Allison Coyle

The well established conformists path is the easy one, it has been traveled many times and its rewards are mediocre at best.

Tag: happiness

Pageantry of Vanity

If you haven’t yet seen this video, I implore you to do so before you read any further.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dRl8EIhrQjQ

Most, if not all, of us go through phases in which we rid ourselves of social media. For some, it’s not simply a phase but a conscious, permanent decision to change the way we interact with others.

I deleted my Facebook account last June after my heart was broken by a guy I was convinced I was destined to marry. I have over 500 “friends” on Facebook, yet I felt completely alone. In my sorry state, I wrote several notes about my situation, hoping to receive feedback from others who could relate. Yet I received none. Thankfully, I was interning with a great group of people at the time who pulled me out of my funk and brought color back to my life. This incident caused me to reevaluate the true purpose and necessity of social media in my own life. I was no longer “networking” or “keeping up” with old friends and acquaintances. I was airing my dirty laundry for virtual strangers to read. And I wasn’t alone in doing so.

Have you ever stopped and really taken note of how people utilize their social media pages? Some people genuinely do keep up with friends and share interesting articles and videos with said friends. My grandma is a great example of that, as is my friend Tiffany, who uses Facebook to create event invites and share info with her friends studying midwifery. I am not a great example of this, unfortunately. While I love discussing politics, music, and movies, I realized not too long after I created a Facebook page that social media is not the best medium for doing so. It’s much easier to debate and argue with others when you’re not forced to speak with them face to face. This has created unnecessary rifts in a few friendships, none of which, thankfully, have been permanent. So while I think discussing politics is a good and healthy practice, I now recognize that Facebook is a terrible venue for doing so.

I’m sure most people have examples of discussions gone awry due to miscommunication over social media. I can’t count the number of couples I’ve seen fight over one of them clicking “like” on someone else’s selfie or getting caught posting pictures of themselves with someone other than their significant other. It’s ridiculously juvenile, and this kind of behavior has permeated our culture just within the last decade. When was the last time you hung out with a friend without them taking a picture of their food or updating their status in the midst of a discussion? I got into an argument a few years ago with a friend who refused to put his phone away during dinner because he wanted to be in constant contact with his boyfriend.

Aside from the bad manners technology has wrought, there is a greater underlying problem in our culture. How often do you compare yourself to your friends on Facebook or Twitter? Their lives seem more exciting, right? They’re at a bonfire or at a party with loads of people on a Friday night, and you’re sitting at home, Netflix binging with pizza. They post pictures of their escapades with their new friends, and you feel guilty for only having three close friends. So, the next time you go out, you make sure to post a status or maybe even a picture of how much “fun” you’re having, because that’s what you do, right? You’re supposed to document everything you do on social media, right? I mean, doesn’t everybody? This creates a toxic cycle in which everyone feels the need to outdo one another in a false reality. We live our lives incorrectly assuming that those around us are happier, prettier, and more successful than us, based on pictures and statuses that they put up. Of course, we don’t know what their lives are really like outside of this social media bubble. We don’t know what they look like when they wake up, whether or not they feel self-conscious when they look in the mirror, how many close, reliable friends they have, or even how happy they are. The same people you envy may very well envy you.

I ended up reactivating my Facebook page last September, 3 ½ months after I had deleted it, for what reason, I can’t remember. I do remember reactivating it with the intent of doing so temporarily. I will be deleting my Facebook page at midnight tonight, with the intent of doing so permanently. I feel like a hypocrite for engaging in behavior that I condemn, and now feels like the right time to bow out.

I hope that you will weigh the pros and cons of social media in your own life and decide whether or not you’re using it as a means of communication or as a tool for narcissism.

Nostalgia, in Perspective

In one of my previous posts, I discussed perception and how humans tend to view life from a “big picture” vantage point, as opposed to appreciating the various stages of life. You can view my post on perception if that particular narrative peaks your interest; right now, I’d like to discuss the roles various individuals play in our lives and where they fit into certain moments in time.

Nostalgia is an indelible, universal piece of the human structure, metaphysically speaking. Every human being is privy to romanticizing past eras of their life, generally because they shared happy memories with a handful of people (or one specific person). What we fail to recall is the sadness that accompanied those fleeting moments. It’s easy to envy my twenty year old self when I conveniently block out the persistent unhappiness and uncertainty that I felt at the time.

At eighteen, after severing ties with one of my best friends of five years, I felt a pang of doubt and guilt. Mind you, the decision was mutual. We both felt that we had outgrown one another and felt as though we were clashing more often than not. Still, it’s tough letting go of friends. She and I were each other’s counterpart in high school. We probably fought more often than most friends, but fighting to mend and repair a friendship creates a strong bond. We both wanted the friendship to last, but ultimately, it wasn’t in the cards. I didn’t realize until I was nineteen that her friendship served a great purpose in my life. I was overwhelmed with self-doubt and recurrent spells of depressing throughout high school, and she was always there for me. I’m a night-owl through and through, and my peak hours of socializing are between 3 and 4 in the morning. Though she typically went to bed around 9 p.m., she never, in the five years we spent together, ignored a late-night call. She would pick up the phone and in a gruff voice say, “Yoooo, dude, what’s up???” Haha. I would immediately realize the ridiculousness of my 3 a.m. call and apologize, telling her, “Sorry, I didn’t realize how late it was. I’ll call you tomorrow.” And she’d always refuse, pushing through the grogginess and staying on the phone with me until I felt better. What I’m getting at with this rant is that people serve a necessary purpose in our lives at all times, and we shouldn’t let our frustration or doubt cloud this fact. She and I needed one another in high school (I’m sure I needed her more than she needed me, in hindsight), and that’s okay.

Things don’t have to last forever to mean something or have worth.

Thus my final story, which was the initial motivation for writing this post…last year, I befriended a twenty-five year old writer at one of my internships, who left more of an impression upon me than I realized at the time. He’s a graduate of Brown University and is incredibly passionate about literature. Naturally, when he caught me reading, he would immediately spark up a conversation about said book. Our nerdy connection progressed into a mutual attraction, one which we knew we couldn’t pursue, as I was an intern, and he was technically my boss. I spent the next few months wondering if things could have been different, but I now see and appreciate the time spent together for what it was. I needed guidance and understanding, and he offered that. We spent many early mornings lionizing Henry David Thoreau over breakfast and The Wall Street Journal and discussed how we both dreamed of moving to Maine one day. He implored me to go back to school and finish my degree, insisting that I was missing out on a major life experience. Absurdly (but kindly) thinking that I was smart enough to get into an Ivy League school, he offered to send my writing to a friend of his at

Brown. I insisted that I wasn’t going to waste my time sitting in a classroom when I could continue my education in the world. Yes, I’m ranting. My point here is, there is no need for regret or uncertainty when you identify and appreciate the positive influence a person has had in your life. As I stated previously, I needed guidance and understanding, and he offered that.

People will enter and leave your life in a flash, and that’s okay. Appreciate the role they’ve played in your life, and try to be that positive influence for someone else. Don’t reminisce with doubt and sadness. Enjoy the time and happiness you’ve been dealt thus far, and remember that one day, you’ll look back longingly at THIS moment.

Advice at 21

We’ve all felt lost and alone. We’ve all felt unheard and unappreciated. As I write this note at 1 a.m., I feel at one with humanity. I feel at one with every person who has a story to tell but hasn’t yet found the strength within themselves to tell it.

To those of you who have experienced unrequited love, I feel for you. To those of you who have taken that terrifying leap of expressing your love to someone who wasn’t quite “The One,” wow, do I ever feel for you. It is truly their loss, not yours. It has taken me a year and a half to realize this truth, but it is the ultimate truth. You love deeply, and you love hard..and that is a GOOD thing. Your love and compassion are not weaknesses. They are gifts that will one day be treasured.

You are more than the sum of your mistakes. There is so much life ahead, God willing, and you will be in awe of something one day…whether that be another person, a mountain, a book, a poem, a painting, or even your own potential. Don’t let your failures outweigh your achievements.

If you’re single, don’t dote on what you don’t have but rather relish what you do have…time to learn a new language or read a new book, space to meet new people, freedom to take a solo cross-country trip and be amazed by your self-sufficiency.

Do not stay in a relationship if you doubt more often than you trust.

If you enjoy smoking, smoke! This may not be great advice, but it’s self-gratifying advice. The end is (hopefully) nigh, so let’s enjoy it while we can!

There’s no shame in trying new things, whether that be a new diet, a new religion, or simply a new style. Perspective comes from new experiences, so try out something new and run with it. It doesn’t have to fit for it to be a success.

If you gain ten pounds, be thankful you’re not starving. Also, upgrade to a fierce new wardrobe.

Your weight does not define you any more than you IQ defines you. If you own a scale, write the following words on it – 
“The number on this scale will not tell you:
– What a great person you are
– How much your friends and family love you
– That you are kind, smart, funny, and amazing in ways numbers cannot define
– That you have the power to choose happiness
– Your own self-worth

(Yes, I stole this idea ^)

Feed yourself kind words, and learn the power of complimenting others.

If you are fortunate enough to have a singular passion in life, spend your life mastering it. If you find yourself pulled in several directions, explore every option. There is NOTHING wrong with uncertainty. We are all works in progress.

If you don’t already, start keeping a diary and track your progress. When you look back at who you were, you may have the urge to burn your diary in shame, lest you die and anyone discover what you used to write about, but keep it as a reminder that you HAVE grown.

Don’t be too hard on yourself if you’re not where you thought you’d be thus far in life. You have grown in immeasurable ways, whether you realize it or not.

This is tough for me, but ladies, try to go a week or so without wearing any type of concealer or foundation. Your skin will feel so good.

To everyone, take up cooking! You will feel fantastic knowing that you have mastered a dish and have it in your arsenal at any given time.

Check your car’s oil frequently. Your car may die. R.I.P. Phoebe (my first car).

Finding faults in others may feel good in the moment, but it can quickly become a habit. Realize that others make unfair judgments of you as well. Try not to make assumptions about strangers.

People only post the highlights of their lives on social media. Don’t envy them or assume their life is better than yours. You don’t know the full picture.

Watch the sunrise from the Lincoln Memorial. You’ll feel like the tallest person on Earth.

Lincoln Memorial

Perception

I’m fascinated by how time can warp our perception of a given period in the past. I’d like to say that my struggle to make sense of my life is a recent development, but that would be a lie. I never have and I don’t believe I ever will “know” my place in life. I’m a big believer in fate…when it’s happening to others. It’s hard to see the big picture when you’re living day to day. Each day feels monotonous and repetitive. With age, my belief in the “big picture” diminishes. Looking at life in a linear fashion is human nature; it’s a quick, efficient way for people to summarize what they’ve done. I myself am partial to the segmented view, which simply means you divide your life experiences into categories based on age/particular memories. You could easily make the case that segmented parcels of time are tantamount to the big picture of life, but I find it less daunting and depressing to view my life thus far in various categories.

 As I briefly alluded to, this ongoing struggle to make sense of the day to day is not a recent development, though I have a tendency of thinking so in the moment. I was experiencing my weekly quarter-life crisis earlier today when I decided to go back and look at some of my blog posts from last year. For the past few months, I’ve romanticized my experiences as a 20 year old in DC. As a 21 year old, I’ve been in a state of constant panic, feeling as though my life has not panned out as planned. To my surprise, my writing from last year reflects that to an even GREATER extent. I know this sounds nuts, I mean…it was only last year, right? I SHOULD have a clear picture in my mind of how I was feeling just last year, shouldn’t I? This is an excerpt from one of my blog posts from last fall:

 “What do you want to be?” This question has plagued me my entire life; more recently, it has threatened to undermine what little sanity I possess. As a four year old, I knew what I wanted to be. I wanted to be a singer. I wanted to captivate tens of thousands of people with nothing more than my voice.

Seventeen years later, I feel saddened, confused, and lost when asked the same question that once drew a spirited, audacious response. “What do you want to be?”

I found myself confronted with this rootless question once again two weeks ago during a job interview for a reporter position with a news network. “What do you want to be?” asked the pretentious editor, waiting for me to faulter. “I want to be a reporter,” I responded, the weight of my lie sinking to the bottom of my stomach. I have no remorse in lying to a news editor; I am saddened by the lies I feed myself. In fairness, it was a half-lie. Some small part of me does want to track down story leads, harrass politicians, and become a household name a la Bob Woodward. But that part of me is very small…and dying every day.

I only realize in hindsight how deeply rooted my uncertainty has been these past few years. The breadcrumbs trail back to my first encounters with my political idols. In each instance, instead of asking for career advice, like my brazenly confident peers, I, in my desperation, asked, “Do you ever reach an age at which you’re truly happy? Do you ever stop panicking about where you’re going in life?” Some say yes, others say no. During a panic-induced, damn-near-teary-eyed phone call with Tucker Carlson, he assured me that what I’m feeling is good…that fear drives you to succeed. When the conversation began to steer toward him giving me career advice, I pried for personal advice. I want nothing more than for someone to tell me what to do…assure me that happiness is tangible…that it’s not merely an esoteric concept.

No, I don’t know what I want to be. I don’t think there is one single thing I want to be. But I know who I want to be. I know the things I want to do. I want to be a writer, a singer, a good friend, a mother. I want to climb mountains, learn about cars, become a vegan, talk to a nomad, own a used bookstore, live in a cabin, see every corner of America.

Why do we allow our worth to be measured by others? Why is it we never stop to wonder what it is that would make us truly happy?

More importantly, why do we never do that which would make us truly happy?

Self-doubt ran my life as a 20 year old. It was all I thought about, from the moment I got in the car every morning to the moment I set my alarm every night. “What am I doing with my life?” As apparent in my blog post above, my uncertainty strangled me to the point of sending rambling, incoherent emails to various political figures in my virtual rolodex, in hopes that they would ease my fears and help me make sense of my life and my chosen career path. I needed validation. While other strong-minded, brilliant, career-centered interns asked intelligent questions about taking their careers to the next level, I desperately, and quite pathetically, sought answers to esoteric questions pertaining to happiness and finding peace in life, questions that have no real answer.

While I still fear the future (rather, not knowing), my life is beginning to take shape, though it may not seem to in the day to day. Perception of the past is relative to where you find yourself in the future. While I’ll always treasure the time I spent in DC, it was no fairytale, contrary to what I prefer to believe. The next time you think back to a point in the past, try to remember the full-picture, not just the footnotes.

A Conflicted Generation

Millennials

Our generation is conflicted in every which way, from our religious and political beliefs to our most fundamental desire to live free and uninhibited lives. While I can’t speak for all millennials, I believe I speak for many when I say that we feel lost in a way that no other generation has felt in over a century.

In the early 20th century, swarms of Americans left their parents’ farms for greater opportunities in expanding cities. During the 1930’s and 40’s, Americans took pride in our rapidly growing industrial economy, giving women their first taste of work outside of the home. The 50’s and early 60’s gave way to the “American Dream,” during which time men were expected to work 9 to 5 jobs, while their wives were expected to maintain the home and raise their children. The hippies of the late 60s and early 70s offered an alternative lifestyle to the disenchanted youth of the day. Men and women were no longer forced into the societal box which the generation prior had constructed. The 80’s and 90’s proved the hippies of the 70’s correct, in that women entered the workplace at record rates, no longer shackled by visions of marital grandeur.

And here we are, my fellow twenty-somethings. Women are now equal in the workplace (don’t even come at me on this or I will cut you), men are no longer expected to be the sole breadwinners in the family, and, furthermore, it’s becoming less and less taboo to forgo marriage altogether. So the question is, what is our generation’s conflict? What great injustice do we face? I don’t believe we have one.

Yet therein lies the conflict…we are conflicted in that we have no major conflict.

A person in their 40’s or 50’s might read this and think, “What a bunch of spoiled brats. They complain because they don’t have a problem to fix.” This is where I believe our generation is uniquely lost. Previous generations were liberated by the changing times. They had a social cause to rally behind. Women were excited to enter the workplace. Men were liberated by the idea that they could chase their dreams, unencumbered by a family.

Our generation is aimless in that we have the world at our fingertips but know not what to do with it. Whether we like to admit it or not, conflict, in some ways, is a great motivator. People, Americans in particular, are driven by the idea that something cannot be done. So what is a generation to do once everything has, theoretically, already been done? We are in good company. Lincoln’s fellow statesmen often complained that they had no great conflict, as the Founding Fathers had already established the greatest country on Earth. Little did they know the great battle that was to come. Perhaps we’ll be fortunate (or unfortunate) enough to live to fight a great battle, whether it be literal or metaphorical.

But for the moment, we’re in limbo.

I often read articles in which the author, presumably in their 40’s or 50’s, chastises millennials for being lazy, uninspired, and unmotivated. Without going into the countless variables (cost of living increases, college tuition skyrocketing, etc.), I contend that our generation is not lazy but simply overwhelmed. While I’m incredibly grateful that my parents have allowed me to live with them for so long, I feel as though they expect the world of me, which is largely why I’ve decided to shun the field of politics as a profession. I don’t have the longing to achieve greatest in my bones as they wish I did. I want to live a simple life. I want to live in a small cottage in western Montana and raise a family out in the country. I want my children to be happy with what they have. I want to play with my kids and teach them how to farm and fend for themselves. I don’t want to raise my family in a metropolitan area, where they’ll be inundated with messages of over-consumption and greed.

Our focus, I believe, should be examining the idea of happiness and contentment. We all have a different vision of happiness. For some, it IS a large home and a fat income, and that’s fine! Lol. I’m nothing if not pro-capitalism! But if your vision of happiness is living a minimalist lifestyle in a small home in the country, you should be encouraged to chase that dream as well. Just because you don’t dream of conquering Capitol Hill, that doesn’t make your dream any less valid.

Determine what happiness means to you, and go for it.

The Meaning of Life

 Montana

“I have lived through much, and now I think I have found what is needed for happiness. A quiet secluded life in the country, with the possibility of being useful to people to whom it is easy to do good, and who are not accustomed to have it done to them; then work which one hopes may be of some use; then rest, nature, books, music, love for one’s neighbor—such is my idea of happiness. And then, on top of all that, you for a mate, and children perhaps—what can more the heart of man desire?”

“What do you want to be?” This question has plagued me my entire life; more recently, it has threatened to undermine what little sanity I possess. As a four year old, I knew what I wanted to be. I wanted to be a singer. I wanted to captivate tens of thousands of people with nothing more than my voice.

Seventeen years later, I feel saddened, confused, and lost when asked the same question that once drew a spirited, audacious response. “What do you want to be?”

I found myself confronted with this rootless question once again two weeks ago during a job interview for a reporter position with a news network. “What do you want to be?” asked the pretentious editor, waiting for me to faulter. “I want to be a reporter,” I responded, the weight of my lie sinking to the bottom of my stomach. I have no remorse in lying to a news editor; I am saddened by the lies I feed myself. In fairness, it was a half-lie. Some small part of me does want to track down story leads, harrass politicians, and become a household name a la Bob Woodward. But that part of me is very small…and dying every day.

I only realize in hindsight how deeply rooted my uncertainty has been these past few years. The breadcrumbs trail back to my first encounters with my political idols. In each instance, instead of asking for career advice, like my brazenly confident peers, I, in my desperation, asked, “Do you ever reach an age at which you’re truly happy? Do you ever stop panicking about where you’re going in life?” Some say yes, others say no. During a panic-induced, damn-near-teary-eyed phone call with Tucker Carlson, he assured me that what I’m feeling is good…that fear drives you to succeed. When the conversation began to steer toward him giving me career advice, I pried for personal advice. I want nothing more than for someone to tell me what to do…assure me that happiness is tangible…that it’s not merely an esoteric concept.

No, I don’t know what I want to be. I don’t think there is one single thing I want to be. But I know who I want to be. I know the things I want to do. I want to be a writer, a singer, a good friend, a mother. I want to climb mountains, learn about cars, become a vegan, talk to a nomad, own a used bookstore, live in a cabin, see every corner of America.

Why do we allow our worth to be measured by others? Why is it we never stop to wonder what it is that would make us truly happy?

More importantly, why do we never do that which would make us truly happy?

Simplicity

Image

 

 

“Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated.” ― Confucius

 

“As you simplify your life, the laws of the universe will be simpler; solitude will not be solitude, poverty will not be poverty, nor weakness weakness.”  ― Henry David Thoreau

 

“Manifest plainness,
Embrace simplicity,
Reduce selfishness,
Have few desires.”
― Lao Tzu

 

“Possessions, outward success, publicity, luxury – to me these have always been contemptible. I believe that a simple and unassuming manner of life is best for everyone, best for both the body and the mind.” ― Albert Einstein

 

Simplicity. According to many of the most brilliant philosophers and writers of all time, we should strive for simplicity. A complicated life is no life at all.

So why do we choose to make things so complicated? Why do I sit in traffic for three hours every day? Why, at the ripe age of twenty, do I already feel burnt out with life? Why do I feel forty years old when my peers feel every bit their youth? 

Perhaps I need to start over. Perhaps I need a clean slate. 

Perhaps the world of political writing and formal engagements is not what my soul is yearning after. Maybe I’ve been fooled into thinking this is what I want…that scraping and clawing to live in this pretentious city overrun by social-climbers is worth fighting for.

I’m looking for happiness. And it isn’t here.