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Archive for the ‘Relationships’ Category

Hello friends! Sorry I haven’t been posting lately. I just finished college, so everything with graduation, pinning down a summer job, and moving in to my first-ever apartment got a little crazy and time-consuming. Honestly, part of it was just my priority of spending the time I had left with my college friends. But I’m back, and I hope you all will continue to read. Thank you for sticking with me, even through these stretches where I haven’t posted. I am trying to get the posts up no matter what.

Moving on to the topic for this week, I want to talk about inspiration. Specifically, what inspiration is and how we can inspire others. It’s something so many people in our world talk about. It’s a question we often get asked: “Who/What inspired you to be a (insert hobby/profession/job/passion here)?” But what is being inspired? And how can we inspire others?

Most of the time we talk about inspiration, we talk about a person. Even if it’s a thing, such as a story, it’s connected to a person. That’s just how our brains work. But the person isn’t what inspires us–it’s the story behind the person that does. And because we connect the story with that person, the story that inspired us has a face. Think of all the ‘based on a true story’ movies out there, such as The Gabby Douglas Story. Why is Gabby Douglas so inspiring to so many gymnasts? Because of the story behind her success. And Gabby gives a face to that story, so it’s often said, “Gabby Douglas inspired me.”

Those that inspire are those that have shared their stories.

We can even be inspired by those whose stories we don’t know. Why? We can see the story behind their actions, their success. We can see in how they conduct themselves how hard they’ve worked to get where they are, that maybe they had to go through rough times to get there. It’s all connected to the story.

And we can inspire others too. Maybe the world won’t hear our stories, but someone out there will. Besides, there’s not a soul in this world, not one human being who can inspire everyone else in this world. (Except Jesus, but to keep the length of this post from getting out of hand, we won’t got there today.) Why? Because there are so many different personalities, so many different experiences that make each of us who we are. And none of those experiences is going to be exactly the same. Not one, even with 7 million people on this planet.

So how do people inspire nations? They don’t necessarily inspire entire nations. Not every single person in the nation is inspired by one individual. But many people within the nations can be inspired, and that’s where the saying comes from. “You’ll inspire nations.” Yes, maybe you will, maybe you can. But what you’re really doing is connecting with the people similar to you, those that feel as though something about you is the same as something about them. There’s a connection there, and no one can connect with everyone.

But we don’t have to inspire nations. We can inspire the few people we have around us, inspire our communities, but we have to share ourselves first. Maybe people will wonder about you; something in your actions may inspire them, even a little. But if your actions inspire someone, think of what the story behind those actions can do. Not only for that person, but for others around them, others around you.

You can inspire people right where you’re at. Sure, you can get your story out onto the internet and inspire others around the world. But that’s not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about putting your story out in your own community, even in your friend group or at your school. I know it’s scary sharing with peers and with people you don’t know. It’s hard to be vulnerable with them. Just start small, with your family and friends. Start with those you trust, and work your way outward in small, concentric circles. You won’t regret it (eventually. You might just after you do it, but you will come to be glad you did it).

And maybe you will inspire someone you never thought you could; maybe you won’t know who you’ll inspire. But I promise you, there is someone out there who will be inspired by your story. Maybe not right now, maybe not where you are right now. But someday, there will be someone. Even if you don’t know it.

As I finished up college, I lost a close friend coming out of my first dating relationship. But I gained much more than I lost. I gained new friends, and I learned much about myself. And I was inspired by his story, though I never told him that. He may never know that he inspired me to confront myself, to face who I was and figure that out. To believe in myself. And I’ve talked to friends, had them write some of their favorite memories with me. I’ve only read one so far, but I can tell by what he wrote that, in some small way, I might have inspired him a little. And I’ve had other friends say similar things to what he wrote.

Some of these people, I’ve never told my story to. But I’ve inspired them, even if it’s only one small area of my and their lives. And maybe if I’d shared my story, I could have inspired them more. Maybe I could have learned their stories and been inspired in return.

This is a big part of what relationships are about, friends. You can inspire each other in the everyday things of life, in the smallest portion of your stories. You can inspire others farther out than that, too.

But it all starts with sharing your story. You never know how powerful it might be.

 

What do you think?

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Last week, I talked with you all about reader-character relationships. This week, we’re going to look at it from the author’s side. And honestly, I couldn’t have had a better day leading up to writing this post. Because my characters and I share bonds, and sometimes those bonds bring my own emotional baggage with them. But back to that later.

First, let’s explore the bonds that happen between writers and their characters. If you’re a writer, you have other people living in your head, telling you their story. And you listen. Whether you write down their story or not, those characters are there. And, in a sense, you talk to them. For some writers, this is just like having a conversation with another person. For others, it’s a little different, because you feel you’re just listening to their stories and aren’t really conversing with them. There might even be a third way out there I’ve never heard of.

I’m one of the latter, but as time’s gone on and I’ve been working on the second draft of a novel, I’ve realized that’s not necessarily true. We may not feel as though we’re actually conversing with our characters, but we do have a relationship with them, we do talk to them in a way. And we create bonds with them, however our brains work.

Throughout the past year, reading over the first draft of this story I wrote two years ago, I realized I’d learned a lot from these characters, from the story they’d told me. And when I was writing this draft, I had no idea that I’d go back two years later to read it… and realize I’d kind of been writing my own story. It’s different from what I experienced, but many of the things I learned and started to understand in the past year I wrote in that first draft. Weird.

As I’ve started to rewrite the novel, it’s been a fun process. And I figured I could use my own new relationship experiences to make the novel richer. At that point, I knew what it was to be in a relationship, but I didn’t know how it felt when that kind of relationship ended. But I didn’t think about it too much. I figured I’d deal with that problem when I got there.

Except my relationship ended much sooner than I got to that point in the novel. And now I’ve gotten to the point where two of my characters start a relationship. This is where I realized I had relationships with my characters, even though I’ve never talked to them like I’ve talked to a person. Because as I tried to tell their story, mine came to mind. And as I was thinking about that, I told them about it, in a way. And I’m going to be learning from them as I continue to push through writing this draft. I know that telling their story will help me come to terms and cope with mine.

That’s just my story though. I believe the adage all writers, and some readers, hear that says in each character is a piece of the writer, even if it’s the merest sliver. I saw that today. As I re-read some of my first draft, following my characters’ stories, I found some of myself in each of them. And I’m learning from them, because they’re still different from me.

I don’t believe any writer forgets any of the characters they’ve met that live within them, even if that character’s story never gets written down or published. Because that writer and character share a bond, a relationship. And by living within each of those relationships, we can learn something about someone else, another perspective, or even something new about ourselves.

 

Do you have relationships with your own characters? What’s your story?

Let’s help each other learn about the relationships that are out there.

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I’m going to switch tracks a little here, going to one of my favorite nerd fandoms. I just recently finished re-reading the Harry Potter series, and it’s been an amazing experience, as always. But I learned some new things about myself and about relationships throughout this re-read, especially since I have been struggling recently.

So, what did I learn? That not only can we have people-people relationships, people-pet relationships, people-God relationships, and so on, but we can also have reader-character or writer-character relationships. As a writer myself, I see the difference between the two. For this post, I’m going to focus on reader-character relationships, because they can be deeply impactful and wonderful learning relationships.

A lot of avid readers have a few books they’ll revisit over the course of their lifetime, re-reading and re-connecting with the characters in the story. When you first pick up a book, you as the reader are establishing relationships with each character you come into contact with, each character that impacts you. You’re also connecting and establishing a relationship, through those characters and that story, to the person who wrote the story. No matter what story you pick up, no matter now many books an author has published or written, there is at the very least a little bit of that author in each of his or her stories.

Because of my recent reading of Harry Potter, I am going to be using that for the illustrations throughout this post. For me, I’ve learned a lot about myself in the last year and a half, and it’s been ten years since I’ve read the series. I re-connected with the characters quickly, as if they were old friends. I followed them once more on their journey, bringing with me my own new experiences and perspectives. Thus, I was able to see more through the story, and more in the characters, than any other time I’ve read the series.

As I read the last word on the last page of the last book, closing the amazing journey, I realized I’d learned so much more than I’d expected to. I’d been reunited with old friends, friends who have now helped me through two tough transitions in my life. I understood Harry and his friends better, understood some of their struggles, saw through some of their lies and their fronts.

Anytime you open up a book and start reading, you establish a relationship with at least one, and probably more, of the characters in that story. You follow the characters on the journey, you laugh and cry with them, you feel for them. Sometimes, you go to them to escape whatever you’re going through at that point in life. And you learn about life from them.

I’ve always known that books can teach me a lot, even fiction. But I’ve only just realized how that happens. In any given story, you’re following a character, privy to their thoughts, emotions, and actions, both internal and external. And that’s as intimate as getting to know a real person. The experiences you bring with you, you unconsciously give to the character, and the character shares his or her struggles with you. It’s as give and take as any relationship between two people.

And because of this established relationship between reader and character, the reader can learn from the character: from the mistakes, the thoughts, the lessons the character learns. I know I learned tons from Harry, Ron, and Hermione throughout the series. Sure, I knew the plot, I knew exactly what was going to happen. But the parts of the story that hit me the hardest, I never expected to hit me as hard as they did.

A notable thing I learned from Harry, that I already knew but had been struggling with, was that getting over a relationship, getting over a person takes time and lots of it. Harry spent months getting over Cho, and though I know that his situation and mine are as different as could be, I was still able to learn. I’ve only been out of my own relationship for a month. It’s still hard, but Harry helped me understand things I knew but hadn’t comprehended.

Another thing I learned through this, within the last book, is how important it is to face oneself, to let go of one’s past mistakes. Because if you can’t do that, you’ll never be able to truly move on with your life. And you’ll never be able to face those fears you have, to trace them back to their source.

Honestly, I couldn’t even list how many new things I learned from Harry Potter on this re-read. But I do know one thing: anytime I need a friend, I can open the covers and reignite relationships with the characters in the story. It doesn’t have to be Harry Potter, either. I can open any book and establish new relationships with new characters, or feel welcomed home by old friends.

For me, I have established many relationships as I have read books, and many important relationships. Some of the hardest and most important things I have learned in life have come from reading about a character. We can learn from our fictional counterparts because there is always some truth within the stories we are reading.

We are always establishing relationships, even if we haven’t had human contact for a while. And you can learn just as much, and sometimes more or different things, from a relationship with a character as with a person.

 

What are some of your favorite relationships with characters? How have knowing different characters and reading their stories impacted your life, taught you things?

Feel free to share!

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Hello, friends. Sorry I haven’t posted for a couple of weeks, but it’s been a little crazy here in my mind. I haven’t had many coherent thoughts regarding relationships due to some recent changes in some of my own close relationships. It’s been a bit of an emotional struggle, and may continue to be, but I have found that I can at least have coherent thoughts on relationships again. Thanks for your understanding!

 

As my brief silence has demonstrated, relationships are hard. Sometimes you have to choose between different relationships, which one needs the most nurturing. It’s not necessarily putting one above the other indefinitely, but rather putting one above the other for a moment in time. It’s putting one above the other(s) based on your own personal needs, and sometimes your friends’ needs, at that point in time.

Balancing relationships takes time, effort, and trial and error. It’s complicated because there can be a lot of people and emotions involved, on both your part and your friends’ part. We are people constantly in different kinds of relationships, and with so many personalities in the world we have to remember to think of both ourselves and those we care about.

The hardest part about having different relationships with different people is all the different needs we each have. You have all of these people outside of you that have different relationship needs from each other and from you. One close friend may need you, while you need a different friend at the moment. The trick is to balance the two, not focusing solely on those outside of yourself, but not focusing solely on yourself either. It keeps your relationships healthy and without bitter feelings.

Relationships take sacrifice, even if it’s only the amount of time we spend on them. And many times relationships require emotional sacrifice as well. We have to sacrifice what our wants and needs are for our friends’, and sometimes we need them to do the same for us. But the thing to remember is that it’s a give and take between you and your friend. If it’s all on one side, someone will start to feel slighted.

One way to avoid problems when it comes to these types of things is to develop a relationship that’s open, where you and your friend both feel comfortable sharing those types of thoughts and feelings with each other. Much of the time, this is all it takes to remedy the problem. If your friend comes to you and says she feels you’re not spending enough time with her, you can fix that and make her more of a priority. But if that friend doesn’t say anything to you, you may not notice, and bitterness can enter that relationship, bogging it down and creating even more problems.

Some of the hardest work in this aspect I have dealt with has been in recognizing the balance I’m holding onto with my relationships. Often, I see it more within my friends as they spend time with one another but not me. But at the same time, I know that it’s a two-way street. Both parties have to make an effort. Luckily, my relationships with these friends are open enough that they know they can tell me if they want me to spend more time with them, and vice versa. It’s a way to be honest and trust one another, and these are some of the closest friends I’ve ever had.

So if you’re struggling to balance relationships, don’t sweat it too much. We all struggle with it, and will continue to for the rest of our lives. Relationships aren’t supposed to be easy; they’re supposed to challenge you and help you grow into a better person. Learning to balance those relationships is an essential part of that process.

 

Have you ever had trouble balancing relationships? Were you able to work it out?

Feel free to ask me questions, and I’d love to hear your stories as well!

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We’ve talked about a lot of aspects of relationships throughout this series, but this may be the hardest one to breach. Letting go of a friendship that’s toxic or just no longer there is hard–harder than trying to make a new relationship work.

I’ve been there. Twice I’ve had to really think about letting go of a relationship, and it’s a hard thing to do. When you have a relationship, it’s a hard thing to question, because you love that person. But when it’s no longer healthy and it’s sapping you of energy, there’s something wrong. And maybe it’s time to let go.

 

One-Sided

One relationship I held onto for years before realizing it just wasn’t there anymore. I did everything I could to keep it going, initiating conversations, happy when he actually responded. Of course, he was the only childhood friend I wanted to keep in contact with, so it was hard to let go of that friendship.

But I had to let it go. It became a one-sided friendship, all of the effort coming from me to keep the relationship going. When a friendship becomes so one-sided that the only time you hear from that person is when you contact them, and you’re generating the entirety of the conversation as you’re having it, then it’s no longer a healthy relationship. You’re putting much more effort into it, and honestly, that other person may not even be thinking about you until you contact them.

This isn’t to say that those friends who you always have to contact are like that–I am in no way saying that. There are many people out there who just struggle with making initial contact, as we talked about here. The difference is in whether or not they even seem interested in keeping up with your life. If so, then they’re just not the type to reach out. If not, you might want to consider letting go of a potentially one-sided relationship.

 

Nothing You’ve Done

There are other reasons to let go of a friendship with someone, though. Another reason I’ve encountered is when it’s just not the same relationship anymore. Two of my friends in college dated, and I was close to both of them. But their relationship didn’t last, and neither could all the relationships that surrounded them. The relationship I had with one friend stayed, because it was very outside of the relationship we had as a group. And although the other one was outside of the group as well, I was too connected to my other friend. Keeping our relationship alive hurt him, so I had to let it go.

Sometimes, letting go isn’t for your own good, but for the other person’s. If your relationship is causing them pain, they’re not going to pursue that relationship, no matter how badly you don’t want to lose it. Sometimes, to help them out, you have to let go. Because you care too much about them to hold on and hurt them.

 

There are many other reasons to let go of a relationship; maybe it’s become toxic in some way, or maybe you’ve just grown apart and it’s hard to let go. I won’t go into detail about other reasons here, because I don’t have the experience with them. I’ve not seen them in action, and I would rather not talk about something I’m not sure about.

If you have an experience you’d be willing to share, or you want to add to something I’ve said here, feel free to join in. I’d love to hear your stories and start a discussion on this topic. It’s hard to let go of a relationship, no matter what kind of a relationship it is.

 

Communications Series

1 – Communication with Life’s Stresses

2 – Reaching Out and Being Intentional

3 – Reaching a Deeper Level – Big Talks

4 – Your Friend but Not Theirs

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So far in this series, we’ve talked about communication when life is stressful, reaching out to others intentionally, and taking a relationship to a deeper level. This week is a little different, but still relevant to what we’ve been discussing.

Picture this: You have two different friends, both of whom you’re very close to. With each you’ve reached some of the deeper levels of friendship and companionship. They’re both very dear friends of yours. But they hardly know each other. They’ve met a couple of times, but haven’t really had the conversations or time together that you’ve had with each of them. And soon you find out there’s some misunderstanding between them, some tension that you only notice after it’s been voiced to you. But they’re not good friends, so how do they work it out? How do they get together to talk when they’ve not done so before? Do you have to be the go-between?

This is something that can happen often in life, whether when we’re in school, work, or another large place we’re at for a while. And when this scenario comes up, you can feel the tension on both sides. Conversations with each person about the other and what’s going on seem strained and heavy. Almost too heavy for you to bear the weight of both.

Each person is your friend, but not theirs–not the other’s friend. This can easily put a strain on both of your relationships because you don’t want to lose either of them. You don’t want to be prioritizing one over the other, and you start worrying that you will or that you are.

Yet the best thing you can do in this situation is stay calm. Try to get both sides of the story if both friends are forthcoming about it. Then help them get in touch to set up a time to talk it out among themselves, and step back from the situation. There’s not much more you can do.

But what if they don’t want to try to work it out? In my experience, if they’re both close friends of yours, they’ll want to work it out. If they’re close friends, they’ll worry about the strain it’s putting on you and make it a priority to talk about whatever problem there is. But you can’t force them into it. And if they won’t take the time, question why. Ask them what it is that’s holding them back, and hope that they’re honest with you.

This can be a very hard thing to deal with because there’s really nothing you can do. And that’s hard. But you can’t control others’ feelings, thoughts, actions, or desires. It has to be completely up to them. And if they won’t, talk to them about it. Let them know how much it would mean to you if they did. And if they still won’t, then you may have a legitimate reason to question your friendship.

Your friends should be able to make sacrifices for you if they care about you, just as you would make sacrifices for them. This is a problem that’s bothering you because you care about them, because you care about how they’re hurt or whatever it is they’re feeling. In my experience, a deep, lasting friendship is one where there’s mutual sacrifice. And there’s no way to get around that.

So if you ever have this kind of an issue, or even sense something like it, take the time to figure out what it is. Ask those involved about what’s going on, and do what you can to facilitate conversation between your two friends. But don’t keep yourself in the middle or run yourself down with worry. Do what you can, then step back and let them take it the rest of the way. It has to be up to them.

 

What do you think? Do you have any experiences similar to this? What are your suggestions? We all have relational problems in life. Let’s help each other through them.

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Part 3 of my Communications Series.

Part 1                       Part 2

 

In Part 2, we talked about reaching out to others and intentionally doing so.  However, that’s just a starting point. At the start of a relationship, things tend to be around surface level: asking how the day was, talking vaguely about family, friends, and life. But to reach a deeper level more serious talks need to happen.

Once we’ve established a relationship with someone and have become friends, we can take that relationship deeper by talking about some of the bigger things in life: issues in the world and our views on them, the deeper aspects of our personalities, families, and life.

Many times, conversation will work itself around to these topics, but that doesn’t mean that we’re voicing the extent of our true views and values. A specific topic can come up several times throughout a friendship, and you’re likely to learn new insights and thoughts about each others’ views each time. Part of this comes from us changing/gaining perspectives throughout life, modifying our views and how we understand our values. But it can also come from feeling comfortable enough around someone to show them what we hold dear, deep inside.

Becoming comfortable around another person can happen in a variety of ways: it can be how someone listens or talks, it can take time and familiarity, or many other reasons that people have. The point in both parties feeling comfortable is that it breaks down walls that normally hide certain aspects of our views. These walls are built because of fears we hold. Therefore, for two people to feel comfortable around each other, we need to work at breaking down walls and fears: both in ourselves and whomever we’re hoping to connect with.

In Oneself

In order to break down our own walls, we need to know what they are, where they came from, and what they’re protecting. To know what our walls are, we have to do some self- and/or soul-searching. This can look different for each person, so I’m not going to address it in depth in this post. Many times, however, this comes from reflecting on our interactions with others and in what we decide to share with those we don’t know well.

Next, we need to look back and reflect on our lives. This includes childhood, teen years, and any other experiences we’ve had, whether with strangers, failed friendships, family, etc. With each wall we discover we have, we should take the time to find where it came from and how long we’ve had it. This leads us to the last big thing we need to know.

What am I protecting with this wall? A question we must all ask ourselves, because there is always a reason. Using an area of time the wall formed, can I find a specific memory centered around this fear? The ultimate question here is: What am I so afraid of that I won’t share it with anyone?

In Others

Breaking down our own walls is difficult, but breaking down others’ is more so. With our own walls, we can search through our own experiences and find out why they’re there and what they’re protecting. But with others, we probably don’t know them well enough for that. So we have to be patient and stick by them, waiting for the right opportunity and conversation to pull in some deeper personal questions. However, if we ask deeper questions of another we must be prepared for their questions as well.

And as I mentioned above, there are different things that help break down walls. One of the biggest things for me is someone taking the time to listen to what I have to say without interrupting. It’s someone waiting as I pause to gather my thoughts and form words, someone who doesn’t feel a need to fill the silence. If someone sits and listens, as well as shares about him/herself, I’m more inclined to share who I really am with that person.

The difficult part here is that everyone’s different. So we must be patient.

 

There are many aspects to deep conversations, but something I’ve found is that most of the time they’ll flow naturally from a more lighthearted conversation. We don’t have to force them, but we don’t want to avoid them either. If there’s a point in the conversation where we can insert a deeper question, we should do so and be prepared to respond to whatever he/she has to say. And we should be prepared to answer as well.

But don’t let feeling unprepared stop you from asking a deep question. The most likely thing is that you will have no idea what you’re going to answer to the same question, but you’ll learn about yourself in the process. I’ve been here many times, and it’s helped to deepen some of my relationships to a point where I start to feel as though I’ve known these people forever, rather than a few years or less.

 

What do you think? I’d love to hear from you all about how you’ve experienced deep conversations. Please share below or email me at andi_gregory (at) outlook (dot) com.

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Part 2 of my Communications Series. You can find Part 1 here.

In my last post, I touched on the feeling of being the only one to reach out. Often, I feel I’m the only one reaching out to others, trying to make plans ahead of time. And because of this, I not only start to doubt my friends and whether or not they want to hang out with me, but I start to doubt myself.

As I’m thinking about hanging out with a specific friend or group of friends, I sometimes fall into the trap of thinking that I’m the only one that reaches out. In and of itself, this isn’t necessarily a trap. The trap is the thinking that follows this initial thought: the thoughts that you’re the only one being intentional, that you’re the only one who wants to plan to do things.

And more pessimism evolves from there. Personally, I start to wonder why my friends want to hang out with me. I start to wonder if I’m not enough of something for them to contact me. I start to feel I’m not as important to them as I thought.

I’ve recently had a bout with this line of thinking, and I didn’t combat it well. I let it get the best of me. But I’ve learned from it, too. I’ve learned that being the one to reach out and make the plans isn’t a bad thing. I’ve learned that people think differently, that different personalities and worldviews contribute to either reaching out or not.

And I’ve learned that this line of thinking should never deter me from reaching out to those friends and trying to make plans, even if the plans are just to meet up for a meal or coffee. That no matter how many thoughts like that creep into my mind, I needn’t let them get the best of me.

As people who desire relationships, we need to reach out to those around us, to those we care about. But we shouldn’t be dismayed and hurt if others don’t reach out to us as well. Perhaps reaching out is our way of being intentional, but not theirs. Perhaps theirs is being present in the moments you’re together, in the times you spend with one another.

We shouldn’t be afraid to express ourselves and our desire to spend time with another person in the ways we do and know best. Maybe that’s reaching out, maybe that’s spending time, and maybe it’s something different altogether. The best way to avoid any blame-games with close friends is to bring up the idea and discuss it.

Grow closer to one another by finding what each other see as being intentional, and learn how each other view the world. This helps avoid hurt and raises awareness between friends.

When I brought this up with a close friend, I learned that he doesn’t view the world the same way I do; that he sees sitting in class together, though we aren’t talking, as time together. And it is. But for me, it’s not intentional time together, not enough to continue building a relationship on. And I let the pessimistic thoughts get the best of me. I let them tell me I wasn’t good enough, that he wasn’t invested in our relationship, that I wasn’t important.

But those thoughts were very wrong, and he told me as much. With our differing worldviews and personalities, we saw different things, and he wasn’t aware that any inaction on his part was hurting me. After sitting down and discussing it, I’m going to try to remember that differing personalities doesn’t mean he doesn’t care. And he’s going to do his best to remember my views, as well.

But it doesn’t mean I should stop reaching out to make plans, with him or with others.

 

What do you think? Have you ever experienced anything similar to this? How do you view reaching out to others? What does “being intentional” mean to you? Don’t be afraid to discuss it with a friend, share below, or ask questions of me. 🙂

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To each and every one of us, our relationships are important. Yet sometimes we lose those relationships because of a lack of communication, no matter how important they are to us. Communication in relationships can be difficult, especially if we’re far from our friends and family. Under life’s busyness and stresses, we don’t communicate as often as we should, or sometimes not at all.

As a current college student, I understand how busy life can get. This last semester for me has definitely modeled that, with eighteen credit hours that included a remote editing internship and classes in freelance writing, philosophy, law and policy, and platform building, with an on-campus job thrown in. Needless to say, I’ve tried to be very careful about my timing of things, but it’s been hard to keep up some of my relationships here.

Of my closest friends here at school, we’ve all had really busy schedules where our free time often doesn’t overlap, especially after we’ve factored in homework time. At first, this was quite a struggle for me, as I had lots of friends that I wanted to see on a regular basis. But with time, effort, and sacrifice I’ve been able to keep up with most of my friends this semester.

When we’re stressed, overwhelmed, and all of our time is taken up by school’s classes and homework, or life’s work and responsibilities, we need to be conscious of the relationships that are important to us. We need to be fully aware of how much communication we’re having with those friends and family. Sometimes, we have to make some sacrifices in our own lives to keep a space open for that communication to happen, even if that may mean sacrificing time with other friends we see more often.

We need to make that contact and communicate on a regular basis if the relationship is to be sustained and continually growing.

“But what if I’m the one always reaching out?” This is always a good question, and for certain personality types, such as myself, it’s something that crops up fairly often. Many times, we feel we’re the only ones reaching out, that if the other doesn’t it means they don’t care or don’t want to talk to us.

I say that’s lies. Every bit of that is a lie. Think about it. There are times others have reached out to you. Or think about the reactions you’ve gotten from others when you’ve reached out to them. I, for one, tend to forget this when I feel I’ve been the only one reaching out. From my own experience, those I reach out to are always reciprocating and happy that I took the initial step. And some people have the type of personality where they just don’t think about it all that much; it happens because we’re so different. And those lies that come into our minds, that make us feel unloved and unwanted–we need to ignore them and continue to reach out, to make those connections with those we care about. (There will be more discussion on this in a later post; it’s a big topic.)

So what should we do when we see ourselves in danger of losing a friend because we never see them or talk to them due to conflicting schedules? We need to see what we can do to rearrange our schedules temporarily to catch that friend and talk about it. Then the two of you can work it out, can agree to rearrange your schedules so you have time to communicate and keep that relationship going. I, for one, am immensely glad I did this so I could keep the relationships that are important to me. And I will continue to be open to it.

 

What do you think? You’re welcome to share your thoughts and/or story below, or if you want to hear mine, feel free to ask. 🙂

 

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When I’ve heard other writers give advice about attending writers’ conferences, there are two pieces of advice I always hear: “Connect with people you don’t know. Network.” and “Go to everything offered.”

For first-time conferees, these two phrases can put a lot of pressure on both the conferee and the conference. There are many expectations for the experience. However, while I think that both pieces of advice are good to hear, I also think we need to take them with a grain of salt.

“Connect with people you don’t know. Network.”

Networking is good, and so is connecting with writers, agents, editors, etc. that you don’t know. However, this can put a lot of pressure on conferees, especially introverts. While at the conference, they’re worried about talking to enough people, and the use much of their energy trying to work up the courage to talk to strangers all day. As an introvert myself, I’ve found this to be extremely exhausting. And as I use up my energy trying to talk with people the whole time, per the advice I’ve received, I find it harder at times to focus on the workshops and have energy for the things I am excited about.

Another thing that I thought when I heard this piece of advice was that I had to connect with a lot of people. I took it in the sense of “meet someone, have a short, meaningful conversation, and move on to meet someone new.” But I think sometimes you just need to connect with those old friends you haven’t seen in a while, or even those acquaintances you don’t know that well. Here’s one of my own experiences.

This past weekend I attended the Indiana Faith and Writing Conference in Anderson, Indiana. I was there with a group of fellow classmates, and a lot of the time I talked with them. Instead of branching out at lunch and sitting with a group of strangers, I chose to sit with a few of my classmates, most of whom I hardly ever talked to. And we had a wonderful conversation. For that day, it was my favorite part of the conference, and I feel I gained much more out of having lunch and interacting with my classmates than I would have if I’d networked and sat with a group of people I didn’t know.

“Go to everything offered.”

Look, I get the point of this statement, but it’s just not possible sometimes. I know the value in experiencing everything the conference has to offer, but sometimes you just can’t do it.  From what I thought when I heard this, and what friends have thought as well, this is often taken as “Go to everything offered no matter your energy level.” Which I think is just ridiculous. If you’re going to a conference, you’re going because you want to learn new things and meet new people. You can’t do that if you’re too exhausted to approach others or pay attention in workshops and critique groups.

I attended the Write to Publish conference at the beginning of this summer, and this was one of the pieces of advice I took to heart. I was determined to go to everything they offered that I could. I was ready to take in all of the information from the four day conference. I was excited.

By the time I made it to the middle/end of the third day, I was exhausted, but still excited. I was having a great time and learning a lot. Then at dinner I started talking with an alumnus from my college who was also attending the conference. When the time came to go to the evening activities, such as a speaker and critique groups, we decided that we both needed a break–and we didn’t want to end our conversation. So we went back to the dorms we were staying in (we were on the Wheaton Campus in Wheaton, Illinois) and talked for another hour or two. Honestly, it was the best thing I could have done. Not only was I able to rest from taking in information, but I was able to really connect, and it was with someone who helped me more than anything I could have learned from the conference activities.

So, what I’m trying to say with these examples is to not go too far. Know what your limits are, and when you reach them, don’t push past. You’ll only exhaust yourself further, which could lead to missed opportunities or lessons. If you get the chance, slow down and really connect with someone–whether that’s someone you already know or someone you just met. Don’t be rushing around trying to get everything in, because chances are, you won’t. And that’s okay. It’s why most conferences are an annual thing.

Go ahead and take everything you can out of the experience, but don’t go too far. Slow down and listen for what God’s calling you to do, even if that’s getting away from the conference for an hour or two to rest. Because if you don’t, you might just miss something important.

 

What do you think about these pieces of advice? Others? Voice your thoughts in the comments. I’d love to hear what you have to say on the subject. (After all, I’m only one of the many perspectives out there.)

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