A lot has been happening in my life since my last post and I haven’t been as consistent with this blog as I wanted to be. After spending a month and a half at my parents house in Wisconsin during quarantine, I moved back to Nashville to start my new full time job at the place where I had been interning. That’s right; somehow I got a full time job right out of college! It’s very exciting but has also been quite the adjustment. I am living in an apartment with one of my roommates from college while our other two roommates are in the apartment diagonal from us. In a lot of ways, I still feel like we are all going back to college in August. I’m struggling to feel like a full-fledged adult and also struggling to be productive in the times where I’m not working. Hence, me not posting on here for the past few weeks. It also means I haven’t been reading as much as I thought I would. However, I did read enough to pick three of my favorites from the past couple of months. I definitely recommend checking these out and as always, let me know what books you’ve been enjoying!
#3 The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh
Most of the books I decide to read come from recommendations from people or Goodreads, but occasionally I scan the aisles of the library and see what jumps out. That’s how I found this book. I wasn’t expecting much, but I was proven wrong. It follows the main character Victoria as she learns to trust the people around her after having a lot of mistrust in her years being brought up in the foster system. One way that she communicates with people (whether they are aware of it or not) is with flowers. Every flower has a meaning. Some mean love, while others mean loss or hatred. That is how Victoria connects with the world. However, when she starts to find a purpose in life and finds someone who can speak her language, it becomes overwhelming. I loved this book because the emotions felt were never sugarcoated. It gave a glimpse into how going through the foster system can shape a person. It is also inspiring to read about a woman finding her passion and her place in a society that wants to undermine her skills and downplay her accomplishments. You are rooting for her happiness the entire time. A book filled with emotion and feelings that a lot of people can relate to on some level. By the end, I wanted to learn this new language so that I could apply it to my own life. Maybe you will too!
#2 Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman
I had heard about this book and it had been on my list to read for a while, so I’m super happy that it lived up to the hype. The reason this book works so well is because of the impeccable characterization of the main character, Eleanor. She is depicted in such a specific way, that you can picture her vividly in your mind. The way she talks is unique, her look is perfectly described, and her feelings (or lack of feelings) make perfect sense based on all of the details provided. This book also has a bit of a mystery element, as you start to piece together the events in her childhood that made her into the person that she is today. There is also a romance component for people who enjoy reading about people finding their person. You want Eleanor to break out of her guarded shell and live life to the absolute fullest, and it is incredibly satisfying to read a book where you can almost see the walls around her crumble to the ground in your mind. I literally couldn’t put it down and finished it in two days. I had to know what happened to Eleanor and if you read it, I bet you’ll feel the same!
#1 Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens
Everyone was talking about this book, so I decided to give it a shot and now I definitely understand what the hype is all about. Much like the other two books, the story revolves around a strong-minded and strong-willed woman. It follows Kya who lives with her family out in the marsh. She doesn’t have the best family life and eventually, at a very young age, is abandoned by her entire family and must survive on her own. Prejudices from the people in town abound, but she learns to get by with her own tenacity and a few friends. I love books like this that alternate between different timelines. In one timeline you read about Kya growing up, discovering what love is, and becoming a strong woman. In the later timeline, police in the area are looking into the death of a well-known man in town named Chase. These stories eventually intersect and the ending is definitely not what I expected, but it was perfect. The writing itself is beautiful as well and the description of the land shows a huge respect for the beauty found in nature. The best way I can describe how this book made me feel is by comparing it to the feeling I get when I’m on a long drive in the middle of nowhere, just admiring the vast land and enjoying the contrast of the music playing in the car to the silence that exists outside. I highly recommend that everybody read this book if they get a chance!
Bonus: Songs I’m Loving at the Moment
Here are six songs that I have been listening to a lot lately. Definitely check out these songs and check out the other songs from these artists as well!
– Die seems like an intense title, but it isn’t as somber as you may think! I’ve been loving Overstreet’s music for a while now, but this one is my favorite.
– Made It This Far is by Katelyn Tarver who is one of my favorite songwriters and also appeared on the show Big Time Rush which just makes her even better (haha). This song is super relatable. It talks about the fact that you may not know what your doing or your life may be a mess, but we can be proud of the fact that we’ve made it as far as we have. A tough mentality to keep in check, but definitely healthier than being weighed down in all the mess.
– Paper Planes is the ultimate driving song. It’s soft and airy and just makes you feel at ease. The songwriting itself is great too.
– betterman is an upbeat song about the artist wanting to become the best person he can be for himself and in his relationships. I found Virginia to Vegas randomly and really love all of his songs so be sure to check him out.
– Honey in the Summer just feels like summer. Upbeat and another great driving song. I also love the context of the song, because it talks about creating your own happiness instead of focusing on the fact that you’re not in a relationship. Super fun and perfect if you need a song to listen to with the top down flying down the highway.
As always, I’m always looking for new books and music suggestions so send them my way! I hope you have a great day!
Disclaimer: I haven’t been able to share this post until now. I wasn’t ready to let it all out there. I wrote this over the last seven or eight months. I couldn’t sit down and do it all at once because it was too much. I hope this helps other people who are grieving feel a little less alone. I wrote a song at the time it was all happening and had my brother put music to the lyrics. If you want to hear that, I’ve posted a video of him singing it at the bottom of this post. This is a pretty long post, but grief is also a long process. Thanks for reading!
This is going to be pretty stream of consciousness, and there won’t be much editing so that you can see how I process everything through this post. From all of my previous posts, you have gotten glimpses into who I am and how I think. However, grief feels a lot more personal. I’ve also come to learn that grief isn’t just something that goes away after a funeral. It lingers and shows up at random times, knocking you off balance. I have become all too familiar with grief, but I bet some of you have as well, so hopefully, this post can help you or just make you feel less alone.
My family lost both my cousin Kimberly and my grandaddy within a three month period. Their deaths were the first time people extremely close to me passed away. Both experiences were incredibly difficult. I’m already tearing up a little just writing this paragraph when I haven’t even gotten into the middle of it all yet. This bodes well for me. But, I will continue anyway.
I’ll start with the experience of losing Kimberly since she passed away first. My cousin was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) a little over two years before she passed. It was a shock to everyone. She was 38 when she was diagnosed, which is earlier than most people are diagnosed. She was having trouble with her hand and thought it had something to do with a tennis injury. No one was expecting the news. The most I had heard about ALS before the diagnosis was the Ice Bucket Challenge that went around. I wasn’t completely sure what it was. My parents called me one night in my freshman year to let me know she had officially been diagnosed. They asked if I had any questions and I said no, but I think I just had so many I couldn’t process any of them. When they hung up, I did the one thing that never helps a situation: I went to Google. It quickly became clear that this wasn’t something that got better. It actually got worse. There is no cure for ALS and the average survival time from diagnosis is three years. That is not a long time. Especially for someone diagnosed so young. When I read those facts, it was hard to wrap my head around. That night I just stood in the shower and cried.
Kimberly’s diagnosis and life expectancy made the grieving process longer than it is for someone who just dies in an instant. My therapist and I talked about how in a lot of ways we were already starting to grieve before she even passed. There was never a moment where we just gave up, but it became clear that she was getting steadily worse. For a while, you couldn’t really tell that she was getting weaker. The day she started having trouble walking was an eye-opener. Then she became unable to walk. Eventually, her ability to speak began to fade. What made this deterioration so much harder to watch was the knowledge that her personality and her quick-wittedness never went away, but her ability to express those things did. Every time I saw her, no matter how far her illness had progressed, she was still Kimberly. We still laughed about dumb jokes and ridiculous stories. I found myself telling more stories when I was around her, making it feel normal. But, the reality was it didn’t feel normal. It was really hard to watch. There were a couple of nights where I cried after visiting with her for the day because I just couldn’t understand why it was happening and I couldn’t face the reality that she was probably going to pass away.
My family is a family of believers. And as Christians, we are told stories all the time of miracles that have happened. God made the blind see, the lame walk, and even brought someone back to life. We all wanted a miracle for Kimberly. We all prayed for a miracle for Kimberly. We didn’t get that miracle, and that was one of the hardest things to deal with. Why not? Why did God let this happen when He had the ability to make it go away? I really started struggling with my faith. I stopped going to church, mostly because life got busy, but a small part of me didn’t want to go. I didn’t want to sing songs about God’s ability to heal and then go back to life where Kimberly was getting worse and not better. It was a weird relationship to have. I prayed for Kimberly all the time and still fully believed God was capable, but I was also really angry that a miracle wasn’t happening. That has been something that remains a struggle while I deal with grief. I still don’t have answers and I’m still a little angry. I’m working on it. Part of growing stronger in a relationship with Christ is admitting when you have doubts. The really hard part is not letting those doubts turn you away. I work every day to remind myself that God is there for me. But in times where grief sneaks up on me, I find myself asking those questions all over again.
I really loved Kimberly and we had gotten closer the older I got. I was a really shy kid even around some of my extended family and I was quiet a lot of the time. I remember one time when I was around ten or eleven, I stayed up late to play some card game with my dad’s side of the family. I took a shower and came back to the table, and just started talking. I remember Kimberly telling my mom that it was the first time I really showed my personality. After that, it’s like a dam had been broken and I was talking all the time. Kimberly, my brother, me, and my other cousins on that side joked around all the time. We had the same sense of humor. Almost every time I was around her Kimberly would tell some story that made me laugh until I cried. I miss her storytelling. We shared a love of playing board/card games, pink vanilla cupcakes from Smallcakes Cupcakery, and bathroom jokes. When Snapchat became a thing my brother, Kimberly, and I got very serious about keeping streaks alive. Every day she would get a glimpse into my day, and I would get a glimpse into hers. Our streak lasted 593 days. I took a picture of it on the morning she died before it went away. It seems like a silly thing, but I really did love that we had that connection. Watching that streak disappear is one of the first times it felt real. Reliving that moment just now started my tears again. Losing somebody doesn’t happen all at once. Each time something happens without them there it becomes a little more real.
As I said earlier, grief is a longer process than just the emotion you feel right when you find out someone has passed away. However, that moment is really hard. I found out that Kimberly died after my parents called me. I woke up to two missed calls from my parents and a text to call them before I got up for class. They know that I’m not really a morning person, so I knew something had to be wrong. My chest got tight (one thing that happens when I feel particularly anxious about something) and I braced myself before I dialed their number. I pretty much immediately started crying. I knew she was getting worse, but I didn’t expect her to pass away so quickly. I was already planning to go home a few days later and I was excited that I was going to get to see my aunts and Kimberly. That was one thing that was hard: finding out that I had seen her for the last time and I hadn’t even known it. I didn’t ever really say goodbye. A small part of me always pictured her getting better, even as the likelihood of that happening grew slimmer. But even when that thought makes me feel sad, I try to remember all the years I did get to spend with her. Nothing can take away the inside jokes we shared, the late-night Dairy Queen runs, or the looks we gave each other when we both were too hot and wanted to turn on a fan. Those little things suddenly seem like big things when you don’t get to experience them anymore. I miss Kimberly and I’m pretty sure I always will, but I’m grateful that I got to grow up with her being a part of my life.
While all of this was happening with Kimberly, my granddaddy was also battling a deteriorating illness. He was originally diagnosed with Parkinson’s like symptoms and was later told that he was battling multiple system atrophy (MSA). It is a degenerative neurological disorder and like ALS it doesn’t get better. It affects different systems in your body and most people die because of respiratory issues. It gets harder to do just about everything. I watched as over a few years he got worse. There would often be dips in his health, and then he would plateau for a while. Luckily during this time, the army stationed my dad at Fort Benning in Columbus, GA so my mom could travel to Columbia, SC pretty often to go stay with my grandparents and help out. It was really hard to watch his health decline and watch my mom deal with her sadness and stress. You just kind of feel helpless. My cousin died in October of 2018 and I got the call about Granddaddy passing away in January of 2019. That was a rough call as well. A week before they called to tell me that they thought this was it. He was taking another dip and didn’t look like he was going to get better. That was really hard. It was hard to focus on life stuff when your granddaddy passing away at any moment is in the back of your mind. He was in his eighties and had been sick for a while, so I was very aware that any time I saw him could be the last, but it is still a gut punch when it actually happens.
There were various moments throughout the time before he passed and after that were particularly challenging for me. The biggest moment that stands out for me was a day where I went with my mom to see my grandparents and my mom and grandmama had gone out for a walk. It was just granddaddy and me and we were talking about school and life. My granddaddy was always the one who drove because he loved it and grandmama didn’t. That was one thing granddaddy and I had in common. We loved to drive. So I knew it must have been difficult when he had to stop. But as we were sitting and talking he got choked up and said that it was really upsetting that he couldn’t drive anymore. I composed myself in the moment, but I cried later that night. It’s never easy to watch someone you love and look up to, struggle. There were other small moments like that throughout his illness progressing that were difficult because you could tell he was really upset about it. Most of the time he was his normal goofy and joking self, so those moments hit particularly hard. His funeral was also a tough day. My dad spoke and did an amazing job talking about how good of a man my granddaddy was. Watching my little cousin cry was also a difficult moment for me. I knew what she was feeling and it sucked that she had to deal with it at a younger age. But all in all, his funeral was a celebration of who he was. He had an enormous tie collection with all sorts of fun ties (Disney, M & M’s, Looney Tunes, holiday-themed, and more) and everyone in the family picked one of their favorites to wear to the funeral as a tribute him. It was really special and I’m sure granddaddy loved it.
He was a really special person to me and to so many others. He was the best grandaddy a girl could ask for. My dad’s parents passed away before I was born so grandmama and granddaddy were my only grandparents growing up. Granddaddy was incredibly funny. He was always ready with a joke no matter what situation we were in. He let me play barbershop with him when I was younger, which consisted of me messing up his hair in all kinds of crazy ways and then him paying me a dime or a quarter for my troubles. Every night before bed we would give grandmama and granddaddy a hug and he would always tell us to look out for the imaginary internal organ he made up called the “goosenglogger,” so of course, we tried to squeeze it extra tight. He used to make us milkshakes at night that he called “Super Dupers.” I was always excited to drink mine and was always curious what the secret ingredient was (it was vanilla, but love was another ingredient that made them taste extra good.) When I was younger, I loved going on my grandparent’s lunch routine with them. We would get a salad from Wendy’s first and then head to McDonalds and get burgers to put the patties in the salad. Sounds weird, but it was delicious and I loved that the people at Wendy’s called him “The Salad Man” when he walked in. My grandparents always made things fun. The love they had for each other was also unmatched and was inspiring, especially as I get older and start looking for the person I want to spend my life with. I don’t ever want to settle for less than the love my granddaddy had for my grandmama. It was truly a beautiful thing to grow up seeing. He loved his family, his church, and his community. He was an all-around amazing human being who I miss very much.
Grieving is a crazy difficult process to go through. It ebbs and flows and you never fully get over the loss of a loved one. I have had some pretty low moments, especially when it comes to my faith. Ever since Kimberly was diagnosed and the health of both her and my granddaddy started to decline, I have been struggling with my faith. It is hard to wrap my head around the fact that God would allow a forty-year-old to die from ALS and then that he would take my grandaddy away at the same time. My relationship with God was on some rocky terrain there for a little while. It’s still on a little bit of rocky terrain now. I know that God is good and He knows more than me. I know that He is there to comfort me in times of sorrow. I know that he is real and present. However, that doesn’t mean that I don’t have doubts. Doubts are never stronger than when grief hits me all over again. On anniversaries of their deaths or when a song comes on that reminds me of them. I still have a lot of questions. But the most important thing is that I’m still asking them. I haven’t turned away or given up on God. I also know God’s not going to give up on me.
This song is really special to me because I wrote it in the midst of everything that I was feeling. I wrote the first verse and chorus the day after I got the call about Kimberly passing away. I wrote the rest a day after my granddaddy passed away. It encompasses everything I was feeling as I was feeling it. It still hits home now. Maybe some of you have lost someone recently and are feeling the same way as I did. Maybe you also have a lot of questions and no real answers. You are not alone. I wrote the lyrics and sent it to my very talented brother so he could put music to it. The instrumental sections of this song actually come from a hymn that we sang at my grandaddy’s funeral, which makes it even more special. I hope you can relate in some way. It didn’t have a name for a long time, but I finally came up with one that encapsulates what I struggled with most. Here is “No Answers” performed by my brother, Nate Hutchings.
Thanks again for reading this post. It was difficult to write, but something I needed to do. I hope this makes some of you feel less alone if you are grieving as well. A special thanks to my brother Nate Hutchings for providing the music and the video of the song. I hope you all have a great day!
I read a lot of books since my last reading roundup so I figured it was time for another one. My goal for this year is to read 100 books. I read 55 from June to the end of last year, so I’m hoping I’m not shooting too high. Being in school always slows me down some, but I’m graduating in May and then I’ll have some more time on my hands (which I’m pretty anxious about, but we’re not going to think about that right now 😅). As always, let me know if there are any books you are loving at the moment as I am always looking for recommendations!
#3 The Gifted School by Bruce Holsinger
I had heard good things about this book before I got it and I wasn’t disappointed. It’s a literary fiction novel that looks at the lengths a parent will go to in order for their children to get into a new “gifted school” that is being built in town. It follows four families who have been friends for years, whose relationships are tested as they all compete to prove their children belong there. It’s a page-turner and you get fully invested in these characters. The characterization was extremely well done. There is also a twist later in the book that I definitely didn’t see coming. It’s witty, sad, and heartwarming all at the same time. I think anyone can relate to this story because of all the different family dynamics portrayed throughout. The author did an amazing job of describing all the insecurities and intricacies that come with familial relationships. I particularly connected with this book because it reminded me of one of the places I lived that held kids to an almost impossible standard and had a dog-eat-dog mentality. This book does a good job of showing the pitfalls of that kind of thinking. I’m all about doing well in school, but you should never overextend yourself to the point of it being detrimental to your mental health. This book is funny, yet poignant and I would definitely recommend you put it on your list!
#2 The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern
You may remember from a previous roundup that I talked about how much I loved The Night Circus, so I was super excited to hear that she came out with a brand new book. I loved this one as well! Like her other novel, it is mainly a fantasy novel, but other genres are woven throughout. It follows Zachary Rawlings who picks up a dusty book one ay only to find that a story about him is hidden inside. As he reads more and follows the trail left by the words on the pages, he discovers another world made up of underground libraries and the protection of words and stories. He finds himself in a battle with a group of people who are looking to destroy this world and prevent the Starless Sea from reaching its full potential. Erin Morgenstern does an impeccable job of describing the universes she creates. Like The Night Circus, I could picture it vividly. It pulls you in. Especially as someone who loves reading and writing, the world she creates feels like paradise. Much like we all wish we could get a letter to Hogwarts, Morgenstern makes you wish you could find a hidden door and enter this secret world. Definitely read this book whether you usually like fantasy or not. There are aspects of the story that will resonate with everyone because in one way or another the words that are said and stories that are shared connect us all.
#1 Maybe You Should Talk to Someone by Lori Gottlieb
This book was one of the most honest and engaging things I have ever read. As someone who struggles with anxiety, I go to therapy. I think therapy is an important thing. I advocate for everyone to take care of their mental health just as much as they take care of their physical health. Therapy is something I think everyone should experience at least once in their life. The connection you have with your therapist is different than any other relationship in your life. They know everything about you and help you come to conclusions about your life and your struggles on your own. This book perfectly encapsulates what this relationship can feel like. It is written by a therapist and details accounts of some of the patients she is working with, as well as following her own journey through therapy that she is experiencing at the same time after going through a hard break-up. It not only gives you a look inside the head of the person on the other side of the couch, but also shows you that therapists are real people who are also going through problems. Everyone can benefit from therapy. It is funny and real. She has some powerful ideas but doesn’t take herself too seriously. It doesn’t shy away from the truth and it is cool to watch the progress of the patients. There are moments that made me tear up and other moments where I couldn’t stop laughing. If you support mental health in any way or are struggling yourself, I highly recommend this book!
Bonus: Songs I’m Loving at the Moment
Here are six songs that I have been listening to a lot lately. Definitely check out these songs and check out the other songs from these artists as well!
-The Last Time I Was Yellow is by my roommate and it is one of my favorite songs that she has written. It really speaks to how it can feel when you are struggling, but desperately want to feel peace and happiness.
-Guidance is a really honest look at what the relationship can feel like between man and God.
-Slow is a chill track that details how it can be difficult to move on.
-I love Alec Benjamin, and his newest song Demons is no exception.
-I truly believe everyone should listen to First Last Name for the songwriting alone. She went to Belmont and I still remember how impressed I was the first time I heard it. It talks about the special relationship between a father and daughter.
-Even When You’re Home is another chill track that details a feeling we all feel at some point: loneliness.
Books and music are two of my favorite things, so I always love discussing what I’ve been reading or listening to. Let me know if you have any book or music recommendations! I hope you have a great week!
How many of you got the Bowie song stuck in your head after reading the title? How many of you have it playing in your head now that I mention it? So sorry. If it makes you feel any better, I have it stuck in my head now too. Now onto the actual topic of this blog post: the pressure you put on yourself.
When you are growing up, everyone warns you about peer pressure. Don’t blindly follow others just because you want to fit in. Don’t do things you aren’t comfortable with. Don’t let the pressure control you. What people don’t always teach you is that the pressure you put on yourself can be just as great, if not greater. It can cause your anxiety to build as you look around and see that you aren’t living up to the expectations you put on yourself. Don’t get me wrong. Setting goals and expectations can be healthy, but when it causes self-doubt and self-esteem issues it is no longer beneficial.
I see a lot of this self-inflicted pressure in college. I have fallen victim to this line of thinking as well. College students put pressure on themselves to do well in all their classes, engage in extracurricular activities (preferably in leadership positions), hold down part-time jobs, volunteer, and have a social life all at the same time. If something starts to fall to the wayside, it often becomes a domino effect. You get behind on your homework so you have to catch up, which means you miss a club meeting, which leads to you not hearing about the get together they are all having next Friday. Suddenly everything is off balance and it seems impossible to get back on track. some of this pressure comes from the outside world of everyone telling college students how hard it is to get a job and how all those things listed above are important for building a resume. But that seeps into our brains and suddenly it is us who are putting pressure on ourselves to get it all done. When we don’t, we get down at ourselves and start comparing. This leads to a lowering of self-esteem and an increase in anxiety. The inability to get past the pressure leads to more questions. If I can’t even get through college, how am I going to make it in the real world? Am I actually ready for full-fledged adulthood?
That’s an example of big picture pressure, but we also put pressure on ourselves over smaller things. For me personally, it is this blog. The whole reason I am writing about this today is that it is currently Tuesday afternoon and I am only now sitting down to write my blog post that goes up tomorrow. This happens often because I put a lot of pressure on myself to keep posting content that I’m proud of. I often can’t think of an idea or am not ready to share the ideas that I do have, and therefore I freeze. I stare at my computer and feel the pressure in my chest increase as my anxiety over the fact that I have nothing to share builds. This blog is important to me, but in the grand scheme of life, missing a week wouldn’t be the end of the world. I don’t want to, but the pressure I put on myself makes it feel like it isn’t even an option, which isn’t true. Often pressure we put on ourselves is based on a lie or a half-truth about the situation based on our perspective from inside. Taking one big step outside to look in as an outside observer will help you see the situation for what it really is.
Anxiety loves to make you overthink small things until suddenly the problem seems insurmountable. The other day I was on a drive (something I do when I’m feeling anxious or restless) and the song “So Small” by Carrie Underwood started playing. It really speaks to the tendency we have to lose ourselves in a situation.
Fighting back against that anxiety is difficult. I do it often. But taking a step back and trying to gain some perspective is really helpful. Putting too much pressure on yourself isn’t healthy. Sometimes I like to remind myself that no one really knows what they’re doing. We are all going through life for the first time and if we make mistakes, it isn’t the end of the world. It’s going to happen. But beating yourself up about it isn’t going to help you get past it. Set goals. Try your best. But don’t let the pressure build up to the point where you can’t get past it. Let someone know if it does. Eventually, the sun will rise again and it will be a new day.
I love music. I don’t know how anyone ever lives without music. Sometimes I hear a song that calms me down when I start to feel overly anxious or has lyrics that describe exactly how I’m feeling. One of my favorite things to do is drive around with my friends with no destination, just listening to music. I love listening to music and playing music (I play the drums) whenever I can. Music often plays a big role in people’s lives so I decided to make a playlist of songs that have helped me when I’m feeling anxious and that have made me feel understood. Hopefully y’all relate to these songs as well! Let me know which ones are your favorites in the comments below and feel free to share some of your favorite songs as well!