Growth

Be true: How I am Welcoming 2015

Processed with VSCOcam with hb2 presetI had every intention to start the year off running. I’ve been sitting on a “New Year” post for over a week now. It went from my thoughts on resolutions to a word of the year to reflecting on 2014. My thoughts felt unfocused and from a place of,  “I should write about this” rather than a desire to share what’s on my heart and mind. I’m learning that sometimes my intentions aren’t connected to what’s really going on. So instead of running, I’ve just been trying to pick out some tennis shoes the last couple of days.

It’s January 3rd and I’m equal parts unprepared and excited. A mixture of anxiety and gratitude and peace. I don’t have a clear list of goals and I’m not sure about a lot of the details. And truly… I’m doing just fine.

If there’s something I’ve learned from everyone’s blog posts and Instagram captions this week, it’s that we are all so different and we need different things.

10805584_10152568070933575_4540120006265937573_nMy husband gave me a giving key for Christmas that has “be true” engraved on it. It brought tears to my eyes, and it’s perfect for this season. I’ve been trying to think of a “word of the year” because everyone’s doing it and it sounds like a lovely idea. But I realized that I don’t like to think of the year as a whole when it comes to words that guide me and inspire me because seasons change… so I started thinking of the first few months of 2015, and the words chose me. The key says “be true” and that’s what I’m rolling with right now. Be true to who I am, be true to who God made me to be, and be rooted in the truth of God’s promises. When I’m nervous about something, comparing myself to others, or worried about the details, I remember the key around my neck. I just know if I’m true to who I am and what God says is true, it will work out. Everything will be okay.

I’m entering a new season of working as a consultant, tackling new projects, and starting certification to become a life coach. There’s a lot of uncertainty, but I feel an overwhelming sense of security. Sure, I have my moments of wondering if the numbers will add up and if I’ll actually be good at all of these things, but peace always comes back. For me, this is directly correlated to the amount of time I spend in quiet moments, meditating on God’s word, and journaling out my thoughts and emotions. These things connect me to my true self and help me understand who I am. They’re a game changer when it comes to my actions that follow. When I don’t do these things, I often act from an insecure place, tangled in shame I haven’t processed or the pressure I feel to be a certain way.

Being true in this season means taking plenty of breaks, 10863813_10152582214788575_4410402103936903087_opausing to process, and continuing to experience life through words. It means telling the truth more often, engaging in vulnerability in an effort to build honest relationships. It means spending more time on the things that make me whole and continuing to create a life that aligns with my values. Less me, more Jesus. It means clinging to the things I believe are truth: God loves me, I am not on accident, my life is soaked by grace, everyone is golden, and we are not the things we accomplish.

I don’t know what you do to welcome the new year. I don’t know if you set goals, decide on a word, let things go, or don’t do anything at all.  But I hope you find peace in whatever you do.

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Working From Home In Your Twenties: Less Pajamas, More Discipline

I’m 24 and self-employed. It’s pretty surreal, to be honest, and I’m learning a lot about how people view self-employment and some important aspects of it. When I first told people that I was leaving my state job for consulting, a lot of people responded, “So you’ll be working from home?! Lucky!” And honestly, yes. I completely agree. I am blessed to be able to have the freedom to work when I want and where I want. But their reactions made me cringe a little, and I even wanted to defend myself. I wanted people to know I wasn’t lazy! That I would actually be working from home! That I might actually get more done at home than I got done in my cubicle every day, and in less time. I’ve been working from home for a couple months now because of an adjusted schedule I had with the state. I had to learn how to manage my schedule on the one day a week I didn’t go into the office and on the weekends, in order to fit my consulting hours in. It wasn’t as easy as I thought it would be, but I realized it worked for me.

Another reaction I thought was interesting was that people were surprised. They acted as if I was climbing Mt. Everest with no training. It’s amazing how many people think they are stuck, that they don’t have a choice. It’s also amazing how many people think things just happen overnight. I didn’t get to this point in a matter of weeks. My two office jobs after college (and actually, college itself) trained me for this and taught me a lot about the working world. Choices I’ve made in the last year led me here, and a lot of it was hard. I want people to know it’s not easy, but it’s also not Mt. Everest. For me it was like a really long beach hike that led me past some difficult inner-obstacles and tested my endurance. Small steps got me here, not gigantic life-altering choices. You have these small choices, too. Everyday.

So while you’re thinking of pajamas, snooze buttons, and not showering until 3pm, I want to shed some light on self-employment with six things I’ve found to be important:

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1. You have to manage your time. Time management… I think this is included in every job interview I’ve ever been in. Yet, a lot of us are so bad at it. When you’re a consultant, your time is money. If you don’t get any work done in an hour, you can’t bill for it. But at the state, if I just sat in my cube for an hour it would still count. (I’m not advocating for people to do this, I’m just saying it’s true.) The private industry is a little more cut-throat, focused on production, but you’re still under someone else’s management — not your own. As a consultant, you don’t have a set schedule. You have to create your own. Do you work better in the mornings? Then get up and get going. And don’t get distracted by your snuggly dog who likes to sleep in. It’s great to be able to work when you want, but here’s the kicker: you actually have to do it. There’s no one keeping tabs on you, making sure you get into the office on time and stay until the clock ticks 8 hours.

For me, this works really well. I don’t need anyone managing my time to get work done. At my first job out of college, I was commended for “managing up” (also not advocating this). When I left, my boss told me they had to find someone who could manage multiple projects and themselves to replace me. This is when my eyes opened up — I might be able to do this. I moved on to another cubicle job instead of going to consulting then, but I needed that last cubicle job. I needed to see that I could survive in a new role — tackle a whole new set of skills, communicate with a variety of people, and work independently 98% of the time.

2. You will question your abilities, and you need to know what to do about it. You’re in charge of yourself, remember? So no one is giving you bi-weekly updates about how you’re doing. You’re the expert, and that’s why your clients hired you. Wait, what? I’m not an EXPERT. Yes, you are. They wouldn’t have hired you if you weren’t capable of this. Keep going, and know how to do your research. No one is training you. You are a one-stop shop for the skills and products you offer, so practice it, grow in it, and own it. When you deliver a product they want or you help them meet their goals, they will probably say thank you. But it’s definitely not a bi-weekly thing, so get used to cheering yourself on. For me, this meant knowing how I’m wired. I value connection and affirmation is important to me. Since I’m not getting that from a boss or colleagues, I needed to figure out how I could make those two things a part of self-employment. Or what I needed to do to keep myself motivated and connected to my work.

3. BeIMG_2502 gracious with yourself. It’s not an easy transition, so give yourself some slack. You’ll make giant to-do lists on pretty notepads because you’re so excited to be out of the cubicle… but even shiny notebooks don’t make work glamorous. And most of the time, you need to tone down your to-do list. Be realistic, pay attention to when you are the most focused, and then build your days around that. The beauty of working when you want to is that you can pay attention to your body and mind, and get the most out of the two! It’s pretty awesome.

4. Making a deadline is really important. Most of you are probably thinking, DUH. But let me tell you how often deadlines got pushed back in the office, how many people were “out” and couldn’t get to it… so we had to wait another week, or two. And everyone had the mentality that it was just how things worked around there. When your clients ask for something and you tell them you’ll deliver it by a certain date, it’s best that you deliver. Your job quite literally depends on it. As a consultant, you are competing for your spot. They hired you for a very specific reason, and there is far less job security in this market. Which brings me to point 5…

5. The job is risky. You have to find your own work, land the contracts, and please your clients so that they will keep you in mind for another project, or pass good words around about you. There’s an uncertainty of how many hours you’ll get in a month, or if the contract will continue. So you have to work your butt off and be kind. Trust me, those two things will get you far.

6. Make time for yourself and your loved ones. This goes along with number one, but it needs its own place because it’s that important. When your time is now money, you will start checking your emails in bed and checking stats while you wait for a table at the restaurant. As a consultant, the line between work and play is thin… but you need to make it bold and clear. If you set aside two hours to get coffee with a friend, honor that commitment and be sure to also set time aside for work so you keep the balance. You can make time for both, but keep them separate.

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Some of the work I do involves my mom because we’re on the same team for a project. We have to be clear when we plan to talk about work when we get together, and when one of us needs a break from it. If every time we hung out we talked about work, it would put an unnecessary strain on our relationship. I also have a different schedule than my husband, so just because I can work anytime I want doesn’t mean I should do that. I need to be aware of his needs, communicate when I need to work longer hours, and be sure to unplug when we’re together. I might think, I have no plans this Saturday, I can get lots of hours in! But my husband has that day off and I’d be ignoring him all day. If a deadline is approaching, I communicate that. If it’s not and I can be flexible, I unplug and be present with him. It’s all about communication, figuring out what works for you, and creating clear working hours.

I’m not claiming to know all the tricks of the trade, but those are some things I’ve found important so far. If you’re self-employed as well, I’d love to know some of your thoughts in the comments. If you have questions about self-employment, I’m all ears!

Coming to terms: Part 1

This is the second blog post in a series: How I got here.

In the first post, I mentioned that I set unrealistic physical expectations for myself over and over again in the last few years and my emotional health suffered because of it. I spent a lot of time being bitter, but I learned more from what I couldn’t do than I would’ve learned if I could do everything I wanted to. And I’m still wrestling with this.

I’m writing this from a place of, “I think this is what I’m learning,” and I’m doing that on purpose. There’s value to looking back years from now and reflecting on what I’ve been through, but several months ago I realized that my heart will only grow more bitter if I don’t try to see the beauty now. So I started on that journey, and I’ve only found freedom and grace. Lots of it. I’m hoping my stories will help others see that you don’t have to have your stuff in order to find and celebrate the beauty. Your heart is free now, if you make the moves and choices to see it.

I think one of the most important moves is coming to terms with your situation and knowing that your circumstances do not define you.

You don’t have to be sick to be sick of yourself. IMG_4354

I think everyone can resonate with the feeling that parts of you were a mistake. Wishing that you were more like the women who seem to always approach life with grace and ease, or the men who landed on the side of the coin of being genuinely funny rather than straight up obnoxious. These are just examples. After writing them, I realize how absurd it is that we think anyone is wired this way and only this way. The idea that the funny men are always funny, and not obnoxious. Or that the women who seem to approach life with ease haven’t done a lot of inner-work to get there. Or that their circumstances must be so easy because they have this attitude, and of course they don’t go home at night struggling with their demons just like the rest of us. It’s crazy — I put so much pressure on my circumstances to guide my attitude, and I doubt I’m the only one. We all have had moments in our lives where we think we were a mistake or we feel trapped inside our circumstances, and we want it to change now.

I want to talk about a few of my moments with you. 

Summer 2011, in the middle of my bike trip. Or maybe several times that summer. Definitely several times that summer. I was sick and I didn’t know why. When you’re sick, most people hand you advice in hope for a quick fix. Eat more, drink more water, you’re probably just tired, etc. They don’t want you to bring them down, and most of the time they have no idea what else to say. It’s okay, I’ve been there. I’ve been on the well side, and I know what it’s like to be on a high and wish the person next to you would just stop raining on your parade. That’s how I felt most of the summer, that I was raining on everyone’s adventurous parade. I felt a lot of other really fabulous feelings but this is about the moments I was sick of myself. I didn’t appreciate how I was wired and didn’t respect my body’s needs, so I tore myself down because of it.

We were biking somewhere on the edge of Colorado. I think we were on our way to Utah, because I remember we were meeting up with the team doing the Central U.S. route and I hated that I had to meet them from the van, not strong enough to ride. I started the day on the bike. It was just getting light outside, we were all in our thicker layers, screaming about how cold our hands were. We learned early on that loud noises helped distract from pain.277603_10150236879823575_7161999_o

A couple hours later, layers stripped to just jerseys and cold hands defrosted, a few of us stopped at the van for lunch together. I think I had dried fruit because I read somewhere it was good for low iron, and I’m sure we all had some version of peanut butter sandwiches. Kara and Kristen were riding with me when we left for the second half of the ride, and Ramon caught up with us just as we were starting up a set of large hills. My body gave up in the middle of a hill. It just wouldn’t give me anything more, and I knew it was telling me to stop. But I made myself get to the top, and then try for another hill. In the middle of the second hill, I clipped out and stopped, heaped over the front of my bike. I started crying — yes, crying. Kara and Kristen were used to my stops on bad days, and patiently encouraged me. Ramon offered tough love – Sarah, you can do this. Just push yourself. 

And I lost it. I snapped back. Did they not think I was pushing myself? 

I was immediately embarrassed. I was so physically weak, and I had pushed myself too far, to the point where I had worn down my senses. Ramon and the others only wanted to help – but all I could think was, they don’t get it. And maybe that’s a little bit true, but it was a small view to be looking through. IMG_2363

It wasn’t Ramon I was snapping at on that random hill right outside of Utah – it was myself. I didn’t understand what my body needed, and I hated it for being so weak. I was this big, pent up ball of bitterness. I wished I could just be like Kara or Kristen,  who seemed to be strong and healthy, enjoying every little bit of that summer trip. I spent a lot of time wishing things were different – that I wasn’t sick, missing home, or having a hard time taking things lightly.

This was one of my moments. A moment when I wanted everything to change, and I got myself stuck when I was just a few choices away from finding and celebrating the beauty. 

There isn’t a really cool ending to this story because I didn’t do anything amazing, I just apologized to Ramon later that day. It’s just a memory of a moment when I was stuck. It took me a long time to come to terms with a lot of things that happened that summer and the months that followed, mostly inside of myself. The first part of the “How I got here” series is going to be about these things, and my coming to terms. Thanks for following along.

It’s just the beginning

This is the first blog post of a series: How I got here.

I’m sitting in my new corner of the house, a big world map on the wall behind my computer, and a sticky note in front of me that reads, “CREATE SCOUT & FEATHER.” Next to that one, “streams of mercy, never ceasing.” At my feet, my dog sleeps soundly despite the Girl Talk that’s playing out of the speakers. And I just feel like I’m in the middle of a daydream.

When your daydreams start to bleed into your reality, your sleep is interrupted with ideas and you wonder if you can really do this as you send an email about information that you are now being considered expert on. You make late night lists on sticky notes of all the things you don’t want to forget when your alarm goes off at 7am. You want it to begin and slow down all at once. IMG_2510

It’s just the beginning. Three years ago I spent most of six months on the couch, trying to recover from mono so I could get on with my life. I wanted it to fly by and be over with. I grew bitter and thought as long as my health suffered, I couldn’t dream. I mean, what was the point? I was stuck in fear. Paralyzed by it.

It took so long to recover from mono because I got it on a 12-week bike trip across the U.S., and didn’t slow down. So when I returned, I watched my 30 team members tackle life with vigor, making true the dreams they spoke on the trip. Me? I had no vigor in my bones. The fast-beating heart I came home with was fearful of a lot of things.

I visited coffee shops in every city we went to, because I was fascinated with them. I dreamt of opening my own shop, and even writing a book about my experiences on the trip. I tried to continue on that path when I got home, but I lost speed quickly. I had to drop classes, take longer to graduate, find a job so I could pay rent, and my immediate family no longer lived in Sacramento. Those are the things I focused on – the negative.

I didn’t let myself rest in the beauty: I had an amazing roommate, Sarah Marie, who was so supportive and made me laugh a lot. Marcos was right by my side, through good and bad (and let me tell you, I was producing a lot of bad that season). I had a professor who let me do an independent research project so I could get credits but not have to be in class, so I could recover. I took two walks a day with my dog, Radar, who held no grudges and just wanted to be by my side.

And then Marcos asked me to marry him. I look back at that time, and realized I learned so much about true love, God’s love. I was bitter, producing a lot of ugly, and Marcos STILL wanted to marry me. I hardly felt like I was “prepared” to be a wife, to be supportive and loving. Or even prepared for the season of engagement, preparation, and celebration. Marcos asked regardless. He saw the small amount of beauty I was producing and reminded me of the goodness all around IMG_2367us. I learned a lot about God’s grace through that season.

The girl who encouraged Marcos to dream gave up on herself, but God didn’t. And He put people in my life to show me that.

After six months, the mono cleared but other issues arose. The bitterness continued. It wasn’t obvious. Intellectually, I knew truth. I knew that I had hope in bigger things, great things were happening in my life, and I had so many things to be thankful for. I could write it a thousand times in my journal and on post-it notes that I would see as I got ready in the morning. But as the days went by where I felt like my body was operating at 60% on my best days, the things I knew in my mind didn’t make it to my heart. I had so much fear and doubt.

I would have a few great days, and then get really sick.

I would make plans, get excited, and then not be well enough to participate.

I wasn’t realistic about my needs, so I continually put myself in situations where I fell short.

It’s just the beginning, and this is the first post in a series on grace, redemption, and creativity. I am calling it, “How I got here,” because this new adventure might be just beginning, but there’s never really a clear beginning to anything in life. It’s all connected.

I’m glad you’re here with me.