My Accidental Blogging Break

At the beginning of 2016, I told myself I’d post a new blog post every week. Looking at my 2016 posting calendar, that’s absolutely laughable now. First I missed a week here and there, but I vowed to cut myself some slack–every ten days or so still kinda counted, right? Plus, I bought a condo, making my spring and early summer very busy.

typewriter

Photo Credit: Florian Klauer

Then fall hit, and “busy” took on a new meaning. Over the course of ten days, I went on three separate trips and slept in six different states. Throw in a couple more trips, a load of other work and life busyness, and I felt like I could barely breathe for it all. For some people it would be completely normal, but for me, it was much, much more than I’m used to. As I’ve come to understand myself better, I know I need space, room for simply breathing and calmly experiencing my life, instead of a frenetic pace. I’ve become more comfortable with saying no to give myself the space I need, and generally my current phase of life allows me a nice balance, but this fall it felt like I completely lost it. Even a calendar full of wonderful, fun things can get wearisome at some point.

All the while, I had this simmering guilt in the back of my head over not writing new blogs posts. I was still writing in other places and I was still thinking of ideas to write about, but when I thought about actually writing a new post in the snatches of spare time I had, it stressed me out so much that I ignored it. I thought back to my post in April, “When Your Goals Are Stupid,” and realized I needed to take my own advice: When our goals become a source of stress instead of a source of motivation, it’s time to reevaluate.

So I let it go. This blog wasn’t going anywhere, and I needed space much more than I needed to continue spewing words onto these pages. As much as I enjoy writing here, it was humbling to realize my decision to pause for a while likely had no effect on anyone else’s life. It’s a delicate balance, to hold that reality while also believing it’s not pointless to write because, occasionally, my words do bump into someone else’s life in what I hope are helpful, good ways–and also, I simply like writing here, which has a value of its own. Life has calmed down a teensy bit now, and it is nice to share here again. But objectively speaking, the world does not need this little blog.

 
I have no intention of shutting down this space. The beauty of this accidental break from blogging, though, is how it helped me put this back into perspective. Writing and sharing those words is something I think I’ll always enjoy, but it too can go through different seasons, and that is okay. I’m hopeful I’ll begin writing here more regularly again, but if not, I’ve remembered the world spins madly on all the same.

Til next time…

~Brianna!~

p.s. Has an accidental break from something you enjoy ever taught you anything?

Be Careful Little Fingers What You Type

In Sunday school, we sang a song that went like this:

O be careful little eyes what you see
O be careful little eyes what you see
There’s a Father up above
And He’s looking down in love
So, be careful little eyes what you see

The other verses went on to say “O be careful little ears what you hear” and “Little hands what you do” and so on. It’s a simple message, but one we sometimes forget the older we get.

typing

Photo Credit: Simon Hattinga Verschure

This past Sunday, our youth director dredged up old photos of me he found on Facebook–none that were overly embarrassing or risque, but definitely ones I had kind of forgotten are still floating around on there. It got me thinking about the amount of content we leave behind on the Internet these days. Fortunately my Xanga, which I had essentially treated like an online diary, no longer exists for public consumption. Even now I can read old posts I had published on there and pinpoint exactly who I was writing about, despite the lack of actual names. What was I thinking I wonder as I read them.

There are interesting parts of being able to look back on our old posts and photos–while I’m horrified at some of what I wrote on my Xanga, I’m also occasionally impressed that high school Brianna was thinking so deeply about certain topics. It’s a little bit weird but a little bit fun and fascinating to have an online record of years of my life, and while there is some content I’d probably un-post, most of it I’d let live on. The photos and random thoughts that flitted through my head (and were somehow deemed Facebook worthy) may not represent who I am anymore, but they represented who I was at that time.

But I also wonder if we might be wise to heed the words of the song, and “O be careful little fingers what you type.” It’s easy for me to quickly send tweets or Facebook updates on the fly, without fully thinking through what I might be unintentionally saying underneath the words or how my message might come across to other people. What I mean and what other people read will not always be the same. Not only that, but many things we post on the Internet that don’t really need to be posted. They may not be outrightly cruel or inappropriate, but they’re also not making the world a better place.

It’s a grey land as to what kind of content “makes the world a better place,” to be sure. Many of my tweets revolve around food and are, to me at least, somewhat amusing. Is the chance of bringing a slight smile to someone’s face worth the tweet? Mostly I say yes.

But I know there have been times when I’ve posted as an outlet for frustration or anger, and in hindsight, the Internet was probably not the best place for those words. As an adult, I’m annoyed at myself for even writing this post–shouldn’t the reminder to “Be careful little fingers what you type” be constrained to the world of children and teenagers? Except I know that it can’t be. I’m not going to quit using the Internet, but since I’m not, I have to be aware of how I use the Internet and try to do so wisely and in a way that benefits others.

Til next time…

~Brianna!~

p.s. How do you stay mindful of what you post online?

When Your Goals Are Stupid

Writing doesn’t always come easily to me, as I’m sure any writer would say. Sometimes words pour out of me, and others, they are absolutely stuck. To be good or even decent at anything takes dedication and hard work though, so I often try to write anyway, even when it’s painful.

But lately I’ve been telling myself I have to write a new blog post, and then staring at a blank document and wandering over to Facebook and Pinterest and staring some more, all without having much of anything to really say. So I end up wasting loads of time attempting to write a post about essentially nothing, and sometimes end up scrapping the whole thing anyway.

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Photo Credit: Flickr User Simply Vicki, Creative Commons

Why do I do all this? Just because I told myself I had to.

And really, how stupid is that?

What was the goal behind my goal of having to write a new blog post? Simply to write. So why do I feel the need to put all the pressure on myself of writing in such a specific way with such a specific outcome in mind? I enjoy sharing my work on this blog, but to my knowledge, no one has suffered severe distress when I don’t post for a while (much as I might like to think my writing, or lack thereof, has that much power in people’s lives).

Not that perusing Facebook and Pinterest is the best way to spend my time, but it’s making me considering all those things we tell ourselves we have to do. Goals are good and can be incredibly helpful, but when they’re arbitrary and only end up causing us more stress, I wonder if we’re missing the point. Specific goals have broader goals as their basis, and if we’re not careful, we can become so focused on achieving the specific goal that we lose sight of the broader goal behind it. Running 3 miles is a great goal, but the goal behind it is to be fit; if we fixate so much on our failure to run 3 miles one day, we lose sight that we may still be achieving our broader goal. When our goals become a source of stress instead of a source of motivation, it’s time to reevaluate.

Which is exactly why this post is going up today, not last week or even yesterday. It wasn’t ready yet. My goal of posting for the sake of posting was stupid, and the other words I tried to type didn’t have a purpose except for being words on a page. All along, I was accomplishing my ultimate goal anyway–I was still writing, just in other spaces.

Do you have any stupid goals that are distracting you from seeing what your real goals are?

Til next time…

~Brianna!~

3 Things from 2015 I’m Taking Into 2016

For several years now, I’ve written in a notebook almost every single day. Many times it’s an account of what I did that day along with thoughts and feelings about those events. Other times they’re deep spiritual thoughts, or frustration over a relationship that feels difficult, or angst over a life situation. Bits and pieces of my life, recounted on some sheets of paper bound together.2016

Looking back at this past year, it’s tempting for me to get stuck in the past few months, which haven’t been the easiest time of my life. Except to let those be the ones to color my perception of the entire year would be inaccurate, and, in a way, unfair. As I looked back through my daily writings from 2015, I saw difficulty, certainly—sadness over changing relationships, frustration over uncertainty, dismay over things gone awry—but I also saw so many moments of delight, good memories made, and perhaps most importantly, how even the unexpected pieces of life can have positive aspects to them. As I head into 2016, while there are things from 2015 I am glad to leave behind me, there are at least three I’d like to take with me as well.

  • The people we surround ourselves with have incredible power to shape our lives, in ways good, bad, ugly, and otherwise. This past year has brought new people into my life and added new depth, and sometimes complexity, to many of my existing relationships. For the most part, I’ve managed to find truly wonderful people that add so much to my life. As much as I’d love to cling to all these good people and keep them in my lives for as long as possible, I also recognize there’s a measure of impossibility to that, so I have to simply be grateful for the time we do have in each other’s lives. I don’t think I will ever be good at this part, but I am trying to be better at the thankfulness part.
  • Asking for help is hard, but okay. Just as people are in our lives to add joy, richness, and knowledge, they are also available to lend support. I like to think of myself a somewhat self-sufficient person, and I never want my family or friends to feel like I’m using them or don’t appreciate them, so asking for help does not come naturally to me. No one is capable of going through life completely on their own, all the time though, so sometimes the wisest thing we can do is know when it’s time to ask for help. This is something I’m only just beginning to see, and it will take me into 2016 and likely far beyond to fully grasp its importance.
  • “Never” and “Always” statements are quite often dangerous. To say we’ll always do this or never do that is often a refusal to acknowledge change. Life happens, often in very unpredictable ways. Sometimes rules have to be rewritten based on new information. We usually can’t see the future when we make a decision, so we make the best decision we can in that moment, with the information we have, and sometimes that decision lands us in a spot that we couldn’t have known about before. There are moral “always” and “nevers” I think are good to cling to, but many others that need to be tossed.

If it wasn’t for my habit of writing every day, I’m not sure I’d be able to sort through the haze of these past few months to identify these tangible takeaways that have threaded themselves through the entire year. While 2015 Brianna may not have enjoyed every moment of it, 2016 Brianna can learn from these insights and take them into the new year and beyond.

Til next time…

~Brianna!~

p.s. What have you learned in 2015 that you’ll take into 2016?

The Best Thing I Did While Traveling

Three years ago at this time, I was in Edinburgh, Scotland. Before that, I had visited London and, very briefly, Oxford. As international travel goes, it was a short trip, but it was also wonderful. I didn’t go all the touristy things the guidebooks say to, but I did spend a lot of time walking around the cities, and had the fortune of meeting people from the cities who showed me a side I wouldn’t have otherwise seen.

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Edinburgh, Scotland

 

It’s cliche to say, but the trip really was life changing. I couldn’t be more grateful for having gone on it.

And while I took pictures (literally hundreds), what I’ve found to be even more valuable as I think back to my trip is a small black notebook I carried with me wherever I went. My phone didn’t work overseas, so I was devoid of my usual instant distraction. I found myself soaking in much more than I do on a regular day at home, which was partly due to being in another country, but also due to having set a goal for myself of filling that black notebook by the time I got home. I didn’t quite make it, but I did fill a lot of it.

It was not a perfect trip–at one point, I got sick and threw up into a plastic bag in a London tube station as a train load of people was getting off, and proceeded to spend the rest of that day in bed at the hostel–and there were other more standard traveling hiccups. But while I wouldn’t have taken pictures of those moments, I’m glad I wrote them down. At one point, I wrote:

I think it’s good that I waited so long to do this, too–with my affinity for writing that I’ve only somewhat recently truly realized, I feel like I’m able to appreciate things twice–the first time I’m more aware, because I’m already thinking about how I’m going to recount it in writing later. Graphically speaking, it’s like I get to regurgitate things onto paper later, in the best way possible.

Looking through the photos help me see one dimension of my trip, but reading that notebook fills in so much more. I don’t get to just see the sights, I get to read how I felt as I wandered around Edinburgh Castle, how quickly I fell in love with the oldness of the cities and how every building seems to tell a story, and remember the pride I felt when I successfully navigated my way through London all by myself. They are moments and memories no picture could contain in quite the same way.

I don’t know when I’ll get the chance to travel abroad again, but when I do, I’ll definitely be aiming to fill another little black notebook.

Til next time…

~Brianna!~

p.s. What’s the best thing you did while traveling?

All Groan Up (Or, Why I Read)

One of the many reasons I read is to find myself.

It sounds counterintuitive, to read about other people in other places doing other things, to learn about me. But it’s one of the things I find most powerful about writing. I can be reading a blog post by a mother of small children, or a fiction book set in 1743, or a memoir-esque book by a guy and say, “Me too.”

It’s one of the reasons I write here: I believe in the power of the “Me too” moments. All Groan UP

Recently, I received an advance copy of the latest book by Paul Angone, whose book 101 Secrets for Your Twenties I also reviewed. As I read All Groan Up: Searching for Self, Faith, and a Freaking Job, I felt like I was being given permission to feel all of the things I feel about being in my twenties. While the level of uncertainty in my life is not nearly what it was soon after I graduated from college, I still wrestle with feeling like I don’t have everything figured out, with wanting to figure out what I’m really doing with my life, and with trying to make peace with where I am instead of continually longing for where I’m not.

Paul’s specific experiences of being a twentysomething vary from mine, but even those I can learn from. All Groan Up is a refreshing reminder that being a twentysomething doesn’t have to be quite so lonely or quite so scary.

All of this fits in so well with the thread behind this blog: The Art of Becoming. As Paul writes in All Groan Up:

  Yet becoming an adult is not a onetime thing. You grow into growing up, each season bringing with it things you’re going to have to secretly Google to figure out how to do.

I know we have this yearning to “arrive.” To make it. We want to unpack our bags. Paint the house the color we want. Tear down a few needless walls and build a huge custom desk that will never leave the room.

However, every time we think we’ve made it, we look out the window to see a U-Haul truck waiting to take us to the next town.

But maybe not making it is a gift. If you’ve arrived, why bother still exploring?

There are things I still don’t love about the idea of never truly arriving, but I think there’s truth in it. And when I let myself, I can see there’s goodness there as well. All Groan Up was a great reminder of that, and a great reminder of why I keep reading–and keep writing.

Til next time…

~Brianna!~

p.s. What have you read that’s made you say, “Me too?”

Happy 4th Birthday!

Four years ago today, I started blogging here.

Photo Credit: Flickr User Shyn Darkly, Creative Commons

Photo Credit: Flickr User Shyn Darkly, Creative Commons

Those first few posts aren’t exactly masterpieces, and at times I’ve been tempted to take them down. But I’ve realized they’re part of a story, the story I’m telling with my life and with all of the words collected here over the past few years. Those posts, and all the other “subpar” ones I’ve published and will publish, are part of something bigger. I’ve catalogued much of my journey of graduating, my continuing joys and frustrations of singleness, the ups and downs of faith, and so much more. Blogging often feels as much for me as it does for anyone else, which I suppose is kind of a good thing.

There have been, and will continue to be, times when I consider quitting. Objectively speaking, there’s really no “outcome” of these words I continue to throw into cyberspace. In my better moments, though, I’m reminded that sometimes the value is in the doing. Which is why I’m still here, typing, deleting, typing again, publishing. Four years down, who knows how many to come.

Thanks for hanging out with me.

Til next time…

~Brianna!~

The High School Xanga Lives Again

As a high schooler, I loved my Xanga. When its popularity decreased and Facebook became the new thing, I apologized to my Xanga and felt guilty for leaving it behind. As time went on, I didn’t see the point in taking it down, so I left it up, filling up a small section of the Internet with my rambling, jumbled, high schooler thoughts. Occasionally I’d go back to it, finding myself somewhat surprised by the good questions younger me was asking, but mostly horrified at the oversharing and complete lack of regard for the true publicness of the Internet.

Not too long ago, Xanga as we knew it ceased to exist. Archives were made available for those not wanting to switch to Xanga 2.0, and, unable to bear the thought of all those words, however embarrassing they sometimes were, being gone forever, I made sure to download mine. Finally, tonight, I uploaded them here, wanting to be able to walk down memory lane through those words should the mood strike me.

But then, for a few horrifying minutes, all of those archives were again public. Right here on this little blog.

As soon as I realized it I went through and changed the settings, but had you been on here at the right time, poking through the archives, you would’ve gotten a taste of High School Brianna.

Back when I scoffed at proper capitalization because I thought it made my writing look cool and casual, and I thought that being a Christian meant you had to share a Bible verse in every post (so, of course, I did).

But every once in a while there were glimpses of the future Brianna, of the way I think and write now. As unpolished as some of these writings were, I think I was picking up on things I didn’t entirely have words for yet because I had only begun to taste their truth. I’ll leave you with a snippet of one of my posts (in its original font, for the full effect), ponderings on the song “The Shadow Proves the Sunshine” by the band Switchfoot.

 

crooked souls trying to stay up straight
dry eyes in the pouring rain, when
the shadow proves the sunshine
the shadow proves the sunshine

two scared little runaways
hold fast till the break of daylight
when the shadow proves the sunshine
the shadow proves the sunshine

 

i really like this song. i think it has a good point. without shadows, we wouldn’t be able to appreciate the sunshine, and the shadows prove that the sunshine is really there. i think the same holds true in life. if life was just good good good all the time, and everyone was always happy, we wouldn’t appreciate the happiness…it would just be a way of life. to really be happy, we have to know what sadness feels like, and occasionally we have to be reminded of sadness so we can appreciate happiness. 

 

Til next time…

~Brianna!~

p.s. Have you ever been surprised by things you wrote when you were younger?

When the Words Get Stuck

Listen up, now. Lean in close and let me tell you what I’ve been feeling for some time now, been trying to fight and attempting to understand: I don’t feel like blogging.

I don’t even feel like writing.

Writers, those real writers who turn words into dollar signs will likely be the first to tell you that you don’t always write because you feel like it. You write because you have to, to pay the bills or simply because to not write would be to betray a part of who you are.

Photo Credit: Flickr User Wonderlane, Creative Commons

Photo Credit: Flickr User Wonderlane, Creative Commons

There are times I’ve felt like that too.

But lately each word feels like it has to be dragged out of me. They’re stuck inside, and the work of getting them out seems too much.

It’s not that I don’t have things I want to say–I’ve thought of tons of ideas for posts. But the actual plinking out of letters to form words to form sentences to paragraphs has not been happening.

“Butt in chair,” says Anne Lamott. That’s the key to writing–keep your butt in the chair and write just keep writing.

I like the sentiment, but the reality is much more difficult than it sounds. Yes, it’s butt in chair, but it’s also fingers on keyboard, heart spilling out onto the page, hope that some of it, any of it, is worthy of sharing.

And sometimes the words just get stuck, and it’s easier to leave them where they are than dig them out.

Til next time…

~Brianna!~

p.s. What do you do when you don’t feel like writing?

Writing is Easy (Except When It Isn’t)

Objectively speaking, writing is easy. Push down one letter key after another. Make a word. Form a sentence.

That’s really all there is to it.

But it’s not really all there is to it.

Because some words aren’t friends, and if they end up next to each other the sentence would make no sense at all. Then there’s these finicky things called grammar and punctuation, which in the English language are sinister and slippery sorts of beasts. And even after you string words together that can sit next to each other in peace and in a proper line, and you throw in some commas and periods and perhaps an exclamation point, you have to try to make them really say something–turn them into something more than just squiggles on a screen.

It is messy work.

And sometimes I don’t want to do it, yet I sit down anyway and that cursor blinks back at me and it is all I can do to put anything on the page, a “the” or “and” or “to.”

And I hear the siren call of Facebook and Pinterest and BuzzFeed and they are tapping me on the shoulder with their hilarity and inspiration and lovely photos.

And there are millions of words that have already been written, strung together so beautifully and I could spend days, months, years simply reading them.

But there are words somewhere inside of me that must eventually get out, and so I sit, enter the fray however inadequately, and write. Because that’s what writers do, and I suppose that’s what I am.

Til next time…

~Brianna!~

p.s. What’s the hardest part of writing for you?