A College Grad with Anxiety in a Coffee Shop

About half way through my college career I learned that I struggle with varying levels of anxiety. Sometimes it was a tiny voice whispering in the back of my mind, sometimes it was the reason I was throwing up and dizzy, unable to think straight for no apparent reason. I’ll admit, while I was figuring out how to handle it amid the insanity that is college life, there was a part of me that expected it to go away when I was done with college. But here I am, sitting in a coffee shop, a month after graduating, and I still have anxiety.

My heartbeat is currently going slightly too fast. I can’t tell if it’s because I had coffee before having breakfast or if my chest is tightening because of some unknown threat my anxious subconscious is picking up. Maybe it’s because this is my first time writing about my anxiety. Yeah, let’s go with that one.

Like I said, I’m sitting in a coffee shop. It’s on the eastern side of Iowa, near where I am taking what I’m calling my “hibernation” or “sabbatical” if you will. I graduated college, did the whole christmas with my family thing, and then I went to Iowa to rest. College is hard. It is. And if you wanna message me and say “hey beka get over it adult life is even harder put your big girl pants on” go for it, but college is still hard. It wears you down. You’re doing a million things at once! Every time I would try to catch up with someone I end up leaving something out because my life was so busy! I was even in the extra credit club, taking more classes than most of my friends and enabling me to graduate early. It was insane. I was exhausted. So I’m resting.

I have spent my time a variety of ways, from writing a new song to watching half a season of supernatural on netflix. I started a book I bought for five dollars and learned that I don’t really like it so far. I wrote this blog post. I started and ditched a different blog post. I started watching the office on netflix as well. I spent time with one of my best friends and my grandparents. I went to a trampoline park with some kids from church. I took naps. I rested in whatever way felt right at the moment. I hibernated, rejuvenated, and renewed.

But I still had an anxiety attack the other night while trying to fall asleep. There was no reason for it. I had a relaxing day that day, other than a migraine the day had been super low-key. There was no reason for me to have a high heart rate and not be able to close my eyes. But it happened. I prayed and read my Bible, trying to calm down. I eventually fell asleep around 4:30am, after prayer journaling and writing some half-coherent poetry.

The next morning I was frustrated with myself. Annoyed that I could let my anxiety get to me in the middle of such a relaxing week. Annoyed that even in a life as stressless as could be, I could have an anxiety attack. Annoyed that it seems like my anxiety wasn’t just a thing of my busy college life, but something I would continue to struggle with. So I’m praying. I’ll be honest, this is something I’m just realizing and figuring out, but I love that I feel safe enough to share it with you, my internet friends.

So I hope this word vomit processing of my first month post grad lands somewhere with you, even if only understanding me a little more. I strive to be open and vulnerable with people. I thrive when I am telling people what is going on in my life, in my brain. If you have any questions, just ask. Comments? Go for it. Here is an invitation to speak into my life, while I hope I can do the same for you.

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How To: Figure Out What To Do With Your Life

I graduated college a grand 15 days ago and if you asked me that day what I was going to do with my life it was very likely that I would burst into tears. Because I had no idea. I was graduating and realizing the truly unlimited future ahead of me, unmarred by commitments to people or jobs or a lease. I had nothing planned.

The next day I moved into my parents’ house, taking the winter break to be what it’s supposed to be, a break. But then… a few things fell into place. I bought some plane tickets, some concert tickets, and texted a few people. I Facebook messaged some people too, going out of my comfort zone to ask if I could sing with them. Spoiler alert: they said yes! I decided to take a “hermitage” and go hole myself up in my grandparents’ basement! I’m planning a trip to Seattle! And another to lead worship on a missions trip! Dates were being filled up, my free time gradually disappearing.

I had figured out what I wanted to do with my life! Kinda! I mean, I’m not saying it’s a long term plan, but I am starting to see what I want! Here’s some steps I took!

  1. Take time to be scared, to see the huge void staring you in the face. Just don’t live there. Be scared, then remember 2 Timothy 1:7! We are not made to be afraid! We have a God even bigger than that void! Which brings me to…
  2. Rest. You are in the hand of the God who made the universe! He put the stars in the sky, he made the plan for bears to hibernate, he’s got cha. He’s got cha. Trust in that, and take a nap. Take a bath with some candles around. Read your Bible. Pray. Pray. Pray. Take another nap. Sing and dance around the kitchen when no one’s looking. Or when people are looking! (But preferably not when people are trying to cook in said kitchen.) Rest in the God who has you covered. He’s got cha.
  3. Do something. Anything. The first thing I did was actually buy concert/plane tickets for a trip I had in the works with a friend! There are now dates on the calendar and tickets to enable me! That got me on a roll. I texted people and found a place to do my hermitage thingy, I made a few more plans.
  4. Then I got excited for those plans! I realized that there were things I wanted to do, and I did what I could to put them in motion! And sometimes that has meant messaging someone and waiting a few days for a response! Or getting a response that wasn’t quite what I wanted when I applied for a job. But I am excited nonetheless, because here I am, setting things in motion and figuring it out as I go.
  5. Now, I am okay with not knowing, too. I’m not really entirely sure what I’m doing. And I’ve become okay with that.

It is okay not to know what you’re doing with your life. All the people that seem like they have it together are just figuring it out as they go too, so why not join them? I was frustrated that I didn’t have a job to go into right after college. Then I thought on it and figured out that I don’t even want that right now! I was slightly irked that I was moving home, a little farther away from the city I love living in. But here I get to pet dogs whenever I want and get to save money by spending time with my family! Talk about a good money saving deal. I might know where I’m going next week now, but I don’t know where I’ll be in 3 months. And that is just fine with me. I’ve figured enough out for now.

Feels Like Yellow

I’m releasing my debut EP (a shorter version of an album) called Feels Like Yellow in a few days, on November 3rd, which is coming up fast. I want to use my blog to express some of the ideas behind the songs and the title of the whole project! It’s a labor close to my heart, as music often is. So here’s some ideas about the EP!

As strange as it will sound, the title is really very straight forward. These four songs feel like yellow to me. The soft yet vibrant yellow of the watercolor that is used on the album cover is perfect. It’s a color of new beginnings and spring, a light and hopeful hue. The album feels like sunshine hitting your face and those days that blend the freshness of spring with the warmth of summer. It feels like yellow.

This is probably predictable as I am such a hopeless romantic, but the entire EP is about falling in love. I did, however, throw in a twist by writing the songs in pairs. The first pair is very different from the other two songs, and vice versa. The first pair is about falling in love with yourself, whereas the second pair are about falling in love with someone else and your surroundings.

The first pair, “Freckles and Scars” and “Stay Alive Alice”, are sections of my own story as I fell in love with myself. They will each get their own blog post, but I’ll give you a sneak peek. Freckles is about seeing beauty and power in my scars rather than letting them continue to hurt me. Stay Alive Alice is made up of words from people in my life who have loved me at my lowest and helped me out of moments when I couldn’t love myself, when I thought I wouldn’t make it. These songs are a pair because they really go hand in hand. I fell in love with myself with the help of people who kept me going.

The second pair of songs are about a boy, they are a pair simply because they are about the same person, inspired by the same smile. “Lemonade” is joyful and cute, lighthearted and summertime-esque. “Let’s Hit The Road” is an adventure with the radio up and my boy’s hand in mine. I love love (as you may remember from a past blog post) and I love writing and singing songs about love. So I did.

You see, my friends, my music is made of little pieces of me. When you listen to me sing these songs, I am singing to you. Straight from me to you. Please know that. Please know my heart goes with you wherever these songs go, that these pieces of me are yours. I cannot wait to share them with you. I cannot wait for you to feel like yellow too.

Writing Love Stories

I love writing stories. and I love love. So I end up writing little love stories. Sometimes they end up being poems or song lyrics, and at one point in time I had a blog that had little love stories on it. They were only a paragraph or two long, all starting with the phrase “I met him” and would end with “and the rest is history.” Cute, right? I even wrote a poem about myself in one of them, seeing as of course they all needed a main love interest with curly red-blonde hair and freckles.  Usually these stories start from a random line that pops into my head and ends up hastily typed into a note in my phone. Sometimes they stay there. Like these.

I want to open the door and see you standing there like that.

She was wearing green. The kind that lit her eyes up like a forest in summer. He was a sucker for green.

He walked in and she took out her headphones. That’s how you could tell.

These things stream from me like tears during a well soundtracked rom-com, friends. I am terribly in love with falling in love. I read endless stories about engagements and I will rarely turn down a good rom-com. It’s a part of myself that, if I’m being honest, I don’t really know what to do with. What do I do with a heart that’s obsessed with falling in love? And as a single woman who loves Jesus? I wish I had a formula. I wish I had words to say other than “hey, fall in love with Jesus” because doesn’t that seem so cliche and over-quoted?

I am so in love with my Maker. And He’s in love with me. He gives me so many gifts and reasons to smile, and that’s the little things. He died the most excruciating death simply because He’s not done loving me yet! What! Yet, the process of falling in love with Jesus, the actions of it, are different. But the walks in the park are just as lovely, the conversations all the more filling, and the adventures are out of this world.

He is so in love with me. So in love, in fact, that the love story that he’s writing for me is far better than any I can imagine for myself. Isn’t that incredible? There is wonder out there waiting for me to experience, a gift from the God of the universe, just for me. There are moments that I will fall in love with in the future, moments in coffee shops by myself, swinging in a hammock with friends, around a table with my family, maybe even moments with a cute boy. Who knows what breath-taking love stories are waiting?! Not me. Thank goodness. No, thank God. He’s the best rom-com writer out there.

Tender and Fierce

I think I've always been very tender hearted. I feel things very deeply and powerfully, I just do. I always have. I remember thinking everyone cried as often as I do… and how shocked I was to learn that it was frowned upon to wear my feelings on my face when the tears started to fall. It is still a blessing and a curse, to feel everything so deeply and so close to the surface. Yet, as I grow up and learn more about myself and the world, it is one of my favorite things about myself. I proudly call myself a very emotional and emotive person. In fact, the last time I cried was a meager two days ago. But let me tell you, friend, that my emotions do not make me weak. My strong emotional side makes me a force to be reckoned with.

The photo for this post is a poem from the book Milk and Honey by Rupi Kaur. I first discovered her through pinterest, constantly finding myself in her beautiful words. I finally found her book and spent the next three days pouring through it, torn between devouring each page and savoring the delicious emotion in each word. This page in particular felt like my heart whispering in my ear. I have spent so much of my life being told I was too soft, too tender, and too emotional. No one could see how powerful it made me.

I don't know how to explain the confidence and solidity that my feelings and self-awareness give me. It is as if I doubt myself less when I know how I feel and that it is okay to feel how I do. I feel my feelings to validate them and give them space, and then I am in control. It's me in control, not my emotions. I think that is where it gets blurry when I try to explain this part of me to people. I am very emotional, but I am still in control. What a beautiful thing it is to feel your feelings and be aware of your thoughts and still be in control of them.

That's the key, I think. Is to be soft and tender, but still in control. I can feel my heart breaking when I see shelters full of puppies, but I can have the self control to know I can adopt one myself someday. I can feel angry when I am wronged and still be in control enough to love and forgive. I can cry in movies and I can laugh like there is no tomorrow. And I am still a strong, intelligent, and powerful woman. Knowing myself so well only makes me more powerful and it will never take away from the storm I aspire to be.

Rupi Kaur is right, to be soft is to be powerful. I will never be less because of my deep emotions. My tender heart does not make me weak, it makes me fierce.

Obligatory Catch Up Post

A lot has been happening in my life lately, and I sort of forgot about my blog so many of you may not know about it all. So I suppose this is supposed to be a catch up post, telling you all about what I’ve been up to. And it is one of those, but instead of telling you what I’ve been doing I am going to tell you what I have been feeling.

Surrounded. I felt so surrounded by my family and loved ones when I came home from Nashville. I went on tour, came home, and got to go on vacation with some of my favorite people in the world- my family. They surrounded me and lifted me up, supporting me and loving me, making me laugh like no one else does.

Apprehensive. I was nervous, I’ll admit, to live at home again for a time. Yet, here I am, living with my family for the first time in three years and wondering how I will ever survive when I have to go back to school in two months. I had nothing to do, but now have a wonderful job and music to work on. Which brings me to…

Excited. I practically burst with excitement when I started the process of producing an ep with the songs I wrote while I was in Nash! And then I booked my own show in a coffee shop, I was so excited to make a setlist and practice and play my music for my Minnesotans. But then…

Disappointed. My show didn’t have the turnout I wanted, honestly. I was very hopeful because of the great responses online and great feedback from those who made it. However, in my time in Nash not taking tests or writing papers I had overlooked the detail that my show was during finals week. Oops.

Purposeless. I am putting my heart on my sleeve with this one. I felt purposeless for a majority of the beginning of the summer. I was working on my music, yeah, working most days, yeah, but it was lacking the Jesus-driven purpose that my summers working at camp were filled with. I was confused for a long time. I am learning to bloom where I am planted, to serve where I can, and to love those who cross my path daily.

Anxious. These last few weeks have uprooted a lot of my own expectations and plans for my future. I have learned that I graduate college in December. I have no plans. People who were close to me have drifted away. I have leaned heavily on my support system. I am looking at a future that is unknown and I am learning to trust my Shepherd in that.

Freckly. I have spent hours upon hours in the sun so far this summer. Working at a garden center has taught me a lot about water, plants, and bugs. And sunscreen. I have cursed and blessed the sun within the same hour. I love being in God’s creation every day, even if it means some weird bug bites.

Anticipatory. I feel changes coming in my life, like I am walking straight towards a fork in the road. Many opportunities have come into my life or are standing on the edges of possibility for me, making the future look both exhilarating and foreboding. God is preparing me, gently guiding me as a shepherd does his sheep.

And finally, I am happy. I get to spend mornings sipping chai tea with my mom, evenings having dinner with my family. My dad is teaching me how to drive stick shift. I get to watch my sister play soccer while holding the other sister’s hand. I get to visit my brother at camp, which is ever home to me. I have many opportunities upcoming, I am speaking at a conference for high schoolers in Colorado and I am working on my debut EP. I have many reasons to smile every day, and most of them have names. I feel close to my family, close to my God, and close to my heart. I am living my summer day by day. And I am loving it.

 

This Life is Crazy and Tour was Too

A wise man once sang the words “this life is crazy” and wow can I tell you he was right. (This man is Ben Rector, the song is called Crazy and it’s great). So, I just got back from going on tour with some incredible musicians and amazing friends of mine! The program I am in down in Nashville took me to Indiana, Illinois, and Michigan! All in a week! And here, on my blog of word vomit, I will tell you all about it.

So. Every day was nearly the same. We wake up at the crack of dawn, get in a bus, and drive to the venue for that day. Once there, 29 people all help unload a truck full of gear and build a set fit for a quasi-professional show like ours. Eventually we have lunch and hopefully get a soundcheck or two in before we have a show! Once we’re done with the show we take everything down, pack it back into the truck, and go to a hotel to sleep or a bit before doing it again the next day! Wow.

Yes, a group of 29 college students put on 5 shows on the road (one more when we get back to Nash!). We played for crowds of varying in size from 5 to over 250, we played some sets nearly perfect and some had words missing or guitar amps turned off by accident. We failed, we succeeded, and we were members of the music industry for a week.

One of our emcees said at one point in the show “We came to the CMC to learn about the music industry. What we learned is that we know nothing about the music industry. But then we learned a little more about the music industry, enough to put on this show for you guys.” That, my friends, has been my semester. I got to take classes about songwriting, music licensure, and how to compress a vocal. My tests were weekly shows, my finals week, a tour. It was crazy.

I never imagined that my life could look like this. I never imagined I would have an EP recorded by the time I turned 21, that I could go on tour simply because I was in a super rad music program, that I could do a semester of college for fun. I never imagined what I could do with my life… Isn’t that insane?!

This semester has shown me that there are endless possibilities! So, learn from me! Don’t put yourself in a box (as my parents have been telling me all semester). You can’t imagine the good things that God is going to put into your life, and He works in the most mysterious ways! Here’s to life, crazy and unpredictable life!

I am Enough

I’m an artist in multiple mediums and a perfectionist at heart. I wouldn’t say I am competitive but I would definitely say I am hard on myself. I have another post about being my worst critic and I meant each word. I want everything I do to be perfect, to be good enough for everyone as well as myself. I want each and everything I make, do, and say to be just what is needed. But rarely do I feel that way.

I rarely feel good enough. I can hammer myself down until I’m a nail stuck in a wooden plank, giving splinters to anyone who tries to tell me otherwise. I can listen to my songs, read my writing, and look at my paintings or drawings and see nothing of worth. Even worse, I can look at myself the same way. But we weren’t created to view ourselves as worthless sinners, trapped in sin and failure. We are so much more.

One of my favorite passages of the Bible is Romans chapter 8. Verse 37 says that we are more than conquerors through him who loves us. More than conquerors. We have endless possibility in our hands, our minds, our feet. If we can do more than conquer (which sounds difficult if you ask me), what else can we do? Can I get out of bed? I can do even more. Can I ace this test? Write this paper? Can I write this song? Perform the song? Can I really publish this blog post, acting like I know what I’m talking about? I can. Through Him who loves me.

I’m nothing without my Jesus. He is my backbone, my strength, and my glory. I am more than a conqueror, through him. Without him? Forget it. Without Jesus I wouldn’t be in Nashville, I wouldn’t be in music. I would not be who I am without the one who loves me. Is that beautiful? I don’t matter. He does. I am enough because He is enough. I am worthy because He is worthy. I love because He first loved me.

The weight of being enough was lifted off my shoulders when Jesus died and rose again. I am no longer in charge of my worth, I don’t have to earn it through perfection or hard work. I have it. I have worth in Jesus and the best part about that is that it never changes! Nothing changes how God feels about me. Nothing changes His unconditional love. Nothing. Not mediocre song lyrics, not word vomit blog posts. Nothing.

I am enough. Say it with me, I am enough. Out loud. I don’t care if it’s a whisper or a shout, say it. I am enough. You are enough. We are enough. Not because of anything I did, but because of what Christ Jesus has done on the cross and in my heart. I am enough.

Glory Moments

I think about the future too much. Wait. Let me rephrase that. I worry about the future too much, far too much. I am a worrier in the first place, but mention the future and I can go for miles. The great unknown is scary and I want to plan it. I love planning ahead, though whether or not I follow that plan is often more of a “let’s wing it and see what happens” kind of situation. Yet, Jesus asks me if worrying will add even an hour to my life. He tells me to look at the lilies of the field and how they are clothed, to look at the birds and how they are fed. If Jesus cares for those parts of His creation, how much more will He care for me, a masterpiece of His hand?

There are times that thinking of the future is terrifying. Thinking about graduating college in a year or less, finding a job, not knowing what I am doing for the summer, those are scary unknown future thoughts. But there are also times that thinking of the future is exciting. Reading Mark 9 this morning while watching a live-stream message from my church helped me see that. You see, Mark 9 talks about the transfiguration and gives the disciples (and us as readers and believers) a peek into what life could and will be like with Jesus! This reminded me of all the many ways that God gives us glances of the glory to come.

I was at a concert, jumping around and singing along at the top of my lungs with the rest of the audience. I saw a glimpse of what worship could look like in heaven.

I was in Mexico on a missions trip, surrounded by the most joyful people I have ever seen and I saw what community will look like.

I was in my hammock on a mountain side as I breathed in the crisp fresh air I felt a peace that could only be from God. A peace that will be constant and everlasting in eternity.

These are precious moments that I keep close to my heart, moments I pull out to remember in times of chaos and doubt. These are moments that God revealed Himself to me. These are moments that I saw and felt the Holy Spirit, the moments I was closer to that Shiny Jesus moment of the transfiguration. I did not worry in these moments. I could not find the space in my heart for fear in these moments because perfect love casts out fear. I was filled with the Holy Spirit and God’s love in these moments, making it impossible to worry about anything.

These moments are some of the purest of my life, and if you have moments like these I would love to hear all about them. These stories are worth sharing. If you don’t have these kinds of moments yourself, take mine. Tell them to yourself in your times of need and believe them. You will have your own moments in your walk with Christ when He reveals himself in some of the strangest and most beautiful ways. Those stories are incredible. They are beautiful. And they are worth sharing, so please share them. Share the stories of your glimpses into a future full of God’s glory, because we need it. We need reminders of the glory to come.

How I Write Songs

So, the program here is all about the music industry and I am in the artist track, meaning I am learning how to write songs and then bring them to life in performances. It’s mildly terrifying. But also fun amid the difficulty. Turns out art rarely comes easily, so here is your once in a lifetime chance: I am going to take you through my process of writing a song.

Step One: Inspiration. Find something you want to write about. This could be just about anything, which is the hard part. Happy love songs, mad love songs, songs about dogs, songs about road trips, about how much you love cottage cheese, there are endless possibilities.

Step Two: Try not to get angry when nothing sounds quite right, keep trying until you find something you don’t hate quite as much as everything else.

Step Three: I suggest writing your chorus first, it helps you figure out where you want the song to go as a whole and often gives you a title. You’ll need a melodic and lyrical hook, something catchy that people will find themselves singing when they’re alone in the house on a Saturday night. Use more simple chords here, sticking to the 1, 4, and 5 chords like C, F, and G. It helps it sound familiar to the listener’s ear. It’s also easier to play on the guitar.

Step Four: Here is when I usually put it aside and forget how it goes when I want to work on it a day or two later, if you don’t want that to happen try recording it on your phone. Or, you could do what I do sometimes and just never go back to finish it.

Step Five: Once you have your chorus I suggest looking for some slightly different chords for your verses. Don’t go too crazy if you’re writing pop but maybe add some minor chords in there to make it interesting. Lyrically use the verses to playfully expound on the main idea you present in the chorus. Or don’t, I’m not the boss of you.

Step Six: This is when I usually realize I forgot to write a pre-chorus, so now you can look back at your chorus and write a shorter thing to lead into it. The pre will sort of lift from the verses into the chorus and remind the listener “hey the part I usually like to sing in the shower is coming up!”

Step Seven: Once you have verses, a pre-chorus, and chorus it’s time to mix it up a little! Here you have a choice, you can pitch the whole thing in the trash and start all over or you can write a bridge! The bridge is usually a left turn in the song so use this chance to use any funky chords you’ve been waiting to throw in. The bridge is also a left turn lyrically, so you can present the other side of whatever story you are trying to tell here.

Step Eight: You might think you’re done at this point, maybe leave it to sit in your brain and go back later. My friends, you’d be incorrect. You will come back later and you will either love the song and consider it done, or you will hate it and edit the poor thing until it is a nearly new song.

Step Nine: Cry a little because it’s not exactly what you wanted it to be. Edit it some more. Retune your guitar, because surely that’s the problem, right? Or maybe it needs to be raised a couple half steps, angrily get your capo out and attempt singing it in keys that sound all too similar yet worlds different.

Step Ten: Rejoice! You have potentially finished a song! Send it to your friends so they can all tell you how awesome it is! Remember to record it or practice it once in a while because if you don’t you will forget how it goes and have to write it all over again! Good luck!

Alright, so part of this is a joke, but honestly– songwriting is hard. It’s pouring your heart and soul into art and hoping that people will hear what you have to say. It’s editing each word mercilessly and angrily staring at the ceiling when your pitch reference starts to fail you. It’s crying when you can’t find the words and crying when you do. Songwriting is no walk in the park. However, in the end, when you’ve said what you wanted to say and sung your little heart out, music is worth it.