Friend & Family Breakups

I wanted to put a pause on my regular travel posts and write about something that’s been lingering in the forefront of my mind this year.

I’ve been struggling with long-term extended family estrangement and somewhat short-term immediate family drama, as well as some pretty upsetting friendship breakups. I won’t go into specifics in order to protect those around me, but I’ve been in a dark place for about a year or so now. As one can imagine, this has taken a toll on my mental health.

I recently heard a quote on one of my favorite podcasts that goes a little something like this:

“Depression is the greatest acting teacher. I can smile through anything even though I just want the ground to open up and swallow me whole.” If that doesn’t hit you like a semi truck, I’m not sure what will…

I’m not a therapist or licensed professional by any means, but I wanted to share some strategies I’ve been applying to help with the pain of broken friendships and family relationships. It’s important to note that all of these points coincide with each other and this is the “flow” as I see it. Remember: everyone’s journey is highly personal and individual.

1. Don’t change who you are for those around you.

I have a lot of people in my life – family members in particular – who will never be proud of me, no matter what I do. In the past and present, I have been laughed at or mocked for my dreams and ambitions. Family members have and will continue to make me feel small to build themselves up. About five years ago, I chose to let them go as opposed to clinging onto the gaslighting and the guilt (e.g.: “well, I guess it’s your choice if you don’t want to be here” comments when THEY were the ones hurting ME).

2. Create your own closure.

Oftentimes we find that friendship and family breakups seem abrupt, without true closure. I was best friends with someone for nearly 12 years and I’ve been thinking about our good times lately. But with that, I’ve also been thinking of the bad. The truth is that she was like an older sister to me, whereas I was her “plan b”/“second choice” friend for a very long time. Write a goodbye letter. Get rid of photos. Do something that allows you to create your own closure. Remember, don’t change yourself to fit others’ narratives of you.

3. Try not to hate the person on the other end.

It would be so easy for me to say, “She was a horrible person because of X, Y and Z.” Although there are times I’ve been hurt by family and friends (and honestly still am hurting from recent experiences), I try my damnedest to acknowledge that we all have flaws and shortcomings. I realize this is much easier said than done, but I’m hoping this will make me a better, stronger person in the end.

4. Allow yourself to feel all the feelings.

Conversely, it’s okay to be angry, hurt, frustrated or upset. As long as you aren’t taking it out on the other person, allow yourself to reflect on your feelings in the present moment. Thinking of a past memory you miss? Cry. Thinking of how good things were in the past? Smile. The more you hold back and shove your feelings into a corner of your mind, the longer it’ll take you to move on.

5. Focus on yourself and the great relationships in your life.

I may never have a best friend who reminds me of an older sister ever again, but I do have amazing friends in my life. I feel loved every day, even if it isn’t by a family member. I may never be close with my family, but I have several friends-turned-family relationships that fill my heart. Be around like-minded, supportive people who will always be there for you (and always be there for them, too!).

Every day of 2020 has felt like an overwhelming struggle, but I am much more resilient than I was before. “When life hands you lemons, they say to make lemonade, but you can’t make lemonade without any sugar.”

I hope these tips help you as much as they’ve helped me 🙂

What will you do with your “hyphen”?

While listening to one of my favorite people on one of my favorite podcasts (Mayim Bialik and Freakonomics, respectively), I was moved by every word she relayed to her listeners.

Mayim discovered that our lives are hyphenated (e.g.: Catherine Olivia Spader, 1993-20??). She asked us, “What will you do with your hyphen?” My jaw dropped. It’s never been explained so simply.

Life isn’t a dress rehearsal: this is our one chance to do something amazing. Although 2020 has been the most challenging year of my life – and has been for many others – I’m going to focus on exploring sights unseen, as well as the true passions of “my hyphen.”

Back to the Beach!

Our last evening at Pictured Rocks was by far my favorite. After some epic hiking, we returned to Lake Superior Beach to enjoy our final sunset and some good night’s sleep. Juan and Linley needed a quick nap in the Jeep when we arrived, so I re-explored where Linley was digging around the day prior. I was drawn into the creek and the way the light was reflecting off the water.

I went back to the car to wake Juan and Lin up from their nap, and we settled in to enjoy the sunset. We didn’t take many photos because we were living in the moment, but it was a wonderful way to end our time on Lake Superior!

I can’t wait for my next adventure with my little family 😊

Photos taken Sunday, August 16, 2020

All Smiles With This Guy

My boyfriend, Juan, and I have been in each other’s lives since 2012. We have traveled to foreign countries together, as well as a few states in the US. He’s truly my best friend.

We first met in 2012 during my first semester of college. The rest is history…

Juan and I have been able to enjoy many family events together, like my brother’s high school graduation and family Christmases at my grandma’s house.

Juan and I drove to South Bend, Indiana so I could meet his mom and aunt for the first time!

We also visited Juan’s hometown, York, Nebraska to celebrate his college graduation in 2013. And I thought I grew up in a small town…

Juan and I traveled in France, Italy, and the Netherlands together in 2014 (after my two-month study abroad in Aix-en-Provence, France).

France

Italy

Netherlands (Amsterdam only)

We’ve been to Chicago a couple times since 2012, one time being my 21st birthday!

The list goes on and on! 😊

I can’t wait for our next adventures in 2018!

Less vs. More in 2018

We all have resolutions that seem to fade away by February or March, but not this year! Here’s some things I need to do more often, as well as things I need to cut back on:

More:

  • Sleep!
  • Travel
  • Exercise
  • Confidence

Less:

  • Screen time/social media
  • Stress
  • Alcohol
  • Junk food

Adventures in Edinburgh, Scotland

Once Johanna and I parted ways with our friend Taylor in Dublin, we ventured off to Edinburgh!

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The above photo is our view from the hostel we stayed at!  Who else could say that they slept across the street from something as beautiful as this?!

Johanna and I are both of Scottish heritage, so being in an area of such rich history and culture meant the world to us.

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Being able to casually and conveniently stroll within the castle walls was one of my favorite parts of the trip; this is something that is extra special as an American!  Our country is so new that castles are alien to us, thus why it is on many of our bucket lists to visit them in Europe.  The Edinburgh Castle is one of my personal favorites not only because of its size, but because of its deep-rooted history with England and so on.

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Mary Queen of Scots is one of my ancestors; being in the location where she and her family lived years ago is something I will never take for granted. I am truly proud of my Scottish and French heritage on my mom’s side!

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The following day, the two of us went on a free walking tour recommended by our hostel staff.  I wasn’t surprised to see two stereotypical things about Scotland on our tour: whisky and scotch signs, as well as cashmere scarves!  I had to try some and buy some…

Although I saw what I imagined in Edinburgh, it was refreshing to see things that I didn’t anticipate, such as colorful, bright buildings.

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Our tour guide was so knowledgeable (Sheldon Cooper status) and was extremely passionate about J.K. Rowling’s influence on Edinburgh, and vice versa.  He showed our group the places in which Rowling received her inspiration(s) while creating her infamous Harry Potter characters; she took character names from this here cemetery!

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Of course we had to visit where Rowling sent her sons to school (aka: Hogwarts’ inspiration)!

This little puppy statue is lucky, only if you rub his nose though!

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The above photo was taken as Johanna and I had tea in the cafe in which Rowling penned her ideas for Harry Potter: Elephant and Castle.  The bathroom was filled with what I’ll call “Potter Postings” from fans; her brother-in-law who owns the cafe tried covering them up at first, but fans are “too” passionate for Potter!

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The two of us also climbed (part of, a VERY small part of) Arthur’s Seat.  We were ratchet and didn’t feel like climbing the entire thing; all the rich and sweet food we ate must have had us out of shape!  From what we did see, it was as incredible as expected!

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Simply wandering around Edinburgh was enough to make Johanna and me happy; the contrast between the day and night in the city is parallel to Edinburgh’s light and dark sides (of history, culture, etc.).

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And obviously, the food was solid in Scotland.  If only this macaron place was in my hometown…

When You’re Feeling Down

Hello everyone, I’m feeling down today.  I know it’s a weird thing for me to say/admit, but it’s true.  I haven’t blogged in awhile or wrote anything worthwhile in a couple weeks.  It’s not about the views or the likes for me; it’s about how I feel while I write.  But I haven’t felt the need to write recently, and now I feel as though all of my thoughts are bottled up inside me.

Here are some things I’ve been feeling lately:

  1. Stressed
  2. Frustrated
  3. Not myself
  4. Afraid

I feel these emotions and feelings are quite normal, but I need to combat these feelings.  As an aspiring Buddhist, I believe acceptance and embracing is key; however, I don’t want to be “okay” with feeling blue.

Here are some things I am going to try in order to ease my anxiety:

  1. Take things one minute at a time
  2. Stop comparing myself to others
  3. Remember what I enjoy doing
  4. Live in the moment rather than in the past or future

I have two exams next week, on top of having to clean my room, my hamster’s smelly cage, packing for a trip up north, and having two jobs to hustle through.  Let’s just say that next weekend cannot come soon enough!  I need to just face facts and realize that my two exams are important, but will not make or break my life (although they may do that to the grade in my class).  I have always been the type who is stressing over exams and sweats the little stuff; I need to be my type-B self when it comes to my education.  Exams are exams, and exams are tough, but that shouldn’t define the day or week I’m having.

On top of the stress associated in school, I cannot stop comparing myself to other people.  Many of my friends have recently announced engagements or marriages, while I’m over here bickering with my boyfriend of almost three years like an old married couple.  We’re both stressed about work and classes, yet while we spend any amount of time together, we take that stress out on each other.  It’s not fair for either of us.  Also, many of my friends are graduating this May (I guess I “should” be, too).  I keep feeling like I’m struggling or something…?  I can’t really explain the feeling I have about it.  I guess my point is that I need to stop comparing myself, my grades, or my relationship with other people because I am my own person.  I know there are things that people think about me that they find impressive (hopefully).

Aside from writing, I have other passions believe it or not.  Maybe if I dig into my passions I won’t be comparing myself to others as much (it’s human nature – it’s bound to happen).  I really enjoy photography, playing the piano and the flute, as well as golfing.  I took homecoming photos for a good friend of mine who is running to be on court, and it made me realize that I really miss photography.  I started my own photography website via SquareSpace, and I will be publishing that live within the next few days or so.  Whenever I travel, I love capturing what I see because it brings back whatever I was feeling in that moment.  I need to keep up with that.

I have also been listening to a lot of Regina Spektor and Stromae lately, which has inspired me to play musical instruments again.  I took piano lessons as a child and I had the ability to be a concert performer, a music major, maybe even play for a living.  I turned it down when it became too challenging – I gave up on it.  But really, I gave up on myself.  I did the same thing with the flute; I was really good, but I couldn’t handle the competition.  We had to compete for “first chair,” where the best performer sat closest to the instructor.  I don’t want to be the best, but I want to be my best.  I want to play for me, no one else.

Looking on my past is both inspiring and depressing, and I mean that in the best way possible!  I look at things that I would have done different, but I would not have changed a single thing.  I am leaving for Sweden soon, which inspired me to look at a few photos from my previous study abroad adventure:

Lyon, France

Nice, France

Fourth of July, France

Lavender Fields, France

These photos bring me hope; they show me that happiness is real and that this is just a dark time right now.  I hope that I can feel like myself again soon, because I miss it when my cheeks hurt from smiling too much!  It’s always darkest before the dawn.

Market Dog, France

Aix, France

Lyon, France

Guise, France

Picnic time!

That’s all for now!  Sorry about the photo spam (not really)! 😉