Why Taking a Break from Social Media Was Good for Me.

I’m not here to tell you to delete Instagram off your phone (or Snapchat, or Twitter, or Facebook). I’m here to tell you why I did in the first place and what I learned in the process. This is not someone everyone will do, nor can do (depending on your line of work). I’m here to tell you why taking a break from social media was good for me.

The decision was inspired by that new feature that Instagram has put in place to tell you how much time I’ve been spending on the app. I know that Apple also has this feature for iPhones now as well, but I’m staying true to myself and not updating my phone until it force updates itself. I was looking at those stats in the app in late October and realized I had spent an average of 1 hour 45 minutes on Instagram alone per day! (For some of you, this may seem like a lot, for others it may not seem like that much). I was in shock. Time is my most valuable commodity and I looked at this as me spending over 12 hours a week avoiding doing things that I complained I didn’t have time to do. Things like sleep more, go for a run, do laundry. It honestly made me upset and I knew I needed to make a change.

At the beginning of every month this year, I tried my best to set “intentions” (small, attainable goals), knowing that over the course of the year, these small actions will result in a lot of change. So when I planned out my intentions for the month of November, I chose to delete social media from my phone for 21 days to see if it made a difference in the way I spend my time. So here’s a little recap of how it went:

 

Straight from the diary: The First Week:

My hand is constantly trying to find the apps on my phone. I almost forget that I’ve deleted them and become sad trying to figure out what all my friends are up to. “What should I post about when I reactivate the apps?” “21 days seems too long – what if I just did a week? Yeah, that’ll be good.” I think it’s really nice to be out of town, but not feel like you have to let people know. What is the point of even taking pictures if no one sees them but me? I like being off the radar. Do people even know I’m off the radar? WOW I AM SAVING SO MUCH PHONE BATTERY RIGHT NOW. I feel like life is going on without me even though I am living it. It’s nice I can concentrate on more “me” things. Without constant bombarding, it’s easy to be more in tune with what you like instead of what’s trending.

 

Straight from the diary: The Second Week:

I feel like I’m replacing social media with Netflix… which doesn’t help anything. Should I ever get on social media again? Is this fast working? I miss my online only friends. I’m nervous about going from 0 to 100 when I get back online. I feel like I’m missing out on my real friends’ lives too. I just met someone new and added their phone number to my phone instead of asking for their insta handle – weird!

 

Straight from the diary: The Third Week:

I don’t really miss it that much.

 

That’s all she wrote for the third week. I honestly didn’t spend too much time thinking about it the third week, let alone journaling about it. Looking back, over the last few weeks I had gotten used to just not seeing the extra content that I just didn’t miss it. I spent more time sending photos to my family and friends over text, catching up with people I hadn’t seen in awhile over the phone.

 

What I learned:

It made me more aware of my relationships.

Not everyone I want to connect with is really active on social media. Just because I post something, I assume that everyone has the time to see it, which is not the case. I need to be more intentional about connecting with other people outside of social media. Relationships matter. And while online connection with the masses is valuable and serves a purpose, it does not replace intentionally reaching out to an individual someone.

It made me more aware of what and why I am doing the things that I do.

I constantly asked myself this questions: what are the things I am doing just so I can post about them? What are the things that I do for myself when no one is watching? What am I gravitating towards? These are the things that are important to me.

When my 21 days was up, the only thing I downloaded for the day was Snapchat (random, right?). To be honest, the only reason I had downloaded it was to get attention from a specific person; and when I became more aware of my why, I deleted the app immediately. This break for social has made me more aware of my why; and whether my motives are selfish, or more joyful and focused on others.

It made me more aware of how I’m spending my time.

Before taking this break, there would be times that I would be doing nothing but sitting in my bed. On Instagram. For hours! I could have at least been playing a movie in the background or on public transportation, or something.

 

What does spending time on social media look like for me now?

It probably means continuing to set limits for myself to not get caught in what everyone else is doing so much so that I can’t even connect with myself. It means continually asking myself, “why do I need to be on here?” How do I feel about my life after looking at other people’s lives (or what they choose to post)?

I have to recognize that this, like many other challenges in life, is not a once and done thing. I will need to always make a conscious effort to regulate how much time I spend on these apps; and be honest with myself on whether I am truly using it as a platform to connect with other people and build relationships that I may not otherwise be able to grow.

Until next time!

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Expect the Unexpected (Part 1)

Lately God has blessed me with things that I have not expected to be blessed by. More specifically, situations that have already ended badly in my mind, yet turned out for good. The only reason I have been able to be blessed in situations that look unfavorable is because of my attitude.

Let me tell you about the Cleveland wallet story.

This past weekend, I was visiting a good friend of mine in Cleveland. We had planned to explore the downtown / Tower City area, and so when she picked me up, I rearranged all of my belongings so that I would carry a small bag around town, rather than lug around my huge Jansport backpack (which my friend immediately recognized from my nerdy high school days – they have a lifetime warranty, can you blame me?!).

Anyway, I had taken out everything: my wallet, keys, phone, the all-important umbrella, and repacked my purse and then we were off to see the moments, church, and the arcade downtown. We popped into a souvenir shoppe for some postcards and as soon as I went to pay, I noticed my wallet was missing. I must have left it on the seat of the car, I thought. I didn’t think much of it after that, and we continued to explore Downtown Cleveland.

When we had returned to the car, I noticed that my wallet was not on the front seat. Okay, play it cool, don’t panic. So I check the trunk, where my backpack was. Still not there. Okay, clearly I dropped it on the grass or something. Well, maybe someone stole it. Someone definitely stole it. It’s a dog eat dog wor–

And before I let my mind get any more down that slippery slope (and then have a full-blown panic attack), I just prayed. I probably said something like, “Okay Jesus, work your magic.” It was simple, but it was enough to calm me down. I turned to my friend and suggested we retrace our steps. She looked at me like “this cannot be a good thing,” but came along anyway.

Just as it started to rain (which, would have been a super sad scene if it wasn’t for what happened next). I received a phone call from an Ohio number. A woman had found my wallet and she was at a local bar not too far away. Overjoyed, I said I would be there momentarily and we hopped into the car to speed a full two blocks away where I found a woman who had returned my wallet. With everything inside. She said she found the wallet just lying in the middle of the parking lot.

Where I’m from, that would have been fair game. Everything would have been missing. Credit cards. Coffee punch cards. Cash money. Yet everything was just as I left it (even the butterfly necklace in the coin pouch – because, you never know when you are going to have a butterfly necklace emergency).

The whole thing was wildly unexpected. Losing the wallet. Finding the wallet, with everything inside. Even how I responded. Wildly unexpected. A year ago, I would have been in tears, probably in some sort of half tantrum, half panic attack. But I felt an overwhelming sense of peace. It took me awhile to get to that point, but the past year God has taught me so much about peace in the midst of chaos. I’m still a work in progress, but learning to train my heart and mind to be peaceful when all seems chaotic is an invaluable characteristic to have.

Here are three of my favorite Bible verses to whisper to myself when I feel I am not at peace:

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God (Philipians 4:6 ESV).

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope (Romans 15:13 ESV).

Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times in every way. The Lord be with you all (2 Thessalonians 3:16 ESV).

While this is just a small example of things that could happen in my life, seeing progress in this area brings me hope. And when I see that progress I can become stronger, knowing that the peace of God has helped me before, and it will help me again.

I’ll soon be sharing a video highlighting all the fun I had in Cleveland this past weekend! Some of my favorite sights were the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, The Cleveland Art Museum, House “Hunting” on Fairmont Road, and seeing the Orchestra (highly recommended!). Enjoy!

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Call It What It Is

To be honest, yesterday was a tough day for me.

I was sitting at my desk completely frustrated and defeated, knowing that while God’s hand IS on my life I have not seen the fruit of the seeds that I have sown. While I have come a long way spiritually, nothing really monumental has changed in my life and I feel like I’ve been going through the same struggle I’ve had for the past 3 years.

“I’m not really being used to my maximum capacity” and “I would have so much more to give for God’s Kingdom if He just put me somewhere else,” are things I whisper to myself multiple times daily. Anyone else feel like that from time to time? You’re not alone.

I cannot discount the season that I am in, because I have to live it day in and day out until God moves me elsewhere. I am not any less valuable because of where I’m at today. I’m not any less or more valuable because of my job title, what someone says about me, or even my past. I hope for tomorrow, but persevere and be present for today.

Romans 5:3-5 reads “Not only so, but we also praise God in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not fail us.” So I ask myself this question: What character am I building out of the suffering / disappointment / frustration am I experiencing?

In a moment of frustration, yesterday I found myself saying “How can I possibly thank God when everything around me seems to be completely draining and pulling me in a million different directions??!!!??” and “How am I supposed to give God the praise when NOTHING IN MY LIFE IS MOVING?!”

But the truth is, God can bless you anywhere.

I was listening to a timely sermon by one of my favs Steven Furtick from Elevation Church and he said that “If I say it’s a blessing, it WILL be a blessing If I say God is in it, he IS in it. If I say it is an opportunity than IT IS an opportunity. If I say it is a setup, than IT IS a setup.”

So I decide the purpose of the place by what I speak over the situation. If I say that there’s nothing to give glory to, then that is the attitude that I choose. But if I say, I’m going to find something that is a blessing in this situation and call it a blessing, then that situation WILL be blessed. When I walk away from a frustrating situation, will I become disgruntled or will I make it worthwhile by learning something?

Today I find myself saying “this opportunity is a stepping stone for something greater.” or “today is another gift from God and another opportunity to give someone a bit of encouragement.”

What can I do today to combat frustration to build character?

I DO have the power to choose to bring purpose into something that seems mundane. I DO have the power to breathe life into the lifeless because I have the Spirit of God living inside of me. If I put limits on myself, I put limits on what I believe can be done through me, when we are all called to great works no matter who or where we are.

God may have the power to redeem my time, but I have the power to call it what it is (free will, anyone?). Don’t lose heart, there is a plan.

2018: The Year of Intention

Do you ever just make plans and then they get pushed off or put on hold due to something unexpected?

For example: last night I had planned to go out with a few girls to dinner, ring in the new year, and then dance the night away (among other things like writing this blog post and cleaning the apartment). I woke up with an incredible sinus headache and the chills. The only thing I actually did yesterday was start and finish Mindhunter on Netflix and rewatch some of my favorite episodes of Arrested Development and play HQ Trivia (no – I have not won any money yet, no I’m not bitter about it).

When I make my plans for the day, I never factor in if something goes wrong. I just assume that everything will go as planned. Over the years, that has put a lot of unnecessary pressure on myself. Pressure just to try and make sure that nothing goes wrong (apparently I forgot that I am a human and that the grace of God exists).

Looking back on how I have planned out my life for my previous years, I set resolutions with the expectation that everything will go according to plan. I say to myself “No, I won’t get injured and I will be able to perfectly complete my training program in time for my marathon.” Or “I don’t plan on getting sick so any money I set aside for the doctor can be automatically put into savings.”

Well unfortunately that’s not what I have encountered this past year. It has been full of disappointments and realizing that life happens and doesn’t stop just because I make plans otherwise. This year, I’m aiming to set realistic resolutions. Resolutions that I have carefully planned out with a buffer for when things don’t go exactly as planned. For me, instead of looking at the year as a whole, it means breaking the year up into 12 months to set monthly goals instead of yearly ones. Instead of calling them resolutions, I am calling them intentions. Intentions have more meaning to me: it’s saying despite what happens in my life “I intend to do this.” I’ve planned it out, I’ve planned for buffers, and I will get this accomplished.

This year, as I look at my “resolutions” “intentions,” I ask myself are these realistic? Or am I banking on the fact that “life” won’t actually happen and everything will go according to plan? Plan for your goals and dreams, but be sure to leave buffer for the unexpected too.

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Lost in the Sauce

Everyone says be true to yourself, be who you want to be. While this is great vague advice, it often leaves me wondering what that really means. I find it so easy to jump into trends, and gravitate to what is popular, what everyone else is doing. Nothing wrong with a good third wave coffeeshop, but sometimes I take a step back and I feel like a clone. A couple years ago, I could look in the mirror and see everyone else: everyone else and not myself.

A few years ago, one of my best friends, Isabella, gave me this piece of paper to fill out. She called it an “essence matrix.” You fill in each “box” with three things for each category. (Categories are: Music, Moving Image, Avocations, Colors, Flavors, Textures,  Visuals, Plays, Literature). The end-product looks something like the picture below (or better, if your handwriting is more legible than mine!) Every six months or so, I make a new one and fill it in again. It’s interesting to see how (and if) my answers have changed over time. It is a really nice way to explore the things which impact my decisions that I simply don’t think about every day.

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“Be true to yourself. Be true to yourself,” I whisper and ponder. What did I use to love that I stopped doing becuase I was afraid I was too different, afraid the world would judge me?

More importantly what does God say about me, who I am and who I should be? At the end of the day, God’s judgement of me is the only one that matters. Not my peers, not my friends, not even my family. Do the people speaking into my life have my best interest at heart as it relates to your God-given destiny? Because trust me, my best interest for myself is not always what is best for myself.

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1 Corinthians 3:12-13 says that “now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble; every man’s work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is.” How I am picturing this is a house made of wood; and there is a bonfire next to the house. When the foundation of a house is built of wood, of hay, or of stubble- how does it stand against the fire? A quick change of the wind in the wrong direction and it sets the house ablaze. Once that fire finishes burning, the home owner is left with nothing.

The ways of the world are like an unpredictable wind. We do not know what the next trends will be, how the dollar will value against other currencies tomorrow, or what life changing invention will come into play. Instead of being subject to the wind- build a house on truth, what is everlasting, and what makes you grounded. If you are rooted in the ground and in truth, and the strongest winds of the world come your way, you will not be shaken.

New York City is a constant space of inspiration, influence, and change. It is all to easy to get caught up in what everyone else is doing with their lives. Comparing my life to others not only hardens my heart, but it takes the focus off of myself. I no longer am focusing on the truth that God is speaking into my life, nor am I living out my unique calling, the things I feel uncomfortable doing because I am under the influence of what the world wants me to be. If I am not too careful, New York can be a place of “sinspiration,” a place distracting from truth. The only reason I am tempted at times is because my heart hasn’t changed. Those who are truly filled with the spirit of Christ cannot be tempted, just as Christ cannot be tempted. Rather, they can stare temptation and the things that are not of truth – things that do not speak to who the truly are – and say “be gone.”

While we all have sinned and fallen short of the Glory of God, sin is not in the nature of those who have devoted their lives to Christ. So while I can be true to myself, I am also subject to the nature of what I have chosen to devote my life to, what I have built my house on, and who I tell myself that I am. So what brings me joy? What brings me closer to Him? What draws others to see that Christ-like nature in me? That is what is most true to myself. Don’t get lost in the sauce: build your house on solid rock.

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The Cost of Impressionism

Impressionist Paintings at Met

As someone who calls herself an artist, the idea of creating scenes, capturing moments, and sketching beautiful architecture came from my love for the Impressionist period of art. I love the way that Impressionists leave little interpretation to the viewer: the paintings from this era evoke an “impression” the artist carefully curated specifically in that moment, tailored for that viewer.
Winter Morning on Montmarte
Upon hearing the word Impressionism, most think of the artistic and historical definition of the word. Perhaps the lesser known term is the following (as defined by Webster’s): “the depiction of scene, emotion, or character by details intended to achieve a vividness or effectiveness more by evoking subjective and sensory impressions than by recreating an objective reality.”
This leaves me thinking: what impression am I trying to give people to leave no interpretation as to the reality I am trying to portray? In other words, am I sacrificing who I am to make sure that I impress others? To make a perfectly curated “moment,” a tailored view to seem like I am more vivid or more effective (if we are still following Webster’s definition)? At the end of the day, I may be impressing people, but at what cost?
I remember first moving to New York City in college. The magic of New York was soon traded for the need to keep up with the Jones’s. I remember coming back from my first semester during Christmas time and someone would tell me “omgsh… look who is living their best Gossip Girl life xoxo.” At the time, I had not yet seen the show,  but I knew it was about Manhattan Socialites of the Upper East Side being invited to parties and soirees and galas wearing the latest fashions off the runway. Truthfully, it felt sooooo good to hear someone say that. I felt accepted. I felt like I got the “seal of approval” from the world, something I didn’t really “get” when I was in high school. So I continued this lifestyle and persona of giving others the impression that I was always living this vibrant fabulous life (according to world, Hollywood, and socialite standards of course).
$11,000 in credit card debt later, I was struggling to really make ends meet. I worked more than 3 jobs just to keep my head above water. I felt so overwhelmed and underwhelmed at the same time. Overwhelmed by the burden I had placed on myself, yet underwhelmed and unimpressed with the gap between how my life actually looked and how I had expected it to look. I would even throw in the word “hustlin” to justify the fact that I had more than one job to even make rent, just to seem busy and important. Unfortunately, our society, especially New York, prides itself on the 14-hour work day and the phrase “everyday I’m hustlin” (which, is a song I still love, thanks Rick Ross). Trying to keep up the pace with someone I wasn’t was exhausting. It was a mistake that cost me money, time, real relationships, and honesty with myself & with God.
With every decision comes an opportunity cost. By choosing to engage in something, I am inherently choosing to say no to another opportunity. When I was choosing to buy into the words the world was telling me, I was giving up who I was. Why on EARTH was I giving up who God has called me to be and what plans God has for my life because I was worried about maintaining an impression that was chosen for me by the world and not by God’s design?! I was impressing people who’s density was not relevant to mine, people who weren’t encouraging, people who didn’t have my best interest at heart. And what’s worse – I was afraid to tell the people I actually cared about becuase I feel that they would think less of me, not respect me, and judge me.
Our actual reality, not the objective one we curate for other people, gives us peace and honesty in all areas of our life. I know that I never have to pretend and I never have to compromise what makes me unique. You know who is impressed with me? God. You know who’s approval I don’t have to strive for? God. And I can rest and live my life knowing that that to continue to walk in truth is the only impression I ever have to make.
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