20 Little Insignificant Things That Make Me Blissfully Happy

So I needed to make a tangible list of things that made me happy because it has been a little bit stressful for me to be carving out my life with a spoon lately.  For some context, I’ve included a short situation below:

You’re standing in front of your open closet.  Clothes are thrown all over your floor in heaps of unwantedness as you desperately dress and undress yourself in several outfits before finally staring, butt-ass naked, into the skeleton of this disheveled mess you somehow call a closet.  You have hundreds of items of clothing, but you just don’t feel cute in any of them, so you start to wonder whether you’d be better off never leaving your house again, or possibly becoming a nudist.  And then you decide those options probably aren’t the best answers, which makes you more frustrated, because now you can’t escape from the piles and piles of shirts and tight jeans that scream, “You were never cute to begin with!  You have wasted us!  All of us!!!” as they lie crumpled and defeated on the carpet.  You hang your head, sit on the edge of your bed (still butt-ass naked), and finally exclaim, “I have nothing to wear!!!” before melodramatically flinging yourself onto the floor surrounded by all the fashion you just murdered.

Does this sound at all familiar?

Yeah, this is what writing has felt like for me these past few weeks.  Like, “I have nothing to write!!!”

It’s not even like anything bad has happened because of it, unless you count the hours of internal torment I’ve unnecessarily subjected myself to.  Leave it to me to punish myself for not doing something I was never required to do in the first place.  (Also sound familiar?)  Anyway, I’ve discovered a few things about myself and the world around me from the time I took off from writing for my blog.  I’ve decided to share some of those things with you, in hopes that it can better help both of us learn how to guzzle down life’s spiked and overwhelmingly flavored lemonade.

For a large part of my time recently, I have been highly caffeinated and have been pecking at the keys on my laptop like a madwoman, pretending like I’m writing something worthwhile.  Mostly this ends with me closing the tab on an unfinished brain dump of words, still titled “Untitled Document”, and opening a new Chrome tab to check on my unfulfilling and unnecessary Facebook profile.  I have also begun reading a novel about environmentalism and sex, which is equal parts academically interesting and really weird to be reading when I’m out in public.  But mostly I have spent my time observing, blushing deeply, crying my eyes out, and experiencing the universe in the most astounding of ways.  Part of me thinks that I might be wasting away all my days sitting and contemplating at the ocean’s edge, and strolling through empty beachside streets with grains of colorful sand clinging to the length of my legs.  Some days it is really difficult to find a purpose in this time of limbo in my life; I’m not in school, I’m not working, and I’m not currently restoring a vintage Airstream trailer for full-time living like I would like to be.  So instead, to help myself feel a little more still these days, I have composed a collection of things that make me happy.  These all came from my life journal, where I jot down (almost) everything that I want to make a note of throughout the day.  It keeps me half sane.  And it’s really calming to have on hand.

Here is a list of little insignificant things that make me really, really happy.

  1. Sitting in the sun: Feeling sunlight embrace my skin leaves me grounded and relaxed, not to mention soaking up the sun’s rays actually cleanses your chakras, like leaving crystals out in full moonlight
  2. Putting your feet in a stream: This also cleanses you and washes away negative energy.  Being next to water also helps to evoke emotion and can sometimes make you cry (all good things, tears are good for you).
  3. First kisses: This one goes without saying; life is just better when you’re filled with childlike joy and butterflies in your stomach from finally getting to kiss someone you really like for the first time.
  4. Watching someone learn a new song on the guitar: I’ve always loved watching people learn new instruments, because they mess up and struggle and improve and it is such a lovely way of getting to observe someone in their most vulnerable state.  If someone starts playing an instrument they’re not very confident with around you, take advantage of it and really listen.  You could discover new things about them and get to know them without words.
  5. Braiding hair; your own or a friend’s who showers: Braiding and playing with hair in general is just really therapeutic.  It feels good when it’s happening to you, and for me, playing with someone’s hair is a BIG WAY of saying “I love you” without really saying it.
  6. Laughing when you are absolutely not allowed to: When is this not wonderful?
  7. Taking a barefoot walk: Go barefoot, it’s good for your soul.  I’m not kidding.
  8. Talking about music with a new friend: Another way to see into someone’s heart is to listen to the music they really like.  I have bonded with many people just from listening to vibrations in silence with them, and that makes me smile.
  9. Getting hand-written letters: Someone’s handwriting is like the written version of hearing their voice, because it’s uniquely theirs.  And especially nowadays when we are slaves to technology, when someone takes the time to write you a note, cherish that.
  10. Tea with honey: Sweet, warm, comforting, earthy, and just good.  Just good.
  11. Driving in the rain: Especially with Bon Iver playing?  Moments like this make life romantic.
  12. Every single song by Bon Iver: No explanation needed.
  13. Journaling when you’re in love: I recommend journaling all the time, no matter what you’re feeling.  But it’s wonderful to read my old entries from when I was head over heels for someone or something in my life, and it feels good to write down too.  Memories are good.
  14. Finishing a good book: Now, ironically, it has been a long time since I actually finished a book, because due to my consistent unfocus, I can only really concentrate on one thing for a maximum of five minutes.  This is what meditation is for.  But it’s still nice to remember that finishing something feels good, so I can encourage myself to do it more often.
  15. Getting licked/nibbled by a friendly dog: No explanation needed.
  16. Holding hands: Walking along with someone and then being totally delighted when they grab your hand is by far the cutest feeling ever, but it’s even better if they absentmindedly play with your hands with theirs when you’re more comfortable with each other.  Hands are important.  Love them.
  17. Running through shallow ocean water: This is the epitome of the mid-summer break experience: sprinting with your friends or someone you love across the beach in the middle of the night and splashing each other with water.  I think the last time I did this was during Senior Week, when I stripped at a bonfire in front of the class of 2016 and waded into the freezing dark water for a dare (something I will never regret doing and would definitely do again).
  18. Creating your own music playlist: I routinely create new Spotify playlists for the sole purpose of playing during stargazing outings and road trips.  I came into this world believing I was in my own music video, so there is rarely a time in my life without music playing.  Hit me up for some chill and romantic soundscapes.
  19. Corpuscular Avengers (basically a game of high intensity flashlight tag): This is a classic summer camp game that I want to include in my adult life, because it’s the best and creepiest game ever that involves sneaking, hiding, and running in wild darkness from people with flashlights, kind of like running from the scene of a crime or TP-ing someone’s house.  Good times.
  20. Sleeping under the stars: I have spent plenty of nights dozing off under starry skies and I have concluded that it is the loveliest thing in this world to do.

Dear Young Goddess

Dear young Goddess,

This is a gentle reminder that it is all okay.

You may not know what to do right now.  You are scared, stressed, and tired.  The pressures of growing up as astounding and divine as you are can easily weather your heart and your soul.  I know things are changing rapidly in your world, and some days it can be difficult to wrangle everything.  You are doing so much for yourself, and I see you working hard to create a life that is perfect for you.  It is really, really hard.  It’s okay to be tired.  Even if it doesn’t seem near to you, and even if you can’t make it today, I promise you that you will reach your goal.  Keep going.  I know you can.

Little Goddess, I see you.  I know you are hurting.  I feel your heartache, and your fear, and your longing to be more than you are today.  I understand.  You have been wronged, silenced, taken for granted.  You are one of many other young goddesses who have all felt the same way.  I want you to remember that you are not your experiences.  You are not your past.  You are not your failed relationships, your struggles, or your pain.  All of these things have carved you into a magnificent work of art.  You have imperfections, little flaws… but wear the marks as war paint, not chains.  Stand tall like the breathtaking warrior you were born to be.

Keep in mind, that tears are a divine tool.  Use them, do not fear them.  You have been told that your emotions are a weakness, but those who speak this are unaware of your magic and your power.  Your heart may have to break over and over again in order to open completely.  This will take tears, and heartache, but most importantly, strength.  There is wisdom in sadness.  There is hope.  And you are brave enough to show it.  Perhaps not in front of others, but just for yourself.  We all need to cry.  We all need to feel.  As tears roll down your rosy cheeks, you will move mountains.  You are working on removing the obstacles that prevent you from being your best self.  Feel your sadness, honor your divinity, and continue on.  One step at a time.

Goddess, you are still so young.  Do not mind the partnerships that have sunken like warships.  Don’t listen to the mechanical voices of your past lovers reminding you of your worthlessness.  They do not deserve your time.  Fill the shelves of your heart with kind words from yourself, write yourself love letters.  Decorate your mind with flowers.  There are cracks on the walls of your soul, but you can cover them with whatever color wallpaper you desire.

You are made of love.  You are the picture of divine femininity.  No matter what your struggles, you are capable of overcoming them.  You are a healer, a provider, a leader, a siren, a saint.  You are, and forever will be, a Goddess.

But you are still a little one, so give yourself a little time to find your way.  You, and only you, are the creator of this life.

And trust me, you will rise to the occasion of your destiny soon.

“I Don’t Date Fat Girls”, And Other Reasons I Never Learned To Climb

 

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This is a story about climbing a rock.

I was a shy, introverted kid growing up.  Around adults I was lively and friendly, but I didn’t know how to talk to kids my age.  I was the quiet weird girl with the transition-lense glasses, who drew cartoons and wrote short stories about fantasy creatures.  My best friend in middle school was a film-obsessed know-it-all girl with a pixie cut (which in those years was not a cool hairstyle).  And I hated the way I looked.  My worries about my physical appearance kept me from doing a lot of things I wanted, like learning how to surf, or climb, or skateboard, or do Junior Lifeguards.

It was difficult for me to grow up in my body, as a girl.  I was never encouraged to be active or resourceful like my brothers or my male cousins.  At family gatherings, my relatives would always comment on my appearance as a way to start conversation.  Not, “Wow, you’re so much taller!” or, “You look so grown up!” like they would tell the boys.  No, instead I always heard, “You’re really putting on some pounds, girl!” or the friendlier, “Have you lost weight?  You look so much skinnier than you were three months ago.”  It was, at the very least, extremely embarrassing.  At the worst, it was soul-crushing.

When I was in middle school, I watched the cool girls from a distance with an obvious longing.  They were everything I wished I could be: surfers, gymnasts, camping pros, horseback riders, sculptors.  They wore thrift shop overalls and hiking boots to school, and they were friends with all the boys.  They knew how to sew their own clothes and beat anyone at an arm wrestle.  Their hair was long, wavy, and sun-bleached.  And they didn’t give a shit about being liked.

They were the most fucking badass women I had ever seen.

Now me, with my Walmart t-shirts and rainbow Vans, was not like these girls.  I was afraid to talk to them because I couldn’t walk a half-mile up a hill without breaking a sweat, let alone run all the way up Bishop’s Peak.  I had never been an athletic kid, partly because it wasn’t a priority in my family, but mostly because I didn’t want anyone to watch my fat jiggle when I ran.  I was more of the, “watch Disney movies and do crafts in the house by myself” kind of girl.  It was lonely.  My parents didn’t notice, because they thought I was an artist and that’s just how I rolled.  But it was really, really lonely.

My self-esteem issues and the longing to be like those nature girls followed me throughout middle school, almost to the end of high school.  The hardest thing for me, which kept me from thriving in a lot of “male-dominated” activities like surfing or baseball, was wanting to be liked by boys.  That has always been a big part of my insecurity, even now in my adult life.  I have always been an outdoorsy person at heart, but when I was younger I was convinced that it was “the boy thing”.  Like when I joined Girl Scouts expecting to learn how to tie knots, and ended up selling cookies outside of Target.  I learned by example that it was weird for a girl to like playing in the mud.  So I never pursued a life like that.  I believed that sort of stuff until I met those wild girls in middle school.

I became friends with one of them in seventh grade.  We weren’t close back then, but she invited me to the beach and on hikes, and as scared as I was, I went anyway.  It made me feel better to be included by someone active and fun, who could introduce me to other cool outdoorsy people like her.  I was beginning to think I could do anything, and that my interest in the outdoors wasn’t so weird after all.

But I had a crush on a boy.  He was friends with my new friends, and we had a couple of classes together.  He could climb fences, make fires, and do cool shit with a butterfly knife.  He was funny and popular, had a mop of messy curly hair, and I was crazy about him.  I never said anything to him, but everyone else could tell.  I thought he liked me too because he was really kind and we almost held hands once when we were doing an obstacle course.  But then we went to a birthday party at a park that had a jungle gym.  And, as I have already mentioned, I was not an athletic kid.

I didn’t have the arm strength to climb up the side of this thing.  (I could never even do monkey bars).  I wanted to.  I tried to race the boys to the top, but I couldn’t, and I fell off.  They laughed at me and pointed.  I can’t remember where my new girlfriends were, but I know that I didn’t have any encouragement that day.  So I decided to sit on the see-saw and just watch them.  At which point, the messy-haired, wily boy I had a crush on shouted to his friends: “Dude, do you think she’ll break the see-saw?”

I remember saying something along the lines of, “Excuse me?” to which I was ignored.  One of his smarter friends said, “Yo, that’s not cool, man,” and probably asked him if he knew I liked him (because everyone else did).  And then the big bomb was dropped, the one that he said so quietly that his other friend had to repeat louder so I could hear.  All of my worries, the reasons I stayed away from sports, the loneliness that followed me, the things I felt when I looked in the mirror, washed over my mind like a tsunami, destroying anything good that was left.  I heard laughter, and shouting, and then: “Dude, Mandie, he said he doesn’t date fat girls!  Can you take a hint?”

So, yeah.  I didn’t feel good enough to be a badass nature girl that day.  Or for the next four years.

The impact of “I don’t date fat girls” left a tattoo of never enough on my heart for years.  I was constantly reminded of my weight every day, and I hated myself for it.  Even in high school, when I tried out school sports and started dating, I was disgusted with my body.  That spurred an ongoing battle with depression and a track-record of dropping out of sports mid-season.  I believed that I couldn’t be myself or do what I wanted until I looked good.  Rock-climbers looked good.  Olympic swimmers looked good.  Yogis looked good.  There were never fat, ugly Yogis.

I am writing this from a very vulnerable place, because I went to the climbing gym for the first time last night.  I have always wanted to learn how to climb, but in addition to feeling generally inadequate at sports, I have a crazy fear of heights and I am thoroughly intimidated by anyone who is better than me at anything.  I still have a horrible record for the number of push-ups I can do, so that doesn’t help.  But I wanted to do it so badly, that I wasn’t going to let my fear hold me back this time.

When I walked in, the place was crowded with college kids, specifically super ripped women and really, really attractive men.  There were people ten feet above me on the harder courses, supporting themselves with just their arms, their legs swinging in the air like it was nothing.  Suddenly I didn’t feel like climbing anymore.  I was terrified; I didn’t want to be on that jungle gym again.  I didn’t want to fall off and give up and be laughed at.  I didn’t want to hear “I don’t date fat girls” ringing in my ears.

But then I got mad.  I was never really fat.  I was never incapable of doing the things I wanted.  I was never at the mercy of those boys who could climb better than me.  I learned how to surf.  I can hike Bishop’s Peak now.  I thought about the ballet training I got at AMDA for that short time, and how I can now do two hundred crunches.  I have grown, I have learned, I have found a little more confidence.  I still can’t do many push-ups, but I am getting there.  Slowly.

So with a defiant rage I ran, without any chalk, to the first climbing course.  And although I was afraid of falling, and terrified of the hot strangers around me, I climbed.  I pulled myself up that wall like my life depended on it.  And I reached the top.  I lifted myself over the wall and looked back at the height I had just covered (and of course I was overwhelmed, because my fear of heights is really awful).  But I realized that I fucking made it, without listening to the mean middle school boys who live in the back of my mind.  I made it to the top.  Then I climbed back down.  Then I did it four more times.  All the while, I was saying to myself: I am strong.  I am a climber.  I am a badass nature woman.  I will be scaling mountains years from now.  I can do whatever I want.

I still aspire to be like those girls in middle school.  Luckily for me, we are still great friends, and I look up to them like crazy.  But now I am a lot more like them.  I have thrift shop overalls and hiking boots, plus I drive a Subaru.  Practically the only thing I don’t have now that they do is the gas money to get to Yosemite.  I was never much different from them, even when I was an awkward middle-schooler who drew pictures and rarely talked to anyone.  I just didn’t know I was allowed to be like them.  Now I know that I never even needed permission.

I am learning now that it doesn’t matter what I look like as long as I am strong enough to run.  My body is my instrument, and I need the strength to do the things I have always wanted to do.  To this day, I am still working on not letting the men get to me.  Really I am working on not letting anyone get to me, but the guys are the worst for me.  Through the snickers and chiding of the imaginary seventh-graders in my head, I will continue to do what makes me happy even though I’m not the best at it.  My next challenge is overcoming my fear of falling.  That, I think, is a lot better than having a fear of climbing in the first place.

I Dropped Out Of College to Be Happy

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So… I just dropped out of college.

WHAT?!?!

Yeah, that’s what I said.  I dropped, I dipped, I skedaddled outta there.  A week ago I was sitting on my dorm bed, typing out a lengthy character analysis and lyric sheet for a 1910’s musical theater song I was working on, and planning what dance classes I would take next semester.  Today I am sitting in a rocking chair at my mom’s house in Grover Beach, searching for jobs online, and all of the shit I took with me to college is now shoved in the back closet.  How did this happen?!

Well, it all started when I was still a wee junior in high school, when I was starting to look at my options for higher education.  I only applied to one college.  I used to say it was because I was sure what I wanted to do, but in reality I was just massively lazy and didn’t want to take the time to write cover letters and essays or pay the application fees for multiple schools.  I didn’t even take the SAT, for reasons I honestly can’t remember.  So my options became extremely limited, even though I had good grades and the potential to attend some pretty prestigious universities if I tried.  But lo and behold, I did not try.

Somehow I managed to crank out the entire application process for the American Musical and Dramatics Academy in Hollywood, California.  I had heard about it from a graduating senior who got accepted, and she said great things about it.  I had always loved acting but never considered it as a valid career choice until that moment.  Plus, this school didn’t require that I take the SAT!!  (Yes! Laziness!!)  So I toured the campus twice, made multiple phone calls to my admission adviser, and seemed to be heading in the right track.  I was never head-over-heels in love with it, but acting was really all I knew how to do well that could become a successful “adult career”.

Needless to say, I was accepted, and ended up attending AMDA for six months.  I wish I could say that the entire experience was breathtakingly perfect, but if that were true, I’d still be waking up in Los Angeles today.  But I loved so many things about it.  I loved learning how to use my voice, and how to create characters, and how to act genuinely through a song.  I made some of the most meaningful friendships at school, and got to live in an apartment with my best friends that overlooked the Hollywood Hills.  The Greek restaurant down the street had $1 fries on Thursdays, and I was within walking distance of a handful of delicious vegan restaurants.  The farmer’s market was every Sunday, I spent many hours in the aisles of Amoeba Records, and I got to go to the LA Women’s March with my best friend, where we were twenty feet from the stage.  There are major perks to living in the city.

I could have stayed there for four years and graduated with my BFA in Musical Theater, next to my amazing friends, in that big crazy city, with agents calling me up for work right away.  I could have done it pretty easily; I’m in good physical shape, I have a promising singing voice, I can act, I have good work ethic, I can speak and write eloquently, I manage my time wisely.  Last semester I pulled almost all A’s in a school that is nearly impossible to ace.  I can do it.  I’m even good at it.  But what struck me recently, in a week-long, bone-crushing wave of spiritual power, was the realization that I was not happy.

When I first settled in at AMDA, I developed a routine schedule of emotional breakdowns.  You could be sure they were always on a Thursday or Sunday, and my sobbing usually consisted of telling anyone who would listen about how much I missed nature.  My friend Andrew told me once that all I said was “I miss dirt”, and I have to admit that sounds ridiculous, but that was the reality of how sad I was.  I actually missed the dirt!  And I missed sitting in the grass, and hiking barefoot, and surfing, and swimming in the ocean.  LA had so much to see, but Mother Nature was hidden from me.  So I started bringing all my crystals back to my dorm every time I’d visit home on the weekends, and I tried meditating and going outside a lot more often.  I felt better, and I started to break out from my state of city anxiety, but it was still pretty difficult to find time to take care of myself in between the non-stop class schedule.  So I started writing.

I have a good friend who is a poet, who just recently decided that she wrote poetry.  One day she started writing things down, in between classes or on her breaks at work, and she made a promise to do that a little bit every day, because it made her happy.  When I visited her over Christmas break, she had already blossomed into the poet she is today.  Her writing guided her through a sea of dreams and ideas that she didn’t know she had before, and now she is planning on studying abroad in Europe next year.  She told me that writing helped her get to know herself better.

I started writing a little bit each day.  It didn’t matter what I wrote about (and a lot of it was shitty writing I wouldn’t want any of you to read), but it made me happy.  Soon I started jotting down little notes to myself, like “write about the music teacher that talks with his piano”, “write about tasting matcha for the first time”, “write about that awful food truck horn you hear every day”, and other things I would discover about people I knew.  It made me see the world around me with brighter colors, even if the world around me smelled like human poop on a daily basis.  And through that little bit of storytelling, I realized that I am meant to write about things.  Just like how my friend realized she is supposed to write poetry.  Our writing, the bits and pieces of our souls that we scratched onto paper for no reason other than to please ourselves, told us a story about who we are as people.

Everything I wrote down was important to me.  I wrote about feeling sad and lost, and I wrote about falling in love.  I wrote down my grocery lists and why I needed each thing I bought.  I wrote a piece of spoken-word poetry for a workshop that was offered on campus, but I wasn’t accepted.  I didn’t have the option to take a creative writing class until my fourth semester, since my curriculum was chalk-full of prerequisite classes for more important subjects than writing.  Then I remembered that I was attending a school for actors, not playwrights.  And then I got pretty bummed out.

I decided to leave AMDA after a meeting with the on-campus therapist, because I was afraid my depression was sneaking up on me again and I needed to get help.  After ranting to him for a solid thirty minutes about how the school never let me have any down time and didn’t care if I wanted to write or draw or hike, and how my family wanted me to be successful and believed in my acting potential, and how I didn’t want to let anybody down by getting bad grades or skipping classes or changing my major, he looked up from his notepad and smiled.  He said, “If you didn’t have to worry about what anyone else thinks, and you just focused on being happy, what would you do in this situation?”

So I dropped out of college.

Yeah, I get it, that’s pretty extreme.  I understand that it’s not for everyone.  But the best explanation I can give is something that I read on the little square tag of my tea bag this morning.  It says, “You will always live happy if you live with the heart.”

A lot of people are sad that I left.  A lot more people have been extremely inspiring and encouraging and uplifting to me.  I do have other plans to continue my education, but this time I am looking a lot harder for something I can really, truly, fall head-over-heels in love with.  The best part?  I’m still alive!  Nobody died, the world is still spinning, the sun still rises and sets, and more history will be made.  Just because I made such a big change in my life, doesn’t mean the earth cracked under my feet.  (But at first, I thought it would).

The world doesn’t care what you do with your life.  Of course, there will always be people around you who care, but if they are true, they will support you when they see you doing what is right for yourself.  What I did this week was selfish, but in the best way.  Writing every day for myself is also selfish.  Making a cup of tea with extra honey is selfish.  The difference, I believe, is that selfishness is only negative when it is weighed down by greed and entitlement.  By being true to myself, and following my path without worrying what others think, I have gained more confidence to share my journey with others.  I want other people to be selfish in this way, too.

I’m glad I learned while I am young, that the purpose of living is not to have a degree from a big fancy college, or to be famous, or rich, or perfect, or have the best Facebook feed, or otherwise fit in with the rest of society.  The purpose of living this life on Earth is to find out what and who makes you ridiculously, outlandishly, childishly, blissfully, and simply, happy.