Add Another Candle

I am now 27-years-old. Another candle is being added to my cake and I could not be happier. So many people dread the aging process and are “forever 29,” but I relish what each new year brings to my life. Every year I am taking another step in the direction God is leading me to go.

It has become a tradition with my blog to post on my birthday about my life and what has changed over the course of one year. I began this tradition in 2014 when I turned 23 in “The Life of a Twenty-Something” and talked about myself growing up. Then in 2015 I discussed finding my faith again in “The Year I Grew Up” and how life had changed so drastically in one year. Then in 2016 I wrote letters to my younger selves giving advice on how I would do things differently. This year, however, I want to focus on my future…

As a 26-year-old, life was rapid. On my birthday last year I was newly engaged, already stressing about wedding preparation, and focusing on bettering myself to become a good wife. Since last October, I have not only gotten married to my best friend, but also completely switched career paths from the active event industry to the routine and stable nonprofit world. And if those two transitions weren’t big enough, G and I also bought our first house. So, yeah, this past year has consisted of a lot of up-current swimming.

It is no longer a surprise when transitions occur. Life changes, and I am quickly adaptable. However, with another year drawing me closer to the big 3-0, I want to set some goals for myself to continue striving forward. Sooner or later my life is going to be consumed with motherhood (God willing) and my goals are going to take the back seat. Before life becomes even more hectic, there are a few things I would like to achieve though:

Begin my own business
This is something I have been wanting to do for awhile now. I won’t go into details – yet – but I would like to open and run my own creative business in the near future. Not only for an additional income, which is always welcomed, but also to give me a goal-oriented hobby that comes with accountability. I have my base-work figured out, so we will see how things unfold over the coming months.

Strengthen my physical self
Working out and weight lifting have been a part of my life for several years, but the habits fell to the wayside over the past year. The lack of activity is becoming more and more clear as I suffer body aches and lowered self esteem nowadays. It is my goal to begin incorporating yoga, weight lifting, and HIIT back into my life on a regular weekly basis. With life finally slowing down now that we are moved into the new house and my daily schedule is becoming more routine, there is a light at the end of the tunnel!

Go minimalist
I have been slowly edging towards a minimal closet since my Spring 2018 cleaning spree. I’ve gotten rid of a lot of clothing I either have seldom worn or are no longer in-line with my styling. I would like to slim my closet down to 50 pieces only. That means only 50 articles of clothing including shirts, pants, layers, and dresses. I continue to get rid of specific items as I peruse through my closet, but with only 50 items to choose from in the future I imagine life will become that much easier because the greatest amount of my time each morning is spent trying on different outfits just to choose the same ones I wear every week.

Explore two new places
G and I have plans to explore the Northeast Coast for our 1-year anniversary, but I would also like to schedule a mini-vacation to one additional location sometime within the next year. Perhaps Brown County or Wisconsin Dells. Somewhere not requiring more than a weekend, but also somewhere I have never been before.

Nourish my mind
I once would have labeled myself as a bookworm, but it has been some time since I’ve actively read book after book for the simple pleasure of doing so. I recently began a book club with some girlfriends which has encouraged me to read at least one book a month, but I would like to push myself harder. My SMART goal for nourishing my mind is to focus on reading 20 pages every day. Be that 10 pages in the morning and 10 at night, or 20 altogether, twenty is not a huge number and should have me flipping through covers like a pro in no time.

Life is hectic, and it seems to be gathering steam as each day passes. So I am setting these five goals for my future with the hopes to achieve at least one before next October 13th. When I look back over my 26th year, I am aware of how quickly things can change. I learn this more and more each year. And I know one year is a short amount of time to cross each of these goals off my list. As I transition into being 27 I know I might not accomplish all these goals over the course of the next year, but I do want to at least begin taking the steps forward in setting the foundations for each goal.

Now I need to get ready for a fun and entertaining day with my husband to celebrate me. I have never been one to make a big deal about my birthday, but I am thankful to have a man who treasures me enough to cause a fuss over the ordeal. Not only are we traveling to my favorite restaurant this evening (sushi, get in my tummy…), but we are also spending some quality time doing “Autumn activities” like visiting a cider mill, picking some apples, and getting spooked at a haunted house. He definitely knows the way to my heart!

Thank you to all my friends and family members who have wished me a HBD so far, and to everyone who will throughout the day. It is a wonderful thing to be loved.

To another year, friends,

The Fault in Our Stars: A Review

This book may not have been the best choice as a first read following a time of grief and loss of love. Throughout the entirety of my reading, I was reminded of Army in some shape or fashion. And upon completion I was depleted to my bed, crying big crocodile tears until I finally fell asleep. No, I probably should have chosen another novel to begin my ease back into fun, leisure reading…

The Fault in Our Stars, as whole, is a marvelous book. For those who have not read its pages or seen the cinematic option, the novel follows the life of a girl named Hazel who is dying of cancer. She meets Augustus Waters in a support group and the two are virtually inseparable the rest of the story. They bond over a fictional An Imperial Affliction and even head off to Sweden to meet the author. As I am not here to summarize the story for you, but rather to give my reaction, that is all I will say. I highly recommend it though!

(SPOILERS TO FOLLOW SO STOP READING NOW IF YOU WANT TO FIND OUT HOW THE STORY ENDS ON YOUR OWN TERMS.)

There is a lot of discussion on the topics of death, loss, and grieving in this book. And though my own life is not as perilous as the protagonists, the feelings did strike a cord.

Hazel and Augustus are two very opposite people. However, their love is genuine and strong. In lives that others pity, they are happy with one another. Even in their brief time together, they feel something that some people never find: true, unprecedented love.

At least Hazel was allowed to love Augustus after they were parted. Me, not so much. With a break up, you’re asked to stop loving the other person. Society requests you to stop, friends and family beg, and happiness requires. Right then. Right there. When the relationship ends, so does the love. But with Hazel, she could continue loving Gus because in all the book’s discussions on infinity, no one actually knows if Gus is “still around” or has ceased to exist altogether. And there’s the real possibility that Hazel will be rejoining Gus soon in the afterlife and their love will continue. For break ups, this isn’t how love works.

I’m not sure if I have ever loved someone to that level; of wanting to love someone even past life. I mean, I have loved a person completely in the past, and I love many people now. But to have found true love, at only 16 years old as in Hazel’s case, seems unimaginable. I believe I could feel that way about someone in the past, given years of knowing them and being with them, but at such a young age? No.

Hazel and Gus were wise beyond their years though. The circumstance of their illnesses demanded this. They were mini-adults stuck in unhealthy, too-young bodies. So perhaps this isn’t unimaginable. I am a firm believer that true love is real; I just haven’t felt it first-hand.

Yet there were so many other interesting concepts these two teens discussed that were well beyond their years.

One which intrigued me was the talk of what comes after death. To me, I’ve never questioned my faith in God and heaven. And in all my schooling, I always figured people who were on their deathbeds, i.e. Hazel and Gus, would want to cling to that hope as well. However, neither did! And I’m left wondering if this is a question on many fighter’s minds.

To not know what comes after death must be a lonely and scary thing. Though she had many things to sympathize, this is what I pitied the most for Hazel; she thought that once she died, that was it, there wasn’t anymore. On the other hand, Gus didn’t know. He figured there had to be something after death, but that could have been heaven, a ghost-like existence, or even a new life.

Neither of the two main characters, who were facing unquestionable death, knew where they would be come death. To me, this was the most saddening aspect of the entire novel.

Another interesting concept explored in the book is why you love the people you do. In my case, it is why I loved certain people in the past. Specifically, when Hazel’s friend Kaitlyn asks her what it is like to be in love. And Hazel replies:

“Oh. It was… it was nice to spend time with someone so interesting. We were very different, and we disagreed about a lot of things, but he was always so interesting, you know?… He wasn’t perfect or anything. He wasn’t your fairy-tale Prince Charming or whatever. He tried to be like that sometimes, but I liked him best when that stuff fell away.”

I have been thinking of this a lot lately. Trying to come up with why I loved Army and X. X is more tricky as his and my life seem like forever ago — our own little infinity gone to the stars. But with Army… it’s hard to come up with an answer. I’m not sure why I felt the way I did about Army. Him and I are vastly different people.

But I think Hazel says it best: he was interesting. He intrigued me to no end. Every day I spent with Army, I learned something new. An idea I had never thought, a concept I’d never realized, a fact never taught. He is such an interesting person and comes from such an opposing background to my own — I could have listened to him talk for years and never been bored.

That is what I miss. That is what I loved about him.

So, as I get all emotional writing this post, I’m going to bid adieu by saying this: overall, The Fault in Our Stars is compelling and wonderful. There is so much more that could be discussed among its pages and I welcome anyone to share with me their own discoveries.

I am a fan, Mr. Green, and you have won yourself a new reader of your literature — next up, Paper Towns.

My favorite passages and quotes within the book’s pages:

“A nonhot boy stares at you relentlessly and it is, at best, awkward and, at worst, a form of assault. But a hot boy… well.”

“It portrays death truthfully. You die in the middle of your life, in the middle of a sentence.”

“I almost felt like he was there in my room with me, but in a way it was better, like I was not in my room and he was not in his, but instead we were together in some invisible and tenuous third space that could only be visited on the phone.”

“You do not immortalize the lost by writing about them. Language buries, but does not resurrect.”

“I fell in love the way you fall asleep: slowly, and then all at once.”

“The weird thing about houses is that they almost always look like nothing is happening inside them, even though they contain most of our lives. I wondered if that was sort of the point of architecture.”

“There are seven billion living people, and about ninety-eight billion dead people.”

“I’m in love with you, and I’m not in the business of denying myself the simple pleasure of saying true things. I’m in love with you, and I know that love is just a shout into the void, and that oblivion is inevitable, and that we’re all doomed and that there will come a day when all our labor has been returned to dust, and I know the sun will swallow the only earth we’ll ever have, and I am in love with you.”

“It seemed like forever ago, like we’d had this brief but still infinite forever. Some infinities are bigger than other infinities.”

“You are going to live a good and long life filled with great and terrible moments that you cannot even imagine yet!”

“I want to leave a mark.”

“You don’t get to choose if you get hurt in this world, but you do have some say in who hurts you. I like my choices.”