the process of becoming

a blog for twenty-somethings trying to navigate the world and follow your dreams


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being a drifting creative

CREATIVE MIND

(Image courtesy of Yasmeanie on Deviantart Picture)

Calling all creatives, this post is for YOU.

I’ve only recently begun to call myself that term as a noun instead of an adjective. Me. Sarah. A “creative.” I like it, because when I quit drawing and painting back in high school, it started the small crisis of what do I call myself now? I knew I was a writer, but I didn’t feel like I could own the term “artist” anymore.

Now, I know that I’m all three. I’m an artist, a writer, and an all-around creative. It fits, because it covers all my bases, leaves room for growth (what if I want to start repurposing furniture? Start an Etsy shop of my knitting and cross-stitching? Start making literal book art out of book pages? Paint again!?)… and it also sounds rather mysterious.

“Hi Sarah, how would you describe yourself?”

“I’m a quirky, twenty-something creative with a passion for all things literary.”

It’s helped.

The only problem? I’m going through the crisis again.

But really, it’s one I’ve gone through many a time, as I’m sure every other artist/creative/writer/designer, etc has in his/her life. Especially before we hit 30. Where one moment you’re dead sure you’re going to be that next famous watercolor painter (me), but then you get a bad grade in Drawing 1 and you high tail it out of there in favor of acting. (Pretty close to me). You move onto something else. You identify yourself with a new project, a new passion.

I’ve had so many ideas that turn into interests, interests that turn into passions, and passions that turn in artwork and actions that actually end up falling through and leaving me discouraged. Right now I’m finding myself faced with this blog. Do I love blogging? Yes. Do I have what it takes to maintain it? I’m finding out rather quickly. But I don’t want to give it up, 1) because this is what I decided to do for a time, a solid amount of time, and because I’m way too tired of changing my mind, or giving up on something simply because I wasn’t passionate enough or good enough as the next person. How many people can say that about opportunities, jobs, even careers?

I’m trying to tell myself it’s not that I’m broken, and it’s not that I can never make up my mind. I’m sure of many things, like my love of books, my talent in writing and editing, and my passion for creativity and art and loving people. But I’m 23 and I still haven’t found my niche, the way those passions take action and root and turn into something permanent, concrete, or long-term.

I’m tired of drifting. But maybe this is just part of the process.

Do any of you 20-somethings feel this way? Creatives? What helped you narrow down your interests or passions and start focusing on that one thing that makes you you?

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the recent adventures of this 20-something

I know, I know. I’ve been MIA from this blog for the past month or so. I think about it a lot, but I’ve been going through the expected mid-blog crisis (which falls about a few months in) of the usual insecurities. Are my posts interesting? Do I write/market/pick topics for the right audience? Will anyone read these? Is this the most important thing I could be doing? Hasn’t someone said this before? 

All good questions, but not all helpful for motivational purposes. Either way, no I have not abandoned you. I’ve come to realize that a blog is a life too, and it needs time to develop, grow, and become the blog it needs to be. As well as the blog’s author/writer. No pun intended.

As an update, the recent adventures of this 20-something include:

1. Unexpectedly going to the last day of AWP ’15 (Association of Writers and Writing Programs Conference) in my homie Minneapolis in the beginning of April and experiencing all sorts of grand bookish knowledge, overwhelming book fair booths, important people meandering around me, and furiously scribbling all words of advice and inspiration in my notebook. Unfortunately it did not involve lots of laughing with sophisticated writer friends or copious amounts of free drinks, but it did include pleasant meet-ups, awesome poetry, and much grown-up-edness. It was truly an epic meant for a blog post by itself. (It might be outdated, but I’m still going to write one. It was just so rad)

2. Publishing internship applications, application-denying emails, and general anxiety over my aging body and the fleeting number of open entry-level positions in the Twin Cities area (in the beginning? like, 12. right now? zero). I know I know, I need to relax, it was only my first round of trying.

3. Discovering that, in the meantime and possibly forever in addition to some kind of career in publishing, my dream job is STILL to work in a bookstore shelving, recommending, and selling books. I cannot tell you ENOUGH how much my nose wants to smell that new and old paper smells all day and err’y day. I don’t care a lick how it pays, I will probably be in the depths of despair forever if I don’t work in one at some point in my life. The journey begins.

GilbertBlythe-copy4. Being in the depths of despair over the passing of beloved Johnathan Crombie, AKA Gilbert Blythe, my actor-represented first literary crush. I actually watched Part 2 of the Sequel the night before I found out the news, and it was SO. SAD. I mean, AGH.

5. My new goal of going to two literary events in the Twin Cities every month. My mentor challenged me to one a week, but with all my interactions at work most days, ain’t no introvert got time for that! I plan on posting a photo and short post for each one I go to. (and no, AWP doesn’t count! Although I went to that after the challenge begun at the end of March)

6. Being so so so so excited for my husband to graduate on Saturday! We have big plans for teamed-up creativity for when he finally has the time, and I’m starting to look forward to that more than I ever expected. Stay tuned!


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I’m not going to apologize for being “crazy”

This post is for the woman.

The woman who was brought up to be guarded, dare I even mention the word “submissive,” and proper.

The woman who felt then—and still does—SO. MANY. EMOTIONS. Who just wanted to be heard, noticed, appreciated. Acknowledged that having those emotions was, and is, perfectly okay. Whether that’s being really really happy, a little (or lot) depressed, or just plain moody.

Whether you were raised in the church to always “guard your heart,” whether your parents or relatives were good at discipline and children had to be “seen not heard,” or whether there was a boy who just couldn’t “handle” your tears, I’m here to tell you not to change.

I’m not going to apologize for being emotional, for feeling everything, for “being crazy.” And neither should you.

You are either 1) not crazy, so stop thinking/saying/feeling that you are, or 2) that “crazy” is the beautiful hot mess that is you—goofiness, wonder, passion, interests—all bursting out during moments of energy. I love it. Keep it up, okay?!

I had a rough time in high school where I couldn’t decide whether sharing my emotions was going to turn people off from being my friend. I was moody, dark, somewhat depressed, and I wore black a LOT (long live the band T-shirts). I knew that I had a lot of empathy for basically everything under the sun, but I didn’t know about anxiety disorders back then or the chemical cause of depression. I thought having a boyfriend meant that he’d take you as you are, emotions and crying episodes and all. I didn’t know how not to feel.

And I remember feeling inadequate when I was rejected for showing my feelings. For being “crazy.”

And then, halfway through college, I realized that I didn’t need to apologize anymore.

I don’t need to apologize to my now husband for bursting into tears unexpectedly. I don’t need to apologize to the world for not feeling well enough to venture into another crowd. For being too anxious to pick up the phone. For feeling depressed.

Men, this doesn’t just apply to women, obviously.

I’m simply referring to the generations before us who taught us that women “shouldn’t” you-fill-in-the-blank.

I’ve slowly and gradually learned that there’s only so much you can do to “self-improve.” Find where that stops and celebrate who you actually are.

There’s no stopping my emotion train, but there is therapy or medication for anxiety disorders for those who need them. And then there’s just really emotional people, and sensitive people, and artsy people. And poets. (I could go on)

And I am so so blessed to have a husband who recognizes me and my emotions for who we are and lets me be me. I’ve stopped apologizing and spent more time bursting into laughter over emotional breakdowns now.

Women, stop being sorry. You are beautiful for all the neurons and brainwaves and things you feel. KEEP FEELING THEM. Don’t apologize.


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when life gets the best of you

March has been a crazy month for me.

One, it is the time to scramble to submit applications, cover letters, resumes, and writing samples to all the publishing houses I have envied and admired for the past few months. I had been waiting for March to come for so long, I panicked when it finally got here. The pressure is now ON. And as time goes on, I am reminded again and again of how under-employed I am and how much I want my literary and publishing dreams to come true. I just need to keep telling myself that life will go on if I don’t get an internship, and I can find other ways to get my foot in the door.

Two, I was reminded by my lovely body of how my biological clock is ticking. That is sarcasm (but really I am totally fine with my body… this is just related to health things I can’t seem to control). I woke up with some serious tooth pain the day after we came back from being out of town. This just after I had researched dentists and picked one out–only to find out that she wasn’t in office on Wednesdays. So I Googled emergency dentists and found one close by that had great hours and specialized in people who just needed to get an issue taken care of.

Turns out, I needed an immediate root canal. Not only am I the biggest baby when it comes to dentists (hence why I haven’t been in a while–that and lack of insurance), but I am an even BIGGER baby when it comes to pain. I haven’t even had my wisdom teeth out yet! After it was over, I went through two complete weeks of mouth and jaw pain, trying painkillers that weren’t working, and all around just being miserable. Lesson learned: I will religiously floss my teeth now. And probably give this place a mixed review, because they didn’t take my pain seriously until after a week, and even now 3 weeks later I am still having pain. Not. Fun.

Lastly, as you may know, I am a caregiver at a very medical group home, so basically every day I am unsure if I will have to call 911, stay with a resident at the hospital, or deal with copious amounts of texts to the house nurse. I plan on doing a humor post about being a PCA soon because I am now at the point where I can laugh about how crazy my job is. But it doesn’t make it any easier.

But here’s what I’m learning: 

I am learning that it’s okay not to have it all together. 

My theme right around two years ago was trying to find a life that is okay while not being okay. (And then I fell in love with Looking for Alaska by John Green). It was when I realized that most of us are dealing with pretty rough things, but life doesn’t even slow down for us. We just have to push through. It’s okay to be honest about the pain you’re going through, but if it’s an every day thing, then express your hope as well. Even if that hope is just looking for the silver lining or enjoying the sunshine for thirty minutes.

I am learning the value in my job and the lives that I assist.

You can tell me that being a PCA is an under-employed filler job. It pretty much is. But there are people who make their careers in working with people who have special needs. I admire them even while I know it’s not for me long term. But instead of wishing I was an employed writer, I’ve decided to start writing about my work and about my friends and co-workers and clients and everyone who is affected by the special needs community, which is everyone. I just finished Me Before You by Jojo Moyes and am running through my head the ideas of the value of life and what makes a life valuable. Which leads me to my last point…

I am learning what life is about and how I want to live mine. 

Who I am, who I’m going to be… those are not questions that end when you find yourself an adult living on your own. Those are ideas I get to ponder my whole life, and I don’t plan on waiting. I’ve decided to stop being apathetic about spiritual growth just because I’m angry at my past and try to move on already. I’m learning that the meaning of life is maybe just to love (and hopefully be loved in return), which means selflessness is a thing that’s not just for the super religious or church enthused (the old me).

(Source: Tumblr)

(Source: Tumblr)

If you’re reading this, basically know that I am still in my 20-something funk, but I’m finally seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. No… I take that back. I have no idea what that means because I’m pretty sure we never leave the tunnel. To think that one day everything is going to be perfect is a lie. This world is pretty messed up, humans are messy, but there’s beauty found in all of it. I am finding my hope.

When life gets the best of you, find a way to move forward. Floss your teeth, eat more fruit and vegetables, and read good books, all the while trying not to worry as much. We’re so young.


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the jumble of my brain, growing up, and other messes

(Source: Pinterest)

(Source: Pinterest)

Do you ever have something you really really want to say, talk about, or bring up, but you don’t know how to do it?

This is me when it comes to my Christian, fundamental, homeschooled upbringing.

Yes, that is a Lion King quote. But if you’re around my age, maybe you remember and relate to that move as much as I. It was my favorite, and I thought of this quote when writing this post.

I don’t know what to say about my past because I don’t want to bash – I didn’t hate it, and I mean no disrespect to anyone who endorses all that. I love my parents and am thankful for their excellent parenting in many areas (pretty sure I turned out all right!).

But I’m realizing now how much I disagree with many of the books I read, concepts I was taught in churches, and leaders who spoke to me throughout my entire life – including my private, Christian university. I’m having trouble sorting it all out, what’s “good” what’s “bad” (if those categories are even okay!), and whenever I’m asked about it, I want to explode. So many thoughts in this brain.

I’m only a year removed from all of that – a year since graduation. I’m not removed from my faith, I just attend a different church than I did even while at college, and I am surrounded by friends who don’t constantly bring our childhoods up. But when one of us does, and we have childhood stuff in common, it’s like I’m a top that can’t stop spinning. Or we exchange similar memories one on top of the other like caffeinated pre-teens.

I guess I’m writing this post because I literally do not know where to start. I want to share what I am learning and the opinions I am forming about stuff I’ve known about my whole life but that looks so different to me now. I want to talk to 20-somethings who grew up similarly to me, about things we were all taught, about youth groups, Christians who hurt us, Bible verses and concepts that hurt us, books that confused us, maybe even people who judged us. But to talk about it all in order to sort out the good that existed, that came, and that continues.

I’m tired of being angry or hurt.

And I don’t just want to talk about faith and the Christian church. However, that is the lens through which I used to look at every single thing on the planet. So to think about my childhood and teenage years while excluding Christianity is like trying to look through purple sunglasses without seeing any purple. It just can’t be done.

So bear with me, if you are interested, in the jumble of my post-college and growing/changing-of-my-faith brain.

And as I invite you to participate in the ramblings, please don’t hesitate to share your experiences too! I think it’s time our generation spoke up about homeschooling, fundamentalism, the Purity Movement, or whatever burden you are carrying around unspoken about. And then turned it into a conversation about how we can do even better for the next generation.


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you don’t need to achieve everything before 25

With my recent birthday – 23 – the age where I could no longer deny my post-college age and lifestyle, I have been thinking a lot about the way I function through my age. We 20-somethings deal with so much social pressure to be the best we can be right now without realizing the age we actually are.

Now, I agree with being your best (you should always be your best), but maybe we should define what “best” means for you. Maybe that means being the best at the age and place you are – excelling at your current job, building your experience, and meeting people.

For me, it means doing a little something towards my future every day, even if that just means going to work to earn my paycheck. Recently I’ve been getting down over not blogging every day, not working on my poetry/creative work, not “doing” anything to make myself the 20-something I want to be soon, career-wise.

What is this sense of urgency that drives me to feel this way? I don’t need to achieve everything before I’m 25 (or 27, or 30)!

I find myself becoming self-conscious when I see someone’s resume with tons of internship experience, or a literary agent’s assistant with all of his or her credentials, or a published article written by someone who has so many more. I think I want to be like them! Why am I not there yet!? 

But when I think about my actual life, I remember that I’m only newly-23. They probably are not, and if they are, good for them!

I’m only one year out of college – a year spent getting to know the special needs and health care community, a year spent getting to understand their behaviors, thoughts, and actions, a year spent figuring out what direction I want to go besides to be an advocate for them, and a year spent forming my marriage to my husband (don’t laugh at me, but since I’ve always treated marriage as the beginning and not the “end life goal,” I act like it’s no big deal that I got married. It is. And I shouldn’t take it – or the fact that it took a lot of work/time/energy to get here – for granted).

We are told the lie that we have to be achieving things now to be getting to where we want. But the fact is that these things take time. 

Have you made a LinkedIn profile? Edited your resume on InDesign? Written cover letter after cover letter, editing and making sure that everything looks perfect? Given yourself a well-earned episode of Friends after submitting your application, resume, and cover letter because you just spent all your energy on that one job application?

Well, I have. And even if you get that dreaded rejection email/phone call, know that your time was still well spent.

You don’t need to write a novel, publish a million articles or poems or creative work, or land a starter position at your dream company before you turn 25 (or 30). If you’re a 20-something like me, relax and keep at it. If I do achieve things in the next 2 years, I hope it’s something I can be proud of rather than something rushed or that caused anxiety, too much stress, or made me forget my other priorities in life.

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(Credit: Buzzfeed. Quote: New Girl)

What other priorities? Exploring my fabulous city, spending time with my husband and close friends, reading great books, trying the best food at recommended restaurants, and keeping up with pop culture, world news, and the best new music.

I’m learning how to be content with 23, with slowly working my way up in the world while also enjoying my life. Are you?

Can you relate to wanting to “do all the things” before you reach a certain age? What are your priorities that you don’t want to let achieving your career overshadow? 


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8 ideas for the overwhelmed post-graduate

Intelligent-Husky-Graduates-College-Still-Doesnt-Know-What-To-Do-With-His-DegreesFinishing undergraduate college can be a truly overwhelming experience. Suddenly you’re on your own. No dorms, cafeteria food and dining funds, professors giving you advice, and learning simply put in front of you. Everything takes effort and intentional work now – including earning money based upon your degree.

I can personally attest to feeling adrift and lost for the whole year after I graduated in December 2013. My story may be different from yours since my brain has dealt with depression since high school, but the post-university blues are a real and documented thing.

I went back to one of my college part-time jobs after graduation to “take a break” from the stress of senior semester (for example, I couldn’t read a single book or learn anything academic). Soon after, I felt stuck, stressed, and lost. I knew I needed more internship experience, but I needed money to pay for my wedding and didn’t have time besides. I didn’t even know how to look for jobs in my field, and worst yet, I didn’t know exactly what I wanted to do. If you’ve been reading my blog, you know that I’m still figuring it all out!

Most importantly, I know I am not alone. For more information on on awareness of college graduates and depression, read these articles from The Guardian, The Independent, and the National Institute of Mental Health.

Take a deep breath and remember that you’re not the only one. Here are some ideas to keep in mind and do as you go through this time.

1. Renew your perspective. 

Going through college gives you expectations that may be actually unrealistic! You’re only in your twenties. Talk to people. Many of them didn’t get a job they loved (or in their field, etc.) until they were much older and much further out of college. Try to view your life from another person’s shoes, and you may be surprised to see how blessed you still are. And don’t forget to admire your degree a little!

2. Re-think your expectations. 

Like I stated above, our college minds are taught about the “real world” in terms of expectations for us. In turn, we develop ideas. When we don’t meet those ideas, we may not have made a Plan B and thus fall into negative thinking. Making smaller goals (like making a list of places to apply or attending a resume workshop) can be an easy first step in heading in a more realistic direction. Then you can realistically expect to be in your field, say, five years from now. Don’t go overboard too soon!

3. Narrow down your strengths (and weaknesses). 

Unsure of what you want to do? Write down your interests and then separate the hobbies from the things you could do as a career (this benefited me greatly!). Research your field and find out what you may be a perfect fit for. Write down your strengths for interviews, and also decide on what your weaknesses are should you need to work on those (public speaking, interviewing well, etc). College was spent learning about so many subjects that you may have skipped learning about yourself professionally.

4. Find out how to prepare. 

Maybe you were that student who listened to your college’s career center and practiced interviewing, resume-writing, and job searching, but I wasn’t. I barely had time for homework much less preparing for what I would do afterward. If you feel “stuck” in your current job situation, go back to your strengths and weaknesses and figure out what you could work on. Research actual jobs in your field, ask questions, and do the small things that are helping you become more learned in the area of the real world rather than maybe what you studied. Sometimes this is the best thing you can do while you wait for that call back or interview.

5. Don’t be afraid to try new things. 

Yes, we’re all taught that we should use the degree we got all those student loans for. But honestly, maybe you decided on that major as a junior or senior in high school and were too afraid or far along in college to explore other options (also known as me). Perhaps you want to deviate a little because you found an amazing organization or a line of work you never knew existed. Explore! Take a class now and then if something interests you. Volunteer one night a week or month. Or maybe you might find you love being an Esty-shop owner, barista, or waiter/waitress – that’s perfectly okay! More job experience is more life experience, and all these things can make you well-rounded and wiser.

6. Explore your world. 

As an autobiographical writer, I know I’m probably not going to get something big published while I’m young. It just makes sense that I would need to live a little longer and more. For that reason, I know it is important for me to travel and discover new places, and what’s great for my budget is that they might be just down the road. If you can’t afford to fly somewhere, read your state’s magazine and discover all the gems the locals talk about (Minnesota Monthly and Mpls St. Paul Magazine are my favorites for Minnesotans). If it’s not intimidating, meet new people around you and learn their story. In a small way you are broadening your perspective and becoming more learned in the ways of the world. Don’t underestimate your life and experiences.

7. Enjoy your friends and family. 

It’s true – you may not have the same community of professors and students you had at college. But now that you don’t have the same “busy with finals” excuse, you can use an allotted time each week to reconnect with friends and family you don’t want to lose touch with. Isolation is the worst for depression (as tempting as it is, I would not recommend binge-watching Netflix, at least not for months at a time). Talking to people and being encouraged by them is one of the healthiest things you can do.

8. Get help if you need it. 

Lastly, seek professional help if your depression simply isn’t letting up. It’s nothing to be ashamed of by any means, but it can be hard to find someone without the free services of college right there. Though your college’s counseling center isn’t able to directly help you, they’re usually more than willing to give you a list of services in your area. If that’s not up your alley, then seek out a mentor through your church or perhaps a past professor who would be willing to listen and encourage you.

Are you or did you battle with the post-graduate blues? What are your ideas for battling depression and feeling lost in the job-searching world?