18 lessons at 18


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Photo by Anton Darius on Unsplash

I’ve just turned 18! Happy birthday toooooo meeeee… A few notes, though, before I get into the post:

  • I’m sure you’ve noticed that my website looks a little different. Yes, I’ve scored a sweet new domain name! Say hello to rachelellynnm.com. I’ve come a long way in the years I’ve had this website. I’m also writing to you from my shiny new MacBook Air — this is a nod in the direction of Jeff. Thanks, Jeff. 🙂
  • You may begin seeing affiliate links in the next few posts so I can keep this domain open and start saving a bit for college. Just be aware! I do receive a commission for some links, but that’s only if you choose to make purchases based on my recommendations. You are never obligated to make any purchases, and I would never put up an affiliate link if it wasn’t something I didn’t truly like or want on my site.
  • Also, goodbye WordPress ads and hellloooo WordAds! Yep, I took the plunge. I’m a big kid blogger now.
  • And two more housekeeping things before we get to the post: 1. I will now be uploading twice a week – Wednesday and Saturday. Yay! And 2. I am working on an option for a subscription to support the blog. It would involve motivational Mondays, personalized poems, and sneak peeks of my current writing (with each one layering, depending on which subscription you have). This is very exciting for me, and I hope you are excited to go on this journey with me.

Alright, without further ado: 18 things I learned at 18.

  1. Your happiness depends on you. There are so many people around you who love and support you, but if you rely on them to create your happiness, that joy will be cut short. Depending on another person may feel good in the moment, but it is not sustainable.
  2. You don’t have to be friends with everyone. Seriously. Not everyone is your friend. It’s not mean, it’s just the truth! Do you want that much commitment, anyway? No, probably not. Relationships take energy and effort, so commit to the ones that matter and leave the rest alone.
  3. Get organized. When you need to find that important paper or photo or password or book or item of clothing, you’ll thank me.
  4. Hold onto the important stuff. I didn’t want to mention the virus in this post, but I have to because it’s had such a tremendous effect on our world. Everything you know could disappear in an instant, so hang on to it while you can.
  5. Forgive, forgive, and then forget. People do deserve second and third and fourth chances. People do change, and they do make mistakes, and you would want someone to do the same for you. However: if someone hurts you over and over with no remorse or realization, do not waste time. Let them go.
  6. You’re never going to be ready. That thing you just thought about? Yeah, you’re not prepared for it. But it’s going to happen, and you’re going to have to do it, or you will never ever succeed.
  7. It’s not all about you. Yeah, yeah. Life might be crappy for a bit. But everyone has their own shit, and yours isn’t more pitiful than anyone else’s.
  8. Your environment matters. Your home. Your car. Your office. Make it comfortable. Make the places you live livable.
  9. Music makes everything different. Feeling like crap? There’s a playlist that can turn it around. Music is medicine, love.
  10. Success isn’t money. Enough is all you need.
  11. You don’t have to be productive 24/7. Society has major expectations for how much work you should be doing and how much you should be achieving, but you don’t have to appease society. Take breaks.
  12. But you do have to keep working at things you love. No one, and I mean no one is going to do the passion work for you. Writing novels has taught me this. Put in the time before you don’t have any time.
  13. Inspiration and motivation won’t keep you going. You have to have the habits, too. Brendon Burchard’s book saved me on this one.
  14. You can change right now. Sure, you can wait until New Year’s Day or your next birthday or your next promotion or when you move to L.A. to change up your life. Or you could start now, be happier now, and get inspired now.
  15. But you don’t have to change. Again, society really likes to tell us that we need the next big thing! We need to achieve x, y, z! But NO! You don’t.
  16. Stop holding back what you have to say. What is in your mind matters. Speak your truth.
  17. Drink more water. Seriously. This water bottle helps you stay on track.
  18. Breathe. The world waits for you, dear. Don’t speed up.

-ellynn ❤

some things happen for a reason.


ripple effects.

you decide to go get coffee and sit for awhile at a coffee shop you’ve never been to. you’re nervous to go, but you do it, and you find yourself pleasantly surprised by a friend you haven’t seen in a long time.

you go online to find a book you really want to read and come across a better one that’s cheaper and it’s by an author you’re going to meet in three months.

you speak french and love political journalistic writing and go to a university reception to do those things. you meet a student whose three majors are french, journalism, and politics.

i’m not saying life is perfect, and i’m not saying everything is meant to work out in your favor. i’m saying we, on this beautiful planet, are all interconnected. there’s not necessarily a reason for you to step in the mud, but there might be if the person to help you get your foot unstuck is the love of your life.

we may not have destinies or fates or grand plans, but we definitely find ourselves in situations that simply could not have happened had we not made a decision that led to that point. what things have happened to you that you felt were meant to happen? how would your life be different if they hadn’t happened?

so many pieces of the past make up the lives we have now. the language, the upbringing, the culture, the education, the access to knowledge… life is insanely cumulative. i believe that’s why some people don’t think they can change their lives.

they may be taught, from a young age, that they always fail at everything. the more they’re told so, the more they believe it. then, when they go to do something world-alteringly important, they may chicken out because their fear of failure has been encouraged from a young age. it’s just like water erosion. just a few drops, yes? but enough time passes, and rock disappears forever.

that’s why, too, we think life sucks. a family member passes, and we ask, “why does _____ matter if this happened?” insert god, living, love, passion, growth, trying… whatever the matter seems to be. it’s not the fault of god, life, love, passion, growth, effort, or any other scapegoat you might come up with. because life is cumulative. and if you’re going to tell you that god made all this happen to you, then you’re telling me that this isn’t your life. you’re telling me you’ve made no decisions, chosen no paths, and done absolutely nothing.

we aren’t passive creatures. we have emotions, convictions, desires, fears… we do not go gently into that good night. i’m not saying that your decisions killed your grandparent, but i’m saying the world happens and is going to continue to happen for as long as it does. we don’t even know how long that is.

so because the world is going to continue to happen for an undetermined amount of time, i’m offering up this solution: live. live every day, and never stop living until you’re dead. and then fertilize the earth with your corpse and let the next people live. it’s kinda crappy, that it works this way, but it does, so live a life of living life.

nobody and nothing made this awful thing happen to you, the thing you’re thinking about. it’s not your fault, it’s not god’s, it’s not the person you want to point fingers at… it’s the fact that life goes on. you’ve only got a little bit left, though, so move on from what’s hurting you and let yourself live the rest in peace.

let yourself have peace. ❤

-ellynn

my reading list.


Let’s keep the intro short for this one. My 2020 reading list!

  1. Get Your Sh*t Together by Sarah Knight: Honestly, I thought this was a great one to kick off the new year.
  2. The Dark Half by Stephen King: A little horror recommendation by a family member. I watch a lot of horror movies, but I haven’t read any books yet!
  3. People You May Know by Topher Kearby: One of my favorite writers.
  4. Hollow City by Ransom Riggs: I started this series last summer, but for some reason, I didn’t continue…
  5. Library of Souls by Ransom Riggs: The next book in that series. I know there are two more after this, but I’m going to cut it to the second and third.
  6. An Abundance of Katherines by John Green: The only John Green book I haven’t read yet.
  7. Water for Elephants by Sarah Gruen: A gift from a family member! I’m super excited.
  8. This Side of Paradise by F. Scott Fitzgerald: Fitzgerald just speaks for himself, doesn’t he?
  9. The Collective by Don Lee: Racism is very much still an issue, and it’s important to read books where the characters don’t look like us and experience different things from us.
  10. The Deepest Roots by Miranda Asebedo: This one was a signed copy that was sent to me!
  11. Leah on the Offbeat by Becky Albertalli: I’ve been meaning to get around to it ever since Simon vs. The Homosapien Agenda.
  12. Olive, Again by Elizabeth Strout: Been seeing this one all over my Instagram feed.
  13. The Day is Ready for You by Alison Malee: It’s so important, as a poet, to keep reading other poetry and supporting other authors like myself!
  14. We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie: I love Adichie’s writings, and she is just so freaking cool. Also, she wears the most wicked Nigerian fashion. So much love for this woman.
  15. You Are A Bad*** by Jen Sincero: What is it with these profanity-titled self-help books? I want to understand the hype.
  16. The Girl With All the Gifts by M. R. Carey: I’ll be honest, the title just sounds cool.
  17. Call Me by Your Name by André Aciman: A friend of mine was really into this one.
  18. Openly Straight by Bill Konigsberg: Always good to read some queer fiction.
  19. My Sister’s Grave by Robert Dugoni: I was made aware of this one through a book talk. Let’s give it a shot!
  20. The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt: Again, another one where the title is cool. Maybe afterward, I’ll watch the movie, but probably not.
  21. All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr: I’m not one for historical books, but I simply can’t not read this one, not with all the raving reviews.
  22. Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll: Alice in Wonderland is MY FAVORITE FANTASY WORLD. WHY HAVE I NOT READ THIS YET? AGH!
  23. The Boys Who Woke Up Early by A.D. Hopkins: This is a very old and powerful story that I believe needs to be in my mind.
  24. Catcher by Kalyn Nicholson: My favorite YouTuber! I cannot wait to meet the characters and see what it’s all about.
  25. The College Vegan Cookbook: 145 Affordable, Healthy & Delicious Plant-Based Recipes by Heather Nichols: This one’s obvious, but I’m going vegan in college, so I need some ideas.
  26. Whatever my English class reading is! Last semester, it was The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien.

There you have it! At this rate, I’ll need to read one book every two weeks. For updates, be sure to keep up with my Instagram!

-ellynn

focus.


Finding your focus in a busy world like this one can be difficult. How do we manage it? The stress, the activities, the relationships, the daily tasks. It looks easy on the outside, but that’s only if you’re watching someone else do it seamlessly. When you’re the one trying to concentrate, it’s easy to lose attention. So let’s talk strategy.

I’d say sleep is one of the most important things for me if I need to focus on something. If I don’t get enough sleep, my mind is foggy, I’m distracted, and I would rather be doing anything than what I’m actually doing. That’s a problem! Now, this is just my experience, again, but there are so many studies that would point to the same solution. Get a decent amount of rest so you can do your best.

Change the level of noise! For some people, this may be silence. That’s awesome! I would suggest you find yourself a sturdy pair of earplugs and get cracking on those goals. For others, it might be white noise or nature sounds. Perhaps get a white noise machine, or for a more affordable option, find an alternative online. When I sleep, I use rainymood.com. Of course, I wouldn’t use that to focus because it helps me sleep… that’s a blog post for another time.

And the final few probably need music to focus. I’m in this group! I tend to turn on lo-fi hip-hop beats to keep me in the zone. Others like k-pop, classical, EDM… I would recommend, unless you find that it helps, to stay away from music in your language. It simply turns the brain on to listen in to what’s playing, and that’s not what we need.

Adjust your environment! Personally, I have a dedicated desk to anything focus-oriented. I’m there if I’m writing, studying, editing, making art… and so on. It’s well-lit, comfy, and I’m surrounded by positive reinforcement (decorations and things that make me happy). I also make sure I’m surrounded by everything I need so I’m not tempted to get up and get distracted more.

Sometimes, the reason we can’t focus is that the designated environment we have is just cramping our style. If I have writer’s block, I’ll move my writing to a café or library. And when I’m feeling brave, I’ll switch from a computer to a pen. It could even be changing from your couch to the chair next to it. The body likes routine, but our minds like new experiences. It’s up to you to decide what you need, but a shift (even going outside) can help you focus.

Do something else. Seriously. If you can’t concentrate on a task, and you’ve tried everything, and it just won’t work, do another activity. Even if that essay is due tomorrow or the meeting is in three hours or you promised your audience it would be out by a certain time. Stop. Put everything down and do something else. When you come back to it, I can almost guarantee it’ll be easier.

I hope you enjoyed today’s post. I want to remind you that my book, the garden boy, will be released for pre-order on valentine’s day (February 14th). Follow this page to keep updated and be the first to order it!

-ellynn

ways to learn a language.


So, as I might have mentioned before, I am now near-fluent in French (well, as fluent as you can get when English is your first language). Students in my class, as well as friends and family, always ask how I’ve picked it up so quickly. I wanted to answer that here, as I figured some people might be committing to learning a language for the new year.

First and foremost, I want to make it clear that you cannot just absorb knowledge through osmosis. I do spend time studying and working at this; it does take a great deal of work. There are just a few simple things that can make your learning process more fun, and you can get much more out of it with the tips I’m about to show you.

Also, I am not an education specialist of any kind. This is just wisdom from a seventeen-year-old. But I’m telling you, these things work! Alright, now down to the nitty-gritty.

  1. Watch movies in your target language with your native language in subtitles: This is something I’d consider to be a baby step. Maybe even before you start seeking resources for learning the language itself. Sit with a notebook in your lap, and if you hear words you understand, write them down. (Double-check in Google Translate later.) SIDE NOTE: Here’s my thing about Google Translate: you can totally use it if you’re looking for a single verb or noun or something short and sweet. However, make no mistake! Translate is awful when it comes to translating direct sentences, no matter if it’s from English to French or vice-versa. Use it at your own risk. (The risk is insulting someone when you meant to ask where the nearest restroom is.)
  2. Try a free learning app such as DuoLingo, Babbel, or Memrise. When I was first starting out, I thought DuoLingo was honestly the best learning app ever. I was definitely wrong, but it did help me as a beginner. The thing is, DuoLingo teaches you nouns and sentence placement, but it does nothing for grammar or conjugation. It’s great to build up your basics. Babbel has more of a foundation in conversational language, but it only has half the languages DuoLingo has (14+ versus 30+). Memrise is a gamified version of Quizlet but for languages. I would say it’s a fun one, but it’s difficult for beginning speakers. The fact that you can have them with you everywhere makes these apps so important. On the train, in line for coffee, walking your dog, waiting to pick up your kids, letting the bath warm up… Apps are great, and you should take advantage.
  3. Watch YouTubers who speak your language. I love this one! If you’re trying French, Chloé Kian has a beautiful French channel, and she often makes parallel videos in English. It’s hard to beat this experience, as you can slow down YouTube videos, sometimes use subtitles, read the descriptions and comments, and you can watch them as they speak. YouTube videos are usually about a specific subject, which is why they’re great for building new, specific vocabulary and expanding your listening skills. Additionally, watching the person’s lips move and listening to them speaking is usually more effective than just listening. The only downside is, it’s hard to find the right YouTuber because YouTube tends to only recommend channels in your native language. If I’m looking for French creators, I’m going to search in French.
  4. Music! Honestly, this is my favorite one. I’m an auditory learner, which means I learn best through listening. I have a giant playlist of French music, and some of it, I found through an exchange student at my school. She’s super cool, and I learned that a lot of teens in France listen to rap music (which is how, accidentally, I learned a lot of curse words very quickly). Music just makes you want to sing along, and you can look up the lyrics and follow! Rather than pasting the lyrics into translate, there’s probably a website that has translated your song into another language. If not, then I guess Translate is acceptable. This is a good time to mention that a good alternative to Translate is WordReference. It interprets whole sentences, phrases, verbs, slang, and pretty much everything. It’s run by actual people!
  5. Keep a journal. If you’re sitting there and wondering what a certain word is in your target language, search it up, and then write it down. We learn so much better when we write things down. Take it with you when you’re using an app, listening to music, watching a movie or YouTube video… It can come in handy while traveling, too. Look back at all the words you learn after a handful of weeks and see that the more you seek knowledge, the more you’ll find it.
  6. Take a class. Obviously, one of the best ways to learn a language is by learning it from someone with a degree in your target language. That is the best way to go about it (unless you’re that guy who can learn anything in 30 days), and I highly recommend you at least consider the idea. If taking a class is not for you, there are several books that help you learn. The one I use for French is here. It’s a comprehensive workbook that you can write in. I would highly recommend it!

So, there you have it! Six ways to speak a different language. Let me know if you have any questions, as I’d be happy to answer them. Happy learning! 🙂

-ellynn

what 2019 taught me about time.


As my first post of the year, it’s a raw one. It’s honest. I hope you enjoy it and take it to heart, and I’m excited to show you what I have planned for 2020.

This has been a year of lessons, and I’ve decided that the most important one I learned was how little time we truly have with the ones we love.

Before I elaborate, I did not lose a loved one — that’s not what I mean, although you could see it in that sense. Time slips through our fingers, and there are periods in our lives where we have good relationships with people, and sometimes, those relationships have to be taken from us. The universe does that sometimes. I know, it sucks, right?

I’ve been writing a lot about college, and one of the super hard things about leaving my hometown is saying “see you later,” when I know I probably won’t see a lot of those people ever again. I’m being forced to choose what relationships I truly value. If I decide that I want to keep ties with every single friend from my life right now, I will never keep up. I can’t remember them all. It’s hard. How do you decide who to let go of?

That’s one of my issues with life. Priorities. They’re something I’ve never been able to set, and I think that’s something I’m slowly learning how to do. I realized what my burnout point is as far as commitments to activities/clubs. I realized what I need in my social life. What’s hard is, after realizing what those limits are, I actually have to pare down now. I have to sit and ask myself, “what really matters? who do I really care about? what’s going to be important to me five years from now?”

It’s a process, but by choosing my path of study, I’ve already narrowed down my career priorities. Writing and foreign language. Those choices are leading me to become more active with my blog and start working on relations on social media related to writing. I also just took a test to obtain the Seal of Biliteracy, which sounds super fancy but really isn’t. Underneath that layer is the desire to travel, to interact with other writers, to understand other worlds. So that’s settled: I know what I want to do with the rest of my life. Right? Let me bookmark this post and revisit that in a few years.

But with relationships, it’s much more difficult. Yoga can handle it if I decide to make it less important than my other interests. Fashion can deal. But a companion actually has feelings. I can’t dismiss a person as easily. Not to say that prioritizing people you love has to mean dismissing other people. It’s not that at all. We need to choose first and foremost the people who deserve our attention, letters, facebook messages, emails, texts, coffee dates. We only have so much time, so we have to choose between visiting a childhood best friend or some girl with whom you cracked jokes in Chemistry class two years ago. Who matters? Who affects your daily life, emotional well-being, and your health?

Deciding what (and who) you want to stay isn’t selfish. On the contrary: it’s a kindness to the people around you. There’s no sense in spending time with people who you don’t feel are terribly important to your own happiness. And in my opinion, if someone isn’t dying to spend time with me or show that I’m valuable to them often, then I would rather they simply move on. Our time on Earth is way too short to have half-assed relationships. If you care, let them in. If you don’t, be honest and let them go.

One more thing, though. Don’t just randomly delete people and things from your life. It’s not like taking out the trash. This reflection, this change? It’s going to take some time, and it’s going to have repercussions. You can’t suddenly tell a friend you don’t want to speak to them ever again. You have to handle it gracefully, honestly. And even if you think you’re ready to let go, be prepared to feel a loss. Even if you’re the one cutting ties, you may still feel a pull at something that used to be there. It won’t be easy, but shedding what no longer serves you, like a snake in its old skin, is better for everyone and everything.

Much love, and happy new year.

-ellynn ❤

starting a bullet journal? read this first.


It’s a new year, and LOTS of people are excited about trying a new bullet journal! That’s so cool, and I love to see everyone doing this planning system for the first time. However, I think there are a few things we need to remember.

  1. It’s not all about how pretty it looks. This is it! I’m starting off this list with the single most important thing! I rant about this all the time. New bullet journal-ers are SO excited to start, but they often start for the wrong reason. Instead of telling you what it is supposed to be, I’m going to tell you what it isn’t. The purpose of a notebook is not to compare your art or handwriting to another person’s notebook. It’s not to be the perfect planner or a gorgeous container of paper that’s supposed to get you thousands of followers on Instagram. It’s not for anybody else to enjoy. It’s not fluffy or stupid, either. It’s not a shallow thing. So what is it? It’s for you. What do you want it to be?
  2. You don’t need special stationery. Look, I love pens and pretty stationery as much as the next fanatic, but a true bullet journal sticks to two basic objects: a black pen and a notebook. That’s it. Not a tombow dual brush pen, not a mildliner, not a crayola supertip marker, not sparkly washi tape… It relies on only a notebook and a pen. Hey, I know someone who uses a binder and notebook paper for easy removal of pages, so I guess you don’t even really need a notebook. For the most part, I just use a black pen and my trusty hardcover dotted notebook. I’m not going to link it because I don’t think you need to copy what works for me to get good use out of your notebook. (However, if you truly want to know, go to my YouTube channel, Rachel Ellynn M.) Just use what you think you need.
  3. Keep it simple at first. So, basically, the original Ryder Carroll format isn’t what I stick to. However, it’s the method that was designed to work for ADHD and he wants it to be universal — until you find something that works better for you. I found a system that I altered, and it worked more and more the more I allowed it to show itself to me. I couldn’t have found that system unless I tried the bare bones and decided other things were going to work better. For example, I started using daily rapid logging like the original method. Then, I switched to weekly spreads (this was a mistake because I saw how pretty the ones on Pinterest were and wanted to make them like this). After that definitely didn’t work, I went back to daily rapid logging and found that it was best for my running mind. I guess my point is, don’t get too excited about all the crazy trackers and collections you can implement until you know for sure what basic pieces work for you.
  4. Do a mental inventory before anything else. This is the most therapeutic part, and I love it so much because it dumps out your mind! Seriously. There are three sections: what I’m working on, what I should be working on, and what I want to work on. Sounds kind of easy, but you really have to sit down and think about it. Some people do it in sections of their lives, like school, work, personal, family, spiritual… I like to dump it all into one. Just make three columns, label them, and start writing. Now, look at the things on all the lists in one. Which items are non-negotiable? Circle them. Which items can you not care less about? Cross them out. If you don’t absolutely need to do something, and you don’t want to do it, then here’s a simple revelation. Only put priority items on your plate. The mental inventory can help you weed those out.
  5. Carry it everywhere. I’m sure people will dispute about this, but I treat my bullet journal much like car keys, a wallet, or a cell phone… I take it everywhere. In 2020, my new one is Pepper, and she is going to get extremely acquainted with the way I live my life. If this sounds silly, I don’t care, but I think my notebook can learn about me and serve me better if I take it along for the ride. Plus, at the end of the notebook’s use, you can smile and notice all the places where you dropped it or the bookmark frayed. You can watch it age. Your journal is a piece of history. Take it and make note of anything and everything.
  6. Claim it as yours. Listen, this journal is only for you. Only you have to see it, use it, keep it up. So make it yours! Much like a blank canvas or empty house, design it the way you see fit. Keep it minimalistic and only add the bare details, or plaster it with artwork and make it crazy colorful. Mine is somewhere in between. I myself enjoy a collage or quote page every once in a while, but then again I also enjoy a quiet page for simple lists. Whatever makes you feel at home in this notebook that you’ll call home for however long it takes to fill it up. (Also, I usually start over for the new year, but I never finish the notebook, so I’m using a shorter one this year.) Let yourself take creative space in the journal that keeps your life together. It’s gonna be in your possession for a while.

So those are just six little reminders before you truly break into that notebook. I wish the best to you and your little companion.

-ellynn

2020: what you should be doing.


It’s the time of year where all the yadda-yadda about goals and fitness plans get spewed all over the internet. Now, it’s fine to be “working on your summer body,” whatever that means, but there are some things that definitely need to be done. I don’t have to tell you what those things are — they’re up to you — but I can give you an idea of what to think about.

Who are you right now? Who will you be? One of my favorite exercises, as we wind down the year, is drawing my current and future self. I’m not the best at drawing, but I draw a typical outfit, hairstyle, and expression of myself at this very moment. I then list aspects of my life: spirituality, physical health, mental health, relationships, aspirations… I get brutally honest with who I am and what I want at this moment. Then, I move to the next page and draw who I will be in a year. Again, exactly what outfit, hairstyle, and expression I’ll be wearing. What do this person’s spirituality, physical health, mental health, relationships, aspirations… look like? What’s happening one year from now? Notice the wording I use. Not what I want to be. What I will be.

What is your 2020 “theme?” I did a lot of reflection to figure out what my theme will be for next year, but I’ve decided on “discovery.” I’m entering college in the fall of 2020, as some of my more avid readers know, and it’s a chance to figure out who I want to be. I’m sure every naïve college freshman says that, but it’s okay for me to want a fresh start. It’s okay that I plan to make some stupid decisions. I toyed around with “learning” or “change,” but “discovery” makes me feel like I’m uncovering a mystery this upcoming year. Like 2020 will be rare, novel, and fun. That’s what I want my life to feel like. What’s your word? If you’ve settled into the same routine for a few years, that’s alright. But what are you chasing this year? Maybe it’s more money. Maybe your word is “stability.” Or maybe you want to develop your relationships, so your word is “love.” Do some thinking.

What can you do to embody that theme? I love this part because it’s where you have to generate some kind of action! New year goals are so completely useless without action behind them. Like, yes, I can say I want to be an Olympic swimmer, but unless I make a plan to get into the pool, I’m never gonna get there. (I do not, for the record, have any interest in Olympic sports.) So for me, I’m going to create discovery by doing these things:

  • get inspired by following other writers, musicians, and other creators
  • travel to new places
  • absorb more media (podcasts, youtube, books, documentaries…)
  • spend more time in nature
  • journal in the mornings
  • meditate at night — just sit and get quiet

How do you want to feel? If you can’t answer that just yet, think about how you feel now. Go back to your current/future self. Maybe you feel unmotivated, and you want to feel excited. I wrote down that I want to feel joyful, awake, clear, and inspired. If you wanted, you could go even further to consider how you will feel that way. For example: to bring in more joy, I’m doing the 30 Days of Joy challenge by Rebecca Kochenderfer. You can find it here when you join Journaling.com.

What will you let go of? I love this question. We, as people, love to complain. This is a form of constructive complaint. Write down everything you hate and want to go. Crappy interactions with coworkers, road rage, spending too much on not-so-great coffee… Write it all down. You might write: fear, unhealthy eating, overwhelm, feeling stagnant, passive mindset… As you write it, acknowledge that you denounce those things. Throw it in the fireplace if it feels right.

What will you let in? Again, pay attention to my wording here. What are you going to allow to surround your life? What will you let give you hope, joy, inspiration, confidence? This suggests that these things are already knocking at the door of your life. You simply need to open it. When you do, you may be inviting free time, fluidity, love, rest, health… into your life. Take a deep breath and acknowledge that the only barrier (within your control) between you and your desires is your own will. What do you want?

So now, we’ve answered the hard questions. The prompt I have for you now is, will 2020 be a year of action? Or reaction?

-ellynn ❤

P.S. I’ve been using the WordPress free photo library for quite some time, but today, I’ve included an original photo! I’m still not great with photography, but I hope that I’m able to post more original visual content. Enjoy 🙂

wintertime: digital minimalism


Social media is such an easy way to hide in our shells and pretend we’re close to our friends and family during the winter. At family gatherings, it’s easy to ignore the awkward silence that comes (because we don’t know how to make conversation) and stare at a video game.

When we wake up in the morning and don’t feel like getting up, the little portable device on our bedside table can distract us and convince us to stay in bed. It’s cold, it’s dark, and it’s easy to stay cuddled up with a Netflix episode… but that’s just not practical, nor is it healthy.

Sitting with our devices prevents us from getting sunlight, exercise, social interaction, and motivation. So how about, this winter, we take a minimalist approach?

back atcha with the list format: six ways you can reduce screen time

  1. Change your phone setup: This has been the easiest one for me. It’s a lot easier to stay off my phone if my phone tells me to put it down: my lock screen literally says so. “Put the phone down.” If that’s not a deterrent, then we go to phase two: the minimalist home screen. I have an app called “a decluttered launcher – minimalism & productivity,” which is still in its beta testing, but the launcher allows you a total of 6 home screen apps, Google search, and a swipe feature to search for any other apps. When I open my phone and see only Gmail, Messages, Spotify, and Notes, I’m going to quickly find what I need and lock the screen again.
  2. Have a place for your electronics: You can’t be tempted to use them if you don’t see them! This is a seemingly obvious but fool-proof trick. If you carry a purse, backpack, or just have big pockets, you can slip your distracting device into a specific spot. Sounds stupid, right? But as long as you don’t have it in your hand, you’re not going to think about opening the lock screen every two seconds.
  3. Turn off notifications: *ring ring* Yep, we all know that noise. And it makes our ears perk up. “Oh, did [insert name here] send me a Snapchat?” It’s monotonous! And don’t even get me started about emails. I’m not proud of this, but yes, I have six email accounts. Six! Is that even necessary? Probably not, but I do use them all. Gosh, I probably get fifty emails a day, minimum. In the working world, there’s a lot of information to be passed around. Can you imagine getting a notification every time you got an email? I did it for a while, and that’s fifty-plus times I was checking my phone every day. But that was only for email. Turn them off.
  4. Set a time to check your socials: This goes for email as well. When you’re sitting in line for McDonald’s, waiting for a movie, or letting your dinner heat up, what do you turn to? That rectangle in your pocket. This is a new idea! Have a set time every day that you check your social media. For me, I allow a thirty-minute window. It doesn’t sound like much (given how much we scroll throughout the day), but all you need to do is see what your friends are posting, respond, and make your own posts. You don’t need to catch up with the Jenners or yell at a heckler on Twitter. Social media should be a tool that inspires you, not tires you. Set a time, and don’t scroll aimlessly before or after that time.
  5. Get really, really bored: Boredom is a recipe for creativity. Get SUPER bored! Lock your electronics in a vault. Give it to a friend (with a passcode if you must). Use an app like Forest, which doesn’t let you use your phone while you plant a tree. Bury it in the ground! Whatever gets you away from the darn thing. Your mind, when deprived of entertainment devices, forces itself to find new things on which to focus. When the apps and games and distractions are gone, where does your mind wander? Mine tends to move toward writing, music, and physical activity. Think of it as an experiment!
  6. Don’t deprive yourself of fun: Sometimes, what we need is some good old-fashioned FUN! What do you love to do? I like rollercoasters, bike rides and hikes, cooking, dancing, exploring the city… You gotta figure out what inspires you. What makes you want to put your phone down? What whispers to you? Maybe you want to serve at a local shelter or childcare center. Maybe you’ve always wanted to try stand-up comedy. Maybe, you and your college roommate haven’t caught up in a while. Just have some fun! We spend so much time in life stressing out and trying to get ahead. Take one moment for yourself to enjoy living.

There you have it! Six small things that, when used, can hopefully help you limit your screen time. Are you going to try these? Let me know in the comments! And a friendly reminder, you can get my posts straight to your inbox (when you do check your email) by signing up in the menu bars above! Have an awesome day.

-ellynn ❤