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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Success is Relative

To be honest, the last few months have not been the easiest, creatively. I have had a whirlwind of ideas, concepts, next steps if you will, floating into my mind (some of which are better than others), and that just where they have stayed. In my mind. Personally, I can be intimidated by the sheer volume of other people creating things, it makes me not want to do anything ever. 

The allure and vision of becoming successful one day is slowing fading out of my mind and time just seems to go by: I’m standing still, slowly turning in a panoramic manner, and everything else seems to be moving in hyperlapse. Sound familiar? If not, let me paint you a better picture (complete with some sad piano music, a black and white filter, and all) : Standing Still.

I have to ask myself then: where am I getting this definition of success? Who is creating that for me? And why does that definition apply to my life? Long story short: it doesn’t.

34th Street, Manhattan

The world’s definition of success is actually so vague and purposeless that it makes me frustrated for actually falling for it. I didn’t even realize where I was feeding my soul information from until I started to dig deeper.

In the context example Google uses for its definition of success (meaning popularity and wealth), the sentence it gives is “the trappings of success.” I’m sure you know as well as I do that the feeling of entrapment can come hand and hand with success. But the definition I care to explore more about, the one I want to continue to meditate on is “the accomplishment of an aim or a purpose.”

We are all created for a purpose. Is that for us to know right away? Maybe. But at the very least, it is for us to figure out along the way . As we continue to grow more in our faith, we discover more about ourselves on a daily basis. This means trying on a daily basis. This means failing on a daily basis. But it also means one step closer to your own personal success on a daily basis.

Success does not look the same for a woman who was born to raise 3 children to be future leaders of the world as it does for me. It does not look the same for a woman who is a teacher during the day and attending night school so she can advance her research studies. It does not look the same for the lawyer working until 2AM in the high rise in Midtown Manhattan. It does not look the same for the athlete training 6 hours a day and making sure she gets 8 hours a sleep a night so her body can recuperate.

Success is setting reasonable goals for yourself within your own lane. Only you and God know your own limits; and you have to be honest with yourself. This is something I know I need to work on. I will be either all in or not at all. Lately, it has been a not at all mindset, which has left me feeling discouraged and left behind. If that’s you too, that’s okay. As you grow in your skills and abilities to become autonomous, your limit and capacity to tackle more responsibility increases.

That definition of success that I mentioned earlier (the accomplishment of an aim or a purpose)? I think I want to rewrite it to say “The accomplishment or aim of a purpose.” You may never been truly feel like you are “done.” But we continue aiming, because we will always be called to a Higher purpose.

Don’t look for the success that will entrap you. Look for the kinds of success that will propel you into your unique purpose. Own your own definition of success.

 

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Year of Encouragement: Quarterly Check-In

In January, I started to encourage others to write handwritten notes (yes, snail mail is a thing) through a letter writing challenge called the Year of Encouragement. The challenge is to send a letter to someone (anyone), once a week for a year (different people), so that they may be encouraged in some way.

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Granted, I haven’t been the best example of doing my monthly check-in videos (in fact, we are 1/3 of the way through April), but my intention is to be that voice that every now and then, serves as a reminder (to myself especially) that there is someone in my life that needs to be encouraged.  To be frank, there was two weeks in March where I didn’t send out any (what I would call) encouraging letters. I was running out of things to say, and I felt like I was saying the same stuff over and over again. I had hit a writer’s block. Then I thought – sometimes the best way to lift someone’s spirits is not to keep repeating how incredible they are – although I’ve been told that helps ;), but rather to share something going on in my life that may just put a smile on their face.

Just in case I’m not the only one hitting writer’s block, I wanted to make a list of topics to write about when you get stuck:

Topics for Snail Mail Letters When You Hit Writer’s Block

  • Describe an incredible meal you recently ate
  • Tell someone about something that is on your bucket list
  • Recall a story or fond memory from your childhood and write it out
  • Share some goals that you want to accomplish over the next 60 days
  • Exercise your creative brain and write a short story!
  • Tell a story that happened on a recent trip you took
  • Share something a friend taught you recently
  • Congratulate someone on ________ (graduating, finding a new apartment, getting a dog, getting engaged, growing a year older, having a baby, making it through the week, being a stellar friend)
  • Share a list of your favorite things (favorite childhood pet, favorite park, favorite musical instrument to hear on a soundtrack, favorite genre of movie, favorite flavor of ice cream, etc).
  • Share about a book you are reading (or read recently)
  • Describe something you want to cook or bake
  • Tell someone the best part about living in the neighborhood that you live in
  • Share something you want to learn in the future (a new software skill, a foreign language)
  • Write about a fun (unusual, memorable) dream you have had
  • Share a frustration you recently went through (there was a leak in your house, your kids would not cooperate), and how you overcame it!

Here’s my video of encouragement for the month of March. Watch it here.

Happy Letter Writing Month!

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You Are Loved and Are Called to Love

Valentines Day?! You’re going to write about VALENTINE’S DAY (I can already see your eyes rolling to the back of your heads).
For some, there is so much pressure and expectation when in a relationship on this holiday. And for others, there is this stigma that if you’re not in a relationship on Valentine’s Day you’re 1) worthless 2) unlovable 3) going to die alone and become a cat hoarder. I’m here to tell you that none of these are true – especially that last one – I’d definitely become a dog hoarder first (personal preference).
But real talk (in and out of relationships): I’ve never felt truly alone in my entire life. This is why:
1. I have made it my personal mantra to give away love without expecting anything in return.
2. I don’t need someone to complete me, only complement what I’m already doing. My heart and soul are full of joy and the Spirit of Christ.

When I give for giving’s sake (out of love) it eliminates the pressure of measuring up, comparison, and unrealistic expectations.

If I live in a “me-centric” world, I have an expectation of a certain amount of attention, love, etc. And when I don’t get that, my unmet expectations create a gap in my life filled with sorrow, self-hatred, and disappointment.

Don’t get me wrong – life is full of disappointments, I experience them often. Giving love away doesn’t eliminate those. There’s a difference between being disappointed in a moment and living out of disappointment. However, when I give something away and I don’t feel obligated to receive anything, those unrealistic expectations can easily become buried.

On that note, one of the most simple ways to give away love on Valentines Day (in my opinion) is a simple little note. It doesn’t have to be someone you have romantic feelings towards (but it can be), It can even be a non-specific note that you pass out to someone on the subway, or at the grocery store.

And speaking of giving things away ….. I wanted to announce a little giveaway that I’m doing for the month of February! -YAY
It's all in the Details.
As you may have read a previous post, I wanted to do a letter writing challenge in 2018 where the call to action is to send out an encouraging letter to someone you regularly interact with or may not have seen for awhile. Each month I focus on a different “theme” and this month’s theme – you guessed it – is love. I recently launched a new product in my Etsy Shop (NYC postcards!) and I wanted to share those (and a few other little Valentine’s goodies) with everyone. The giveaway includes (1) pack of 8 NYC postcards as featured on my shop, (2) colorful markers to decorate at your heart’s desire, (1) Muji black pen – size .38mm, (3) sheets of heart stickers, and (8) “love” stamps to make sure you’ll send some Valentines this year!

There are three ways to enter:

Entering on Facebook:
*OR*
Entering on Instagram:
– Tag a friend in the comments
*OR*
Entering Through the Blog:
– Comment on this blog post with a memory of your favorite Valentine that you’ve ever received.
Made with Love <3
Each platform counts as 1 entry. 1 entry per person. Open to participants residing in the United States of America. Must be 18+ years in order to enter. Contest closes February 5th 9PM EST. Winner will be announced via The Little Big Dreamer Facebook page, Via Instagram, and though a comment on this post. Happy entering!

 

And Happiest Valentines Day! *inserts all heart emojis possible*
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Use Your Advantage

Sometimes I get so frustrated with my life because I often feel like I am stuck. Things just really aren’t moving along as fast as I would like them to and not how I imagined them to. I want to be able to take matters into my own hands and get more in control of my “destiny” so to speak.

No matter how many times I get disappointed and anxious (because believe me, it WILL happen again), I know that I am where I am for a reason. And while what I can be going through is frustrating for me, it may actually be to my benefit in the long term.

Take Joseph, for example. His brothers hated him. threw him into a reservoir, and THEN sold him into slavery. After that, he was sold to Potiphar (guard and official of Pharaoh at the time). For awhile it seemed like Joseph got a break. He was entrusted with Potiphar’s estate and was handed many responsibilities and it says that “from the time he put him in charge of his household and of all that he owned, the Lord blessed the household of the Egyptian because of Joseph. The blessing of the Lord was on everything Potiphar had, both in the house and in the field” (Genesis 39:5).  So…. a pretty sweet setup.

But just when you think Joseph had a breather, things began to go south real quick. Potiphar’s wife tricked Joseph by threatening to tell her husband he was sleeping with her… unless he slept with her. What a Catch-22. When Potiphar found out that Joseph allegedly “slept” with her, Joseph got thrown into prison. (If this was me, at this point, I would have thrown in the towel. Like HOW ON EARTH is there room for recovery after this?)

While Joseph was in prison, he was met by the Pharoah’s officials: the cup-bearer and the bread-maker (who were also imprisoned). One night, both officials had dreams that neither one could interpret. Joseph said to them, “Do not interpretations belong to God? Tell me your dreams” (Genesis 40:8). After he successfully interpreted the dreams, Pharaoh restored the cup-bearer to his rightful position. Years passed, and the cup-bearer had forgotten all about Joseph in prison until one night Pharaoh had a dream that no one could interpret. “Pharaoh said to Joseph, ‘I had a dream, and no one can interpret it. But I have heard it said of you that when you hear a dream you can interpret it.’ ‘I cannot do it,” Joseph replied to Pharaoh, “but God will give Pharaoh the answer he desires’ (Genesis 41:15-16).

Joseph successfully interpreted the dream. Then Pharaoh said to Joseph, “Since God has made all this known to you, there is no one so discerning and wise as you. 40 You shall be in charge of my palace, and all my people are to submit to your orders. Only with respect to the throne will I be greater than you” (Genesis 41:39).

Well. ALLLLLL that is to say is that we all experience ups and downs as we walk through life operating in faith. So stay the course and use what is advantageous in every mountain and valley. If Joseph had not used the advantage of diligence in his work, he would not have been entrusted by Potiphar to take care of his estate. If Joseph had not used his advantage of hearing God and being SO in sync with the Holy Spirit while he was in prison, his journey would have likely ended there.

The most important thing to remember is that I am placed in a position of advantage because God has put me there and that favor, that advantage follows me.  “But while Joseph was there in the prison, the Lord was with him; he showed him kindness and granted him favor in the eyes of the prison warden.” (Genesis 39:20-21). No matter what sphere of influence I am placed in, and for however long, it is because God has curated this position specifically for me. Did it seem like an advantage for Joseph to be thrown into prison? Not at first.

Learning to take the perspective of the advantage is to your ultimate benefit. As I look around me, I ask myself “what is my advantageous about the life I am living in this moment?” Because if I only live and worry about the future, I am missing out on the precious moments and people God has placed right in front of me. How can I possibly expect God to entrust me with the things I am praying about for the future if I am not nurturing the season I am right now? I can’t build a solid foundation coming form a place of worry.

So if I’m frustrated about being single: my advantage is that I have time to grow more into the woman who God has called me to be. When I’m frustrated about my job, my advantage is reminding myself of my job’s benefits (the short commute, great coworkers). And when I find myself frustrated about my finances, I look back to see how far I’ve come this past year (paying off all debt, starting a savings account) and know that while it’s small progress, it’s still progress.

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What about my day, my week, my life doesn’t seem to be working to my advantage? How can I look at this situation and say “well, it didn’t look like an advantage….. at first.”  As I head into the rest of this week, if I get upset or flustered about something I can ask myself: “what is my advantage?” “how do I have the upper hand in this situation?” “what am I currently doing that is honoring the situation I am in?” and “how can I use that advantage to make someone else’s life (and not just my own) a little bit easier?” I never know what blessing can become of it.

 

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Season for Everything

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Madison Square Park Fall

“Seasons” is such an overused word, especially in Christianity. Don’t get me wrong, I use the word often, but I try to use it in proper context.

What do I mean by that? Cultural context gives a season a fixed period of time. Winter, for example. Winter happens once a year, 3 months out of the year, every year. It’s often cold, unless you live in Southern California. But the season is expected and everyone knows it will eventually end; and then Spring will come and it will get warmer outside.

This is just me, but I use the word “seasons” too often in the context of that fixed period of time. When Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 starts off by saying “There is a time for everything and a season for every activity under heaven,” it is a great reminder that after war comes peace, after weeping comes laughter.

And while I know “this too shall pass” is a great way to encourage in those times of weeping, I can’t help but wonder when it will pass. Those “seasons” of weeping, feeling lost, being frustrated after waiting so long, working relentlessly but getting nowhere can seem to never end. But these seasons aren’t fixed. We don’t know when they are going to end. And that’s a really really hard pill to swallow. There are two archaic (aka Bible times) definition for seasons (neither of which are “comforting”). First is “a proper or suitable time.” The second is “an indefinite or unspecified period of time; a while.” A while. A WHILE?! How long is a while? 5 minutes? 5 weeks? 5 years? I’m gonna need a little more context than that Jesus.

So let’s look at context. A little beyond the popular opening of Ecclesiastes is the following: “What do workers gain from their toil? I have seen the burden God has laid on the human race. He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end. I know that there is nothing better for people than to be happy and to do good while they live. That each of them may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all their toil—this is the gift of God.” (Ecclesiastes 3:9-13).

He has made everything beautiful in its time. So in any one given “season” (aka endless and undefined time period in my life) while there might be war, there will also be laughter. The laughter has nothing to do with the war happening in my life but can alleviate the pain of the war. Right now, well actually for the past three years, I have felt extreme frustration and worthlessness in one area of my life. I couldn’t even imagine if I let the last three years of my life be labeled as “worthless” or “unfruitful.” There are so many other areas of my life where I can see God moving and blessings pouring out daily. When this “season” of my life is over (whenever that may be), I can look back and label it the very opposite of how I feel about that one frustrating situation of my life. I can call this season “fruitful” in my relationships. I can call this seasons”growth” with my walk in my faith. I can call this season “joyous” when I rediscovered my love to draw. While every “season” in our life presents challenges, it can produce joy at the same time. As Ecclesiastes 3:13 says we CAN “find satisfaction in the toil.” Thank God for multifaceted seasons. Thank GOD!

Right now, I’m looking out my window at work. It’s the same view I’ve had for over a year. When I first started, I noticed this plastic takeout bag caught in one of the trees out my window (littering is a conversation I’ll save for another day). Over time, through the winds of Autumn and snowfalls of Winter, the bag slowly wore out over time. All that remains there now are tiny pieces of plastic wrapped about the same branch, blowing in the direction of the wind like a dreamcatcher. A couple weeks ago, another plastic bag made it’s way into the same tree. Not that trash in a tree represents anything positive, but it just made me think of how things will often find their way back. That groove Stella thought she lost? It came back! When I was full of sorrow and I couldn’t seem to find any source of happiness? My joy came back! That rut I never thought I was going to get out of? I got out of it!

So while I wait for the despair to pass, for the weeping to stop, for the pain to go away, I can turn and choose to focus on the area in my current season that I am blessed. But it is hard. It is hard to not become disappointed while I am trying to be patient waiting for the good to come. I love how the early Drake puts it in his song Over: “I really can’t see the end getting any closer. But I’ll probably still be the man when everything is over…If you thinking I’mma quit before I die, dream on.” Have peace in your mind that no one truly knows when their tough season is going to end, not even Drake. But know that through all of that, when we choose to not quit and we choose to stay faithful, God will place blessings in our lives that will give us joy in the midst of heardship. (Also that was far-fetched illustration but that song has been stuck in my head and I wanted to make it work soooooo…)

When I actively choose to praise God for the multifaceted season, I am praising him for everything: the good, the bad, the ugly. AND I am acknowledging that even in the midst of the bad, He is good. He is above all things and above all circumstances.

And speaking of seasons, here are some Fall pictures from Central Park last year. Just waiting for the leaves to turn again soon!

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Livin’ the Mundane Life

More often than not, life seems very monotonous, very routine. I often find myself trying to break out of routine becuase I get bored with doing the same thing over and over. Although I am a planner by nature, I thrive on the unexpected and variety.

I have looked at monotony the way that I feel most people see it: for its negative, repetitive connotation. I’d say to myself “I’ll be stuck doing this same thing for the rest of my life,” or ask the question “what good can come out of just repeating yourself and not learning anything new?”

What I seemed to have been missing over the years is that monotony can be seen as a discipline. By doing the same task over and over (and doing it well), I have the opportunity to build a reputation for consistency, for accuracy, for reliability. Practicing the same task over and over again can be healthy, becuase it builds habits so that you have room to grow in other areas of your life. When you become disciplined through repetition, you then gain that skill and then can graduate to bigger and better things (while retaining all that you have learned). If you move on before you mastered a skill, it can feel like you’ve lost your sense of direction.

Now, I have some new questions for myself. I’ll challenge myself by asking “is there anything I’m doing now that seems mundane or tedious, but is actually building my character and/or my skill set?”

Here are some close images from one of my latest drawings. While drawing each individual square seems tedious to me at first, without each window of the building, it would be incomplete.

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Consistency is Key

In every area of your life it pays to be consistent. To say you will do something and follow through with it. Repeatedly.
901 Broadway
I’ve noticed for me that consistency leads to growth and developing new habits. This can go either way: maybe I consistently go for a run and develop that habit. Or I could consistently come back home and watch TV for 2 hours after work and develop that habit. (For the record, I’ve done both).
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Challenge yourself starting today by asking: are the habits and choices that you are consistently making leading you towards a life that you want to live? Towards a life that will help you grow in your faith? I know I personally can be better about how I spend my time and my money. What changes can you make today that will help you tomorrow, in five years, and in ten years?
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This series of drawings is of a cast- iron building in New York City on 901 Broadway. It was built in 1870, and was formerly a Lord and Taylor dry goods shop.
Enjoy!
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New Territory

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Lately I have been experimenting with different forms of art: taking pictures, making videos, getting back into watercolors. By no means am I a professional, but I guess the only way to improve is through experience. I get nervous about sharing things that I create for a few reasons.
1) I don’t want to come across as someone who knows it all. After all, the more you learn the more you find out how much more there is to learn.
2) To try something new is nerving.To try something new in the public eye is even scarier. (Even if that public is just your friends and family).
But you know what? I tell myself that taking small steps to pushing boundaries is key to getting rid of fear when it comes to much more important things. Like going on that interview for a job you feel unqualified for, or taking a trip alone for the first time, or signing up for that foreign language course that seems intimidating.
Madison Square Park

With every small act of faith you will be rewarded. I am reminded of this verse: “If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” – Matthew 17:20

Check out some of the recent experimental videos that I have been working on here:
Enjoy!
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