Dear the people who’ve passed in and out of my life,

I’d be lying if I said I knew that, one day, we’d grow apart. I didn’t know, but really, I never thought about it. I think I’m more aware of your existence now than I was when you were in my life. The empty space you’ve left behind doesn’t like to be ignored.

There are times I allow myself to think back on our moments together, while simultaneously reflecting on what could have been. I have mixed emotions, but the greatest is disappointment. I have to wonder if how quickly people have come in and out of my life is normal. Is it me? Is my personality incompatible with the majority of people?

At this point in my life, I have a few good friends–each of which I’ve known no more than a few years. I guess, growing up, I never realized maintaining lifelong friendships would be so hard. Except “hard” isn’t the right word. I didn’t lose any friends because I didn’t work hard enough. I lost friends thanks to time and distance. It just makes you wonder how important you actually are to people. It makes you wonder if friendship is more of a pipedream than the movies make it out to be. It also makes you wonder if it’s not a pipedream at all, but instead, maybe something’s wrong with YOU.

I don’t want to sound like I’m whining. I realize the path I’m taking with this topic is somewhat depressing… I suppose I’m not objectively observing. I can’t muse about lost friendships without eliciting an element of disheartening nostalgia.

In the end, I just miss you, and I blame myself. Whether or not that’s normal, I don’t want to anymore.

Sincerely,

Stephanie

Dear the local Chipotle,

I’m going to try to temper my temper here, when I ask: Where the EFF is your drive-thru?

Listen, I only have so much time for lunch before I have to go back to work… I only have so much energy to even attempt to get out of my car once I get into it.

I work eight hours a day, most of which are spent sitting—and I’m keeping it that way. Where do you get off that you want to pit my hunger against 1) my determination and 2) perhaps more importantly, my sloth? Sloth as in the deadly sin, not this.

Yes, my hunger won out yesterday when I parked my car—reluctantly—outside your four walls (your drive-thru-less four walls) and dragged myself inside. It was cold, and people were, like, looking at me as I made my way to the line, where I was forced to stand. Ugh, standing… one of the most overrated pastimes.

Fortunately, the line was short, but that’s your only saving grace. As for redeeming qualities, supply and demand are miles apart on that y-axis.

One would think having a drive-thru would be fiscally lucrative… I can tell you I would visit WAY more often than I already do if I didn’t have to get out of my car or talk to people for my side of guac and chips. In fact, I think my visit yesterday was after a few month’s hiatus—a hiatus that would not have existed had you thought ahead. This is on you, Chipotle.

Look, you don’t even need a drive-thru. It’s easy—set up a service on your app where I can order from my car and you bring me my food. Think of the tips! Yeah, it’s like curbside service. All the cool restaurants are doing it. Outback. Ruby Tuesday’s. Sonic. My mom.

Alright, if you want to brainstorm some of my ideas, leave a comment below and I’d be happy to oblige, especially where guac and chips are involved. That’s really all I need in payment. I’m flexible.

Sincerely,

Stephanie

Lesson #9: Expect To Lose It All This Holiday Season

My Christmas “Lose It All” Playlist

  1. All I Want For Christmas Is My Money Back
  2. Santa Baby [Please Save My Bank Account]
  3. It’s Beginning To Look A Lot Like Poverty
  4. Let It Rain, Let It Rain, Let It Rain [Dollah Dollah Bills Ya’ll!]
  5. Here Comes The IRS
  6. Do You Hear What I Hear? [The Dry Cough Of My Barren Bank Account]
  7. The Twelve Days Of Financial Insecurity

Ahh, don’t you guys just love these Christmas classics? Me neither.

Lose It All

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Christmastime is like going to Las Vegas with $1000, knowing you’re going to lose it all, and then losing it all. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE giving gifts; but it’s buying them that becomes taxing. The worst part comes once Christmas is said and done, after everyone has opened their presents and the excitement of watching their faces when they open their gifts has worn off. The worst part comes late at night, at the darkest hour, when you’re laying in bed alone, surveying your bank account. Only then do you realize what you’ve done. Did you lose it all? Yes, yes you did. You, my friend, just got crapped on by a Christmas Craps table.

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Way 2 go!

And the only person laughing is good ol’ Saint Nick, a contrived symbol of Christmas spirit–a man who prides himself on his ability, or should I say resources (i.e. elf slave labor), to spread holiday cheer across the globe–a soul who’s sole purpose it is to guilt you into fulfilling this gift-giving expectation and spend all your money on pointless things just so you can check off a “good deed” for the year.

Cindy Lou Who _2
‘Lil Cindy was onto something…
Yikes... nevermind
Yikes… nevermind

I sound like The Grinch. I’ll tone down the cynicism, because I’m not really at all cynical about Christmas. I LOVE GIVING GIFTS. But isn’t it interesting that we only do this once a year, excluding birthdays? Why aren’t we giving gifts all the time if it so clearly makes those closest to us happy?

I’ll tell you why… and it starts with a $. Because all that money you’ve saved up so you can move to Chicago in a year–you’d lose it all. Every last drop. At least, it will feel that way. But hey, it doesn’t mean you can’t surprise your best friends and family with a little something every now and then. Heck, I know I’d appreciate it. (Hint Hint)

I just finished my Christmas shopping yesterday, and while it came as a relief, I soon felt a deep, yearning emptiness in the part of my heart that’s synced to my bank account (You’ve got to buy the app). So you know what I did? I took off my pants (as I do when I get home) and got in bed. If I were a robot, the minute I closed my eyes would be accompanied by that sound robots make when they’re powering down, like a jet deaccelerating, a low yrooommmmm. Then begins the recharging period. But because I’m not a robot, I let myself fall asleep, enabling the defense mechanism that prefers to slip away into dream world rather than face reality.

Give It All

Yeah, it sucks having to spend so much money during Christmastime, but there’s nothing like seeing the smile on the faces of the people you’re gifting. There’s nothing like the warm feeling you get in your heart, that trumps the aforementioned emptiness. Yes, giving gifts is selfless, but it’s also self-fulfilling. It feels good to give gifts, at least for me. It feels much better than the regret I feel upon handing my hard-earned money over to the cashier. That’s what it comes down to. If you’re not a gift-giver. Don’t force it. Everyone has a love language, and if gifting isn’t, do something else to show you care during this holiday season. Take your mom out to lunch. Write a poem for your boy/girlfriend. Compliment your best friend all day until they can’t take it anymore. Do what you do best on Christmas Day… unless you’re REALLY practiced in kleptomania. Do us all a favor and try to deny that compulsion, at least for a day, k?

Lesson learned: Expect not to lose it all during Christmastime, but give it all. And expect to be happy about it.

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Lesson #7: Avoid social media at all costs

In the midst of heated debates about gun control and Syrian refugees and gross generalizations about people, religion, and society, it’s been hard for me to keep silent.

I grew up with a conservative father, but I never found much interest in politics. In fact, I’d proudly assert my disdain for all things political. It’s true that, today, I still don’t particularly like “politics,” simply because, to me, the word holds a rather negative connotation (I’ll explain later). Instead, what’s changed is the attention I’ve chosen to pay the world–to what people do, are, and say. I can’t ignore it. I can’t ignore our blatant disrepect for people who need our help. I can’t ignore the hypocrisy spewed by the people claiming to want what’s best for the world. I can’t ignore the fact that I don’t trust our government, because half the members are too prideful to act on behalf of the good of the country. Name one politician who doesn’t act on behalf of themselves these days. But only if you can prove it.

Call me naive, but “politics” isn’t what it used to be. I can’t imagine even half of our presidential candiatates this year care about the issues they relentlessly debate. These days, it’s about power and winning the argument for your “team.” In the end, what matters is the scoreboard. And my biggest question is “why?” I’ve never asked a more important question in my life.

Why? I don’t understand. Why do you think this…? Why do you believe that…? Why are you so…? Why the pride? Why the hypocrisy? Why can’t you see what you’re saying?

But the sad thing is… I fall victim to these things, too. Hypocrisy. Pride. Ego. Cynicism. All the things that make us humans. And the name of our game is self-destruction. Go figure.

Pride leads me to social media, Twitter, Facebook, where I find myself in a heated, yet mature, debate about gun regulations. I always told myself I’d never do this, but as many of you know, it’s incredibly difficult to avoid chiming in when the person who last chimed in presented his opinion with five whole paragraphs and obviously bias, oftentimes incorrect, information. See? I’m getting angry just typing about it. Why? I never wanted to be one of these pretentious people–the people who pride their opinion and demean anyone who opposes it. I’m trying to gain perspective–really, I am. I’ve been reading blogs, articles, whatever I can get my hands on. But it’s hard to gain perspective when we’re all sitting behind computer screens, casting our opinions out into the sea of our “friends,” forgetting that social media gives us the hidden and valuable space, seperate from the real world, where it’s too easy to have a one-sided argument, where we’re tricked into thinking we’re “saving the world” by “liking” a promotional article about defunding Planned Parenthood or filtering our profile pic to the colors of the French flag, where we can provoke opposition and show off our expertise and skill at articulating our views on contemporary issues. Where the media tells us what we should and should not care about.

Have we forgotten what it really takes to save the world? I have. It doesn’t take logging on to social media and looking for posts about guns, or violence, or Muslims so I can give my input and fulfill my desire to prove my opinion worthy, possibly even more worthy than everyone participating. That’s bullshit, Stephanie. It forces me to ask myself, “Do you really care about the issues? Or do you just want to win the argument?”

No, we haven’t forgotten what it really takes to save the world. We’re just too lazy to do it.

Lesson learned: Stop arguing, and start acting.  

Click here and here to make a difference for Syrian refugees.

Click here to gain perspective on Islam.

Click here to help people around the world.

Click here to help those who lost so much in France.

Click here to support teenage Pakistani activitist, Malala’s, fight for education around the globe.

Lesson #6: Don’t ever assume you’ve been cured of anything

I’m a big believer in dropping expectations. I don’t do it very well myself, but I think the concept is fantastic.

I have anxiety. And though it took me a while, I have come to accept it as a part of me. I don’t believe it will ever truly go away, not fully anyway. But there were times during the early years of living with it that I begged for it to go away. I wanted someone to hand me a cure, so I could move on with my life and stop being so scared of all things mundane.

And then, one day, I realized that I couldn’t be cured. Because my anxiety is a part of me and as real as the heart inside my chest. Remove the heart, and you die.

I experience anxiety in many different forms. Tremors. Panic attacks. Depression. Apathy. Butterflies. Tears. And then there’s my little friend, I call SAD. Or Stupid Ass Depersonlization.

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I first met Depersonalization one night after accidentally smoking too much, how do you say, cannabis. Ironically, I had made it through both high school and college without smoking a single joint. I do it one time, and I have the worst panic attack of my life. They don’t warn people about this stuff… If only they did, because it would have saved me six months of emotionaly turmoil. Yes, six months.

About a month after my weed experience, I began to notice an unease. Nothing felt particularly real anymore. I couldn’t connect with anything around me, even the people. Even my family. I’d look out my window and felt like the apartments across the street were a backdrop on a stage. Two dimensional almost. I remember staring at an almond, focusing on the lines running up and down, wondering how in the world almonds could exist on the same planet as me. Then I freaked out. And my mom told me to stop eating almonds for the time eating. But these things kept happening. I couldn’t think without wondering who was thinking for me. I had been dropped onto a planet I’d never been on before. I couldn’t go to work; I went home for a week to live with my parents.

I finally started feeling better after I discovered the term “depersonalization” online and how cannibis can cause it, but boy, was I in for a hard six months? My symptoms followed me, making me feel like two people, reminding me how broken I was. I regretted my decision. I felt like a virgin who had sex for the first time and acquired HIV. I had gone on an active duty military tour and come back with PTSD without ever putting on a uniform. It wasn’t fair, I conceded.

And then, after days of working with a therapist, reading happiness books, and centering my mind, I began to pull myself out off that dark place. And between October and November, I hadn’t once felt the sting of SAD (Stupid Ass Depersonalization, in case you forgot). I was on the road to a full recovery. But I tried not to assume I had been cured. Because I wasn’t.

Last night, on the couch with my mom, as I was crying about becoming an adult and leaving the security of childhood behind, I felt one half of my mind slip away, behind the glossy veil to hide from the world. See, the thing with SAD is… one half of your brain ostriches to avoid all things evil in the world and the other half of your brain is fully aware that there is nothing at all scary about my family’s living room. And that dissociation causes anxiety. Ironically, this is a defense mechanism. A pretty shitty one, though, amIright? Still, aren’t most defense mechanisms? I TURN MY NOSE AT YOU, DENIAL!

But, as I lay there with my mom, I didn’t let myself panic and doom myself to insanity. OH GOD IT’S BACK!!!! THAT’S IT! IT’S OVER! IT’S OVER FOR US ALL! No, I took a deep breathe and calmly coaxed and glued my brain back together. I assured it that everything would be okay, that even though life seems hard right now, there is nothing we need to do right now other than lay on this couch and cry into mom’s lap. Like my mom always says, just do what’s next. And crying was what’s next.

After about an hour, I felt whole again. And everything was okay. And when SAD knocks on the door again, I won’t scream at it to go away. Instead, I’ll tell it that we’re all good here; but thanks for checking in.

Lesson learned: Be kind to your mind, and don’t expect to ever be cured of anything. That’s just setting yourself up for disappointment.

We are all broken people, and that’s okay.

th1C8D9MAU
aw.

How Realizing My Narcissism Made Me A Better Person

I didn’t grow up in a hostile environment. Quite the opposite in fact. Loving family. Wonderful friends. And opportunities abounding. But living with a co-dependent as a mother, and a father who daily pronounced me “perfect” took an insidious toll. In the world’s defense, I was born with a predisposed low self-esteem. It was inevitable.

Source: How Realizing My Narcissism Made Me A Better Person

Lesson #4: Don’t research ISIS in bed right before going to sleep

With all of this chaos happening in Paris, I decided to do a little research and update myself on current events.

I read about what happened in Paris, and saw some pretty graphic pictures. And this was CNN (I think)! This news stuff is getting bold, my friends. Then I read ALL about the Syrian war and how ISIS came into existence, and then I read about their beheadings. And then, being the curious, yet messed up person I am, I looked up pictures. I have regrets.

Luckily my brain had my back. Not literally of course. That would look weird. You know those super surreal moments in our lives that makes us feel like we’re hovering in the clouds, above it all? Yeah, that’s a defense mechanism. Basically, your brain goes, “Woah! NO! That is a head… not attached to a body. Oh Jesus, is that blood? Oh God…. #nope. Let’s detach.” And then it does. And you feel like you’re looking at stills from a new movie coming out, or you’re gazing through a thin veil, or you’re dreaming. Your brain doesn’t want to believe what you’re seeing is real, and that’s why, as I looked at those gruesome pictures, I didn’t cry or throw up or gasp or scream. I flipped through them with neutral, yet sad eyes. What I was seeing is a tragedy, but neither I nor my brain could relate. And it certainly did not want to.

And as I closed my eyes to finally let myself drift off, I prayed that I’d have good dreams, preferably without the severed heads. And then I prayed for peace.

Lesson learned? Don’t research ISIS at 11:00 at night. 

Peace be with those who’ve lost.

Lesson #3: Fake it ’til you make it

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I tend to wear my heart on my sleeve. Apparently, when I’m sad, people can tell. When I’m mad, the stench comes off me like three week old trash. Really? And I thought I was so good at hiding it. That’s a lie. The past year, I’ve worn my heart on my sleeve in hopes that people would recognize my struggle and come to my aid.

spongebob-smelly

But here’s the thing: If you’re putting off a stink that’s smellier than a dead raccoon in a pile of cow poop, people probably won’t want to come to your aid. In fact, they’ll stay clear of you–about 1,000,000 miles clear of you. Wouldn’t you? Who wants to smell dead raccoon and cow feces all day? No one. And yet I expected people to WANT to. That was a mistake, because most expectations go unmet. And that’s not me being cynical. It’s just reality. Drop your expectations to avoid a life FULL of disappointment. Once you do, you’ll find people surprise you much more than you ever thought. BUT DON’T EXPECT THAT TO HAPPEN EITHER!

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What I’ve learned is that I have to fake it ’til I make it. I’m allowed to have anger, sadness, fear, and disgust (yes, I just listed all the Inside Out emotions but the most important one), but I don’t need to bring everybody down with me. If I’m mad at someone, I’m the type of person who wants to fix the conflict right. this. instant. I don’t care that we’re at dinner with a bunch of friends who look really uncomfortable right now; we are going outside to work this out! But that’s not always the right way. Sometimes, you have to allow yourself to be uncomfortable for a little while. Patience is truly a virtue. That stupid cliche is right.

Aint-Nobody-Got-Time-for-That

Put a smile on your face, and resolve to solve the situation later. Because you love your friends, and you owe them your happiness, and also, look at their faces; they look like they’ve just eaten cow shit for dinner. Of course, I’m not condoning dishonoring your emotions. What I’m suggesting is to hold from acting on them right away. Be angry, yes, but don’t allow it to control you. Let it work itself out; and then, an hour later when you’re at home and you still feel those gnawing claws of frustation, perhaps it’s time to address the issue, with yourself, with whoever caused the frustration, with life. Whatever it takes to prevent it from taking over and dictating your actions, and eventually, everything else.

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It may sound like bullshit to have to smile your way through life. That’s not fair! Life doesn’t deserve my happiness when it does nothing but bring me down! But here’s the thing: By smiling, you’re actually throwing up a huge middle finger in Life’s face AND ALL THOSE WHO WRONGED YOU. It’s a snarky way to look at it, but hey, whatever helps you keep that smile on your face. Plus, smiling tricks your brain into thinking you’re happy and sending little happiness receptors to all parts of your mind. So REALLY, you’re beating that mother-effer at its own game. Smiling is basically you stealing third, and who doesn’t want to steal third? It gets you that much closer to homebase.

SeguraSteal

Now go find happiness, and you steal it!

Lesson #2: Treat yourself as others would want to be treated

My mom is a wise woman, and she’s helped me through many a struggle. We oftentimes get on each other’s nerves, but isn’t that just a sign of love? I bring her up, because she gave me a good piece of advice this morning…

I’m prone to base my identity off my reputation. For instance, if people don’t like me, even just one person, then I must be doing something wrong. For that reason, I avoid conflict and say “I’m sorry” even when the fault isn’t mine. By saying “I’m sorry,” I’m hoping to gain back the person in question’s favor. They’re mad at me about something, right? I don’t know what I did, but I must have done something wrong, right? Because they’re mad at me. Like my mom, I’m that person who assumes every honk she hears on the road is at her. So I pretty frequently correct myself when no correction is needed.

Gosh, just writing this depresses me.

But on the flip side, it’s also helping me understand myself. It’s helping me understand that I need to forgive myself. In the grand scheme of things, I need to forgive myself, as we all should. People will disagree with me or with something I do, but I need not chastise myself. I need only love myself and give time to those I feel time is owed–to my truest friends and family in this world.

I also need to own my feelings. You see, there’s a little man who lives inside my brain–he’s quite small, but he has a mighty power. He has the ability to sic his pet beast, Guilt, on all thoughts positive or negative in my mind. Mostly the negative ones.

You think your best friend betrayed you? And now you're mad and ignoring her? You're a terrible person. How dare you be mad. She's just doing what's best for her. Stop being mad, and cater to HER feelings.
You think your best friend betrayed you? And now you’re mad and ignoring her? You’re a terrible person. How dare you be mad. She’s just doing what’s best for her. Stop being mad, and cater to HER feelings.

I didn’t draw that guy. Found him on Google. But my Guilty Beast kinda looks like that…

Let me give you an example of how Guilty Beast dictates my conversations. If one of my friends snuck into my house one night and killed my entire family in cold blood with a machete, here’s how I would approach them:

“Hey, I’m angry, because I feel like you killed family. And that makes me sad. BUT I know you were just doing what you thought was right, so it’s probably hard for you to hear that… REALLY hard actually. I just wish you would have maybe asked me first, because killing my family would obviously hurt me, but I get why you didn’t, because how do you ask, “Would it be alright if I killed your family?” You probably knew I’d say no. You probably knew I’d yell at you or call you names. I get that you probably think I’m a bitch, because I can definitely be one. And that’s not fair to you. Of course it isn’t. Communication just isn’t our strong suit, and that made it hard on you. I don’t want you to think I’m putting all the blame on you, because I’m not. If anything, it’s my fault for not seeing that you wanted to kill my family and talking to you about it. I mean, I even caught you sharpening your machete last Tuesday! Gosh, what kind of a friend am I? Look, before you say anything, let me just say I’m really sorry. Friends?”

What the eff?
What the eff?

Probably really confused that friend, but hey, they get off scrotch-free! You think I’m kidding. Anger makes me feel guilty. Guilt makes me feel angry. So I just avoid the anger. Here’s the catch… Whether or not I’m voicing my anger, the anger doesn’t go away. And I’m just failing myself by not allowing my truth to come out. By not allowing myself to own my emotions.

So, friends, FEEL your feelings. That’s what they are there for. To feel. Don’t over-analyze. And don’t make any rash actions. Just feel your feelings. Be honest with yourself and those closest to you. If they care, they’ll listen. They’ll help you work through them, and they’ll apologize if they’ve hurt you. Because you are about yourself, you should listen to yourself, as if you were listening to a close friend. Treat yourself like a child, in need of comfort and support. It’s not your fault for being human. It’s whoever created you, that’s who! If anyone is to blame, it’s the Masters of the Universe!

First and foremost, be at peace with yourself. Forgive yourself. Love yourself.

Treat yourself as others would want to be treated.

love-yourself-first

Lesson #1: I Am The Problem. And So Are You.

happiness

I’ve realized since picking this blog back up that I need to focus on a theme. I have to ask myself, What can I offer the world via my blog? What insights do I have that those reading my blog crave? Initially, I was going for the “I’m young and twenty-three” angle, but I’ve learned that’s not enough. There’s lots of “young and twenty” blogs out there. What’s new? Where and how do I stand out?

For the past year, I’ve been going through an extreme emotional, physical, and theoretical transition. I have experienced depression, anxiety, sadness, excitement, determination, depersonalization, fear… sometimes it feels all at once. I’ve gone up and down, thrown side to side, and good grief, I am dizzy. As you might have read in previous posts, I have A LOT to complain about. And THAT right there is my problem. All I’ve been doing is complaining. Who wants to read that? What I’ve discovered in just the past few weeks is that if we take time out from complaining to find the good in our greatest challenges, we might find our solution.

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I have a friend who has been telling me from the beginning that “you, Stephanie, are the problem,” which I, of course, immediately defend, or rather rebel, against. “Are you kidding? No, I’m not. It’s not my fault this happened. It’s not my fault that happened. It’s not my fault she betrayed me… Are you saying IT’S MY FAULT?” I can go on and on like this, but he stops me mid-breath to say, “No. You are the problem.” NO I’M NOT, I scream. I’m not kidding. I’m always screaming at this point. HOW DARE YOU BLAME ME FOR WHAT’S OUT OF MY CONTROL!

But that’s the thing…

You see, it may not be my fault that so and so did this or that…. but it’s my choice on how I respond. It’s my fault that I’m letting what life hands me bring me down. It’s my fault that I’m brooding and letting my past taint my present, what’s right in front of me. I am in control of how I respond to life. I am in control of my happiness. Because I do believe happiness is a choice. It’s not simply given to the lucky. Don’t get me wrong–I think some people are more apt for happiness (i.e. the obtuse), but I digress. What matters is what I’m doing for myself to be happy, not what others are doing for me, or to me, or with me.

I am the problem. But I am also the solution.

I am on an active search for happiness, having dedicated myself after a long line of mistakes made. So if I can provide anything to a world of young, naive, eager twenty-somethings, they’re the stories of my mistakes, my observations, and what I’ve learned in effect.

I am the sculptor and the sculpture, itself–just as we all are.

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So, what’s my theme, you ask. Well, I’m still thinking of a nice, concise tag-line to sum it all up. Feel free to help me with that. But, for now, my blog, in essence, embodies the life of a young woman who readily admits her failures and actively seeks to gain that consequential wisdom needed to achieve a lasting, purposeful happiness in life.

I can’t wait to share all I’ve learned and have yet to learn.

I’ll start with something simple. Love yourself. No matter what. No matter what anyone else thinks. Love your feelings. Your emotions. Your past. Your present. Your future. Be grateful, be happy, and love yourself. Always.

Easier said than done? Of course. Let’s get technical in posts to come.