On My Mind

I turned 27 last week.

I don’t celebrate birthdays, so there was predictably little fanfare around this one (plus, I had an ear infection, so I was a bit more preoccupied with taking antibiotics and drinking fluids than anything else that day).

Don’t worry, I’m not going to throw a list of 27 things you have to do by 27 (I could never top this one anyway). I’m also not going to bore you with my list of goals. (BECAUSE I DO THAT ALL THE TIME ALREADY.) The only reason why I even bring it up is because, to be totally honest, I have been super jazzed about 27 for a while now.

Is it just me, or is 27 really the first time people start to treat you like you’re legitimate? For most of my life, the majority of my friends have been older than me. I’ve always been pretty driven in my career, so I often find myself working with people older than I am as well. And the moment that I always dread (because it always comes up) is when someone asks me how old I am.

If you’re 26 or under, answering that question is usually met with the equivalent of this:

SUPER FUN. Not.

But whether it’s 27′s proximity to 30 or just that it takes four full syllables to say, I can’t help but notice that the response is much more similar to this:

Ok, maybe not QUITE like that…but there is definitely more respect there.

And when you’re like me and started acting (mostly) like a grown-up right around the age of 13, 27 is finally (FINALLY) the year when you start acting your age, amiright?

The point is, I feel like this is going to be my best year yet. Yes, I say that every year, but I feel especially good about 2014/2015.

What was the year you really started to feel like a grown-up?

{I want it all.}

{I want it all.}

As per my money simplification goals, I’ve been trying to not only be stricter about what I spend money on, but also more aware of the areas where I tend to overspend.

My Mint account has been really useful for identifying the areas of life where this happens. The biggest offender to my budget? Lack of planning.

How many times have I had to buy a $1.50 bottle of water for the gym because I forgot my refillable one at home? How many times have I had to buy a $12 lunch because I forgot to pack something the night before? How many times have I impulsed shopped to kill time, only to realize later that I only bought what I did because it was on sale or something?

The answer to all three of those questions is “way too many times.”

Joey and I have decided to be really strict about spending for the rest of the year, only really spending money on a pre-planned trip to California in November. The first thing I cut out of my spending plans? Shopping — especially of the impulse variety.

This is especially hard for me as fall (my FAVORITE season) approaches, and with it an onslaught of fall clothing (also my favorite). In order to keep myself in check, I made a list of the things I am allowed to buy for the remainder of 2014:

1. Two pairs of jeans — a lighter denim and a blue denim. I bought these yesterday — one pair was only $18! (Prior to this purchase, I had two pairs of jeans, and one had a broken zipper I still need to get fixed.)
2. A gray t-shirt. This was also bought yesterday (for $8!). I can’t tell you how many times I find an outfit on Pinterest and all I need to recreate it is a gray T-shirt. For whatever reason, I’ve never had one.
3. Underwear. TMI? Whatever. I needed two new bras (bought these for the price of one with a coupon) and regular underwear (yet to buy).
4. A black, semi-casual, sleeveless fit-and-flare dress that I can wear to work and basically anywhere else. It’s really only in the last year that I’ve acquired a few LBDs (a dressy strapless version, a dressy sleeveless version, and a long-sleeved cotton version), and this is the one staple I am still missing.
5. Nice pajamas. One of my coworkers told me I don’t actually need these, but I’ve decided I’ll feel better about myself if I’m not going to sleep in ratty gym clothes every night. I’m weird, but suffice to say this is important to me. And I’m planning to buy them at H&M or Gap anyway, so it’s not a huge expense.

That’s it. You might notice a lack of sweaters, boots, jackets, scarves, and all other fall paraphernalia that brings me joy. (I will allow that I will also probably buy a couple pairs of black tights, though.) It’s honestly a sacrifice for me, but the results (debts paid off and a more substantial savings account) will be worth it.

The biggest thing I’ve found to be helpful in sticking to this list is actually writing the list down and keeping it as a reminder. That way, even if I’m presented with the opportunity to shop, it’s much easier for me to resist because an item isn’t on my list. The more I prepare, the easier it is to keep focused on my goals.

Besides, it’s just one fall season, and if I’m totally honest, I already have an abundance of fall clothing that is still in style and perfectly fine. This should not be so hard!

Do you make shopping lists each season? What’s on your must-buy list this fall?

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Do you ever catch yourself being the worst version of yourself?

Maybe you’re perpetually slacking off on responsibilities. Maybe you’re lacking motivation and putting things off. Maybe you’re tired and snapping at those around you. Maybe you’re gossiping or dwelling on negative feelings about others.

While I haven’t done all of those, I feel like this last month has not seen me at my best. I could make excuses, but the fact is that I wasn’t feeling great about myself and I let it leech into the rest of my life.

The older I get, the more I realize my confidence (and, more often than not, my happiness) is cyclical. I can go 3-6 months feeling like I’m on top of everything, only to suddenly wake up and “realize” that everything is wrong with me. Everything.

I’m not kind enough. I’m too selfish. I’m too fat. My hair is all wrong. I hate all my clothes. I’m stupid. I’m lazy. The apartment is a disaster. So-and-so is so much kinder/prettier/smarter/better than me.

Sooner or later, these doubts pile up to a crippling degree. And often times, in what I can only assume is an attempt to fight my way out of them, I end up fighting everything around me.

The trick is breaking the cycle, not simply realizing that I’m acting like a shrew. (Oh, did I mention turning into a bitter, angry harpy is another insecurity of mine? I hate the idea of being so cliche.) While it’s great to notice that I’m not being my best self, digging myself out of the whole is the hard part.

Snapping out of it isn’t always so easy, but I’m trying to get better at it. Sometimes it takes something as simple as a really tough workout or just checking out for a while and getting my hair done or something. Other times, I have to consciously refocus my mind and remind myself what I’m striving for and why.

Over the weekend, Joey and I were able to attend a special convention in Long Island for a series of Bible-based talks, plays, and presentations. One of the biggest themes of the convention was the idea of simplifying our lives so we can focus on what is more important, and that really resonated with me. Simplification has been a goal of mine for a while now (and it seems to be a big trend among a lot of the bloggers I follow as well), but this weekend gave me a lot of practical ideas for application that I’m looking forward to putting into action. You know I’m never happier than when I have a goal, right?

Over the next six months, I want to focus on clearing negativity and unnecessary burdens from my life — and in a weird way, this sense of purpose and focus is already making me feel better about a lot of insecurities that I have been feeling. It’s crazy how a little bit of perspective can help shake you out of a funk.

What do you do when you feel insecurities building up or changing the way you act? Any good simplification tips to pass along?

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I love summer, but I don’t think it could ever be my favorite season. Mostly because, while it is packed with loads of fun things to do, it always comes with a certain amount of stress.

A side effect of being a planner is that, often times, I tend to overplan my life. Besides social engagements, I also plan my workouts, when I clean my apartment, when I run errands, and virtually all of my recreation. (Yes, I have actually set aside time in my calendar for “chilling out.” I have a problem, I know.)

Lately, I feel like my calendar is stuffed to the brim, and when a friend asks if I can hang, I’m wracked with guilt when I can’t find a time slot. This only ever seems to happen to me in the summer time.

Plus, everything feels more stressful when you’re sweating out an 85-degree day, amiright?

When I started writing this post, I had the idea that I was going to commit to more relaxation — less planning. But there’s a part of me that resists that reasoning. After all, I’m young and only have a few serious obligations in life (AKA, no children yet). Shouldn’t this be the time that I cram my schedule with the things I enjoy doing? Because I do enjoy all of my plans when they’re happening. And if everything is getting done, is there really any harm in feeling busy?

Maybe it’s the previously mentioned guilt that is throwing a wrench in the machinery. It’s probably not possible to do everything for everyone, no matter how much I wish I could.

So basically, this is a story of me being a good little Midwestern girl who wants to please everyone.

Sigh. I’m such a cliche.

I heard a quote on a show one time that was basically: “You need to change your dialogue. Instead of ‘I’m so overwhelmed,’ say, ‘My cup runneth over.’” So essentially, I need to think positively about the fact that I’m busy to make it easier to handle.

And wait patiently for fall.

Is there a season where you feel like you’re just barely keeping it together? Would you rather overfill your life with happy things or risk missing out but keep your sanity?

Our computer desk has been a bit of a trial for me.

In our first apartment, I never really loved how it looked (apologies for that atrocious photo), and in our new apartment, it’s the first space to start looking cluttered after I’ve given the apartment a deep clean. And because organizing the desk area is on the simplification list anyway, I figured now would also be a good time to figure out an organization system that actually works.

And it wouldn’t hurt if it was also pretty, right?

Here’s what I’m thinking of adding:

Desk Details in Gold

Cute, right? Y’all know I love anything white and gold.

I also need to spend a little time styling our bulletin board. I really like these inspirational ideas from Pinterest (click images for sources):

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Just because our bulletin board is functional doesn’t mean it can’t also be pretty, right? And now that I’m working from home a couple of times a month, it helps to have an organized, aesthetically pleasing place to work.

Do you have a home office? Is it more utilitarian or more stylish?

I am a terrible liar.

I’ve said this before. Even when my deception is for a good cause (like planning my parents’ surprise 25th anniversary party, for instance), I’m still unable to fib with any conviction.

In a way, this strongly affects my stance on beauty.

Am I the only one who often finds herself doubting a certain beauty decision because she views it as a lie? I’m not talking about covering a pimple or two — I mean flat out turning yourself into something you’re not. (A la this.)

We all know I fully own to being a medium-maintenance gal, but my motto when it comes to any style enhancements is always that I want to be the best version of myself. I highlight my hair, but the first words out of my mouth to my stylist are, “I want it to look natural.” I’ve spent hours of my life seeking the perfect foundation, concealer, and nude lip colors. Even so, I rarely wear much makeup unless it’s a special occasion. It took me years to feel comfortable with manicures because I used to hate the look of colors on my finger nails. (Total disclosure: I still get painfully self-conscious about bright shades after a day or two.)

The line gets blurred when my best version deviates sharply from what I might currently have, like those pretty blonde locks currently inhabiting my noggin.

When you pride yourself on being a genuine human being, it can feel like a betrayal of self to adopt any disingenuous beauty habit.

I dread the question, “Is that your real…?” when I know the honest answer is “nope!” It’s a big part of why, as much as I wouldn’t be mad if parts of my body woke up different sizes or shapes tomorrow, I don’t think I would ever take surgical action to make them change — I’d still be the person I am, and being anything else feels a little bit like cheating.

Fortunately, in most cases, I’m not embarrassed when someone “catches” me faking it. When it comes to my hair, I actually like discussing the myriad things we find to do to those poor strands of dead protein on our heads. And, honestly, I’m not really ashamed to admit that at some point in my life I’ve had fake nails, a fake tan, fake eyelashes, fake eye color (this one is on my mom — she wanted to see what my eyes would look like really green), and even fake hair (anyone else remember those faux hair scrunchies you used to be able to buy at Claire’s to create a messy bun in a snap? …anyone?).

The point is, I try not to take beauty too seriously. At it’s most intense, it’s meant to be a form of expression and experimentation. (And these under-eye circles that seem to have taken up residence on my face aren’t going to hide themselves.) But I never want to become someone who feels like she needs to look like something or someone else to be happy.

So spill: Am I the only one who stresses about turning into a big, ol’ phony? I mean, I’m not exactly getting Real Housewife casting calls yes, so I’m probably fine, but y’all know I love when we share neuroses.