The Importance of Openness in a Digital Age

 

The picture of our future in a digital age both amazes me and disappoints me — the disappointment could come from an imaginary longing for the past, for “simpler times” when it was easier to sit down and talk with someone over a cup of coffee, but perhaps more difficult to arrange that coffee date. It disappoints me that so many connections (romantic or otherwise) are based on the internet alone — on instant gratification, on face-value, on a left swipe or right swipe. So often our internet presence is a contrived projection of fantasy mirroring an entirely different reality. Instagram ruses, subtweets, the skewed desire to share only the best bits of your life on the web and leave the ordinary, messy stuff for you to trudge through on your own — these all get us nowhere. The amazement of our digital future however is unending: advancements in science, health, and communications are popping up so rapidly given the improving technology, and that’s great — but what is it doing for our personal relationships?

It’s easy to believe that social media and the ability to instantly connect with each other will only enhance our relationships, but looking beyond the surface-level, social media can severely silence some very important things while giving a platform to negativity, false comparisons, and gossip. Recently, little by little, I’ve been seriously detaching myself from technology. I’ve been trying to set aside specific time blocks during the day when I allow myself  to freely browse my phone or post on Twitter, knowing I’m spending most of my hours living without distraction, with only Me back in my head.

I realize that the world is full of distractions that are disguised in the cloaks of cellphones and mass media. I think that people are growing comfortable with being interrupted or getting distracted, and that only drives us further apart. It’s kind of ironic how all of these devices and mediums are supposed to help us keep in touch with one another, when really it’s putting up a wall between us and we are essentially becoming more superficial because of it. Your self worth does not rely on how many notifications you receive, how many followers you have, how many “likes” you get on a specific social media platform – it’s about the quality of what you send out to the world. You are not just a recipient; you also have the power to send information.

 

Yesterday, my phone died and I had no intention of plugging it in.

I had no intention of staring at a TV screen, or hearing the radio buzz, or even picking up a newspaper.

The first few hours of my day without a smartphone were not very hard, as I went for a drive with a friend, sat by the lake and enjoyed a nice day. I felt more clear-headed, like the experience was even sobering. It was somehow very cathartic to know that I didn’t have to be attached to my phone or any other kind of news and that I could just spend my day with myself, my thoughts, and conversations with others. I kept telling myself that this isn’t that foreign, or at least it shouldn’t be – I kept reminding myself that this is how people lived for years.

A big part of getting comfortable without your phone on or without being distracted by social media is getting comfortable with silence, because the silence in your own mind can be deafening. There were silences all throughout the day: while in the car, in my room, anywhere I happened to be. I know a lot of people that hate silence, but I tried my best to enjoy it. There are lots of things that have pleasant noises that aren’t necessarily musical, like a burning candle or the sound of a bathtub filling up with water, the sound of the kettle just beginning to boil. I feel like I paid more attention to minuscule and unexciting things – ordinary things were suddenly more interesting because I gave myself no choice but to pay attention.

By the time I returned to regular life, I felt better. I realized I wanted to genuinely connect with people in my life, see them and listen to them with no distractions. I wanted to promise myself to always stay that open to the people in my life. And most importantly, I wanted to be very careful with what I consume and what I send out into the world. In a world so driven by computer screens and fast-paced conversations, it’s more important than ever to stay transparent, to slow down, and use technology to our advantage by sharing positive stories and spreading compassion in hopes of uniting us all. Isn’t that what social media is supposed to do, anyway? Help us all connect in a safe space of positivity, valuable information, and love?

The role of our digital age is essentially to provide the agenda of the world’s happenings – the news that is deemed most important and most relevant to the people or stories that spark an interest, a relation, a feeling of “yes, that’s my life too.” Not only does media as a whole chronicle the past, but it also marks the present and future through everyday mediums like smartphones and the internet. The problem is we’ve become so obsessed, so attached to these things that spending only a day away from them is uncomfortable, but taking quick breaks from mass media will do nothing but help ease your mind and spirit.

If you’re up for a challenge, turn your phone off with no regrets. Leave it off till you’ve felt peace again. Step back into our digital world with fresh perspectives and clear minds.

5 Must-Haves for March

March is one of those in-between months. Mostly gray, wet, and cold, but still vying for the warmth of the spring  sunshine, it’s a month where we get ready to ditch all our winter sweaters and bring in the clothes that are lighter & brighter, trade in our scarves for sunglasses and itch to get our hands dirty in the garden.  Living in Upstate New York, March doesn’t always mean spring, but we can still look ahead! Here’s some things I’ve been loving for keeping myself in the springtime mindset, but still keeping one foot in the sub-zero door.

 

Himalayan Bath Salt Royal Gems by Thesis ($22.95)

I’ve admittedly fallen victim to the Himalayan pink salt craze — I want to cook with it, bathe in it, purify the air with it, you name it. Maybe salt bae had something to do with it. Did you know Himalayan salt baths used to be reserved exclusively for royalty?  Nevertheless, these bath salts make for the ultimate at-home spa treatment, harvested from the unpolluted Himalayan mountains and packed with over 80 essential minerals and natural detoxifying benefits. Perfect for those with allergies and sensitivities or anyone who just wants to pamper their body. This bath salt is ideal for smooth, silky skin and even promotes sinus health and better sleep. All ingredients are eco-friendly too, with a recyclable apothecary bottle and natural cork top.

Some times the best things in life are the simplest. I love the way a fresh bouquet brightens up a space. It adds a measure of sophistication met with the whimsy of nature and fills your home with the scents of spring! Keeping a bouquet around is always a good idea to bring a little more bliss into your daily life, especially during an in-between month such as March.

I think denim is always a good choice for transitioning into spring. It’s light and easily versatile and you can layer up underneath depending on the weather. If you don’t have a quality denim coat, they’re easy to find! I love this one from Kensie or a cute loose-fitting one like this. Denim never goes out of style so I believe it’s truly a  great thing to invest in, especially to get ready for spring. You can even keep your eyes peeled while out thrifting – you can find some awesome stuff secondhand, too!

Boho Raw Crystal Birthstone Aquamarine Cuff Bracelet by Leia Spirit ($85)

This cuff is definitely on my wishlist! Aquamarine is the birthstone for March, and being a March child myself I’ve always had a relationship with this stone. I have to admit I never used to like the looks of Aquamarine too much — I always wished I had a prettier birthstone and was so jealous of those January, April, and July babies! As I’ve gotten older though I’ve definitely grown to love Aquamarine in all of it’s icy-blue glory. It’s known as a stone of courage and inner peace and is most often utilized with the Throat Chakra. It can be used to promote better verbal self expression, enhance spiritual communication, and clear communication blocks. It’s also said to be a wonderful good luck stone, and mixed in with the Pyrite in this cuff, I’m sure it works as a positive opportunity magnet!

Seeds for a Butterfly Garden by Renee’s Garden Seeds ($6.79)

Get ready to grow! Prepping your garden for spring & summer is a lot of hard work but it’s sure to pay off if you keep with it. Start by sowing your seeds early and transferring them out into your yard once it’s time, you’ll be the first in your neighborhood with a fresh and beautiful garden filled with flowers and plants. My mom is religious in keeping up with her garden, which I’m convinced (as well as the neighbors) grows more lovely every year. Getting close to the earth can also help you in other ways: gardening has been proven to aid in stress relief, makes for an easy way to incorporate more mindfulness in your daily life, and can be an easy way to give — fresh flowers cut from the garden or maybe some homegrown veggies can make for a beautiful and thoughtful gift.

March, albeit sometimes chilly and gray, can be a great transition month if you know how to work with it. Setting goals and intentions for spring can also be an uplifting activity for this time of the year, and I plan on sharing my personal springtime intentions with you all soon! Feel free to let me know your March must haves down below in the comments 🙂

Chump Change: A Broke Girl’s Guide to Living Well

 

For many of us, the bulk of our stress has deep financial roots. Whether or not you make as much as you deserve, feeding your families, paying the rent on time, and having enough for extra fun is daunting.  Like a lot of 20-somethings, I’m sure I’m not alone in my experience in not having a lot of money. It can be really difficult, especially for those with student loans or medical expenses and those living under the poverty line. I in no way mean to undermine your struggles. I’m definitely no financial expert, but I have learned a few tips for living well within your means and finding the joy in things that cost no money at all, and that’s what I want to share with you today.

Obviously, money is a security blanket. It’s what we can fall back on in case of emergencies or unexpected circumstances. It gives us peace of mind. It’s great to have savings and emergency funds, but money is not the be all end all, no matter what our society says. Being grateful for what we do have, whether that’s good health, good relationships, or a good sense of humor, will help you realize the significance simply because money can’t buy those things! Be thankful and count your blessings. Life is too short to worry about your bank account when you’ve been blessed with life’s biggest treasures.

Yes, it’s fun to try out trendy bars & expensive restaurants and go to the movies when you’re out with friends. But these aren’t your only options, and you certainly don’t need to shell out half your paycheck when you’re out on the town in order to have a good time. Get creative with your free time — make it a tradition to host stay-in nights with your friends and play board games with drinks & homemade dinners. Or opt for having date night at home for once. Also, take advantage of your local library! You can find pretty much any movie there nowadays and it’s totally free (as long as you return it on time ;)). If you stay involved with your city, you’ll be in the know when free events are happening too, like public markets or clothing swaps. Although the market may cost money if you plan to shop, it can also be fun to just wander around and people watch. You might even make some connections with someone who has an interesting shop or stand, or maybe even find out how to bring your own trade to the market for some extra cash.

It’s important to learn how being frugal can help you in every area of your life, but especially when it comes to things like clothes and shoes and things you don’t actually need. This one can be hard for me personally because I love keeping my wardrobe updated and switching things up, but you can get things on the cheap if you know where to look. Scour your thrift stores, people! There’s much more than ugly sweaters and old Keds. I’ve found designer clothes thrifting for a fraction of the price. Being frugal doesn’t mean depriving yourself of your desires entirely, it just means tweaking your expectations a bit. Maybe you won’t be able to afford everything that’s on your wishlist at the moment, but I’m sure you’ll be able to thrift some pieces that are pretty damn close.

If you depend solely on money for your happiness, I truly am sorry, cause there’s a good change you might be a miserable person. There’s so much more to life than your bank account — most of which are priceless. Of course material goods can bring quick satisfaction, but over time that satisfaction fades and you’re looking at an empty wallet and pining for a new item that you just can’t have. Is it worth it? Is it worth it to succumb to the cycle of depending on an outside resource for pleasure? Inner peace and happiness have no connection to money. You can say that you’re secure with yourself because you’re making six figures, but if you’re not really satisfied deep down, why does it matter? It may be rooted in competitiveness or maybe an outside source like the largely superficial culture  we live in. We can’t help that, but we can take steps needed to stop depending on anything but yourself for pure happiness. It’s priceless. And so, so worth it.

Always remember, whatever you’re going through right now is temporary. You may look back ten years from now and laugh or sigh with relief.  Maybe you’re in a pickle because the cost of living is up, or maybe you’re drowning in student loans, or maybe you just suffered a job loss  — but these things are temporary! It is way too easy to get discouraged about a less-than-ideal financial situation,  but always aim to enjoy every bit of your life because you may even be envious of what you have now some odd years down the road.

It’s lovely to go out to your favorite spot to eat and enjoy a bite with friends or loved ones, but it’s not always lovely on the wallet. However, dining in doesn’t have to suck, you just gotta up your cooking game! Make it a goal to cook meals at home when you’re trying to be frugal. There’s no shortage of delicious recipes out there, and cooking is a great way to bring some creativity, culture, and catharsis into your life without even leaving your home. It’s also way cheaper than eating out all the time! Even if you’re only going to Starbucks once a day on your lunch break, those drinks add up. Preparing your meals and coffee at home, even if it means waking up earlier, is worth it in the end if you’re trying to save.

And no, shopping does not count as a hobby. Read books that inspire you, watch films that open your eyes and make you forget even for a little while that you’re struggling. Use your free time to uplift yourself instead of getting depressed! Truly living well wouldn’t be complete without immersing yourself into something that’s both fun and intellectually stimulating. Maybe you’re an artist and your job demands so much of you that you can’t seem to get anything done anymore — well on your next day off, make it a goal to finish something you started or at least get some artwork done. Feeding your soul creatively feels so good and it’s totally free. Getting back in touch with your hobbies means getting in touch with yourself, and that’s a habit anyone should get behind — frugal or not.

Even if you don’t make a lot, you can start a change jar — that chump change will add up someday! Or maybe you have enough to put away $20 a month, or even $10 or $5. So save up for that trip you’ve been wanting to take, or treat it as an investment for your future or just make enough to put away in your savings account for emergencies.  You deserve it, after all. If it’s a vacation, treat it like something that’s already planned or create a vision board so you can always be reminded of what you’re saving for. Start today by putting one dollar into an envelop and see where it takes you.

You don’t need to make a lot of money in order to be happy. Yes, a great job with awesome benefits can really help you out in a lot of ways, but it’s not necessary for happiness.  That comes from within. The tips above are just some of the ways to live the life you love without necessarily making a lot of money. If you have some tips of your own, feel free to share them! 🙂

Banishing the Winter Blues

I feel like winter often gets a bad rap. I guess it’s one of those seasons you either love or you hate, but living in Upstate New York, most people go with the latter. But not me. I’m a winter baby, always have been and always will be. I love the biting winds, heavy blizzards, icicles on my rooftop… I could go on. Part of it could be that I’ve just never done well in the heat: my skin gets irritated and my hair gets dry and I detest being sweaty and I don’t like the social implications it brings, HA! Call me crazy, but winter is renewing. Winter is a test. If you can’t suffer the dark and cold, how can you truly enjoy the light and heat? Maybe that’s a bit extreme, but I do believe the seasons we are most drawn to can be illustrative of our characters. I love fall and winter, not because I’m a dreary individual per se, but I think it’s the most contemplative time of the year, allowing us a natural time to withdraw from the hustle and bustle, to settle in with things we enjoy or just let yourself be for a little while. I appreciate that. Plus I like crisp, cold weather, and there’s strength in the silence that comes with the dead of winter or a quiet autumn morning.

So for Winter nay-sayers out there that might be reading this, I pity you. Here are some fabulous things about this season.

How do you look chic in the wintertime, you ask? You bundle up, b*tch! There’s nothing cute about freezing your ass off. Winter is a time to be comfy, a time to grab those big sweaters that you swim around in and kick back, staying warm and safe from harsh winds. That’s not to say you can’t dress up in the winter however, just do so with caution. No bare legs! I can’t bear to see girls walking around outside in 20 degree weather bar-hopping in tiny dresses with bare legs and arms, because yes, ladies tend to do that around here as if it’s summertime. More power to them, I just fear for their health. Anyways, I personally love winter fashion. I love big hats and huge, soft scarves. Valpeak has a great selection of affordable and warm winter hats! I just bought this one recently and I’m loving it. I even still wear heels in the winter if they’re durable and thicker on the bottom, and paired with a big pair of warm socks of course. Turtlenecks are one of my favorites since they’re forgiving in every way and never go out of style. I have an affinity for cashmere ones (like this beautiful Orvis cashmere blend or this 100% cashmere sweater that’s super versatile) as well as the heavier-knit varieties, but depending on where you live, play around with the thread count. As for wool sweaters, both Carraig Donn and L.L. Bean have my heart. Both of these materials can be thrifted, too, if you’re willing to look! So get your scarves, your sweaters, your chunky heels and winter boots and in the wise words of Tim Gunn, make it work.

Honestly, what’s better than getting into bed after a long day? Maybe I’m just kind of a homebody, but I love to nest. I love hopping into bed and pulling the covers up high, ready to dream and wake up refreshed. I definitely sleep better in the winter, too. As much as I enjoy sleeping with my windows open in the warmer months, I hate the racket that the bugs make and the humid air wafting through the screen. Ugh. But winter is a time for thick sheets and fuzzy throws, and snuggling up with a partner or a pet and listening to the snow fall and the wind gust while you drift off to sleep. Perfect, isn’t it? You can score some amazing and affordable flannel sheets here, as well as cuddly faux-fur throws and down comforters to keep your abode nice and warm.

Yes, you can bake all year round, and we all do, but winter baking is the best! Holiday baking obviously takes the cake (pun intended) but there’s nothing like hiding away from the cold to whip up some of your favorite cookies or treats. My favorite winter recipes range from savory pies to pretty much anything with chocolate, but my recipe for 3-ingredient peanut butter cookies also hits the spot and its super easy to make! If you’re looking for some good recipe books to get the ball rolling, some classic cookbooks filled with foolproof recipes include The Baking Bible, Ina Garten’s Barefoot Contessa Foolproof, and the classic Cook’s Illustrated Baking Book. Even though recipes are being shared so rapidly online nowadays, you can’t beat owning a tried and true cookbook.

Even in the cold weather, it’s good to stay active. I really hate working out in gyms and much prefer being outdoors. I feel too trapped and I genuinely enjoy being in nature rather than lift weights or stare into space while running on a treadmill. Thus, winter hikes are one of my favorite ways to get active in the cold months! It doesn’t even have to be too strenuous, just getting out there for a walk in the cold are can be refreshing and revitalizing. Seek out a trail near you and remember to wear good boots! Reward yourself with a delicious hot drink afterwards, that way you can have a treat and warm up at the same time.

Who doesn’t want an excuse to stay in and binge watch all your favorite movies or tv shows?! Last winter my boyfriend and I went through so many movies — The Thing, the Lord of The Rings trilogy, Wild Strawberries, and The Sound of Music were some go-to’s, just to name a few. It can be fun to cuddle up on the couch and get lost in a film for a while, and winter is the perfect time to do so.

All too often I hear people complaining about winter: the snow, the cold, or maybe just the stagnation it can infer. Don’t let yourself be bogged down by winter blues! Winter can also be a great opportunity to focus on self-care: draw a bath and have an at-home spa day or just spend time hibernating with your pet and a favorite book! For those who suffer from seasonal affective disorder, self care can be really beneficial. Viewing these months as a way to focus inward may soothe some of your symptoms. Also, these great therapeutic light boxes can help too! Try out some things on this list and remember, spring is only a few months away!

An Ode to New Beginnings

Sometimes life hits you like a bag of bricks. One moment you’re enjoying yourself, absolutely fine, cloaked in nonchalance and blind with indifference, and the next you’re seeing yourself from a totally different perspective — and it’s not what you expected. Or maybe it is what you expected, just uglier: You haven’t showered in days and you hate your job. You only have enough money in your wallet for a big mac. Speaking of big macs, you broke your diet. You have writers block. You’ve got empty canvases staring you in the face and absolutely zero ideas.
If you don’t like where you are in your life, at least rest easy that you aren’t alone. There are millions upon millions of people that aren’t happy with where they stand, or wish they could be doing something else, or wish they could be someone else. The problem is that people become paralyzed in their fear, their indifference, their modest comforts. They forget their inspiration, the spark that once drove them. And with growing older and trying to pave my way into the world as a 20-something, this is something I’ve noticed quite a bit in my peers, friends, family, even myself — we’re all human, and we’re all bound to experience feelings of yuckness more often than we’d like. And that’s okay. But what’s not okay is allowing it to take over. What’s not okay is staying stuck in a bad situation when you have everything in your power to make it better.
It saddens me to see so many people deny or silence their gifts. Whether it’s as simple as knowing how to bake the perfect cookie, or as thoughtful as giving honest and truly philosophical life advice, or knowing the importance of staying versatile and innovative in such a strange and ever-changing world, your gifts are important and valued. To put them on the back burner is a kind of self sabotage, no matter how demanding your 9-to-5 might be.
With all that said, I wanted to start this blog to celebrate my gifts, as well as yours, and to honor the process of unknowing. To live authentically and be comfortable with the only constant known as change. To embrace creativity and strive for quality in everything I do, and above all connect with others who do the same.  I hope you’ll join me, laugh with me, and learn with me.