Friday, October 23, 2015

An Open Letter to Myself on My Wedding Day

For my wedding, I wrote letters to my fiance, mother, father and sister. It only seemed right that I should have one for myself, too.

Dear Jessi,

Today... you get married.

The once-awkward teenage girl who couldn't catch a date in high school is getting married at 24 years old. Sure, it's much older than when your parents got hitched, but it's about average when compared to your friends tying the knot. But honestly, all that matters is that you know it's the right time for you. And it really is the right time.

See, last year was hell, in a nutshell. You bounced out of college, into a job, out of that job, and into another. At times you struggled to find yourself, and you were almost constantly struggling to be happy with yourself and find inner peace. But no matter how bad it was, you always got to come home to him. And today, you marry him.

Christopher has changed a lot, too. Obviously he's changed from the teenage boy you met six years ago. Not only does he listen to better music now, or lay off the cologne just a little more, but he's also become an incredibly strong person. He takes care of you, and he finally takes care of himself. You two have been through so much together that it boggles me to this day. But after going through all those things together, it only makes sense that you should continue it all together. He really is your best friend.

I don't really have any spectacular wedding day advice to share with you, but I do hope you truly enjoy every stinkin' second of it, because, as your dad puts it, "if you do it right, you only have to do it once." 

And you've been so lucky to have your parents by your side throughout all of this. I hope you remember that for the rest of your life. By answering your worrywart phone calls, to going shopping, to putting together centerpieces, to your dad doing everything he could to make sure he could be home for your big day... your family bends over backwards for you. I know you could never completely explain how grateful you are for all of that, but always carry those memories in your heart. They're good ones to have.

I hope this wedding is fun; I hope it's beautiful. But I hope your marriage with Chris is even better. Continue doing what you've been doing and I'm sure you'll be fine. Listen to each other, take care of each other, and never stop talking to each other. And always, always listen to each other. Make sure to take time away together (away from phones) and enjoy each other's company. Never, ever take each other's company for granted. Life is too short for that.

Finally, I just want to remind you to always love deeply. Love him like you first did in 2010 when you were teenagers and just started dating. Don't be afraid to throw him an old dopey grin. Don't be afraid to be silly. Always be yourselves with each other, especially when you can't do that with anyone else. Know that you have each other, and that's how it should be.

I hope you have the most beautiful day of your life. And I hope your marriage teaches you even more about yourself, and I hope you continue to write it all down. The memories will be so wonderful to look back on someday. I can't wait to see what those memories are.

Happy wedding day.


Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Success is a Funny Thing (Or My American Dream 2.0)

Although my life changes almost every day, one thing remains constant: I've always got an eye on being "successful."

Since I was a child I've wanted to be considered a true success. I wanted to be the best in my class; when we had fake bank accounts in the fifth grade, I had to have the most money. I had to be an officer in every club, I had to have the most unique outfits and car. Everything I did, I wanted it to be perfect and noticeable.

My methods of measuring success have changed, though. When I was younger I was so dead set on a particular kind of success: college, graduation, amazing job, supporting myself, and maybe a family. Maybe. I wanted to move to a city and rock the world with my writing. Doing it the best and doing it all alone: that was the definition of success for me.

And as I worked my way through college I found myself still pursuing that goal: my last semester in college I had a 4.0 GPA and was about to start freelancing for the local newspaper, while holding the second highest position in my college newsroom, until I took a leap of faith and decided to drop out of school to pursue that journalism dream even further. Even though I wasn't finishing school, something I used to think was crucial to my success, I thought landing a full-time job was even more successful.

...Until I realized how unhappy I was in it. Sure, I was at the peak of success. I was working hard, doing really well, but at the end of the day I came home with a nervous knot in my stomach. I wasn't happy with what I was doing, and although I was proud of myself, I started to realize that maybe success isn't only made up of what can be seen on the surface. Maybe true success digs a little deeper.

When I was 19 I blogged about the American dream: the house, the husband, the 2.5 kids and the dog. I said that wasn't for me: I needed a career and I needed to be a breadwinner. But now, at 24 years old, I'm three days away from my wedding to a man who can support me in every single way. According to my younger self, I haven't accomplished anything in terms of being successful. But in my heart, I know I'm at the top of my game.

I may be in a job that has a path to be determined. I may be en route to having children, buying a house and creating that family lifestyle. But if I'm feeling the most loved I have ever felt in my life, couldn't that be considered a success? Why have I always felt the need to be successful on paper? Why couldn't I let my heart win for once, and truly find success with pure happiness?

Well, now I am. My American dream has changed. I find comfort in my family, love, and where my life is headed. Sure, I don't have the diploma or the six-figure career, but I have the tools and love I need to make my life a success. So it's time to enjoy it, wherever it may take me.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

When Anxiety Barges In

I had my first wedding-induced panic attack.

As it started I couldn't help but think, I've made it this far! I only have twelve days until the wedding! Why now? But it kept coming.

I'm an emotional person. Some people tease me about it; it's something I'm genuinely embarrassed of and hyper-aware of. 

There have been plenty of times throughout the last few months that I got frustrated or overwhelmed, and I wanted to cry. But I would tell myself reasons why I shouldn't. Your wedding has only 30 guests, you don't deserve to be stressed. Or, my favorite, Why are you getting all worked up? Why can't you just be normal for once? You're going to have a panic attack.

But I never did, until tonight. Twelve days until the wedding, and we're in the best shape we've been so far. Nearly everything is done, nearly everything is paid for.

So why now?

I was just playing through some father-daughter dance songs trying to pick the absolute best one. I started thinking about how close it was to the big day. I started to think about the wedding and everything that comes with it. And as the next song started to play, I just broke down.

I have no idea what actually triggered it.

In some ways it felt good to get it all off my chest. It was as if six months of nervous energy had been released, like the air escaping from a popped balloon. But it didn't help that the entire time my head was screaming, You've made it this far! You don't seem very appreciative of the happiest time of your life.
What's the matter with you?

I don't know what's the matter with me. I'm the happiest I've been, I'm close to one of the most beautiful days of my life. Maybe that scares me. Maybe I just don't know how to deal. Do people know how to properly deal with this many conflicting emotions, or is it only me who's bumbling through it?

Sunday, October 04, 2015

The Homebody's Guide to Planning a Wedding (One You Will Enjoy!)

Although I may be obnoxious and the center of attention when it comes to my own family, it's a different story when it comes to other groups of people. My fiancé and I would much rather spend the weekend at home (with our cats) than venture out on the town. My group of friends is small but mighty, and large groups make me borderline queasy. (Don't even get me started on the awkwardness of small talk.) 

My fiancé is even more of a quiet, homebody type: he's not a fan of small talk and would rather sit, listen and take it all in when there's a lot going on around us.


noun, plural homebodies.
1. a person who prefers pleasures and activities that center around the home; stay-at-home.

When we started planning our wedding one thought dawned on us: obviously we'd be the center of attention at our wedding, but how would we handle it together? We've figured out there's always a good balance for everything.

Here's a few things I've learned along the way, or my Homebody's Guide to Planning a Wedding.

It may seem obvious: A small guest list.
If you come from a big family but still want an intimate day, this may be a struggle. However, cutting your guest list will most likely cut down on the awkward small talk with people you may not know that well. If you are able to cut your guest list without offending too many people, I'd suggest it.

Small bridal party
Having a small bridal party should ease your social anxieties from the get-go. I feel some relief knowing my morning of the wedding will be spent with my mother and my maid of honor, my sister. I think if I had a group of people buzzing about with excitement and emotions, I'd be a panicky mess on the edge of bubbling over. 

Scheduling time to breathe
I've read so many blog posts and websites with wedding tips over the last six months and one thing seems to ring true across all of them: you'll need time to yourself if you want to remain sane. This seems true for everyone, social butterflies included. Whether it's a drive with a detour following your ceremony, or a quick trip outside for two during the reception, the alone/breathing time with your soon-to-be spouse may be a huge relief on your big day. Although our wedding will top out around 30 guests, we still plan to have our own sweetheart table for just the two of us so we can check in on each other, have some alone time and ease any nerves before we start dancing.

If over-the-top isn't your style, DON'T GO THERE
I find comfort in having a small ceremony and reception. I find comfort in knowing I'll be wearing Converse low-tops that day. I also find comfort in knowing that a DJ won't be screeching out announcements throughout the night, as we planned our own playlist on our laptop. If you figure out what's really important to you for your day and stick to it, it will be easier to take it all in when it happens.

Talk it out.
Planning a wedding in six months (when I've literally only attended two myself) was incredibly daunting. However, I've found that blogging about the process has really eased some of my nerves. It has also taught me what's important, which is why we opted for an intimate day surrounded by our closest loved ones. If you start to feel anxious at any time leading up to the big day (or even the day of!) talk it out. Blog about it, talk to your mom, talk to your fiancé, do what you have to do. Everyone copes with things differently, and as a homebody/socially anxious person, I'm finding it's probably better to express my feelings now, rather than accidentally burst the day of.

Did you feel any social anxiety/nerves as your wedding day approached? How did you deal?