Everyday Style: Essential Self Love Edition

It’s been a rough week.  I don’t really want to get into the down-and-dirty details, but suffice to say I need a little extra kindness this week.  At times like these (and I have a lot of times like these, in between those wonderful times where I can conquer anything and everything) I always slow down, prioritize taking care of myself.  I get my work responsibilities taken care of, and then I relax.  I read a book.  I cook food I love.  I watch movies.  Sometimes I set a date that I will snap out of it by—this time November 1st.  Sometimes it works.

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Here are some of the ways I’ve been extra kind to myself today:
I bought a tray for the French press and coffee mugs to sit on, so that our glass table would stop getting coffee-stained.  I dressed in an outfit that was both very cute and extremely comfortable.  Afterwards, I took it off and put on a favorite sweater.  I made myself lemon tea, which I’m sipping right now.  I read the rest of a book I’d gotten too busy to finish.  I did yoga.  I went for a long walk with my husband.  After I woke up this morning, I lay in bed for another half hour, cuddling and allowing myself to ease into the day.  I listened to the latest episode of the Mustard on Movies podcast while I cooked dinner.

I don’t always have time to be so gentle with myself.  Next month I’ll have precious few days to devote to myself, as my students turn in assignments and I try to finish my novel while grading them.  When I have the opportunity, and when I feel the need, it’s important to allow myself these little luxuries.

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I’m a big proponent of the power of positive self-talk, too—which frankly hasn’t gotten enough play with me this week.  So here are some of the nice things I have to say about myself right now:

I’m comfortable in my body, even confident in it sometimes.  (A big and ever-evolving feat.)  I’m getting pretty damn good at cooking, even with no recipe, even with no plan.  I’ve been doing really well in Chinese class these past few weeks, impressing my teacher with my reading, writing, and pronunciation.  I taught a very good lesson in Academic Writing this week—both of the teachers I’m cooperating with praised it, and the students improved quite noticeably from the beginning to the end of the class.  I looked hella cute today.

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I’m the type of person who will work myself to the bone, drive myself insane just to get the results I want.  I have to be careful not to burn out.  I know from experience the importance of taking a step back, being kind and compassionate with yourself, because I’ve been harsh and strict with myself for much, much longer.

It’s all about balance, really.  I’m always learning and re-learning these things.  I’m not naturally a very balanced person—but I believe you can be most things if you cultivate them.  So be kind to yourself, but also be strict with yourself.  Be compassionate, but don’t give yourself excuses.  Be loving with yourself, but be honest about the ways you need to improve.  Be forgiving of yourself, but hold yourself to high standards.  Be the best you can be, and do it with love.

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The Look:
Denim dress – thrifted (G.A.S. Co.), white shirt – thrifted (Decree), black faces shirt – thrifted (The Big Shirt), green thigh-high socks – Sock Dreams, booties – Target

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A Reflection on 23, A Vision for 24

I hate the phrase “another year has come and gone.”  At some level I get it: time is the ultimate perpetual motion machine, it’s a turning wheel, it comes and then it is gone.  But I hate to seem so passive in the (no pun intended) passage of time.

Nevertheless, here we are.  It’s October 9th again.  Another year has come and (sigh) gone.  I was 23, and now I’m 24.

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This past year, my 23rd year, was absolutely the best and hardest year of my life.  I’ve been saying that every year for a while now—for the past five years, life has only gotten better and harder.  I tend to think those things go together, and I suppose that means I’m doing something right.

I used to be terrified about the passing of time.  It was my largest source of anxiety, causing regular panic attacks around birthdays and new years.  But as I gained more control over my life (and my time-management habits), the fear faded.  The passing of time excites me now, because I have something to show for it.

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A brief overview of why 23 was great:
-I had just gotten married!
-I was living in China and had the opportunity to travel
-I was working a fairly fulfilling job with good pay and great hours
-I went vegan
-I learned how to take care of myself, from learning to cook to learning to exercise and the true meaning of self-care
-I went camping in California for several weeks
-I spent nearly a month enjoying the mountains and legal weed in Colorado

And a brief overview of why 23 was hard as hell:
-I was living in China with virtually no knowledge of the language
-I quit Adderall for good, which is great now that I’m on the other side of it but caused the hardest and most depressing months of my life (they really don’t tell you what you’re getting into when they prescribe that drug!)
-I had to learn to take care of myself, from learning to cook to learning to exercise and the true meaning of self-care
-I had a gnarly case of writer’s block that lasted from college graduation in May 2015 (when I was 22) all the way till July 2016

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I entered 23 overwhelmed, a little scared, and pretty incompetent.  I leave 23 amazed at how far I’ve come, more than just competent in every area of my life that matters, still overwhelmed, but loving it now.  The big steps I’ve taken have allowed me to make even bigger plans for the future.  And I’m motivated as hell.

My 24th birthday couldn’t have come at a better time.  I have a five-year plan, and I know exactly what I need to do to get through it.  I realized earlier this week that the learning-how-to-human phase of my life is over, and I’m entering a new phase: the go-getter phase.  And I’m so ready for it.  I’m so ready for 24.

Clarity on Chunxi Road – Style for Savers

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It’s the National Day holiday in China, so I have the week off work.  Originally I was planning to take this opportunity to dip down to India for a week (check one off my travel bucket list, aka the world map!), but a few weeks ago Nathan and I decided to stay in Chengdu.  For one thing, we have a lot going on here right now.  He’s working on early decision grad school applications, and I’ve got about a thousand balls in the air right now between teaching at the university, teaching teens, teaching kids, writing a novel, writing a textbook, writing this blog, planning my future…. But to be totally honest, we partially made the decision to stay because we were so damn tired of travelling.

Yeah, it happens!  This summer we spent two months in America, and even though a couple of weeks of that time was spent at our respective parents’ homes, the whole thing felt like travel.  When we were camping in California for several weeks, that was definitely travel.  When we stayed in Colorado for almost a month, that was definitely travel. But this was also the first time we’ve been to our parents’ houses and had it distinctly not feel like home.  (Makes sense, since we’ve been married and living 7,000 miles away for a year.)  Then, when we finally did come back to China, we spent several weeks travelling around and hosting Nathan’s parents.  Travelling is amazing, but it also gets fucking exhausting.  I mean, at a deep level, in your soul.

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In any case, I’m four days into our staycation now and I have to say we definitely made the right choice.  It’s been a blast, and I’ve hit exactly the right balance between relaxed and productive—Saturday I spent hunched over my computer in my underwear all day, working, but Sunday I spent people-watching and strutting my stuff in one of the major shopping districts in the city!  See?  Life is all about balance.

Going to Chunxi Road (and the surrounding area) is a lot of fun because it’s always completely packed, and everyone is dressed in their best.  People-watching is lowkey one of my favorite hobbies.  It’s fun anywhere, any time, but it’s even more fun when you get to see people present their idea of their best selves.  You can really tell a lot about a person by what they wear to impress others.

I wonder what you can tell about me.

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The real reason yesterday was so much fun, though, is that I’m feeling really psychologically rejuvenated!  This staycation gave me the time and space to figure some things out.  You could say I’ve had an epiphany—or two!  There’s no feeling like realizing that one phase of your life is over, and that you’re ready to move into the next.  And there’s definitely no feeling like realizing that, for once, you have a really good idea of what that next phase is.  It feels good!

And one thing I’ve learned in my life so far:

Feel good, look good.

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The Look (under $40 total):
Red crop top – Forever 21, white lace top – a discount clothes market near Chunxi Road (no tag), black pencil skirt – Goodwill (Body Central), black top tied over skirt – St. Vincent’s Dig and Save (The Big Shirt), shoes – Target, purse – a hole-in-the-wall shop in Chengdu, sunglasses – Goldmine Vintage in Boulder, CO