Letter To My Teenage Daughter

mom and carly

Daughter,

I’m 25 years old right now. You are just an egg somewhere in my lady parts, floating about minding your own business. Hope you’re having a good time in there because it will hopefully be awhile before you come out. But for when you do finally enter the world I wanted to be prepared. So I wrote this letter in advance. It’s essentially a bunch of advice I’ve compiled over the years that I wish I could’ve told my high school self. So grab a cup of tea, a chocolate bar and some Midol, you’re going to need it.

You are reading this because you are full of angst and quickly falling down the rabbit hole of hormonal hell (I won’t show this to you if you somehow manage to be a sun-shiny ray of happiness and joy). Welcome to adolescence baby. The purpose of this letter isn’t to make you feel better or to make you like me again. Because the only cure for that is time. The purpose is to hopefully provide you with insight on the fact that everyone is feeling the same way you are in some shape or form. Your feelings are raw and real and I acknowledge them, I’ve been there darling. We’ve all been there.

I want to start by clearing up a lie that I’m sure you’ve been conditioned to believe. And that’s that high school is suppose to be the best years of your life. That’s bullshit. These years will likely contain a slurry of fun experiences and friendships, but mostly these years suck. And not because you suck, but because you’ve got some crazy shit going on with your body. Your brain is shooting all sorts of chemicals and hormones around and you are expected to function as a good student, good daughter, good friend, good athlete and good girlfriend. All of those things don’t matter to me, I want you to just focus on one; being a good person. The rest will come.

Where do I even start? Boys, I suppose. First of all, they are serious trouble so if you happen to like girls, oh hallelujah sweet child! But back to the boys… You might think that they are your whole world. The attention they give you is validating and makes you feel loved, I know. But you are a complete person without them. I hope that you experiment and date and flirt and open your heart, but please darling don’t let the attention or lack of attention from males let you think less of yourself. And speaking of your heart. Protect it. You’re probably going to fall in love, and that love will be as real as anything, but don’t let it shatter your world if it ends. It’s a part of your life experience and you will be stronger because of it. And if you need your father to kill the dude, just say the word! My best advice is to diversify your relationships- Make sure to maintain all sorts of friendships so that you don’t rely too heavily on one person, because you are going to need as many people on your side as you can get.

Let’s get back to the part about being a good person. You’ve got very little control of what’s going on with you right now. You don’t get to pick your school, you don’t even really get to pick your friends. But there is one thing that you CAN control and that’s how you treat others. Those big bad boys that are going to break your heart, well they’ve also got hearts and so do the mean girls… so be gentle sweet pea. Your compassion and grace will inspire your peers and will facilitate real meaningful friendships. Fake happiness is the next best thing to real happiness, so try your best to be a light for others and you might just find yourself feeling happy too!

Are you ready for my sex talk? No? Me neither, but here it goes. Maintain your innocence. You are a youthful vibrant soul and you don’t need to do anything that makes you the slightest bit uncomfortable. There’s plenty of time in your twenties for back of the alley blow jobs and one night stands (if you so choose). There is no need to rush into it. Just follow your heart young one, not the crowd. And if your heart happens to tell you that you are ready, that’s okay too. That doesn’t make you a “slut” or “easy”. It makes you human. And that’s beautiful. You’re beautiful.

More important than anything, I want you to know that you aren’t alone in anything that you are feeling. You don’t need to talk to me about it, but talk to someone. Laugh and cry about it. Adolescence is such a minute part of your life and your world will be full of sunshine and rainbows once again, I promise. So, hang in there sweet child of mine. I need you on this earth more than you know. We all need YOU. You’ve got a purpose and a place and without you the world won’t go ’round. It’s okay to feel depressed. In fact, I can almost guarantee that you will feel deep dark sadness at some point. If you have thoughts of suicide, you need to get help as soon as you can. From absolutely anybody. Don’t fight that battle alone and don’t be afraid to talk about it. All of your pain is real, but it’s short-term. It’s going to physically hurt and you won’t want to get out of bed. But you have to. Because, beautiful girl, you’ve got a life of purpose and meaning ahead of you.

So there you have it, honey. The world is going to throw some serious punches at you, so you gotta put your gloves on and fight back with all your might. You are strong, independent, smart, beautiful and worth every ounce of space that you take up. And when you make it through all this madness you will be able to bask in the glory of just how remarkable life really is. I’ve loved you since you were only a mere thought and I will continue to be your biggest supporter.

With the deepest love,

Mama

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Goodbye.

Goodbyes are hard. I usually try to replace them with see you laters and until next times. But sometimes they linger in the shadows until you have no choice but to pull the trigger. To say that single word that rips you apart from the inside out as you open your mouth to articulate that final thought. These past few weeks I’ve said a lot of goodbyes. Each one of them dug deep at my heart; the memories, the life lessons and the love. All gone in the blink of an eye.

Goodbye to a lover, of whom I thought I’d marry. 

Goodbye to a town that inspired me and sheltered me. 

Goodbye to friends that I will likely never see again.  

Goodbye to a house that gave me the best views Ashland had to offer. 

Goodbye to an era of my life that shaped me at the core. 

A part of me is sad, really painfully sad. It takes every ounce of strength I have to not spend my days listening to melodramatic acoustic music while flipping through old photos. I long to bask in the rolling hills of Ashland for all of eternity. I want to wake up in the morning with a warm loving body, his body, by my side. I want to drink beer and sing disney songs with my friends from college. But I can’t because I’ve said that THAT word. Goodbye. But those things aren’t gone. They are with me all the time. Little pieces of the people who meant so much to me, the places that I’ve loved and the experiences that I’ve cherished; they are a part of me now. And that’s what keeps me going.

I’m at a pivotal point of my existence because this is the first time in my entire life that I have been bound to nothing. No school, no bills, no house, no belongings, no boyfriend, no plans. No responsibilities other than pursuing my own happiness. It’s liberating and empowering. All I have are my hopes and dreams. I’ve wrote about the conundrum of freedom before, but I haven’t had real freedom until now. And let me tell you, it tastes great. Sure, it’s a bit overwhelming to have no idea where I will be in a year, but how exciting?! I could be anywhere, doing anything. As badly as my recent goodbyes hurt, I’m starting to acknowledge that I now have an abundance of room for new hellos.

Hello to independence and self-love.

Hello to new mountains and rivers and sunsets.

Hello to new nourishing friendships.

Hello to sleeping under the stars.

Hello to a new era of omnipotence and resilience. 

Each experience, relationship and adventure are a part of my story. They form my foundation and are permanently engrained in my being. And I’m aware, now more than ever before, that openness to change and the unknown is the greatest gift I can give myself. The world is my classroom now. Every place that I live, each new friendship I make and every lover that I kiss will be a new chapter added to my book- providing depth and meaning to this crazy life.

I’m embracing this next stage of my 20’s and can’t wait to see how it unfolds. We all know I hate plans, but I’ve got some pretty sweet ideas for this next year. After the commercial rafting season, I will be heading down to the Grand Canyon to raft the Colorado for 23 days. I’ve then got 3 months before my best friends wedding in Mexico. My plan for those 3 months is to focus entirely on self-growth and health. This will likely pan out by returning to Seattle to live with my parents (save some buckaroos), meditating daily, working on the business side of my travel blog, pursuing outdoor endeavors and making some serious human connections. After Kelsie’s wedding, I will be using Mexico as a jumping off point for a Central American adventure. Cuba, Honduras, Guatemala and Nicaragua are all on the list. I’ll make my way through these countries in search of rivers, mountains and oceans; seeking raw cultural interactions and the best food that latin america has to offer. I’ve got no plans of when I will return and I like it that way.

Yes, goodbyes are hard. But the adventures that await are more powerful than we could possibly know!

“…then, she began to breathe, and live, and every moment took her to a place where goodbyes were hard to come by. She was in love, but not in love with someone or something, she was in love with her life. And for the first time, in a long time, everything was inspiring.” R. M. Drake

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River of Refuge: The Important Places

“I need this wild life, this freedom.” -Z.G.

It’s only day one of my four days off from guiding and I am at a loss for what to do. I know my callused and overworked body wants to relax and catch up on Netflix, but something is pulling at my heart; I can’t just sit here. Today I drove 45 minutes back to the Rogue. I’ve spent the last 3 summers rafting down the same stretch of river that I do every season, but until recently I am not sure I fully appreciated just how much this place nourishes my soul. The river is wild and powerful and raw; and I’m captivated. As I’ve matured over the years into an independent thinker, I’ve began acknowledging the importance of only expelling energy towards things that bring me joy and strength and life. The river provides me with all of these things and I’m constantly reminded just how much I need her- how much we all need that special place that allows us to rediscover ourselves time after time.

A few weeks ago I came across a film that showcased this exact topic. The documentary touches on something that we all need to be reminded of and you will surely be moved by its message!

The Important Places By Forest Woodward and Brenden Leonard (Uploaded by American Whitewater)

It’s so easy to get wrapped up in the less important things like work and status and money and politics. But those aren’t things that give us life. They don’t inspire us and they definitely don’t reflect who we are. What if we spent a little more energy cherishing the important places and the important things? We could create something much more powerful than social standards and expectations. Think about how connected we could be, both with the wilderness and with each other. The symbiotic relationship we innately have with nature could literally transform our world. We’ve just got to give it a chance.

There are moments during the summer where I want to cry, where I want to quit and get a “normal” job. Sometimes I can’t handle putting on a smile 24/7 and sometimes I just want to have clean clothes. But then I lay down on my boat in my sleeping bag and look up at the expansive starry sky and am humbly reminded of the greatness that surrounds me. I listen the current gently splash against the side of my raft as I am rocked to sleep and I know that I am in the right place. It’s my place. I’ve found my place.

Where’s your important place?

rogue river

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I’m 145 pounds of BAD- ASS. And so are you.

carly08

I was going to post some radical naked picture of my body, then I remembered that my brother might read this. You are welcome Kyle.

Oh dear, I’ve done it. I’ve gone mad. I posted my weight online for the world to see. Which is terrifying and liberating all at the same time. Terrifying, because now you know that my driver license is a lie. I was 16 when I weighed 125 pounds and somehow over the last 8 years I just haven’t gotten around to changing it… whoops. Liberating, because now that number is gone from my conscience. I’ve given it to the universe to do with it whatever it may please. Because I don’t need it anymore. It means nothing to me.

Shit’s about to get real.

I typically refrain from talking about my body image because I’d like for people to think that I am confident and secure with my looks. And quite honestly, I am. Most of the time… But then there are days like today where I look in the mirror and my insides crumble. I want to tear off my love handles and pin them on the fridge so that I remember not to eat that entire pint of ice cream. Somedays I think about just not eating at all. Wouldn’t life be so much better if I just lost a few pounds? If I could fit into that bikini, I might get more likes on my instagram picture.

Ummm, when the hell did women start believing that they needed to take up less space? I sadly can’t remember the last time I put a piece of food into my mouth and didn’t think about how many calories were in it. How messed up is that? I have no idea when it all started. You might be able to blame it on the girl who called me “thick” in the high school locker room or the boyfriend who said it was my duty to lose a few pounds, or the hundreds of ads I see everyday with retouched models. Whatever it was and whenever it started, I wish so badly that I could go back to that moment and punch it in the throat. Because it taught me that my worth was measured by a number on the scale and the tag on the inside of my jeans. And that’s bullshit.

I recently came across a quote in a book that I was reading that struck a chord with me. I’m sure it will hit home with you too.

Our daughters, granddaughters and nieces remind us that in the very beginning the girl-child loved herself. She comes into the world with feelings of omnipotence, not inferiority… she does not expend one ounce of her precious life-energy trying to figure out what’s wrong with her body, feelings and thoughts. She just lives.

Can you remember that time, roughly between the ages of 4-8, when the most important thing to you was building up the calluses on the bottom of your feet so that you could walk around barefoot? Or when your only reference to make-up was the face paint pallet that your mom pulled out on halloween. Swimsuit season meant trips to the water park and scales were only there so you could compare the weight of your head to your brother’s head. What happened to that innocence? Life happened I suppose. And life can be really tough, but it can also be really great. So I’m making a vow today to give myself a little slack.

I think along with reteaching ourselves to love our bodies, we also need to learn to band together. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve walked into a room only to have girls eyeball me up and down. And I’m sure I have done the same. We are not competition, we are allies. We are connected by our struggles but also by our strength. Imagine what we could do if we brought each other up rather than tearing each other down? Imagine the world that we could create for our daughters. For our sons.

I wish so badly that it was as easy as just deciding to love yourself. But we have a lifetime of social pressures, insults and expectations to erase. We are going to slip up from time to time. We are going to look in the mirror and cry. It’s going to take time, but we will get there. We have to.

And the best way to truly believe something is to convince yourself of it every single day…

I’m 145 pounds. I take up approximately 5 feet and seven inches of vertical space and I deserve that space.

I have a giant scar across my lower abdomen. It’s bad-ass.

I have chubby fingers. They are strong and help me climb mountains.

I have a big nose. I smell flowers that other people didn’t know existed.

My name is Carly. I am fucking BEAUTIFUL. 

I challenge you to come up with your own mantra and recite it until you believe it. Because trust me, you rock and you deserve to feel worthy.

*Disclaimer: Men this goes for you too. I can’t pretend to know your struggles, but you are pretty darn beautiful as well.

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Monday Mischief | The tragedy of comfort

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I’ve got nothing against comfort. Hell, I have flannel bed sheets. But I’m starting to believe that this preconceived notion of seeking out comfort in our lives is a slippery slope. I’m not talking about physical comfort, please keep wearing fuzzy socks and avoiding extreme pain. What I’m talking about today is the conscious efforts we make everyday to be emotionally/socially/psychologically comfortable. I of course acknowledge the basic human need of stability but I’d like to argue that discomfort is essential to our growth and wellbeing.

I think it is safe to say that most of us strive to be best we can be. We go to school to get an education, we follow laws and our own sets of morals in order to be active members of society, we meditate to find deeper meaning and we travel to broaden our view of other cultures. But in all truth, I think that a large majority of us only do these things within our comfort zones. We often choose morals and religion based on what we were raised to believe rather than exploring other options. We do yoga and meditate because it’s totally in right now and let’s be honest that picture you posted on instagram of you doing a handstand in a twisted ball of limbs is pretty cool. We travel with guided tours because we are afraid of being alone in an unknown place. We make friends and we keep them because it is hard to make new ones. None of this is WRONG.

So where am I going with this?

You could be getting so much more out life if you pushed some of these elements to the extreme- out of your comfort zone. What if you went to India and studied yoga for a year rather than just showing up to your weekly class at the local gym? Or how about leaving your church briefly to spend time in temples and monasteries? Or postponing jumping into a career straight out of college? Or using your precious savings account on a rash decision to follow a passion? The list goes on and on, but it all cultivates growth and intention. You might find that your ideals, beliefs and goals don’t change much but now you have some serious backbone to your convictions. Think about some of the moments in your life that have shaped you at the core. For me, these are experiences that were not exactly comfortable at the time; moving to a new state, questioning my belief system, traveling without my parents, making rash spending decisions, working for free etc… But I learned something invaluable in these uncomfortable moments. I learned about myself. Which is something most of us are pretty afraid of.

I’m not sure if it is just western culture, but I find that we have created a basic path to “happiness” that we grow up believing to be the ultimate guide. Go to school, get a job, save money, fall in love (or something close to it), get married, have kids, and make sure they follow the same cycle. This is all fine and dandy, but PLEASE make sure this is actually what YOU want. Explore other ways of life, different religions, different countries, different activities, different political views, different friends, different diets… then you will know, deep down in your bones who you are and what you stand for. You will have a much deeper understanding of the workings of the world and therefor a stronger foundation to change it.

I’m no saint. I love comfort just as much as the next person. I get terribly nervous meeting new people, so I often avoid it. I have strong opinions of politics and find myself saying mean things in my head about people who have different views. I don’t like being stuck upside down in a kayak, so I don’t practice rolling one. But I see all of these things as a chance to learn and grow. I’ve begun to force myself into situations that make me uncomfortable and scared because I know the reward is priceless. It’s changed my life completely and will change yours too if you give it a chance.

 

Get out there and get uncomfortable!

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When Convictions Contradict.

I graduated college 8 months ago, and I am more confused than ever. I’ve found myself questioning everything and understanding nothing. I’ve got a cranium full of academic knowledge and 23 years of life experience, so why do I feel so lost? Somewhere between my hours of daydreaming and the time I spend laying awake in bed, I’ve realized that freedom has done this to me. I have been going to school since I was 3 years old; that’s 20 years of scholastic restraint. I’ve been subconsciously following a set routine and being taught what to think. So now that the world is at my fingertips and I can generate thoughts separate from my peers, I feel like I’ve got some serious internal work to do.

In the midst of laying awake in bed a few weeks ago, I started to wrap my mind around the idea that I live a life of contradictions. I have some very strong convictions that I have essentially been pushing aside so that I can fit the mold created by my years of schooling and societal pressures. Over the last 20 years I might have even convinced myself that these are the things that are important to me.

Let me give you some examples:

I don’t want to wear makeup or wear damn skinny jeans. But I find myself giving in because I have been taught to feel better about myself when I am pulled together and fashionable.

I want to travel and take chances while I am young. But I am “suppose” to find a career and start saving money. 

I relish in the idea of living a minimalist lifestyle, owning only necessities. But my love for Ikea and cozy sweaters seems to get in the way of this becoming a complete reality. 

I want to eat foods that can only be provided by the earth. But organic/naturally grown meat and produce is expensive and I feel irresponsible spending my tight budget on it. 

I’d like to complain about money here, but I don’t have any…

I wish it was as easy as saying “well hell to societal norms!”, but in all truth if I want to be an active member of society I need to show some leniency. I don’t live in a tree house and I live in a world where money is a necessary evil. I think the best I can do is stay true to myself and decide on what I’m willing to negotiate and what I want to stand firm on. And just because I feel strongly about something doesn’t mean that I can’t “cheat” every once in awhile. For instance, I typically don’t wear much makeup but sometimes I want to feel like Beyonce… So heck, I whip out some eyeliner and put on my most bootylicious jeans!

Well thanks guys, I think I found the answer I was looking for. Convictions are important, but adaptability has its place too. Freedom comes with its pressures, but also its blessings. This is finally your chance to be completely and utterly YOU. So take those little timid steps towards what you hold true and run with it!

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Home.

“Where we love is home- home that our feet may leave, but not our hearts.”

~ Oliver Wendell Holmes

I’ve come to the realization that home, for me at least, has become a bit of an obscure idea. After moving away for college, I’ve noticed this weird feeling of homelessness. Sure I have a home, with walls and a roof. I even have a neighborhood. But the place that I used to call home, the place that I grew up, doesn’t feel the same. Every time I return to Seattle to visit family and friends I am slapped in the face with the cold hard truth that my city has moved on without me. It still has all the charm and beauty that I remember but the emotional connection is no longer there. The answer to why this is happening seems simple, I merely just switched homes- meaning that my new home is in Ashland, OR where I now reside. I’m not sold on this though. I’ve been thinking about it a lot lately and have come to some conclusions.

Firstly, home is not a physical location or structure. Duh, that is called a house… Home is a feeling. A symbiotic relationship between innate human needs and emotional attachment. When I think of what still feels like home in Seattle, the only things that significantly stand out are my family and close friends. Meaning that they could be anywhere in the world and that I would feel at home around them regardless of the location. This feeling of “home” is comprised of the before mentioned innate human needs; such as security and connectedness. Throw in some emotional needs like love, comfort and acceptance and you’ve got yourself a full blown HOME! I do believe that although physical location doesn’t necessarily play a role in this, it can sometimes take on characteristics that people find representative of home. For example, I would consider the Rogue River to be my home. I feel an instant sensation of calm and comfort every time I float her waters. But these emotions stem from memories and connection to nature, rather than the river itself.

Secondly, you can have more than one home. The beauty of emotion is that it can occur numerous times throughout your life. You can feel love, comfort and acceptance at any given moment. So lucky you- you don’t have to pick just one home! For me, I have began to acknowledge that I have a whole bunch of homes. I have a home with my family and friends of course, but I also am at home while watching Netflix cuddled up to my main squeeze. I’m at home on the river and in the woods I grew up in. There are also little pieces of home in my travels- places like Cusco and Namibia, where I have been shaped and inspired to be the person I am today.

I have an abundance of acceptance, comfort and love. I am not homeless and either are you.

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