walking alone on road through forest

The More the Merrier: Why It’s Not the Case When It Comes to Friends.

Something I remember so vividly on my last day of school is that one line your friends would say: “I’m going to miss you so much!” followed by my personal favourite, “we will keep in touch”.  Yeah, we all know how that ends.

Inevitably, life happens and we get busy. Friends drift and you often find yourself spending time with other people. Can I just be super upfront and say what we all might be thinking? Friendships are hard. After school, everything changes. You have to start putting in the effort to make time to see each other.

Something I’ve noticed as I’ve grown up is that I am a full-time people pleaser. Other things I have learnt over the years is that I am extroverted, have a fear of missing out and love being around people. I often hold grudges, but I also give second, third and fourth chances way too easily. I try to convince myself that I don’t care about what other people think, but I’ve come to terms with the fact that I too often seek validation from people.

GIF of Phoebe from TV show FRIENDS saying "I'm a really cool person".

When it comes to friendships, I’m the type of person who will make up excuses on your behalf. If you’ve been acting a little distant or perhaps hurt me in the past, I’ll analyse my side of the friendship and blame myself for whatever went wrong — failing to appreciate that it is in fact a two way street.

The last year or so has challenged me to determine who my true friends are and one huge lesson I have learnt is that often, ‘more’ doesn’t always equate to ‘merrier’ when it comes to friends. I’m not saying you won’t be happy if you have lots of friends, I’m saying your priority needs to lie within quality not quantity.

At the end of last year, I prayed really hard about all of my friends. I asked for clarity in determining who was meant to be in my life and reassurance, as well as acceptance for those who were perhaps meant to drift.

You see, I’m not great at losing friends. In fact, I hate it. Whenever I feel a friend becoming distant, nine times out of ten I will hold onto them with both hands, doing all that I can not to lose them. I will put in more effort, rather than realising that relationships of any sort require equal effort to work. In other words: you can’t be the only one doing it all. Perhaps some people have been placed in your life in a particular season for a certain reason.

So long story short: I kept praying. And here’s where the God-things happened. They say good things come in threes and these following three weeks definitely lived up to that saying.

god-thing #1:

A friend from university messaged me and we organised a time to catch up. We had met in our first class and ever since, our friendship had grown stronger. We just clicked; sharing the same passions, clumsiness and cheesy sense of humour.

We had lunch together and talked about our dreams for the year. Driving home that afternoon I realised that this friend had been placed in my life for a reason. I felt so encouraged and completely motivated to kick my goals. She believed in me and I believed in her. A friendship centred on empowerment, rather than competition.

god-thing #2:

I kept praying. A week later I attended a youth camp filled with amazing people and incredible programs. After one of the night programs, one of my closest friends and I were catching up. Despite a crazy nine years of friendship, we have had our fair share of ups and downs. We have experienced distance not only physically, but sometimes emotionally too, due to living so far away.

We spoke for a while about life and before we knew it we had moved away from the crowds, positioning ourselves outside in the middle of the campground. Two plastic chairs with two vulnerable women seated, placing their hearts before God. We prayed for each other. Hard. We took turns speaking words of encouragement and affirmation over one another and with tear-stained cheeks, I can honestly say that it was one of the most powerful things that we have both experienced together.

god-thing #3:

I kept praying. A few days before the youth camp a friend from high-school sent me a text asking how I was. Since leaving school, we have caught up a few times and it’s one of those friendships that pick up right where you left off, no matter how long it’s been since you saw one another last.

After a few lengthy texts back and forth over the course of almost two weeks, we figured it’d be easier to call. Fast forward two hours and we had covered a lot of ground. Turns out we were both experiencing the same period in our lives, trying to filter through our list of acquaintances and work out who was genuinely a friend. We ended up meeting up for lunch a few days later, but the entire time we both realised how grateful we were for people who put in the effort to just show up and be present.

These three separate friends and three separate events showed me that God was not only listening to my prayers, but He had in fact answered them. These friends had been placed in my life for a reason and while each person came from a completely different walk of life, they shared one common purpose in mine: they were my cheerleaders.

And no, I don’t mean they all brought pom poms and started chanting for me when we caught up (although, I’d be totally cool with that too). But they were placed in my life to speak words of encouragement, affirmation and empowerment into both my heart and mind. To truly believe in me. To genuinely care. To be accepting and open. To be authentic and real. To listen. To be a cheerleader.

two friends hugging

I truly believe that God places these people in your life to be a prominent reminder of the way He cares and loves for you. After all, life is all about people. Finding others to journey alongside through it all and experience things with. Having relationships where the effort is mutual and you are both cheering one another on. And you know what? God is continuing to show me who those people are.

Life is not about being alone, but it’s also not about surrounding yourself with so many people you feel lost. There are many people who have lots of friends, and yet they still feel lonely. That’s not what life is about.

We often fail to remember that our timing is not always aligned with God’s timing. This year, trust His plan for you — including the people He is placing in your life and those He is slowly taking out.

Maybe seeking validation from others and striving to please people is actually feeding the emptiness and loneliness that we sometimes experience. Don’t allow yourself to become so dependent on other people for your happiness that your worth diminishes when those people do drift.

Here’s to few friends, but damn good ones.

Keep smiling. x

 

spoiler alert: you’re not a big deal.

And here we are, making it all about us. Time and time again, without fail. It’s just so easy. But what if we stopped doing all of that? Because spoiler alert: you’re not a big deal.

For some reason, we have to make sure we leave all the baggage, put on a mask and pretend like we have it all together. We have to dress a certain way, post the best picture out of the hundred we have taken and let everyone know where we’ve been and who we’ve been with. I mean, did you really go to Bondi if you didn’t post a picture of the Bondi Icebergs? #DoItForTheGram.

Real talk though. I do all of these things and more. One thing that I constantly tell myself is: “I don’t care what other people think”. But the funny part is that the one thing I know I tell myself, but don’t really mean is: “I don’t care what other people think”.

Yep, I’m a full-time people pleaser. To see perfectly curated social media feeds. To compare one lifestyle to the next. It’s no longer just a quick filter or photoshop, it’s “lifeshop”. We pick and choose the best parts and conveniently (intentionally) skip all of the heartache, the pain, and the daily struggles.

But why? To achieve what? To be happy, or to appear happy? 

For some reason, we often think we are a big deal (guilty)! But spoiler alert: you’re not. You matter, yes. I’m not trying to tell you that you don’t. But sometimes we need to be reminded that the world doesn’t, in fact, revolve around us.

We can get so big-headed and forget that there are other people struggling too. Other people that also matter. This world is so huge and I often forget how small I really am. It takes a whole lot of perspective, with a sprinkle of humbleness to really grasp it. You are no greater than any other individual. Likewise, your worth is no less. 

So here’s my question. What if?

What if we treated each other as if we were equals? Seeing anyone and everyone we came in contact with as a human. Race, gender, religion, sexuality, personal history, job, income – all of the nitty gritty things aside – human.

What if we acted as silhouettes, stripping away the facade? What if we were raw and authentic? Imagine what the world would be like if we were all genuinely ourselves? We would see each other’s mess and not only accept it, but empathise, because we would know that other people are going through a difficult time, too.

What if we didn’t judge people we had never met, let alone friends, through our screens? What if we stopped using social media as a grading system; as a way to measure up to other people? What if we acknowledged and appreciated each other’s flaws, rather than criticise them?

What if we stripped it all away and uplifted, encouraged and empowered one another? What if we stopped picturing brokenness as a sign of weakness, but rather that of strength and perseverance?

Ha, what if.

Keep smiling. x

6 Things You Need to Stop Doing Once You’re Twenty.

In a few months, I turn twenty-one. While that is incredibly exciting, in the last year I have realised that this decade of life – your twenties – are, simply put, when everything changes. It is inevitably when life is going to throw you the biggest curveballs of all. Even though I have only really begun my journey into my twenties, I have made a pact with myself to try and change a few things about my thinking and behaviour. So, here are the six things I believe you need to stop doing once you are twenty.

1. Stop being a door mat.
Once you leave school, it’s different. It’s not rocket science – more time and effort has to go into maintaining the friendships you had growing up. Make time for your friends, but don’t forget that it goes both ways. All relationships work better when equal amounts of effort is put in by everyone involved. Some friendships are going to drift and you will feel one of two things: numbness or pain. If it is painful, it mattered. We are taught to stand up for ourselves and not let others use you. You’re not a door mat. Welcome people in to your life, but don’t let those people stand there and wipe their feet clean as they walk all over you. Be a kind person, but don’t let others take that for granted. You deserve friends that treat you right. Don’t you dare settle for less than you deserve.

2. Stop saying yes.
As you get older, you naturally accept more responsibility. Responsibility is great – it not only allows you to show others that you are mature and organised, but you learn how to prioritise and manage your time efficiently. However, don’t forget that you are also allowed to say ‘no’ every once in a while. Don’t spread yourself too thin. Don’t take on so much responsibility that you are no longer passionate or enthusiastic about a certain cause. At the end of the day, those two things are exactly what drives your motivation to do well at something. If you are lacking both passion and enthusiasm, you will find that your performance will gradually decline. Don’t feel like you have to say yes to people. If someone asks you to help them out or take on a particular role, spend some time really considering it, especially if it is a weighty decision. Often if someone knows that you are a ‘yes’ person, they will use you as their go-to person. While you should not feel obliged to always say yes, it doesn’t mean you should stop altogether.

3. Stop saying no.
If you say ‘no’ too frequently, the amount of opportunities that have the potential to come your way will diminish – and it will happen fast. If you close yourself off, then you will never gain that extra bit of experience that could point you in the right direction. Don’t be scared of stepping outside of the confines of your comfort zone. Often, that is where the magic happens. It can be terrifying, don’t get me wrong, but you will always end up better for it on the other end. Whether you have learnt something new or acquired a new skill or maybe even had the opportunity to share your talents with others, you will find that you have also had the chance to grow as well. Sometimes you will get lucky and something new will land in your lap because of a person you have met or something you have done in the past. However, this typically doesn’t always happen, so you need to be open to trying new things. You may be adamant that your internship application will just be a speck in the hundreds of others that apply, but what have you got to lose? Show them you are passionate. Show them you are different from the rest and ready to tackle new challenges head on. Don’t wait for opportunities to find you, actively seek them instead. Patience can only get you so far, but eagerness and a curious mind will always lead you to open doors.

4. Stop waiting for your family to ring you.
Make a conscious decision that once or twice a week you will take five minutes out of your day to ring your family. Whether that is a parent, sibling, grandparent, aunt, uncle or cousin – make it a priority. About a year or two ago,  I realised that I was constantly leaving it up to both my grandmother’s to ring and check up on me. I quickly decided that I wanted this to change. The relationship you have with your family is something so special and I was taking it for granted. Now, I make a conscious effort to ring them both at least once every week or two, depending on how busy my schedule is and what time I get home from Uni or work. Every time I end the phone call or give them a hug goodbye after seeing them, I now make sure I say, ‘love you!’ While this shouldn’t be some crazy, new phenomenon – for some reason it often feels natural to tell our partner that we love them every day, but when it comes to family, we ignore the simple ‘I love you’. Why do we find it so awkward to speak words of affirmation to our family? You don’t want it to be too late and have any regrets, so stop waiting for your family to ring you. Everyone gets busy and fitting in time to have a decent conversation can be difficult, but these relationships are incredibly special and you don’t want to lose that, because you’ll need them more than ever. Never underestimate the importance of a quick phone call or the importance of an ‘I love you’.

5. Stop worrying about what others think of you.
You know what they say – us ‘Millennials’ are experiencing the most severe identity crisis of all. Due to the emergence of social media within the last two decades, it’s pretty damn hard to argue against that. We constantly compare ourselves with the lives of those we may or may not know that appear on our screens. We pick and choose the parts of our lives that we showcase to others and we get so caught up on following the latest trends. We are growing up more socially awkward than ever, because we aren’t used to holding conversations that are not requiring us to only move our fingers and thumbs. We have become one of the most narcissistic generations in history – spending our own time (and sometimes money) trying to acquire people to be interested more in our lives rather than their own. Welcome to 2017! Placing your worth in the values that society has created will do nothing but feed the voices telling you that you will never be enough. If you keep seeking validation from people or things that don’t have the right to be dictating the way you live your life, then you will never be happy. You will find yourself temporarily happy until someone else tells you there is ‘just one more thing’ you can do or change to be even happier – it’s a never-ending cycle. Stop constantly trying to please other people rather than doing things for yourself.

6. Stop thinking you have to ‘do life’ a certain way.
It’s not hard to see why we are so easily falling into the trap of an identity crisis. Individuals asking themselves why their lives don’t quite match up to where it’s “supposed to be”. For starters – that’s a load of poo. The values and ideals that society creates to be ‘normal’ is not reality, but rather an augmented version of it that is unattainable. Stop comparing yourself to where others are in life – whether they are financially stable, have moved out of home, are in a relationship, have an amazing new job, or ha, just have a job. It is completely normal to freak the heck out when you reach your twenties! You not only have a slight existential crisis, but suddenly you realise that oh, this is where it gets real. Society tells you that in the next ten years you should basically have checked graduating, getting your first real job, finding a lifelong partner, moving out of home, potentially moving to another job, getting married, travelling and having kids, off the list. Sounds ideal, right? But who says this is the way it has to go? Set goals and have dreams that you aspire to achieve, but don’t freak out if it’s not all happening the way you planned – because, spoiler alert: it probably won’t.

While I am only skirting around the borders of turning twenty-one, I still have so much to learn when it comes to growing up. All I can say is, every year brings more opportunities to do just that and I will continue to use what I already know to help me become the best version of myself as I work through my twenties. So, to all my twenty-something year old friends out there, this one is for you. Let’s do this crazy decade together.

Keep smiling. x

The Twelve Apostles, Great Ocean Road, Melbourne

Beyond the Surface: 5 Life Lessons from the Ocean

The ocean is a mysterious, yet intriguing part of nature that continuously surprises me with the analogies it presents. I have learnt a lot from the ocean by simply sitting and watching the waves touch the shore.

To be honest, if the ocean was a person, I think it would make a pretty good role model. If we applied these lessons to our everyday living, what would a life like that look like?

lesson 1: rejection builds character.

No matter how many times it gets pushed back and rejected, without fail it returns each time. A personality filled with persistence, courage, strength and resilience that stands up for its beliefs.

I see a life where we are not scared of rejection. A life where we are constantly trying and never giving up despite the challenges and the outcome. A life in which love is limitless. Where we aim to love others like we have been loved. To love our friends unconditionally, but also love those who have hurt us; to show love toward our enemies.

lesson 2: everyone is going through something.

Perhaps the calmness of the ocean’s surface tells its own beautiful story too. On a cloudless day filled with blue skies, the water reflects the serene atmosphere. However, beneath the surface, the invisible depths create a darkness that echoes a quiet, distant and lost place, almost forgotten.

I see a life where we don’t take things for face value. Where we stop judging others for their appearance, occupation, skin colour, level of education, income and background. Where we begin accepting others for who they are and embracing our differences, rather than faulting them. A life without competition or inequity, where we are all positioned on an equal and fair playing field, lacking pedestals in which human beings are placed above other human beings.

lesson 3: your feelings do not need to be justified.

Or maybe the rough waves that angrily beat against the shore. The clouds cover the sun, the darkness arrives and the storm hits in full force. The waves climb high while the wind creates a cooler atmosphere and the ocean insists it is left alone, before it eventually calms down once again.

I see a life where we are allowed to be upset. Where our feelings are not criticised and we don’t feel like we have to act a certain way. A life where we can be open, honest and transparent. Where we can feel hurt, upset, angry and frustrated and not feel bad about it. Where we can talk about our emotions openly, but also listen to others.

A life in which those who are struggling are given a voice, rather than silenced. Where we are not shut down for having an opinion, but given the opportunity to share those perspectives. A life where we can overcome challenges together, by listening and supporting one another.

lesson 4: stop seeking validation. you are enough.

What about the way the ocean remains beautiful no matter the situation. Whether you are sitting on the sand awe-struck by its beauty or whether you are chatting away with friends or reading a book, its beauty remains.

I see a life where beauty is not defined by the amount of likes on an Instagram photo or the social media following acquired. A life in which being quietly confident is seen to be beautiful, rather than the attention received from pride and arrogance. Where this quiet confidence trumps a loud, unapologetic ego.

lesson 5: let go of what is holding you back.

The incredible vastness of the ocean and the way it stretches further than the eye can see. The horizon and the way the sky never fails to kiss the ocean. The mystery of what lies beyond. There is something about the unknown that can be rather intimidating, yet captivating all at once.

I see a life where we are excited about the future and the potential for new opportunities, instead of dwelling on the past and not rising above heartache and challenges. Where the unknown is epitomised by the ability to grow as an individual, rather than a scary hurdle we would prefer not to face.

So if the ocean was a person, would you want to be its friend? Me too.

Keep smiling. x

5 things I wish I knew before leaving school

I witnessed my sister heading off to her Year 12 Formal the other day and I felt so incredibly proud. The beginning of the end to a long thirteen years of schooling and turning the page to a new chapter post-HSC exams. I came home from work the night of Aimee’s last exam and she was glowing. The freedom she had only been waiting forward to was now a reality. I hugged her, welcoming her to this new and exciting journey. I explained to her that while she may feel like a huge burden had been lifted off her shoulders, it is not all cruisy from here. Life throws lots of curveballs and you need to be prepared to face them head on, instead of let them overpower you. 

Later that night, I laid in bed thinking how that was me two years ago and how much has changed in that short period of time. I reminisced about the challenges that I faced as I completed my exams and my personal experiences of that taste of ‘freedom’ that followed. I quickly wrote down a few things that I wish I had known when I waved school goodbye, with the intention of sharing these pieces of advice with my sister.

1. Be open minded. 
You’ll meet new people with different values and morals to you. Don’t let that dishearten you, but rather listen to their perspectives, explore new avenues and deepen your own understanding. Don’t be stubborn and close-minded. Always be willing to learn and grow. Knowledge is power. Stand up for what you believe in, but don’t shut down others for their beliefs. 

2. Embrace challenges. Acknowledge that things won’t be easy, but when difficulties arise, take those moments to pause and evaluate the situation from multiple directions. Sometimes we limit ourselves to the things we want to see and are oblivious to the things we should or need to be focusing on. Your attitude and perspective changes everything, so adjust them accordingly.

3. Find your passion and run with that. Do something that you love, but also try new things – you may love something that you don’t even know yet! The first step is finding something that you love, but the most important thing is believing in that. Never be scared to step outside your comfort zone. Often, you will find that you will make new experiences, meet new people and have the opportunity to reveal your hidden talents when you take a risk and try something different. 


4. Make time for your friends. It is different after school, because you have to put time and effort into maintaining your friendships. You grow up with these people and you learn from each other. These relationships are important and you will find that once you go your separate ways, it is much more difficult to hold on to those special bonds you have created. All relationships work better when equal amounts of effort is put in by everyone involved.


5. Remember that you are Loved. You will quickly realise that this world is messed up. There are so many things going on, not only on a global scale, but even within our local surroundings. It is okay to feel overwhelmed by all of these things, but also remember to have faith that there is something much bigger and greater than all of these materialistic and temporary things. In a world full of chaos, let this reminder bring you peace. 

Growing up is an exciting, but scary and fun, yet challenging experience. I have realised in the last two years, that I have already grown and matured so much. But more importantly, I have realised that this growing and maturing never stops.

Keep smiling. x