Tidying Up Loose Threads

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With the knowledge that I’ll be moving out at the end of the summer, I started to evaluate what I have lying around half finished. I’m very good at starting a project and either finishing in a day, or waiting a year.

The first place to start was with books. I tend to read most of my books through my library’s e-book lending service. It works wonderfully and I usually have all of my holds on a rotation, reading on my Kindle or my phone. But as I’ve increased my e-book consumption, my consumption of the books I physically own fell. I’ve been very good about not buying more physical books until I can finish those I have, but there’s still twenty or so books that I haven’t read or have accumulated through holidays or sharing with my father. Because I’m planning to move, I only want to take books with me that I haven’t had a chance to read yet. But in order to preserve my back, I want that number of physical books I haven’t read to be on the smaller side. (Bonus – once I get the books I’ve already read down to a smaller number, I can finally justify buying more books!) I’ve recently read my physical copies of Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng, We Were Liars by E. Lockhart, and I’m part of the way into Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller.

The second place to go is to the TV – well, let’s be honest, it’s more like all my streaming platforms. Last year, I made a list of all the finished shows I’m halfway through. Again, I’m very good at finishing the first few seasons, but I get distracted and don’t always make it to the end. Because I need as few distractions as possible, I’m trying to make it through the shows available on streaming platforms I don’t use as frequently. I’ve managed to make it to the end of Teen Wolf, The Mentalist, and I’m on the last season of Criminal Minds. If I can knock off one or two before I head to law school, I’ll be happy to cancel my subscriptions for a few months and bring one or two back for the winter break.

The last loose thread includes genuine loose threads. I’ve taken up quilting over the last year and have started quite a few different projects. At the moment, I’m not planning to take any fabric or a sewing machine with me, so I need to wrap up as many of the half-started projects I’ve got as I can. I’ve got a finished top that I’m avoiding finishing because quilting it is daunting and I’ve got a top that I’m not sure how I want to proceed. Both of these quilts are unfinished out of anxiety about the next steps, but I’ve got about a month to get over that and get them done.

In addition to these half finished hobbies, I made myself a little bit of a summer to-do list. I know that I’ll be spending the next few years studying and working almost year round and I wanted to enjoy my last “free” summer while I could. The list includes a trip to the beach and the consumption of good watermelon, as well as meeting up with friends before I leave town. But like every year, the end of summer is fast approaching and my list is still long.

Those Who Can’t Travel, Quilt

quilting, Travel, Uncategorized

I find that my stress about being imperfect is lessened when I remind myself that the fabric I’m using is already scraps from a previous project. I finished a blue and yellow quilt almost a year ago, zoomed through a rainbow quilt made from scraps and made three other quilt tops, including a boat on a blue ocean. But my productivity hit a bit of a standstill. Partially life got in the way and partially I didn’t know how I wanted to quilt the most recent quilt tops, so I took a pause.

Recently a friend of my mother’s has been downsizing her fabric stash, sharing fabrics and scraps with us to put to use. One of the side effects of becoming a quilter is accumulating a whole lot of fabric, some wanted, some not so much. As our house is currently overstuffed with fabric, I’ve used scraps from the friend and my mother’s various projects to make my quilts in the past. (I was actually encouraged to start quilting after years of inaction by my mother’s concerns about having too many scraps.)

However, a recent delivery from the friend included a panel of quilt blocks that were travel themed. As I can’t travel right now, I decided that instead of tucking the panel away with a plan for later, I would tackle my idea and make a quilt top. And a week later, my mother kindly put the binding on and it is ready to be donated.

The fabric panel included fifteen little motifs representing cities around the world, framed in colorful borders. I chopped up each city into a block and made borders out of solid fabrics, drawing from the colors used in the illustrations. So often, I find myself sticking to a simple color palette or trying to make fabrics match perfectly, and it was a little fun this time to use such bright colors and allow them to be bold and clash a little.

Fifteen wasn’t an ideal number of blocks for the quilt size I wanted to make, so I began a (fruitless) search for a simple block pattern for an airplane or passport. When that came up unsuccessful, I found a suitcase quilt online that I thought could do the trick. Using “Dear Friends Suitcase Quilt Pattern“, my mother and I mathed out the right size for a little suitcase to give me sixteen blocks.

Once the suitcase was made (remind me later that I hate paper piecing and small pieces of fabric), the borders were in place, and the order of the blocks was decided, I got the top finished. I forgot how quick a quilt can come together when it isn’t made up of thousands of tiny scraps.

Hoping to avoid the fate of the other quilt tops waiting to be quilted, we quickly put the travel quilt on the longarm machine, used a pantograph called “Bora Bora” and let the machine do its thing. My mother kindly put the binding on the quilt and voilà!

This lovely little quilt (with fabric from Susan and many hours of assistance from Ginny) will be headed to Project Linus. Hopefully the recipient will live vicariously through the quilt just like I was inspired to!

I counted out that I’ve visited 9 out of the 15 cities in this quilt. How many have you been able to travel to?

The quilt features panels for London, Sydney, Amsterdam, Rio de Janeiro, Barcelona, Montreal, Reykjavik, Mexico City, New York, Moscow, Tokyo, Cairo, Rome, Nairobi, and Paris.

A Bit of a Catch Up

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It’s been a while. I haven’t been able to do much traveling and I have struggled with finishing the things I’ve started, but in honor of a new year coming around, I figured I’d do a bit of a catch up to remind myself what’s been going on.

So, number one: since we last talked, I moved. I decided with work from home being in my future for at least the next few months, being in a tiny cramped (expensive) apartment wasn’t something I wanted to continue to do. Fortunately, my parents live close by and were kind enough to let me move back into my old room. Rather than one big moving day, we spread it out over a few weeks. I don’t know whether this erased the stress of one big day of moving or spread it out over multiple months, but yesterday, I finally tucked everything away and can confidently call myself moved in.

Number two: I’ve been reading. A lot. I keep my Goodreads up to date if you’re interested, but since reading 28 books in 28 days in February, I’ve finished 12 more books. I’ve been very into romance books recently, which are fun and easy to read when I’m feeling kinda stressed. I also spent some of the time in my move reorganizing my bookshelf, which was surprisingly fun. I was reminded of childhood favorites and school reads that I despised – always gotta have balance.

Number three: we’ve been watching lots. My parents and I have a bit of a schedule going with the TV: during the week, there’s pretty minimal watching until 9 p.m. when Rachel Maddow comes on. She’s been a regular on the TV for a few years and the habit remains. Sometimes it’s a great show, other times not so much… But the weekends are when it gets interesting. We’ve been working our way through the new Disney Plus shows, including The Mandalorian, WandaVision, and our current show The Falcon and the Winter Soldier. We’ve also watched a few of the 2021 Oscar nominees and some film adaptations of Fredrik Backman books. (I also convinced my mother to watch Bridgerton with me, which we watch when my dad goes to bed early). We often spend a good half hour after each show or movie explaining to each other what happened and discussing the plots or guessing the next episode.

Number four: I’ve been making quilts. Last year, I started getting into making scrap quilts and have finished two quilts completely, have three quilt tops to be quilted and am currently working on my sixth quilt which will look like a bookcase. I like making quilts as a relaxing hobby and enjoy going away for a day or two before returning with fresh eyes and more energy. Despite trading off the sewing machine with my mom, it’s been nice to make things with little to no pressure and no timeline to rush me. As with most crafting hobbies, I have more ideas than time to complete any of them, so I’ve already got ideas lined up for three or four more quilts once I complete the ones I’m working on.

Lastly, I got older! I turned 26 on the 14th and two days later found my first gray hair. A few years ago, a friend asked me what my goals were for the next year – I promptly forgot them and had to come up with new ones later, but I like to continue that tradition and set some intentions for the year. This year, my goals include going to law school (and the inevitable move that will come with that), visiting old friends and making new friends, continuing to create, stay healthy, save up some money, and, finally, prioritize joy.

So, that’s what you’ve missed. Hopefully, I’ll get a chance to do some traveling or adventuring of some kind soon and then I can write about those. Or maybe I’ll just start recording the conversations I have with my mother about the different kinds of birds that visit our kitchen bird feeder – the suburbs can change you…

Nomadland

Travel, Uncategorized

Sometimes you watch a film or read a book and every scene makes you want to hop off your couch, get in the car, and go. Watching Chloe Zhao’s film Nomadland was that kind of experience. The film follows a woman learning the ins and outs of being a nomad in the American West. With stunning visuals and superb acting from Frances McDormand and David Strathairn, the film is a wonderful exploration of solo van travel and the emotions that drive people to want to see the world this way.

Nomadland shows the beauty of the American landscape right next to the reality of living in a van. It’s the juxtaposition of the beauty and the mud that makes this film so appealing. Sometimes with the multitude of travel choices, it is hard to remember that the United States has just as much variety in its travel options as international travel might provide. You can be on the windy coast of Oregon and then the desert landscape of the Southwest and then the Redwood forests of California. With international travel grounded for the moment, the lingering landscape shots used throughout the film serve as a reminder of just how much America has to offer to those looking to find themselves in nature.

But the reality of living and traveling in a van isn’t always gorgeous landscapes – the film features the main character sleeping in Walmart parking lots and at gas stations; it features the need to downsize your belongings to just the essentials; it features the moment when your van is dying (as a vehicle will do at some point) and the realization that it isn’t just your transportation in trouble, but your home as well.

What I loved about the film in particular is the way it showcased the solitude of solo travel. Some days you’re surrounded by friends and noise and chaos, and the next day you’re alone. You are the driver, the navigator, the entertainment. Some people thrive on the solitude and others don’t, but you never really know until you test it out for yourself.

Watching this film reminded me of all the travel I want to do in my lifetime and how much I enjoy the freedom of minimal possessions and maximum portability. It served to scratch the itch of wanting to get moving, while also inspiring me to look a little closer to home for my next adventure.

Overall, Nomadland is a wonderful watch and I highly recommend it.

28 in 28 Days

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Sometime between February 1st, 2021 and February 28th, 2021, I read 28 books. I didn’t start the month with the intention of falling into an accidental reading challenge. What really happened was I picked up a book and read, and then I picked up another and read some more. By the time I realized just how much I had read I was halfway through the month and had finished a book each day. By that point, I figured I might as well see if I could do it – finish a book a day for the entire month. And I did.

Throughout the month of February, I read about 7468 pages in 28 books ranging in length from 21 pages to 451. (Please note that some of the books I read are short stories or essays, but are deemed as individual books by Goodreads and that is good enough for me.) The oldest book read was from 1916 and a few books were read as Advanced Reader Copies through NetGalley and will be (or already were) published in 2021. According to Goodreads, the most frequently read book on my February reading list was The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho and the least frequently read by Goodreads users was a Magic Treehouse book called Late Lunch with Llamas. The highest rated book I read was Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates and the lowest rated book (though still relatively highly rated) was The Mysterious Disappearance of Aidan S., which was only published at the beginning of the month. My favorite book of the month was Moxie by Jennifer Mathieu, (but there’s more about that coming soon). Of the 28 books read in February, 15 were audiobooks, 1 was read physically, 3 were Advanced Reader Copies read through NetGalley, 12 books were read as e-books, and 22 were read as loans from my library.

Going in to the month of March, I have no plans to read anywhere that near that many books, but I have to say I enjoyed finally getting through some of the books that always sounded interesting, but that I never really bothered to pick up and read. I consider myself a mood reader – I read based on what sounds good and when it sounds good, rather than based on deadlines and expectations. Sometimes all I want to do is read all day long and others times I’d rather not. So I follow those instincts and this month, it just so happened that I wanted to read a lot. I’m proud of myself for reading as much as I have this year and last. There have been years where, with the exception of a textbook, I haven’t read anything at all. But recently I’ve enjoyed picking up a old favorite pastime.

The one problem I’ve run into is that I had set my reading goal for 2021 at 24 books and have now completely surpassed that goal in the first two months of the year. I’ll have to come up with an even bigger challenge to get me to December!

What are you reading?

Start Somewhere

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As part of my challenge to myself to face my own fear of failure, I’ve encouraged myself to try new things. I emphasize crafts in this pursuit because if I’m bad at it, there’s not a whole lot of fallout. There’s definitely a belief amongst people my age and my generation that hobbies can and should be money making. Time spent on hobbies shouldn’t feel wasted. So many people I know start a hobby and then feel the need to make a YouTube channel about it or open a shop. While that extra cash is nice, it puts pressure on what should be a relaxing side project. Rather than coming home and reading for fun or making a sweater for their cat, there’s a pressure to make profitable projects or create content surrounding that effort. Sometimes I find myself feeling guilty that I haven’t posted twice a week or I missed a month’s worth of posts, but at the end of the day, I’d hope that my hobbies (including this blog) are more about flexing that creative (or physical) muscle rather than about getting attention and/or making money.

So I’m telling myself that not only can I try new things without the fear of failure, but I can be bad at them and not have to give up or expect more from myself.

Example #1: Quilting. Over the last year, I started making scrap quilts using my mother’s massive pile of scrap fabric. There’s a few things I like about scrap quilting. One, it’s using scraps and crumbs from other projects – if I mess up, it isn’t a big deal because the fabric is already scrap pieces. Second, I can practice skills I first learned almost two decades ago without fear. Third, because I’m borrowing my mom’s fabric and thread and machine, I only really get to quilt on the weekends; this means that I rest during the week and can spend my weekends enjoying my new hobby or I can skip a weekend without feeling guilt about wasted opportunity. Could I finish a quilt in a weekend? Probably. Do I have to? No.

For me, quilting is nice because I can use it as an opportunity to chat with my mom about our weeks or our favorite fabrics. Each scrap came from a finished quilt and we enjoy rediscovering certain bits and reflecting on what quilt they came from and whether they were donated or not. Starting a skill is a lot less daunting if you have a friend with the skills (or the same interest to learn the skills). Hobbies don’t have to always be solitary activities.

Example #2: Watercolor. When I was in college, one of my jobs was working the front desk of the residence hall I lived in. Because the desk was open all weekend, I often found myself awake at weird times. 4 a.m. wasn’t the best time to follow along with a convoluted tv show or to try and write that paper. Instead, I found a cheap set of watercolor paints at CVS and a thing of watercolor paper. During my shifts, I would listen to music and watercolor. I hadn’t taken a painting class since middle school and I can tell you honestly that despite my best efforts, I’m pretty bad at it. I don’t have the patience or the technique or really interest in trying to be better. I found the flow of a paintbrush on paper to be calming. Rather than stress about getting better, I accepted that I am bad at it, but I enjoy it regardless of that fact. I enjoy the fact that I’m a beginner and I may never get past that point – it doesn’t make the relaxation effect any less useful.

Because I’ve accepted my beginner status, I haven’t spent much money on this particular hobby. I’ve acknowledged that no amount of fancy watercolors or nice brushes is going to change what I enjoy about watercoloring and they definitely aren’t going to suddenly make me into Monet. Instead, I’ve avoided that dreaded mistake of over-shopping on supplies for a hobby. I’d rather save my money than overspend on something I might not participate in all that often.

Example #3: Cross stitch. During my Master’s program, I had a bit of free time and went down the Instagram rabbit hole of quirky embroidery and cross stitch patterns. It looked fun and relatively simple. So I hopped on Etsy and found a beginner’s kit for a cross stitch pattern. The kit came with just the essentials and a little video explaining how to cross stitch. It seemed simple enough and I got a cute little cross stitch out of it. When I came back home, I mentioned it to my mother, who of course went through a cross stitch phase and had all the supplies tucked away in the basement. So I made more, trying harder patterns as I grew more confident. I had to remind myself to start with the easy patterns and stitch types. I knew I was just a beginner and I knew I needed to start small and grow.

For all of these hobbies, I had to start at the beginning and remind myself that I was not an expert and may never be one. There’s something nice about focusing less on whether I can one day make a living off my hobby and focusing more on the intentionality of stretching my creative muscles and doing something that relaxes me and brings me joy.

Music Festivals as a Solo Act

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One of my favorite decisions from my early 20s was uncharacteristically spontaneous. After graduating from college, I decided to go to a music festival that summer with the idea that I would live a little before heading to grad school. I had never been to an overnight music festival, nor did I know anyone who planned to be there, but I went for it and had a fantastic time. Before you follow in my footsteps and plan a solo trip to a festival, here’s the things I learned from my solo journey to Manchester, TN for Bonnaroo in 2017 and 2019.

Pick your festival wisely. One of the reasons I felt comfortable going to Bonnaroo solo is the festival’s reputation for “good vibes”. And I learned very quickly that the folks who enjoy Bonnaroo genuinely are the nicest people. Multiple times throughout my adventures on the Farm, people would come up and check in on me, whether I had ever seen them before or not. Spontaneous deep conversations were common and of course everyone on the Farm loves a high five. Before you venture down to any festival by yourself, check the reviews online or with friends; not every festival has the same reputation.

Volunteer. For both my trips to Bonnaroo, I volunteered through their C’roo program – I was given free entrance to the festival, free showers, free meals for shifts worked and all of my shifts were over before the festival even really began. 10 out of 10 would recommend it. Plus, I befriended my neighboring volunteers who became friends that I still talk to regularly. If you’re on your own, the structure of the volunteer program can help you meet people (especially if you’re a little more introverted like I am).

Make your schedule. Most festivals post their schedules in advance for you to peruse, others might post online the day of or give you a printed schedule the day of. Whatever the festival’s system, pick your “most see”s and make sure you know where you want to be and when. Once you know those, be flexible with the rest. One of the great things about festivals, instead of a classic concert, is the opportunity to stumble upon a great new band you never would have heard of. If you only see the bands you came for, you might miss out on the next big thing. But if you find yourself floating from stage to stage based on what your neighbor’s cousin’s best friend recommended, you might be disappointed in your experience. Find your balance.

Use social media to your advantage. Now, once you get where you’re going, you may not have great service. Which is totally fine – you’re at the festival for the experience, not for free time to play solitaire. But I’d highly recommend posting on social media that you’re planning to go. Share the line-up or post a picture of your packed car. Maybe someone you know will see it and be there. Or maybe you’ve just inspired someone else to go too. Once you’re there, meet up! Even if it’s just for a show or two, it’ll give you a chance to hang with someone new. I ran into a former resident from my R.A. days in the bathroom line at Bonnaroo, met up with a friend I met in Australia, and spent most of my second festival with a friend I met volunteering the first time around.

Lastly, don’t forget to check in! Tell your roommate or your mom or just someone you trust where you’ll be. Check in before you leave, when you arrive, during the festival, and when you’re headed home. Even though it’s not as crazy as flying around the world alone, it is still a good idea to keep someone informed, just in case.

Sometimes You Fail

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For a very long time, I avoiding trying anything new. Starting a new job or a new project was weighed down not by excitement, but about all the “what-ifs”. What if I’m bad at [blank]? What if I embarrass myself? What if this is a mistake I can’t come back from? I try really hard not to linger on the what-ifs of life, but they’re there.

I know my strengths and my struggles and I’ve found in my “adult”hood that I lean into my strengths and work around my struggles rather than working the skills I’m lacking. For instance, I would much prefer to write a blog and reignite my writing skills (strength) than I would create a YouTube channel which would require one of my struggles (human interaction/speaking confidently/extroversion). I take up new hobbies that I’m already somewhat prepared for (quilting, writing, reading, cross-stitch), instead of trying to strengthen a skill I don’t already have (athleticism for example).

Don’t get me wrong, I still fail in the things I think I’ll be good at. For instance, a few years ago, I wrote a blog post about taking part in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), but I never followed through. Life got in the way. Or I wrote a blogpost recently about making my first quilts. I’ve got the basics down, but you can ask my mom about how useful a seam ripper can be (particularly with pesky triangles). Even within my safety net of strong skills, I can fail.

And it’s scary. Failure sucks. Rejection sucks. (Sometimes being an adult sucks.) But it’s part of life.

Because the last twelve months have been such a mess, I was reluctant to make New Year’s goals this year. Especially if I decided to share those goals online or with friends and then ultimately failed. So I’m not making goals this year.

I’m taking my own advice. When I wrote about NaNoWriMo, I talked about being creative for the fun of it, for the flexing of that side of the brain, instead of for perfection’s sake. So I want to make things this year – both physical, like quilts, and written, like this blog – because it is fun, not because I want perfection. I’m leaning into my what-ifs and saying “Yes, I will fail”. That finished quilt may suck, but at least it’s done. That blogpost may be the worst thing I’ve ever written, but at least it isn’t a blank page. I’m going to try that silly YouTube dance workout, not because I’m ever going to be a Superbowl halftime show performer, but because I like the song. And if one of my neighbors sees me dancing through the window, maybe I’ve provided a spark of entertainment in their day.

Will I fail at this non-resolution resolution? Maybe. But for now, it’s a challenge. And the competitive side of me loves a challenge.

Books of 2020

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In 2019, I read 12 books. My 2020 goal was 24 books. I’m ending the year with 72 books read, according to my Goodreads. That’s accidentally three times my goal and six times what I read last year. Oops?

One of my favorite parts of using Goodreads to track my reading is the stats that come with it. This year according to my Goodreads, I’ve read 18,443 pages over 72 books. (I’d be willing to argue that the page count is probably higher because Goodreads isn’t the best at measuring pages in audiobooks or e-books which made up a decent portion of the books I read this year. But because some of what I read is debatably not really a “book”, I’m not gonna fight it. Plus I don’t wanna do the math myself.) The books span publishing dates from the 1930s to the 1960s to 2020. Of the books that I read, 12 were audiobooks, 11 were physical books, and 27 were e-books read through my library. (The rest were read through another source like Kindle or as Advanced Reader Copies [ARCs]). My average rating in 2020 was a 3.2 out of 5 stars. I gave 4 books a 5 star rating , 21 were rated 4 stars, 32 were rated 3 stars, and the rest were given 1 or 2 stars. I also allowed myself to stop reading a book if it wasn’t my cup of tea with no pressure; in fact, some of the books that I eventually ended up giving 4 or 5 stars to were books that I had put aside at some point and picked back up at a better time. Because there’s more than last year, I won’t list them out, but I wanted to reflect beyond just my statistics.

At the end of last year, I wanted to read from a more diverse set of authors. I think (mostly as a ramification of reading more and reading fewer series than last year) I managed to fulfill that goal. It’s always at the back of my mind that I want to read a variety of stories from a variety of storytellers. I read authors from the US, the UK, Brazil, Canada, France, Algeria, Nigeria, and Sweden; I read from Black authors (both academic and fiction writers), I read from Asian-American authors, from queer authors, and plenty of female authors. There’s always room for more diversity.

In 2020, I reread some old favorites including And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie and The Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness (both of whom are on my list of authors I want to read more from in the new year). I’ll also count The Martian by Andy Weir and A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness as bests of the year (one made me laugh and one made me sob).

I enjoyed a good number of audiobooks this year. My favorites were The Test by Sylvain Neuvel, Upright Women Wanted by Sarah Bailey, and An Elderly Lady is Up to No Good by Helene Tursten. I read a few books on recommendations from family and/or friends this year which included Normal People by Sally Rooney, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon, and Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier. Many more of the books were picked up because a YouTuber mentioned them or because Goodreads suggested them. I tried really hard (and mostly failed) to read a lot of the unread books that I’ve bought over the years. That goal will be continuing into the new year.

Speaking of goals for 2021: I’ve set my Goodreads challenge for 24 books again. I figure I have no idea what this year might bring and I’d rather have an achievable goal to beat than feel defeated in December. I’d like to continue reading diversely, both in terms of author and subjects and in terms of how I read. And lastly, I want to knock some of the books off my physical shelf – books accumulated over Christmases and shopping trips to bookstores and birthdays and stealing from my parents’ bookshelves. But who knows what 2021 will bring?

Namaste – Things I’ve Learned From Yoga

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My first semester of college I got really into attending workout classes at my university’s gym. One of the classes that I rarely missed was 11 a.m. Saturday yoga. I had done yoga before, but this class was the first time I regularly practiced and I really found myself enjoying it. Unfortunately, as winter hit and school work piled up, yoga was less of a priority and I lost my motivation.

Since moving back to the D.C. area, I picked up yoga again, attending a class each Wednesday with my mom. Quarantine shifted that class online and instead of one class each week, I’ve started to attend Zoom yoga twice a week. I can tell on Tuesday evenings when it is time for yoga and honestly struggle to keep track of what day it is without these classes. But I’ve also learned a lot through my yoga classes.

The hardest lesson to learn is that everyone starts at a different place. Maybe you’re like me and you watch Instagram yogis doing handstands and complicated twists and you think I can’t do that. And you’re missing that many of those “yogis” are former gymnasts or have been doing yoga for ten years or maybe they’re just genetically gifted. Whatever it may be, I’ve found that the more comfortable I become in my approach to yoga, the less I care about their cool handstands in matching workout sets, and the more I focus on the feeling I get when I finally hold Crow Pose for more than a second. (What’s that inspirational quote about not judging your day one to someone else’s day one hundred?)

In addition to remembering that we all start at difference places, I’ve had to learn that sometimes you just can’t and that’s okay. Though my mother and I share a lot of genes and have generally similar approaches to exercise and yoga, there are moves she can do with ease that I can’t even begin to do and some moves that she can’t do that I can do no problem (despite her longer history with yoga and pilates classes). I’m not one to admit defeat and I generally hate saying that I can’t do something, but sometimes its necessary – both in life and yoga – to acknowledge your limitations. Everyone’s body is different and I can tell you right now that my hips will never allow me to do certain movements without collapsing on the floor in pain.

I guess that’s another thing – it’s okay to push through discomfort, but you shouldn’t be pushing through true pain. If it hurts, something isn’t wrong. I hate Downward Dog because the traditional move kills my wrists. So I modify. And that’s okay. I’d rather modify a move to fit my body than seriously injure myself just to prove a point. This point is pretty applicable to real life as well – sometimes you can push through and sometimes you need to modify.

One of the things I love about my yoga teacher is that she emphasizes that everyday is different. Yesterday is not today and today is not tomorrow. What you could do with ease yesterday may be the most challenging move you do tomorrow. Or maybe you couldn’t touch your toes yesterday, but today, your palm is on the ground. Sometimes you sleep wrong or you get frustrated or you hydrate a little more than usual and all of a sudden your body changes. No two days are the same.

Another of my favorite phrases from our yoga classes is “to wobble is good“. Whenever we’re in the middle of a balance pose and my legs start to shake or I start to lose stillness, my reaction is to give up. But sometimes the shake or the wobble is just engagement – forcing those muscles to get to work. It’s a thousand times easier to wobble and quit than it is to wobble and find steadiness again. Plus if you find that stillness again, maybe next time you’re just that little bit stronger to tackle the next off-balance moment.

Then comes my least favorite phrase from yoga (and all other areas of life): practice makes perfect. I don’t love the sensation of being bad at things or struggling through; I’d much prefer to be naturally gifted. But unfortunately, my genetics are not made for me to jump up into a handstand or balance on one finger. Over the many, many yoga classes I’ve taken, I’ve noticed that I genuinely have gotten more flexible over time. I am stronger and more patient with each pose that I do. And from the first moment on the mat to Shavasana I see a difference in my muscles and in my thoughts. Over time things balance out, because I’ve pushed through that awkwardness and that discomfort (but not pain!). Trying over and over again, with modifications and patience, has made a huge difference.

And lastly, at the core of it all – breathe through it. All of this wouldn’t be possible without breath. Every wobble evens out with a deep breath; every stretch becomes a little deeper with the exhale.

Now maybe yoga isn’t for you (or maybe you’re like my dad who does “back exercises” instead of a yoga class), but I’ve found the lessons applicable both in yoga and in life – figured they might help you too.