Project {create a home}... Please make over my life & style! :P

The amazing blog Project {create a home} is currently doing a Life & Style Makeover giveaway that has piqued my interest in a big way! The site's overall mission is to encourage women to "create the life you've always wanted" -- and this idea of empowerment appeals to me hugely. The makeover giveaway is meant to be a concrete embodiment of this inspiration, and it really does sound brilliant to me. Below you will find the concise version (ha!) of "my story," to serve as my entry into the giveaway. It was hard to write, but maybe will be encouraging if you've ever dealt with similar... er... head-problems. If it is, even just a little, then I will view it as hugely successful post lol. I hope you'll check out their great site -- it's well-worth the clicks. :)

My first attempt at this essay was very long-winded. Trying to sit down and think where " my story” should begin was very much like an initial session with a therapist: long-winded, breathless, emotional, disjointed… I almost gave up the idea of doing it altogether. But I didn't, and this is the result (I may regret it tomorrow... I can't tell yet lol).

The short version would be that I grew up homeschooled and shy, and didn’t know I was suffering from depression, anxiety disorder, and probably ADD, all to varying degrees from childhood on. When you've only ever felt one way, you don't have the perspective to tell that something is wrong -- it's just the way things are. Mid-college (yes, it took that long!) I took a study-abroad trip to Spain where I was entirely independent and even somehow managed to make friends with the majority of my study group. For anxious, clingy, reserved Sarah Eliza, it was a taste of normalcy and adventure and felt something like an emotional explosion. It was as though I had been trapped inside a box and all the sudden busted out, glorious and free! But of course explosions tend to leave quite the mess behind, and a few short weeks later the formerly-boxed-up-me suddenly found herself back in the states, metaphorically stumbling around through the debris on cramped legs that didn’t know how to run, and seeing with eyes that were terrified by the chaos of life around me.

That fall was supposed to be my last year of college; it was also my first year living apart from my family. My world in those months rapidly started crumbling, as I realized that seven weeks of friendship and fearlessness in no way made up for the lack of social confidence created by 20 years spent behind the covers of books. I suddenly recognized just how lonely and isolated I felt, and what had just been a business-as-usual haze of unhappiness turned into an ugly fog of apathy and despair. I suddenly understood how far I was from living fully and truly, but I had no idea how to get where I wanted to be, and how to even express what was inside my head. I spent the next two years struggling to build friendships and learning to function socially and emotionally, dealing with all of the psychological issues I had only just realized that I had. I went on medication, painfully tried to learn to communicate, and started building connections with those around me.

Around that time I added a second major, which let me study my true passion, writing. It also kept me in college another year... another blessed year of trying to sort through the jumble in my mind and life. And things did get better. Tentative friendships cemented into security and laughter, and I was writing and working out regularly, both of which were good for me. But some things eluded me... cooking being one of them. I had mild panic attacks whenever I tried to cook alone; the process of spending time and effort on mixing and cooking things when the meal would be gone again tomorrow and leave behind only a messy kitchen, just seemed to emphasize to me all that was meaningless in my universe. So I tended to eat cereal, and mostly deflected the chaos.

Then was graduation and my first real apartment, and many of my newly established friends moving away. The ones who were left in the city felt inexplicably distant, as though the few miles between us were actually thousands. I buckled down to the business of making it through each day, started waitressing to pay the rent while looking for a job, and practiced making ends meet & loan payments on a tiny, tiny income. I taught Sunday School at the new church I had found, clipped coupons very neatly, got very good at figuring out which bills I could pay late and which I could put on a credit card, and spent Saturdays anxiously, aimlessly trying to remember what I was supposed to be doing.

Eventually I found an office job, and started dating one of my best friends from college who had just graduated himself. We had always been very close and he understood me better than probably anyone; with his encouragement I started to feel more centered. My job began to chafe me though, tied to my desk and a bin of files… and then when the "slow season" came around it just got worse as the bin of files morphed into a pile of letters to fold. I watched a lot of internet TV, complained constantly to my friends, and felt my synapses dying with every passing day. Yet I felt paralyzed, unable to make any real changes, or to move beyond the planning stage towards any of the goals I set for myself.

I'm aware of how very far I've already come, yet it never feels like fast enough or far enough. I have legs to walk on now, and most of the time I can look this broken world in the face without backing down, yet I know that I am not yet all that I could be. I'm going in a million directions at once, and making hardly any progress on anything. I want to find a new job and somewhere to volunteer regularly; I want to start doing some freelance writing. I want to have a blog that reflects who I am and is a tool for creativity and connection. I want to get involved, really involved, in a church community. I want to cook regularly, recycle, spend time with friends, garden, and get back in shape. I want to finish some of the craft projects I start, and I want to organize all those jumbled papers always crowding my desk. I want to not be overwhelmed by all these things, and not collapse in emotional exhaustion just at the thought of trying to prioritize and tackle even just a few. In many ways, I’m still the girl who used to spend her Saturdays distractedly going from one thing to another before taking a nap to avoid the jumble inside of her head. And I want to change that.

So I guess it's pretty obvious by now that my first choice for this Life & Style Makeover would be life coaching! The idea of having the kind of concentrated guidance and encouragement as describes is amazing to me. I already know that the women affiliated with this blog have immense wisdom and inspiration to offer... I've been motivated by reading them just in passing, let alone interacting with them directly. As the saying goes, even Leonardo daVinci only had 24 hours in a day... I want to learn to manage my time so that I can actually do the things I enjoy, finish some of the things I start, and make progress on my goals. Having help with that, and help learning to organize and prioritize better, would have a huge impact in my life.

This is one of the most considerate, kind giveaways I’ve ever heard of, and there are so many in desperate need for kindness and encouragement! Just reading the different posts up for this giveaway feels like a kind of tour of the myriad difficulties of life on this planet. So many people are struggling to get by, and get things together -- I know whoever is chosen will be so blessed by the hope and thoughtfulness! I’ve been blessed even just by the chance to sit down and think about how far I’ve come… the present seems easier when I consider the past. After all... I can cook now! The purpose I see outweighs the chaos, as long as I remember to constantly keep looking for it. And that is hugely hopeful in and of itself.

Thank you for the chance for reflection, and for the opportunity to be included in this competition. :)


  1. What an amazing essay! I think your reflection is insightful and really ultimately hopeful in your vulnerability.

    Yeah, having grown up overseas coming back to the US my world was very much like the one you described - my years in the US were lonely, buried in books, and generally just empty. Although I returned to the US for college I found a world of international students and mks to associate with, and I didn't really have to deal with life in the US again until I moved here a year and a half ago. Last year was very difficult - having to force myself to go out to meet people, to endure the awkward get-to-know-you times, to initiate hanging out with people afterwards. It has felt very long and lonely, even with my husband! But I am beginning to see the payoff and feel truly comfortable with friends, and like I wrote - I do feel convicted about the way I guard my heart.

    The best way to build friendships for me is join up with groups: a book club, the jr. high ministry I'm in, or a small group at church. That gives you a foundation on which to build more personal friendships.

    Thanks for the photo advice as well. I actually upload photos into flikr and then paste the html code into my blog, or else I copy in others' public flikr photos. Sometimes it lets me pick a size, but sometimes not. I'm still working on it. Frustrating!

  2. Very good essay! I hope you win. You have really come a long way. My childhood was probably the opposite of yours. I had unstable parents and went to ten different schools before I ever reached high school. Yet some of the issues that you talk about are some that I face or faced as well. Even today, I would love to lead a more deliberate life, where Martha Stewart dinner parties with friends were common place, but I have come to the conclusion that unless you have her money and bevy of servants, that does not come easy or often. I am now very happy with pizza picnics with my three young children!

    I worked many dead end jobs after college and found the repetition and lack of future possibilities maddening. The thing that did help me was graduate school. I took a class or two each semester, one afternoon or evening a week. I found it easier than undergrad and enjoyed the exchange of new ideas. It was not what I learned in the classes that benefited me, but the hope that it provided for the future and the feeling that I was not just treading water in my life. It also gave me something to do during the "slow season." Just a note of caution, don't look at the end and see all the work to get there. That's what stops most people. Just keep registering and one day you will look up and see that you are almost done and it's time to apply for graduation.

    I'm sure you know it, but its like that with any goal. It's easy to be paralyzed by the enormity of it. I finished my classes and was expected to write a dissertation. It was overwhelming, and I put it away for three months. Finally I forced myself to do something every day (out of fear of never finishing), even if it was just dot an "i" or surf the internet for new ideas. My only requirement was that I had to write down what I did each day, which I did in the note section of my Microsoft email. After six months of this I finished. By making my goal something so inconsequential and easy, I was able to accomplish the big goal.

    This can work for any goal. Pick one and try it out. BTW, I enjoy reading your blog!

  3. Sarah, this is such a wonderful essay! Very honest and very real. I hope you win! Good luck!

  4. wow...amazing. you have sure conquered some things...and you can cook! wooo hooo! good luck with the giveaway!

  5. Thanks for stopping by my blog earlier! I had to come see yours! Thank you for sharing your story. I really hope you win, but even if you don't, you have come so far and I am sure that you will continue on a path of healing and success!


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