The Grad School Broke Code

Going to grad school is a doozy. You have to do a lot of work for very little pay, and most programs are a minimum of a year long. I know my program is looking more like 5 or 6 years, so what does someone like me do in a situation like this? After all, if you know me or you’ve read any of my blog posts, then you probably know I do like to enjoy the finer things in life – I mean, really, who doesn’t, but as a grad student it can get really tough! So, what I’ve done for my new grad student peeps is list off my Top 10 ways for you to stay on budget and in style during your graduate school career!

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  1. PRIORITIZE!!!

This may be the most important thing you do for your budget during your grad school career. Figure out what you like to do and the things you are willing to spend money on. For example, I know I like to live in nicer places and I like to have nice clothes. Anything that is not rent or clothing, in my head, counts as unnecessary spending. Now, also keep in mind you’ll need to budget for necessities like your groceries or that time you get a flat tire that’s not actually a flat tire, but now you have to pay the mechanic for checking anyway (true story), but we’ll talk more about that next.

 

  1. BUDGET

Staying on budget has never in my life been my strong suit, so what I did was get an app to help me – because, naturally, technology is the answer right? I got an app called Mint. I used it to clock my spending and in which places I spent what for three months. I then went through all of my purchases and charted where I was spending the most unnecessary money. THEN I finally built my budget. The app allows you to both build a budget and track your purchases (it does this for you!) This will help make sure you are staying on budget. When you are getting close to overdoing it, it will let you know, and when you have overdone it, it will let you know that as well! So, figure out your priorities, track your spending, and build your budget.

 

  1. EAT IN BULK Screen Shot 2018-04-17 at 6.28.07 PM.png

So, what exactly does that mean – no, I am not condoning binge eating, I am simply informing you that cooking a large amount of food at one time is a GREAT way to save money.

1) As a vegan I have to go to the grocery store more frequently because most of my food needs to be fresh, but the plus side is that my items are less expensive – an orange for 49 cents, a tomato for 35 cents, so on and so forth. No, again, I am not advocating for veganism [although it does help the planet, your health, and your wallet 😉 ] what I am saying is that you should try and buy fresh, and ONLY what you need.

2) We all know only buying what you need at the grocery store can be like eating only Cheese It (no, I have not been vegan my whole life – I have had a Cheese It – or 86). What I did to help make sure I only bought what I needed was, first, invest in a cookbook and look up some great cooking blogs. Each week I sit down and go through my cookbook, Thug Kitchen, and see if there is anything in there I feel like eating the next week. If not, I simply hit the blogs. Then I compare the ingredients I already have to the ingredients I need to buy and make a list. Then I make sure the items I need will fit my budget.

*Vegan and vegetarian meals typically have very few items per meal anyway, so that always helps!*

I know this seems like a lot of work, but it’s really not! Once a week take 30 minutes to build your meal for the next week. The rest is just cooking and storage!

 

  1. DIY

So, the “old Alexis,” as I like to call her, would rather pay someone to do something really well than even attempt to do it herself. “New grad school Alexis” just does it herself until it turns out really well! DO THIS.! You would not believe how much money you spend buying things that you could make on your own.

Buying the ingredients for bread is cheaper than buying the actual bread (that is if you’re buying bread that is healthy for you in the first place and not incredibly processed. Processed foods are often very cheap but will have a dramatic negative impact on your health, so be warned!). You can do the same things with yogurt, parfaits, soups, dried fruits, juices, smoothies, sparkling water, and the list can go on for days! For example, I bought a juicer and I now get my juice for the same price as I buy the oranges, or apples, or berries. With websites like Amazon, which can help you find the cheapest options for the best value (discounts on prime for students), you’re juicing in no time! So, learn to do things and put in the effort!

 

  1. PATIENCE Screen Shot 2018-04-17 at 6.28.55 PM.png

When you like really nice things they typically cost a lot. I wouldn’t say I search for nice things, I would say I go in a store and the things I happen to like just also happens to be the most expensive thing in the store. A talent really – not useful – but a talent nonetheless. The way I cope with this in grad school is patience. If I see something that I like I will save a little money at a time until I can afford to buy it. For some, taking the cash out of your account every two weeks may be the ticket, so you don’t spend it. For others, transferring money to your savings account may be the best way not to spend it. It’s dealer’s choice, but what is FOR SURE, is that buying it flat out is the quickest and easiest way for you to GO BROKE.! All good things come to those who wait, so get your waiting pants on and TAKE. A. SEAT.

 

  1. IT’S THE LITTLE THINGS

When you do your budget breakdown you’ll realize that you spend the most money on the smallest things. You probably don’t even think about gas, or that pen you lost last week, or that snack you got because you left yours at home *rolls eyes* (another true story), but those things add up. You have to remember that you may need to buy a book, go to a conference, go to a training, or buy a new blazer when you spill make-up on yours *rolls eyes to the back of her head* (yet ANOTHER true story). You have to have extra money in your account for unforeseen circumstances, but you won’t have any money left if you’re not careful about the miscellaneous things that you buy. Five dollars, ten dollars, twelve dollars, hell one dollar, adds up over time, so budget for miscellaneous and PAY ATTENTION when that warning comes that you’re spending too much.

 

  1. PUT YOUR GRANNY PANTS ON AND SIT DOWN 

You no longer have the luxury of going out every weekend with your friends. This is a fact. Just sit down and stare at the wall for a minute while it sinks in. YOU’RE POOR. That one drink at the bar that turns into five drinks can no longer happen. The twerk team is on sabbatical, so sit down and put your granny panties on.

Start looking for activities that you enjoy that don’t cost money, or are a minimum cost. I know I like to drink Grey Goose, so for me, going out can get quite pricey if I haven’t budgeted to do so. What I do now instead is have movie nights with friends, I go to coffee shops, which are less expensive than drinking alcohol because when you drink coffee your decision making isn’t impaired and (for most) you’re not at risk of buying way too many coffees lol. I go for walks at the nature trails we have here in Lawrence, or take my dog to the dog park. I may venture into the city for a day and window shop (I HATE WINDOW SHOPPING, so I’m probably just walking around the city being in the city atmosphere – I won’t lie).

The bottom line is you can’t go out as much unless going out is one of the things you prioritized in your budget – THEN GO WILD. For those of us who did not prioritize it, it doesn’t mean you can never go out, but it definitely means you have to plan it more than you used to, and that’s ok, because when the time comes it will be JUST. AS. FUN.!

 

  1. BUY A DAY PLANNER Screen Shot 2018-04-17 at 6.42.44 PM.png

Hell, buy a life planner. Just start planning. I’ve always lived a heavily planned life. I think it has the most to do with being in competitive sports when I was younger and having several different practices at several different places, as well as trying to keep up with school work. If you’ve lived that life with any activity or hobby, then you know!

Trip down memory lane – off track – but the point is that your life is more structured now. You can’t just do what you want when you want. Well you can, but you’ll likely flunk out, or get kicked out, whichever comes first.

I love traveling, so traveling is a high priority of mine, but I also know that I need to plan a minimum of 6 months in advance in order to be able to go anywhere in the manner of which I want to go there. This means, I like going nice places and being able to afford to do nice things while I’m there. If I plan my trips in advance, then I can save slowly over time without it being a huge hit to my budget. So far I have Miami, Vegas, and New York coming up and two trips to California already under my belt – without missing a beat!

 

  1. I LIED

You will miss a few beats, at times. There will be times when everyone is going out, but you understand that you have a budget you need to keep so you don’t go. No one loves to be left out or feel like you’re missing something, but it’s a feeling you’ll need to get used to. And get used to saying no.

I am a yes person. I will typically say yes unless I am ill, and even then, I will probably make a way to do whatever it is. This journey, however, has taught me that I HAVE to start saying no, it’s no longer an option. At first, I felt crappy – really really crappy! Not putting in on something that everyone else can afford to do, just because even $5 out of place may throw off your budget is incredibly difficult. You feel just like a stupid Steve – just a greedy/selfish person and it sucks. Over time though you begin to realize that if you make an exception here then you’ll find a reason to make an exception there and there and over there and way down there, and then before you know it your budget is TOAST – crispy and charred. All I can really say to help is that the sooner you start saying no the easier it will get over time.

 

  1. THE CLICHÉ

I’ll end with a plug for minimalism, which I bet no one is surprised at – As it gets easier to say no over time, it also gets easier to get used to having fewer entities in your life (clutter, if you will). I used to have a bunch of stuff and when I say the cliché is right – it. Is. Right. – Less is truly more. We live in a society where the more you have the more status you have, and seemingly the better you are as a person, but that’s not at all true! We all buy into this idea of self-worth based on how much we have, when really, it’s all about the quality of what we have. This goes for relationships as well as material items. Having something of quality will end up staying with you for life, whereas having a lot of things and continuing to add, will only end with you being broke and lonely – and no one wants that!

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*I have no affiliation with Amazon or Mint, and everything here is based only on my personal experience*

Vegan Skincare For Oily/Acne-Prone Skin

So, I mentioned a while back that I had been struggling with an AWFUL bout of acne. I mean when I say awful, picture a little 12-year-old boy that just hit puberty. I mean, it was BAD! I tried all of the products below, but finally I had to go to a dermatologist to get everything under control. It turned out that since I had been having some gastric issues my face had begun to show. If you didn’t know, your face can show signs of gastric problems through acne, blemishes, etc. if you become sick or begin altering your diet in any way that may cause you to become malnourished.

Now, don’t get angry, I am a very healthy vegan and being malnourished was NOT my problem (the blood tests proved it)! When done right, being a vegan is the healthiest diet for a human being, and I highly HIGHLY recommend the transition!

I did, however, have to go on antibiotics for a bacterial infection that had arisen in my skin, due to my stomach problems, and have since been using behind the counter prescription medications to maintain my clear skin. Now, for me, my skin is just way too sensitive at the moment to go without medication. There is not currently anything vegan on the market that can contain my acne and give me continuously good skin, and as you’ll see I have tried A LOT of products. So for those of you that really struggle I would look to a dermatologist first to see if there are any underlying health issues. I would then look to use the below products to maintain clear skin once you have solved your core problems, if there are any. Hopefully, in the future there will be something vegan that can really get at the root of oily/acne-prone skin issues!

That being said, for those of you with moderate to very occasional acne, I say shop away! Consider my recommendations carefully and purchase as you wish! There are some really great alternatives out there for you! Keep in mind I am NOT a dermatologist, but just your everyday girl (adult really *rolls eyes*) with acne issues. Feel free to comment or e-mail with any questions and I hope this is helpful for all our vegan acne sufferers out there, regardless of skin-type!

Hylunia_3-Step Acne Treatment System
1) Hylunia 3-Step Acne Treatment System – $118
  1. This product is good for those with small breakouts every now and then. I had a face full of acne, everywhere from my forehead to my chin, and although this product helped some it was not effective in removing my acne. However, because it did at least help some I would recommend it for those who get a few pesky pimples at one time, and helping to get rid of and prevent those from occurring.
NOW Foods Solutions Dark Spot Serum
2) NOW Foods Solutions Dark Spot Serum – $15.99

2) This product is good for those with small breakouts every now and then. I had a face full of acne, everywhere from my forehead to my chin, and although this product helped some it was not effective in removing my acne. However, because it did at least help some I would recommend it for those who get a few pesky pimples at one time, and helping to get rid of and prevent those from occurring.

Derma E Wipes
3) Derma E Hydrating Facial Wipes with Hyaluronic Acid – 25 Wipes – $7.99

3) These wipes are a staple in my skincare routine. I use them every evening when I come home, to clean my face from all of the oils and dirt that have accumulated throughout the day. Because it does not contain oils it is the perfect purchase for someone who is incredibly oily like I am.

Acure Wipes
4) Acure Organics Argan Oil Cleansing Towelettes Fragrance Free – 30 Towelettes – $6.99

4) These wipes ended up making me break-out even more than I already had. Argan oil has a history of working well on acne and facial issues for many people, however, if you have oily skin like I do added extra oil to the mix does not help.

Derma E Eye Cream
5) Derma E Evenly Radiant Dark Circle Eye Crème – $29.95

5) While this product is quite expensive it works wonders under my eyes. As a graduate student with a full-time job and several internships, sleep is not regularly on my agenda. I used to have circles under my eyes that had begun to become discolored, but this crème was senstivie enough to not cause any irritation while also reversing the damage I’d done.

(Not Pictured) Derma E Hydrating Facial Treatment Oil with Organic Argan and Marula Oils – BAD

Terrible for oily skin! This was by far the worst decision I made to try and treat my acne. I have incredibly oily skin and by adding these oils to my daily routine I went from maybe 5 pesky pimples to a face that was so covered at times I looked swollen.

Tea Tree Breakout Blaster
7) Skin by Ann Webb Tea Tree Breakout Blaster – $8.09

7) I really loved this product. I used it before I had my large breakout and it was amazing at zapping zits overnight, and was great for during the day use. It helped to target acne that was arising through the dirt and oil that was accumulating during work and other daily activities.

Alaffia Facial Cleanser
8) Alaffia Skin Recovery Formulas Facial Cleanser Neem & Shea – $13.99

8) I purchased this product because it is specific to oily and acne-prone skin. It is by far the best product I have ever purchased. It is absolutely amazing for those with oily skin and is harsh enough without being overbearing, even in the winter months. I still use this product every day, and plan to continue with it as my staple face wash.

Charcoal Mask
9) Daiso Japan Natural Pack Charcoal Peel Off Mask (4 Tubes) -$19.99

9) Now everyone is talking about these charcoal peel masks, so I had to try them, and believe the hype! While seeing what’s pulled out of your skin is absolutely disgusting, it’s better than leaving it in there. I use this product twice a week, as not to over expose my face and it has helped tremendously!

Live Fresh Natural Blotting Papers
10) Live Fresh Natural Oil Absorbing Blotting Sheets – $5.99

10) These papers, while they only come one pack at a time are incredibly large. One sheet of LiveFresh is equal to two sheets of the Tarte blotting papers. These papers also leave the face with a nice matte finish, and feeling incredibly clean. These are prefered over the Tarte blotting papers, but the Bamboo Charcoal blotting papers are the most effective with the best value.

Pretie Blotting Papers
11) Pretie Asian Bamboo Charcoal Facial Blotting Paper (x2) – $10.85

11) These blotting papers, while not large do coem with two packs. I only ever need one sheet, which is amazing considering how oily my face is. Charcoal has an great effect on pores and skin, so having charcoal infused blotting papers helps tremendously.

Aztec Secret Face Mask
12) Aztec Secret Indian Healing Clay Deep Pore Cleansing – $14.42

12) This is by far the best face mask I have ever used in my whole life. It is salon quality and incredibly strong and useful for my above averagely oily skin. I only use this mask once a week, on Sundays to get any left over oils and dirt from the other 6 days of the week. I recommend this mask to anyone with incredibly oily and acne-prone skin, such as my own.

Queen Helene Face Mask
13) Queen Helene Facial Masque, Mint Julep – $6.38

13) This masque is great and really strong, but if you use it too much your skin will habituate to it and it will stop being effective. I suggest using this mask less or not at all, if you have a dire need for something to pull dirt and oils from your face.

tarte Blotting Papers
14) tarte Not So Slick Oil-Absorbing Blotting Papers – $4.99

14) These are great for your average oily skin. The absorption of these sheets is not as great as some of the others I’ve used. It’s not worth the money in my opinion, as I’ve found better cloths for a better price. The sheets are small and I have to use a minimum of two on my face to get all of the oil off at once. This can get quite pricey if you have a really oily face.

Desert Essence Oil Control Lotion
15) Desert Essence Thoroughly Clean Oil Control Lotion – $9.47

15) This lotion is very effective, but has no SPF coverage. It works well, but for those who live in locations where the sun shines often this may not be the lotion for you. I prefer to use a lotion that also has a high SPF so that I don’t have to overly clog my pores by putting more products than necessary on my hair.

Papaya Enzyme Mask
16) Papaya Enzyme Mask – $47

16) I use this mask every day. It serves as my daily exfoliator. I will use this product after I wipe my face with my facial cleansing wipes. This product restores the skin and hydrates the skin in a way that leaves it nourished, but not oily and pores not clogged. I do plan to try other vegan exfoliators, so I will add those to this list as I experiment with what works best for me!

 

*All pictures were taken from Amazon and did not come from the brand, nor did I receive any compensation for my reviews*

Unmasked

April 10th, 2017

This week has been a weird week for me. It seems like the past few weeks I’ve started to realize I’ve been wearing masks. Not literal masks, but through my clothing. I’ve been wearing what everyone else wanted to see me in. I was wearing things I was expected to wear, styles I was expected to like, but now since I’ve started selling all of my clothes I’m stuck. I’m left with things I truly love, but those things aren’t enough to make a full wardrobe. Many of them are basics: basic long-sleeves, basic crop tops, basic one pieces, basic flannels. Just basics. Everyone needs basics and everyone loves their basics, but no one, or very few, have a whole wardrobe of just basics, right?

So now I’m left with essentially rebuilding from the bottom. I’m faced with the task of deciding what I want people so see me as, and building a wardrobe that reflects that. I tried, previously, to use the Nordstrom money for work clothes, for my new graduate school position, but I’m still lost. I look at everything I used to throw into my shopping carts and no longer find myself in any of them. I’ve realized I don’t like frilly shirts. I don’t like things with crazy patterns. I don’t like floral designs. I’m not a huge fan of the off-the-shoulder. I don’t like short shorts. I don’t like boob revealing shirts. I don’t want those 3-quarter length pants everyone is wearing now. I don’t like peplums. I don’t want anything with a huge graphic on it. I don’t like most things, now that I’m making this list, and this isn’t even the whole list!

But I do like basics. I guess it’s weird. I went through a preppy stage. I had a punk stage. I was a hipster for a while. But now I’m starting from the beginning and all I want are basics. I just want white shirts in innovative shapes. I just want long blazers in neutral colors. I don’t want shorts that cling, but shorts that flow. I don’t want pants with designs, but neutral colors in a pioneering style.

I started this piece to talk about how I feel like I don’t know myself anymore, but I guess I do know myself. I do know what I want and what I want to see myself in. I am an understated person. I’m chill, but I have a bit of flare. I’m calm, but can be very sharp. As I write this I realize that’s the exact style I’ve described. I’m not lost. I just need to become comfortable again with doing what I want, and wearing what I want. I need to feel comfortable not doing what people expect, but doing what I love. I guess that’s all I’ve got to do – Until Next Time My Friends – Be You.

Faux Locs

Pros

  1. Fully protects the hair from the elements
    1. I got mine to protect my hair from the harsh dirt/sand and heat that will be present at the Coachella Music Festival
  2. Hair used for installation is incredibly cheap
    1. I used Marley hair, which is a little more expensive, but I was able to find a vendor at aliexpress that supplied me with 15 packs for $85
    2. Other types of hair are much cheaper and still work really well
  3. Because the scalp is so exposed you have to oil your scalp daily, which is incredibly good for your hair health and growth
  4. The style looks more natural, in my opinion, than braids or twists
  5. The style is very unique

 

Cons

  1. Stick together a lot when you first get them
  2. The sticking together may cause some of the locos to unravel
  3. The upkeep is extensive
    1. Because of the sticking and unraveling you often have to use scissors to cut off extraneous strands
    2. You should also have a lighter on hand to re-seal the locs after you’ve cut the strands
    3. Use use the lighter on the strands running it up and down the strand briefly, then roll the locs in your hands to re-loc the hair
    4. Have de-frizz spray or oil on hand to help keep the locs from frizzing over time
  4. Because your scalp is so exposed, depending on how thick your locs are (mine are quite thick) you’ll have to oil your scalp daily, sometimes twice
  5. They are really tight and heavy when you first get them so sleeping and moving your head may be difficult for the first week
  6. The installation takes FOREVER!!! Mine took 15 hours

Kinky Curly Natural Hair Routine

How to Maintain Natural Hair in a Healthy Way

If you’ve seen my Instagram (@mini_vegan) or visited this blog before, then you’ve probably seen my kinky curly dark brown hair. It’s been almost ten years since I went natural and taking care of my hair has been mostly trial and error.

How often do I put oil in it? What types of oils? How often do I wash it? How often should I deep condition?

Hair Maintenance

In answering these questions it’s very important that you remember that curly hair, especially African American hair, produces fewer natural oils than a straighter or looser curl texture. For this reason, those with very curly hair types need to have external oils ready to apply regularly to both the hair and scalp. Now, I understand no one wants their hair to feel or look greasy and that’s why trial and error is such a big deal when choosing the proper hair products. Lucky for you all, I’ve done the bulk of the trial and error for you!

My Very Favorites:

  1. Cantu hair moisturizer (shea butter – Grow Strong – strengthening treatment)
    1. I recommend this for all curl types: relaxed, natural, and color-treated
    2. For curly hair, start at your ends and work your way to the roots and scalp. Do thoroughly after washing and as a touch-up to dry spots each day as well as your ends.

For all hair textures it’s important to pay close attention to the health of your ends as they are the farthest away from the root and the least likely to receive all the natural oils, vitamins, and minerals your body provides.

For dry scalps that prefer to use a lathering shampoo, like Head and Shoulders, please try to follow with a non-lathering conditioner. I’m sure I’m preaching to the choir and all of you have heard of the harmful effects of lathering shampoos and conditioners on hair, so for all hair types please shy away from the bubbles. I know you feel like it’s working when you get lots of suds, but what you’re really doing is removing the natural hair care products your body produces from your hair, roots, and scalp.

  1. DevaCurl Conditioning cleanser and Conditioner are great for washing curly hair.
    1. When you condition your hair, if you are not planning to use a deep conditioner afterwards, be sure to rinse your hair lightly to keep some of the conditioner in your hair to continue moisturizing throughout the week, or two.
    2. DevaCurl Gel is great for styling
  2. Use a moisturizer on the hair, after washing
    1. Section and apply moisturizer and oil to the hair and scalp
      1. Recommendations: Beautiful Curls – Hydrating Oil, Cantu (mentioned above)
  3. Gel is recommended for all curly hair types to lock in the moisture and curl, after moisturizer has been applied

Going natural is the sure way to the healthiest head of hair! Your natural hair is at it’s softest and most strong when you let it grow and treat it with care. Allowing this process to happen also clears a path for great results when dying your hair. Don’t worry, as the Queen of Color, I’m here to help you natural people go safely through this transition!

 

 


*I am not a licensed beautician or professional. I am a fellow member of the natural hair community with useful advice. I am not liable for any advice I give that does not receive equal results or produces damage, injury, or otherwise.*

Why I Lost Faith In Gifts on Christmas

“Love people, use things. The opposite never works.”

– Joshua Fields Millburn & Ryan Nicodemus

Growing up the holidays were about getting presents. They were about asking for everything you’ve ever wanted, and waiting for the moment where you could rip off that wrapping paper and get at all of those gifts. I would create these monstrous lists filled with literally everything I could have ever wanted in life – and I do mean literally everything. It was fun looking through magazines, going on websites, and just filling the list with anything. However, as the years went by I went through this weird transformation, from asking for everything and expecting everything to asking for everything and being fulfilled by nothing.

For several years I asked for things just to fill my list, but on Christmas day when I had gotten everything I’d asked for I was excited about nothing. My parents thought I was ungrateful and spoiled, but I really wasn’t. I’ve always been thankful for everything I’ve ever gotten, and thank God every day for everything I’ve been allowed in my life. I am beyond fortunate, and that’s the real truth. But over time I began to realize that commercials were advertising this happiness they couldn’t guarantee. Society was telling me to get more, get more, get more and you’ll be happy, but it just wasn’t true. Every week was a new promise from some new company of how their product was going to put a smile on my face and joy in my heart. However, when it came time to unwrap my gifts and get the joy and happiness I was promised – big business fell short.

It took a couple of years of unhappy holidays where I just couldn’t understand why I wasn’t content. While waiting for the rest of my family to get to my house for the festivities, I would just cry. I was just so unhappy, and I just knew, based on everything the world had taught me thus far that I was supposed to be happy. This rut finally hit rock bottom when one holiday season I decided to follow my fashion designer dreams. Yes, you laugh, and so do I – don’t worry! I taught myself to sew and even sewed a dress by hand, zipper and all. For Christmas I asked for a sewing machine and a dress form. I couldn’t think of anything I wanted, but I knew I was supposed to ask for something, so there they were. It wasn’t even two full weeks after I had received them that I realized I’d made a big mistake. I’d wasted so much money, and nothing I’d received had made me any happier. I love sewing and making clothing, but I also don’t have the time. I would love to fit my handmade clothing properly on a form, but I also know my particular petite size does not come in a standard dress form. Yet another waste of money. I had just asked for things because that’s what society told me to do. At this point, I’d even go as far as to say that’s what I thought the holiday season was about – Jesus and gifts.

It wasn’t until afterwards – sitting in my room with a whole bunch of material and string and needles and this useless dress form that I saw it. What made me happy on Christmas was being with my family. What gave me real joy was giving and not receiving. I don’t find true joy in materialistic things, but I do love to see the happiness on people’s faces when I give them gifts. My mother, the sweetheart that she is, continuously asks me what I want for Christmas every year, and every year I tell her “Nothing really,” because to me I already have it all. I no longer see a need to ask for something unless I don’t think I can live without it, or it is something that I really truly love. There are no more long lists full of everything I could have ever imagined. I now create short lists of things I really love or absolutely need, if I create a list at all.

I don’t think it’s something you’re just born knowing though, because everything around us tells us differently. Everything around us tells us the happiest people have everything and the saddest people have nothing. Commercials tell us we’ll be happy if we buy their products, and the kids at school smile in our faces when they tell us they received it. We want to fit in, so we believe what society tells us, make our lists, ask for things we don’t need, and go through the motions. I don’t think it’s until we come to truly love ourselves and are confident in ourselves that we realize none of this other stuff is going to help. If we’re sad, a new Givenchy will not make our pain go away. If I’m angry, new Jimmy Choo’s will not calm me down. It’s when we realize that we hold the key to our happiness, and that it lays nowhere but within that we truly begun to understand.

To me, this is what the holiday season is about, not only loving others, but truly learning to love ourselves. This Christmas I challenge you to ask for things you really need or one or two things you absolutely love, and nothing else. Be present during this day. Pay attention to every joke told and hug given. Listen when your family tells their stories, and help when the kitchen maestro’s need a hand. Take a moment and look around. Notice everything beautiful about that day; from the way your mom seems to jump into warp speed, to the way your grandma seems to notice every time you attempt to go outside without a coat. Take mental pictures in your mind of the emotions on people’s faces as they laugh, the way the tree lights up the room, or how your cousin’s face becomes an excited emoji when she gets exactly what she asked for. These moments are the real gifts of Christmas, and they’re all free.

 

Happy Holidays! – Love Be You.

Photo by Neokentin on Creative Spotting