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

 

12 life changing lessons I Learnt in 12 Months

12 Life-Changing Lessons I Learnt in 12 Months.

As the New Year is well and truly underway, I spent the last few days reflecting on the experiences I encountered in 2017. The last twelve months taught me a lot, so here’s a little recap of the life-changing lessons that I have learnt.

1. conversation is crucial to healing.

January taught me that conversations are important – particularly during the healing process. Whether it be through grieving the loss of someone significant, or through accepting some sort of change in your life.

Perhaps it is even forgiving a person who has hurt you in the past and letting go of the grudge you have been holding on to for so long. Acceptance and moving on can be incredibly difficult, but I have learnt that being open and honest with someone allows you to experience vulnerability in a way in which it frees you.

2. your testimony is always worth sharing.

I had the opportunity in February to share my testimony at a youth program, in which I spoke about the impact my sister’s accident had on my life. Life is all about people and we can choose how we interact with those we come in contact with.

It could begin as small talk with a cashier at your go-to coffee shop, or connecting with a lifelong friend on a deeper level. However it may be, if the opportunity presents itself, don’t take it lightly. Your story is so much more powerful than you think and no one can take that away from you.

3. don’t let the white noise distract you from god. 

It was at the Hillsong Colour Conference in March that my eyes were drawn to the row reserved for deaf women. I watched the translator sign the lyrics to the ladies – completely engrossed in the moment and in love with their God. I could hear everything, yet they could hear nothing. It made me wonder whether their disability had been a catalyst for such passionate faith.

Often we get distracted by the artificial ‘white noise’ constantly surrounding us that we lose focus of what it means to love God, or worse, we lose focus of God altogether. As I witnessed them in worship, I prayed that my faith would be a reflection of theirs – complete, unhidden and made manifest among others. In a world full of chaos and distraction, ask yourself: what would my faith look like if I stripped away all of this background noise?

4. travel when you can.

I visited Melbourne for the first time in April and explored the Great Ocean Road. I have learnt that when it comes to travel, you need to find a way to make it work. Whether that means booking the tickets when they’re on sale and letting future Jess worry about it (obviously not speaking from experience) or saving some money by making more of an effort to take lunch to work rather than purchasing it.

Travel teaches you perspective. Regardless of where you go, as you experience different places you realise just how small you are and how big the world really is. You not only discover more about other places, people and their culture, but you learn more about yourself, too. It really is a reality check when you appreciate how vastly different each of our journeys are.

5. consider closed doors as an opportunity for new ones to open.

I was let go from my position as an employee at my local supermarket in May. Rewind a month prior and I was having an interview at a digital marketing agency. Little did I know that while the door to my supermarket gig was quickly closing, another was opening.

Fast forward to now and I have been employed as a social media contractor at my old work place, while also working part time at the digital agency. Often some doors close in order for us to grow, learn and as a result, step outside the confines of our comfort zones to try something new. The answer will always be ‘no’ if you don’t give it a shot, so why miss out on the possiblity of a ‘yes’?

6. friends shouldn’t be convenient.

The usual “how are we already half way through the year?” question hit me hard in June. I realised that three years ago I had been studying for my Year 12 trial exams, which reminded me how different things are now, after school.

Friendships suddenly require effort. Life quickly gets busy and you need to intentionally set time aside to catch up. I hate losing friends and I care too much about people, but sometimes you inevitably drift from others. I have learnt this lesson the hard way – a few times now. Friendships require effort from both sides. Be genuine, be authentic and be intentional with your friends. Don’t choose friends just because they are convenient.

7. stop waiting for a better offer.

Our generation is lacking commitment at a rapidly growing rate, as the ability to change our minds at the drop of a hat (and the fact it is deemed acceptable) is easier than ever thanks to social media. I held my 21st party in July and this, along with other events throughout the year, helped amplify my recognition of this behaviour.

We are invited to a party, but wait to find out who will be there before committing to going. Then the morning of the party, a group of your other friends suggest more appealing plans, so you log on to Facebook and quickly change your RSVP – or better yet, you haven’t responded to the event anyway, ‘just in case something comes up’.

I have done it and chances are, you probably have too. Welcome to the era of FOMO. We constantly choose to wait for a better offer and we have a fear of missing out. Perhaps we need to stop tolerating this excuse for commitment (and frankly, just being polite) and stop taking other people for granted.

8. you don’t need to fear the unknown.

From a simple blood test to see if I was iron deficient, to an ultra sound and more – I found myself consistently fearing the unknown in 2017. August in particular was terrifying, with an appointment for both an endoscopy and colonscopy just days after my 21st birthday. Waiting for test results was worrying. The uncertainty was unsettling and I was caught in this never-ending cycle of ‘what if’ – questioning everything and overthinking the smallest things.

We tend to jump to conclusions very quickly; overlooking the finer details. One of the most important things we overlook is the fact that God knows our before, our now and our after. He sees everything. However, I learnt that our own perspective is limited to the before and now, so don’t fail to remember that the unknown is in fact known to Him.

9. do something that scares you.

September was uncomfortable. It was exciting and brought me a lot of great opportunities, but it was scary and it was uncomfortable. I presented three separate pitches in front of real-world clients and I took the plunge and decided to start my own freelancing business.

We can choose to be comfortable and settle for our current position, or we can choose to not be scared of stepping outside the confines of our comfort zone. By choosing to do something that scares us, we give ourselves the opportunity to learn and grow – and nothing bad has ever come from learning and growing. Maybe we need to do a regular self-check and consider whether we are genuinely happy with our current position or just comfortable.

10. uni group assignments will never not be bad.

If you say otherwise, you either never went to university or you are lying. In October, I graduated university. When it comes to working alongside people, there are always times when personalities clash. For the last three years, I had my fair share of group assignments and no, they weren’t fun.

People can be challenging, but remember to be open-minded. Hear each other out, be understanding and empathetic. Other people will have different views, ideas and beliefs to you, but rather than being close-minded, listen and be challenged. Stand your ground on what you belief, but don’t let pride or stubborness impinge on your ability to be accepting.

11. celebrate the little things, often.

Instagram has allowed me to use my blog as a plaftorm to reach hundreds of people through my writing. It has also given me the opportunity to meet so many inspiring people who share my passion. My platform continued to grow in November, however it is easy to become disheartened when you begin comparing your growing to other people’s milestones – particularly when it comes to chasing your dreams.

Having big goals is not a bad thing, but don’t feel disheartened when you see other people achieving bigger dreams quicker. Let that motivate you, rather than discourage you. Choose to celebrate the little things and don’t feel silly for getting excited about it. Acknowledge how far you have come and allow those moments to be a catalyst for further growing.

12. make time for those who matter.

It’s almost as if once December arrives, so too does everything else. And by ‘everything else’, you know exactly what I mean – the busy shops filled with people who suddenly can’t steer shopping trolleys, the crazy family gatherings each weekend, the hectic holiday planning and the Michael Buble and Mariah Carey albums on repeat.

We get caught up with work and other distractions, that we become busy and priortise the wrong things. I learnt in 2017 to make time for those who matter. Family is important and we often don’t take enough time out to be present in the lives of those who mean the most to us. Make sure you remember to put the right things first.

So here’s to another year of learning. All the best for 2018!

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

stop being comfortable

Once I graduated from high school, I stepped outside of that Christian bubble that I had been sheltered by all of my life. I started meeting people at Uni and work who didn’t know God and I was often the only one who did.  It took me a while to understand that this difference facilitated a space for powerful opportunities to take place.

I have realised over the last few years that knowing Jesus and having a relationship with Him is important, but keeping it to yourself has very little impact. I have decided that this year, this is something that I want to change. I am a firm believer that neither your presence nor your absence within the church defines your relationship with God. Rather than solely focus on building and maintaining my current relationships, I want to actively and intentionally seek opportunities to create relationships with people that may not know God yet, so they too can find Jesus.

Personally, I find it easier to talk to strangers about my faith than to my close family or friends who do not share my beliefs. We tend to not only receive more judgement from those who we surround ourselves with on a regular basis, but we also value their opinions so much more. We have always been taught that ‘sharing is caring’, but how come we are so hesitant when it comes to sharing our faith?

I want to challenge myself this year to stop being satisfied with my current position; stop being comfortable. I want to challenge myself to reach beyond my comfort zone. It takes courage and a whole lot of faith, but if I can conquer that fear, then I am sure that amazing things can and will happen.

Keep smiling. x

img_3694

society needs its butt kicked.

We all have insecurities. We live in a world where we naturally compare our appearance, style, personality, career, lifestyle and more, with that of friends and complete strangers. Inevitably (and wrongly), we begin to believe that we are simply not good enough. Just as we begin to get comfortable and feel like we ‘have our lives together’ or are ‘genuinely happy’, something new emerges that tells us that we aren’t quite as happy as we could be yet. 

A society that finds worth in materialistic things instructs on how we can enhance every little thing about us in order to fit perfectly within its ideology. Although, this implies that what lies beyond and doesn’t conform, therefore holds no value. 

Do we really want to reflect that false framework our messed up society has built? Girls get body shamed for not having a gap between their thighs and guys that don’t sport a tanned athletic body with a six-pack aren’t as “attractive” as they could be. I mean, come on, seriously? And the sad part is, this doesn’t even scratch the surface. Society needs its butt kicked. Seriously. 

Let’s admire and compliment one another without questioning our own
beauty, strength and self-worth.


Reality is, when we adopt this frame of mind there is limited space left to genuinely love ourselves, because we are too focused on improving, rather than appreciating, the qualities that we already have. Let’s show this society who’s boss. A society in which unrealistic standards need to be re-evaluated so that going against ‘the grain’ is praised, rather than looked down upon. 

Girls, don’t even think about mentioning thigh gaps anyway – they are, like, so last year. ‘Thigh brows’ are the new thing (sadly, it’s a thing – Google it). If this is the kind of standard that society has perceived as ‘normal’, then this is an open invitation to everyone who would like to be as abnormal as possible with me. 

Let’s admire and compliment one another without questioning our own beauty, strength and self-worth. Empower, not compete. Let this be your reminder that you are SO enough. 

Keep smiling. x