Is it Possible to Live a Pressure-free Life?

Real talk – I love St. Pete Beach. I really, honestly, truly do but with that being said… is this what I expected? Sometimes it is but most of the time, not at all.

I’ve been here for nearly 2 months already (wowza) and, with the exception of having the ocean across the street, it hasn’t felt much different than life did in Michigan. And you know what? I felt personally responsible and guilty for that.

I was talking to a friend of mine one night and confessed that I haven’t been living this free-spirited and carefree life that I expected to live and it was because of the choices I’ve been making. I hated hearing the words come out of my mouth but as we sat there Skyping, I said it –  Some nights, I choose Netflix over the ocean. I choose to make dinner rather than making friends at the local tiki bar. I’m sitting at my desk more than I’m sitting in the sand.

And, because this was such a wildly “publicized” move, I felt pressure to make the most of it – not just for me, but for my friends and family who bid me adieu and well, you guys.

I’m so lucky to have this opportunity so I put pressure on myself to live it to the fullest, whatever that means.

I felt like people were counting on me to go here, live this fantastic life, and report back on how things can be so much better when you just follow your heart. And don’t get me wrong, I feel like I am living a fantastic life and I am living it because I’m following my heart – and I love writing about it – but sometimes, with these perks and my love for blogging, pressure follows. Truthfully, I felt odd that my life wasn’t drastically different, without putting in much work, just because I moved to a warmer climate.

How silly.

It took me a few weeks of feeling pressure about feeling pressure to realize I shouldn’t have to feel pressure – follow me?

Some days, isn’t it enough to make it a point to visit the beach on the weekends? Other days, isn’t it enough to end the day with a show to binge and a nice glass of red wine?

Short answer – Yes.
Long answer – Yaaaaaaas.

Life is about living each day to the fullest – YOUR definition of the fullest, nobody else’s. It’s not my responsibility to feel guilty that I wasn’t living up to some expectation that nobody was putting on me but myself. I was putting pressure on myself, and feeling bad about life, for literally no good reason. None. Zilch.

This idea got me thinking about other friends: the ones who feel the pressure to put in an extra 2 hours per night at the office, not because they need to but because they feel like they probably should. The ones who are settling in relationships because they see their friends getting hitched and figure they probably should do that soon too. The ones who are buying a house (which is an insanely big commitment) because they should probably invest in something at this stage in life.

What about when we were younger and felt pressure to fit in with the “cool” kids in high school? The pressure to join the right sports, play the right instrument, and choose the right college?

Is it possible to live a pressure-free life? 

Honestly, I don’t think it is – I think that there’s always going to be some level of pressure we feel and whether that’s from ourselves or others, that’s to be determined.

If you’re putting it on yourself – quit it.
If others are putting it on you – figure out if the pressure is valid and if it’s not, get rid of the negativity. Tell them to quit it and that you’re doing just fine without their input on how you’re living your life.

Do me a favor and right now think, “Am I unhappy?” and if so, identify what it is that’s making you unhappy. Is something actually, reaalllllyyy wrong or are you just feeling a sense of pressure that you’re putting on yourself?

We need to stop bringing unnecessary stress and pressure into our lives because when we allow these things to come in, typically we react in a negative way – we get upset, we take it out on our loved ones, we choose work over friends, etc. We try to fight it rather than figuring out where the pressure is coming from.

When we can take a step back and uncover whether or not we can remove it before we explode, we save ourselves a lot of trouble annnnnd also we lessen the risk of hurting the relationships around us that we cherish so much. I don’t know about you but my friends typically hate it when I snap at them for no good reason 😉

There’s a great quote I saw yesterday:

“There isn’t a way things should be. There’s just what happens, and what we do.”

—Terry Pratchett, A Hat Full of Sky

I think there are a few ways to take this quote and tomorrow, I may take it differently than I do right now but right now, I feel as though this is a wonderful reminder that life happens. It’s up to us to stop, think, and act accordingly – remove the unnecessary pressure and add the logical thinking mixed with good vibes.

Live is good and it’s bad all on its own. Let’s not make it worse.

The Universe Gives You What You Need When You Need It

Moving to Florida was a big sign from the universe for me. When I arrived, I felt things fall into place – well, everything but consistent blogging of course – and I found myself surrounded by old friends who believed in the pull of the universe as well.

A few weeks ago I reconnected with a friend of mine that I met when I lived in Nashville who now lives in Florida. We went out, had a few too many vodka tonics, and got into a big discussion around the idea that the universe gives you what you need, when you need it. She told me that she felt as though our friendship and who I am as a person, in this moment – years after we originally met in Nashville, gave her what she needed in her own life. A dash of spontaneity, a dose of courage, and a lot of laughter.

Now, I’ve often felt that the universe gives out signs if we only look for them but it’s something i very rarely talk about. So, sitting a thousand miles away from my “comfort zone” talking with someone I haven’t met in years about this topic at a tiki bar on the beach, felt like a sign. Especially since I felt that the universe was telling me to go to Florida and then I ended up talking about this topic with someone who feels the same exact way, reiterating the idea that I’m not crazy 😉

And, guess what – at this point in this blog post, my first version had me launching into a story about how this idea of getting a sign/reminder when I need it most came to life for me today. But, I decided against it because honestly, I don’t want my stories to be the takeaway here.

You know what I think the real takeaway is? It’s this – have you ever thought to yourself or heard yourself say “The time wasn’t right” or “The time was right“?

What do you think told you that?

Me? Well, I believe it’s the universe/the man above/fate/your gut/whoever/whatever giving you a sign to stop and think a little harder about the situation.

You know how I think about life? I’ve started thinking about it like it’s a Magic Eye image. You put your face really really close to it and focus really really hard on what’s directly in front of you. When you’ve got that focus locked down, you can begin to move further away, slowly and carefully, until something else comes into focus.

It’s not what you expected. It’s not what you thought.
It’s a different look at what is right in front of you. 

If you open your eyes and let yourself roam a bit, the signs and signals that are in front of you will amaze you.

Take your eyes off of that roadmap and that ONE path in front of you and begin to look side to side. See the slightly overgrown paths that venture off of where you’re supposed to be. If you move your eyes from the roadmap, I’m sure you’ll see them – they’ve always been there if you just looked for them.

For me, I felt a tug towards this new life and when I got here, I found myself surrounded by what I needed – people who also believed in signs, the sunsets that reminded me that life is more beautiful than I imagined if I just get out of my apartment, and moments that remind me that I need to stop and work towards becoming the person I want to be, not necessarily the person I currently am.

Believe me, I’m not trying to make this some big ‘fate/religion/whatever’ post. I want you to take from it what you need it to give you but for me, I’m a big believer in the pull of the universe and fate – you just have to look for the right signs.

Going back to what I said before, take your eyes up from the roadmap in front of you. Focus on yourself, your intuition, your gut, your signs, the universe, whatever, and explore that.

Let yourself believe that you may be taken in a direction that you didn’t expect but the universe is trying to nudge you in. Remember – life is like a Magic Eye. Take that second look at a situation you think you see clearly.

If this post resonated with you, I highly recommend checking out my favorite book that also focuses on this idea – The Alchemist by Paolo Coelho (Nope, not sponsored… just a lover of this gem and I’ve actually given every copy I’ve ever purchased away. It’s that good). And, if you do decide to read it, let me know what you think. Seriously.

Storms in Paradise

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I haven’t forgotten about you… quite the contrary really. Every single day of being in Florida (and even before I arrived at my bungalow), I’ve thought to myself, “I need to blog. Isn’t that a big part of why I’m here? To get back to basics and write and drink fruity drinks?”

But, I haven’t felt like I could.

Everything I started I felt/said in my head to get those creative juices flowing/started writing felt like an eye roll.

Hell, I was rolling my eyes at what I was thinking and I’m living it.

“I’m loving it but it’s hot! You wouldn’t believe how big my hair is!”
” No, I refuse to let people bring me drinks. I need to see the bartender make it.”
(shout out to sorority life and teaching us alcohol safety)
“Seriously, don’t walk home from the bar alone after dark. #MomMode”
“Yes, I still look good tan and in a bathing suit.”

Okay, well, that last one I threw in because I am tan and hey, confidence. Work it.

But seriously, life has been good. How could it not?

I felt like I was living in paradise and everyone who will listen to me has heard, “It feels like I’m on vacation! Yeah, give me another vodka soda!

So, what did it take to finally break down? Well, a bad day.

Today, I had a bad day. Nothing life changing. Nothing heart breaking. Nothing terrible. But it wasn’t great and it reminded me that sometimes, there are storms in paradise.

It’s funny – it took a tough day to remind me that I’m not living in some dream world. Yes, the location has changed but surprise – it’s still life. I can still have days where nothing goes right – the cat barfs all over my floor, I drop a whole pack of brand new hair ties into the toilet, work is work.

So, why did that shake me down?

Because it was a reminder that just because I’m surrounded by new foliage, I’m still alive. I’m still going to have to tackle obstacles. Not everything will go my way. I just have to take a long, deep breath, and handle it.

You know what I did today? After work, I put on my flip flops and walked over to the local tiki bar across the street and ordered the fruitiest, most caloric drink on the menu. I ordered a big pizza. And I thought about what I could do differently tomorrow. I felt the breeze on my face and I stopped stressing, over analyzing, and testing my twitchy eye to start twitching.

After that, I walked to the beach and plopped right down. For one split second, I thought to myself, “Shoot. I don’t have a towel…” then rolled my eyes and sat right into the sand in my wide leg linen pants and I watched the waves hit the shore.

My phone had 20% battery left so I put it away and I just watched the sun set behind the clouds. I watched families walk the beach and I watched couples hold hands and find the best spot to catch the last few minutes of sunlight.

I just stopped, I took a breath, and I forced myself to let the stress of the day leave my mind.

And if you know me, you know that’s hard. I tend to dwell, I tend to get frustrated, and I tend to get anxious. Don’t get me wrong – I absolutely did that during the day but I made the conscious decision to stop and to not continue holding onto unnecessary stress in that way.

Isn’t that why I was here? To relax?

I decided in that moment that I wasn’t going to let myself forget that this 6-month move wasn’t a vacation.

I decided to find a shell (or a piece of shell) that represented how I felt in that moment and I put it in my purse. Next time I take time for myself to sit, butt first, in the sand and watch the sunset without my phone, I’ll do the exact same thing. I’ll pick a shell, put it in my purse, and take it home with me.

I want to begin collecting these shells (and pieces of shells) in a jar as a reminder that this is how I measured my time here.

It’s not always about the big, pretty shells. It’s not always about the cracked ones, the broken ones, and the ones that just aren’t as big as the others. It’s a mix – you take the good with the bad.

It’s life and life isn’t always perfect, every day or every shell.

Lessons > Tricks

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There’s this saying that people don’t change… you know, the whole “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks” thing. And this post isn’t meant to dispute that.

Hell, I don’t think I could even if I wanted to.

But while people can’t change fundamentally, I truly believe that people can change their approach to situations based on their experiences.

Let me explain: life is really great at throwing curve balls at us and if we, as humans, aren’t meant to adapt, learn, and grow then we’d constantly make the same mistakes and end up where we’ve always been.

Sure, this happens when people refuse to give into and embrace new emotions but, in my experience, it’s rare that people stay stuck in situations they’re unhappy with. Typically they’ve gone through heartbreak and/or made mistakes, they learn from it and if given a similar opportunity in the future, they’ll take from the past and approach it differently.

To me, this directly connects to something I’ve always believed in – Fate /life/whatever gives us what we need exactly when we need it.

 

When I moved to Nashville, I moved bright-eyed and honestly without any sort of survival mechanism inside of me. Sure, I moved to GVSU and met friends, figured out how to feed myself, and so on. But it wasn’t the same as moving to a completely new state without a job, without a close group of friends, and without a plan. In Nashville, I learned to enjoy the moment – I didn’t worry about a savings account or anything “adult-like” until it was too late.

After I had to move home, with $40 in my bank account and with a tear-stained face, I learned the importance of having an emergency fund. I decided then that I was going to prepare to be prepared and I’d always have a plan… and that plan would have a backup plan.

That situation taught me that I need to have a savings account, to think 2-3 steps ahead in case of an emergency (totally different than creating a roadmap), and to be smart in the adult sense of things.

But, I leaned too far in that direction. I took my lesson and I let it consume me, refusing to feel anything or let anything else in. Rather than taking from my surroundings and allowing myself to learn new lessons, I kept my head down and I barreled towards these milestones I had laid out.

Then, I realized that wasn’t the right approach to life either. I stopped, thought about where I am and where I want to be, and I learned that to find happiness, I need to find a balance of those two things.

To me, it’s important to have the spontaneity of a naive girl looking to explore the unknown but the level-head of a strong, stable woman to make it work.

Now, at the very bare bones of it all, it’s easy to compare my move to St. Pete Beach to the time I moved to Nashville. Of course, I’m approaching it much much differently but when you break it down on paper… well, I feel the urge to leave and I’m going to. I don’t have a strong plan and I don’t have it figured out – I just feel this pull inside of me, tugging me out of my comfort zone, and I’m going to follow it.

I need to allow myself to be open to new experiences, feelings, and tugs in certain directions while also maintaining a level head. And I’m pretty sure this will be easier said than done buuuuut… it’s my goal 😉

And I do think it’s worth noting that while I have this unique opportunity ahead of me to get out of my comfort zone and find my happiness, you also have the same opportunity.

You may not be able to up and move due to obligations but you can follow your passions – sign up for ______ classes at your local community college, go to a restaurant alone just to sit at the bar and talk to 3 strangers, do whatever it is that gets you out of your comfort zone and helps you grow.

Do what you can with what you have… remember this: a lot of small steps will get you to the top of that mountain you’re climbing. 

The outpouring of supportive direct messages, text messages, and phone calls have been unbelievable. I truly can’t explain how wonderful it feels to hear someone say, “I get it. I’ve been there and I’ve felt that way and I want you to know that I’m so proud of you.” Opening up online isn’t easy – it’s scary because it’s so easy to be judged (or worse for a blogger, no one will read) but I want you to understand one thing – I won’t take advantage of this opportunity.

The unknown is scary. Not mapping out a plan to the very minute is scary. Life is scary. But, what does that matter? Being afraid won’t change the outcome. Sometimes you have to jump in with both feet, ammiright?

It’s not goodbye, it’s see you soon.

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Flashback to about 3 weeks ago: it was one of those rare mornings when I woke up about 25 minutes before I had to get out of bed and start my day.

Instead of grabbing for my phone, like I usually do first thing, I stared up at the ceiling for what felt like hours and I forced myself to face what I was feeling. It was a feeling I’ve been pretty familiar with in the past and it had resurfaced the past 6-8 months. And, while it started as a dull tinge, it was becoming stronger and stronger as the days passed.

If I’m being honest, I’d say that since the epic shakeup, I haven’t quite felt settled. I haven’t felt sad or depressed or anything like that, no… just… antsy.

And I’m not unfamiliar with this feeling. I knew exactly what my heart was trying to tell me but I’ve felt this way before these past few years and just pushed it down to try to focus on living that responsible life I had been chasing (you know, that whole roadmap thing).

But, that morning, awake and staring at the ceiling, I couldn’t deny that urge anymore – I needed to make a big move.

No, not metaphorically but literally.

I mean, let’s rewind and think about this: I grew up in Metro Detroit, moved to Grand Rapids, moved to Nashville, moved back to Metro Detroit, moved back to Grand Rapids, and I’ve been back in Metro Detroit again for the past few years for work.

So, it’s time.
It’s time to really rid myself of the roadmap I so desperately followed. 

I had the idea, I did the research, I contacted some real estate agents and I signed the paperwork… and in a month, I’m going to be moving to St. Pete Beach, Florida

Now, this isn’t a long-term thing… in fact, I made sure it wasn’t. As I’m ridding myself of this roadmap, I wouldn’t dare begin to map out the next 12 months of my life. Instead, I’ve decided to rent a vacation home (they call it a “bungalow”… come on, that’s adorable) that’s smack dab in between the Gulf of Mexico and 25+ tiki bars and surf shops for the next 6 months.

After those 6 months? Who knows… maybe I’ll rent another home on the beach, maybe I’ll move back, or maybe I’ll try out a new city. That’s not for me to figure out right now.

Sometime in the last few years, I lost the person I used to love being: I was spontaneous, I lived my life as carefree as possible, I adopted a cat on a whim, I wrote a book for the hell of it, I went out of my way to meet new people, and so on.

That person was hidden away by someone who tried to find a “decent enough” home on Zillow.com, who carefully put every man she met under a microscope to see if they were marriage material, and who focused on the wrong things.

And those things are fine for some people but not for me. Every day passed me by and I wasn’t living in the moment – I was living for a Kate who might be happy 3-4 years down the road, IF she found a guy and IF she found a home and IF a gazillion other things fell into place.

So, I’m following my heart rather than my spreadsheets and I’m taking the days back. I’m going to shake up my routine, spend my free time with my toes in the sand, and sip cold beers while watching the sun set over the ocean.

To me, this isn’t an escape from responsibility. It’s a lesson in finding happiness in the little things and understanding that life isn’t made up by trying to hit milestones. It’s learning to relax and unwind. It’s about being spontaneous. It’s about a lot of things but most of all, it’s about finding my free spirit again.

Nashville taught me a lot about just going for the unknown, Michigan taught me a lot about responsibility, and Florida… well, we’ll just have to see 😉

Ridding Myself of the Roadmap

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When I was younger I used to pride myself on being carefree, well… at least within reason. I was never one to turn down a dare, I went away to college without thinking twice, and hell, after that I up and moved to Tennessee without knowing anything more than where I had to take the U-Haul.

However, when the universe stepped in forced Nashville to abruptly kick me out, I felt like that was my wake up call to start acting and living more like an “adult.”

Since the move back to Michigan about 5 years ago, I can honestly say that I’ve tried to live in a way that I felt an adult should live. I landed and slaved away at what I believed was my dream job, I’ve had *cough cough* numerous memberships to numerous gyms, and I’ve saved an amount of money that I am proud of. No longer do I have to put $7 in my gas tank to last me until the next payday nor do I have to just buy the on-sale canned goods.

I even went as far as trying to build the life that I felt I should have that 30 – finding someone to settle down with and buying a home. And you know what, I’m proud of these things and I’m not ashamed for wanting to be fit, happy, healthy, in love and financially secure but… the more I focused on these milestones, the more I felt as though I was losing me.

For the last 5 years, I was following a plan that I couldn’t dare let myself stray from, even when my heart tried to tell me to quit. I felt as though I had it all figured out. It didn’t matter that I was unhappy deep down or that maybe this life roadmap wasn’t my map. 

But these last six months have given me the most important shakeup of my life.

Life succeeded to shake me up to the point where I didn’t care about my bank account, finding a realtor, or forcing relationships that were never meant to be.

I had to be smacked in the face (not literally – whew) before I found that life doesn’t really care about whatever plan you tried to map out years ago. To me, this shakeup has taught me that no matter what rules, or life plans, I try to live by, I can’t escape this idea that life didn’t want me to keep my head down, following some plan that I didn’t truly believe in or really want deep down. 

What it did do was go to the extremes to take me back to the basics of what it truly means to be alive – to put health before fear, to be an emotional support for those who need it most, to build relationships with positive/happy/supportive people, to strive to be better in my career for both professional and personal growth, and to live.

Really, truly live.

I had to learn the hard way that I wasn’t meant to follow this plan I decided I wanted and honestly, I’m not entirely sure any of us are. Because when you focus on milestones in your life you want to hit without enjoying every day that life gives you, are you really living at all?

Are you working at something that you truly enjoy? Are you building relationships with those people who make you a better person? Are you focusing on your own personal growth? Chances are, if you’re focusing on the fact that you should be married by 30, own a home by 32, and have a family by 34, you’re not. You’re always looking ahead rather than taking advantage of the very things that life has put in front of you.

As much as I’ve tried to resist admitting this, I found that this adult roadmap I’ve made up isn’t for me. And at age 30, I finally feel confident in who I am and what I believe in to accept that maybe deep down inside I’m always meant to be a little bit of a free spirit.

I would rather focus on being the version of myself I can be, to look for the silver linings in heart breaking situations, and to be the best friend, daughter, cousin, and marketer that I can be.

And not that I need to leave you with any advice but I will because I know it’s easier to take advice when someone else says it –

Pick your head up and look around you. Stop staring down at this imaginary roadmap, focused only on milestones or the idea that you to have your life figured out. 

Take a deep breath, call your mom, send a friend some snail mail, and read an industry-focused blog. Focus on what makes you happy and do it. Just do it.

I promise that you can’t go wrong if you wake up in the morning and just work towards being the best and happiest version of yourself. That may bring you to a promotion or to finding love, or it may not right away. All I know is that following happiness is much more achievable than settling down in 2 years when you’re not even in a relationship yet.

If you follow these words of advice, you won’t be let down by things that are beyond your control or by a roadmap that you were never meant to follow. Just live a life that makes you happy. 

Embrace the Unknown and Enjoy It

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I’ve found that regardless of age, many people are worried or stressed out about their future. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a 20-something young professional or if you’re a 45 year old mother of 3 because life is stressful. You may worry about whether you’re on the right track professionally, whether you’re making smart financial decisions, or if you’re living up to your full potential.

But you know what? It’s okay not to know what lies ahead of you because of these reasons:

1.) Nobody else knows: Simple yet true. Nobody knows what their future holds so take solace in knowing that you’re definitely not alone. We’re all in this together – Muddling through the confusion and waiting to get to the point in our lives where we find that we’re okay with the unknown.

Secret: The sooner you discover that you can’t control or plan your future, the sooner you’ll be able to embrace what’s to come with open arms…

2.) Life would be boring if we knew: Sometimes the greatest moments in life are those
moments that are completely and totally unexpected. If you knew EXACTLY what your future held, would you still wake up every day with enthusiasm and excitement? I mean, really… You’d know when you’re going to meet important people, when you were going to find a soulmate, when you were going to get a job promotions, etc.

You wouldn’t be excited for the day at all… In fact, you’d probably wake up and think “Alright, today I’m going to meet someone who is going to become my best friend. Better put on some perfume even though it doesn’t matter… We’re destined to be friends regardless of how I smell.” Boooooooringggggggg.

3.) You wouldn’t learn: If you always knew the outcome of situations, you’d probably avoid those that would cause you pain. Now, this doesn’t seem like a bad thing right away but think about it for a second. Some of the greatest lessons I’ve ever learned have come from jobs I shouldn’t have taken, boys I shouldn’t have dated, and friends I shouldn’t have hung out with. If I knew that all of those situations wouldn’t have worked out in the long run, I probably would’ve avoided them.

“The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths. These persons have an appreciation, a sensitivity, and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and a deep loving concern. Beautiful people do not just happen.”

– Elisabeth Kübler-Ross

Take a deep breath and smile because you’re doing alright kiddo. Enjoy each day to the fullest rather than riddling it with worry and stress over things you simply can’t control. All you need to do is do your best, follow your heart, and try to make smart decisions (Note: I didn’t say RIGHT decisions because even the wrong ones are okay).