Let your children fail. Please.

Families function in a variety of ways. Their paradigms and actions based on those paradigms are unique and individual to each family. Some parents strive to be the “best friend” while others are completely authoritarian. In every case, though, the way in which parents raise their children will have a profound and lasting affect on the belief systems of the child. In many cases these belief systems carry on with the child into adulthood, marriage, and the raising of their own children. It makes sense, then, for a parent to have the desire to raise their children in a healthy way that will allow them to be independent and make their own smart decisions based on what the parent has taught them.

Problems arise when the parents decide that they ultimately know best. They arise when parents decide to hold on to the idea of “I know best” for just a little too long. Suffice it to say, we all know someone (or someones) who still have to consult with mom or dad on every. single. decision. What they say is right – no matter how old you are, how far away you live, or what sort of relationship you’re in. You feel the need to consult them on everything and anything. In essence, this is what we call an enmeshed family – and it’s never good. Never.

In the LDS Church, one of the most famous verses of scripture is 1 Nephi 1:1 from The Book of Mormon. Nearly every member of the church knows it by heart, and it’s the greatest opening to scripture ever written. It reads:

I, Nephi, having been born of goodly parents, therefore I was taught somewhat in all the learning of my father; and having seen many afflictions in the course of my days, nevertheless, having been highly favored of the Lord in all my days; yea, having had a great knowledge of the goodness and the mysteries of God, therefore I make a record of my proceedings in my days.

While a discussion of just this single verse could last about an hour, there’s a phrase in particular that I’d like to point out. In scripture, the word “therefore” is a connector. It is basically an If-Then statement in one word. It shows the cause and effect. So when Nephi says that he was born of “goodly parents” and he was therefore taught “somewhat” in all the learning of his father, what indication does this give about good parenting? Yeah- good parents don’t try and dictate your every move or teach you every. single. thing. They teach you just enough so that you can learn to discover things on your own and make your own connections.

Sometimes this means that, as a parent, you have to be a little tough. Supporting your children is essential, but keeping them in a safety net and welcoming them back with open arms is not always the healthiest option. Let the birds fly free.

There have been a lot of articles coming out lately about the affect of parents supporting their children who are into their 20s. (Like this study, this list of advice for parents, and this blunt letter from a 20-something.) And you know what they all agree on? It’s not a good idea.

If you are constantly the safety net for your kids, you’re going to do a couple things.

  1. Teach them to be afraid of failure
  2. Teach them that having money and things = happiness
  3. Avoid teaching them what it means to be self-sufficient and
  4. that “independence” means being able to do, buy, and have whatever you want.

That isn’t real life. Wanting to provide for your kids and help them make good decisions is good – natural, in fact. But by keeping them on a leash and having to put your two-cents into everything you are hurting a lot more than you’re helping.

This protective parenting isn’t an issue just when it comes to money. Closed family boundaries are also becoming an issue when it comes to personal preferences and choices, as well. I recently had a conversation with some friends who are heading out on a study abroad over the summer, and I was shocked to find that they weren’t even going somewhere they were interested in. It was just a place that their parents had approved of. I’m sorry – what? Nononononono. Since when – even if they’re going to pay for some of it – is it okay for your parents to decide where you’re going to enhance your global education? They’re going to tell you how to go about having your own adventure? Then it’s not really your own, is it?  (Also they definitely shouldn’t be paying for all of it. So. )

Being able to make your own choices and see how they play out is a vital part of life. Being able to fail and learn from your own mistake instead of living a life of baby-bumpers is how you discover yourself and what you’re capable of. Don’t become so afraid of life that you don’t live. And don’t take away those valuable experiences from your own kids. Breaking out of an enmeshed family is hard, and working towards un-meshing an entire family can be even harder. LDS families are known for struggling with this, but Lehi’s example of allowing his children to learn on their own and go their own way is so important that it’s presented in the first verse of the book that is the keystone of our religion.

Parents have become, in my mind, too focused on creating a perfect life for their children as opposed to a real one. This trend is not sustainable. So let’s just end it now.

 

 

 

Bookish Engagements

If I had gotten engaged in the summer or fall, or even the spring, I would have picked outdoor engagements. But since it’s been overcast and gross, we decided to go with another option. My photographer and I came up with the idea of using an independent bookstore as a backdrop. For a more formal look, also stopped by an indoor studio and used their incredible loft space to get some shots with that beautiful winter light. I got the pictures back this week, and I’m so happy with how they turned out.

Here’s a few of my favorites.

 

Photography: Claire Marika Photography

Venue: King’s English Bookshop ; Photo Collective Studios 

More than you know

DSC_01624779

A few days ago I received a letter (yes, in the mail) from someone I haven’t talked to or considered myself close to in a very long time. There was no dramatic falling out between us, or any animosity whatsoever. Time had simply played its role in helping us drift apart.

She’s living in Cape Verde (Africa) right now serving an LDS mission. Somehow she found out that I was getting married and wrote me a letter to congratulate me. To say I was surprised is an understatement. I had no idea what to expect in this letter, and what I found was even more surprising. Yes, she knew I was getting married and congratulated me, but she also talked about the day that we met, told me that I had always been an example to her, and she even sent me a postcard because she, “remembered that I collect them.”

All this from someone I haven’t had contact without outside of a formal setting since I was about 16.

I was extremely touched and humbled after reading everything she said. It made me realize a few things that I previously thought didn’t apply to me. First, that people care about you. People who you didn’t think you were close to, people that you thought were too busy occupied doing their own great things, and even the people you see each day that don’t say a word to you. They care more than you know.

People watch you more than you know, too. I remember someone once telling me that they would like me to come to some more church activities because the “younger girls look up to you and think it must be the cool thing to do if Savannah comes.” While I don’t know how true that was, I was still blind to the influence that my actions had on others. I don’t know if my personal choices or actions really have as much influence as I wish they did, but I do know that the choices of those around me have definitely had an impact on my life.

Admittedly, I’ve done some stupid stuff just because of the people around me. We all do in some way or another. Ponchos? Not as cool as 3rd grade me thought they were (but don’t worry, I’ve learned my lesson now). Bangs? Definitely not for me – and they took way too long to grow out. Church activities? Maaaybe not as mandatory as the leaders make them sound.  Like it or not, I’ve let the people around me influence not just my fashion choices, but my personal values as well.

The city I live in is known for its lack of unique personalities and style. Every time I come back from another country – or even just a big city – I am awed at how amazingly similar everyone is. I’ve gone through a fair share of roommates, and soon their faces started blending together. Same hair, same clothes, same foods eaten, same boys dated….same everything. To a certain extent, there’s nothing wrong with this. You like what you like and I can’t judge you for that.

But, as someone who kept getting referred to as “Mexican,” “Black,” and constantly getting questionable looks in Spanish class when I didn’t know the answer to something, I can tell you that being a little different in a very conservative area can suck. A lot. People never meant to insult me. They were just uneducated, but the things they said and did made me feel like there was something so… wrong with me. It makes you question yourself. And after a lot of inner searching and realizing that I wasn’t really that different from the rest of the world, I know that I can just do my thing and it will work out fine. There’s always going to be haters, or people who think they know what it’s like. The truth is, you just have to embrace yourself and be happy with knowing that you’re 100% true to you. And, if my actions and choice to just be myself resonate with someone and let them know that they’re not as weird or messed up as they think they are, then I’m grateful to have been a part of that push forward for them – even in the smallest way possible. Heaven knows we need more real, normal people in this part of the world.

People watch you. They listen to you. They care about you. Not in a creepy stalker way, but because we tend to look to others for guidance, and we all need a lot of guidance. But if you learn to look to yourself and actually trust yourself, then someone will notice. You may never find out, but I can guarantee it will happen. And maybe, years later, you’ll get a letter from someone doing great things telling you that you were one of the reasons they’ve ended up where they are. Even if you don’t, you’ll be so much happier just being yourself than you could ever be with trying to be somebody else.

“Act as if what you do makes a difference. It does.”  – William James 

 

 

Don’t have a backup plan

If you haven’t heard it before, I’m telling you now – planning a wedding is stressful. Although, comparatively, I’ve been very productive, I still want to just lay down and sleep for the next six months whenever I think of all the things I still have to do.

Maybe that’s why I haven’t written a single word for the last three weeks. Who has time for things like writing when there’s a wedding to plan, portfolios to compose, work to go to, and the holiday season to enjoy? That’s what I told myself. Then at 2 am my fingers started tapping and a flood of sentences started swirling around in my head. No paragraphs or any cohesive thoughts more than ten words long (my brain is trained to think in headline-lone fragments), but just a lot of single, independent sentences.

Today in church someone talked about all the many “versions” of our lives and all the so-called backup plans that we go through. Even as she was talking about all this I found myself thinking about what my next step would be if my portfolio wasn’t accepted, or if I didn’t get a new job, or what my other options would be if certain things in my wedding planning didn’t work out. Essentially, I was just creating a list of backup plans and preparing myself for the worst. But as I listened to her talking, I realized that I have not ever actually had to follow through with any backup plans I’ve made in my entire life.

That’s not to say that everything has always gone as I’d hope. In fact, it’s actually been kind of the opposite. Hardly anything I plan for myself works out. Everything I am so thankful for and that has worked out for me in the long run are things that just sort of happened. Opportunities that fell into my lap, people I met by chance, trips I took on a whim and without a lot of planning – these are all the things that I have come to cherish the most. Sitting there, I started to think that maybe all the planning and stress I put into it is actually just useless. I was about to have a slight mental breakdown over all my wasted time when it occurred to me that I had it backwards.

These days, I’m surrounded by a lot – like A LOT – of people who don’t have a lot of direction. They aren’t sure if they want to go to school, and some don’t know why they’re in school or have no idea of what they plan to do afterwards. For some people, this works. I am not some people. I carry a Midori Traveler’s Notebook with me everywhere that is filled with calendars, lists, notes, and basically everything I need to run my life on a daily basis. I’m a planner, but the majority of the people I am around are the exact opposite.

I’ve been lucky enough to have a lot of rare, special, and sometimes downright unique opportunities in life. None were expected or planned for, but they all came as a result of making plans and goals and actively working towards those goals. Because of the things I was doing, all these doors opened for me. Truthfully, I don’t think that any of those things would have happened if I just drifted from day to day without any real direction. If I centered my life on having fun, I wouldn’t really enjoy anything. I’m positive that I would just feel like I was throwing away time.

The best opportunities don’t just fall into your lap. Yes, I may not be in the place that I thought I would a few years ago but I would never say that I’m living a backup plan. Just a different plan. And there’s nothing wrong with that. I don’t think that anyone should feel like they’re living a backup plan. We all go through drafts, and many of them are rough, but how boring would life be if you only got to experience the final draft and not all the hard work that led up to it?

Trust me to turn my life into a writing metaphor. You’re welcome.

 

The Story

I once heard that everyone has a story to tell, and I’ve believed it ever since. You might never know when your moment is – when that story will hit you, but there will be one. It’s part of the reason I love journalism and travel. You meet so many people and get to hear their stories, and I find great joy and honor in being able to hear and share those stories. I learn from them and love them. For a long time I’ve wondered what my own story is.

This blog is filled with stories. All of them are special to me and are things that have been worth writing for me, but I’ve often wondered that if I only had one story to tell, what would it be?

Over the last few months of pondering this, I realized that I already knew me answer. And when I put this ring on my finger every day, I’m reminded of it.

It’s a story of a girl who was hurt and confused. A story of loss of self-respect and self-worth. There’s dramatic moments filled with tears and hate, as well as moment filled with warmth and love in the most needed and unexpected times.

The story spans more than a decade, and at its core is a girl who decided that she was incapable of love. She believed herself impossible to love.

So many of the stories I encounter these days don’t have the happy ending we want. I watch movies with melancholy “realistic” endings. I read books where the favorite character dies or the bad guy wins. It seems that everywhere I go I am told that people don’t really deserve to be happy – and I disagree.

My story? I promise it has the happy ending.

The girl sees herself in a new light and learns that she has always been – and will always be – loved. And once she opens herself up to that and smiles a little bit more, she gets to be loved more than she thought was possible. She learns to love more wholly, fully, truly. The meaning of love is made clear, and she is happy. There are still moments of fear, impatience, and comic misunderstanding – but it all leads to where she is now.

She is very, very, happy.

My story needs a bit of work, but it’s the one I want to tell. And maybe someday, I will.

Because, after all, we all have a story that deserved to be heard. That needs to be heard.

 

 

Forever.

On Saturday, November 21, I got engaged to my best friend, confidant, and the person who has dealt with all my ups and downs over the last two years.

It happened in front of the local library, which is also a historic monument, and I think I said “yes” before he’d even finished asking the question. Although neither of us are sure because we both sort of blacked out while it was happening.

He’s my person, and I am so excited to spend our forever together.

If you’d talked to me three or four years ago, this would not have been how I’d have seen my life playing out. But, life doesn’t always turn out the way you’d planned – sometimes it’s even better.

Sometimes it’s hard for me to talk about Kevin. Not because there isn’t a lot to say, but because there’s this piece of my heart (like 99% of it) that belongs to him, and it’s so special and close to me. Talking about him can be hard because of how much I care about it. It could make me vulnerable, and there are times when just thinking about how much I love this man makes me cry – happy tears, of course.

There were so many years where I truly didn’t think that I would be able to really love or get close to anyone. Because of things in my past that have haunted me, letting go, being myself, and opening up are extremely hard for me. It took a long time before I even let anyone hug me or touch me – especially a man. It took even longer to fully trust him and allow myself to be completely in love with him.

Now, here I am getting married. In the temple. To a wonderful person. There was a time when I didn’t know if this would happen. I didn’t know if any of those things would be possible. But they are. And it’s happening. And I feel so blessed and so very loved.

Love is healing, and Christ’s love is the most powerful of all. That’s why I’m here right now, and it’s exactly where I want to be.

 

Paris, je t’aime

When I think of Paris, I don’t think about the things that I saw. The first things that come to mind are not images of the Eiffel Tower or the view from the top of Notre Dame, or even the sparkle of the lights at night. When I think of Paris, I see faces.

Coming from a place where public transportation is virtually nonexistent, navigating the subway systems of the world takes practice. We were trying to get to the next spot on our “to see” list, and we couldn’t have been more lost. With only about 50 words of French between the four of us, my family and I weren’t getting anywhere fast. We had been staring at a map for who knows how long, when someone walked by us then turned around and rushed back. He quickly discovered our lack of French but understood where we were trying to go. Unable to verbally tell us directions, in broken English he said “I will take you.”

I haven’t the faintest idea if he was already headed in that direction, but soon we were all being guided down and ushered onto a train. He could have taken us anywhere or done anything and we wouldn’t have known better. I was slightly apprehensive to trust a stranger and let them lead me around a foreign city, but I took a leap of faith. A little while later he said “Get off here!” And with a few thank yous and smiles we hopped off and found that we were exactly where we needed to be.

I don’t know if he was already headed in that direction or not, or what compelled him to take pity on a bunch of completely lost tourists (heaven knows he’s seen plenty), but it made the day infinitely better and left me with a fond memory of this stranger.

When I think of Paris, I think of him.

I think of the woman who didn’t speak a word of French but wanted to tell us about some of her favorite places.

I think of the beautiful stranger who gave us directions to Notre Dame and left me intense style jealousy and aspirations.

I think of the strangers I met in lines and had whole, real, wonderful conversations with and how they made all my experiences and memories richer.

I think of the workmen who called out to me as I sat on a bench to pay me a compliment that made me blush.

For me, this is Paris. It is these people. These faces. These memories.

Paris is not just a skyline. It is a place filled with wonderful, loving, and kind people who will go out of their way to help you – which is more than I can say for my beloved London. Paris, despite its flaws, greets you with open arms.

It is for that reason that I cried tonight. I cried for the city and its suffering. I cried angry, hurt tears for the city that welcomes all and is injured in return.

I cried, you see, because there is a little bit of Paris inside all of us.

DSC_0162

Tonight, we are all France. We are all Paris. We are reminded that humanity is capable of such cruel, unfeeling things. Yet we are also reminded of the unity we share as people. Reminded of the power of love and how it can transcend time, oceans, and all cultural and language barriers. Through all the tears, fear, anger, and hate, we must love. We must love this city that, from the beginning of time, has loved us all.

I think of Paris fondly. I wish to go back  and hopefully add more beautiful faces to my definition of the city. My heart aches for the citizens, the victims and their families, and for all those who have been affected by the tragedies tonight. Yet I am also amazed at the outpouring of love and support that I have seen.

Tonight I cried for all the faces I have seen and for all the ones I have not. Tonight I cried because, Paris – je t’aime.

Gray

My room was freezing this morning. I woke up with only the top half of my face peeking out of the covers. It was snowing and cold, and I had left my window open.

Fall is gone. The trees only have a few, sad, straggling leaves sticking to them in a desperate sort of way, and the mountains are topped with inches of snow. This morning my Twitter feed was filled with updates about all the ski resorts opening up for the season. I can see my breath at 12 pm, and I’m not entirely sure how I feel about it.

We didn’t really get a fall here. Everything just jumped all at once. There was only less than a week of really great weather, and now I’m piling on sweaters and tall boots. Life has been like that a lot, recently.

My weeks fly one after another, with nothing significant or noteworthy to remember them by. The other night I realized that it had been a month since I’d had the motivation to journal. I love journaling. I love writing. But there just hasn’t been any time or real reason. It’s not necessarily bad or good, it’s just what is. I’m happy. Life is good. There just hasn’t been a whole lot of writing going on.

So perhaps this early winter is something of a metaphor. Gray skies and a gray period in life. I simply move along from day to day, fulfilling routines and commitments. Getting things done so that it won’t always be gray.

I figure that, as long as you’re pressing forward, it can’t stay that way forever. And even amidst all the snow and long, cold nights I’ve found peaceful moments. Times when I’m just working on an article or essay and I have jazz in the background, tea by my side, and a candle flickering in front of me. The calm and serenity of those moments is priceless. They are completely mine and I can enjoy them without worrying about anything else. I believe in doing things, but I also believe in taking time for yourself and not always being jam-packed with engagements or commitments. I’d surely go crazy if it weren’t for my tea-time.

There wasn’t anything specific that led to this post. I had some extra time and decided that some stream of consciousness would help me relax a bit. That’s all we need sometimes. We don’t have to always be working on something large and great. Sometimes we just need to do something small and reconnect with ourselves; something that reminds us why we do what we do and why we love what we love.

That’s all this is. And in the middle of all this gray, I’m finding color.

Tall

“Stand up straight.”  It’s the one phrase that, when I mentally repeat it to myself, I can still hear my mother’s voice perfectly. She probably said it to me close to a million times growing up, and she still says it to me now.

All these years later, I still hunch. A lot. At this rate I’ll probably be the Hunchback of the Salt Lake Temple. It wasn’t until a little while ago, however, that I realized that it was having an effect on more than just my posture. Over the years, my self-esteem had sunk just as low as my posture. And for some reason, I just didn’t want to hide like that anymore.

A week ago I looked at myself and decided that I would follow that motherly advice and just try stand up straight and tall for a few days. Maybe it would change things, maybe it wouldn’t – but at least I would look at little thinner (or so I was told).

In those few days, I didn’t change much. I still wore the same clothes, went to the same places, and was just as shy as usual. As I kept reminding myself to stand up straight, I started to notice a few things. I noticed that…I was being noticed. And it was weird.

Whenever I walked by someone while I standing up straight, they looked at me. They actually acknowledged my presence – which, believe me, hasn’t happened a lot in the past. Whenever I walked into a room I wasn’t completely ignored.

People were looking at me, and the only thing I did was straighten my back.

As it continued to happen, I felt obliged to drop my basic emotionless face and replace it with a smile that was little more friendly to look at. I definitely have resting mean face, and I just didn’t want to come across that way. I smiled, people smiled back. Everyone’s day was a little brighter.

In the end, what I learned wasn’t that standing up straight was better for me health-wise (although it certainly is), but that it was just better for me in general. My confidence spiked. When I wasn’t feeling confident at all, I just had to remind myself to come out of my hunched shell, roll back those shoulders, and suddenly I had this illusion of confidence that helped me gain real confidence as well.

The way I carried myself also had an affect on the people around me. People are drawn to others who show confidence. It’s attractive on a physical and personal level.

You look your best when you carry yourself in your best way. You feel your best, too.

That’s what was most important to me. I felt better. My back felt better, but more importantly, I felt better about myself. I used to think that slouching was sort of a way of being humble and not appearing arrogant, but that’s the farthest thing from the truth. Standing tall isn’t about being preppy, it’s about being the best you.

So now I’m Savannah, believer of straight posture and smiling at strangers.

Stop Shopping, Start Investing

It’s definitely no secret that I love shoes, bags, and pretty things as much as the next girl. Sometimes when I’m bored or just want to get out of the house, I go to the store when I don’t need anything – a truly awful habit that has eaten up more of my money than I care to admit. A few weeks ago I went through my closet and got rid of probably close to 100 garments, but was a little appalled to find that my closet looked pretty much just as full afterwards.

In the last few months, I’ve made some decisions and changes to my shopping habits in an effort not just to save money, but to be aware, informed, and decided about what I invest in. That’s the key word in all of this: Invest. Before, I was just spending, but now I look at each thing I buy with a long-term perspective. So far, it’s been worthwhile and I haven’t purchased anything without intention and a good amount of thought.

There are a few guidelines I’ve set for myself that, so far, I’ve followed without any problems.

$1/ wear 

This has probably been the biggest guiding principle when I decide if I’m going to invest in something. Basically, it’s the principle where you only buy something if you’ll wear it enough to equal a dollar each time. So, if I buy a $100 leather jacket, then I’d know that I was going to wear it at least 100 times. And the point is that you would wear it at least that many times, because heaven knows there are things I own that are basically free now based on how many times I’ve worn them. Which brings me to my next guideline:

Invest in the basics

A basic, nice, white button-down shirt is going to last you far longer in terms of “fashionable” than that aztec-print cape. It’s classic. It’s basic. It goes with anything. It’s one of those staples that everyone needs, so you should take the time to find one that fits you properly, is made well, and will last. The thing with basics is that they’re basic – so you’re probably going to be using them a lot. With that in mind, and with my first principle, investing in good quality, timeless basics that may even live longer than you is something I think is definitely worth your time – and money. You don’t have to spend enormous amounts of money – but find things that fit you well and are going to stand more than one wash.

Speaking of which…

No more Fast Fashion

I’ve completely sworn off of H&M, Forever21, and Zara – just to name a few. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want any part of my life to be defined by the philosophy of “low cost / high volume.”  I’m also not okay with having clothes designed to fall apart, and I definitely don’t want to buy from a place that endorses sweatshops. Not to mention that their whole business scheme runs on making you feel out of date just days after purchasing brand new loot. I work hard for my money, and I don’t like seeing it fall apart in the wash after just one wear – which doesn’t compliment my $1/wear philosophy at. all.

I don’t want to get too preachy, but this is a change I’ve felt I should make for a long time. I haven’t even found anything I like in H&M or Forever21 for a long time (maybe because I dress like a granny?), and so far I haven’t regretted anything at all. I firmly believe that we should all aim to eventually be able to quit Fast Fashion completely.

There are certainly a lot of reasons Fast Fashion isn’t a wise spending choice. But I get it – at this age it’s all a lot of us can afford. I’ve just decided that I’d rather save a little longer for something a littler better. You can learn a little more about the Fast Fashion industry here, and how it hurts the economy here. For Fair Trade alternatives (and great quality basics), I’m a personal fan of Everlane. 

Those three changes have done a lot more than save me some money. They’ve made me more conscious about where I’m investing my money and if I actually need something versus just wanting it. And yeah, there are times that I just really want something, but I also believe in treating yourself once in a while – not every time you go out.

Changing things up has also forced me to become more creative with my outfits and all the racks of clothes I already own (I know, I know, it’s a problem). Instead of defaulting to a just buying a new outfit, I’ve been mixing things up as well as only buying things I can already wear with something else in my closet whenever I do buy new items.

This isn’t a fashion blog, and – unless Satan possess me and steals all control of the content on this site – it never will be. But I do think that we as citizens should be informed about where our hard-earned money is going, and making wise decisions. Clothes are just one area where I’ve changed spending habits, but it’s also the most significant.

Don’t just think of it as shopping – think of it as investing.