Stop Torturing Yourself

Get out of that toxic relationship. Leave that job that is not making you happy. Stop being a pushover.

On toxic relationships…

Sometimes we hold on to something past its expiration date because we’re afraid to let go. If you’ve been in this situation, I can highly empathize with you. I was in a relationship where the person I was dating told me “You don’t deserve love, you have to earn it.” I would do one thing “wrong” that day and they would ignore me for a week. For the longest time I thought everything was my fault. I didn’t “deserve” love because I wasn’t a perfect human being. There’s nothing worst that feeling alone when you’re in a relationship.

I held onto that relationship much longer than I should have. I couldn’t hang out with my friends without asking for “permission” like a child asking their parents if they can go play outside. I would make a comment about how my friends were happy in their relationships and I would get scolded and told, “Everyone has problems like us. They’re just pretending to be happy.” For a large chunk of college I was told I couldn’t go to parties, I couldn’t see my friends, and I couldn’t look nice. If I tried to dress nicely for class I got the response, “Who are you trying to look good for?”

It took some good friends giving me an outside perspective to help me realize I had Stockholm Syndrome. I was afraid to leave a toxic relationship. I was trapped. I was scared. I finally talked myself out of it once my friends told me they missed seeing me. Was it worth being cut off from my social life for someone who didn’t care about me? It wasn’t and I walked away and I grew into a stronger person. Don’t ever be afraid to leave a toxic relationship. You deserve the love you give to others.

On jobs that don’t make you happy anymore…

Nothing feels worse than feeling unappreciated. I truly love coaching rowing and it has been one of my favorite jobs I’ve had. In grad school I was working for a school that made coaching feel like a chore. I wasn’t happy with the staff or how the staff treated the rowers. I felt like my opinion was never taken into consideration, which confused me because the prior season my rowers got second in the state.

I came in excited for the new rowing season and my excitement quickly died. The coaching environment was not conducive to a successful rowing program. I thought about quitting during the winter training season before we started to row outside so it would be easier to transition a new coach, but I was too scared to leave. I made sure my rowers were ready to get on the water and quietly mentioned to the parent board that I was leaving. Thankfully I had friends at another high school that said they needed a rowing coach and I left at a time that didn’t hurt my other high school. I felt guilty when I left my old school but my new school made me so happy. The coaching staff was phenomenal, the rowers were hardworking and friendly, and the parents were the most supportive. It was really hard leaving this school when I graduated from grad school and moved for my job. Looking back at it, leaving was worth it. The other school didn’t suffer because they had extra coaches on hand and my guilt quickly went away. Nothing made me happier than coaching and being back in a positive setting boosted my spirits.

On being a pushover…

Are you afraid to say no? Stop being afraid and say no! I promise nobody’s feelings will get hurt. Stop letting other people’s opinions dictate how you feel. This is another rowing story…

I was the coxswain on the rowing team. Coxswains play a vital role in the boat because they are the only person who is facing forward as rowers sit backwards. I rowed my first semester of college until the spring when I was converted to a coxswain…being 5’3” doesn’t make you the best collegiate rower out there…The coxswain has a headset so the rowers can hear them call out commands in the boat. As a note, the rowers do nothing without the coxswain’s permission.

My first day I was so nervous and I didn’t say a word…my coach had to tell the rowers what to do. For a little while I was taken advantage of because I never spoke up and I let the rowers take over the boat, which is a big NO in the rowing world. One day I snapped because the rowers took the boat out of the boathouse without me saying they could. I yelled out, “Put the boat back. Did I tell you to take out the boat?” My coach’s eyes widened and he said, “You heard that. Put the boat back.”

It was probably 5am and I felt like I already drank three cups of coffee from the adrenaline rush. I actually stood up for myself and I felt good about it. I realized that in order to be a good coxswain, you had to be firm and not be afraid to tell people what to do. The rowers can hear changes in your voice through the speakers so I knew I had to be confident. I could not let my nerves get to me or they could hear it in my voice. I had to be loud and clear…and of course…not be a pushover.



Becoming a Minimalist

I was standing an airport in Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania when I was waiting for my luggage to come out onto the conveyor belt. Half awake and jet lagged I stared at all the luggage pass by me without seeing my bright blue bag. I jokingly told my brother, “My bag is probably still in Ethiopia.” When the conveyor belt stopped, I slowly went into a panic mode. How was I going to survive without my clothes and shoes, my special shampoo for my dyed hair, and my makeup bag? For the record, I survived. My bag was put on the next flight from Ethiopia to Tanzania and it was dropped off at our hotel the following night.

The day I woke up and realized that I had no luggage, I let myself panic for a good five minutes and then told my parents that we needed to go find a mall to buy clothes for a few days. Without all my extra belongings, I realized I didn’t really need all that extra stuff to enjoy my vacation. It made me reflect on how much I didn’t need to be happy.

In grad school, I had no furniture or kitchen utensils of my own and all my belongings fit into a 10×10 bedroom. I borrowed a lot from my roommates and didn’t need to buy anything extra. When I moved to Richmond, my parents helped furnish my apartment and then I started to accumulate so…much…stuff… The following summer I moved out of my apartment in Richmond, put my belongings in storage, and spent the summer in Georgia. All I brought to Georgia were two luggage bags. It was freeing having nothing with me. I didn’t feel overwhelmed packing and I could actually see out of the back window of my SUV.

My excessiveness hit me again when it was time to move to New York. The moving company came to pack and pick up my belongings and asked me to sign the inventory sheet. The mover said, “Ma’am, you have forty two boxes. Please sign below to acknowledge that.” FORTY TWO BOXES?! These weren’t small boxes either. I was a little appalled at myself for having that much stuff in a one-bedroom apartment. Did I really need all of this stuff in my apartment? Thankfully the movers unpacked my belongings and put them in place. Once everything was put away, I made three piles of things.




The “need” pile was composed of things I needed: furniture, basic household goods for my living room, bathroom, and kitchen, clothes, shoes, personal belongings with value.

The “think about it” pile was composed of clothing and shoes I haven’t worn in months…pretty much things I forgot about. If I didn’t take anything out of this pile, I would donate it.

Lastly, the “donate” pile was for belongings I was ready to part with. I somehow ended up with two of everything from my old apartment even though I lived there alone. I also donated all my cheap IKEA kitchenware, which I replaced with Williams Sonoma (quality over quantity!) I gathered numerous trash bags of things and dropped them off to the local Goodwill. I felt so relived knowing I got rid of so much stuff.

After emptying about 30% of my apartment, I felt relaxed. There was less clutter, the countertops were always cleaned, my closets were not packed, and everything had a place without overflowing.

I finally tested my minimalism after taking a four-day trip to NYC with friends. I packed everything into a carry on luggage because I knew I had to get on the train, arrive at Grand Central, take the subway, and get to the hotel carrying all of my stuff by myself. I had four days worth of clothes, shoes, two jackets, and even had space for a bottle of Grey Goose (NYC alcohol is overpriced!)

Have you tried to be a minimalist?

Don’t be afraid to let go!