The next thing & Iconiq.

In my last post, I talked about wanting to do more and be more after being inspired by K&K. How to go about it was another matter. I had to dig deep, had to question my actions, the path I was on, and really figure out what I wanted out of life.

I know that I want to write books, but I didn't want to stall my career either. The past couple of years, I had been feverishly writing, hoping something would stick, and when nothing did, I had to ask myself, Can I do this again for the next three years if it resulted in the same outcome? No, I couldn't. Not if I had no growth to show for it. Yes, I learned a lot the past three years about writing, but not enough to share my work with the world, and worse yet, I felt like life was passing me by.

So it brought me to these conclusions:

1) I do want to write books. But more so, I would rather write that one great book than a lot of stories that end up in the trunk. It's easy to write books in a short amount of time, but harder to write one of quality. One that reaches out and touches the soul of the reader. So maybe I'm not actively writing a bunch of stories, but that's okay. I'm going to chip away at the one that matters, even if it takes me a while.

2) I don't want to feel like life is passing me by. I used to feel guilty for spending my free time doing non-writing things. I had this mentality that if I wanted it enough, I should eat, sleep, breathe writing. Not the case anymore. I've always kept a list of places to go for a reason. I didn't write up my travel bucket list only to leave it on the wayside. I want to get back to it.

3) If we spend most of our lives working, then I want to do something that has an impact. I'd been toying with the idea of learning how to code. So three weeks in, I've been self-studying with Michael's help. It's been frustrating, overwhelming, and brain-numbing, but also a challenge. So challenge accepted ;)

I don't know where life is going to take me, but coming to these conclusions, I know I have to change in some way to get myself out of the rut I find myself in so that I can move onto the next thing. The next chapter of my life so to speak.

So yeah, I've done a lot of soul searching lately. It's been a lot of moments of being up and down to this point, so Michael surprised me by planning a date for us at Iconiq, an awesome restaurant that fuses Japanese and French cuisine.

It was absolutely amazing and probably one of my top meals of the year.  The ambiance was minimal yet bright, the chef incredibly welcoming as he spoke to the tables, the service impeccable, and the food delightful, delicious, and inspiring.

It was just what I needed, and funny enough, our date landed on exactly six months after our wedding. Michael and I made it half a year into our marriage, and boy, has time flown by. But not anymore. I intend to make the most of my time.

Meeting K&K and the concept behind 'Michelle Manifesting'.

EEEPPPPPP! I met K&K. *pinches self* Tuesday night still feels like a d r e a m. No joke. I'm still coming down from my high from meeting them, but I'm so stoked I get to relive it by writing this blog post.

As I mentioned in my recap post here, my sister and I joined Tone It Up, an amazing health, wellness, and fitness community created by Karena and Katrina (hence the K&K) for women. I've pretty much fallen head over heels for the #tiuteam, #tiucommunity, and the #tiulifestyle. I love their message of women empowerment. It's so refreshing to have women supporting and inspiring one another, not only in health, fitness, or wellness, but in every aspect of our daily lives, which made the experience of meeting them in person mean so much to me.

So before I begin, I just wanted to say a HUGE thank you to Karena and Katrina for giving the #tiuseattle squad the opportunity, and a big thank you to Katrina and Deanna, our fearless Seattle leaders, who helped make it happen (and also these beautiful photos)! In less than a 24 hour notice, more than 100 girls showed up to represent to show their love and  gratitude to K&K for all that they do and giving us this amazing community where we can all connect and come together!

Who knew you could get high off #positivevibes! Am I right?

Anyway, it's kind of hard now to believe that I almost didn't go. I was wholly unprepared and not feeling my best (I blame it on the cloudy skies) and considered going home after work instead of heading into Seattle. I've also become a huge introvert lately so it takes a bit of mental energy to get me into a social setting where I don't know anyone on a personal level. Still, I was torn. This was a once in a lifetime opportunity. Who knew when I would get the chance to meet K&K? Once I checked the Facebook group and saw other TIU girls posting their insecurities and the overwhelming support that resulted from it, I knew I had to go. TIU girls are so positive and uplifting, there was nothing I should be anxious about.

So I went, and I'm so glad I did. Yeah, I looked a mess post work and had zero makeup on still dressed in slacks, but when I arrived and felt the buzz of energy, I felt at peace knowing I'd made the right decision. I read somewhere that the only regrets you should have are about the things you didn't do, and at that moment that saying completely resonated with me.

And what do you know, by stepping out of my comfort zone I made new friends, had a really great time, and got to thank K&K personally (though I think I was a tad bit incoherent from fangirling so hard). Getting a hug from them was probably the highlight of my year (well, second after my wedding of course;)).

Afterward, I came home to my husband basically floating on a cloud. The experience definitely filled my inspiration well and left me feeling motivated, not just with health and fitness, but with my own personal goals.

Seeing what K&K have achieved has definitely lit my desire to do more and be more by living a more purpose-filled life. If you follow my TIU insta (michellemanifesting_tiu) you'll finally get the concept behind the name I chose. With the one life I'm given, I want to manifest the best life I can possibly live by being my best self. So that means taking care of myself--body, mind, and soul--and chipping away at the dream.

On Father's Day and the power of negative thoughts.

When I was a kid, I used to dread Father's day. It was the one day a year that I was reminded I was without a father. 

During weddings when it was time for the father-daughter dance, emotions would stir up in my chest, my eyes would prickle, and my throat would thicken. I didn't really know what that feeling meant, only that it sucked. I knew I was blessed with an amazing mother and family, but the absence was prominently felt and would spiral into other thoughts of how my life was lacking.

Though I don't think about father-related things that I lack much anymore (now that I have a great husband and father-in-law), I do, however, succumb to negative thoughts which seem to have the same physical reactions. 

For me, negative thoughts are almost always about what I don't have. I don't have my dream job, I don't have an earth-shattering MS to share, I don't have this or that. I've wasted the past few months doing nothing. It's an ugly thing to do, but I'm human and I have these kind of thoughts. I try to combat this by practicing gratitude each morning, going to yoga and filling up on positive vibes, but negative thoughts have a certain power over us. It changes our brain chemistry and seeps into our habits. It diminishes our belief in ourselves and what we think we're capable of.

I've found that with negative thoughts and practicing gratitude, they simply cancel each other out, and I end up in this 'complacent' zone. Not really changing, staying comfortable within my means, and going nowhere. And growing up, counting the life experiences I missed out on because I didn't have a father would do nothing to change my circumstances.

So what should we do if we find ourselves in a life of complacency or in a phase where we feel like our life is lacking?

I came across something (not sure if I read it in an article, blog post, or something) about animals and where they fit in the world. For brevity, I'll focus on bees. Bees have a purpose--to make honey. This allows them to have sustenance in order to survive. Different bees have different roles to play in a hive community. Some go out into the world and collect nectar, some tend to the hive and the baby bees, then there's the queen bee, etc. I won't go into depth about the hive community (you can do a google search about that), the point is, bees have a purpose and they do their job. They are born into their role and they do it without complaint. We, as humans, however, get to pick our role and essentially our own purpose. The only catch is, we don't get to choose our circumstances. 

If we let our circumstances (or in my case, negative thoughts and focusing on the things I lack) take precedence in our minds though, we'll never get where we want to go or be in a positive mindset. In order to get past this complacent zone, we have to be like bees and stop complaining and/or focusing on the things standing in our way.

Feeling sad about the father I never had, will never bring him into existence.

Practicing gratitude about the things I have is great--but practice it too much, and I'll start thinking I don't deserve anything more.

Nike had it right with their motto: Just do it. Whatever it is you want to do that gives you happiness, lights a fire underneath you, brings that spark into your life, just do it. Don't let the positives and negatives ensnare you into a mental tug of war. Sure it's good to feel your emotions and acknowledge your thoughts, but don't dwell on it too much. After all, you have things to do.

So if you ever feel like you've lost motivation, just think about the bees out there doing what they need to do, and ask yourself, what do you need to do to feel happy/good about yourself/positive/motivated?

Highlight reel of the past couple of months.

After reading my latest post, my husband mentioned wanting to go back to Opus One. I asked him what brought this on and he mentioned glancing at an old blog post of mine. His comment made me realize how much I've neglected my blog that I wondered if anyone even read it anymore. Though I hope people still do, this blog was always for me. My little corner of the universe where I catalogue the places I've been, the things I've experience, and my thoughts.

I scrolled back and the last lengthy post was about my trip to NY in July. Yowza. So here I am recapping the highlights from August up until my birthday.

AUGUST - Yakima wine trip - I planned a day trip to central Washington for a day of tasting and a wine maker dinner.

SEPTEMBER - Vancouver Celebration - My sister cam to visit for her birthday so we did a roadtrip to Vancouver, BC.

OCTOBER - TONE IT UP - My sister and I joined Tone it Up, and we've been obsessed wit the lifestyle since. For my health & fitness journey, follow my TIU instagram account @michellemanifesting_tiu.

NOVEMBER - Thanksgiving & Surprise Bachelorette Dinner - I went back to CA for thanksgiving, and my sister completely surprised me with a bachelorette dinner!

DECEMBER - Oregon wine trip part 2 - Michael and I went back to Oregon to wine taste for our Christmas present to each other. 

JANUARY - Wedding in Hawaii - I got hitched!

February - Snow & BANNERS live show - We got snowed in, but also got to see BANNERS live!

MARCH - Palm Desert - Short sunny getaway to visit the parents-in-law and escape the cold.

Now that I'm all caught up, I'm hoping to go back to blogging once a week :D

 

On not writing and figuring out where I am.

I haven't felt like myself lately. Rather, it feels as if I'm simply stumbling through life and waiting for something to happen. I wish I could say it was due to severe allergies and the constant mental fog I find myself in, but if I'm honest with myself, I'm lost.

There's a saying (I don't know who said it exactly) that in order to find yourself you need to lose yourself. Only then can you start picking out the pieces that make you you and get rid of everything else. Stripping it down to the bare essentials basically.

But if you ever met me in person or went to school with me, you know I'm a type-A planner. I cross my t's, dot my i's. I follow the rules. I like order. I make copious amounts of lists: to-do's, groceries, shopping, packing, goals, and even life maps. Yes. Life maps.

The picture below is from a life map I drew in my journal dated March 2013.

If I were to strip myself down to be the bare essentials: I'm a girl who just wants to write books for a living. Not just any books. YA. This was true in 2013, and this is still true today. The only difference between me in 2013 and me in 2017? I'm not writing.

I know what you're thinking, How can you say you want to be a YA writer when you aren't even writing?

Well, let me introduce you again to me, a type A planner, who currently feels as if she's undergoing a failed plan. Someone once told me that success is really failing a lot. Just fail better each time, learn from your mistakes, and keep at it until you don't fail. Sounds simple, right? Except, it's not simple. There's a lot of pain and heartbreak in failure. There's fatigue, self-doubt, and countless moments where I want to give up because I don't want to get hurt anymore. Moments where I can't deal with the disappointment, where I feel like I'm so jaded. Moments when I don't think I'm good enough to be deserving of my dreams. These moments add up, they become crippling, until suddenly, I can't write anymore.

I told myself that I just needed a break. I just needed some rest, and then I'd get back to it. Every time I tried to though, I would be overcome with anxiety. My throat would tighten, my chest would go still, my stomach would cramp, and then I'd just walk away from computer, the notebooks, and pens.

I'd distract myself with other things, crossing off items on the more manageable to-do lists and have a few too many glasses of wine, but in the end, I always returned to this feeling of unease and displacement. This unhappiness. So I started thinking about what other things I could do with my life (which let's face it, is me just making up a list of escape routes). No matter what I came up with though, none of the options held any passion or inspiration for me to follow it through.

So what do I do now?

I asked myself this question over and over. I talked about it in-depth with my husband. I told him how this was not where I imagined myself when it came to following my dreams. I told him how I felt like I was back at square one, that I felt as if I was going backwards instead of forward. After I ranted, he told me that people think of their life, goals, or plans as a trajectory. That there's this arc that'll propel them to where they want to go, but that's not true. There's just these different planes that they find themselves in. They don't necessarily go forward or backward, there's just this sense of 'place', or in my case, 'displacement'. What I'm going through and what I'm feeling now is just a plane. And sooner or later I'll be on another.

For some reason what he said really stuck with me. I look again at my life map from my 2013 self and wonder if I'd already known this, because this life map isn't linear. There's no trajectory. It's just all over the place with turns and twists, but it's also cyclic. There's also some parts that don't even involve writing at all. There's travel, there's 'sustain a comfortable life', and even just having job. 

I'd always known going after my dream wasn't a one way road. I may have a destination in mind, but I was bound to get lost. And when I do, the only thing I can do is figure out where I am and how to get myself into the driver's seat.

To be honest though, sometimes it feels like I'm going nowhere. Sometimes I feel like the road is endless. Sometimes I get so sick of driving that I need to pull over and stretch my legs. Or maybe I just need to abandon the car for a bit and hitch hike somewhere else for a different kind of adventure. Whatever happens though, I know who I am and what I want to do. I have an unshakeable dream for a reason, so I know I'll find myself back at the computer, typing away eventually.

So there's no point in freaking myself out, forcing myself to write, making myself anxious about it, or feeling like a failure. I just need to accept that I'm on a different plane right now, going through the motions, and that's okay. Sometimes the best thing I can do for my writing is to not write at all. 

At least for a little while.

Be yourself.

I know. This goes totally without saying, but it needs to be said, reiterated, and ingrained.

In a world that's constantly telling you who to be, being yourself can be pretty difficult. I mean, think about it. We are constantly berated by the media to look or be a certain way. We are inundated with ads telling us what we need. We live in a society where self-worth is measured by success and the money you make. You even have loved ones (who mean well) giving you life advice because they know what's best for you. But do they? Does the world? No one is supposed to know you better than yourself. But what happens when you've tried to be all these things for everyone else (a good daughter, sister, employee, etc.) that you cease to know and be who you truly are? You land in this weird limbo where you go on and try to find yourself.

Find yourself? Really, Michelle? What is this hippy dippy post? Shouldn't you blog about writing or books? Well, think about it, aren't character arcs in books the same thing? The MC is trying to figure out who they are and where they fit in their story world. They go through the ups and downs, falter, get back up, back track, then persevere. Isn't it fitting that we undergo the same thing in our lives? Heck, we go through it several times at different stages of our lives.

For me, life and writing are interconnected. How I live my life shows up in how I write my stories. It contributes to the characters I identify with, how I express myself, how willing I am to push myself and my characters.

Not so hippy dippy anymore. Am I right?

Let's be real. I'm writing this post because I've landed in this really weird limbo zone where I am trying to find myself. This post is me embracing my faults and being totally okay with it, because that's just who I am right now. And that's really cool because I'm going to just own it.

To give you some background, last year was a blur to me. I felt as if I was pulled into so many directions. Wedding planning, new job, writing and revising, trying to meet everyone's expectations by being a dutiful daughter and sister, not just with my own family, but a new family I was marrying into. I also wanted to be a good friend, a supportive fiancé. I wanted to lose weight, be the best me possible, do all these things and be this ideal version of myself as put together, having it all figured out, and super successful (Spoiler alert: No one knows what they are doing. They are just doing their best.). I was so concerned with all these roles I played for other people, I forgot that my first priority was to myself. That being, staying true to who I was and living an authentic life.  But living an authentic life does not go hand in hand with living life the way I 'think' I'm supposed to live it.

(Sounds kind of like a contemporary novel, doesn't it? Girl strives to be perfect for everyone else, but realizes it's the imperfections that make her who she is and why she's loved and admired in the first place.)

Unfortunately, I strayed from myself enough that a small part of me snapped back into place. As if this tension was too much to bear, and I returned to the essential qualities that make me me. I started to stand up for what I believed in, what I thought was best for me, doing things that made me feel good about myself and made me into a better person, not the person I thought I should be. It sounds so easy right? Acknowledge it and then just do it?

But it's not. There's so much more interlaced with it.  Some might not like the change, some see it as a step back. You open yourself to being criticized for being honest with yourself. You make mistakes, but learn from it. You wrestle with doubt. You wonder if being you is good enough.  

Spoiler alert: Yes. It is. You are enough. As long as you are doing your best and being you, you are enough. You don't need to rack accomplishments or make stacks of paper to feel worth it or to feel like you matter.

You know why? Because when you are your best self, you are giving yourself permission to be authentic. And being authentic is pretty damn special. There's over 7 billion people living on this world, but only one of you. Isn't that pretty incredible?

If you're a writer, take this thought and connect it to your characters. How can you create them to be just as special and authentic as you are? Once you figure that out, allow them to be unapologetically themselves. Own their flaws and let their world burn in fire or fill their fields with daisies. See how they take it. See them falter, see them grow, see them when all is dark, and all is light. Either way, if you yourself are authentic and honest so will your characters and your stories be.

If you can believe it, I struggled with that for over a year. Owning my work, owning my art. Owning the darkness that stews in my MC as well as in me. Owning my authenticity and essentially being myself as a woman, a writer, and a human being. I am who I am. And if I try to run away from that, then I'll find myself fatigued, out of breath, and completely lost.

But getting lost is a destination and finding your own way out can be a wonderful journey.

It goes without saying, but I needed to hear it, and I'm writing this in case you need to hear it too: be yourself and don't apologize for it. That's authenticity at its finest.

 

 

 

Bookish Feels: The Hate You Give by Angie Thomas

The Book: Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter moves between two worlds: the poor neighborhood where she lives and the fancy suburban prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer. Khalil was unarmed.

Soon afterward, his death is a national headline. Some are calling him a thug, maybe even a drug dealer and a gangbanger. Protesters are taking to the streets in Khalil's name. Some cops and the local drug lord try to intimidate Starr and her family. What everyone wants to know is: what really went down that night? And the only person alive who can answer that is Starr.

But what Starr does or does not say could upend her community. It could also endanger her life. (From Goodreads)

My Feels: I had the pleasure of reading this beauty last week, and I'm so glad I did. The best word to sum up this book: relevant. As in this is so relevant to our times I wish everyone would read it. We've heard a lot about #ownvoices and the need for it, but I don't think the urgency really clicked with me until I read this book. Once I got to the end and was able to digest this as a whole, I found myself wishing there was something like this for me as a teenager.

This made me think a lot about our current society, the connection and understanding I have with POC, but it also awakened this deep sadness within me. Why don't people see that racial comments are hurtful? Why do they see it as humorous? Has society normalized it as so? It's frustrating. Like really frustrating. Especially being a POC and deemed 'sensitive' when I bring up my concerns on this. I won't go into a further rant, but I do want to say that this is the kind of book that made me look inwards and outwards. For that, I can't recommend this enough. Pick up a copy if you haven't already.