12 Things I Still Don't Know How To Do

You will not believe how many new things I learn day-to-day as Miss Vermont. Seriously.

Appearances are the best, because more often than not, you're in a completely strange place, with complete strangers. At that point, if you aren't learning something new from each of them, you are doing something wrong.

Of course, it's also no secret that I'm an informational vacuum. I keep updated throughout the day on Twitter. I listen to VPR/NPR on my drive in and out of Montpelier every weekday. And I'm a sucker for shows like The Daily Show and other "news-based" TV.

So throw me into a brand new environment with strangers, and I'm probably going to just stand around and ask questions.

Which is probably how I (thankfully?) realized I still have no idea how to do these things...

1. Change a tire by myself

2. How to explain the difference between a 401k and a SIMPLE IRA

3. How to perform CPR (other than my quick training from The Office)

4. Speak more than one language fluently

5. I still don't know how to drive stick.

6. How to check my own blood pressure (seems easy enough, I know. But math.)

7. Speaking of math I don't think I ever technically mastered fractions

8. How to make a Thanksgiving turkey, start to finish

9. How to pair the right wine with a meal (in fairness, I don't drink wine.)

10. Self control when it comes to pizza.

11. How to properly set the aperture and focus on a camera

12. Fold a damn fitted sheet

What It Feels Like

A few weeks back I started writing out something about metaphors, euphemisms, analogies...you know. I wanted to say something about how we talk about depression, anxiety, and mental health. I wanted to talk about why we describe it the way we do, and what that does, for those that understand those metaphors, and those that need them so that they can understand.

I'm not quite sure I've hit the nail on the head, but I wanted to finally hit publish anyways.

Sometimes I am reminded that people don't really know what it feels like - what depression feels like. I remember usually when I am on the other side of things, and it just becomes so clear again how hard it is to articulate. I think so often we hear things like, "it feels like darkness. It feels like hopelessness. Depression is being at the bottom of an empty well. It is sadness."

And every time I come back to the fact that, all that? It's not doing me, or anyone else any justice. That isn't serving to make my reality any more clear to people who have never actually experienced depression or anxiety. And moreover, when I am unable to communicate to them not just what it feels like, but why it leaves me so physically useless, I am not helping anybody.

So I figured, if I can articulate something now, I should. I should at least try. Because that's gonna benefit you more than anything else. It is going to give you a little window into what my brain does, and maybe give you some more room to empathize, or a better idea of how to help someone else.

It aches in my entire body.

There is a weight that sits in you, and kind of just presses on your chest.

It is humiliating some days; to be the person that doesn't text back, and can't do the dishes, and definitely cried while brushing her teeth.

Sometimes there is just a giant vacant hole in your chest, and it is sucking little pieces of you away. And it doesn't feel like anything anymore. It doesn't feel like it's time to cry, or be mad. It just feels like you are supposed to lay in your bed and stare at the curtains and wait for that little black hole in the center of your chest to swallow you whole.

I am - on the best of my worst days - about 30% of myself.

It's a lot of guilt. To be the burden on people, to be the snail in the room, to be the person that can't go to the grocery store. There's a lot of feeling bad for yourself for feeling bad.

Food doesn't taste good. Eating doesn't help.

God becomes really confusing. The fact that Someone made your brain this way...it is crushing. You feel betrayed. You feel so slighted, that He chose your brain. You feel so mad that He thought you were capable of handling this constant throbbing sadness.

It pulses through your body sometimes. It gets hot in your chest, and you feel it just...pulse through you.

That's usually when you feel the hole open up I think.

One last thing...sometimes, it just lifts without you even knowing it. Sometimes it is just your day to get a free Starbucks. Or someone finally gave you a hug. Or you ate pizza and didn't feel guilty, or nervous. Sometimes it just passes.

I wanna say, before I keep going, I've mentioned that the fall was hard. It's not the fall anymore. And I'm in a great place professionally, personally, financially - I'm living a good life. Like I've said before, like I'll say again, the times to talk about how, why, and when it hurts, are when it doesn't hurt.

It's so much easier to articulate that now, when I'm on the other side.

When I cry driving to and from work every day - for no reason - seriously, I have found myself sobbing, in my car, and not knowing why. I know I am scared, and anxious, and worried that I am ruining everything but I have no evidence or reason to believe that - when that happens, I can't tell you how that feels.

Because I don't know how to say to you that I feel completely shattered, and almost like I am slowly just...evaporating.

But when I am here, and I can look at those days...it's easier to explain the hole I get in my chest.

And I think one of the most common things I have run into since opening up this discussion is this notion that depression is a technical way to say "sad."


I am sad when I finish the last slice of cold pizza. I am sad at the end of every season of Grey's Anatomy. I am sad when I look at my credit card bill.

When I literally talk myself through getting out of bed, taking off my clothes, getting into the shower, washing my hair, getting out of the shower, pulling on the same sweat pants, and getting back into bed - with tears streaming down my face - whispering to myself that it's going to be okay, one more step, just wash your face, one leg at a time, there's your bed. 

That is not sadness.

The pain that rips through me when I realize again that this means I have missed plans, or backed out of something, or let someone down - the guilt that that doubles down on - that is not sadness.

Mind you, I know that many people have not had this experience. I am so damn thankful that many people have not had this experience.

Every time I give my talk on why my platform is so important - that's the kicker, right there. That those of us on this side of the fence literally cannot tell you how it feels to be there.

And if you have never been here, you just don't know. We know you don't know.

We know that we don't often have the language to explain it to you.

Which is where my platform comes in - at least for me. At least for me, it is has been important because that discussion is so complicated. It has been the key that has unlocked every single public conversation that I have had about depression, anxiety, and general mental health.

I know it's not fun.

I know no one walks away from something like this and says, wow that was great! It's not great.

But it is important.

And to someone in your life, there are days when it is everything.

The Goal Digger Podcast, Go Listen

This is gonna be quick, but I have to share this with you.

This podcast: The Goal Digger Podcast by Jenna Kutcher.

Okay, if you aren't in the creative-wedding-planning-photographer world, you probably don't know about Jenna.

But if you have an inclination of working for yourself, working in a creative industry, or focusing on intentional and heartfelt moves in your career and personal life - this podcast is worth listening to.

For me, the guests are some of the biggest names in my industry. Some of the people I have looked up to for years through blogs, Twitter, and Instagram. So, I'm also doing a bit of fan-girling from episode to episode.

On top of all that, the show notes. Oh, the show notes. Insane resources from each of the very talented and capable guests are reason enough to even click over to the podcast site and scroll around a bit.

Anyways, that's it.

Give it a listen. And feel your heart go oh my goodness yes.

The Books: January Wrap-Up

Alright, let's talk about a quiet goal I started with this year: read more.

It's so simple right? And for an absolute book-nerd like me, it should be easy enough.

I decided that I was going to try to read one book a month, but at the very least, I was going to read six books this year. And y'all? There was a time when I read six books in a month. And I miss that. I miss the constant immersion in a story. (I mean, Shondaland is nice and all, but waiting every week - ahem - months to see what happens on Scandal? Ya girl needs more.)

Frankly, I also have a ton of books on my to-read list, and ton of books that I have accumulated that I still need to read.

So, off I went.

And so far so good!

Here we are, January 31st, and I have nearly finished Chip and Joanna Gaines' The Magnolia Story. By which I mean I'll likely finish it tonight. Not done yet, but you know, death happened, and Scandal happened, and Greys happened, so yeah, the book took a back seat this week.

I also tried Audible for the first time this month - huge. fan. I plowed through Harry Potter and The Sorcerer's Stone in less than three days.

Then, I downloaded Trevor Noah's Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood. Let me say this, if no cheesy Audible commercials have convinced you to try it yet, let either of these books do the job.

If you don't know, Trevor Noah is the current host of the Daily Show, and yes, South African. While his accent is a great addition to the story, it's his knack for language (of which he speaks eight,) and his perfect comedic timing that just make this audiobook so worth it. Seriously. I'll be recommending this book all year - but the audio version is going to give you a 100% better experience.

Side note: I don't read many autobiographies, so the fact that I have loved this one so much, and made it about half way through in less than a week, that says a lot. I've also learned a lot about the intricacies of South African apartheid culture - which I am loving. 

And I don't think you need an argument for immersing yourself into the world of Harry Potter at all - let alone via audiobook. But if you haven't reread in a while, get to it.

Next on the list?

Tuck Everlasting, Natalie Babbit (a classic, which I started rereading just after her passing last year.)
The Ship of Brides, Jojo Moyes (I've ranted and raved about how wildly I love her books before, I assume this will be no different.)

The Run Down and The Return

I realized this morning why I haven't been able to write anything worth publishing in a while...it is because I was keeping so much behind the scenes, every story, and every thing I tried to share was just too vague.

So here's the run down:

Since October I have been feeling pretty deflated, in some of my work, in my mental health, in my physical health, I've just been off.

In November, I went to Creative at Heart in Memphis and cracked my heart open. I hit my stride with some personal short and long term goals, and thought I was back on track.

I wasn't.

I don't know if it was the holidays, the weather, what I was eating, cutting down on my workouts, feeling less than at work, feeling like I wasn't doing enough as Miss Vermont, feeling like my body was just...gone, or all of the above. But I was off.

That's really mostly persisted until the start of January. And I've had a bit of a reset. I'm getting back up to 4 and 5 days a week in the gym. My diet is not holiday-goodies-and-comfort-food focused. I'm still doing my damnedest as Miss Vermont, and reminding myself every day that it goes in waves. My body, well, I'm working on it.

I still have rough days. I still get those feelings of, when the heck is this going to happen for me? But I'm working on contentment...again. I'm working on trusting the process...still.

And, frankly, we've never really done this before guys - but I'm gonna be honest - on a interpersonal level, things have been really good.

I mentioned that I'm trying to be more intentional in my relationships. I'm focusing on lifting others up, on connecting in more ways than tagging people in facebook memes, on generating something that...means something. I've always been the type of person who wants to do so much for the people she cares about, this year I am making it a priority.

Friendships are good, and are something I'm constantly trying to work on.

Miss Vermont, and Pure Barre relationships are something I am working on nurturing, truly, by challenging myself to just give more.

And yes, you might know about The Mountain Man. That's just been the brownie on this 2017 Sundae. But, because I feel like it's only 50% of my story to share, that one's gonna stay behind the scenes a little longer. But I'll say this, it's been really really really good, despite all the shitty things that have happened in the last few months.

That's it. That's the run down, now, let's get back to it.

Giving, Vision & Grace

So, I've been holding on to this one for a while.

Because the reality is, a lot has been going on since I came home from Miss America. And a lot of it has been hard. A lot of it has been challenging, and exhausting, and it has some times flat out sucked.

And really, I've been keeping it to myself because, let's be really frank, plenty of people read this. Plenty of people who have made my life hard, challenging and exhausting. And it's hard to rationalize talking about life's tough parts when you're simultaneously putting yourself in a position to say, hey listen, you're kinda being a jerk, so please read about it on the internet. 

Wait. Pause.

That's not to say that nothing good has happened since September (or in 2016 at all. Duh.) Plenty of really good, big, amazing, mushy-heart-eyes, things have happened. Actually, all in all, it's been kinda magical in the last few months. But all of that has been tapered by these...challenges.

And I think, what I'm saying is, the highlight reel has been playing loud and clear for the public. But the raw stuff, the things left on the cutting room floor...oh y'all, it's sucked so hard.

I can't change any of it.

It's over and done with.

I won't sit here and detail through the tough shit.

But I will walk you through the last few days, the big dig I've been doing in my heart to set off on the right foot this month. This month. One month at a time, maybe even one week at a time. That's what I'm doing in 2017.

First of all, I got a new planner. If you want the deets, I'll share. But I super encourage you to go out, look for one that helps you align your goals, priorities, and heart song.

Then, I filled that badboy out.

I wrote down my goals. I looked at what happened in 2016. I looked at what I want in 2017. I looked at why I have been so challenged, particularly in the last few months. I looked at what was making me so unhappy, and made a really concise plan to cut it out of my life.

I said goodbye to relationships that don't serve me. I said goodbye to saying yes, just because I should. I said goodbye to negative self-talk. I said goodbye to feeling obligated to please those that have hurt me.

I decided I am saying yes to more workouts, more days off, more jobs that make heart leap, more intentional work, more honest relationships, more constant joy, more lovin on my friends, more encouraging, more grace, more mercy.

I decided that the best thing I did in 2016 was give until it physically hurt. Until I was so depleted, so worn out, so beat down, that I knew I had done it - I had given everything.

And you wanna hear something wild? When I looked back at my 2015 PowerSheets to find what I had wanted in 2016, I found that I had prayed so hard to give. It was on dang near every page. I asked for strength to give more. I asked for the ability to give even when I wasn't sure why. I asked for the confidence to give to others, even if I wasn't sure they liked me, or loved me, or wanted to work with me. I asked that I would be put to work as tool to spread His joy through my persistent giving.

Low and behold, I spiraled out of 2016 thinking, I can't keep going, I have given everything. 

I guess, then, that means this year was successful.

So you wanna know what's littered through my goals this year?

Vision, with grace. I am asking - continuously - for the courage to pursue these big visions I have for myself. In relationships, in work, in commitment to my state, in my pursuit of doing something that matters to others. And I already know I will need grace to get me through. Grace, to power through my tendency to get tired. Grace, to fuel me when it hurts like this. Grace, not just to pardon my countless sins, but to give me the power to turn away from things like that negative self talk. Grace, to recognize when regardless of what I feel, and think, and want, His plan is going to be far better than my vision.

Just like any year, I don't know what is coming. I don't know where these visions that I have for my future will take me. I don't know what my life is going to look like in March, let alone in December.

But I know I have a plan. I have goals. And I have the last year to look back on (and sure, the years before this.) I have the challenges, and the sucky things in 2016 to look at and say, yep, made it through that. And dang, if I don't have some successes to look at after this year too.

20 New Things I Did in 2016

1. Did my first juice cleanse

2. Became a Pure Barre Instructor

3. Went to Hawaii

4. Learned how to use *just about everything* at the gym

5. Became Miss Vermont 2016

6. Threw 3 first pitches

7. Rode in 8 parades

8. Met Senators Bernie Sanders and Pat Leahey, Representative Peter Welch, and Governor Shumlin (and Phil Scott,) all in less than two months.

9. Went to Greenville South Carolina, Washington D.C. and Memphis Tennessee for the first time

10. Visited the White House, met the First Dogs

11. Ran two 5ks

12. Ran a 10k

13. Ran a half marathon a week later

14. Attended my first industry conference

15. Went to Miss America

16. Got a massage

17. Spent 14 consecutive hours in Magic Kingdom

18. Drove over 25,000 miles around Vermont

19. Visited 101 Vermont towns

20. Made a friend in every state