A year ago, if you told me I would be sitting next to my boyfriend on our tiny couch in our even tinier apartment, I would have looked at you and said, "no way."
A year ago, If you told me that I would finally understand what real love feels like, I would have told you, "true love doesn't exist."
A year ago, if you told me that today I would feel fiercely and unapologetically strong, I would have said to you, "I don't believe you."
A year ago, if you told me that I would be able to speak up against those who have tried to manipulate and control me, I would have said, "I'm not strong enough."
And yet, here I am today, living with the man of my dreams --a man who has shown me what authentic love is supposed to be, and I am strong, independent, and fiercly, fiercly happy.
Isn't it amazing what just a year can do?
Before they met, she told him about her dreams. He knew her desires, he knew her fears.
He knew her boundaries. She made those clear.
When they met, her heart pounded in her chest. They sat awkwardly in a diner, eating pie for dinner. She felt vulnerable, but when two people meet for the first time, that's just how things are.
He knew her boundaries.
He invited her back to his apartment. She walked up many flights of stairs. He was so tall that he had to hunch over in the kitchen. He brought her a glass of water. They sat on the couch.
He knew her boundaries.
His arms wrapped around her. They were strong. She still felt vulnerable. But he knew her boundaries.
He kissed her, harder. His arms were steel around her skin. He pinned her to the couch; she could not move. He called her names.
She tried to enjoy it, tried to ignore the knot in her stomach that made her want to throw up.
He did things to her that she didn't want. But her throat was dry, she couldn't say no.
He knew her boundaries.
But he liked her.
And then it happened.
This time, he asked her permission.
This time, her voice worked. She said no, not today.
He did it anyway.
Minutes later, he turned on the tv. Basketball. An important game. A rerun.
Watch with me, he said. But if you tell me who won, I will kill you.
I will kill you.
When she got home, she sent a text message:
I had so much fun. Thank you for everything.
I wrote this letter 3 years ago today, about six months after a horribly traumatic freshman year of college. This was just the beginning of my healing process. But the words were just as true then as they are now.
I hope this letter finds you doing okay, and maybe helps to make you smile. Because let me be the first to say that life has its ups and downs, and when you’re living in a “down”, it can be pretty rough. I know the feeling well.
I’d like to start off by saying, my dear, that you are not crazy. Every feeling, emotion and thought that you have, no matter how strange it may feel to you, is real. If you feel like you’re going through a hard time, you are. Recognize that so that you can stop beating yourself up about it. “I shouldn’t be feeling so sad right now” or “I can’t believe I’m so angry” do nothing to make you feel better or change your situation. Sometimes, you just can’t pull yourself up by your bootstraps. Most of the time, it’s not your fault at all, you’re just in the middle of life happening. And yes it sucks. It REALLY SUCKS. But trust me when I say that there IS a light at the end of the tunnel. I swear to you that there is.
During this hard time, whatever you may be going through, don’t forget how beautiful you are. Yes, I’m serious. You are beautiful. Even if you’re going through a phase of not showering and wearing sweatpants everywhere (trust me, it can happen….). Somewhere inside you, you have a beautiful, loving soul, and no one, and no amount of sadness, or crazy life stuff can take that away from you.
Now all of this is not to say that I’m telling you to just drop everything and BE HAPPY. Because God only knows that telling someone who is not happy to just BE HAPPY is like telling a fish to grow legs overnight or demanding a snow day in the middle of June in Mexico. It just can’t happen. That’s not what I’m saying. What I am saying is don’t forget your self worth through this all, and also, HAVE FAITH that it will all be over someday. Because it will. Just hunker down, get as comfortable as you can, and ride the storm. (Keep your eyes peeled and you might even see a rainbow after!)
I can’t guarantee it will be over tomorrow. Or in two days. Or even in a year. I can’t see into the future like that, I’m sorry. But when the world seems like it is grey and evil and sad and you feel like you will never feel happiness again, I’m telling you that you do not have to worry, because that sadness is NOT forever. The world and life and the universe and nature all work in strange ways, one of which being that nothing is permanent or stagnant. I heard someone once refer to life as a river, and it’s totally true. We are just along for the ride, but rapids can’t last FOREVER. All rivers must lead SOMEWHERE.
And lastly, this thing you are going through will make you a better person. Yes, it’s hard to hear right now, and it is perfectly 100% okay if you don’t believe me now. But bookmark this letter and read it again down the line when you’re feeling better, and see if I was right. (Spoiler alert: I am). Your suffering now, as painful and hard and horrible as it may be, is in your life to make you better. It is there for a reason. You may not see it now, but you will look back on the experience one of these days and feel some sort of gratefulness for the whole thing. I swear.
So, my friend, wherever you are right now, please know this: You are not alone, and you will get through this. Have faith that this is not forever, and that it will be worth it in some way in the end. I know the hopeless feeling, and it’s pretty horrible. But don’t give up.
You are on this earth for a reason, and this is just one more step towards you figuring out what that reason is. Believe in yourself. I know I believe in you.
All my love, prayers and hugs,
"Without freedom it is impossible for personality to develop fully. Freedom is the key to the entire process, and the first step comes when the when the individual is capable of acting without help from others and becomes aware of himself as an autonomous being." Maria Montessori, Education and Peace
Maria Montessori's concept of freedom and individuality in the child was revolutionary. She challenged the traditional educational system, which forced the children into conformity, and instead suggested that the child be allowed the freedom of expression, and that individuality and uniqueness be encouraged, rather than punished.
Instilling this philosophy of acceptance and encouraging freedom in the young child allows them to develop their own personalities, their own individualities. Children who grow up this way become self-confident adults, who know themselves and can appreciate others, and all their individual differences.
The world needs more people who think like she does.
Societal pressure to confirm exists all around us. It is painful, harmful, and, quite frankly, abusive.
Each person exists and is valuable precisely because of their uniqueness. Montessori saw that. But it seems that society has forgotten. I shared recently that even I have been criticized for my "authenticity" here on this blog, and on my other social media sites. This is society pressuring me to conform, to "be like everyone else."
I am not like everyone else. You are not like everyone else. If we were all the same, life would be very boring. (Hmm...ever wonder why so many children are bored at school?)
I'm studying to be a Montessori guide, and I believe in the Montessori principles. As such, I cannot be silent on this issue.
Be yourself. Be unique. Be authentic. Be unapologetically YOU.
And please, please, please, let others be themselves too.
For this is how we will change the world.
“We then become witnesses to the development of the human soul; the emergence of the New Man, who will no longer be the victim of events but, thanks to his clarity of vision, will become able to direct and to mould the future of mankind.” The Absorbent Mind
Sometimes the world needs to teach you a lesson that you don't want to learn. And so it happens, and it hurts, and if you aren't paying attention, you might think that it happened for no reason at all, or because you were stupid, or because someone else had bad intentions.
It will look this way if you don't remember that the universe knows.
The universe knows.
Not only that, but the universe cares.
And when the universe cares, somehow, all the hard stuff becomes a bit more tolerable. Everything has a reason for happening. Each tear is an opportunity for growth. There's a purpose behind the sadness. The world has a greater plan for you.
And you will see the word with new eyes. I promise you will. It might be hard at first, it might not seem to make sense. But the world becomes that much more full of love when you recognize that each moment has been created, for you, out of love. Yes, even the bad stuff.
And suddenly, you won't be so alone.
Today is day one of a series I'm starting, where I write out a short reflection over lunch. I usually like to use lunch as an opportunity to recharge and be alone, so I thought this would be a nice way of doing that while also getting some blogging done! ;)
My boyfriend visited me this week and it was quite an emotional time. We hadn't seen each other in a while, and we are both working on a lot of personal stuff individually, which seemed especially amplified this week.
Last night, as we were going to sleep, I reflected on how emotional I had been over the last few days. And my boyfriend looked at me and said, "that means that you're growing."
What at an amazing statement, and so true. Growth doesn't happen overnight, and it doesn't always happen smoothly. It takes time and effort. It takes dedication. It takes emotional investment. It takes a lot. At this particular time in my life, so many things are changing and I'm learning so much about myself every day that it's no wonder that these times have been so emotionally charged.
In class the other day we watched as the caterpillar we had been keeping in our classroom emerged from its crysalis as an incredible monarch butterfly. The experience was transformative and nothing short of miraculous.
Human growth is equally miraculous, and can involve just as much turmoil. And the end result can be just as beautiful, too.
So if you are like me and going through an emotional moment in your life, or are feeling unstable or unsure of what the future will bring, know that this turbulence is the very thing that allows for the caterpillar to metamorphosize into a butterfly.
You too are a butterfly waiting to emerge. You just have some transforming to do, first.
The universe gives you exactly what you need, even when you didn't know you needed it.
I've been gone off the blog for a while now. A combination of moving to a new state and starting grad school has left me busy, and with no good place for taking outfit pictures! (Any creative solutions to that issue are welcome) Hence, the minimalism project part 2 never took off as promised.
But, during this month away, the universe has blessed me with so many opportunities to practice just the things I need most practice on. I'm becoming a fuller, better version of myself out here on the east coast, and though it hasn't been completely smooth sailing, I can feel the transformation happening.
Here's what I've been learning:
How to love
Being long-distance from my boyfriend has been hard. There are days where our only communication is a "good morning" text. But I am happier than ever, and it's because I'm finally figuring out how to be in a healthy relationship. I'm communicating my feelings and emotions. I'm listening to his. We laugh a lot, and we are content with sitting next to each other on the couch in silence (when I am lucky enough for him to visit). Distance is teaching me how to love. Thank you, universe.
How to be helpful
I generally consider myself a helpful person. In fact, I think often times I tend to help people TOO much. This is often called codependency. I have this desire to control other people's lives before the bad thing even happens to them, so that they won't get hurt.
As it turns out, this is not actually possible. And when my efforts fail, because I'm trying to control something I can't, I get upset with myself for not trying hard enough. It's not a fun way to live.
My grad school program is with 20 other women, and over the last month, I've had to make new friends - something I haven't really had to do since my freshman year of college. And guess what? In a subconscious effort to make the people around me like me, I found myself wanting to be helpful. Overly helpful. Helpful before my new friends even asked for it.
I noticed this behavior more clearly, before it got out of hand, and with every new day I've been working really hard to only be as helpful as is asked for.
And so far, it's working. I've made friends without having to convince them that I'm worthy of their friendship by being their savior in all things. I'm learning that Greta, just as she is, is likable too.
How to be imperfect
At the beginning of the school year, I had some people who I respect tell me that my behavior on social media (mostly on my blog, my Instagram, and Facebook I think) is inappropriate and cause for concern. I wasn't provided with specifics about my "concerning behavior" so I had to do some guess work, and what I realized was that my authenticity was making these people uncomfortable. My honesty was concerning. Because it's true, I write about my struggles here on this blog. I post pictures of my not-a-size-zero body on Instagram. I speak out about failed relationships, and my own sexual assault. Because all of these things are me. Why should I put on a false front of being 100% happy and perfect all the time on social media, when in real life that's simply not true?
Being confronted in this way was really difficult for me. It hurt. A lot. But now that I'm on the other side of it, I can say now that I am more proud than ever of who I am. I have not changed my "inappropriate" behavior. Because honesty is never inappropriate. And I will not change because some people are uncomfortable with my imperfections. That's their problem. Not mine.
As as you can see, I've been hard at work, learning and growing and becoming more of myself than ever before. I really want to make blogging a regular thing, both here and on my fashion page, but if last month is any indication of how this year is going to go, I really can't make any promises.
What I can tell you is this: the universe works in beautiful ways. You just have to open your heart to the lessons that are being offered to you. Miraculous transformations happen when you do.
It seems that some people are confused.
About why I write.
And about who I am.
So let me clear a few things up.
I write because I am a teacher.
A teacher by profession (in a few short months) but also by existence.
I was a teacher from the moment I arrived on this earth.
I am a teacher, and so I write.
I write because my story will save lives.
Because what I have to say,
people need to hear.
I write, because I want to teach the world that life is hard sometimes.
And that is okay.
I write because it is good to crack open the facade that tells us to pretend everything is fine.
Everything doesn't have to be fine.
But you will still get through it.
My lessons do not come from books, here on this blog.
No lesson plans, no worksheets.
They come from me.
From my life.
My life is my worksheet.
These lessons come from who I am.
I am a teacher.
And so I will teach.
I will teach what pain feels like when you don't think you're good enough.
I will teach that you will get through it, too.
I will teach what it feels like when people question your authenticity. When people tell you that who you are isn't who you're supposed to be.
And I will teach you how to grow stronger from their lies.
I will teach that you are beautiful
Even if you don't look like all the other fish in the pond.
I will teach you that you are still so beautiful.
I will teach you this, because this is what I have learned. And I want you to learn it too.
I write because I am a survivor.
I write because I know that:
Growing up around alcoholism is hard
Having divorced parents is hard
Relationships are hard
Being sexually assaulted is hard
I write because I know all of those things to be true.
Because I lived them.
I do not write for attention (although some may think that)
I do not write for pity (although some may believe that)
I do not write for drama
Or shock value.
(Although if that's what gets you to stop and listen to what I have to say, then good.)
Because from what I have lived
And what I have learned
You can learn too.
Please excuse the long absence - I recently moved from my first ever (!!!) apartment in Illinois all the way across the country to Maryland, where I will be attending grad school for the next year. I am so very excited - I'm getting my masters in Education! - but this move has completely wiped me out (so much so that I stayed in bed the entire day yesterday doing absolutely nothing but letting my brain rest and recharge...boy did I need it!)
This has been my first real move - the first time packing my entire home up in boxes and plopping them on a truck, the first time being "kicked out" of a new home on a certain date because my lease was up, and certainly the first time living entirely on my own in a new state. For those of you curious, I will make an apartment post with pictures soon... as of right now I'm living out of a suitcase and sleeping on an air mattress on the floor (the movers should be here sometime this week...I hope! I miss my stuff.)
As I sit here reflecting on the adventures I've had with moving these past few weeks, I've learned a lot more about myself than I ever thought I would. Here are the 5 things I learned from moving across the country:
1. I have so much STUFF.
Packing up my little apartment took way longer than I ever expected, because I had so much STUFF. It felt like the 5 boxes I had donated to Goodwill made no dent in the amount of random THINGS I found myself packing up - yes, I certainly need 15 plates and cups, why would you ask? Psh, it doesn't matter that I'm living alone and my new kitchen has 3 cabinets...that kind of stuff. Had I had more time to organize and de-clutter before packing I would have probably thrown away a lot more...I'm having a feeling that is going to happen anyway when the movers finally get here, if only because my new place is a lot smaller...
2. I'm ready for this new adventure.
Throughout this entire process, I have been so darn excited to get out here and explore my new home. Yes, moving is terrifying. Yes, I'm leaving behind my entire family and a boyfriend whom I love very much. But I'm looking at this new part of my life as Greta-time. A chance to really get to know myself apart from my family or my friends. A chance to become the best version of myself that I can be. And I'm so ready.
3. Patience, patience, patience.
Lots of move-related things have not been going as planned - the movers themselves were 4 hours late picking up my stuff, I'm getting my stuff delivered at least a week later than I had anticipated, and my air mattress burst a hole in itself last night at midnight, right as I was ready to fall asleep, to name a few. But you know what? That's all part of life. I've been learning to laugh a lot at everything and recognize that everything will work out just exactly the way its supposed to. These things just take time.
4. My imperfections are beautiful.
Somewhere during the moving process my face decided to break out into hives. I think it was an allergic reaction to a face lotion I was using, but who knows. That being said, I was forced to take a make-up break for a while, and live with my dry, red, blotchy face. My boyfriend was sweet about it and kept reminding me that I was still beautiful, but to be perfectly honest I did not believe him at all. I'm a little less than a week into my no makeup journey and my skin has finally calmed down a bit. And I have to say, I think I finally believe him.
5. My opinions matter.
I'm learning such unexpected but important lessons during this move, and this has to be one of the most important for me. My opinions matter. My boyfriend has been amazing during this entire move and is going above and beyond to help get my apartment ready (he built me a bed frame and set up a tv! I'm so lucky). He had never been to NYC so once we finally got to my new apartment in Maryland we decided to take a trip there and explore the Big Apple. And while we were there, I kept finding myself worrying that he wasn't happy, or that we were doing things he didn't want to do (which, mind you, was entirely not the case). Every time I expressed a desire (usually along the lines of, "Can we sit down?" because my feet were hurting) I always followed it up with "Are you sure?" because I was terrified that I was asking something of him that he didn't want to do. So, we talked about it and I realized something. Guess what? In relationships and in life, people make compromises. And my desire to sit down, or my opinion that we should change our schedule a bit or whatever is just as valid and important as his. My needs are just as real as his. My voice matters.
I'm taking a bit of a Facebook/Instagram break for a while, so if you need me, feel free to reach out to me here. Once I get situated in my new home I will start back up with my Minimalism Project and new blog posts... Just know that I'm happy, safe, and learning SO MUCH out here on my new East Coast adventure!
Even God cannot change the past. -Agathon
In the past few months I have made a radical emotional transformation, which has left me excited about the future, and finally at peace with who I am. I have self-respect that I never had before, and I am able to be fully present and fully myself in a beautiful and healthy relationship with my partner.
This transformation has been life-changing, but it was a long time coming.
In in order to get to where I am today, I had to pass through some darkness. College, for me, was anything but the fun, "time of your life" experience that everyone claimed it would be. I went through physical traumas and emotional ones. I experienced pain I would never wish on anyone. But most of all, I lived under the false belief that I was not worth much at all.
This led me to engage in behaviors I am not proud of. I relished in any male attention I received, despite the fact that most of it was wrought with malicious intent. I gave myself fully to these men, my attention, my time, my body, subconciously hoping that if they loved me enough, I too would somehow begin to see my self-worth.
I partied - not a lot for "college standards," but more than I was at all comfortable with, in the hopes of numbing the anxiety I felt around alcohol and drunk men.
And it didn't work. This darkness culminated in an event I am not yet ready to share with the Internet, but an event that stripped me fully of any lingering sense of bodily autonomy or self-worth that I might have still had. Processing this event is what led me to the place I am today, and to the realization of my self-worth. For that, I am grateful. But I would never wish my experience on anyone.
Why am I sharing all of this today? Because lately, I feel as though this person and the person I am today are two completely different people. I love this present person, this strong, independent, woman, who knows herself and believes in herself and loves herself. But this other person, the past me, the one shrouded in darkness and doubt and self-loathing - I don't like her at all. In fact, I am ashamed of her. Embarassed. I wish I could take it all back. Start from the beginning, knowing what I know now. Delete, start over, erase, redo.
But see, that's just the thing. I can't do that, because that person too is me. We are different, yes, but she is and will be - and must be - a part of me for the rest of my life, because she led me to where I am today. I would not be this person I love and am proud of, without the darkness. I could not know self-love until I experienced its painful and complete absence.
The truth is, rather than being embarassed by this past, I should be grateful for it. I should forgive my mistakes, because they have made me who I am today. Both women, the past Greta and the present Greta are equally deserving of my love and respect and admiration, because they are both me. Because I survived.
So today, the next step in this spiritual transformation is to learn self-forgiveness and gratitude - not only for the pain I have felt, but also the mistakes I have made. This is what I am working on today, as I live my beautiful and exciting life, more grateful than ever for the sunshine, because I know how it feels to live in darkness.
A 20-something trying to find what it means to be me!