How To Meet People As a Solo Traveller

This was the very first piece I published on the internet last year. I was so anxious to share it with the world, but it’s opened so many doors and is a testament to the face that good things happen when you put yourself out there.

In a bid to prove I could be independent, I committed to spending a whole month travelling around Eastern Europe by myself. This was something I decided not to tell my mum about until I was already on the plane as she would have ‘Asian-mum’ scolded me and forced me to watch the movie ‘Taken’ over and over until I changed my mind.

Riding solo as a single female can be one of the most liberating, scariest and bravest thing you ever do. You are free to do whatever you want without having to compromise with another person’s agenda. But you also don’t have the security of companionship when you arrive at a new place, or a decent photographer to take candids of you.

Before embarking on my travels, I was super anxious about initiating conversations with strangers. “What do I even say to people? I’m so awkward,” I wailed to my friend Jessie, who had just completed her own solo journey.

“You’ll be fine,” she said, “Just smile and laugh heaps!”

And so, with that one piece of advice under my belt, I left the security of my friends in Belgium and headed to Budapest to start the solo leg of my trip. Thankfully, I didn’t need Liam Neeson to save me from any sex-trafficking rings. I did, however, get myself into a ton of cringe-worthy, hilarious and messy moments in my attempts to get along with other travellers.

Here are some of the things I picked up about making friends in other countries.

Make the first move

Every time I arrived in a new country, my anxiety levels would shoot through the roof as I had to put myself out there and make friends from scratch. Not everyone is going to approach you first, it’s up to you to initiate conversation.

For all the introverts, you have to fake it till you make it. I had to squash down all the anxiety and give myself pep talks before approaching groups of people who were already friends and just say “Hey, how’s it going? Mind if I join you?” There will be the initial awkwardness as you all try to get to know each other, but if you push through that, you can end up with really great friends.

Anytime a new person checks into your hostel room, strike up a conversation by asking them basic questions like what country they’ve just travelled from or what destinations they’re heading to next. If you get along well, and they’re heading to the same places you are, offer to exchange numbers and meet up. Then at least you’ll know one person at the next destination.

If my roommates weren’t so friendly, I had to try my luck in the hostel common room, meeting tourists on walking tours or just talking to random people on the street. Remember that everyone is in the same boat and are just as keen to meet people as you are, so you don’t have to worry about looking awkward or sounding like an idiot. I had one person attempt to make conversation with me during a walking tour by saying “You must be a dancer because you have really long legs.” I declined his invitation to hang out afterward.

The beauty of flying solo is you are more approachable as a party of one. And if you do make a wrong move on someone or have a really awkward conversation, you’ll never have to see them again!

Say yes to most things…

Commit to being a ‘Yes’ person who isn’t afraid to accept invitations to anything and everything. If your roommates invite you to explore a tourist attraction with them, say yes. If someone asks if you’d be keen to check out an underground jazz bar with them, say yes. By always being open to invitations, you’ll get to experience things you normally wouldn’t have if you’d let fear hold you back.

Whilst in Budapest, I got along famously with a trio of Germans who were staying at my hostel over the New Year’s Eve period. When I told them Vienna was my next stop, they offered to give me a lift there on their way back home to Germany! There was no way I was saying no to that, so I cashed in my bus ticket and off I went on a European road trip!

In saying that, I had spent the last five days getting to know them, so I knew they were legit and weren’t going to kidnap me. Ladies, trust your female intuition. If someone creeps you out, don’t hang out with them and update your family with your travel plans at all times.

…but not to everything

Don’t agree to things if you already know you’re not going to enjoy it.

In Vienna, I was pressured into accompanying one of the hostel volunteers to the famous Albertina art museum. I figured it would only be a two-hour excursion at the most so I naively said yes. We were there for seven hours. The guy was a massive art geek so we literally stopped in front of every painting so he could show off his knowledge on the different paint strokes, colour variations and textures. I was dead exhausted from having to feign interest while looking at what was essentially the same painting of the Virgin Mary and baby Jesus over and over again. It was the most tedious day of my life!

Remember, the whole point of the solo thing is that you get to do the things you enjoy.

Accept that you’ll feel lonely

I made the best of friends in some countries and barely said two words to other people in others. It’s ok if you don’t feel like you’re clicking with anyone. You can’t force a connection if there isn’t one. Sometimes I desperately needed my own space so I would deliberately wake up earlier (or sleep in later) than anyone else in my room so no one would join me while I did my own thing.

One of the best things about being alone is not having to make tedious conversations and the opportunity to self-reflect. You can also sleep whenever you want! Out of the two days I scheduled in Romania, I spent a whole day sleeping off the horrendous 18-hour bus journey I took to get there. You can’t do that if you have people counting on you to explore with them.

Travelling alone can be super hard so it’s normal if you don’t feel like you’re living your best life 100% of the time. There will be nights where you’ll wonder why you thought this was a good idea. You’ll miss having your friends who understand all your inside jokes. By the end of my trip, I was so fed up with not having people to do stuff with that I latched onto two design students in my hostel room and practically begged “Can I please hang out with you guys tomorrow? I’m so lonely!” They were the funniest pair of friends ever and I had the best time hanging out with them.

If you’re about to embark on your own solo adventure, I’m so jealous and happy for you. Remember that just deciding to go off on your own is a pretty badass decision and you deserve a medal for not having to depend on other people.

Learning to Stay When You Just Want to Run Away

Originally published on Grit & Virtue.

On a chilly weekend in August, I was roped into volunteering for a Tree Planting project in the countryside. As a designated ‘Planter,’ I had to get on my hands and knees in the wet soil to dig a hole that wasn’t too deep or too wide. In the process of digging, I was unearthing the homes of all the critters that live underground so with every scoop of dirt, spiders and other large insects would scuttle out of the ground in frantic panic.

I’ll be the first to put my hand up and say I’m the queen of running away from mess. That’s my gut instinct – to flee when life becomes confusing instead of clear-cut and simple. Anxiety will always tell me the easiest option is to abandon my commitments halfway, leave difficult people behind, and make a fresh start at a new school, a new church or even a new country.

Earlier that year, a familiar itch was making me anxious to leave again. Fear and anger were speaking lies into my situation and convinced me the place God had led me to was always going to be a mess. That I would always feel out of place. That there was no seat for me at the table.  My relationship with God felt strained and distant, and so I made plans to figuratively pack my bags and bolt.

But as I was on my hands and knees planting the seedlings that were destined to grow into strong, mighty trees, I couldn’t help but wonder what would happen if these plants were to grow legs. My imagination ran wild and I started to imagine what it would look like if these saplings could think and had my tendency to run away. When the weather forecast changed from sunny to cloudy, and from cloudy to torrential rains, I imagined them saying ‘Nope it’s cold and wet and this sucks. Time to move somewhere sunny, like Mexico.’

We know this is insane. Plants aren’t going to sprout legs and move to another country. They grow roots that penetrate deep into the ground and flourish where they’re planted. If you were to just yank a plant out, you would ruin its growing process and they would never become the mighty oaks they were supposed to be.  So I just had to ask, if I was constantly uprooting myself, how was I ever going to grow? If I was constantly getting restless and running away from places and difficult people, how was I ever going to mature into who God wanted me to be? 

God knows we’re fickle creatures who likes to use the silent treatment. He knows that we like to live with one foot out the door, bags packed, and ready to leave the moment things get scary.  He knows that we like to ditch when the seasons change and the going gets tough. I think that’s why Jesus makes it clear in John 15:4 (NIV) that we’re to remain in him just as he remains in us. No branch can bear fruit by itself unless it remains in the vine. Neither can we bear fruit unless we remain in Him.”

When we make a commitment to God and choose to remain in Him, He’ll give us the strength, perseverance and grace to commit to people and places even in difficult circumstances. God is constantly teaching me to plant down roots even when the soil around me is tough. When every fibre in my being is begging me to run away from my problems, He gently nudges me to stay.

Planting roots can look like different things for different people. It might look like investing in community even when you’re tempted to flake out. It might look like being the first one to extend the invitation. It looks like staying even when you can’t see Him moving. When I was tempted to run away, I had to go below the surface with people and tell them my fears and anxieties. They helped me weed out the lies and sow truth instead. You have to decide you’re in this for the long-haul and show up consistently These roots will keep you grounded when the storm comes and threatens to spiral out of control. Your community will keep you accountable and help you pick up the pieces when you’re down.

You’ll miss out on all the magic people and places have to offer if you always run away when fear comes around. And trust me, fear will always come around.

Commitment is sexy. Sticking it out even when the soil is tough, is even sexier. When you already have clarity that God has specifically led you to this place or this season, you owe it to yourself to stay there and wait on Him. You might not always see the ways you’re growing, but rest assured, all your roots are being planted under the soil.  So girl, unpack your bag, put away your running shoes and just stay.


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    But turns out, plot twists do exist in real life. Depression sneaks up on you. The people you thought would be by your side forever, leave. You spend sleepless night staring at the ceiling wondering if this is all there is. Suddenly the career you’ve spent a decade working towards no longer drives you. So … Read more
  • What People Don’t Want To Know About Self-Belief
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The Comeback

It’s been more than a hot minute since I’ve showed up in your inbox or on your screen.

When I first started publishing my words, I made a huge promise that I wasn’t going to flake out and ghost this corner of the internet. But life has a way of interrupting and tossing aside our best laid plans.

A break that was intended to only last a week turned into two. Two weeks turned into two months, and soon, I wasn’t even thinking about writing for myself anymore.   

I love to think of every single one of you as my friends. People that I’d love to have coffee with, shake off the façade, and just talk about anything and everything. So, for new and old readers, it’s only fair I give you a brief life update.

In the time I’ve been away, I’ve become one half of a couple and am still learning to get used to the title of ‘girlfriend.’

I interned at an amazing creative agency which solidified my desire to continue working in the creative world.

I learnt how to be a better copywriter and manage a group of creative freelancers.

But in all the hustle and excitement, my creativity was suffering.

As much as I love writing about how we should kick fear’s butt or just keep going, I find it incredibly hard to listen to my own advice.

Every time I sat in front of a blank page and tried to write, fear would wrap his icy grip around my heart and tell me to stop.

 Mental blocks would come crashing down any time I tried to string two sentences together.

I stressed that people found it annoying whenever I spoke about my writing on social media.

I started to feel ‘silly’ whenever I thought about prospective employers or clients reading my work.  

I’m willing to bet that maybe you’ve felt this way too. Like, nothing you do will ever be as good as you want it to be. Like, maybe it’s pointless to keep sharing your craft with the world. Or perhaps your voice isn’t strong enough to cut through the noise.

***

I saw one of my favourite artist-writers in the flesh six months ago.

My creativity was at an all-time low. I could barely stand to look at a blank page or even think about what to write next, let alone show up on a weekly basis.

So, when this Brooklyn artist posted that he was giving a talk on my side of the world, I bucked up, scraped together the money for admission, and went off in pursuit of inspiration.

His talk was even better than I’d imagined.

Beneath his inappropriate jokes and crazy anecdotes, was a guy who truly understood what it meant to create. That it wasn’t necessarily about validation or being the best but doing it because we can. In this day and age, we have the power to express ourselves however we want and we shouldn’t waste it.

I realised I had been creating content solely to please other people and live up to their expectations of me. I’d let the fear of other people’s opinions dictate how I was writing and whether I chose to share it with the world.  Playing by other people’s rules may push you forward in the short term. But doing things for yourself because it truly brings you joy? Now that’s the golden ticket, babe.

After 90 minutes of dropping convicting truth bombs, the artist ended with this: “You are a tool, so you better get to work.”

It slammed into me and reminded me that I had been gifted with this platform. I’d been gifted an affinity to string words together and tell stories in a way only I can. And what a pity it would be if I let it all stay buried under my fear and insecurity of not being good enough.

So now, I’m passing this pep talk onto you, sweet reader.

You can either worry about what people are saying, or you can put your head down and create anyway.

You can either stress about the lack of inspiration, or you can try to find it in the people you meet, the movies you watch, or the books you read.

You can either be anxious about the fact that not everyone will like the things you create, or you can realise that there’s a unique group of people who need your talents.

You are a tool, so focus on your craft and just keep on going.

You never know who needs your gifts…


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Your Words Matter (even when it doesn’t look or feel like it)

There are days where I literally can’t stop the words from flowing out, and there are weeks when they all dry up. At times like these, I like to turn to my crazy talented friends to fill in the gaps for me. A few months ago, I sent an email to a dear Instagram friend asking for hope and encouragement. This is what she sent back to me. I hope it inspires you just as much as it has inspired me.

Originally published on Feb 6th 2019 on www.rachelmariekang.com


I’d toss my iPhone into the ocean and live off of handwritten letters and emails typed on computers for the rest of my life if I could.

There is something about communication that is lengthy and takes a long time. Drawn out response time, carefully chosen words and phrases. The waiting. The anticipation. The angst. The trust. The thrill.

Why, yes, email—you have my heart.

The following is my response to a dear friend and follower. I thought I’d take what I shared with her and share it with other as well. I love it when questions like hers come through in email.

May the sentiments sink in deep, deep, deep.

PS: Feel free to comment below or email me with your questions on writing or being a want-to-be writer.

A,

Girl. Thank you for giving me some time to wrap back around to this email.

I stinking love emails. I love getting them and sending them. And I love emails like this one. I love sitting on them…ruminating a bit. Gathering my thoughts and sharing them full.

First of all, thank you. Thank you for taking your honest heart and bringing it here. Thank you for trusting me…for feeling safe to share what you did. But also for trusting that I might have something worthwhile to say. I’m humbled. Honored. Encouraged. Spurred on. The list goes on. Adore you, truly.

If the stars aligned and you and I were in breathing distance from each other, latte in hand and all, I’d be pretty happy too—swaping stories and talking life.

Until then, here’s this. Your question:

I was wondering if you could pass on one bit of advice to a novice writer. The you five or ten years ago who was just venturing out in this uncertain world of creativity. What do you do when you put something you created out there, and it doesn’t get the response you want? How do you deal with the disappointment and the shame after being vulnerable and then getting no reception? I know my worth doesn’t hinge on the views, the likes or the comments I get. But it’s still anxiety-inducing and disappointing nonetheless.

A,

I read an Instagram post by writer and author Ally Fallon. I love what she said about the younger version of herself.

“Watching all the #10yearchallenge posts has made me feel a little defensive of these younger versions of us—these extra rosy-cheeked human beings who were misguided in some ways, sure, but also trying and failing and so [explicit] brave to get up and do it all again, and again and again. There are a lot of things I could say about 25-year-old Allison. She was naive and hurting and didn’t know how to talk about what she needed or who she was. But she was also sweet and funny and loyal as hell and a fighter of the best variety. The kind of friend you want on your side. Not all that much has changed, when I think about it.”

And so, I want to start off by saying that this is exactly how I feel about me from ten years ago. I was a stumbling mess trying to figure out life and figure out myself. And I was writing my way through the mess. Maybe I was brave for sharing the words that came from that season. Brave, or crazy. But I did it anyway.

And I’m so glad that I did.

To be honest, me from ten years ago remembers when writing Facebook notes was all the rage. It was a momentary fad that is reminiscent of Instagram, sans the carefully curated graphics and pretty photos.

I had written a couple of notes and, really, I wrote them for the sake of creative expression and not so much to be read by others. But when I saw that others enjoyed reading them, it began to change the way I thought and felt about writing and sharing my writing.

Through it all, there is one thing I did, without fail, every time I wrote.

I prayed before I hit publish.

Not because I’m some super saint. But because I knew I needed to. I knew how deep the root of insecurity was wrapped within me—how wide it spread in thought throughout my brain.

Through all of the many changes that Facebook has brought throughout the years, one thing has remained the same—the tiny red notification alert that flashes on your homepage when someone likes or comments on something you’ve posted.

I hated how my worth became attached to the number of likes and comments that I got. So I prayed before hitting publish. And when I say that I prayed, I mean that I prayed.

I didn’t just whisper under my breath high hopes for God to bless me.

I got on my actual hands and knees and I put my forehead to the floor. And I wailed. And I cried. And sobbed. And I pleaded. I pleaded, not because God needed to hear me begging, but because I….me…I needed to cry it out. I needed to pour until the burden and the brokenness in me released from within. I wrestled there, on the ground, confessing the ugly in me…listing every insecurity, every time. Listing every lie and every haughty dream that was born from thoughts other than those that might glorify Him.

I asked God to take my ugly eyes off of the numbers. I asked him to kill the part of me that fed ravishly off of the words of others. And, instead, I asked for him to fill me with every confidence so that who I was in Him, before Him, with Him, because of Him would always be all that I’d need.

I dared not hit publish until I could trust that I had fully relinquished every part of my writing heart into His hands.

When the comments came, and the notifications flooded my feed, and even when they didn’t, I no longer saw it as the result of me doing or not doing something right. I saw it as God using words, written by my hand, to move and work in the hearts and lives of real people with real souls behind real computer screens.

Because of this, my writing became less about showcasing myself and more about serving others.

I don’t think that prayer is the end all when it comes to writing—there is obviously much more to say when it comes to learning and perfecting the art, craft, discipline, and (dare I say) business of writing.

But, perhaps, prayer isn’t such a bad place to start?

Even still, beyond just telling you what to do, like pray or be patient or just hold on tight—I want to share a deeper truth in hopes that it will change the way you think, not merely change the things you do.How do we handle quiet moments when the shares and the likes and the comments are slim to none?

Your answer is in the unseen. We plant the seeds and God is faithful to do the rest. Sometimes that looks like us sticking around to see the fruit. And sometimes, it doesn’t. And when we know this—truly know and believe this. We can work and write and sing and be and serve and teach and sell and create and lead and weld and sculpt and calculate knowing that the result does not make or break us.It was never meant to, and it never will.
As a writer, there will come a lesson. It might look like a long walk up a high hill. Or a hard wrestle with self and with worth. But when you do finally emerge—a light, in even the darkest and loneliest places within you, will turn on and illuminate the truth that your words are enough.

You words—every dripping syllable in ink or sound—matter.

So right now, A, right now this very second. The dreaming you, the caring you, the creative you, the earnest you, the you that longs to connect and cultivate conversations and community. The you that dares to lead with written words—Let the small moments matter. If that looks like your mom being the only person sharing your words, then that matter. If it looks like the same 23 likes from the same 23 people, then you thank God for those 23 people—and you say a prayer for them. If this looks like only one person commenting and opening to respond to something you’ve written and posted, then you find a chair and make some time to pour out your heart and respond to that one person. You do not give them a one-liner like, “Wow, thanks so much for your thoughts.” You do not give them 5 emojis and 10 exclamation points. You sit down and you write to them. Heart to heart. For, when you do this, it is your heart that will expand. Your lungs that will fill with breath and air; your heart that will fill with grief and the hurt and the need that is so prevalent in our word.And as you are filled with these things, whisper an honest and humble prayer. Ask that God might fill you with the words and vulnerability to speak with savage courage to these very things.And He will.

And you will overflow.

And you will write.

And the world around you, be it little or large, will hear those words.

And respond.

A comment here, an email there.

In time, you will see that this journey doesn’t disappoint.

Let the small moments matter. Stick with it and don’t give up. Write words that speak to the hurt and need in the world. Pray before you hit publish. And if all else fails—

It’s okay if your words only matter to only you.

Crazy proud of you and excited and all kinds of teary-eyed for the adventure that you are about to embark on. Embrace and enjoy it.

All,
Rachel


Rachel Kang is a writer and editor. She is the creator of Indelible Ink, an online community for writers and want-to-be writers. She has written for (in)courageThe Daily Grace Co., and Charlotte Magazine, and is unapologetically passionate about words, stories, the creative process, deep cups of tea, and you. Hellos always welcome at Instagram.

rachelmariekang.com

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How to Kick Fear’s Butt When Starting Something New

The first time I thought about publicly sharing my words online, I immediately squashed it down and wrote it off as ‘too hard’ and ‘too vulnerable.’

That was 3 years ago.

Last year, when the idea to publish my writing started knocking on my heart again, the same thoughts swarmed into my mind. Only this time, it brought buddies.

‘Who do you think you are?’

‘What if you fail?’

‘What will people think?’

‘Worst- what if no one cares?’

Like an army, these enemy soldiers invaded my mind and set up base camp with the sole purpose of killing off any ideas to share my words of encouragement with the world.

Maybe you’ve experienced something similar just as you were about to try something new. Whether that be setting up your own Etsy shop, becoming a small business owner or even as simple as posting a picture on Instagram.

If you’ve never identified if before, let me formally introduce you to Fear. Fear is the voice behind all of these self-deprecating thoughts. Although he may put on various disguises such as Anxiety, Imposter Syndrome and Self-Doubt, it’s really just Fear pulling the strings.

Fear’s main mission is to keep you small. To keep you believing that you’d never amount to much, so you probably shouldn’t try at all. Fear doesn’t want you putting yourself in situations where you’d be more exposed.

Put your words online where people may criticise it? No thank you.

Set up a shop when you may get no sales? Heck no.

Become a female business owner when female CEO’s already have a dozen harder obstacles? Just stay in bed, hun.

Fear has infinite excuses in his bag of tricks to keep you in one spot.

The difference between me last year, and me three years ago, was that I changed fear’s direction. Fear will always be there on our journey. There’s no getting rid of him. He is a guaranteed travel companion. But amongst all the scary scenarios of failure and criticism emerged an even more terrifying thought- the fear that it would break my heart if I never even tried.  

It was this horrifying scenario that finally kicked me into action. The thought that I would stay ‘ordinary’ forever because I was too scared to try something different. The thought that so many people may never benefit from the message I wanted to share because I was scared of what ‘haters’ would think.

When I finally published my words online, my first piece was about – you guessed it- fear. That article landed in front of the eyes of a female CEO who ended up hiring me to be her writer even though I had zero experience. Every time I share my experiences with fear, I hear the chimes of ‘me too’ and ‘I feel the same way.’ I only say this to show you that no one is immune from fear. Not a CEO. Not the influencer on Instagram or the businesswoman who made it onto the Forbes 30 under 30 list. Everyone – no matter how well they hide it- is scared sh*tless of something. 

You may think that because I’m writing about this, it means I’ve conquered it and become the Master of Fear. Heck no. I still deal with Fear daily. Even hourly. I feel it whenever I’m about to press publish on another blog post. It creeps up when I think about sharing my words on Instagram or when I don’t know whether I should introduce myself as a student or a writer.

I have to make an intentional choice every day- do I want to be fearful or do I want to be bold?

So how do you kick fear in the butt?

You acknowledge that for better or worse, it’ll always be there.

You recognise that out of the bazillion things that out of your control, this is actually something you get to call the shots on. You  get to choose whether fear keeps you in the one spot OR if it pushes you to be the best version of yourself.

You pair up with him and say, ‘Hey, I can’t beat you. But maybe I can use your energy for a good purpose. Every time you come into the picture, I know it’s just a sign that I’m being pushed out of my comfort zone and it’s my time to grow.’

That’s how you kick fear’s butt.

That’s how you become what you always were- a winner.


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On Other People’s Opinions

This was originally published on Windrose Magazine Blog. I felt all sorts of angsty after I published my last piece and got caught up in what other people were thinking that I completely missed the point of this page in the first place. So here’s a reminder that we shouldn’t worship other people’s

Last year, I was given the opportunity to co-start a mental health initiative and grow its influence. This one small project birthed in me a greater passion to create my own platform and share my own messy stories to help others know their worth. I wish I could say I immediately started hustling to bring this vision to life. Instead, I spent hours upon hours lying in bed watching ‘Worst X-Factor Auditions.’

You see, I knew I had the potential to create something impactful. I’ve fought through my own darkness and have sat with enough friends in the thick of their mess to know that there is a whole army of people who need to know they are not hopeless. But whenever I took any steps to bring it to reality, I would get shut down by fear and sent back to the depths of YouTube.

Fear crops up all over our lives wearing different disguises to keep us distracted and stuck in one place. He showed up when I contemplated setting up the website. He banged on my door when I wanted to publish my first words to the world. He came and knocked me over when it was time to be vulnerable and tell more people about my craft. Sometimes he appeared as a fear of failure and other times as fear of rejection. But his favourite way to stop me in my tracks is to breed in me the fear of what other people think.

I’ve legitimately been paralysed from moving forward because of the things people have said about me. I’ve kept passions and desires to myself because others might say it’s ‘silly’ or I wasn’t ‘qualified.’ There have been days when I’ve been too afraid to speak up because of potential ‘backlash,’ and months where I’ve ended up alone because I’d stood up for my values. There are stories I’ve held tightly to my chest, and opportunities I’ve turned down because it would mean exposing more of my life to the public and what ‘they’ think. I could spend hours writing about the loss of support and all the heaviness I’ve felt from carrying around the things people have said about me like stones in a backpack.  

It wasn’t until I was listening to my friend share her story that it all clicked for me. With steaming mugs of chai in our hands and a half-eaten brownie sitting between us, she told me how people used to mock her on the bus because she didn’t fit in. How her teacher’s ‘advice’ was not to bother re- taking her exams because she probably get better. How no one thought she would ever clean up her act enough to get a decent job and out of the mess she was stuck in.  

“But you know what?” she told me, a smile spreading across her face. “Two years ago, I was awarded a prize for being the number one student in Journalism. I’m launching, not one, but two businesses in the summer. And I’m getting married in three months. I didn’t let other people’s opinions define me, and now look where I am.”

***

Maybe you have a history of people putting you down. Maybe your story is full of characters who treat gossiping like an Olympic sport. Maybe you’ve let other people convince you to stay small. Perhaps you received one snarky comment and ever since then you’ve been too afraid to tell the world about your craft.

Here’s the kicker: you get to choose who influences your life. You choose whose voice you listen to and whose opinions carry the most weight. Everyone will have something to say. Some people will declare it with love. Others will speak in hushed whispers intending to keep you small. Either way, you decide if you’ll let it hold you back.

The beautiful yet frustrating thing about us humans is how inconsistent we can be. Our opinions are malleable and can change from one day to the next. I can know someone for years and not feel any spark, but one day I can look up and it all changes. Because people only have a one-dimensional view of who you are. They see you through the lens of whatever experiences they’ve had and whatever baggage they’re holding on to. We’d forever be running a losing race if we tried to stay ahead of other people’s thoughts. You could do everything ‘right’ and say everything ‘right,’ and someone will still find a reason to have a problem with you.

But here’s what will never change:

You – beautifully complex you – are not defined by people’s negative opinions.

You – who are worth more than diamonds and called to be a light- are not meant to stay small.

You- who are sometimes a little messy and hasn’t got life figured out yet-  are more than the one-dimensional perspective others have of you.

Irrespective of who thinks you’re ‘good enough,’ or ‘smart enough’ or only a solid ‘6/10,’ it shouldn’t stop you from going after what you want.

It would be a great disservice to the world and to the God who created you if you hid parts of yourself away because you were scared of what people think.

So pursue your calling. Apply for the job. Post the photo. Tell your story. Don’t let the fear of other people’s judgement rob you from doing what you love. We only get this short little life to live. It would break your heart if you never stood up and moved forward because you were worried of what other people would say.

We don’t get to control many things in life. But we do get to control this.

Hey You, Just Keep Going

@morganharpernichols

When people find out I post consistently on the internet, I’m inevitably asked about my ‘motivation.’

How can you be bothered to write something every week?

How did you get the energy or inspiration to get started?

This came up again last week when I caught up with an old mentor. As I was updating him on all the twists and turns on my creative journey, he interrupted and said, “I guess I just want to know how you stay so motivated, week in and week out.”

I stared at him, unsure of how to formulate a simple answer to such a loaded question.

 “I just do,” I finally said, before hastily moving the conversation along.

The thing is, I don’t ‘just do.’ I suffer from a lack of motivation on a daily basis. Sometimes I’ll feel short, rapid bursts of energy where I believe I can solve all the world’s problems by noon. But it always evaporates as soon as I try to execute my plans.

Just the other day, I had to type the words ‘keep going’ into the search bar because I needed to read somebody else’s encouraging statements.  I wanted someone else to fill me with inspiration and all the reasons why I shouldn’t give up now. I’m a huge believer that we need to be our own cheerleader, but sometimes we just need to hear someone else say that we’re still a strong contender in the game of life.

We’re living in a culture that idolises motivation. As someone who used to be an avid runner and a one-time participant in a marathon, people would comment on my running photo’s asking how I got the motivation to train. To voluntarily run non-stop for 42.2 km. Every time, I would just shrug, laugh awkwardly and say something lame like ‘vision boards.’ They’d then shake their heads while making some self-deprecating comment like “I don’t even have the motivation to run 500 m. Maybe one day I will.”

The thing is, I don’t know where I got my motivation from. All I wanted to do was test the limits of my own body and own a ceremonial medal. Now that it’s over (and my knees have given up), I no longer feel inclined to sign up for fun runs every Sunday. The desire to run at all, has well and truly left the building.

I’m learning every day that I can’t wait for motivation to show up before I commit to taking action. Motivation is that flaky friend who keeps re-scheduling at the last minute. She’ll make bold declarations of how you can conquer the world together, but when push comes to shove, she’s nowhere to be seen. Consistency and Accountability have no place in her vocabulary and she’ll show up only when it suits her. You get so frustrated when she leaves you high and dry, yet you also worship the ground she walks on when she finally graces you with her presence.

Oh, and her sidekick, Inspiration? She’s even flakier.

“You can’t wait for motivation and inspiration to hit you before you start,” is what a writer friend once told me. “If this is really what you want to do, then you need to learn to create on command.”

And so, come rain or shine, I’ve learnt to show up on the page every Wednesday so you’ll never refer to me as your flaky friend.

But the reality is, there will always be mountaintops and valleys. There are weeks where I feel like my voice isn’t enough to solve the world’s problems. There are days where it takes all my energy to string one eloquent phrase together, and I suffer from comparison on an hourly basis.

If you’re anything like me, then you’ve probably wondered if all of this is really worth it. No matter what you want to do in life, you’ve most likely stressed over whether the striving, the long hours, or just continuously putting yourself out there, will actually count for something. If all the grand goals you’ve set for yourself will actually be met.

I know you want to do big things in this world. I know you want to leave your mark on people and accomplish everything you’ve set out to do. But when the days are long, and you feel weary about the distance between here and where you want to be, it’s tempting to give up. I don’t blame you for feeling deflated when other people are running miles ahead of you, and you’re just tying your shoelaces.

I don’t promise this page will give you the motivation you’re looking for. But if you’ve ever needed someone else to tell you to keep going, let this be it.

***

Rome wasn’t built in a day

I will throw this cliché here because it’s a reminder that grand, beautiful cities with stories woven into every cobbled stone, don’t appear overnight. The place that we flock to, to eat pasta, gawk at buildings and fall in love, wasn’t an instant creation.

Neither is your legacy.

I’m guessing you grew up in the Maccas world like I did. The one where your hunger could be satisfied with $5 and in less than 5 minutes. I’ve now been conditioned to drive 500m and expect instantaneous results. So, it’s a massive blow to the ego when I can’t see the fruits of my labour immediately. I get salty. I believe I must have taken the wrong path. I wonder if I’ve gotten it all wrong and I’m actually meant to play small.

But no matter how many convenient inventions and shortcuts the world comes up with, the only thing we can’t fast forward is our own journey. That’s something that will never be instantaneous. The reason the universal remote from Click doesn’t exist is because we were made to live out every moment. We are meant to walk through every story, feel all the feels, and experience all the triumph. This is what contributes to your becoming. This is what makes you different from the pack.

I remember calling a friend last year and complaining about how discouraged I felt. I ranted about how I wasn’t where I wanted to be yet, and I didn’t know if I would ever make it.

“Maybe I’m from a different generation,” he said slowly “But four months isn’t a very long time. You’re barely halfway. We had to work far harder and far longer before we ever saw the fruit of our labour.”

As annoyed as I was by his advice, I knew it was rooted in truth. The moments I feel discouraged are the humble doses of reality I need to remind me that nothing worthwhile happens instantly. To fast forward the humble beginnings would be to short-change your transformation. To skip it entirely would be to miss out on a pivotal chapter of your story. So give yourself some grace when your dream is taking much longer than you anticipated. The slow journey is a gift and it makes every subsequent victory so much sweeter.

I’m starting to think my favourite word is Redemption because of how often I say it. I love redemption. I’m constantly praying and asking for the painful situations in my past to be redeemed with a sweeter ending. I get sentimental over dates on the calendar because I love seeing how far I’ve come in the span of 6 months or a year. I live for full circle moments where I can see the reasons why I had to endure a hard situation.

My most popular post by far is the one where I was raw and honest about the period of my life where I felt incredibly rejected and lonely. The circumstances that led to that was so painful and debilitating, that I would spend nights begging for it to be redeemed. Two years on from that fateful event, I was able to press Publish on a story I had once tried desperately to cover up. It’s now my most widely shared post. The vulnerability hangover hit me hard in the aftermath, but then people merged from the cracks to say ‘thank you for sharing, I no longer feel alone.’

And if I had to go through that angsty, dark period so somebody else would feel less crazy, then so be it.

In the same vein, I was so fearful of creating this corner of the internet six months ago because I petrified of what people would think. I wondered if anyone would really care about a 22 year old girl in Australia and all the hopes and dreams she had for this page. But last week, I got an email from a 27-year-old youth counselor in Montana telling me how glad she was that she’d found me. Someone who I never would have crossed paths with but for this corner of the internet, is glad that I’m showing up.

All that to say, if you give up now, you may never experience the joy that blossoms from seeing your journey come full circle. You won’t know who will benefit from the wisdom you have, or who needed your gift to the world. You may never experience the victory that comes from finding out why you had to endure that painful season or the redemptive ending of a story you’d rather forget.

Keep pushing forward irrespective if you believe other people are better than you. They may be, I don’t know. Someone else will always be better than you, but they sure as heck won’t have your voice, your stories or your gifts. To shut that down because someone else is playing in the same field, would be a disservice to all you have to offer the world.

Keep showing up even when you feel stuck. It’s normal to feel like you aren’t moving forward and like your circumstances are frozen in time. I used to always look for impressive signs and miracles, like fireworks in the sky or lightning bolts, to signify that I was on the right track. But the most impactful changes are microscopic. They happen slowly, consistently and gradually. Rest assured, no matter how stagnant you think you are, you’re transforming in ways beyond what you can imagine. You owe it to yourself to see that transformation through.

Keep going because you don’t know who needs you to appear in their life.

Keep going because all it takes is a smile from you to make someone’s day.

Keep going even when other people don’t believe in what you’re doing.

Keep going even when other people hate on your journey.

Keep going because it’ll break your heart if you give up now.

Keep going even if only one person cares. The ‘one person’ has to be enough for us. It’s tempting to want to live in the hearts and minds of a thousand people. But to chase validation from numbers will constantly leave us running on empty.

Not everyone is going to understand you or support you, and that’s a hard truth to accept. It hurts me now even just typing this, that the understanding I crave isn’t going to come from every single person. But I also think there’s beauty in it. Because when you find the people that do, it makes that bond extra special.

I don’t know where you are right now, but I know the story doesn’t end here. It can’t end here.

Eyes forward.

Stay the path.

Keep going.


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The Weeds That Trap Us: Thoughts on Comparison

@priii_barbosa

To know me is to know that I’m a hoarder of journals and scrap pieces of paper with ‘notes to self’ scribbled on them. I love reading the stories I used to write about where I’ve been and how far I’ve come. It’s a testament to how much things can change in a single year.

As I pulled my notebooks off the shelf and skimmed through the brittle pages, a multitude of memories flashed through my mind about the angsty struggles and insecurities I used to face. Hard conversations with friends exposing where I really put my worth. Having to say goodbye to someone before their chapter was truly finished. Playing small because I was too fearful of showing up. Watching other people live out the storyline I wanted for myself.

I say I ‘used to’ face these insecurities, but really, a lot of them are still flaring up in the present. Like babies that demand your full attention, these insecurities cry out and whinge until you start devoting all your energy to them.

The loudest of these is comparison.

Comparison has always been a struggle in my life, but I don’t think I ever truly understood how much damage it could inflict until two years ago.

Even to this very day, the memory of having to watch ‘my person’ get with someone else occasionally makes me cringe. I remember feeling overcome with despair as I watched on the sidelines while their storyline unfolded. It was like a tsunami of hurt and pain flooding through me. No survivors were found.

In the aftermath, and even after the punch to my gut had faded away, I couldn’t stop thinking about the girl he had chosen over me.

 “Is it because she’s prettier than me??”

“Is it because she’s smarter than me??”

“Is it because I’m not White??”

Like soldiers on a battlefield, I lined up every single one of our traits and began comparing them in an attempt to search for some sort of certainty. Some reasoning or explanation for why someone else, who was so painfully similar to me, was getting all the things I wanted.  

Every single thought was like a stab wound to my heart and mind- yet somehow, I couldn’t stop indulging in the belief that she must be better than me. As time went on, my uncontrollable urge to compare myself to her, and the inevitable thoughts of discontentment, mixed together to become a poisonous concoction of pain and anger. For months, I resented this person from afar and engaged in a tug-of-war battle in my head over who was better- me or her. Yet somehow, I was always the one losing.

Maybe you’ve never experienced comparison to the same angsty and dramatic extent. But replace my situation with a dream job prospect, a competitor in your business, or someone you follow on social media, and I bet you can start to recognise the discontent feeling that tells you you’re not enough.

Like weeds, comparison begins its lifespan so small and seemingly harmless that we’re initially dismissive of its existence. It starts off with a tiny twinge here, and a throbbing ache there. Its birthed from a small question, ‘why doesn’t my life look like theirs?’ and grows into a nutrient sucking force that wails ‘why aren’t I enough?’

You become wholeheartedly convinced that you’re inadequate and you’ll never measure up. You resolve to do whatever you can to close the gap between you and this idea of ‘enough,’ only to find it’s a never-ending uphill battle. For me, I became embroiled in the lie that I was destined to watch other people live out the story I always wanted.

Distrust and bitterness grow rampant when we continue to water the seeds of comparison. Left unchecked, it can entangle us in a never-ending cycle of wondering why other people have it better and easier than us. It can choke the life out of the dreams we’ve planted for ourselves and make us question if it’s even worth tending to our garden if someone else’s is just going to look better. It can be the driving force that compels us to keep striving to prove we’re worthy- only to leave us burnt out in the end.

Nobody wins when we engage in this battle of comparing ourselves to others.  Whether you’ve waged full-blown warfare against someone, or just made snarky digs at them in your mind, it’s a futile fight against the wrong enemy.

I think that comparison latches onto our hearts so easily because we want to become somebody. We just want to know that our efforts to make our lives meaningful, are going to pay off. So, when we see someone else get the things we want it can make us feel robbed. We wonder what’s wrong with us that we couldn’t achieve the same thing even with all our striving. Underlying all of this is the belief that other people deserve good things, but not us.

Two years on from that fateful event, I now know that what’s good for someone else, isn’t necessarily good for me. What one person perceives as a blessing, someone else is having to deal with the side effects that come alongside it.

Once I could separate myself from the poisonous fog that was clouding my mind, I could see that what I so desperately wanted was (thankfully) never supposed to be mine. I could see that, though my vison and goals looked similar to others, I was on my own, unique path that nobody else could claim.

Comparison is not something you conquer. It’s something you continuously acknowledge. I don’t think it’s something that we triumph over once and then move on with our lives without ever measuring ourselves again. Rather, we must intentionally uproot the lies every time it strikes our most vulnerable areas.

Although I’ve moved on from that event, I can still feel comparison’s snare around the parts of my life that I’ve invested in. I may not be competing for a legal job anymore, but I’m still wondering why other creative businesses are flourishing more than mine. I may not be competing for a guy’s attention, but I’m still fretting over why certain relationships in my life look different from other people’s.  

Comparison recently flared up again when I was scrolling through the posts of a writer I deeply admired on Instagram. Though I owe a lot of my bravery and wisdom to her, I couldn’t help but feel familiar twinges of discontentment whenever her posts popped up on my screen.

“I wish I could be as cool as her,” was the thought that kept circling through my mind as I watched her life play out on the screen.

‘Why is she making more of an impact than me?’

‘Why is she more successful than me?’

‘Why can’t I be more like her?’

It got to the point where I had to sit down over Skype and have a conversation with her about what I was feeling.

“I fear I’m trying to become too much like you and it’s manifesting itself in the way I write,” I told her.

“You’re not me and you never will be,” she told me. “You have you own stories to tell, and dreams and wisdom that’s yours and only yours. Focus on that.”

The lesson I learnt that day?

We were never created to be like someone else. We were never meant to follow someone else’s story. There is a plan and a path of your life that’s reserved for you and you only. Though you may be aspiring for the same things as him or her, and though they may have gotten it ‘first,’ it doesn’t detract from the truth that there’s something out there for you too.

There are stories only you can tell. There are gifts only you possess. It’s not a cliché to say you’re unique – it’s fact. You can’t compare two vastly different lives.

The irony is that, while you’re over here looking at another person’s life, someone else is probably wondering why they aren’t more like you.

And how heartbreaking would it be if you never discovered your full potential because you were too busy trying to imitate someone else.

So let me leave you with this, dear reader.

There is a seat for you at the table.

There is enough blessings and abundance in this world for both you and her to achieve the things you want.

Someone else’s success doesn’t take away the fact that there is so much purpose and impact running through your veins.

No amount of striving will change the fact that you’re already enough.

Though you may not see the path laid out before you, rest assured it’s there and it’s not going to be like everyone else’s.

How boring would it be if we all received the same things at the same time? What kind of storyline would that be? There wouldn’t be any room for redemption and triumph. No euphoric, uplifting thoughts of ‘it was all worth it.’

So how do you remove the weeds of comparison from your heart?

You unclench your fists and bless the other person. You stop thinking of them as someone to compete with, and wish them well on their journey. You pull on your gloves and start uprooting the lies that you are inadequate and that other people are better than you. You sow the seeds of truth that good things are on its way to you too.

I don’t promise it’ll be easy. There have been so many times where I have wished blessings over other people’s lives only to still feel angry the very next day. Even in the middle of writing this, I saw a post from someone else and got so triggered I had to stop writing.

But there is value in uprooting our tendency to compare. There’s gold in remembering who you are and the fact that you’re one of a kind.

You’re on your own journey babe, and nobody can steal that away from you.

Encouraging you always,

Ash xx


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Is It Too Late Now To Say Sorry?

Wednesday sucker punched me hard last week.

On a day that’s universally known for being the most sluggish day, Wednesday threw up even more obstacles that caused me to fall and land flat on my face. Yes- Wednesday won.

He didn’t do it all on his own though.  

Recently, old wounds and past hurts have begun to re-emerge and wreak havoc on my emotions. I knew they had come back to haunt me when I woke up with a heavy heart and a crippling desire to stay in bed with the blanket pulled up over my head. Whenever my thoughts linger on the events that had hurt me, I end up becoming an emotional, angry wreck. Every time I’d try to seek help about it, all I heard were excuses and shrugged shoulders, which only served to make me feel more isolated.

I’m willing to bet that maybe there’s been an issue in your life that still has the power to trigger you and cause you to shut down. All you need to do is think about it for two seconds before you feel the wave of pain that causes you to question everything good in your life.

There is nothing more I want than for the issue to resolve itself and release its chokehold on my mind and my emotions. So it means that I have to become really honest and ask myself what resolution I’m truly seeking.

In a perfect world, I’d want for the pain to never have happened. I never would have become the collateral damage to another person’s lack of self-awareness or placed in a position where others had been hurt before.

Yet, I know that we can’t alter the past.

I don’t think we’ll ever get through life without collecting our share of scrapes and bruises along the way. Hurt people, hurt people. We’re all flawed human beings trying to live life with the best of intentions, but sometimes those intentions clash violently with others. I’m also a big believer that pain has to happen because it teaches us who we want to become. It highlights what our values really are and how we want to be treated. Pain, harnessed correctly, pushes us to become better, compassionate, people.

Since we can’t change the past or control the actions of others, what other resolution do we need?

At the start of last year, I sat across from someone who’d inadvertently wounded me with his lack of sensitivity. These wounds created a gaping distance between us, making it hard for me to return phone calls, answer messages or even look at him the same way again. The next time we had to sit face to face again, I knew he wanted an explanation for the distance I was putting between us. After a tense conversation, the only thing I could offer up in that moment was an apology. Yet from the way relief passed over his face, I knew it was what he’d been seeking all along.

I thought back to that encounter again as I sat mulling over what resolution I believed would release me from the pain others had caused me. People tell me all the time that forgiveness is necessary for us to release the hold on our burdens, yet it’s easier said than done- especially without an apology from the other person.

Apologies are powerful because it’s an acknowledgement that someone else’s actions, whether intentional or not, have hurt us. But it’s a daily, and even hourly, battle for me to accept that sometimes we will never ever get an apology from those who wounded us. People can leave our lives before they’re held to account for their actions. Others may be too prideful to see the effects of their actions. ‘I’m Sorry’ isn’t a phrase that’s easily uttered.

I know that so many of us are still carrying the wounds and burdens from interactions or situations that have hurt us beyond measure. Although it may have been months or even years ago since it first happened, our poorly bandaged cuts are still bleeding over the blessings of today.

Although it’s not on us to shoulder those burdens anymore, ‘letting go’ is an action that’s often done begrudgingly. Ideally, we’d all become people who know how to unclench our fists and forgive, irrespective of whether an apology is ever uttered. But for now, we’ll just have to settle for hearing other people acknowledge our pain.

You may never hear the words I’m sorry from the person that hurt you, but maybe just hearing it from someone else is the push you need to start your healing process.

I’m sorry on behalf of anyone who has ever made you feel overlooked and undervalued. To be seen and known are basic human desires, but sometimes in the franticness of life, it can feel like people look straight past us. I want you to know that someone sees you and all that you’re doing to keep moving forward. Someone values all the ways you’re trying your best to show up and keep going.

I’m sorry on behalf of anyone who has made you feel like you needed to become someone else in order to be accepted. I’m sorry if it’s made you feel like you’re not enough. In a world that worships celebrities and the ‘hustle’ mentality, it can look like the only way to gain respect is to become somebody who stands on platforms and wins accolades. Yet there are people who have won all the awards who still feel empty inside. Know that you’re already significant as you are. You don’t have to ‘become important’ to gain the right person’s approval. You’re already dripping with so much gold and value, it’s insane.

I’m sorry on behalf of anyone who has ever made you feel small. Some people won’t be able to handle every vibrant, charismatic, larger-than-life encounter that you bring to this world, but that doesn’t mean you have to reduce yourself to fit their expectations. I heard Jim Caveziel say in an interview once that we are not called to fit in but made to stand out. That’s now the encouragement I give to anyone who feels like the odd one out. You were not created to fit into someone else’s mold but to break barriers and exceed expectations. You are allowed to take up space in this world.

I’m sorry on behalf of anyone who has made you feel like you weren’t worth staying for. People will leave your life for all sorts of reasons that have nothing to do with you. This is life’s way of filtering out those who scare easily. Soon we’ll be able to cherish the people who know how to honour their commitments.

I’m sorry on behalf of anyone who has caused you shame or made you feel like you’re too broken to be fixed. We are all forever a work in progress, but that is something to be celebrated- not condemned. Spoiler alert: you’re never too broken beyond repair. It may take extra time and extra tools from the shed but being fully healed from your pain is something that can happen for you.

I’m sorry on behalf of anyone who has ever uttered words about you that are untrue and a false reflection of who you really are. People will harbour all sorts of opinions about you but it shouldn’t stop you from pursuing the things you’re passionate about or making choices that will push you closer to your goal. Don’t let someone who barely knows anything about you, shape your perception of yourself.

I could go on for pages and pages and it still wouldn’t begin to scrape the surface of all the hurt that we’re seeking an apology for. It’s ok if you only felt temporary relief before anger overwhelmed you again. Like all journeys, the road to becoming a better person is made up of baby steps and the occasional stop for directions. You may need to repeat these apologies to yourself a few more times or continue to ask for help, but the fact that you’re here and you’re trying, is testament to the courage that’s running through your veins.

Above all, keep showing up to your life, keep pressing forward, and keep being yourself irrespective of who does or doesn’t acknowledge their wrongdoing towards you. We can never seek to control the actions of others, but we can control how we let go of the pain and how we treat other people.

Encouraging you always,

Ash xx


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Stuck in The Middle With You

When I was 14, I was awkward.

I had terrible acne on my forehead, my self-esteem was virtually non-existent, and I had to emotionally come to terms with the fact that fat was appearing in places it had never appeared before. Everybody said it was normal to go through changes and feel out of place, but when I looked around me, it felt like everyone had everything figured out.  

People just somehow knew what to do, how to dress, and how to act. It looked like all they had to do was wake up in the morning and life just flowed in the right direction for them. For years I always wondered if everyone else had been handed the pages of a guidebook that I was clearly missing.

As a 22-year-old trying to make her way in the real world, I often still feel the same way. Except now I know that there’s no guidebook. No one is walking around with the answers, and the majority of people are still lost and unsure of what to do. All of us are just taking it one step at a time and hoping we’re going in the right direction.

That’s the most frustrating thing about adulthood.

We think it’s this magical era where things suddenly click into place. Except, when 18 came around, I was far more lost than I was at 14. And when 21 knocked on my door, I was only beginning to scratch the surface of who I was and what I had to offer the world.

If you’re anything like me, then you probably have big expectations of your life. You desire to do great things and have them mean something. You strive to look back and know that you’ve left a positive, long-lasting impact on people.

But when I look around, my life often doesn’t reflect where I want to be at all. Most of the time, it’s like I’m on a giant treadmill where, no matter how hard I run, I’m still stuck in one spot.

I’m willing to bet that perhaps there’s been a time where you felt like there was no getting out from the place you’re in. No escape button or map to guide you to the next season. Just uncertainty shrouding your mind like a fog.

You’re talking to the Queen of restlessness. As someone who wants to live life in the fast lane, it pains me to feel stuck in one place and have to wait on the next step to unfold. If we were on opposite sides of a shopping centre, I’d be the one to say ‘I’ll come meet you’ because I’d rather be the one on the move.

But if there’s one thing that’s certain about this life, it’s that at multiple points, we’re all going to feel stuck in a place we don’t belong. Perhaps it’s stuck in a pit of depression. A pit of attempting to heal from rejection. Stuck in uncertainty. Stuck with people who don’t understand you. Stuck in a random country with only loneliness as a constant companion.

But there’s a tremendous difference between being stuck and being still. Being stuck is attempting to use all of your energy to break free from a position you don’t want to be in. You can rage and throw tantrums all you want, but it doesn’t change the fact that you’re there to stay. Being still is far more peaceful and relaxing. Though you’re not where you want to be, you accept your current circumstances is contributing to a higher purpose- even if you can’t always see it.

I’m a huge believer that there’s purpose wherever we are. That, although we feel like we’re stumbling around in the dark, we’ve been divinely led to the places that will refine and transform us into the people who are going to achieve great things. Something bigger is going to unfold in our lives, if only we just trust the process.

Throughout my corner of the internet, I’ve referenced multiple times that I used to be stuck in a battle for depression. For years, I was constantly going to war with the darkness for my self-worth, and I tried looking for it in all the wrong places. No matter what I did or who I turned to, I felt like there was no escape from the dark thoughts that constantly threatened to snuff out my light.

Dark thoughts and mental illness aren’t something I wish on anyone, and it can be infuriating to hear someone say that the painful things that you wish never happened to you, happened for a divine purpose. But now that I’m on the other side, I have to acknowledge the beautiful and golden things that came from being stuck in that one dreadful season. Wrestling with the darkness to hell and back has given me the words I need to talk about the despair and painful emotions so other people can feel understood. Where others only cringe and feel uncomfortable, I’m able to dive in and sit with you in the thick of your mess. Now, I get to tell my stories of hope, victory and redemption, so that no matter where you are, you know there’s light at the end of the tunnel.

Something beautiful happens when you can see the value where you are. Although it may be the last place you want to be, we have to trust that if we’ve been led here, then there’s something we need to do or learn. As much as we would like the magic remote from Click to speed it up, we’re here for a purpose so we may as well milk every last opportunity from it.

I’m by no means advocating that you stay in a situation that’s no longer serving you. A lot of us have also been lulled into a false sense of security by staying in places that are no longer for us, such as a dead-end job or a relationship well past its expiry date. If you know in your heart that its time to move- then girl you gotta move.

I just think that it’s tempting to look for a back door when things get hard. But there’s a tremendous amount of value in just staying. Just because your circumstances right now may not reflect where you want to be, but that doesn’t mean it’s irrelevant. It doesn’t mean that it’s to be discounted or written off. You have no idea who needs you to be present, right here, right now.

I don’t know where you are right now, but I know that it’s not a mistake you’re here. You did not arrive by here by accident. You are not living out a remake of The Truman Show where everyone is in on some secret except you. The circumstances you’re facing, the emotions you’re enduring, the pits you can’t get unstuck from- it’s all contributing to the person you’re supposed to become. It’s preparing you to be someone who can handle those lofty dreams and big plans you’ve always envisioned for yourself.

Perhaps the impact you’ve always been longing for starts when you embrace where you are.

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