When “No” is a Complete Sentence

Around my 25th birthday, I embarked on my year of yes. Inspired by Shonda Rhimes (and probably Jim Carrey in Yes Man), I took on new adventures, made travel a priority, and stopped waiting to do the things I always hoped to do someday. For the first time in years, I was finally creating the life I wanted.

If I’ve gained nothing else from the past two years, I do know this: I believe in the power of yes.

However, as I approach my 27th birthday, I’m also becoming a firm believer in the power of no.

The Power of Saying No

A chronic people pleaser, I’ve always hated the idea of saying no. Most of the time, I genuinely want to get involved in new things and spend time with others, but I also have the tendency to overcommit. I’ve said yes to social plans I’m not keen on. I’ve continued relationships past their expiration date simply because of my fear of hurting others. I’ve allowed people to talk down to me and treat me in ways I didn’t deserve in order to avoid confrontation and not upset anyone.

Ultimately, I’ve put myself last.

A lot of people fall into the same camp, hoping to make others happy and disappoint as few people as possible. But by saying yes to activities we honestly don’t enjoy or to negative behaviors from others, we are diminishing the value of our own time and self-worth. By putting energy toward the things that don’t nourish your soul, you are taking energy away from other areas of your life, and are less able to put forth the best version of yourself. It isn’t healthy for the relationships you do value or for your overall wellness.

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Saying “no” can come in many forms, from a simple “I can’t go tonight,” to telling someone that you’re uncomfortable being spoken to in a certain way. It’s okay to take a night to yourself (fellow introverts, I’m looking at you!). It’s okay to block dramatic people from your newsfeed, ignore passive-aggressive comments from frenemies, and unmatch with rude people on dating apps. The world is yours to enjoy just as much as anyone else, and saying no doesn’t make you any less of a kind person.

In recent months, I’ve gotten a lot better at saying no, walking away from negative situations, and not backtracking to explain every last decision I make. I’m not sure where this newfound ability came from, but a psychic I visited in Cassadaga a few months back did tell me that I would find my voice around my birthday. Whether or not my new knack for “no” came from the psychic’s predictions, it has helped me lead a happier and even more fulfilling life, allowing me to become a better friend who has committed to her own self-care.

In short, let go of the optional things in life that make you unhappy. Be open to new people and experiences, but don’t be afraid to say no when you need to. Life is short — shouldn’t we get to choose how we spend it? 🙂

Be My Valentine: A Letter to My Younger Self

Strange and Unintentionally Funny Vintage Valentine's Day Cards  (1)February 14th lingers just around the corner, but for the first time in five years, I will be single on Valentine’s Day. For some, the thought of not being in a relationship at this time of the year can be downright depressing — and for a long time, this held true for me as well. After all, for melodramatic teenage Val, every year that a boy didn’t send a carnation to me in English class practically felt like a year wasted! It’s interesting to see how much our perspectives can change over the years. This post is a love letter to myself and to everyone else out there who is still searching. 🙂

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Dear Younger Me,

I know that not having a boyfriend feels like the end of the world, especially at this time of the year. I also know that you won’t believe me when I tell you it’s not. You have a lot of exciting opportunities in your life already (and I wish I could tell you about all the adventures you are going to embark on in the not-so-distant future!), but you still base a large chunk of your self-worth on your relationship status. For that, I’m truly sorry.

Because of that, you aren’t particularly picky right now. In fact, you would likely allow someone to treat you poorly 80% of the time if you had their love and positive attention for 20% of the time. I know that sounds harsh, but over the next few years, you will ignore a lot of red flags and accept some pretty harmful behavior in order to avoid being alone. You will receive flowers and chocolates on Valentine’s Day, but the person who gave them to you won’t necessarily be that best friend and support system you need and deserve.

By getting into a relationship mainly for the sake of being in a relationship, you stop trusting your inner voice and start accepting things that you should know in your heart are not okay. By muddling through something that doesn’t make you happy, you end up breaking your own heart and putting a strain on other close relationships in your life.

I wish I could shield you from some of the bad decisions I know you’ll make over the next few years, but I truly believe that what you’ll learn from them will only make you stronger and more resilient. Still, that knowledge doesn’t make a toxic relationship any less toxic, and knowing what I know now doesn’t mean I can just turn back time.

I’m writing to you at 25 now, and (spoiler alert!) we’re single again. Valentine’s Day is in just four days, and the beautiful flowers in my kitchen are not from a secret admirer; they were just a gift I bought myself a few days ago. I wouldn’t mind being in a relationship again, but now that I have a clearer picture of what I want, I’m not willing to settle for less than I deserve. I’m not spending Valentine’s Day alone — I’m spending the long weekend with loved ones, and I couldn’t be more excited. I do things because I want to do them, not to earn someone else’s approval. I spend more time creating fun memories with old friends and cultivating relationships with new ones.

I am technically alone on Valentine’s Day, but I’m not lonely. I know in my heart that another relationship will come along in the future, and in my quest for true happiness, that relationship is just one part of the equation. Besides, who knows what our future self will be writing to us in a few years? 🙂

For now, please be kind to yourself and remember that no situation is permanent. Enjoy your single time, learn from the rocky relationships, and appreciate the good times. Don’t let your friendships fall to the wayside. Remember that you deserve a lot better than you often allow yourself, and never allow fear to strand you in a harmful situation with no way out.

All my love,

Valerie

Link Love Wednesday: Go Away, Caillou

caillouHey there, readers, and happy new year! I hope everyone had a fabulous time celebrating with friends and family, and that you are all settling in nicely to 2015 2016. (I think it will take me until about March to get that right!)

The new year has been treating me well so far, and I’m looking forward to all the opportunities and adventures ahead. To kick things off, let’s dig into the first Link Love of 2016!

Things I’m Loving Lately

  • Aziz Ansari’s Netflix show Master of None. This show is incredibly accurate for twenty-somethings, and the episode about the crazy things that women have to deal with really hit close to home for me.
  • This amazing Whole30 compliant Thai Curry recipe. I’ve been making it at least once a week.
  • The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini. Amazing page-turner so far!

What awesome links are you finding this week? Share your latest link love in the comments section below!

Adele, Please Stop Calling

ct-hello-video-from-adele-20151023Dear Adele,

Hello. How are you? I’m doing really well, but I’m a little sick of your popular single, Hello. I’m a longtime fan of yours — we’ve chased pavements together and even set fire to the rain (which I never thought was scientifically possible until I heard your song). I love your music. But the overall message of Hello is a little unhealthy, no? If no one is picking up, maybe it’s time to stop calling. Thanks!

Your Fan and Disgruntled Blogger, Valerie

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UnknownIf you can’t tell, I’m not a fan of Adele’s incredibly popular new song, Hello. Don’t get me wrong. Her voice is as beautiful as ever, and the song is certainly catchy. It’s the message I’m concerned with.

For those of you who don’t listen to the radio or aren’t familiar with Adele’s music, Hello tells the story of a person who is still heartbroken years after the relationship ended. She continues to reach out to her ex to apologize for the things she has done to hurt him (she “must have called a thousand times”), but he never picks up the phone.

What alarms me is the number of people who really seem to relate to Adele in this song. Don’t get me wrong – I completely agree that breakups suck, and I know that people deal with them in different ways – but when you want to get over someone, calling them constantly is not the way to do it.

There’s a lot of passive aggression in the lyrics of this song, regarding the fact that her ex is no longer torn up over whatever she did to wrong him in the past. In my experience, time and distance are the best ways to get over someone, and continuously reaching out to that person will only set one or both of you back in the healing process.

o-GHOST-570It comes back to a few age-old questions: Can we create closure while keeping our exes in our lives, or will this only create more heartache? Is it better to talk to them periodically, or completely shut them out?

I’ve been in both situations, as both the heartbreaker and the heartbroken, and closure hasn’t always been possible. I’ve had exes who tried to contact me multiple times after the relationship was over in order to reconcile in some way and apologize for wrongdoings, but at that point I had either moved on or was in the process of moving on, so meeting up with them for coffee wasn’t going to do me any good. While in some situations it’s okay to remain friends with an ex, I also don’t see the point in trying to rekindle old flames when things didn’t work out the first time.

On the flip side, one of my exes completely vanished after our breakup, and as difficult as that was for me in the moment, the lack of communication made the breakup that much easier to get over. It was like ripping off a Band-Aid — the pain was immediate and intense, but then it went away and I moved on. If he had started reaching out to me to say “hello from the other side” a la Adele, it would have been a lot harder to get over the whole ordeal. Instead, the disappearance was a blessing in disguise because it gave me a healthy dose of reality.

Closure comes in many forms, but sometimes a lack of closure has its own way of closing a chapter in your life. Adele’s narrator calls her ex under the pretense of closure, possibly without realizing that her call could open up a whole lot of wounds for him. The song is a one-sided conversation of which I’ve been on the receiving end one too many times, and it’s ultimately never particularly helpful for either party.

Friends, readers, and Adele: Stop calling your exes. If you’ve done something wrong, use the lessons you’ve learned to find ways to better yourself for the next relationship, and let your exes do the same thing. 🙂

Unique Holiday Gift Guide for All Friends

Unique Holiday Gift Guide for All FriendsNow that Thanksgiving is over, the holiday shopping season has officially begun. Hopefully all of you have survived Black Friday! Even I managed to brave the mall and come home with a few goodies this weekend. Of course, as Hanukkah and Christmas loom near, it’s important to start shopping for our friends and loved ones as well.

I absolutely love gift-giving. With so many cool and customizable products out there, I enjoy putting thought into the presents I buy rather than slapping a bow on something really generic and calling it a day.

This week, I’d like to share my holiday gift guide for all types of friends. Most of these products are ones that I either personally own, have sampled, or have purchased for someone else in the past. The best part? You can purchase any of these online in the comfort of your own home! No need to start any fist-fights at the mall this year. 🙂

  • Unique Holiday Gift Guide for All FriendsThe Animal Lover: A custom-made shirt from Pop Your Pup!
    Pop Your Pup creates graphic T-shirts featuring pop art designs of your pets. Choose a shirt style and background color, submit a photo of your/your friend’s pet, and the graphic artists at Pop Your Pup will work their magic to make a one-of-a-kind shirt that really does look like your pet. The turn-around time is awesome, and 10% of proceeds are donated to local Humane Societies. I’ve ordered two of these shirts for birthday presents already, and they were a huge hit!
  • The Friend with School Spirit: A bottle of his or her school’s Masik Collegiate Fragrance.
    Masik Collegiate Fragrances is the brainchild of Katie Masik, who wanted to create perfumes and colognes that evoked memories of certain colleges and universities. Last year, I reviewed their University of Florida perfume and their Florida State University cologne, and even though I’m not a Gator fan, I still sometimes wear the UF perfume! The scents are inspired by the buildings, traditions and local plant-life of each university. Click here for a list of all schools represented so far to see if your friend’s school is listed!
  • Unique Gift Guide for All FriendsThe Sweet Tooth: A box of Wondermade‘s handcrafted marshmallows.
    (Paleo readers: You may want to shield your eyes for this one!) I stumbled into Wondermade one afternoon on one of my walks through downtown Sanford. The café is a local one, where patrons can buy marshmallow skewers and s’mores of all flavors that they can pair with coffee or hot chocolate. Wondermade also has an online store, where consumers from near and far can buy boxes of marshmallows in Christmas and fall flavors, as well as other unique flavors. I love to support local businesses, especially ones with such delicious products!
  • The Healthy Chick: A piece of (totally inedible) Organic Fruit Jewelry.
    Okay, paleo friends, you can start reading again. 🙂 Organic Fruit Jewelry is exactly what it sounds like — real fruit dried and preserved into jewelry! This is an eclectic and fun gift, and no two necklaces/earring sets are exactly alike. I’m obsessed with the lemon slice necklace and will definitely be investing in mine soon!
  • The Single Friend: A copy of The Mathematics of Love by Hannah Fry.
    I’m a nerd at heart, so reading a book that relates mathematical concepts to dating and marriage was obviously right up my alley. This is a great read for anyone — single or not — who wants to see just how applicable these theories and formulas are to our lives. I was never a math lover in school, but I really enjoyed this book! (Check out the related TED Talk if you’re curious.)
  • il_570xN.436081413_kwxfThe Sports Fan: A personalized highway distance sign to your friend’s favorite team’s stadium/arena.
    I absolutely love these stadium signs as a way to support your favorite team! You choose your team’s venue from the Travelsigns Etsy shop, and plug in the number of miles between there and your home. This a great gift for that guy in your life who still hasn’t put anything up on his wall.
  • The Harry Potter Nerd: This Golden Snitch bracelet from Ashley Bridget.
    Seriously, have you seen anything prettier? The Ashley Bridget website features other Harry Potter jewelry as well, along with other gorgeous pieces from their NFL, collegiate, sorority, fairy tale and other collections. 🙂
  • The Career Guy or Girl: A customized business card case.
    You can find these anywhere, depending on your friend’s preferences, but I purchased mine from the ChicMonogram store on Etsy. This is a great gift for someone who recently graduated from college and is just starting a new job. For nearly my entire first year at my current job, I didn’t have a business card case, and instead found myself carrying the cards around at networking events like the unpolished peasant I was. With my personalized business card case (featuring my full name, not just my monogram), I have something to store my business cards and it makes for a great conversation piece!
  • The Fancy Friend: Anything from the Downton Abbey collection at World Market.
    I am in love with this collection’s 2-tiered serving stand and tea spoons, and I don’t even watch Downton Abbey! Buy a few items from this set for your tea-loving friends who like to entertain.

How are you shopping for the holidays? Share your favorite finds in the comments section below!

Link Love Wednesday: David Beckham and Old Hollywood

026-ginger-rogers-and-fred-astaire-theredlistGood evening and happy Friday to all of my lovely readers! I hope everyone is having a wonderful month of November and getting excited for Thanksgiving next week. 🙂 I’m fighting a sinus infection, but I’ve still had my share of adventures lately — some community service projects, a local jazz festival, and even a couple of items crossed off of my bucket list! What have you been up to?

As always, enjoy this week’s roundup of link love, and share your own favorites in the comments below!

Things I’m Loving Lately

What links are you loving lately? Share your favorites in the comments section below!

The Weekend Five: Best Things About Having a Sister

bestthingsabouthavingasisterWhen I was two years old, I became a big sister. Growing up, we had the typical love-hate sibling-rivalry relationship, and although we were partners in crime, we also constantly fought. After I graduated from high school and moved three hours away, we grew a lot closer, and two years later, she joined me at my university. Over the last four years in the same area, we’ve had a lot of adventures and helped each other through the tough times as well. She is my best friend, and my only regret is not realizing that when we were little!

This weekend, we packed up my sister’s apartment for her big move to graduate school. The move was bittersweet — while I’m ecstatic for her to embark on this new chapter of her life, I’m sad that we won’t be living 30 minutes away from each other anymore. (I’ll also miss my adorable niece, Lucy the chihuahua mix!) Today’s Weekend Five is in honor of my amazing sister — and all sisters everywhere!

The Weekend Five: Best Things About Having a Sister

1. You have a best friend at birth.
A sister is basically a built-in best friend. If I get married someday, I have no idea who the groom will be — but I’ve known who my maid of honor will be for nearly 23 years. Raised by the same parents, you grow up in similar circumstances, often participating in the same activities and developing some of the same interests. Even if your personalities are completely different, you still have a similar upbringing and shared experiences that set you apart from everyone else.

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11913243_10155900359350627_26340899_n2. You can empathize with each other over strange family dynamics.
My sister always joke that we bond the most over being annoyed with our parents. While this isn’t actually true, your siblings do understand (better than anyone else) the family dynamics, and can laugh or commiserate with you when a relative says something silly or offensive.

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3. You can read each other’s minds.
I can make a face at my sister or say one word, and she knows exactly what I’m thinking. I love that we can burst out laughing about something that no one else understands, almost as if we have our own language. Telepathy is a superpower that not everyone is lucky enough to possess, but when you have a sibling, telepathy is a very real thing.

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4. Your sister won’t judge you, because she has to love you.
While this can be a stretch for some sibling relationships, I am fortunate to have a sister who doubles as my support system. I’m a perfectionist who always tries to be on, especially in a very people-driven career, but with my sister, I don’t have to be perfect — I can confide in her about mistakes I’ve made and decisions I struggle with, and she listens and gives helpful feedback. She knows she can always do the same with me. We are not trying to impress or compete with one another.

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5. You have someone who can be a total weirdo with you.
My sister and I have the goofiest conversations that — as evidenced by #3 on this list — only we understand. No topic is ever off limits, and we can act like complete dorks together without worrying about how we are perceived. I love having so many crazy inside jokes with one person!

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Best of luck in grad school, Julie! Readers, what do you love most about your siblings?

Link Love Wednesday: Falling in Love in a Gum Commercial

extracommercialHappy Hump Day, readers! I hope everyone is having a fabulous week and gearing up for an even better weekend. 🙂 This week, I kicked off a new 28-day workout program with an awesome accountability group, moved up to #1 in my Fantasy Football league, and presented as a guest speaker for a student organization at my alma mater. What have you been up to?

Enjoy this week’s batch of Link Love, and share your own favorites in the comments section below!

Things I’m Loving Lately

  • Jane The Virgin is now back on The CW… and I still have a huge crush on Rafael Solano.
  • This cover of Hall & Oates’ Maneater performed by Grace Mitchell.
  • Receiving a Snapchat from the handsome Don Benjamin.
  • Brainstorming with my mom and sister for my exciting new Twitter project!

What links are you loving this week?

Link Love Wednesday: Pineapple Edition

GarlandI don’t know about you, but this Wednesday really felt like a Wednesday. Did anyone else feel the drag of Hump Day today? Life has been rather busy lately — mostly good things — and despite my sleep deprivation and sudden aversion to exercise, I’m looking forward to the opportunities to come. What have you been up to in the last week?

Wind down from a long week with this week’s fabulous link love, and as always, share your own favorite recent finds in the comments section below!

Things I’m Loving Lately

  • The show Quantico on ABC. It’s addictive! Who else is watching?
  • Devonta Freeman, running back for the Atlanta Falcons. I picked him up on a waiver for Fantasy Football and played him for the first time last week. He surpassed 30 Fantasy points that week and I was not disappointed!
  • Modern Romance by Aziz Ansari. It’s a great take on dating patterns in today’s generation and incredibly eye opening.
  • This incredibly cool tank top I bought for Halloween. I’ve been secretly living in this shirt. (Shhhh.)
  • Colbie Caillat’s cover of The Script’s song, Breakeven. I think I like it better than the original!
  • Scream Queens on FOX. It’s the perfect dark comedy and filled with familiar faces.

What are you loving this week? Share in the comments section below!

Link Love Wednesday: Christmas Dinner at Hogwarts

85fcbf058d017908542b481c196b3daf32c7d45244d2a52e65a5c29acabf7ffb_1Happy Wednesday, readers! It’s almost October and you may have noticed that my posts dropped off quite a bit for the month of September. In that time, I launched my very own fantasy football league, turned 25, taught Junior Achievement classes at a local high school, started a new fitness program, spoke on a business career panel at a local community college, spent lots of time with friends and family, and hung around the mall much more than I’d care to admit. September was a busy month! 🙂

October isn’t slowing down, but I hope to have more posts for you as we make our way into fall. In the meantime, take a look at this week’s Link Love, and feel free to add your own favorites in the comments section below!

Things I’m Loving Lately

  • Getting my morning news updates from The Skimm each day.
  • Why Not Me?the latest book release from Mindy Kaling. Fantastic read!
  • Fantasy football — in particular, the impossibly handsome Julian Edelman.
  • The Mathematics of Love, by Hannah Fry, which relates mathematical theories to dating and relationships. It’s a fascinating read and I’m tearing through it!
  • Kate Spade online flash sales.
  • Community. Why didn’t anyone tell me over the past six years how great it was?

What are your favorite links and articles from the week? Sound off in the comments below!