moving on.

The Cincinnati Enquirer, Ohio, February 21, 1947 | credit

On a cold New Year’s Eve a few years ago, I told myself, “No more character development!  Next year will be all about story progression!”  I don’t remember what year it was, but I know that nothing really changed over the next year.  I made the promise again the year after that… and the year after that… and the year after that.  Over and over, it felt like nothing really happened in my life – like I was stuck in the same place, year after year.

I can honestly say that so much has changed since this time last year that I’ll probably be saying this New Year’s Eve, “Let’s just chill for a minute, okay?”

I think the reason nothing really happened was because I’d always been so scared of change.  To be completely honest, I still am, in some ways.  After all, I like to be comfortable.  But I’m not quite so petrified of it as I used to be.

Maybe it’s because I’ve lost so much recently that it feels useless to try to hold onto normality, like grasping at sand when waves are pulling it back out to sea.

Last summer, I prayed for a new car, a new job, and a new place to live (not necessarily in that order).  In less than a year, it all happened.  I didn’t mind that change as much as the stuff that was outside of my control, but even the things I’ve chosen have had unexpected consequences.

It’s probably mostly because of this change that I haven’t posted recently.  I kept thinking, I’ll do it when I get past this hurdle.  When this next thing blows over, I’ll write a big post about how much I learned from it and then we’ll go on from there.

And then stuff just kept happening, guys.  Who would’ve thought.  I barely had time to “learn” from anything before the next thing happened and pushed me back down again.  (There’s that wave analogy again.)

Seriously though.  If I could’ve told myself a few years ago that sometimes character development and story progression happens at the same time and that it would all happen at the same time way faster than I wanted it to – and that some of the things that caused both would leave me on my floor too tired to cry anymore – I think Younger Me wouldn’t have been quite so eager to be in a different situation.

If I’ve learned anything from the insane events of the last six months, it would be this: Don’t be so afraid of change.  It feels overly simplistic to say that “nothing changes if nothing changes,” but it’s true.

Nowadays, nothing terrifies me more than stagnancy.  I’ve learned that moving and discomfort and learning and constantly being reshaped is all part of growth, and it’s hard to grow if you’re frozen still in a “comfortable” place.

My best friend and I talked extensively on the phone yesterday, partially about how neither of us are “there” yet and we never will be.  I’m grateful for that.  I want to be able to look back and see that I’ve made progress, even if it’s just a few steps farther from where I was.

And sometimes being shaken up and spilled out and broken is a good thing.

(PS: Thank you for reading this, whoever you are.  I’m so grateful for you.  Please know that I don’t take you for granted!  If something has happened in your life since we talked last, let me know in a comment!  How have you moved on from something and grown from it?  I’d love to talk with you about it!)

no more kool-aid.

“It’s a wonder either of us still believe in God,” I said into the phone, softly, hesitantly, as if speaking them were releasing a terrible truth.

How dare we, after all?  Yes, Jacob wrestled with God, but we weren’t allowed to.  We’d grown up in the same subculture, drinking batch after batch of Kool-Aid, trying not to let it influence us but knowing that it was slowly poisoning us anyway.

He didn’t say anything for a while.  When he did, it was soft and reluctant and surprised and awed.  “Yeah.”

I never thought the way I grew up was any different than anyone else.  Sure, I knew we wore skirts and homeschooled, but that was the majority of my friends, so I didn’t feel too much like a fish out of water.

It wasn’t until I got out, took a dozen steps back, and put my hands on my hips as I analyzed the situation that I realized… wow, that was interesting.

Over the last year, I’ve been doing a crap ton of research, studying the influences that were so prevalent during my formative years – Joshua Harris, Bill Gothard, the Botkin Sisters.  I knew them, sure, but only from years of blindly following them in a haze, too confused to question but too understanding of my place to rebel in the slightest.

It was easiest to just go with the flow.  To wear the skirts.  To go to the purity book studies.  To agree to sign the purity pact with my dad.  But I knew it wasn’t what I truly believed.  What I believed needed to make sense, and everything I’d heard made about as much sense as wearing a skirt to play football with the guys after church.  So I wore shorts under my skirt.  I questioned the courtship mindset.  I took home the paper that I was told I should sign that would essentially put my heart (my purity) into my father’s hands for safe keeping until the man I would marry would approach him for his approval… but I never signed it.

Looking back, I can see the cracks in the glass – the places where the truth was twisted so intensely that it barely resembled the original intent.

That’s the crazy thing about lies.  Cornelia Funke says in her novel Reckless that “the best lies stay close to the truth,” and I completely agree.  The poison goes down much easier with a glassful of Kool-Aid, after all.

I’m still trying to piece together that original intent, by the way.  I’d been fed so many lies over the last decade that the truth was barely visible anymore – and what I knew of the truth, I didn’t want.  If God was as vindictive and conditional and demanding as I’d always been told He was, I didn’t want anything to do with Him.  So I went back to the basics of what I knew, reading the Gospels and trying to figure out Who Jesus was completely on my own, with no outside influence.  I needed to figure out what I believed and if it looked like everything I’d always said I believed.

Instrumental in this was the fact that after my family left the church that had hurt us so badly, I spent a while just cycling through the Psalms.  I read them over and over and over until I could almost recite them.  It felt as if David’s struggle with God echoed mine, constantly asking “Why?” but always coming back to merely accepting and leaving the rest up to Him.  I also started reading through the entire Bible for the first time.  I’d read through the majority of the books before, but this was my first time going through the whole thing for myself.

Doing all of this changed my perspective completely, and I began to realize that exactly what Jesus told the Pharisees was right – it all boils down to love.  If you didn’t have love, you had nothing.  (No wonder I always felt so ostracized in my old church.)  I started trying to just love God and love people, and, so far, it’s worked pretty well.  (This song also impacted me like an anvil to the head and I might’ve played it loudly in my car towards a member of that old church in a weak attempt to get him to listen.)

All that to say, I’m working out my salvation.  I’m a bad Christian.  I cuss sometimes, I don’t go to church every week, and I’ve fallen asleep during almost every single video in a Francis Chan devotional that I’m going through.  But if God truly loves me and thinks I’m worth it, trying is the best that I can do.  And He’s okay with that.

sometimes bravery is putting on a skirt {a follow-up post}

I wrote a post a few months back about the first time I actually felt totally comfortable in a dress (gosh, it’s been a year already?!).  Since then, a lot has happened, namely that I’ve changed a ton.  Moving out of my parents’ house has forced me to take a deep look at myself and really figure out who I am.

One of the things I’ve been assessing has been my church trauma that I’ve talked about a little.  Since I’ve been thinking a lot about it and am especially heated about skirts this morning (and because my blog needs an update and the posts I’ve written since moving will likely stay in my drafts folder), I thought, “WHAT BETTER PLACE TO RANT ABOUT THIS THAN MY OLD BLOG?!”

So here I am.

A few days ago, I was talking about skirts with my best friend.  I’d remembered a skirt I’d sewn by myself (to get out of a multiple-week sewing class my mom wanted me to go to) and fished it out of my closet to show her.  It had been years since I’d tried it on, mostly because I wasn’t comfortable wearing skirts at all, and couldn’t pull the zipper up the last time I’d tried.  This time, it fit like a glove.

Looking at myself in the mirror brought back a ton of memories.  Times when I’d worn that skirt and others, little and big things happening in my life, the way I’d felt, things that were said to me.  I wouldn’t call it being triggered, but it definitely wasn’t normal.  My friend looked at a few of my other skirts, gently suggested that I start wearing them again, and then left me to have “a moment.”

The moment happened the next day, when I put on a skirt to wear for work.  Pleated and beige, with an antique print of light stripes and purplish pink flowers.  Paired with a belt, sandals I’d worn to the beach, and a dark blue top.  After that, I just stared at myself in the mirror for a while.  I’d worn skirts since, but this was the first time I did it intentionally and then just let myself sit in the feeling for a while.  I still felt wary, but I stood there and actually let myself feel everything – all of the emotions and thoughts and repressed memories that came with it.

For the first time, I realized why I was so against wearing skirts.  After so many years of wearing skirts and only skirts, actually choosing to wear one was a big deal.  But it wasn’t just that – it was also allowing myself to somewhat go back to that time.

Putting on that skirt came with a unique sense of vulnerability – as if, for the first time since those years, I had just willingly placed myself in an uniquely hard position.  To open myself up again to everything that came with those years – the things people said about me, the way I was treated, the view I had of myself.

It was like I’d found the box that people had put me in and was able to finally examine all of it’s edges and creases and dark spots in all its raw, confining, twisted form.  Feelings of being lesser, unimportant, and not valued or valid came rushing back, and the weight of them nearly crushed me, like they did back then.

To me, that skirt wasn’t “just a piece of fabric.”  It was something that, in a way, symbolized an entire almost-decade of my life.  The seven years from when my dad told my sisters and mom that we’d be wearing skirts outside of the house from now on until the day my skirt flew up (in front of three men I didn’t know) when I was nannying and I finally told myself that enough was enough – smack dab over the majority of my formative years and all of my teen years.

It brought back everything that dragged on the coattails of those years – the move that ripped my entire life and all of my friends away from me, my cult-church trauma that left me spiritually dry for the better part of about four years, the lack of friendship and sense of complete and utter disconnection with the place I’d landed after freefalling.

Now, don’t get me wrong.  I know it could’ve been a lot worse.  This isn’t sexual trauma.  This isn’t physical abuse.

But it’s not nothing, either.  It’s something that happened and shaped me into who I am today, and I’m still working through it.  I’m not going to play the victim and try to blow it out of proportion, but I’m also not going to try to dismiss it with a forced “It’s not as bad as it could’ve been.”

“You know it’s in the past, right?” a friend asked me when I started venting to him about it.

“I know, but it still impacts my present,” I told him.  “And I’m trying to make sure it’s worked through so it doesn’t affect my future, too.”

Moving out has impacted me a lot more than I thought it would.  Because I’m alone so much, I’ve had more time than literally ever before to focus on myself.  Sometimes this is a bad thing and I’ve spiraled a few times because I’ve gotten too deep inside my head.

But sometimes, like now, it’s a good thing.  It’s hard and it’s raw and it’s painful, but after so many years of repressing and minimizing and trying to tell myself that everything I’ve been through isn’t “that bad,” I’m tired of staying stuck in these same bad habits and mindsets.  I’m finally figuring out how to work through my issues and slowly discovering bits of myself that had been shoved aside and told were unimportant.

The best part has been picking apart those years and finding the gold in the midst of the muck.  Everything that happened in those years shaped me.  I’m not mad about or regret anything because it wouldn’t have made me into who I am today.  Because of it, I have a lower tolerance for BS, a greater appreciation for those who are stronger than me, and a deeper love for myself and my Savior.

I’m letting go of the things that harmed me in those years but still clinging to the things I still appreciate about my teenage self – her tenacity, her bravery, her clear sense of right and wrong (even if she couldn’t voice it).

Having so much time alone in my apartment has rekindled my love for reading and I’m finding myself going back to all of the old fantasy stories I fell in love with during those years.  Now that I think about it, I’m fairly certain everything I was going through caused me to become so passionate about fantasy – the idea that, despite everything the heroine was going through, she was going to be okay.

on moving out.

It should come as no surprise to any of you that I’m a sentimental piece of crap. You should all know me well enough by now to have guessed that. (I mean, just look at my Year in Review posts, how many years running?)

So it figures that this week has been hard.

I’m moving out. Have I talked about that here yet? I know I’ve written two posts hinting at it that will probably stay in my drafts, but if I haven’t mentioned it yet in a post that was actually published, there you go.

It snuck up on me, to be completely honest. I said something at the beginning of the year about having no clue whatsoever about what 2019 would hold. Then, literally eleven days into the year, a Facebook post summoned a series of events that can only be God’s orchestration.

Now here we are, four days away from when I’ll leave my parents’ house. (Finally.)

To say it’s been scary is the understatement of the year. I can’t even begin to add up the amount of conversations I’ve had, articles I’ve read, and panic attacks I’ve suffered through to get here. I’ve swallowed every bit of advice from friends, mentors, and family members about how to take the plunge and what to do as I free-fall.

The thing keeping me grounded is this immense feeling of peace surrounding the whole thing (which, again, is only God). I knew from the second I stepped into the apartment that it was the right decision. I’ve totally lost it several times since then, but I keep coming back to the peace.

Maybe it’s the peace that’s gotten me through the last few weeks. The last family meals, the last hugs from my crying baby sister, the last movie nights, the last daily pre- and post-work rituals. I’m going to miss every inch of my life here in my little basement apartment in my parents’ house.

However, I keep telling my sentimental self that these aren’t true “lasts.” I’ll watch movies with my family again. I’ll have dinner with them again. We’ll set up for parties together again. It just won’t look the same. And that freaks the living daylights out of me because I’ve never been one for change. If I had my way, I’d stay here forever.

But I know that’s not healthy and I know I’ll be unhappy and I know it’s not even remotely possible. I know this is right and I know this is the next step. No matter how hard it gets or how broke I become or how quickly I ask to move back in once my lease is up, this, right now, is the right decision.

Because I’ll be moving out by myself (and my cat!!!), you may see less or you may see more of me. I’m not sure what it’s going to look like. (I’m not sure about what anything is going to look like.) All I ask is that you bear with me over the next few months as I strike out on my own and figure out what it means to be independent.

Thanks for sticking with me this far. Onward.

year in review: 2018.

Ahh, 2018, you absurd, slightly terrifying year.

No preface.  Let’s just dive right into the insanity.  (Once again, quick disclaimer that I mostly do these posts for myself and not to brag or anything yadiyadiyada okay let’s go.)

JANUARY

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me at the beginning of the year. | 01.04

The year started off with a good friend leaving for an extended period of time.  I was slightly devastated.  I didn’t know how to cope, so I just threw myself into my work and theatre.  I auditioned for my first musical, Singin’ in the Rain, and paced in the bathroom at work while waiting for the cast list to be released.  During this month, I also got into critiquing conservative books from my teenage years – mostly because of a little blog that I’m still addicted to – and started re-reading said books.  (I still need to do a long, ranty post about Before You Meet Prince Charming.  Whew.  The insanity.)

I didn’t get a lead in Singin’, but I did get a very minor role and ensemble, and rehearsals twice a week would be my saving grace during the next few months.  My younger sister got into the ensemble as well – her first show! – and we bonded because of it, quoting the show to each other more than we had when we were just fans of the musical.  I also got to stage manage for another show, which meant sitting backstage in front of a monitor with a headset on my head and a script in my lap and making sure everybody was where they needed to be, props were set, and sound cues were made.  I realized I liked being backstage almost as much as being onstage (no lines?! heck yeah!), and everyone in the cast loved me.

FEBRUARY

feb 18

once upon a december… | 02.24

My favorite Aussie and her younger sister (my second-favorite Aussie) visited, sparking my very first solo trip to Atlanta that almost got all three of us murdered, but it was definitely an adventure!  I was barely able to spend time with them because of my hectic work schedule, but I did get to introduce them to my small town, my theatre family, and Chick-fil-A fries (which, let’s be honest, was probably the best thing I could have introduced them to).  I had a very nice Valentine’s Day surprise from my boyfriend after expecting to just spend it the way I always did – chocolate and rom-com in bed and listing all the reasons why I was happy to be single.

I was able to go to about a third of my church’s DNOW conference with the girls that I still co-lead in small group at church, which was nice (although I would’ve liked to have gone to the whole thing – again, working on Saturday sucks).  I crashed a Valentine’s Day dance full of people from my old church and it was so freeing and invigorating and honestly made that entire month for me.  (Long, long, long story.)  I also hosted a Galentine’s Day party with my sisters and two of my very best friends, which was mostly just eating bruschetta and watching the Galentine’s Day episode of Parks and Recreation and dishing on relationship drama.  (All in all, I’d say my Valentine’s Day season was infinitely better than all years previous.  13/10 would recommend.)

I also went to my first con and cosplayed for the first time and it. was. incredible.  If I could go back and do it all over again just to relive it, I wouldn’t change a thing, even the hard bits and the part where I had an allergic reaction to my friend’s cat the night before we left.  Over the next two and a half days, I cosplayed as Anastasia, Belle, Jyn Erso, and Wendy Darling.  My friend cosplayed as Dimitri and Peter, so taking pictures together was definitely a highlight.  We went to the con as volunteers, so I still haven’t technically been to a con as an attendee, although we browsed the vendor hall as much as we could.  One of my favorite things was eating pizza in my golden Anastasia ballgown and also watching people recognize us.  Definitely a highlight of 2018!

MARCH

In the beginning of this month, one of my best friends had a sweet sixteen that was poppin’.  My friends and I gave her an afternoon with us, and we explored our little town by doing a scavenger hunt and sending pictures of all of our stops to her mom, who sent us clues for things to find.  I also continued to babysit at my local Classical Conversations chapter every Tuesday on my day off, now far enough into the school year that it was routine.  I’d made so many mom friends that I continue to keep up with, and I really miss hanging out with a bunch of toddlers as an extra little break from my adult job.

And speaking of, I mainly just worked this month.  I don’t know what it was about March that was so routine, but with Singin’ in the Rain rehearsals two nights a week, co-leading my small group every Sunday, plus random things every few nights, sometimes all I could do was go to work and come home and sleep.  It ended up being a good thing that I’d somehow stuck my head in the sand and stayed in my lane because the next month was full of personal drama that I didn’t know I needed to be prepared to handle.

APRIL

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post-show pics. (not featured: post-show tears.) | 04.28

This month started off with a bang because I experienced my first breakup.  It wasn’t as heartbreakingly earth-shattering as it probably could have been, mostly because he’s an angel and we ended on great terms.  It was really hard for a while.  I didn’t want to be single again, since experiencing all of the major holidays and my birthday with a significant other was pretty darn great.  But I made it, and now I’m back to my regular self-deprecating, single self.  (Although I’m trying to follow Hannah Gadsby‘s lead and cut it out.)  I also experienced some slightly more personal things involving friendships that opened my eyes a lot, which was greatly needed and has definitely radically changed who I am and how I relate to people.

On a slightly more serious note, I did taxes for the first time.  Ugh, and boy, was it boring.  Definitely wasn’t as hard as people make it out to be, just annoying.  But I solved that by watching The Greatest Showman and drinking Mike’s Hard Lemonade while I did it.  I also made it through tech week for Singin’ and our lone show weekend.  It was such an incredible experience and even though I wasn’t able to be in it as much as I’d hoped (the choreo rehearsals were on Saturday afternoons while I was at work an hour away), I will forever think of it as one of my favorite shows.  I also got to costume a show starting in April, and it was later nominated for Best Costumes in our annual awards event.  Pretty neat!

MAY

May started with an ill-fated beach trip that turned out to be one of my favorite things I did all year.  Long story short, I missed most of it because of work and had to change my plans at the very last minute, culminating in several tearful phone calls to friends and crying alone in my basement on the floor at almost midnight.  However, I got up the next morning before five and drove down in record time, listening to music and watching John Mulaney comedy specials and painting my nails.  (Hey, those roads are straight and boring!)  I pulled onto 30-A with “From Now On” from The Greatest Showman blasting from my speakers out the open windows and crying as the “and we will come back home” lyrics hit me hard.  I met my mom at a swanky coffee shop that I’d been wanting to try for years but never got the chance to, and it was almost like coming home again.  I spent the next day and a half doing all the beachy things and falling asleep at 9pm both nights on the couch.

My siblings and I did The Last Great B Team Road Trip in my car on the way home, pit stopping for two days in Tampa for a friend’s wedding and to visit more friends.  James and I got to finish the second season of Stranger Things in the back while my sister drove (no idea why I hadn’t finished it sooner), so that was fun.  Speaking of James, he graduated high school later that month.  We threw a big party for him and filled our house with his friends even though I only recognized a handful of them.  (#foreshadowing)

Later in June, I started rehearsals for my theatre company’s annual Summersplosion program.  It was unlike any production I’d ever done because we had to build the show from scratch, from concept to performance, with only one rule: that it fit in a theatre in the round (audience on all sides of the stage).  My team included myself, five kids between seven and fifteen, and our director (a freshman in college).  We ended up coming up with our show idea by the end of the first “rehearsal,” and were able to pull it off in August with flying colors.

JUNE

In the beginning of June, I took two days off to play in a wedding with two of my siblings at one of the most gorgeous locations I’ve ever seen.  The wedding involved a lot more prep work than we thought it would, but it paid off so well that we didn’t mind.  The couple met while doing theatre, so everything had musical aspects, especially influenced by Peter Pan and Finding Neverland (um, let me go sob in a corner, please).  Their wedding favor was either a keychain, bracelet, or necklace that featured a thimble charm and an acorn charm.  Swoon.  Totally stealing that idea.

The rest of the month was mostly full of rehearsals and writing the script for our show at work.  I think I ended up writing half the script, with the other sections going to two of the other kids on our team. The play was set in a post-apocalyptic society where all forms of creativity have been banned, especially music.  Five kids find a box of musical instruments and I got to play the teacher/government baddie who tried to make them stop (but also had secrets of her own).  Writing the thing was so hard, but we ended up finishing before the deadline.

Later in the month, I surprised one of my best friends on his birthday and hung out with him all day, taking him to lunch and going with him to rehearsal for a production of Newsies, in which he played Jack Kelly.  (Just when I thought I couldn’t love him any more…)  It was really, really fun to watch the show come together just at that one rehearsal, and I’ve even become friends with some of the cast (mostly because I ended up going to another rehearsal, seeing the show twice, and hanging out with the cast a few times).  After leaving his rehearsal, I went straight to my grandparents’ house, where we had our annual cousin camp.  I had to work that entire week, so I didn’t get to spend as much time with my cousins and my grandparents as I would’ve liked, but I still enjoyed it.

JULY

july 18.jpg

happiest place, best people. | 07.08

JULY WAS PROBABLY THE BEST MONTH OF THE ENTIRE YEAR.  (Which was great, because the last few months were pretty bad.)  It started off with one of the best trips I’ve ever done – Disney with two of my bestest friends.  It was the perfect length, with just the right amount of fun, late-night talks, musical karaoke, morning coffee sessions… oh, and wine.  First time at Disney as “a child with a liquor license” and it was pretty great.  Doing Disney with my family was awesome because I got to see my younger siblings experience Disney, but doing it with friends was incredible.  We all had a few things we really wanted to do, but we were also super flexible so we’d just do stuff at the drop of a hat, which meant that I actually got to experience more with my friends in their twenties than I did with my family.  We went home with so many amazing stories and memories that we’ll probably keep just between the three of us ’til we die.  It was an amazingly special time and I’m so blessed to have experienced it.

I also sung in my first cabaret – A SOLO!  It was a miscast cabaret (basically gender-swapping songs), and I sang “Santa Fe” from Newsies.  Nobody really knew I could sing, so to hear people rant and rave about how well I did afterwards was pretty great.  I also started to go through the grieving process of my little bro (and favorite sibling thERE I SAID IT) leaving to go to college.  (Lots of grieving in the latter half of 2018 what the heck.)  My friend peer pressured me into getting the Pokemon Go app and we subsequently got stuck outside in a massive thunderstorm and almost died.  I went on an all-day bro/sis date with my little bro, to a musical with my younger sister, and saw my best friend absolutely crush it as Jack in Newsies… twice.  I took myself on a date (something I’ve started doing more now – nights where I work late one night and early the next morning, I’ll do something with myself and it’s been really fun), I went on another date w my bro (gotta get in that favorite sib time), and I saw some of my younger friends kill it in a local production of Grease, also twice.  (What can I say?  I love supporting my friends.)

AUGUST

Ahh, August.  Seriously, the entire rest of this year was so emotional.  I’m surprised I have any emotional stamina – or hair – left.  Anyway.

The month started off with a pretty big amount of work drama.  After a particularly hard day (won’t bore you with the details), I told myself I had to stop saying that I’d hit “the worst day” because another one will eventually come along that’s worse.  My best work friend also started interviewing for jobs and I remember crying on the way home from work multiple times.  I also got to go to a Braves game with almost the entire company, so that was fun.

On the theatre front, we finalized the script, costumes, sound effects, lighting, etc for our Summersplosion show, which we’d entitled Modulating the Machine.  (Get it?  It’s post-apocalyptic and has a fun nod to music.  I was so proud.)  I slept over at my theatre mom’s house and saw Mamma Mia 2 with her and her daughter.  My theatre’s annual awards ceremony happened one night after work at a local science museum, so it was fun to dress up and go, even if I didn’t win anything.  My little bro and yes I repeat favorite sibling left for college and I cried on the way to and from work a few more times.  Another bright moment was being asked to be on the marketing team for my local theatre, specifically working on the social media and managing the Instagram entirely.  (And the follow count has since doubled in size, thankyouverymuch.)  I also got to have an impromptu sleepover with two of my very best friends after their college going-away party, mostly just because I really, really didn’t want to leave.  (It had been a super hard weekend and I didn’t want to say goodbye to them and I also just didn’t want to go home.)

I got to see another show with three guy friends – a local production of The Hunchback of Notre Dame that made all of us cry, so that was fun.  We hung out in a coffee shop afterwards talking about literally everything and anything, then got dinner afterwards because we just didn’t want to leave.  I also got invited to a party thrown by all of my older theatre friends who I think are astonishingly cool, so that was fun.  (I brought flowers and played with a kitten half the time, but that is neither here nor there.)  I had an impromptu “coffee hang” with three friends on my day off that ended up turning into an almost weekly thing that we still do (we actually just did it today).  Those people have since turned into three of my closest friends.  I also spent the night with my little bro at his college and nearly cried because how the h*ck could he be so old?!  It was so much fun touring his campus and meeting a few of his friends, especially since I’d been working when my family drove him down and got him settled.

SEPTEMBER

During this month, I basically just put my head down and tried to work the best I could.  I bought a car after a year of stressing and saving and finding wrong cars until I finally – FINALLY – found the right one.  My work bestie sold it to me about a week before he left, so I obviously cried in it a lot.

*takes a break to sip hot chocolate and read an article about the benefits of crying*

I also saw some friends in The Great Gatsby – two different casts on two different weekends and I had friends playing in both, so obviously I had to go to a performance on both weekends.  I also saw Daddy Long Legs with my sister and one of my best friends, and to say it was a dream come true would be an understatement.  I’ve been high-key obsessed with that show for over a decade and even considered auditioning for this particular production.  I’m so glad I didn’t, though, because the young woman who played Jerusha knocked it out of the park in ways I can only dream of.  (It’s still one of my bucket list roles, however.  Fingers crossed it can happen sometime!)

OCTOBER

This month started off with some pretty exciting yet hard work stuff.  With the completion of some renovation, the dealership where I work split into two different stores – New and Pre-Owned – effectively splitting my coworkers in half.  I’ve gotten to work in both places and definitely miss the others when I’m gone.  This split happened the same week that I petsit for my theatre parents and their thirteen pets.  (It was kind of chaotic, but I enjoyed living in a zoo with my sister for a week!)  I have in my notes that Trench also came out, which is a huge deal because twenty øne piløts is one of my favorite bands of all time.  I was able to go to Jeni’s and try their ice cream for the first time and then walk around the shopping center with my friend for a while.  It was a nice, chill night (especially after all that chaos).

I also petsit for a coworker for a week; only two dogs this time.  She lives five minutes from work, which was a nice change of pace from my hour and a half drive one way.  It was fun to pretend like I was a successful young businesswoman with my own fancy place, but I missed my basement kitchenette and den.  I also got to visit with the two friends who’d recently gone off to college, and hearing their stories made me wish I’d gone.  Some of my friends were in a local production of Seussical, so I obviously had to go see that, too.  (Dang, I’m losing track of how many shows I went to see!  It’s gonna happen again in 2019, I know, because I’ve already bought tickets to several Broadway tours and friends’ shows.)

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jyn & christine. | 10.26

I also took myself on a date to the movies for the very first time!  I don’t go to the movie theater often because I don’t like going by myself, but I couldn’t find anybody to go see this movie with me.  Since I still really wanted to see it, I just decided to do it.  And dang, it was so much fun.  (Mental note: Go to the movies by myself more often in 2019!)  The movie was a recording of the National Theatre Live’s production of Frankenstein, starring Jonny Lee Miller as Dr. Frankenstein and Benedict Cumberbatch as the Creature.  So, duh, I had to go.  (The next weekend, the showing was the same except the roles were switched and I totally would’ve gone if I didn’t have a sales dinner that night.  I got to dress up super fancy and completely shock everybody there with how fabulous I looked.  It was great.)  My younger sister and I started watching a very famous, kinda adult, historical show that we’d been wanting to see for a while, and suffice it to say we’re hooked.  It’s become Our Thing and we watch a few episodes together every week.  We also went to a friend’s Halloween party as Jyn Erso (reusing cosplay ftw) and Christine Daae.  My sister made her “Masquerade” dress from scratch – no pattern – and won third place!

NOVEMBER

The last weekend of October and beginning of November was another highlight of the year.  It felt like all of my favorite bands were coming in town… and yes, I got tickets to see three of them (and planned a Friendsgiving party for the day after, no shame).  I met my younger sister downtown and saw AJR on Halloween night.  We dressed up as Harry Potter and Draco Malfoy, and my little bro drove up with his girlfriend as Newt Scamander and Tina Goldstein.  My best friend and one of her friends came, and we had so much fun.  It was such a good concert!  We bonded with a few people there who we’re actually still talking to, so that was neat.  The next night, NF was in town but I made myself adult and not buy tickets.

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the few, the proud, & the emotional. | 11.02

Friday night we saw twenty øne piløts and holy cow, it was amazing.  So, so, so incredible.  To see my boys live with my little bro and two good friends was indescribable.  They played songs from the entire discography, even some from their self-titled album, and I sang along with very dang word.  The next day, I got up early, worked 8am-6pm, then drove down to the venue of the first concert with my friend to see The Band Camino and Ben Rector.  (Ben headlined and Camino opened but I’d be lying if I said I bought the tickets to see Ben.)  Camino was incredible and Ben was so, so, so funny.  I even got to meet The Band Camino afterwards, which was a highlight of the weekend.

The next morning, Sunday, we slept in a little, then talked over coffee.  After a while, we turned on the old 1992 Newsies and started prepping for my Friendsgiving party.  My friends started showing up in the afternoon and it was a wonderful time of eating and catching up and singing and eating some more.  I’d always wanted to host a Friendsgiving, and I think it’s going to become a tradition.  (Fingers crossed that the next one can be in my own place!)  I definitely had too many people there, but it was only overwhelming for a little while, and I overcame it by sitting in a corner and eating chips straight out of the bag.  Then, we had an after-party with a few friends who were going to spend the night, complete with a boozy game of Cards Against Humanity.

So, suffice it to say that weekend was probably a highlight of my life.

I also attempted NaNo for the fourth time AND WONNNN.  (For the third time!)  It was really hard with a full-time job (and a part-time job of just getting there and back), but I managed.  The entire last week of the month, I didn’t do anything after work, instead going straight home and writing ’til my eyes burned.  I can’t wait to share this story with you guys.  Honestly, it’s one of the most special things I’ve ever written and I think it’ll go far.  (Or at least I hope it does!)

I was also asked to be in the premiere reading of a local playwright’s play, which was super duper fun.  I petsat for my coworker again – just for a weekend this time – decorated my grandma’s tree with my siblings for the third year in a row, did a social experiment that I learned a lot from, got a Christmas tree for my downstairs apartment, found out that my car can fit a five-foot inflated dinosaur (don’t ask).  Oh, and finished NaNo, all by myself in my favorite coffee shop.  (Seriously, there wasn’t anyone there.  I freaked out for a hot second because I thought they’d closed early without telling me.)

DECEMBER

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my bestie & me. | 12.16

December.  Ohhhhh, December.

I normally don’t put too many expectations on my birthday because it just tends to get lost by the wayside of Thanksgiving and Christmas parties and end-of-year recitals and concerts and Christmas and New Year’s and everything else in between.  A good friend flew up for my birthday this year, which made it better than I thought it was going to be, even though all of our plans got cancelled or rained out – after I worked 8am-6pm that day.  (Saturdays at the dealership are brutal.)  The day after my birthday, we baked with a friend and then watched a movie with another friend, which was definitely my favorite part.

The week after my birthday was honestly pretty bad, though – personal drama, work drama, theatre drama… lots of tears.  After taking a break from theatre to focus on work, hoping to get my dream role of Jo in Little Women… I didn’t get in.  I cried myself to sleep two nights in a row that week.  At the very end of the week, I got to go to a dance with some of my very best friends.  We got Taco Bell afterwards and ate it on the carpet in my dad’s office and I think I enjoyed trying not to laugh so loudly that it woke my parents up almost more than the dance.  (Funny how it’s the little things about this past year that I remember or enjoyed the most…)

I was able to fit in some Christmasy stuff as well – a movie and Christmas party with my small group girls (plus looking at some breathtaking Christmas lights), a night with my best friend that we made Christmasy by looking at more lights, and I even changed my lock screen on my phone to a Harry Potter-themed Christmas picture (which is a big deal because I’ve had the same picture since I got the phone in 2015).  The day before my birthday, I revived my blog by posting a review of Joshua Harris’s documentary I Survived I Kissed Dating Goodbye and it kind of blew up.  (I’m glad to be back, guys.)  I had two sleepovers with a friend (we started two Christmas movies and fell asleep before they were done both times), I missed my baby sister’s first ballet recital because of work (she was the lead sheep in the Nativity ballet), I was asked to be in another reading of a good friend’s play in January, and I moved to a different building at work for two weeks.

All things considered, I had an okay Christmas season (even if I worked during most of it).  I also worked New Year’s Eve and spent it with my best friend.  We got pizza and got a little further in our re-watch of Teen Wolf and she was asleep by ten.  I ended up going outside in the rain to watch the fireworks go off at midnight by myself, a glass of wine in one hand and my phone with a streaming video of the ball dropping in Times Square in the other.  Doing New Year’s Eve by myself sounds kind of pathetic or lame or sad, but it really wasn’t.  It was freeing and almost invigorating, in a way.  To know that I made it to the end of the year and to be able to celebrate that all by myself was… empowering.

Of course, I didn’t do it all by myself.  I did it with the help of my family and friends and  my amazing Creator.

If you’ve made it this far, I just want to thank you.  Thank you for reading, thank you for caring, and thank you for sticking with me.  I write these posts mainly to look back at what God has carried me through and how much I’ve changed in the space of 525,600  minutes, and it’s always incredibly jarring and inspiring.

2018 was one of the hardest, but most fulfilling years of my life and I grew more than I ever have before.  I thought 2019 was going to be a weird in-between year but it’s already shaping up to be a pretty good blend of crazy and insane and chaotic and fun.  Can’t wait to see what’s in store!

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traditional bathroom selfie. | 01.23.19

i’m alive.

Hey, guys.

Long time, no talk.  It’s been… nine months?  (Insert pregnancy joke here.)

Just wanted to say hello and that no, I haven’t died!  I’ve been working 43+ hours a week, commuting ~3 hours a day, and trying to maintain a social life (and my sanity).  Since talking to you guys last, I’ve also been in a musical (Singin’ in the Rain!), written and performed in an original play (and everything in between), took a random trip to Disney with two of my best friends, went on my first long road trip by myself, became a social media manager for my theatre company (and have enjoyed watching the stats shoot up – help me out by following us!), stress-cried more times than I can count, and have also made so many new friends whom I love dearly.  I also won NaNo (remember The Boy and the Theatre Girl?), so that was cool.

Anyway, I’m here to say that I’m back.  It was a much-needed break (that I didn’t really intend to take???) but I’m finally ready to start posting again.  I don’t know how much I’ll be posting, but I have missed you guys and can’t wait to continue on this crazy journey with you.  Thanks for sticking around.  What have you been up to since I last posted?  Let’s talk!

PS: I’ll be back tomorrow with a review of Joshua Harris’s documentary I Survived I Kissed Dating Goodbye, which I was given an early-release copy of to review, hence reviving this little blog.  I guess I’m still fired up about purity culture.  : P

the day i started wearing dresses again.

Today I wore a dress to work.

What a weird sentence.  A year ago, the dress part would’ve driven me nuts.  Three or four years ago, the work part would’ve.  (Me?  Having a job outside of the home?  In a non-Christian environment?  The horror.)

I’ve been reading a lot of exposé-type blog posts on the Quiverfull/ATI movement (and conservatism as a whole) lately, and a few particularly jarring posts about modesty have gotten me into a weird funk.

I never knew what kind of a niche environment I grew up in until recently.  This subculture of Biblically-endorsed patriarchy.  This baby mass-producing, holier-than-thou legalism.  Luckily, my family wasn’t as entrenched in it as others, but it’s still affected me in ways I’m still trying to work through.

When I was twelve, my sister and I went shorts-shopping with my mom.  We’d just been through training to be summer missionaries with several of the youth in my church.  We needed new shorts to wear as we traveled around our city ministering to kids that summer, and I found several options, including some adorable plaid ones that went down to my knee that I couldn’t wait to wear.  It wasn’t until we got home that my dad told us we’d be wearing skirts outside of the house from then on.  I distinctly remember slipping the plaid shorts under a massive, layered jean skirt a few times, and enjoying their secret existence.

From the time I was twelve until sometime when I was eighteen, we wore skirts whenever we left the house (and sometimes when we didn’t, because I had a younger brother).  It was a modesty thing, it was a deference thing, and it was an umbrella thing.  It pointed to my father as an authority in our home – how I was honoring him by keeping my brothers in Christ from stumbling.

I was always a tomboy when I was younger.  Climbing trees and playing football with my guy friends were some of my favorite activities.  I soon learned that doing these things in a skirt was incredibly difficult (and, at times, less than modest).  I remember riding in a go-kart with a guy friend (my best friend for most of my early teen years – but I never told anybody that).  We rounded a curve and my skirt flew back, exposing the (again, adorable) plaid shorts.  I was grateful to have worn them that time.  Another time, on a family field trip to Charleston, we toured a battleship that had been involved in WWII.  It was a windy day and I was wearing a lighter, linen skirt that day.  As I climbed the stairs up to the top deck, in front of most of my family and other guests, a gust of wind flew up underneath my skirt.  No shorts that time.  I was mortified.

Growing up, I was taught that modesty was about not drawing attention to yourself.  But then I’d go outside my small, conservative bubble and notice that we were drawing more attention to ourselves and my like-minded friends with our skirts that reached the top of our shoes and that the only skirts were cute, cut below or above the knee.  I wanted that.  I didn’t know why my skirts had to sweep the floor or be straight denim that reached my mid-calf.  I just knew my growing curves had to be hidden.

It was probably because of this that I never made the connection between modesty and beauty.  I’m not sure there was one, besides the notion that “modest is hottest.”  (Tangent: What does that even mean?)  I heard Bible verses that were used to teach against jewelry and short hair and makeup.  Authorities in my life always said that natural beauty was best, but I never felt comfortable in my red, splotchy, acne-dotted skin and experimented with makeup for special occasions.  The shapeless skirts just made me feel more fat than I already thought I was.

I never felt pretty in those skirts or dresses.

When I was eighteen, we were ever-so-slowly allowed to wear shorts and pants outside of the house again.  I’m not ashamed to admit that I’m the one who started this trend.  I didn’t see the point in wearing a skirt solely to pick up the twins I nannied before bringing them back to their house for the afternoon.  I started wearing shorts and it was such a fascinating mixture of delight and nervousness and guilt and wonder.  If I needed to run an errand beforehand and wore shorts, I’d walk through the store as quickly as possible, feeling a twinge of guilt whenever I passed even a younger boy.

One day, I distinctly remember deciding to wear a skirt, mostly out of guilt that I’d bent my standards so much.  I picked a shorter one with lace at the bottom and an adorable flower print.  I finally felt cute in something that was in line with my standards (although I’m fairly sure a comment was made about how short it was).  Some men were working at the house where I was nannying, and I spent my afternoon simultaneously trying to keep the kids from riding down their incredibly steep driveway on their bikes and holding my skirt down because wind was, again, an issue.  I think that was my last time wearing a skirt to my nannying job.

After we left our church, I wore skirts for several weeks as we church-shopped.  The first time I wore skinny jeans to my new church, I felt so rebellious but, at the same time, strangely enough… free.

Years of legalism and I was finally getting a taste of grace.

I kept most of my skirts, mostly because some were cute and because I felt like I should, but it took a long time to finally be able to wear them again, pairing them with boots or a cute top to make myself feel better about it.  I still shied away from more full or longer skirts that made me remember those days in ways I didn’t want to.

When I got a job where the dress code was business casual, I bought my first dress since those skirt-wearing days.  It stopped a few inches above my knee, was cinched at the waist, and had straps.  The most important part was that it was my favorite shade of forest green.  I loved it.

So today, when I wore that dress to work, you can start to understand why it was such a big deal to me.  I thought very little of it – I just wanted less items of clothing to match.  The green dress plus tights, a mustard cardigan, and short boots, and I was set.

It made me remember the weekend before, when I cosplayed with a friend as Anastasia and felt like an actual princess in the flowing skirt, pearl beads, and long hair (almost as long as my hair was before I cut it at the end of my skirt-wearing days – and got shunned by the girls at church).  I was so hesitant to wear it at first, because it dredged up all the old memories of feeling lumpy, formless, fat, and told that my curves were something to be hidden.  But when I tried on the skirt for the first time and pulled on the sleeves – before the bodice was even cut – I nearly cried.  I actually felt beautiful.  In a skirt.  The morning of the actual event, when I put on the whole ensemble for the first time, I teared up when my friend pinned the crown on my head.  For the first time, I actually felt the connection between wearing a dress and feeling absolutely gorgeous.

And it was incredible.

It took four long, painful years to get past these memories and such a poisoning frame of mind, but I’m finally well on my way to freedom.  I’m so much better off.  I don’t regret any of the decisions I or my parents made, but I’m so glad I’m past those days.

All this to say, something I’ve learned is that your convictions shouldn’t be the result of guilt or fear.  Do what you do out of your love for Christ.  Period.

year in review: 2017.

After organizing my shoes on the new shoe racks I requested for Christmas (insert “I’ll never get pregnant before marriage” joke here), ya girl is back at it again with the blogging.  One of my New Year’s Resolutions was to continue blogging on a regular basis, and I’m going to start with this, my annual year in review post.

Honestly, this post holds a special place in my heart, as do all of the others, and I really do it more for myself than anyone else.  It’s amazing to be able to look back at the last year and think about everything that’s happened in my life and how crazy how much can happen in just five hundred, twenty-five thousand, six hundred minutes.  (Because that’s how you measure a year.)  ((In addition to measuring in love.))

I knew going into 2017 that it would be a crazy busy year, and one full of change, but I don’t think I could’ve imagined all of the change that would happen outside of the obvious.  One of the biggest and most life-changing things happened when I least expected it (isn’t that always how it goes?) and I can’t wait to see what happens with it in 2018 (and onward).

Anyway.  Let’s go.

January

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i’ll always look back on these days of running errands and visiting the library with these two little munchkins with fondness.  {1-26-17}

After my first actual Christmas break since I was in high school, I started back on school with my final two courses – my Liberal Arts Capstone and a Jane Austen course.  I thought both would be fairly simple.  Turns out Jane was a breeze (thanks, years of watching period dramas for fun!!!!!).  The Capstone, on the other hand…  *laughs through tears*  To be completely honest, it was the hardest semester of school I’d ever experienced.  I cried more in those three months than ever before.  Due to stress, I ate way too much ice cream and got incredibly bad acne.  For the first time ever, I considered quitting and dreaded getting up in the morning to study.  The only thing that pushed me through it was the fact that I was close, and if I could just finish, I knew I’d be able to conquer anything.

And I did, praise the Lord.

In addition to this, I discovered a lot of new things.  Dear Evan Hansen came early in the beginning of the month.  Life.  Changing.  Listen to the soundtrack – and watch a bootleg, if you can find one.  I also discovered a brand new show (Teen Wolf – hello, you weirdly beautiful show) and, through obsessing over said show, found my best friend.  The show was a gateway to conversations about growing up, maturing, being a young adult while still living at home, and relationships – all incredibly easy because we’d known each other for almost eight years and had the same upbringing.  After drifting away from someone who I’d previously called my best friend, it was so heartwarming to find someone new.  Since then, we’ve created so many memories together and have stretched each other in so many ways and I can’t imagine myself without her.

I also blogged about how scared I was to start writing, which turned out to be not so scary after all.  After that, I worked on my novel several times a week at Starbucks or at home or in my car or wherever I could find a power outlet (because my laptop battery suuuuucked), until finally finishing it at the end of March.  (And then starting up again as I started submitting queries.)

Minor notable events: I met Veronica Roth and got a signed copy of her latest novel, Carve the Mark, and started going to a college age Bible study that was one of the highlights of my semester.

February

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the true marker of the beginning of our bestfriendship – geting each other matching hoodies.    {2-24-17}

I got a Facebook account during this month and I’ve never been more disgusted and intrigued.  It’s like a car crash – you’re horrified but you just. can’t. look. away.  I take frequent breaks from it and rarely scroll through my feed because of it, but it’s led to many good things (I wouldn’t have a few of the best people in my life if I didn’t have it).

I also struggled with a long-time crush during February.  (Stupid love month.)  It’s hard being so sure that you and a guy would be a great couple when he barely knows you exist.  After several prayers and seeing him way too many times, it finally went away.  It was for the best, after all, and I learned a lot about myself and relationships through it.  I wish I hadn’t gotten so obsessed and let him take over so much of my brain, but it’s all over now and we’re friends.

I also cried over my Capstone a lot.  Dang that professor.  He told me not to worry about my grades (after not grading my papers for literally weeks) because that was “childish.”  I’ve only close to legitimately hating someone once before (a teenage girl who made such a horrific impact on my younger sister that she still lives with the consequences years later), and I don’t want to ever come that close again.  He taught me a lot, though – like to always remember that people have feelings, that people are always capable of rising above impossibly dreadful situations, and that self-care is something that everyone needs.  (Meanwhile, my Austen professor was an absolute gem, and the entire class enjoyed a very lively discussion of Austen’s works and other historical novels – complete with memes.  It was an easy A course and I adored every moment of it.)

I did take a weekend off to go to a retreat in the mountains with my WITAlive friends and it was a blast.  I made so many new friends and developed deeper connections with friends I’d made before.  It was phenomenal and I’ll cherish those memories forever.  I also started volunteering as a small group leader at my church and grew to love all of my little sixth-grade girls dearly.  Other things of note: I attended a 20’s themed 20th birthday party for two of my dearest friends, one of the highlights of my year.  I also saw Newsies in the movie theatre with my friends (twice) and it slayed my life.

March

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making salads and watching a tv show over lunch became my safe place – my haven in the craziness of school.  {3-24-17}

March started off with a bang – my first royalty check.  For the first time, my career as a writer finally felt real.  People had bought my book and I heard from a lot of them that they enjoyed it.  WHAT A CONCEPT.

I also got Rather Existential™ about finishing college.  As the schoolaholic I was, I had no idea how to have a life outside of school.  Especially in that last semester of college, where all of my time was devoted to finishing my capstone, I clung to the hours I spent in my room on my laptop, writing pages and pages of this massive final paper.  It was so hard and took so much time and stressed me out so much, but I didn’t want to let it go.  After eight years of finding my identity in my schoolwork (because I didn’t have too many friends in high school and sunk much of my time into being the best at school that I could), I didn’t know how to be myself outside of it.  I distinctly remember letting myself sink into fear and God revealing through His word that I shouldn’t be afraid of the future – three times in one passage after a particularly hard day of letting go of the reins.

And then, before I realized what was happening, it was March 24th and I was submitting my final paper and then going to a friend’s house to shoot his guns.  I remember unloading a semi-automatic rifle (with impeccable accuracy, I might add) on a certain target while screaming, “This is for you, professor!!!”  That was a good moment.

Also during March, I went to DNOW with my group of sixth grade girls from my church and enjoyed it immensely, and saw my first play at the massive theatre in my little town (Tarzan) and fantasized with a friend about acting.  (Little did we know, we’d be on that same stage with some of the same people only a few months later.)

April

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some of the sibs and i at james’s state robotics competition.  {4-7-17}

This month started out with two of my best friends surprising me by driving all the way down from Virginia to hang out with me and my siblings.  We drank too much coffee and played April Fools Day tricks on people and they consoled me when I started freaking out about not getting a passing grade on my big final paper.  (I ended up passing, though.  It just looked like I hadn’t passed because he still hadn’t graded papers that I’d submitted a month ago.  Classic.)

My brother started competing with his robotics team, and I watched like the proud mom friend/sister I am as his team went all the way through to the world competition in Houston.  (They ended up getting third in the world.  Yeah, he’s pretty smart.)  Another time I felt like a mom was when I took the twins I’d been nannying for two years to their Easter party at a farm, complete with bunnies, an Easter egg hunt, and adorable clothes.

My world was slightly rocked when I found out that a good guy friend liked me and wanted to see what would happen if we explored being more than Just Friends™.  After twenty-two years of never hearing that any guy had even the slightest bit of romantic interest in me, it was a lot to handle.  (I actually got the text as I was telling my parents – half jokingly, half seriously – that I repel men.)

Towards the end of the month, my entire family went to Houston with my brother for a week for his robotics competition and I volunteered to stay home, hold down the fort, watch our new puppies (!!!), and cover both Katie’s and my own nannying days.  I was a little disappointed that I could only watch the competition via livestream, but it was honestly one of the best weeks of my life.  I saw Matilda with my grandma, invited my best friend to spend a few days with me (watching movies and episodes of Teen Wolf and being awful influences on one another and basically being way too domestic), dyed my hair blue, and spent many hours talking to aforementioned guy.

I also submitted my first query letter, went to another author event with my best bookish friend, and declared my best friend love for my bestie (who’d just done the same in a totally separate conversation).

May

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my sister and i at the twins’ preschool graduation.  so many happy tears.  {6-11-17}

Continuing my inclination to be a mom with no children, I spent several hours in early May helping one of the twins pull her loose tooth out.  It took an entire afternoon of both Katie and I assuring her that it wouldn’t hurt, promising her candy, and hugging and kissing away her sobs.  The tooth finally came out and the little girl told us she wished she’d done it earlier.  (Smh.  Listen to me, child!)  As this was the last month of picking them up from their preschool – as Katie and I had done for the last three years – I held moments like this close to my heart.  I’m not ashamed to say that I sobbed at their graduation along with the other moms I’d gotten to know over the last three years.  I still miss getting parenting and relationship advice and obsessing over This is Us with those moms and can’t wait to have that again with my own kids.

One of the most exhausting weekends of my life – mentally, emotionally, and physically – happened during this month.  I ended things with the guy after a month of getting to know each other, helped my family move out of the house we’d called home for the last six years (the longest my siblings and I had ever lived anywhere), and unpacked boxes and cleaned and organized a few rooms in the new house while my mom was gone the afternoon after we’d moved in for our Mother’s Day present for her.  After barely getting any sleep, I remember crashing on the couch for a few hours after cleaning the new house, completely dead to the world.

One of the best things that has ever happened to me happened during this month.  When my family moved into our new house, my sister and I moved into the basement (which we would later start paying rent for).  We each have our own room, a shared bathroom and closet (which my parents were able to copy exactly from the master bathroom – perks of building a house, even though it took over a year – #BLESSED), and our own living room/kitchenette.  We decorated the kitchenette like Luke’s from Gilmore Girls (complete with an adorable coffee mug shelf just like his that holds thirty mugs), and just got open shelving installed by a neighbor this past week.  After living on the first floor, directly off the kitchen and living room, and sharing a bathroom with two sisters (which doubled as our guest bathroom), living down here in the basement has been nothing short of heaven.  Sure, I can hear thumps from the school room directly above me, but it’s infinitely better than what I had before.  We still don’t have wifi at the new house (and probably won’t for several years), but it’s so gorgeous and has so much potential.  My family is so happy here and we’re all incredibly blessed.

I also organized my college graduation party, and was so happy that all of my best friends came – even some friends from out of town, who we explored Atlanta with in the days after.  One of my favorite things was sitting in a circle with the 20+ people who came (I’ve never been one for big parties and firmly believe in quality over quantity) and hearing about their first impressions of me.  (One was actually sad that I was so in love with Captain America… looking back on the last few months of my life makes me want to laugh and say “Joke’s on you!”)

After moving to our wifi-less house, I started downloading episodes of shows off Netflix while I was at church so I could watch them during the week.  I made it through several seasons of The Office this way, which I’ll forever link to mornings spent drinking coffee and bingeing shows, happy to not have the stress of school or a full-time job (yet).

June

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krispy kreme drive-thru after mamma mia with these crazies.  {6-14-17}

So began another month of watching shows in the morning, nannying in the afternoons, and questioning my existence.  Looking back, I realize how blessed I was to have those peaceful moments before starting a full-time job in November, but, in those weeks, it was a struggle to see the good.  I applied for jobs and never heard back, wondered if I could find another nannying job (as the one I’d done for the last few years was swiftly coming to an end), and wished I had the structure of school.  In my hours of unexpected free time, I read books, edited my novel (The Art of Letting Go), got tons of constructive criticism on it, and finally – finally – started submitting query letters to agents.  That, by far, was one of the best things I did last year, and something I’m still very proud of.

I also met my long-time friend Heather from Australia that I met through this blog (hey, girl!), and am currently looking forward to spending a few days with her next month (!!!).

During this month, I was able to enjoy visits from several different friends who lived in different states.  I also went to our old house to steal the wifi and watch the Tony awards (feeling incredibly inspired by the fact that all of the nominations for best play were debuts and sobbing my eyes out when the cast of Dear Evan Hansen – especially Ben Platt – swept the awards).

My sisters and I won lottery tickets to see the touring production of Mamma Mia!, and we dragged my brother along (although he later admitted he enjoyed it).  I had a bite of a Krispy Kreme donut for the first time in seven years and nearly cried.

One night, I went to visit a good friend at a local theatre and watch her work on a play – a kids’ summer program put on by some of Katie’s theatre friends.  I brought a book to read if I got bored, but was asked to fill in for one of the actresses (who, a few weeks into rehearsals, still not shown up).  I was happy to oblige.  I worked blocking with this friend, read the other girl’s lines, and kept having to correct “we should do this” to “you guys should do this.”  At the end of rehearsals, the director looked at me and said, “You know you’ve got the part, right?  Is that okay?  Can you do it?”  And that, my friends, is how I got into theatre.  I was an outlier – five years older than the oldest person in the cast and one of the minor characters, with only five lines of my own – but I had such a blast.  I warned them that they were literally never getting rid of me after that, and, judging from the last few months, it’s been insanely accurate.

I also got my diploma and tassel in the mail (perks of getting my degree online), bought my first (five) succulents, started re-reading Before You Meet Prince Charming (Lord Jesus give me strength), got a Peter Pan phone case, watched Band of Brothers over a week with my brother, finally started losing weight (!!!!), started watching Riverdale (the soapiest of soap operas and yet I was so obsessed), had the first of many sleepovers with two of my best friends, and hosted my first immersive Clue night (where my cousins and siblings and I dressed up as Clue characters as we played Clue – still one of the best ideas I’ve ever had).  All in all, a packed month.

July

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me and some of the baby cast of beauty after our last show.  {7-30-17}

In July, we spent a week at my grandparents’ house for our annual cousin camp – give or take a few days because of work.  I finished the last few episodes of the first season of Riverdale while snuggled up in my sleeping bag and also worked with my grandma for hours on cardboard cars so we could have a “drive-in” movie.  We watched one of my grandma’s old high school math students reprise his role in Beauty and the Beast in a local production after first seeing him play Lumiere ten years before, which was incredible.

My sister and I also spent nine days working at a vendor during AmericasMart in Atlanta.  After waking up at five-thirty every morning, driving an hour, staying on my feet from eight in the morning to six or seven at night, then driving an hour back home… I think it’s safe to say I almost died of exhaustion.

Later that month, some friends drove up from Florida for the weekend to see my brother play the Tin Man in a local production of The Wizard of Oz.  I also went with one of them to the Fox Theatre to see Idina Menzel in concert.  She’s such a diva but it was so worth it!  I also kept working on my novel and sending out query letters, but faced more and more rejection.  Now I no longer feel better whenever people tell me that “J.K. Rowling submitted to twelve publishers before getting one!”  Yeah, come back when you’ve submitted to more than thirty and only two have asked to see more (before turning it down).

In the end of July, Beauty of the Century (the kids show) opened, and I spent every night at the theatre for a week (tech week, but often we’d just sit on the stage after the kids left and talk for hours).  Four shows in one weekend, then it was over.  I will never forget that experience.  Trying to keep thirty kids quiet backstage while the show was going on affirmed that, but it was more than just the craziness – it was the family that formed in those weeks, which was something I hadn’t experienced in such a long time.  I was a backstage mom for those kids, and I still love each and every one of them.  And there’s just something so exhilarating about being on a stage and being part of a story that plays out, in real time, before an audience… which is why I started to think seriously about auditioning for a that a new friend was a part of, especially after he said that it involved stage combat.

August

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baby bestie & i.  {8-1-17}

I ushered in this month by spending three days with my best friend, getting my hair cut seven inches shorter, and going to a baseball game at the new baseball stadium in town with friends.  My bestie also introduced me to bubble tea, and after looking through pictures, I’m craving it again.  (Thanks, Karlee.)  We also went to see a production of Midsummer Night’s Dream, which was put on by the production company that would later do Treasure Island.  (The cast included a few people who I’d met during Beauty, and some people who I would later consider some of my best friends, even though I didn’t even know their names at the time.  Crazy how that happens, isn’t it?)  In line with theatre stuff, I also attended the awards show for the theatre that had hosted Beauty, since my brother had been nominated for an award as the titular character in The Pied Piper of Hamlin, the kids show from the previous year’s summer program.  (Again, people were nominated that I barely knew and would, in less than three months time, become more dear to me than some people I’d known for years.)

The twins started kindergarten and attended an after-school program during the days I usually nannied, so I inadvertently found myself with even more free time.  It was a struggle to let go at first, because hanging out with these adorable small children every Tuesday and Thursday had been my routine for the last two and a half years.  I’d lost my little buddies… and my only source of income.  To say that the months following were downers would be an understatement.  To make up for it, I started babysitting at a Classical Conversations co-op once a week.  It wasn’t much, but I took what I could get.  Meanwhile, I looked for a new job.

To distract myself from this aspect of my life, I decided to audition for Treasure Island.  If I couldn’t have a job, I could at least have some structure, right?  It helped knowing that several of my close younger friends were auditioning as well.  I prepared a monologue (the opening scene of Dear Evan Hansen, plus a little more from later on) and did it.  My hands shook the entire time and for several minutes afterward, but I did it anyway.  After the monologues, we read selections from the play.  I got to read the part of Doctor Livesey and instantly connected with the character.  Two of my younger friends and I had plans to go rock climbing afterwards, so we had to leave early, but I left wishing and hoping and praying that I could get the part.  To my complete and utter shock, after an entire afternoon and most of an evening of waiting with my fingers crossed… the cast list came.  I’d gotten a part.  A supporting lead (the doctor character I’d read for) with ninety-two lines for my second play – not too shabby!  And not just lines – the way the play was orchestrated, most of it was narration by Jim, Captain Smollet, and, yours truly, Doctor Livesey.  I had massive paragraphs of narration, facing the audience, in a spotlight, including the opening monologue of Act 2.  I instantly freaked out, wondering if I could even do it.  But I was determined to try – and, more than that, incredibly excited.

My siblings and I also started hosting a movie night sleepover every few weeks with some friends to introduce them to Harry Potter.  It’s been super fun, especially since we were never really allowed to do sleepovers when we were younger.  It’s also pretty great having a space of our own to do this!  I won more lottery tickets to see the touring production of An American in Paris (making it the third professional musical I’d see this year – #blessed), so my sister and I went with some of her friends.  It was more ballet-focused than I’d thought, and absolutely stunning in every way.  I also started learning French, killed four MASSIVE spiders within the space of two weeks (I’m not kidding – they were about four inches long and I’ve got the pictures to prove it), spent another week watching action movies with my brother, and sat on the roof of my Volvo wagon to watch the eclipse.

An agent also asked to see my entire manuscript and, although he later turned it down, it was a great feeling.

September

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look at these small children.  {9-7-17}

Rehearsals for Treasure Island continued – including the amazing Saturday combat rehearsals – and I started making more friends from the cast.  Going through my pictures to remember what happened in those months reminded me of those first texts, friend requests, Instagram notifications, and little things I’d tell my best friend about them.  I also started asking for advice on how to subtly flirt with a certain cast member because of his Captain America shirt.

I started taking my younger friend to and from rehearsal every week, and we’d sit on her porch swing at night and talk.  Those hours spent talking with her until I had to drag myself away built up our friendship more than it had in the last six years that I’d known her and formed some of my favorite memories in this season of my life.  She’s seven years younger than me, but she’s one of my best friends.

Halfway through the month, my family went on our annual beach trip – something we’d skipped the year before in order to go to Disney instead (meaning we hadn’t gone in two years and were long past due for a trip).  We had so much fun sitting on the beach, reading, watching TV shows and movies, and just spending time with one another.  My siblings and I also took a few afternoon excursions by ourselves and felt super basic with our frappucinos and quality Instagram pictures.  During this beach trip, a friend from church decided to set me up on a blind date, which I hesitantly accepted and scheduled for a few days after I got home.  (That story is too long to share here, but suffice it to say that the date went well but then he ghosted me.  Oh well.  I’d finally had my first date.  Check that off the bucket list!)

I distinctly remember texting a friend that, in the hours before, I’d (1) gotten an email from an agent asking for the first fifty pages of my novel, (2) started prepping for an interview the next week, (3) scheduled a blind date, and (4) memorized lines because “on top of all of this craziness hey why not star in a play.”  The agent later turned down the novel (recently, actually) and the blind date flopped, but I successfully memorized all of my lines and (three interviews and many tears later) got the job.

October

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our gentility trio.  {10-12-17}

Ahh, yes.  The month where everything changed.  In this month, I got asked out for the first time, successfully co-starred in a play, auditioned for another play, and got a job.

My friendship with my theatre friends deepened, we had a night that will forever go down in Elliott Family Lore as the Bonfire of Love, and a friend (and former castmate) was killed in a car crash and I found out about it right after being sick and right before auditioning for Miracle on 34th Street.  (I’m not kidding – being sick, finding out, and auditioning all happened in the space of about an hour and a half.)  Because of that (and because I was mentally, physically, and emotionally exhausted), I thought I’d bombed the audition.  There really wasn’t even a part for me, as the lead called for a woman in her thirties and the other female parts were very minor “elves.”  I’d promised my mom a few days before that “even if I auditioned,” I wouldn’t have to be at every rehearsal.  The next morning, I woke up to an email with the cast list.  I’d gotten the lead.  This time, I had a hundred and fifty-four lines.  Again, not too shabby for something I’d done on a whim.  This time, I freaked out for a solid week (during tech week for Treasure Island) before finally deciding that if I’d gotten myself into this mess, I might as well try my hardest to make it through it.

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bonus pic bc i still love and adore this cast.  {10-13-17}

Rehearsals for Miracle started three days after Treasure Island closed, which was quite the whirlwind.  I hated leaving my Treasure Island friends I’d grown to love so much, but I was happy to make new memories.  A few of my favorite memories from Treasure Island include my Sexy Ben Franklin outfit, eating pizza at 2am with my new theatre besties after closing night, and listening to “I’m Still Here” from Treasure Planet at least once on the road to every rehearsal.  (There’s also that time I chucked my gun into the audience on closing night… but we won’t talk about that.)

Other random favorite memories were shopping with two new theatre friends, visiting the Atlanta Shakespeare Tavern to see MacBeth with my sister, a theatre friend, and my Miracle director, meeting my love interest for Miracle in a roundabout way (and hiding from him, obviously), going on a date, and enjoying a fun Halloween party.

November

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rehearsing the final scene (feat. our makeshift bench, my post-work outfit, and several onlookers who wanted to experience the adorbs).  {11-17-17}

Ahh, yes.  NaNo.  I started the month with such high hopes, thinking I’d be able to participate again.  But, sadly, no.  I got ten thousand words in, then started working full time (with an hour-long commute – without traffic).  There went that idea.  I’m still going to finish that book, though.  Slowly, surely, over the next few months.  Looking forward to it, actually.

In the space of a weekend, I drove down to Florida with my sisters, participated in the most stressful wedding ever, visited several friends, came back to Georgia, hammered out six thousand words of my novel in an afternoon (before going to the Fox Theatre to see the cast of The Avengers do a benefit read-through of Our Town – ALL THE HEART EYES BECAUSE MY LIFE. WAS. MADE.), and started training for my new job – a receptionist position at a car dealership.  It’s been almost four months and it’s been a struggle sometimes but I mostly love it to death.

Other than working ten hours a day, my life circled around rehearsals for Miracle, Christmas prep, maintaining my social life, and deepening friendships.  The last week of November was ridiculous because I’d get up at 6:30, leave for work early to beat traffic, work ’til 5pm, fight traffic for an hour and a half all the way up to the theatre, rehearse for three or four hours, drive thirty minutes home, sleep for six or seven hours, and get up to do it all again.  It’s a testament to how amazing my theatre friends are that they would still hang out with me after seeing me stressed to the point of tears.

December

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my best friend and my wifey.  {12-10-17}

December was a whirwind.  Miracle opened and was a rousing success, much to the relief of myself and my costars.  I was able to get all of opening day off, so I spent it at the theatre figuring out how to do my hair, finishing the set, buying flowers for all of the backstage moms, and trying not to have a nervous breakdown.  Saturday gave me a real taste of what it’d be like the rest of the time, with leaving for work at seven in the morning, working 8:30-6, booking it to the theatre and only making it an hour before curtains, and then doing the show.  Craziness.

There were so many little stories of things that happened during Miracle that would take an entire blog post to tell, but by far my favorite is when I literally ended the very last show with a bang.  After the most romantic scene in the entire show, the lights went dark and everything was completely black.  One of the tech guys hadn’t been there, so the table in the apartment set was on the wrong spike tape.  Not a big deal – during the scene, I’d just skirted around it.  This time, however, I’d forgotten that there were chairs.  Instead of going in front of it like I had the entire rehearsal process and every single one of the six shows before, I went around back.  Tragically, since I’d forgotten the chairs, I ran straight into one, knocking it over before tripping over it.  I held in my laughter as I crawled offstage, then fell in the wings, laughing hysterically and trying to explain through whispered gasps what had happened.  What a memory.

Another favorite memory of December is when my best friend from Iowa who I’d met on Pinterest a few years before but hadn’t met in real life yet flew over and spent an entire weekend with me.  Even though she brought the snow that cancelled all of my birthday plans, two shows, and knocked out the power aND WATER FOR OVER FORTY-EIGHT HOURS… I still love her.  We had such a blast hanging out together ranting, draining our laptop batteries to watch movies, reading books, and FaceTiming friends.  We ate my birthday cheesecake by candlelight – a lot less romantic when you remember that you can’t brush your teeth afterwards… or flush the toilet… or wash your hands…  Anyway, the events surrounding my birthday were pretty fantastic, even if my actual birthday wasn’t that great (minus Natalie, of course).  We did end up getting to do an impromptu sleepover with my other best friend, and it. was. amazing.  (Mostly because we had light and heat and queso and a John Krasinski movie on the big TV.)  If anything, it reminded me that people who see me at my absolute worst and still love me are worth keeping around.

Other favorite memories from December include keeping our Ben & Jerry’s ice cream outside in the snow to keep it from melting completely, showering at a friend’s uncle’s house (because they had both power and water – PRAISE THE LORD), doing a photo shoot with my two bestest friends in the world on our last day together, knowing I’d made it through one of the worst days of my life on my second-to-last show day with applause (affirming my love for that famous Wonder quote – “I think there should be a rule that everyone in the world should get a standing ovation at least once in their lives” … especially on that particular day), absolutely crushing the last weekend of Miracle, getting bOTH A TRAMPOLINE AND A TOASTER OVEN FOR CHRISTMAS LIKE HELLO BEST CHRISTMAS EVER, and enjoying much too much time with my best friend eating pizza, ranting about life’s problems, and encouraging the h*ck out of one another.  Oh, and I also went on more dates than I can count (with the same guy obviously who do you think I am), so that was also very fun and also a story for another time.

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hello, annual picture-in-the-bathroom-mirror tradition.  (feat a new bathroom and a new crochet’d whale keychain.)  {1-28-18}

All that said, this year was incredible.  I started off the year knowing it would be a year of change but I had no idea just how much would happen.  I went from not knowing what the heck I was doing and yet moving forward anyway to realizing that I’m on some sort of sled going down a snowy hill and it’s just getting faster and faster but I don’t actually mind because it’s super fun???  Sorry for the weak metaphor but that’s what it feels like.

I asked for character development and got it in 2016.  I asked for story progression and got it in 2017.  So, in 2018, I’ll ask for more of both, because Lord knows I need both.

If you’ve made it this far, thank you.  I love rereading these posts over the years and I’m more than happy to share with whoever’s still out there reading this blog.

Excelsior.

a smol update.

As some of you may have guessed, YES, starting a full-time job (with an hour commute on a no-traffic day), being the lead female role in a play that performed seven shows over three weekends, and random little things was too much.

Guess what fell to the wayside? Yep – NaNo.

I did, however, get ten thousand words written, and was very proud of myself.

All this to say, if you guys would like the first few thousand words as a Christmas present, let me know!

(Also check out my Facebook because I posted some pictures from the play!)

coffee session: on expectations.

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(for le blog aesthetic / not mine)

You know the drill.  Grab a cup of coffee, listen to some music, and let’s have a chat.  (My side of the conversation is below; feel free to share yours in the comments!)

*sips coffee*

Ohhhh, expectations.  Don’t you just love them?

It’s one thing to have expectations and standards for yourself… and another completely different thing to realize that others have expectations for you.  It doesn’t matter if they’re lower or even equal to yours – it’s still ridiculously daunting.

Because of Recent Events (which, for the time being, will be referred to as simply that), I’ve been feeling especially aware of these things.  We want to do the best we can, and holding ourselves to that – daily – is, more often than not, intimidating.

If anyone else read Do Hard Things religiously in their teens, you’ll know what I’m talking about.  We want to be more than mediocre.  We want to do things with our lives – which often unintentionally translates to “big” things.  (I once read an essay somebody wrote about this, and it’s definitely worth reading if you made the same assumption.) (Don’t feel bad if you did because I did, too, and sometimes doing hard things is working through the daily grind of school or work or unemployment {*waves*} with a cheerful, optimistic spirit.)

*sips coffee*  (Today I have some weird “roasted southern pecan” coffee my dad bought and it’s… interesting.)

Adulting doesn’t help with this.  You start out so excited and ready to conquer the world, and then Real Life hits and you’re left staggering under the pressure.  (This isn’t personally relatable at all.  *nervous laughter*)

So how do we avoid getting daunted by the expectations and standards?  What do we do when they feel too high?

In all honesty… I don’t know.  I’m still working through this myself.

I don’t like disappointing people.  I really don’t.  And all it takes is someone dropping a responsibility or opportunity on me for my confidence to crumble like a poorly-made gluten-free cookie.  (Seriously, if anyone has any gluten-free cookie recipes they can share… please.  I’m dying over here.)

The only answer I’ve come up with is to just… do your best.  (And let God do the rest.)

And that sounds stupidly cliché and I’m insanely sorry, but it’s all I have right now.

So… turning this conversation over to you guys… what have you found to be the best answer to this?  What do you do when you feel like you’ve been given too much and struggle with holding to everyone’s expectations of you?