I've done a lot of soul-searching in the last few months...brief hiatuses from social media, countless books read, and a great deal of quiet reflection. I'm having a bit of an identity crisis, as many people tend to do once they start approaching the age of 30 (or 40, 50, 60...).
I'm a writer. My blog, resume, and LinkedIn page say so. But what does that actually mean? Does it mean I'm required to keep up this blog? Does it mean that I'm supposed to be laboring to write the Next Great American Novel? Does it mean that I should care about any of this?
My research, which is not backed by any scientific or professional resources, tells me no.
My life is mine to design. Every aspect of it, including my activities and how I fill my very precious time, are totally up to me. There are no rules here, and certainly no one is enforcing them if there are.
Therefore, how I define myself is up to me too.
I've taken a few months off because, quite frankly, I was trying to decide if this was still worth it. Did I really need to be a writer outside of my full-time editing job? So I spent three months without writing to see if my soul still craved it the way it used to.
And after the first month, I realized that I need writing.
Like many introverts, I am buried in my head most of the time. I have thoughts and ideas that I don't know how to express unless it's through writing. During this time of quiet, it felt as if something was hiding inside of me that didn't know how to express itself. I shushed it and asked it for patience—maybe in a while I would let it come out. When the desire returned.
Today it did. I woke up, ready to resume my new Saturday routine of reading a book, drinking coffee, and watching questionable Food Network chefs on TV. But something pulled me to the computer and opened up a blank Word document, and then the words fell out. I looked and saw my heart on the keyboard, bleeding and pumping.
So yes, I'm a writer. I'm a writer in the respect that I will always need writing like a human needs air to breathe, or a bird needs wind to soar. I'm a writer because, without it, I'm left gasping for words in the corner, waiting for someone to pull them out of me.
It has been exactly two months since I’ve written anything. Not a blog post, not a poem—hell, barely even a fully composed grocery list. I just haven’t had it in me.
Much to the chagrin of every writer that ever existed, the urge to write is not an ever-flowing champagne tower that can just be tapped into. Eventually the waiter walks away, the bubbly stops flowing, and you’re left with an empty glass and no idea what you should be writing.
But then every once in a while, the urge comes back. You’ll be wandering through the store, block of cheese and bottle of wine in hand, and suddenly you’re itching to go back to the keyboard.
Today is one of those days.
I’d like to tell you that I missed every moment I was away. But the truth is, I didn’t.
I’d like to tell you that I felt bad for not posting a blog for two whole months, without so much as a warning to you all. But I didn’t.
You see, here’s the beautiful thing about adulthood that I’m just beginning to fully comprehend--I’m an adult, and that means I get to do whatever I want.
It’s a concept that I’ve always entertained but never fully vested myself in. Sure, I knew that, without someone telling me otherwise, I can wake up and eat ice cream for breakfast and never wear makeup again. But, as I’m slowly realizing, it’s deeper than that.
I’m an adult, fully in charge of my own decisions, but also fully responsible for my own happiness.
If I don’t want to do something, I don’t have to. Plain and simple.
And neither do you.
I temporarily left the blog and writing world, knowing that when the time was right, you’d welcome me back with open arms. I knew that, when it would make me happy, I would post again. And I will likely drop out again for a while and only post when I feel like it—and that’s totally okay.
If there’s something in your world that isn’t serving you or no longer makes you happy, then maybe it’s time to reevaluate your relationship with it. (Or with them, if it’s a person.)
No one is forcing you to do anything. And nobody else is ultimately responsible for making sure you like your life except for you. So, if you don’t, please do something about it.
There are too many copies in this world: be yourself and do what makes you happy.
Stop pretending to be someone you’re not. Own your flaws, your attributes, and all the things in between.
Speak up for yourself.
Demand respect for yourself and your time.
Honor the things you love.
The minute you realize, damn, I’m amazing, so will the rest of the world.
Often when you hear people discuss physical things, they throw around the phrase "quality over quantity"—the expensive, well-made shoes are worth more in the long run than the eight pairs of cheap sneakers in your closet, the subject matter of the books in your collection holds more weight than the number of stacks, and so on.
But less often do you hear the concept applied to people—living, breathing things with personalities that are harder to quantify or appraise.
Let me tell you about my dear friend, Becky. Inseparable in college, we practically finished each other's thoughts and spent every possible second together for years; then, as it often does, life happened. She graduated and moved to grad school across the country. Devastated doesn't seem correct for the way I felt the day she left; as we described it earlier today, I felt as though my tribe abandoned me.
We keep in touch as well as we can via e-mail, texts, and phone calls, but coordinating time to connect in the midst of marriages, careers, and differing time zones proves difficult. Even though we communicate less, I always feel that she walks by my side during every big event and every time I doubt myself.
Being separated by so many miles, Becky and I rarely get to see each other in person (usually only once every year or so). I treasure every minute of that time. We laugh, cry, and babble philosophically as though we never parted.
And why am I telling you this?
Today, I had the distinct pleasure of spending the afternoon with my Becky, and it was another one of those moments—the move never happened, the miles didn't exist, the talking never stopped.
Relationships, too, boil down to quality vs. quantity.
I may not get to spend several days a week with my friends that I love so much, or my family that lives across the state, but when I do, I make sure that those moments count.
I've discussed the importance of being present and enjoying the best times of your life while you're in them; this is a concept with which I continue to struggle. But as I sat there, laughing over a glass of wine with a friend who's been through so much with me, I didn't want to be any place other than that moment in time.
You may have a lot of friends, and if you do, that's great—I hope you cherish them and make sure they know how much you appreciate them. But if you're like me, keep your small crew of friends close and squeeze them with so much love that they'll never doubt your affection.
Record each moment in your personal happiness book and appreciate every second. You may never have that moment with those people ever again.
And so today, I say thank you to my friends—thank you for your love, thank you for your loyalty, thank you for always being there when I needed a shoulder to cry on or an ear to listen.
But most importantly, thank you for being quality.
Cosmo and I went on a walk today, just like we do any other day. It's been a while since we needed to bundle up, but the biting Fall air felt a little more like early Winter. Against his will, I zippered the pup up in his jacket, outfitted myself in a hat and mittens, and headed out the door.
After about 30 minutes in the chilly but beautiful outdoors, with the sun fading into the skyline, we migrated back inside to the warmth of our house.
As I removed our excessive layers and Cosmo attempted to shake off the imaginary water rolling down his back, I looked around and took in the view.
Our home isn't anything special—a standard 1970s-era split-level in a cul-de-sac. There's far too much paneling in the basement and carpet too old to ever be considered fashionable. The ceilings sparkle with the artificial popcorn spray that invades many suburban homes. There's so many projects to be done to this place, so many things that could be improved.
But I wouldn't change a thing.
Our home isn't anything special, but it's just that—home.
The entryway where I stand is where I drunkenly asked Evan if he was going to kiss me for the first time. When I look in the living room, I'm reminded of the sparse setting for one of our first dates: a big-screen TV, nothing on the walls, Evan's hand-me-down floral sofa, and Seinfeld filling the room. When I walk down to the basement, I see the fireplace where he proposed to me on Valentine's Day almost three years ago. The kitchen emits the scent of the meals we've made together, the wine consumed, the birthdays celebrated. The walls are full of wedding pictures, family photos, and souvenirs of great times.
Every inch of our home pulsates with memories. These are the places where we've lived, loved, and tried to grow up together (as hard as it proves at times).
Sure, it's often covered in piles of laundry, stacks of mail for sorting, and eight million books, but to me, it's perfect.
Whenever I look around, I'm reminded that a home isn't just a physical building. It's a place where not only your loved ones live, but where your love lives.
Coziness is basking in the incredible glow of that love, embracing it, and looking beyond its faults. Much like our house, our love isn't perfect. But I've never felt happier or warmer than I do when I'm snuggled up in this place, with this man, with this life.
While I'm working, I often pour myself a nice mug of tea—especially in the Fall, when I can indulge in delicious, warm flavors like cinnamon and licorice. (This one in particular is the best.)
Yesterday's editing involved a challenging client project that tested me both mentally and emotionally—and when I reached for my steaming hot tea specifically poured to calm me down, I noticed some writing on the tag, which said:
"You are unlimited."
Normally I agree with the little inspirational quips on the tea tags, but man, do I disagree with this.
Yes, you should believe in your potential. Yes, you should push yourself professionally, personally, and emotionally. But everything has its limits. Especially you.
I've written before about the importance of self-care; how can you take care of others when you aren't taking care of yourself?
Speaking from my experience, we try so hard to do everything: to have amazing careers, a flourishing side gig, beautiful homes, take care of picture-perfect families, and build watertight relationships with loved ones.
I'm going to say it: it's just too much.
On a weekly basis, I reach a breaking point and something has to give. Maybe the blog only gets one post that week instead of three. Maybe I let our house fall into a state of constant clutter for a while. Maybe Cosmo doesn't get an hour-long walk every day (sorry, buddy). And it's totally okay.
We can't think of ourselves as a constantly regenerating machine, ready to give to others endlessly. Your daily ability to keep going is finite—a tank that slowly loses its contents.
You can refill your tank by taking care of yourself; it's a simple concept, I know, but so many of us neglect it. Relax, read a book, eat some real food, exercise, or get some sleep. It's that easy.
Just for a moment, take a breath and remember that you need to take care of yourself and respect your limits. As productivity expert David Allen once said, "You can do anything, but not everything."
Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to spend an entire weekend on the couch reading—not cleaning my messy house, not working on articles or editing, not feeling like I should do anything. And it's going to be beautiful.
Yesterday, I sat in the waiting room at my doctor's office—don't worry, guys, everything's okay, but my injured tendon and I are living proof that running is terrible for you and should be avoided at all costs—when I heard a little beep come from my phone.
Looking down, I noticed that I had an e-mail from a producer at the online magazine Thought Catalog (if you haven't visited their site before, please do. There is a plethora of wonderful content hidden in their pages). I grinned when I read that my submitted article had been accepted and was live on their site.
Immediately, I rushed to the website and experienced two conflicting, strong emotions: intense, ohmygodisthisreallyhappening excitement and an overwhelming, unwelcome fear.
What if their readers didn't like it? What if my own readers didn't like it? WHAT IF SOMEONE FOUND A TYPO? (Truth of Life: It doesn't matter that my official job title is Editor and I correct grammar for a living—I'm not perfect and, yes, sometimes there are typos in my pieces.) In my head, these were all practical and imminent scenarios.
And in my flurry of elation and anxiety, I had a thought.
Vulnerability is terrifying.
Submitting my article made me shake with nervousness. Seeing it live on the website did the same. After posting every blog entry, the same thoughts run through my head: Did I stay true to myself? Will my readers like it? Do I like it? What if nobody reads it?
We as living, breathing humans experience this every single day.
Putting yourself in a position for critique can be so difficult, no matter the situation. It's hard to stand on a pedestal and say, "Here I am, world, do what you will!"
But, guys, it's so worth it.
Without positive feedback from others, we would lose a source of many warm/fuzzy feelings: love, acceptance, appreciation. And without honest, constructive criticism, it sure would be difficult to make ourselves better people.
Opening yourself up is the only way to grasp what you're capable of. A flower that never blooms is stuck in the ground forever.
Learning to make yourself vulnerable, and especially embracing the potential benefits of that vulnerability, is one of the greatest gifts you can give yourself. Learn to love the chilling, soul-shaking quiver of knowing that you could mess up, that you could be wrong. And even better, learn to crave the incredible feeling of knowing that you've done well, that your hard work and presence are important.
So what do you say? Tell that person you love them. Submit the big, important project you've spent months working on with your head held high. Invite someone into your emotional space that's never been there before. Do that thing you love, opinions be damned.
Close your eyes, open your arms to the sky, and jump. I promise you won't regret it.
I've always been an "all-or-nothing" person.
I'm fastidiously clean or I'm a tornado, leaving messes everywhere in my wake. I'm a fitness expert or a fixture on the Minnesota couch-potato circuit. I'm eating a low-carb, clean-eating diet or I'm devouring an entire bag of potato chips in one sitting.
Being totally committed to one side of something has always been so comforting to me.
It's hard to live in the grey areas; how can you identify yourself as a runner if you don't run every day? Or if you're slow? How can I be a wine connoisseur if I'm not imbibing on the regular?
The idea of identity and how you define yourself can make trying to live (and thrive) in the grey difficult.
The past few weeks, I've been working towards revamping my lifestyle and making sure I'm doing whatever I can to take care of this body. I've been logging my food (because I have a tendency to overeat if my portion sizes aren't monitored), watching my alcohol consumption, and sweating away at the gym. I feel better, happier, and healthier when I know I'm taking care of myself.
And then Friday night shows up.
Our favorite local brewery and some of my closest friends beckoned. I had diligently planned out my day to allow for a nice Oktoberfest, but no other indulgences. We show up and there's a food truck that serves exclusively grilled cheese. Seriously—seven different kinds of grilled cheese (one of which was stuffed with mac and cheese). Did I avoid the intoxicating smell of the grilled cheese and stick to my one beer?
Of course not!
I downed that delicious carb-filled sandwich, accompanying potato chips, and added more beer into the mix.
And when my husband and I arrived home, we may or may not have consumed nachos, too.
I don't write this to serve as some sort of bad diet confessional. All of those extra carbs and calories were amazing and so worth it. It would have been easy, or perhaps more beneficial, to turn down those items and stick to my original plan.
But oh dear, life is short and meant to be enjoyed in every single bite or sip. Instead of worrying about the potential grams of fat I was ingesting, I sat and thought about how good that sandwich was. I laughed with my friends and enjoyed the greasy, cheese-filled moment.
Yes, eating healthfully is important. Yes, doing things that are good for your body are important. But you know what else is? Learning to lighten up and enjoy the moment you're in.
And this morning, I picked myself back up—plenty of sleep, a wholesome breakfast, and penciled in some weightlifting for later this afternoon.
That's the point of this whole ride called life: enjoying the good moments when you have them, walking the fine tightrope of taking care of yourself and living it up, and standing up again when you fall off your plan--no smile withheld, no carb regretted, no moment wasted.
Now if you'll excuse me, it's time to hit the gym while salivating about those mac and cheese morsels coursing through my bloodstream.
This week, I've been a raging ball of stress. There's too many things to get done at the office, so many ideas for the blog and website ping-ponging around in my brain, piles of clutter sitting around the house—it's enough to make a person head straight for the bar to indulge in the strongest margarita available.
As much as I love such margaritas—especially with a giant plate of nachos—I'm getting to the age where I need to respect my body in a healthier way.
Taking care of yourself comes down to so much more than eating your quota of fruits and veggies (although that's pretty important, too). To keep yourself in tip-top shape, you need to make sure your mental health gets a check-up every once in a while. Self-care is too important to neglect.
In case you needed some friendly reminders on how to take care of your one and only body, I've compiled a list of 12 ideas to consider below. Take each one with a grain of salt (preferably around that margarita glass) and see if it works for you!
Audra Lorde said it best—"I have come to believe that caring for myself is not self-indulgent. Caring for myself is an act of survival."
And isn't that the beautiful, absolute truth?
Take care of yourself and the universe will take care of you.
Off in the distance, it becomes
shadow on the bright prairie.
The figure, sensuous and
slinky, crawls through the ochre grass.
An icy chill passes over me,
consuming my optimism and
silencing my protests.
The creature opens his jaws
swallows me whole.
He licks his blackened lips
and silently floats away,
leaving behind only
fading warmth and
A thought, a
slowly evanescing in the
Friends, I'd like to extend my apologies for my absence. I wish I could say I've been doing something worthwhile with the two weeks I've been gone (saving the world, feeding the poor, cleaning up the world's oceans---you get the drift), but the real story is less exciting. Work has been busy, life has been hustling, yadda yadda yadda. The wheel never stops turning.
I've been having fun recently going through my old poems and seeing how my writing style has changed over the years. Some pieces I completely cringe at, trying to hide from the obvious Ginsberg style transcribed into my own words. Others, in my humble opinion, have fewer wrinkles from their years shoved in the drawer.
That is to say, I have a present for you. To make up for my extended time away, I'll be posting several of these throwback poems over the next few days, just so you can get a taste of who the former Victoria Harris (then with a different name) really was. Or is. Either way.
Let's begin, shall we? The first selection is a piece circa 2011 (originally titled "I am everything," but let's be honest, that's a crap title, so I've scrapped it). The scene? Our young author is a new, shiny college graduate. She's starting a corporate job and is squeezing herself into a pencil skirt for the first time in years. After a serious of terrible relationships, she's trying to enjoy life on her own in downtown Minneapolis. And it happens to rain a lot.
(Also, she apparently has a problem with capitalizing the letter "i")
when i woke today
i felt like rain
the closing of my eyelids
keeping rhythm with
the drops inside my head
my feet upon the sidewalk
melting into puddles in which
others will step
i blew in the breeze,
lashing upon the faces
wetting their hair
soaking through clothes
and becoming one
i collected in a basin
near the hall, my
throughout the room
today when i woke
i felt like rain,
and i covered all
Writer, editor, and storyteller living in the Twin Cities.