Another 365 days have come and gone. Another trip around the sun and I’m feeling extra grateful, thankful, and blessed. In full transparency, this blog post has been sitting in my queue waiting to be published.  The last few weeks have been super crazy busy and so here I am, two weeks out from my birthday…finally publishing it!

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This past year simultaneously felt like the longest year of my life and the fastest year of my life.

At 28, I experienced some of the hardest moments of my life, yet also discovered a newfound strength and resilience I did not know existed within me.

28 was a year of awakening, discovery, rebuilding, and healing. And it finally feels like a new chapter of my life is beginning.

At 28, I decided to take my mental and physical health into my own hands and embarked on a holistic healing journey.  Coming off 22+ years of steroids and medication to suppress my eczema unleashed the hardest physical symptoms I’ve ever experienced in my life as I spiraled into depression, anxiety, and for many of the months of my 28th year,  I walked in darkness. For many months of my 28th year, I wondered when this darkness would lift, when I could feel “normal” again, and when I would see the light of healing.

But through that darkness, I realized my own strength. My journey to taking care of my body and mind led me to a plant-based diet, adopting a more mindful lifestyle, and led me to flipping the entire script on my entire adult life.  After 6 years of living on the east coast and teaching middle school, I decided to leave that all behind, pursue new opportunities and to start fresh.  With that, came some tough lessons learned and much-needed self-realizations.  In Alyssa fashion, I’m sharing with you 5 lessons I’ve learned in my 28th year on this planet.

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1. Putting yourself first is simultaneously the hardest yet bravest thing you can do for yourself.

If you’re like me, you’re a giver. You care for others deeply.  You feel other people’s pain. You want to make things better. I’ve always been someone who invests my energy into others and that’s why I became an educator.  Being an educator in underserved, low income communities was an incredibly fulfilling career but also one of the most emotionally and physically taxing jobs.  I was so used to giving all of my energy into my students and my work but I realized that it was not a lifestyle that was sustainable. I made the conscious choice to scale back my work load last year. I ultimately left the classroom, moved back to California and decided to pursue a new career in order to take care of my mental and physical health. And this decision has been the best for me.  I am truly happier in California and feel so much better after leaving a stressful work environment. Putting myself first meant leaving behind a life and career I worked hard to build.  It was one of the scariest decisions I made, but this is ultimately what I needed in my life.

2. Stop caring about what others think about you. Know your boundaries, stay firm, and invest in people who are genuinely in your corner.

As a self-proclaimed people-pleaser, I was terrified of disappointing people. I used to care a lot about what others thought about me. I used to hang onto friendships that I knew deep down weren’t serving me.  But in 2018, I started to recognize how draining it was to constantly keep up with people who just were not aligned to the life I wanted to live. So I consciously made the decision to let go of some friendships. It was a hard choice, but it was also so freeing. And leaving those friendships behind allowed me to focus on the people who were showing up for me and allowed me to show up for myself. I put my energy into healing my body, my mind, and into the things I truly cared about. This also meant drawing boundaries for myself professionally. I did not have a work life balance until I got sick and was forced to prioritize myself. And I grappled with the guilt of not being able to “do it all” and was scared of what people would think of me if I chose not to take on projects that I used to. But at the end of the day, you know yourself best and need to make choices that are healthy for you–unapologetically.

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3. Health is wealth.

I no longer chase being thin. I no longer chase having a specific body type. Instead, I put my energy into truly being healthy both mentally and physically.  This means filling my body with nutritionally dense foods (most of the time), staying hydrated, taking time to process my emotions, setting boundaries for my relationships, and taking time for myself.  Without your health, you have nothing.  In a way, I am thankful that I experienced my health issues in the past year because it made me understand my body and made me put my energy into taking care of myself.  If I am not at my best, I cannot serve or show up for others. And in 2018, I began to reclaim my life by putting my health first.  And while walking through topical steroid withdrawal has been the hardest journey, I am also grateful for it. Because I am young, I know that I will be able to heal from my eczema and live a life free from this skin disease. And I know that my body is thanking me for doing the work now so that I don’t have to suffer longer than I did.

4. Protect your “yes’s” and know that saying “no” is okay and necessary.

Decide what things deserve a “yes” in your life. Maybe it’s family time, phone calls with your best friend, self-care (whatever that looks like for you), journaling, weekly lunch dates–whatever deserves a YES from you–protect it. And on the opposite end, if something does not align to your “yes’s,” be firm in your “no’s.” I used to be the girl who said yes to everything at work, every social outing, and essentially every opportunity that came my way.  But since I’ve evolved, I’ve learned what truly makes me happy, who I want to invest my time in, and have learned that being selective allows me so much more joy. I DON’T have to do it all and I am ALLOWED to say no.

5. Every season in your life serves a purpose.  Take time to process it, find gratitude in it, and savor it.

I’ve always known that God has a plan for me…but trusting His plan has been hard . I’ve learned to lean on the Lord in times where I just could not understand why I was going through such pain, suffering, and confusion.  I’ve had to truly learn what “walking by faith” meant this past year. To trust that whatever is meant to be will be revealed. To be patient. To trust the journey. To trust God. Walking through my hardships and hitting my rock bottom served as the catalyst for so many changes.  It was my wake up call to stop living a life that I did not find joy in. I’ve learned that every season in my life is only preparing me for the next chapter–so that I can continually show up as a better version of myself.  I am so much wiser, stronger, and resilient than I ever knew and I continue to thank God for closing certain doors in my life so that I could open new ones.

Every year I am given on this earth, I am deeply grateful. 28 was undoubtedly the hardest year of my adult life, but I am still walking in gratitude for everything I experienced.  This season served a purpose. It developed a patience in me that I never knew existed.  It strengthened my faith in God. It showed me who cared for me in my life and which relationships to invest in.  I can confidently say that a year later, I am absolutely a different person. I am so much more self-assured. I am excited, not scared, about what my future holds.  I am blessed to be walking into 29 with loving friends and family and to be back in California where I truly feel more at peace.

And so if you’re reading this and walking through a difficult season, know there is a purpose.  Continue leaning on your faith.  Strengthen your gratitude for all the things that are going well. Keep inching forward because there will be a day where you can look back and say: “Look how far I’ve come.” Cheers to more joy and more life in the coming days. We got this, sweet friends!

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What I’m Wearing:

 

 

 

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