’t worn in months.

Another area I am trying to minimize is food. I’ve decided to challenge myself not to buy groceries, especially grains, pastas, and canned goods, until I run out of what I have in my pantry to use. I know this challenge will be a bit difficult as I follow a vegan diet and eat a lot of fresh produce. But even that I can work around. I have frozen vegetables in my freezer, canned goods in the pantry. While I prefer fresh produce, it is important to eat what I have before purchasing more.

While I am still working on my minimalist journey, I already feel rewarded. My surfaces are clearer, I don’t have excess of things I don’t need excess of, and I will be helping my future self by making my next move much more bearable. Not only that, but by choosing to live with less, I will also be taking a journey in better money management and spending my money on experiences I enjoy rather than on things that add little value to my life. Sure, I’m not where I want to be yet, but I know I will get there.

A Northern Girl Goes Down to Georgia

The summer after my junior year of college, I navigated an airport alone for my first time. I boarded an international flight alone. I got to know the woman sitting next to me and I slept. After all, it was an overnight flight. I was heading to Ireland, a place I had never been before, to spend nine days with a group of fifty strangers who all shared the same wanderlust I felt inside. On my first day in Ireland, I met my roommates. Two girls from Minnesota, a girl from Mississippi, and two girls from Georgia. And we all went from strangers, to close friends in the duration of the trip. We all swore we’d see each other again, we made a snapchat group, we had a group text, but as always, those relationships are hard to keep alive, especially when considering the distance. But while we didn’t speak nearly as much, we all knew that when it came down to it, we had all shared a wonderful experience that connected us. And I used that connection to quell the longing inside of me to travel somewhere new.

Using the Hopper App, I found a roundtrip flight to Atlanta, Georgia for $145. Yes, a roundtrip flight for $145. I was amazed. I immediately texted my former Ireland roommates and planned a trip to the South. I booked my hotel using some of my Hilton Honors Points, courtesy of my job and long fall travel season, looked up parking prices at the Philadelphia airport, and packed my very small personal bag full of just enough clothing for the weekend and a hairbrush. In that moment, I was incredibly grateful that my job taught me how to pack just the essentials.

Flying down in January, I expected that I’d be getting a break from the cold weather in Northeast Pennsylvania. And while the temperatures were warmer than NEPA, the Saturday I spent in Atlanta was only just above freezing. That did not stop me from having an amazing weekend. Here are some of the highlights of my trip:

  • Eating at Cafe Sunflower, the fanciest vegan restaurant I have ever been to.
  • Getting vegan donuts in Atlanta.
  • Playing spoons with strangers.
  • Home-cooked vegan meals.
  • Experiencing church in the South. Let me tell you, it was no Catholic mass.
  • Sliding down the concrete slide in Downtown Macon.
  • Spending time outdoors, without snow on the ground.
  • Eating southern-style comfort foods, veganized of course.
  • Drinking Guinness like we were in Ireland again.

As you can tell, I did a LOT of eating on this trip. It’s not every day I have so many vegan options available to me that I don’t create in my own kitchen. My four days in Georgia really were an amazing experience. And I am so grateful I got the chance to spend some time with my long-distance friends.

Ringing in the New Year

January 1, 2018

A new month, a new day, a new year. With the passing of each 365 days, we are reminded that once a year, we are given a symbolic new beginning, and that while every day is the chance to start anew, this one day in particular is special, being celebrated across the globe, and is a visible reminder that we can always do better and be better.

I spent New Years Eve with one of my close friends, her parents, brothers, aunts, and uncles. We ate a large and late dinner, chatted about travel, books, movies, and shared stories from our lives. It was relaxing, peaceful, and full of love. We toasted the new year with champagne, and I quickly went off to sleep on a pull-out couch, reminiscing back to my childhood in the late 90’s. This upcoming year would be a good one, because I vowed to make it so.

Each year I set not one, but many resolutions and goals for myself. It’s something I have always done. At least if I fail at one, I have others I can fall back on. Each year I set a goal for how many books I would like to read. This number changes every year and if often based on how many I read the year before. In 2017, I read all of nine books, probably the lowest number of books I’ve read in a year since before I learned how to read. So, naturally, I set the bar low for this upcoming year, and I have already finished a book of essays I began back in July about life after college. It felt great to have already accomplished something so early in the new year.

I’ve also set other resolutions: go 100% vegan, beginning today, visit at least two new states, pay off at least one credit card, journal every day, and stop scrolling through Twitter before I even get out of bed in the morning. I’d also like to prioritize my days better, create new habits and routines, volunteer more, and try new things. I know this is a lot to take on, particularly all at once, but even small changes can lead to big results. One of my best friends bought me a daily journal that has a question and a few lines to write a short response each day over the course of five years. Guided journaling makes the resolution to journal every day seem a lot more attainable. Creating routines, like reading each day before bed kills two birds with one stone. And prioritizing getting a shower over scrolling through Twitter will help me be a lot more productive in the morning. So while I have a lot of resolutions, many of them are intertwined.

So while I am optimistic that this may be the year I accomplish much of what I have set out to do, only time will tell, and I am incredibly excited to see what 2018 has to offer.

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly: 2017

I began 2017 with high hopes that it would finally be my year. I was going to graduate college, hopefully find a job I love, reclaim my personal fitness, and cultivate loving and nurturing relationships. After the whirlwind year I had in 2016, I truly believed the only way to go was up.

2016 had not been good to me. Between health problems and eight months of intense fighting before ending a long-term relationship over infidelity, it had been a rough year. Top it off with an overload of upper-level classes and increased responsibilities as a resident assistant, all while battling the demons that come along with declining mental health, and you have the recipe for a complete dumpster fire year. I really have no other way to describe it.

So when 2017 started off with my car breaking down, I felt incredibly resentful. How much more could I handle? Next came the ending of my first “serious” relationship since my break-up: one that I rushed into too quickly, developed feelings too strongly, and projected my subconscious desire to be the other half of someone else because it was all I had known for the past three years.

But then it all began an upward swing. I spent an incredible amount of time with friends (hello, Snowpocolypse), dove into my work, and vowed to enjoy my last semester of college. When I finally walked across the stage at graduation decked out in all of my regalia, Summa Cum Laude, I finally realized the culmunation of all I had achieved. I had been an active participant in my education. It was also this moment when I finally realized where my path in life was taking me: Academia. Sure, I wasn’t going to graduate school immediately in the fall, but I would get there, one way or another. It was my passion, my joy, and the thing I always took the most pride in. So when I got hired in higher education three months later, I was overjoyed. Better yet, my job allowed me to travel. I was able to visit cities I had never been to, like Baltimore and Wilmington. I also walked on the beach in early November, feeling completely at peace with where I was.

I also made other huge steps this year. I moved into my own apartment. I switched to my own cell phone plan. I began adopting a vegan diet.

So while 2017 may have been a rough start for me, I believe this year took me exactly where I needed to be. My personal growth has been astounding. The people who have lifted me up over and over again I’m sure have not failed to feel their worth to me. And maybe I can’t talk about a significant other when I attend holiday gatherings, which seems to always be a hot topic at the dinner table, but I can talk about where I see my life going, not just in the next year, but in the next five years. And I couldn’t be more excited to keep traveling down that path.

Welcome to My World

Life is an adventure. I didn’t always see it that way, and some days are harder than others, but after many years of struggling to see the sunny side of things, I am finally there. With my newfound joy comes many blessings. My mind it clearer and my words come easier.

Growing up, I never saw myself as a writer. I was just a reader. I carried a book with me wherever I went, eager to turn a page, devour a story, and make countless new friends I could always turn to just by turning a page. As I grew older, I longed to be the author of the story, but I so often found that the words did not come easily and the self-doubt quickly entered my mind. I wanted to believe I was talented, but the voice in my head told me to keep my words to myself, because they may not be good enough. Instead I hid my words away in journals. Beautiful, leatherbound journals, bright hardcover books with lined pages, full of untold stories just waiting to be told. And then one day, I took my words off of my own private pages and submitted to my college’s literary journal. A daring first. I didn’t expect to even be accepted. And then, to my great surprise, I won runner-up for a prose piece.

I cast off my doubt. I found my voice.

Finding one’s voice is never easy, but I hope with this blog I am able to open up my world, share my story, and keep the words flowing, an endless stream of ideas, of something to say, and of joy.

I hope you’ll join my on my journey through my young adult life. As I navigate this great wide somewhere and find my foothold, I hope that you’ll be by my side, cheering me on, offering advice, and celebrating my victories with me.

Follow me as I head out into the world, remembering that I am young, I am carefree, and I am living.