An Open Letter to the Christian Alt-Right

YOU DID IT, ALT-RIGHT! Congratulations.

You assembled your tea party, you preyed on the economic insecurity of America’s rural poor, you revived an old trick – pitting Black and White against one another when the 1% needed to reconcile with the working class. You did it. You found a man who could be considered a Populist – a man who “tells it like it is.” You allowed your “Grand Old Party” representatives to stay silent as his fear mongering and hateful speech grew louder. You stayed silent in the polls – not wanting to admit your fears of people that are shades of brown and Black, who wear hijabs and niqabs, who don’t speak the same first language. Then you elected a man, a man who has no regard for American democracy – let alone human rights. You elected a career businessman to serve We the People. You did all this – you even disregarded the message of the Gospel in your fear.

I don’t hate you. I don’t blame you – you’re human, just like me. It’s easy to get scared, to make mistakes. It’s what we do from birth until death. And accepting Christ is not a signal of the end of our mistakes in this life. Every day we fail, every day we are forgiven. Besides, living like Christ in the day-to-day is an impossible task – yet it is one we are charged to keep striving for each and every day. That’s the beauty of faith in Jesus – he loves and forgives. However, we are charged with getting up each day, no matter our doubts and fears and beliefs we were brought up with, and loving anyway.

America was founded on many things: freedom of speech, of religion, and separation of Church and State, to name a few. I’m not one to get nostalgic about the Founding of our country – I find it misleading, and nationalism is not something I find useful. It is a bit difficult to navigate the world of American politics (separating government and religion), and standing true to one’s Christian values. But saying you love Jesus, and quoting the Beatitudes at bible study or laying in your Eno is easy – recognizing and fighting for the freedoms of your fellow humans is not.

“What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.” -James 2:14-17

I’m pretty fond of this excerpt from James. It’s a really good reality check, for me. Am I going to Church? Check. Am I having my quiet time to read my Bible? Check. Am I talking with the Lord regularly? Check! Except God doesn’t care about checking the boxes of Christianity for appearances, or even so we can just feel good about ourselves (don’t believe me? check out the book of Acts!). God cares about actions in faith. The example James uses above is really similar to GOP Congresspeople publicly stating their emphatic remorse of history on Holocaust Remembrance Day, yet staying silent as Donald Trump signed an executive order banning entry to the country for citizens (save permanent U.S. residents) from Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen on the same day. This keeps students from returning to school in the U.S., keeps parents from their children, and dwindles the already deplorable number of refugees we allowed into the nation from those places to zero.

“All Lives Matter.” This phrase rang in cacophony when people of color spoke out against the relentless killing of unarmed Black citizens by the police. “Black lives matter!” we cried, fearing for the safety of our fathers, brothers, sons, and cousins. “Black lives matter!” we cried when Trayvon Martin and Tamir Rice and Philando Castille were murdered. Clearly, Black lives do not matter. Black (and Brown) lives have never truly mattered in America, unless the struggle of the oppressed pressured the government to change its legislation. If “all lives matter,” why are the people who yelled this phrase the loudest – meaning the conservative, often Christian right – not enraged by the barring of families in war torn areas from safety? America is the largest democracy in the world – a democracy envisioned from those fleeing oppression – and yet we turn our backs on those oppressed? Not only is this un-Christianlike, it is un-American.

There are 1.6 billion Muslims in the world – 23% of Earth’s population. Islam is not scary, or bad. Jihad is not scary or bad. Jihad, in it’s truest translation, means struggle – struggle within oneself against sin, struggle to inform others about their religion – sound familiar? It does not mean violent war in which innocent lives are taken. Jihad is given boundaries in the Quran – and extremist groups such as Al Queda, ISIS, and Boko Haram have diverged from the meaning of Jihad and of Islam itself. And they prey on those who feel shunned by the Western world in times like these, American disdain further catalyzes extremism. These groups are admonished by the overwhelming majority of Muslims across the globe – and yet in America, Islam as a whole is seen as a threat. Attacks against Muslim groups have been on the rise since Donald Trump won the Republican primaries, with the latest attack occurring in Texas mere days ago.

The “alt-right” sees the Middle East – its people, culture, its dominant religion – as a threat. We characterize the 1.6 billion by the actions of few. And yet, most American mass shootings, serial killers and drug crimes are committed by White men – and we do not fear them, or consider these actions “terrorist” even if that is exactly what they are. We see White violence in America as individualized, yet we see immigration as a group threat.

“‘When a foreigner resides among you in your land, do not mistreat them. The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt.” -Leviticus 19:33-34

This is important, too – and I’m not the biggest fan of Leviticus. We are charged with loving those who come to our lands, those who become our neighbors. God’s followers have long gone through phases of persecution, rejection, and violence – who are we to cast the same fate on others?

Trump’s attorney general choice, Jefferson Sessions, opposed the Violence Against Women Act – a federal law that established protections for victims of sexual violence and abuse. As attorney general, Sessions would be the main legal advisor for the federal government, counsel Congress, and assist in enforcing laws passed. Think of the women you know: your mother, sister, daughter, niece, friends being victims of sexual abuse in a nation where the legal reprieve and support systems for these crimes are stripped away. I shouldn’t have to make this personal, I shouldn’t have to make you think “What if it happened to me?” – you should just care. That is what we are supposed to do, as Christians – care for, and look out for, and protect one another.

Mike Pence, our freshly minted Vice President, is a violent opponent of LGBTQIA rights, and in one of previous campaigns, conversion therapy was a platform. He quickly met with anti-choice organizations, but has yet to consider the importance of the right to choose. I shouldn’t have to spell out the immorality in manipulation and physical torture imparted on someone due to their sexuality, or the injustice that an adult woman’s bodily autonomy is less important that the fetus inside her. Clearly, LGBTQIA and reproductive rights issues are a touchy point for many Christians (though I consider myself an ally and am unabashedly pro-choice – all while being Christian). Notwithstanding, to that disdain for those issues, I give you another gem of a verse from James:

If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, “Love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing right. But if you show favoritism, you sin and are convicted by the law as lawbreakers. For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it.”  -James 2:8-10

Your sins are equal to the sins of every other person – and in no way should someone else’s sins cause you to wish them harm, instability, or fewer freedoms. We are guilty of breaking all of God’s charges to us by not loving one another. That means it is possible to be both a good Christian, and a good American (shocking). That means not questioning the women in your life when they say they are marching for equal rights, that means not saying “I understand both sides” when we ban scores of people in need from our country, that means not picking your political party over your neighbor when the Trump administration targets people of color, and the LGBT+ population, that means opposing construction of the Dakota Access and Keystone Pipeline when it threatens the health and safety of Native Americans, that means demanding that Flint, Michigan receives clean water before we spend billions of dollars on a wall.

White America elected Trump – it is hurtful, it has been harmful. You did it, alt-right. You did it, GOP. That does not make me hate you. That makes me inquire on the true faithfulness much of White America claims in supporting this new administration. That makes me look closer when I look to see if you have come to your senses, if you are standing up for your fellow American, your fellow human, when injustice comes their way. 4 years of Donald Trump in office does not have to mean four years of regression, four years of escalated hate, four years that will be spent in heartache. It can mean four years of demanding human rights be applied to all humans, it can mean four years of being the Good Samaritan, it can be four years of proving that Christ’s love is something that cannot be diminished by state violence, neglect, and disdain.

You did it. But what are you going to do now? Upholding the values of Christianity does not mean you have to change parties, but it involves how you carry yourself in times like these, and how you lift others when they are knocked down. Each of us has a choice, and each of us has been given a charge: “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.

-till next time! Niara

 

Growth, comfort, and vision for the New Year

2016 is over, and let’s be honest. It was a really rough year. Heartbreak, loss, sadness, shock. The future scared me, my heart broke, I lost a place I had long called home, we lost so many amazing people, and the antithesis of American democracy became president-elect. But I also saw family and friends get married, traveled more than I ever have in a year, felt confident in my career goals, saw one of my favorite bands live for the first time, and explored new national parks and forests with people I love deeply. It was the year, as Kylie Jenner so eloquently prophesied, of “realizing things.” One of the most important things I discovered for my own personal development is this: Growth and comfort are often mutually exclusive.

In the year that so frequently attempted to pull me down (and succeeded a few times!), I grew a surprising amount. This growing was often accompanied by a sense of loss. I felt like the things and people I’d always counted on being constant were vanishing into thin air, and the longer I groped in the open space for these things (and people, and places) to come back into my life, the more heartache I felt. In my rock bottom moments of dejection, self-pity and deprecation, and confusion, I was (and frequently still) allowed myself to turn a blind eye to all the things I gained from these losses in the process. In heartbreak, I’d learned the value of putting my needs first, and trusting my gut. In the loss of a house, I was reminded incessantly that home isn’t a plotted location, but where you can be best understood and loved by another soul (which means home is a couch in a friend’s apartment, the back seat of a car, a dance floor, or a hike in the woods). In the disappointed shock in the wake our our nation’s election, I became reassured in my future career in law.

So, as I’m learning (sometimes painfully), each day, if I’m willing to shirk comfort when it attempts to keep me focused on short-term realities, I can discover a lot more purpose for myself. To me, purpose comes from vision. Vision comes from not narrow- mindedness, but the intentional breakaway from all the things that  detract from our focus on what drives us. I sat in my church’s New Year’s Day sermon, pondering the question our pastor had just asked us, “What do you want this year?” What do I desire, what will be my purpose? And I’m still chewing on that. There are a million things I want: adventure, opportunity, contentment, creativity – the list goes on forever, that’s just who I am. But I think he was asking something a little bit deeper, and I think he meant this: what do I need this year, to keep hold of vision for myself and the world I live in? I think that answer is simple, and it’s love. And not judgmental, selective, exclusive love. I’m talking about the kind of  love that given immediately, wholly, and with reckless abandon. Love for myself (how I treat my body, and nourish my spirit), love for my friends (how I can work to serve and care for them better), and love for my not-so-friendly-humans (how I can educate in the least judgmental way about issues that impact the world’s most marginalized).

That kind of love is hard to come by, and even harder to hold oneself accountable to uphold. I’m not even making that a resolution, because I know I will fail miserably on a daily basis. However,  in filling myself with love and reminding myself after each daily failure that love promotes growth, I think I will better recognize my purpose. And if that is not in the cards for me this year, the worst case scenario is that I taught myself to love better. This means a million things: it means loving my sense of adventure and saving up accordingly, it means loving when you don’t always feel loved back, it means loving my future enough to push through the trials of thesis writing and LSAT prep. I hope you, in your New Year reader, are filled up with and surrounded by love – and most of all, I hope that love inspires you to grow. It will not be comfortable, but I can feel it deeply that the discomfort will be well worth it.

let’s overcome writer’s block

If you didn’t know this about me, I’m a writer. Not just blogging, but fiction and some poetry as well. Growing up, I had a lot more time on my hands, and saw creative writing as my only career path. Of course, we grow up – life gets busy, passions expand, and there seems to be a lot less time for the outlet and skill I’ve always admired most about myself: my ability to evoke emotion in words.

Since I began college three years ago, my writing has shifted from my creative imagination in prose to a utilitarian mind catered to writing essays on politics and history. I’m trying to be truer to myself this semester – that includes setting goals to myself to read “for fun,” and also pushing myself to write – even if I’m tired or think I can’t put pen to paper.

Writer’s block is the hardest thing I’ve encountered in trying to make the switch back from the left to right side of the brain in writing. Often times, it feels defeating – like I’ve just lost a knack for narration, or that all my ideas are silly. The worst thought that pops into my mind is this: maybe I’ve just ignored writing too long. But I’m realizing you don’t just “lose” talent, or something you were disciplined in or passionate about. The key is to simply reinvest yourself. While my dreams of being a best-selling author working for Random House publishing at the age of 25 seems a little more distant than I once believed, I can’t stop believing that I’ll be an author someday, when the time is right. It’s really hard to overcome the overwhelmingly defeating thoughts, or simply a blank canvas mind, but I’ve come up with (and am still working on) a constructive list of exercises that have helped to overcome writer’s block (usually!):

1. Use what you know. Are you learning about a particular moment in history, or a historical thinker/activist/leader? Think about what they went through, think about the social climate during their time period, and write a short personal narrative based on it

2. Binge write first, edit down the bad stuff laterThis tip is a classic – and for good reason. Sometimes, after a weird dream, or negative interaction, I push out all the words, feelings, and thoughts that I can. More often than not, 90% of it is absolute crap, but there are hidden phrases or ideas that aren’t crap – and just may be a jumping off point for further writing.

3. If you’re hurting, write at what is causing you pain. TMI, but my heart has been through a lot of brokenness this semester. There are days when I don’t want to get out of bed, let alone set aside time to write about things that won’t fix my problems. And projecting may be bad to do in relationships, but it can be a huge outlet in developing a tone, plot, or character in writing. Vent, say what you wanted to say, what you couldn’t say, what you feel entitled to say. Sometimes, this exercise makes me feel empty afterwards, but it’s like the numb you feel after a good cry: an equilibrium is reached.

4. Read the last chapter of a favorite work. I have a bookshelf of the works I just couldn’t bear to part with for the school year, and it’s because they are the most inspiring to me. I can feel Ernest Hemingway’s passion and angst in A Moveable Feast, my heart breaks with Levin’s in Anna Karenina, and I feel recklessly romantic with Oscar in The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao. Reconnect with the things that made you feel inspired, and capable as a writer. Rekindle the relationship you had with your favorite protagonists and supporting characters. Let them break your heart, and sweep you up again. A love for a book is one that never goes away, and the potential one can stir is always there.


I would love to know what my fellow writer’s do when they have writer’s block – this is by no means an exhaustive list, even for myself. I so easily become pessimistic or nonchalant about my writing – but I’m trying to remember more consistently that I love it for a good reason, and the methods above have been so good for me in helping to overcome the obstacles I face when developing my craft.

-till next time! Niara

the importance of community in personal trials

I was really set on doing a post about my September favorites – but I think this is a lot more important than products I’m encouraging you to buy. This is better encouragement! You know, for the gritty, hard times of life. I’m going to start by telling you a little about myself.

I fear change. I used to say that I hated it, but that’s not really the case – I fear change, and it’s a crippling fear. There is so much comfort in having the people in your life, your goals, and your desires categorized and filed and in place. It is so nice to be able to know where your home is, who your people are, and what your “plan” is. But then, luck (or as us religious folk would say, God) comes and shakes things up. We are routine creatures. And life, in its most poetic form, is anything but that.

I haven’t written here since the beginning of the month, because I didn’t know what I thought or felt about so many things in my life. So many changes were happening all at once – on the personal, academic, and social fronts. I felt like a different Niara. Who was this girl? The one numb and pessimistic and broken? I’m a Dean’s list student! I thought. I’m a catch! I told myself – so why was everything simultaneously up in the air and falling apart? And why did I try to to file away and store my emotions instead of looking my problems in the eye, and dealing with the feelings I had about them?

The conclusion I’ve thus drawn, is this: we hold ourselves to a standard we don’t force others to reach. I am so quick to commend someone else for letting themselves feel, and acknowledging their need – their right – to break down. I was afraid to be honest with myself about how confused I felt about things that had always been so constant – and that kept me from sleeping, from writing, from being my whole self and living life the way I knew I wanted to.

Humans, at their core, are not only routine, but social creatures. I’d lost my routine, and in my sadness I allowed myself to be anti-social. But I quickly learned that wasn’t the way to pull myself back together. Here’s something else about me: I’m fiercely independent. If I think I can do it by myself, I usually will. But luck/God has humbled me greatly in this mentality. Because if you want to know what solo-Niara looks like, I can show you my face after some really rough nights. But community and communion-centered Niara looks a lot like a woman who is honest with herself, who allows herself to feel, and recognizes the bravery in perhaps not having it all together.

You, Dear Reader, don’t have to have it all together. Don’t feel bad for needing your friends, your family, your peers. Self-soothing and self-love are invaluable, but so is the knowledge that you weren’t meant to do all the hard parts of life by yourself. We so glorify those who don’t need anyone else – but ask any successful (and truthful) person how they got to where they are now, and thankfulness for other people will flow from their lips effortlessly. It’s scary – I know – trusting people with knowing and hearing about your insecurities is scary. But the ability to be vulnerable is sheer bravery. The ability to be straight up with yourself and say, “I need comfort, I need love,” is nothing to be ashamed of. Because while you may be able to carry the weight of the world on your shoulders in pain and baggage, encouragement and support from your loved ones makes that burden so much lighter. And it’s more fun with them, too.

I’m learning that bravery comes in the form of communicating vulnerability. Strength lies in the ability to say, “I can’t do this all by myself.” Even getting those words out, stating the fact that we are not all-capable and all-powerful in our trials of life, is arduous. Remember what I was saying earlier, about comfort and routine? While they help us lay the foundations of our character – they also allow us to stagnate. Growth often leads to growing pains. Let me explain it like this: teething as infants is some of the worst pain we ever experienced. And we don’t even remember it! But guess what – now we can chew. I feel like that was a silly metaphor – but do you see how something so beneficial (like chewing, or maybe letting things go) is caused by pain (like baby teeth, or maybe moving to a new place or grieving over a relationship), and it’s a pain that in the long run, won’t be remembered – or at least, won’t still hurt. What will be remembered, though, are the gains we made in relationships with the people that selflessly loved us through those growing pains. We’ll remember, too, the advice they gave, or even the physical reassurance they provided without words.

One of the best ways to get to that? Simply asking. I’m flawed, and so are you, and the other 7 billion people on this globe. The people that care for you won’t always know that you’re hurting unless you say: “Hey, I’m hurting. I really need you right now.” I wholly understand the desire to seclude yourself, to not ask for help, to go through it alone. But you don’t have to. You don’t have to fear change, or loss, or whatever it is you fear, alone. Do it with someone by your side. It won’t be easy, but so often people will shine joy into you through your despair and tough seasons of life. And if you don’t have those people, or that person, I would love to be! It’s okay to be strong and brave and kick-ass (I pride myself on those qualities) – but it’s also okay to be the complete opposite of that, too.

-till next time! Niara

PS: my anon box and email are always open for encouragement, friendship, and love! get that info here

Quinn: Strength in Body, Mind, and Spirit

I love strong women. Strength (and character) are built through hardships, and obstacles to be overcome. Quinn Hilton, 20,  experiences the pain of developing every day. She will be competing in her first National Physique Committee competition this October. I was thrilled that she allowed me to photograph the strength, and the beauty in strength she has acquired over her last year of training.

In my desire to present more of my photography on the blog – I’m sharing a sneak peak of some of my favorites from my shoot with her:

Thank you Quinn – best of luck to you at your show! If you’d like to follow Quinn in her fitness journey, she can be found on Instagram @hilton13_colts. For booking inquiries, please contact me via niara.stitt@gmail.com!

-till next time! Niara

 

AUGUST FAVORITES

August has been, in a nutshell, crazy. I finished up my internship, my family moved, moved back to campus, started RA training, and syllabus week was not a thing this year. I feel like I’m already so busy! Luckily, though, I’ve still had the opportunity to try a bunch of new things that are making my life easier, and some of them are giving me peace of mine.

Badia Chia Seeds

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I have been trying to eat healthier at school, which is super hard when you live on campus and have a meal plan. However, breakfast is one of the meals that give me 100% control. I put a teaspoon of chia seeds in my morning oatmeal or smoothies, and while it doesn’t affect the taste, I know I’m getting a great supply of my amino acids and Omega-3s in just one meal! These tiny packs are so affordable, but you can get a large 22oz on Amazon for about $5!

Bioré Deep Cleansing Pore Strips

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I have pretty clear skin, but blackheads are something I’ve always struggled with getting rid of. They’re so noticeable, and make the pores on my nose look huge. When I use these every week, I get really grossed out BUT I feel so satisfied knowing that my nose (one of the oiliest parts of my face) is cleaned and my skin looks so much smoother – which gives me so much more confidence!

 

Revlon ColorStay Nail Polish in Provocative

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This nail color is so bright and fun! It summons all the summer vibes while we transition into fall, and looks great with any skin tone. I’m holding onto this color until I’m forced to turn to a more muted autumn palette.

Eggtastic Ceramic Egg Cooker

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This one may only be applicable to my readers still living in dorms (or in cars! or in hotels!) but this egg cooker has changed the way I eat breakfast – which is, as we all know, the most important meal of the day. Prep your egg in the cooker, add any other ingredients you might need – my favorites are pepper, bell peppers, and cheese – and cook for approximately 1 minute. They’re not as good as eggs cooked in a skillet, I’m not going to lie, but they’re still delicious as far as dorm-made eggs go!

Present Over Perfect – Shauna Niequist

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This would be the item I mentioned earlier that has provided me piece of mind this month. While I’ve only had it for half a week, I’ve powered through a substantial amount of Niequist’s honesty and encouragement for other women. So often I feel like I always need to be doing more, more, more. It boggs me down, drains me, and sucks the passion I have away for so many things I love. Niequist inspires hope, change, and offers the beauty of reinventing our lives through the honesty of her own. Gold.


I’d love to know if you all try any (or all) of these products!!

-till next time! Niara

minimalist style: autumn capsule wardrobe

The last post focused on why capsule wardrobes are the perfect system for someone who wants a simpler closet and to be a more socially conscious consumer! Now I’m going to show you guys an example of what a capsule wardrobe looks like by using my own for this Autumn as an example.

I try to keep between 35-37 active pieces in my wardrobe each season, as that allows me a good variety of tops, bottoms, outerwear, and shoes.That being said, I exclude professional dress, and activewear from my capsule, since they aren’t “everyday” outfits. At this time, I currently have 32 pieces in my active capsule (i.e. not in storage) and that leaves some wiggle room to add a top that was in the laundry, shoes I left at home, etc.

Outerwear: Gray cardigan, cream knit cardigan, flannel, army jacket, bomber jacket (not pictured: wine pullover)

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Tops: denim button vest, floral tee, striped blouse, pink blouse, gray hi-low top, patterned blouse, red embellished blouse, gray v-neck, striped crop tee (not pictured: [another] striped tee)

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Bottoms: high waisted shorts, dark wash shorts, boyfriend jeans, black jeans, suede skirt, denim midi skirt, dark wash jeans

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Shoes: huaraches, converse, Minnetonka boots, Sperry’s, Birkenstocks, Chelsea booties, Vans, JS rainboots

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I’m going to try and be more consistent with outfit posts this fall – with one outfit being shared each week. I really hope this inspires you to try a capsule wardrobe – it’s fun, and encourages simplicity in an area where we are so often excessive. Cheers to simple living and more outfit posts! Remember to not take yourself too seriously doing this! The point is to save money, and be more conscious of how you shop. Buying the one dress you’ve been wanting forever is okay – simplicity doesn’t happen over night. I’m still learning and struggling to be more in line with this lifestyle change, but it has already given me so much.

-till next time! Niara

why you should try a capsule wardrobe

The last year, I’ve been partaking in a fashion capsule. It’s a new trend that’s been taking fashionistas by storm – and the best part? It values simplicity over materialism, and quality over quantity. I began the capsule in October, and since school is starting soon, I’ll be sharing my pieces for my Autumn 2016 capsule wardrobe. But first, I’m going to outline what the purpose of a capsule wardrobe is, and give my tips + advice for creating and sticking to one! I think this is such a great concept, with a really important purpose, and I feel really passionate about sharing the positive effects of simplifying one’s closet.

I want to start off by saying there’s nothing wrong with liking clothes, or enjoying options when dressing yourself. The problem arises when we become victims to our materialistic culture. From toddler-hood (full disclosure: I’m 90% sure that’s not a real word), we are marketed to – this is a global issue. People become consumers at such early stages in life, from ads showing what all the “cool kids” wear (I’m looking at you, Amy-Schumer-Old-Navy BTS commercial), to things in the store that are placed at a child’s eye level. It’s no wonder the crutch of shopping sticks with us into adulthood. The goal for these companies is to make more money, and to do that, they must keep insisting that for us to be happy, fulfilled, and enough, we need to participate int their semi-bicentennial-one-day-blowout sale! Which is completely false. If no one’s told you yet, here it is – you don’t need more clothes.

The beauty of a capsule wardrobe is that it takes away that crutch instantly. Hoda Katebi and Un-Fancy both have great tips on how to begin a capsule wardrobe. In a nutshell, for a season (I go every 3 months), you pare your closet down to 20-40 items, and do not buy any more until the end of your season. I’m not going to lie, it was kind of hard to decide what I was going to keep and what I was going to sell/donate. But in the end, it was so worth it, because I was left with only clothes I care about, much more space in my closet, and a clearer mind. If you’re really skeptical of this whole thing, the one undeniable truth is that it’ll be easier to pick out your clothes every day (you know, because you’ll have less to pick from).

The one track mind of corporations to make money preys on us – 5% of Americans struggle with an overspending disorder. This leads to debt, comparison, and unfulfillment, because the lies we are told by our commercialized culture are just that – lies.

In discussing capsule wardrobes with several friends, I’ve heard all ends of the spectrum: from “why didn’t I know about this before!!!” to “I don’t want to be told to limit my closet!” In response to the latter, the great thing is that when you only have 35 active pieces in your closet, you are forced to be creative. Style doesn’t have anything to do with owning more cardigans/blouses/shoes than you need. Style has to do with putting together pieces that accentuate your best features and do their job well for the season they are worn in. If you’re constantly shopping, often that handing cash goes to low-quality and unethical companies.

I accept that I’m materialistic. There’s really not much we can do about that in the consumerist environment we’ve grown up and developed in. I’m also not attempting to be preachy or judgmental of those who do not do capsule wardrobes. But, I do think there is a beautiful by-product of ditching all the excess in your closet. It allows for freedom from our materialistic culture (even if you don’t see it that way at first), and so, an avenue to pursue minimalism and simplicity in other aspects of your life. Worrying about clothes leads to worrying about outside appearance and societal standards, which is never good for the soul. If you take can away a large chunk of the cause, you can get rid of a substantial amount of the negative effect. Capsule wardrobes encourage buying quality pieces that will last a long time, leading to more recycling of goods at consignment + thrift shops, and ensures that when you do buy, it’s for a reason – no more giving your money to brands that hurt your fellow humans. Win-win-win (times infinity) scenario.

Next week, I will be documenting the best way I’ve found to create flexible, accommodating, and stylish wardrobe for fall. Simplicity in style is such a good thing, pals. Comment, ask, or email me any questions you may have about this topic, and I will try to cover it in the next post! I’d love to help anyone considering a capsule wardrobe with any questions/concerns they may have – this is something that has genuinely changed my closet, and my perspective, for the better.

-till next time! Niara

 

July Favorites

I’m freaking out that July is already pretty much over because I have to be back at school in 8 days (what the frick) and all the summer adventures are coming to a close really soon (insert crying emoji). But let’s not get too nostalgic, I have some stuff I want to share with you! These things have made July so, so enjoyable – and I hope you’ll check some of ’em out + dig them as much as I do! Here we go – July favorites:

1. Annie F. Downs, Looking for Lovely – $9.59

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This book was so encouraging and quick to read. It’s written like a good friend is telling you how they got through their darkest times, and how they look for lovely in the everyday (or as I like to call it, the “in-betweens of life”), with the help of Jesus. I’ve been able to look for lovely since finishing this book – and I hope you can, too!

2. Aveeno Daily Moisturizing Sunscreen Lotion

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This. Stuff. Is. AMAZING. It makes my skin feel baby soft and has SPF 15 so it blocks UV rays AND it smells like summer because of the sunscreen scent. I’ll probably be using this stuff year-round.

3. Edward Sharpe & the Magnetoc Zeros, Person A

Photo courtesy of Rolling Stone Magazine

Edward Sharpe’s new album, PersonA, came out at the beginning of the summer – but I’m adding it to July because it’s been on so many of my Spotify playlists lately. They retain their psychedelic vibe that made them famous – but this album feels more mellow and sultry. Also Jade is not longer in the group (tears forever) but they still sound like the Edward Sharpe we know and love.

4. The Way Fam Podcast

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Screenshot from thewayfam.co

I’ve mentioned this family’s podcast before – but if you haven’t checked it out yet, do so! They discuss a wide range of topics weekly – from identity and faith, to camping/backpacking and minimalist living. If you’re looking for a good episode to start with, my favorite is episode 20, where they talk with one of their former college professors about identity formation and the effects of social media.

5. Alum Cave Bluff Trail – Great Smoky Mountains National Park

This trail is the most beautiful I’ve ever done. It’s the best hike up to Mt. LeConte in the Great Smoky Mountains, and you go across rivers, through caves, past fields and fields of blooming rhododendron, and pass little lookouts of the mountains up this 5mi trail. I did it with my mama and we were both stumped by God’s handiwork. Just do it. It’s only open Monday-Thursday, and I’d suggest going early in the AM to beat the traffic (and the human debris if you’re going to be taking photos!).

6. BodySpace App

A coworker told me about this app (it’s free!) and it has totally changed and empowered me in my workout regimen. You enter your physical data, and choose what your fitness goal is (weight loss, muscle gain, endurance, etc.) After that, you can choose and track your workout history – workouts are based on length (1 day to 3 week programs and beyond), and difficulty. One of the coolest features is that each workout has an example video – so no more looking awkward at the gym because you don’t know how to use a machine! This app is a game changer.

7. East Lansing, MI

My summer internship was at a non-profit in Lansing, MI. However, I needed to find ways to spend my time in this new city – so I started exploring. My favorite place by far came to be the Horticultural Gardens at Michigan State University in East Lansing. It was the perfect spot to cozy up with a book or some good music and enjoy the afternoon on a picnic blanket. The entry fee is $6 – but the views and atmosphere are priceless.


There you have it! Some of the things that have been rocking the socks off my July. I’d love to know that things/ideas/products you guys have been using this summer! And if you check any of these out, please let me know how you liked them. I can’t wait to share what I’ll love in August with ya.

till next time! -Niara

must-try drugstore makeup products

Earlier this summer I shared my “everyday makeup routine.” This week, I’m going to give you my Top 5 makeup products that are great on the go – and you can get ’em all at the drugstore!

These products are all so amazing (and college student budget friendly!), and are perfect for anyone wanting a high end look without the high end burn in their wallet!

1. Maybelline “The Falsies” Volum’ Express Mascara in Very Black – $6.99

photo courtest of Ulta Beauty

I had to make mascara #1 because when it comes to on the go, and emergency fix-my-face scenarios, mascara is a must for me. And this this stuff is the cream of the crop. It goes on so smoothly, separates each lash, and gives my lashes so much volume + length – people have actually asked me if I’m wearing false lashes. I’ve been using this stuff exclusively for about 2 years now. Goldmine.

2. Revlon “Super Lustrous” Lipstick in Wine with Everything” – $4.97

photo courtesy of ChemistWarehouse

This stuff is a dream, seriously. For roughly 5 bucks, you can get this creamy lipstick that makes lips of every shade get the most dewy, romantic rosé color. If your lips are dry though, beware. It can get really cakey on dry lips, but if you moisturize your smackers, you’ll be as in love with this lipstick as I am.

3. EcoTools Precision Blush Makeup Brush – $7.98

photo courtesy of EcoTools

Eco friendly and makes my face look red carpet ready? You already know that has my name written all over it. I can confidently tell you this brush works magic. No matter if I’m applying my foundation or blending in a blush or luminizer, this tool is baby soft on my skin and helps to evenly apply powder or cream-based products (I highly recommend getting the entire EcoTools Start Set for just $12.99 – and you can save 15% on your order!).

4. Maybelline “Dream Bouncy” Blush in Pink Plum – $7.99

photo courtesy of Makeup Alley

I’ll admit I only bought this because I was really exited that makeup felt like PLAYDOUGH. But, this creme blush is SO pretty and also to-go friendly because I can quickly apply it with (clean) fingers and get a perfectly flushed look. This blush has a subtle shimmer to it, so it adds a glowy look to your cheekbones. And it’s also really fun to squish. So.

5. ELF Baked Eyeshadow Trio in Peach Please – $4.00

photo courtesy of ELF

I’m not an eyeshadow person. I pretty much only use it when I’m feelin’ extra cute, or if I’m going out/to a grown-ups event. And this stuff rocks. The trend of baked eyeshadow hasn’t missed ELF, and I’m stoked that I bought this eyeshadow! I can actually wear it with my casual makeup, and the stuff stays on well – even without a primer! Plus, it gives my eyelids a smooth rosy tint that makes me feel like Jessica Day – can’t go wrong with that turnout, right?


So there you have it – my top 5 drugstore makeup products. All of these have done right by me in all my college broke-ness, and general desire to look presentable most days. I hope you guys enjoy them too, and I’d love to know what drugstore products you recommend!

-till next time! Niara

my morning routine for an energized + productive day

I’m a morning person. Always have been – and I hopefully always will be. I used to wake my family up before the sun creeped above the horizon to beg, “PLEASE! Get up! We said we were leaving at 6 AM!” the first days of family road trips. My mom, ever the smartest woman alive, made sure our house faced east (and allowed me to paint my room bright green), so when the sun begins to rise, my whole room fills with bright morning light. It’s hard to resist that kind of hope – the hope of a new day.

Now, at school, I don’t wake up at 6 AM. NEVER. My body has this internal alarm clock. It will wake up when it has had its 7 hours of sleep. So if I go to bed at 3 AM after finishing a paper, my body will fight any prodding to wake up until 10. I think it’s awesome. I always know when I’ll be up.

Now, waking up early and being a morning person are two very different things. And today, I’m not trying to make you a morning person, but rather, show you the value in rising with the Sun (or just after it). Waking up early in a sour mood does nothing to energize or propel you forward. I used to be like that, mostly in high school (because why in the name of all that’s good did we start classes at 7:25 AM?!): up early + very Angry about it, and NO, I didn’t want to talk about it, thank you very much. I just wanted to be tired and angry (and to go back to sleep).

This past semester, and over the summer, I’ve whittled my morning routine down to a pattern which doesn’t always happen (thanks, late night games of Cards Against Humanity and Fishbowl), but when it does, my joy for the day has some armor against the outside world.

1. Set an Alarm. Even if you likely know when you’ll come to, set an alarm. Something soothing (on iPhone I recommend “uplift” with some kind of vibration pattern). I usually title my Alarms so I can remember what my goals for the day are.

on weekends, i have more time to work on my goals and personal relationships – so intentionality is a big deal.

2. Turn off notifications. This was a new step for me. Turning off notifications deters me from checking the standard social media right away in the morning. The world will still be there to interrupt after you have this quiet and rejuvenating time for yourself – but not now, not this morning!

3. Hydrate. We are supposed to drink a glass of water within 30 minutes of waking up for the day. So after I’m washed up, I head to the kitchen for a drink.

4. Energize. Now, for some, this means coffee. And that’s fine(because guys, I love me some coffee). But today I challenge you to exercise. I’m not telling you to go to the gym (but that’s awesome if you do!) or even to run an exhorbent length. Go for a face paced walk around the block with you dog. Take a jog to the park, hike on the trails to your house. Do 100 jumping jacks in your room. Stretch. Get that blood pumping and your heart rate up. When you get done, you might be winded but you’ll definitely be awake. Optional step 4.5: caffeinate! My go to is a homemade iced cocoa joe (so, so g o o d) (recipe will be up soon!) or just a mug of medium Colombian roast.

5. Read. This to me, is the most important step. Pick up a book – anything at all. Cooking books, your Bible/Torah/Quran, a biography, fantasy fiction, anything. Choose something and read at least 5 pages. That gives you time to get focused on a plot or a lesson (or choose something for dinner). In any case, you will finish this task with a focused mind, contemplative or joyful or entertained, and sharpened.

6. Journal. Now y’all know that for me this is a biggie. Journaling can give you so much insight about where your heart and mind are on a given day. Is something preoccupying your thoughts? Feeling excited? Have an awesome or weird dream? Want to accomplish a goal? WRITE THAT DOWN. Your morning thoughts are so important, guys! They are what can propel you forward or hold you back in a day. Why not get it all out on paper so you can be in tune with your spirit, and go about your day enhancing or mending what’s going on inside you?

here we have a really good combo of Caffeinate, Read, and Journal

7. Get stoked. This is a fun one! In the car, or in your room, or anywhere, blast your favorite song. Maybe it’s Claire de Lune, maybe it’s Coldplay, maybe it’s Kanye. Blast it. Sing or rap or hum your heart out and let the music put you in the right mindset for the day.

I can’t guarantee you that you will have a great day – because life happens, and sometimes life really sucks. But I can tell you with solid confidence that it takes a lot to chip away at joy that is well-founded every morning.

Each of those steps can be completed in 5 minutes or less. They can be done quickly or drawn out for longer periods of time. Steps 1 + 2 can be done the night before! So: morning joy and energy in these steps can be finished in half an hour. That’s wild to me. Because when I execute these steps, it’s so easy for me to find the joy and glory of life in my everyday. I want you to have that, too.
till next time! (And good morning!)

-Niara

journaling is good for the soul

I have always had a journal. And for the most part, I keep them after they are full of my words and musings and frustrations. Right now, I can tell you that on December 26, 2004, I was sitting in the choir pews at church, missing my Granddad, who had died recently. I could also tell you each stage of puberty I went through, and my roller coaster emotions – but I don’t want to subject you to that.

Journaling has kept me sane since I could hold a pen and grasp the concept of a diary. I remember the first one I got: it was blue with a puffy plastic binding, with silver flowers on it – from my godparents. I was 6, and I still read it. Somehow it is like seeing old reels of myself grow up, and it’s often hilarious, but sometimes sad. I want to go back and tell 11 year old me that she will make amazing friends, even though the new middle school seems like a personal hell. I want to explain to  15 year old me that boys don’t define her value. But even when I was younger, and I lacked the perspective to see beyond my issues, “journaling” (which is for some reason is the new term) has always been there as an outlet when I felt that no one else could understand. I was wrong. The Future Me would understand. I think keeping a journal or diary is so incredibly important. To be able to pour out your heart, in the extremes highs, lows, and in betweens is a wonderful thing. With each new season in life, you can look back and see how far you’ve come, how much you’ve grown, and how strong you really are. There’s a few other reasons, too:

1. People will fail you. This is not to being said for cynicisms sake. When you’re having a horrible day, on the brim of tears consistently, or just feeling broken, people won’t be always be available to talk you though it, or be a shoulder to lean on . That’s something we say all too often: “I’ll always be there.” But it’s not true. Because people get busy – and that’s OK. Having something to always go to – when you’re at work or in class or maybe need to pull over into a gas station to let it out (been there) – is a good thing.

2. Vent it out before you act. I am very emotional person. I don’t always show it, but my moods, especially when they are at high levels, can easily affect how I see my issues. Usually, I need to rant, to vent it out to my best friend or to Matt. But guess what? They both go to other schools or are busy, and if I don’t get those emotions out – if I don’t open the lid on the pot to release steam – even something small can send me into tears or make me angry. So I write. I write out what happened, I put pen to paper and get all the mean thoughts and hurt feelings out. Because when I’m calm, and can read and tangibly see what is upsetting me, it’s so much easier to come up with an action plan to solve whatever I’m going through.

3. To document your life. I’m a writer. I write poems and short stories and even have a manuscript for a full length novel (which the world shall never see). I can pour my heart out in words, sometimes my feelings cannot be expressed in any other way. And I don’t want to forget the minute parts of my aging up. I want to remember the day I felt brave, the day I started being intentional about relationships, the week I started coming to terms with conflicts within myself. I want all of that. It’s a beautiful thing, to see yourself before, during, and after life experiences that impact you majorly.

4. It forces you to assess your mindset consistently. This point is a bit of an extension of #3. When you have the ability to look back at specific days, and see patterns in your emotions and mental processing, you gain a substantial amount of insight.

I woke up the other day thinking about authenticity. Webster defines “authenticity” this way: real or genuine – not copied or false; true and accurate. I want to be like that – real and genuine. I think I need to be okay with being vulnerable in order to be authentic. In the dictionary, vulnerability has such a negative connotation: open to attack, harm, or damage. This is so scary! Who wants to be vulnerable when it’s synonymous with weak??!! But how can we truly and accurately live our lives without taking that risk? Answer: I don’t think we can.

June 24, 2016 // 6:30 PM

After reading this almost month later, I’m not only reminded of my personal convictions about authentic relationships, but feel convicted when I don’t behave that way, and encouraged to try harder.

I’m convinced that one of the reasons I know who I am, and have learned so much through my experiences, is because I pick up my journal almost daily. Give it a try – if you already have, I’d love to know how keeping a journal has benefitted you! For me, it has had had one of the most profound effects on my self-awareness.

till next time! -Niara

Photo by Matthew Triola (Instagram: @matttree1)

a Godly intervention

Hi. So remember that social media/technology hiatus I’ve been trying this summer? Well, when I began, I was doing it because I needed to unplug. To focus on me. To stop caring about every other person’s life (in the most good-natured way). I have really, really struggled with comparison for the last year. I go through phases of being so down on myself, my life, my relationships – because the world around us is constantly showing that other people have it better. You had a good day? Well, so-and-so had a awesome day, and here is an entire Facebook update and album to prove it! Did you think you were happy? Well, look at what she/he/they have – It’s so much better than what you have!!! And I know, I know, I’m supposed to be overjoyed with my blessings and the people in my life and with what I have, etc. But guess what? When society is whispering in your ear incessantly that you need just one more adventure, just one more outfit, just one more thing – that your life will be full and you’ll be validated for it – you can start to believe it.

So, a few weeks ago, I was sitting at the dining room table, drinking coffee and working on a new post for the blog. And it was around 5:30, so the sun was coming in at a weird angle, and I tilted the screen back to see better. And just like that – a glass of water I hadn’t even realized was there spilled into my laptop. After a quick flicker, the screen went black, and it hasn’t come back on since. Weirdly enough, (or rather, interestingly enough), the night before, I had prayed to God, asking Him to show me where my sin was. I asked that He take away the things I put above Him. And not even 24 hours later, my computer – where I edit photos of my adventures, check social media, and write a blog about my life (essentially) – where many things that for the most part have nothing to do with God – was taken away.

I didn’t see right away what He was doing. In fact, I called Matt crying, ran to the car, and sped down to the mall (let’s say I was going 2x-3x times the speed limit), and went to the Apple Store praying for my computer to turn on.

It wasn’t until I was waiting at the Genius Bar for someone to help me that I realized God had just acted in a major way. He knew I put people, my life, and my insecurities, which often manifest in my tendency to compare myself to/please others, above my identity in Him. I’ve been looking for validation from the world, when all my heart has been searching for is validation in my Dad. My heavenly Father. Talk about a 180. So here I am, still at this pit stop (read about my winding journey with Him here). And I know that this has been a good lesson. I was confused and scared – I didn’t have money to replace my laptop at the time, and I desperately need one for school. God? Why couldn’t you teach me this lesson in a more inexpensive way?! I was thinking. Oh, how amusing God must think I am when I question His way.

Incidentally, or rather, divinely, I’ve been reading Galatians. A resounding theme is this: God > the ways of our lives before him. Not sometimes. Always. And the Galatians keep getting tripped up in their old ways. They taught (despite all of Jesus’ lessons and knowing He died for them) that the rules of the law are necessary to receive the gift of everlasting life. Over and over, Paul tells them – “No! You get Jesus when you believe and follow and commit to Jesus. Jesus’ sacrifice can never be matched, so stop trying to do it!” (this, of course, is paraphrasing good ‘ol Paul). And it’s so easy to say, “Those Galatians! Man, they really don’t get it.” But I’m pretty much someone from Galatia, not getting it, time and time again.

For me, the old, pre-Jesus way is trying to please everyone. To seem like I have it all together. From a young age, I’ve understood praise. I love when people tell me I’m smart, or funny – and that, over time, has led to me needing approval. Validation. Right before my computer broke, I deleted all the pictures from my Instagram before this summer – everything felt so ingenuine – because I wasn’t being genuine, or vulnerable. I wasn’t being myself, I just wanted validation for my experiences, something that I’ve seen as necessary my whole life (as if that proved something about me).

Friends, if this isn’t just the ramblings of an emotional 20-year old, if this makes sense to you, check this out: God loves you, so much. He matched all your chromosomes perfectly, he gave you that mole, those hips, the big feet. He placed you where you are in life so that you could learn to love him in it, through it, or in spite of it. He loves you! He’s the One that hears your cries, whose heart breaks when you’re lost and feeling abandoned, misunderstood. And He’s the only one you need to find yourself in – because to Him, you’re all He made you to be. All that beauty, all that strength, all that passion, and fierceness, and love, it is already inside you. If you stop looking down and around to see how you measure up to others, you can start looking to the Heavens and inside yourself in absolute wonder at the Creator and what He has in store for you.

That encouragement is as much for myself as it is your you, dear Reader. And to close, I’m pulling some straight FIRE from Galatians:

… We are not children of the slave woman, but of the free woman. It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then,and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. (Galatians 4:31-5:1, ESV)

We don’t have to be slaves to things of the world,  and we don’t have to go back to our old ways. We can wholly embrace the freedom God intended for and wants for us, the freedom that leaves us unshackled, that no longer binds us to needing the validation or temptations of this broken world. It is for freedom that Jesus, that God, has set us free. We are his children, the ones He loves unceasingly – to love Him back, we must put Him above all else.

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till next time! -Niara

journey of faith

Being a Christian is not easy. But being a good, or “perfect Christian” is impossible. There’s no such thing as the perfect Christian. Jesus, when he died on the cross, didn’t do it for a planet full of perfect humans – the Kingdom of heaven is for us imperfect folks (Matthew 6:3). He did it for us because we are broken, we are sinful, we are proud, we are stiff-necked. He died because he knew we couldn’t get salvation without his perfect sacrifice – of course, there was the chance that we would never love him back – but that didn’t stop him.

Right now, I’m thinking of my relationship with God as one long, epic road trip (one of my favorite things). There is a beginning, and certainly an end – but much of the beauty of the experience is the journey to that end. Truly. There are spontaneous pit stops, fumbles along the road, surprise obstacles, and sometimes the car breaks down. But what matters is that we keep driving. Literally and figuratively, letting Jesus take the wheel is what gets us through that lifelong journey.

Right now – I’m at a pit stop, itching to get back on the road. But I need to be honest with myself – I’m not ready! If I was, God would be teaching me different things, and challenging me with new tests. But the tests at this pit stop are glaringly similar – because God needs me to get this through my thick skull – my identity is in Him, not the things and/or people of this Earth. For me, identity means a lot of things: What do I think makes me up? Who am I? What am I passionate about? What do I do with those passions to make an impact? The answers to those questions, over the course of my short life, are fluid, but of course there’s the things that stick – my passion for words and nature. At the center of the answers to those questions, changing or permanent, I want to see and seek Jesus.

I just finished reading 1 Samuel. It’s the story of how the prophet Samuel leads Israel to King David – after they endure the leadership of Saul. It’s such a rich book, and I found so many of my struggles within it! Fear, idolatry, jealousy, pride, and in general, thinking I know God’s plans for me, when really, I don’t.

So, what am I learning at this pit stop?

Like Samuel, I am afraid to say God’s plans out loud. Being a Christian isn’t a world full of “can’t”, but there are some things that I’ve had to give up that aren’t easy. While hopefully, the end isn’t the downfall of me and my children like Elimelek, sometimes what God has in store is scary and not what we want to hear.

Like the Israelites, I often turn from God when I’m not keeping myself focused on building my relationship with God and doing the works he has planned for me. When the Israelites wanted a king, this was their rejecting of the Lord. I’m learning that I can’t keep idols – people or intangible things, like social media, or comparing myself to other students in my major – a priority, while keeping God as my #1. He does not want to, and will not compete with others. The Israelites wanted a king to lead and protect them – but isn’t that exactly what God wants to do for us? If anything, 1 Samuel is a testament that human leadership is never as just or constant as God.

Like Saul, and due to those idols, I can get jealous when I should be joyful for my peers. I keep seeing this idea passed around, but the idea is this: being supportive of someone else’s successes doesn’t diminish your own. When Saul see’s his people celebrating the military prowess of David, he turns to bitterness, and that leads to him turning on a man who had been nothing but loyal to him! It’s so easy for me to get anxious for my own path and future, and I guess my value too, when I see that yet another peer has an amazing internship/won a huge scholarship/got accepted to a killer law school/is moving on to the next grand stage in their life. Those should be moments of joy for me too – not moments of envy. God has a plan for me, too – he has not forgotten or forsaken me, just because he’s not doing the same thing in my life as another. Why would he? He has a unique plan for me.

Like Saul again, I think I know God’s plan, and pretty much  every time I think that, God is like “lol, no, sweetie.” And hopefully, this message will be clear to me next time I’m scared and confused about a difficult choice or decision. If God is calling me to do something, it’s usually pretty clear. “Does the Lord delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the Lord? To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams.” (1 Samuel 16:8). God would rather me obey him than put on a show exalting myself for doing what I think He wants me to do. I know when he’s putting something on my heart, and I know I need to stop justifying what is clearly reappearing in my heart to mean something else.

Looks like this service stop hasn’t been fruitless after all. Hopefully, I’ll get a good foundation on this lesson, and be back on the road when the Lord calls me to do so.

till next time! -Niara

may favorites

This month has been such a time of renewal and rejuvenation! I’ve been out of school for almost a month, and have been focusing so much of my energy in bettering myself mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. I want so share some of the things that have been aiding in this!

  1. Aziz Ansari and Eric Klinenberg, Modern Romance (2015)

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I expected this to just be Aziz cracking jokes and doing observational humor, but he and Eric Klinenberg (a sociology professor at NYU) conduct research with sociologists around the U.S. and the globe about how dating, marriage, and the pursuit of love has changed in the digital age. It’s awesome. So many of the ideas brought me to think about how my friends and I discuss love and relationships, and also, there’s enough humor in it where I can practically hear Aziz telling the punchlines. A quick, hilarious + informative read – what more could you want?

Modern Romance (paperback): $11.10

2. Freedom App

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In March, I wrote a post about simplifying life by reducing my social media use. This app has been essential in that. Freedom allows me to set time limits on my phone to block specific apps. Thanks to this sweet app, and paying attention to the now, I’ve reconnected with my creative side in writing, and spend less time looking at my phone screen. Right now, they are having a discount on their services – 15% off any plan!

3. SelfControl Mac App

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Don’t be freaked out by the logo – this app is free and ensures that I limit my social media intake on my laptop. I used this finals week, and it was so beneficial in keeping me focused on studying. You can change and edit your “Blacklist” (restricted websites), so you can still use the sites you need, without getting distracted by others!

4. Aldous Huxley, Island (1962)

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Oh, Aldous Huxley. Love him. Best known for the dystopian novel, Brave New World, Huxley considered Island to be his most important work. If you love action, philosophy,and fictional places that challenge humanity, give this book a read. It’s philosophical, without dissolving an entertaining plot – i.e., the best kinds of books. Huxley is one of my favorite authors, and his books never disappoint. Sorry for the book overload – I’m enjoying summer reading on a crazy level.

Island (paperback): $11.26, Barnes & Noble

5. Wildflowers Gentle Facial Cleansing Powder

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I’m #blessed with fairly clear skin *knock on wood*, but it’s also really sensitive. If I use too harsh of chemicals on my face – including most daily washes – it will easily burn and get dry/irritated. So, when my friend Jess gave me this, I was stoked to use it, because it’s specifically for sensitive skin! This water-activated cleansing powder is paraben-free and infused with 12 essential wildflower extracts. This face wash is an amazing addition to my morning routine, and is so gentle on my face, while still preventing acne!

Wildflowers Skincare Camellia Facial Powder: $24, Amazon

6. C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (1952)

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If you’re a nonbeliever trying to understand what Christians believe, or a believer who sometimes doubts their faith, I highly recommend this book. It’s challenging me to think about what my faith means for me in the everyday, and I really enjoyed it. C.S. Lewis has a way of unearthing questions I’d never been able to articulate, and posing unique answers to them that force me to really think about my relationship with God. It’s so interesting to read from Lewis’ point of view, as he was an Atheist before he became a Christian. 10/10 recommend, especially for new Christian peeps!

Mere Christianity (paperback): $9.41, Barnes & Noble


I hope you get to check out at least one of these – they all have truly been positive additions to my thoughts, musings, and routines this month. I can’t wait to share what things I love at the end of June!

till next time! -Niara

 

top 5 tips to thrifting like a pro

THRIFTING IS THE BEST – it’s been my favorite form of shopping for about 3 years. Now that I’m in month 6 of my wardrobe capsule (whaaaat), it’s even more helpful! Thrifting is like the ultimate fashion scavenger hunt – people donate so many gems, and it’s super easy to find great quality + name brand pieces at any given establishment.

Here are my go-to tips for getting the most out of your thrifting experience (I keep this in mind each time I go!)

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  1. Give yourself a price limit. I cannot stress this enough. If you’re new to thrifting, or just love clothes, this is imperative. When you go in and see such cool stuff for $4 instead of $30, it’s easy to be overwhelmed! Give yourself a hard limit, and hold yourself to it! Conveniently, most places round items to the dollar, so it’s easy to stay at or under-budget.
  2. When you get there, check for specials. Most places have colored tickets on each item, and there will be signs around the store telling you which color tickets that day are 50% off. On certain days, they might even have a deal on a color-coded ticket. My favorite thrift shop has $1 deal on a different color tag each Sunday!
  3. Go in with a measurable goal. Don’t – I repeat, don’t – just go into a thrift shop with “New Spring Wardrobe” or something comparably broad in mind. You will burn a hole in your wallet, and probably go home with things you’ll never wear. Have an idea of what you want to get for each part of your wardrobe. For example, last week I made a list: 2-3 casual dresses, 2 blouses, a romper, and another dress for nicer occasions. Remember – you can always go back! It’s better to have a goal in mind than to buy everything that catches your eye.
  4. Take a friend. Thrifting alone is great, but bringing friends along will keep you from buying a blouse that you only like because it’s three bucks. Pals are the best gentle reminder that, no, you honestly don’t need 3 striped tee shirts.
  5. Before you get in line, look again at all your items. Chances are, you picked up at least one thing that you do not need, or will not like as much when you get home. Looking at these items once more is also great because there might be a stain or snag on an article of clothing that you did not notice beforehand. Sales are usually final at second-hand stores, and you’ll be sorry if you notice your things aren’t in good condition after you buy them.

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I got some really sweet items last week, and I’m so excited to share them in some upcoming outfit posts! Thrifting is best complement to a capsule wardrobe for quality pieces on a budget. Hope you enjoyed this post – happy thrifting!

till next time! -Niara

my natural hair journey

…and 1 year, 4 month length check post-Big Chop!

So, as many Black women and girls can say, I had a relaxer growing up. For those of you who don’t know, to put it simply, is a method of styling Black hair by treating it with chemicals to make the hair straight. That process is repeated about every six weeks.

I’d had a relaxer since I was a kid. The first time was at my aunts – my mom didn’t know or want me to have one and was really mad. Anyway, since it had already happened, I just always had one. One thing that always bothered me about my hair was that it never grew past shoulder length. I remember straightening my hair and seeing short little pieces of hair on my shoulders + back, and having hair that just felt stiff and unhealthy.

My senior year of high school, around winter break, I decided to just stop getting them. I wanted to go natural. It started as a cosmetic decision, but has become such an empowering part of my identity. So I transitioned for about year (doing prom hair while transitioning is NOT easy, let me tell you!) and did the Big Chop winter break of my freshman year of college.

Transitioning looked like this:

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During the transition, I still straightened my hair, or wore it in a bun, since I didn’t know how to style natural hair!
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Prom – with transitioning natural hair on a really hot day in late May = stressful!

The Big Chop took me to this:

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So, BIG change! I wore my ‘fro out all summer, so I could swim and hike and easily care for my hair, but got a sew-in as a protective style for all of Fall and 1/2 of Spring semester this school year:

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Then, I was missing my short hair! It’s so cute + soft + fun to style (and easy to wash, gbless), plus I was curious to see how much it had grown. I was very pleased and loved what the weave/extensions did for my length retention, because here is where I am now: 

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The left is a photo of me with straight-ish hair (because the Midwest is always humid if it’s over 60 degrees), and on the left I’m wearing my wash & go high-puff style. And I can put my hair in a ponytail or a bun if I want! I don’t think anyone can relate to that feeling of happiness unless they, too, chop off all their hair.

Going natural was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. I feel so confident in embracing my hair and the natural beauty I have – these “nappy,” gorgeous, shiny, thick, springy coils are the best. My hair is thicker and stronger than ever + already at the length it was when I cut it a little over year ago. I need my ends trimmed so badly, but my hair has not been this healthy since before I started straightening regularly and chemically treating, i.e. when I was a ‘lil 9 year old nugget.

So, to anyone chronically frustrated with their hair’s health and length retention, I highly suggest getting rid of all the damaged goods and starting fresh, healthy + new. I’ll have some good posts here this summer on natural hair/protective styles, but I wanted you guys to see my natural hair story first!

-till next time! Niara

 

 

a summer of rejuvenation

Shocker: I’ve been doing a lot of self reflection lately. I journal almost every day of the week, but this is a little different. Since Easter, I’ve been feeling a pull to switch things up with my lifestyle – and bring the blog along with me! So here’s what I’m thinking:

This summer, I’ll be on a lowkey social media hiatus. This however, excludes the blog and my photography Insta (@niarasway, for now). I want to completely rebuild and rebrand the blog. This will probably include a switch to a new platform + domain/title, and an expansion of the topics I cover here.

Why an expansion, you ask?

I think I’ve strayed a little from the main point of this blog. I started it, way back two years ago, and when I rebooted in the fall, to bring people together. I do feel like I’ve helped people from my posts (thanks, anons!) but I want to continue that in a more impactful way. But I’ve been trying to think how I can incorporate my personal rejuvenation into something you all can be inspired by and participate in with me! This summer I’m challenging myself to go harder at my goals for personal improvement than I did during school (when I’m not at work).

Categories will include:

  • health + fitness
  • beauty + fashion
  • faith
  • photography portfolio (exciting for me!)
  • college / lifestyle
  • encouragement / inspiration

I think this will streamline my site, and make it easier for y’all to navigate the categories you’re interested in. This summer, expect posts on specific workouts, many more recipes, makeup, and more frequent thoughts to inspire! I genuinely think taking a step back from all my tech will provide me with more time to learn about myself, and hopefully, I’ll be able to help some of you, too! I’m going to commit to reading 1 book a week (yikes) and spending only 1 hour a day on social media (most of that will be typing up final drafts of blog posts) – thanks to my Mac and iOS apps SelfControl and Freedom. I always talk about being intentional with my time and my relationships – now I’m all in. Summer break, for me, is May 1 to August 3, and that gives me so much time to work on myself, so that I can wholly begin to be a source of help and support for others.

This academic one has been one where I’ve lived under a cloud that is full of self-doubt and comparison, as I’m sure you can tell from some of the topics of my blog posts. This summer, while I do not want to be selfish, I cannot see how I can better myself as a sister, friend, daughter, girlfriend, and member of society, while feeling so much conflict within myself. I want this summer to be one of emotional, physical, and mental rejuvenation. I hope you enjoy following along, and stay tuned for many changes coming very soon!

till next time! -Niara

time management in college: from the #1 party school in America

I’ll be the first to say or admit it, one of the greatest parts of going to college is the social aspect. I’ve met some of my closest friends here, and, through social activities, I’ve dived into and learned about things that I was oblivious to before. Social can mean anything:  a student organization, club sport, Greek life, or even just the people who live on the same floor of your residence hall.

These friendships and networks that come from socializing can be great! However, it’s important to find a routine so you can find the perfect balance for your class and social schedule. As a student at the #1 party school in America, I like to think I’ve got this pretty down pat. Even though I don’t go out often, time management is super important at my school, especially Spring semester. My university has this wonderful thing called Fest Season – basically massive block parties every week from the beginning of March to mid-April, except Easter/Mom’s weekend – and it can be hard, and really tempting, to go out every weekend even though you know you have a paper and a project due the next week.

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Mill Street, March 2016 // This fest marks the first of many.

After my school being named #1 Party School in the U.S.A. (after a few years knocked down the charts), it seems like this year students are trying to make sure OU stays at the top. Here’s how I survive the madness:

  1. Turn off your phone – and block social media sites from your laptop.
    1. There are a ton of wonderful apps that can block your access from certain sites during given time frames – this is a great way to keep yourself from getting distracted online!
  2. Keep a routine!
    1. Having some set event/commitment can help you stick to a deadline. Check the rec center schedule on campus and commit to going to one of the group classes – you’ll know you have to get work done in order to get there in time. Forcing myself into deadlines is one of the easiest ways to get myself to stay focused.
  3. Have incentives. “If…then” incentives help me the best. Usually, my “study breaks” consist of me messing around on my phone – that can get out of hand. What I’ve learned is best for me are things that already have length limits on them:
    1. “If I finish reading this article for Middle Eastern History… then I’ll allow myself to watch one episode of Its Always Sunny in Philadelphia.”
    2. “If I finish my journals for Politics and Film… then I will relax and finish my next chapter of Modern Romance.”
      • shout out to Aziz for that book, btw. So, so funny + good!
  4. Avoid your friends. I never have loved hanging out with friends so much as this semester, and I’ve never been so distracted in my college career. Set days that you will hang with your friends. That doesn’t mean you can’t grab lunch or quick trips to the local pet store/shelter to play with puppies (how’s that for specific?), but don’t allow yourself to be sucked into “hanging out” that can end up eating all the time in your day.
    1. This is something I am still working on – I’ll be sure to update y’all and let you know how it goes.
  5. Don’t waste weekend mornings. Saturday and Sunday mornings are the perfect times to get all the boring work out of the way, so you can go out at night and/or hang with your friends – all guilt free.
    1. Fest season is a little hard, because the fest usually begin around 10:30 AM and go until 4. That eats up a good chunk of the day. For this reason, I try to get a lot of my work done Friday right when I’m done with classes, before the weekend mindset of “it’ll get done when it gets done,” kicks in.
  6. Remember to have fun!
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the second fest lineup: High Fest

So there you have it. Advice from at sophomore at the #1 Party School in America on how to stay focused during spring semester – when everyone is burnt out, tired of school, and seriously thinking whether all the work is worth it (it is, even though I don’t feel that way 60% of the time). I hope this helps – I’d love to know what techniques y’all use to stay focused spring semester!

till next time! -Niara

 

the importance of setting #goals

I ADMIT IT – I fell off the wagon. My New Years Resolutions have not been getting done since I got home from spring break. I haven’t worked out (but I’m eating OK), I haven’t journaled every day, and I’ve not spent consistent intentional time reading the Bible and devoting myself to the Lord.

Things pile up – I procrastinate on an assignment, sending an email, and “real life” pushes my goals to the back burner! This has been a really rough year, and I’m still trying to get the hang of RA-ing while still being involved in the things I love. Lately, I’ve been putting things off – and it’s cutting into my time for self-care, and my time with God.

I said I wanted to set little goals to keep my New Years Resolutions in tact, but I’ve slipped – even with the little goals! So, instead of berating myself and being self-depricating (which to be honest is my go-to thing when I slip on things I care about), I’m going to write out all my Goals for the year, a 2016 bucket list if you will – 21 things to do before I turn 21. Hopefully, by listing these here, I’ll have a place to go back to, to keep looking at these mini/major goals, and not forget that commitment is what’s going to help me accomplish it all! If you’re struggling with keeping any goals or remnant New Year’s Resolutions in tact, give this a try, and let me know how it works for you! I’ll be putting strikethroughs through each goal I accomplish. Here goes nothing:

2016 Goals/21 Before 21/2016 Bucket-List/Pick a Freakin Title and Stick with It, Self

  1. Be nicer and less judgmental
  2. Step back from social media / technology
  3. Write more prose
  4. Practice portraits and event photography
  5. Set up new website for photography/blogging
  6. Spend intentional time with family every day when I’m home – even if it’s just a cup of coffee in the morn’
  7. Go on a family road trip
  8. Spend time with the Lord every day – even if it’s reading the Bible on my way to class
  9. Give back to my community in the summer
  10. Summit Mt. Marcy in New York
  11. Put $20 each week towards my 2016 U.S.A. road trip
  12. Buy my first car
  13. Take the LSAT and/or the practice LSAT
  14. Score at least a 155 on the LSAT by my birthday
  15. Get a nose ring and/or another tattoo
  16. Find scholarships to cover senior year
  17. Run a 10K
  18. Lose 30 lbs.
  19. Do something incredibly spontaneous!
  20. See 2 concerts
  21. Read the entire Bible

So there you have it folks, 21 things (and potentially counting) to do before my birthday in November! I have about 7 months to get all that done. I’d better get started!

till next time! -Niara

 

encouragement: being uniquely YOU

Today’s post is something I’ve been thinking about for the past few weeks – from personal experience and partially in response to an influx of Tumblr anon’s I’ve been receiving on comparison. In the average day to day, we’re looking at things all the time that can have a detrimental effect on how we see ourselves. Advertisements, 2 x 2″ pictures of the lives of our peers + pals on the ‘gram, and let’s not forget dealing with the natural human emotions of jealousy! People in our society deal with this day in and day out, and it leads to something else: imitation.

Transparency time: I compare myself to others! Most people do it – academically, socially, professionally – the instances are endless. I’ve always been a competitive person, and I always want to be the best at what I love. Maybe that’s good in academics or sports, but I’ve learned over the years that it isn’t so great in relationships. No one though, unless they reach enlightenment, is going to be able to stop being at least a little jealous of your fellow human peeps.

A few weeks ago, Matt and I were lounging around + watching Netflix, and I started complaining to him that someone I know seemingly “copies” little things that I do recently. It was such a petty, small thing to get annoyed by, but it really bothered me in that moment. I now realize that:

  1. Who cares? As Matt immediately told me, “Imitation is the highest form of flattery.” Leave it to him to tell me to let it go because it doesn’t really matter (thanks, Matty, if you’re reading this!)
  2. Everyone copies people a little (even me!). Where else would fashion and beauty trends come from? (Imagine how salty the first woman to ever do winged eyeliner was when everyone else started doing it?!)

On Tumblr, anon’s will ask me things like: “how do I get a relationship like that” or how I go on so many adventures – but it’s just because they see what I post on Tumblr and Insta! While flattering, those messages concern me. I don’t want anyone going around thinking that my life is perfect – it’s lovely and I wouldn’t trade it for anything, but no one’s life is perfect. We all go through ups and downs and in-betweens. I’m not always hiking or exploring or going on dates with Matt. Life is mundane sometimes and awkward and totally messy and stressful 80% of the time and that’s (oddly) what makes it interesting. Friends out there: make sure you’re living your life for you. Make sure you’re pursuing your passions for you. But I digress. I know people can imitate things they see others do – and that’s OK (frustrating, yes, but it’s okay)!

Whenever I learn or try or do something new, it’s usually because I’ve read up about it a lot and think it’s something I’d enjoy and/or be good at! We should all keep that in mind. I don’t post, or do, or dream things because I want to be like someone else. I know I struggle with comparison as well, but truly we should use each other as support, as inspiration, and as drive to propel our own dreams forward – not to create a mirror image of someone else in ourselves. Someone is always going to be better dressed, or have nicer things, or travel more than us. There isn’t any point in trying to justify ourselves so that we can have the appearance of being on that same level. Our lives will find their own unique and beautiful rhythms –  we need to stay true to it, and don’t let the actions or seemingly real appearances of others on social media change that rhythm.

There’s totally nothing wrong with picking up a fashion trend you saw a pal wear or trying something a classmate said was fun – but make sure you’re not doing it to validate anything, do it because you like to try new things or want to push yourself out of your comfort zone! Don’t do it for RTs, or likes, to be justified in social media, or even to appear more “cool/wanderlust-y/trendy” than your peers (also, I hate that I just said ‘wanderlust-y’ but I really can’t verbalize it in any other way). You were created to be yourself, not a shadow of another person. Life was breathed into you to take up some space that is completely your own. People clamor for attention, as I’m sure they’ve done in all other times of human history – but we each have the ability to stop that cycle for ourselves.

Remember this, whenever you’re comparin’ yourself or feeling insuffient (when you are ANYTHING but that):

“…I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
    your works are wonderful,
    I know that full well.
My frame was not hidden from you
    when I was made in the secret place,
    when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.”

                     -Psalms 139:13-14, NIV

Even if you aren’t a Christian, please know that you and your spirit, your passions, and your truth of life cannot be imitated – you were fearfully and wonderfully made. Be uniquely you, no matter who is looking (or liking or retweeting). Life would be so lame if everyone was the same. Have a fab week, friends,  do something you love, and do it for you!

till next time! Niara

simplifying your life: social media

A few weeks ago, a friend of mine shared this video on Facebook. While not a new concept, the phenonenon of humans, and my generation and younger to be specific, being attached to their phones like an extended limb is worrisome. And not only that, I’m conscious of how sad it is while still continuing the desperate relationship with my own technology. Embarrassing, but true for so many people in our society.

I think major reason I’m starting to get much more involved and passionate about camping and backpacking is because those activities take the crutch of technology away. I’ve gone through different personal attempts to simplify from social media several times – from shutting off my phone for days, to deleting every social media app for set amounts of time. And it’s sad that I have to do that. Am I the only one who immediately goes for their phone in awkward situations, who scrolls through Snapchat, Instagram, and Twitter aimlessly, not really even caring what you’re looking at? Am I the only one who finds themselves subconsciously becoming more critical of themselves in comparison to others, when really all you see are “the happy reels” of their lives? Maybe I am the only one, but if you struggle with this too, keep reading along, and maybe we can figure some things out together.

Why do we do this? One reason is probably validation. Making your feed aesthetically pleasing, editing your photos just right, making sure your caption incites a chuckle, or maybe provokes thought. Let’s be honest – that is annoying (not to mention tiring) and it often is for two quick double taps, probably to someone else who is just aimlessly scrolling, not even really seeing either.

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Real life: I took this with my camera at a new coffee shop and felt soo awkward pulling it out to snap this. People stared I’m pretty sure. #awkward

The other day, I was listening to the Way Fam podcast (which is helpful for backpacking and camping reasons and just generally entertaining + insightful), and they had a few friends on who’d recently done a 3 month long stint from Washington State, up to Alaska + back down again – in their car. As cool as their tales and tips and stories were, something else really stuck with me:

“We wanted to make real memories. What’s happening nowadays – I think, too, with Instagram, it’s like – “oh yeah I went on this awesome camping trip this weekend,” and you’re talking to your friends, who [say], “oh yeah I saw that!” because you posted it  – no one has stories anymore.” – Caleb Babcock, The Way Fam Podcast, Ep. 002

There is a little truth to this. Not only do we have Instagram, to post our experiences and adventures, but we have Snapchat (and Periscope? what the heck even is that) – where you can practically livestream your life. I think in doing that, we take away a lot of authenticity. We shouldn’t have to feel the urge to show every person what we’re doing with all our time, justifying ourselves on yet another social media platform. I don’t want my life to be live streamed, I want it to be genuine – spent laughing, and discussing, and making really bad jokes!

Now, I’m not saying we need to completely shirk social media (I’m a big fan of the ‘gram. And Tumblr. And Twitter.). But I do think we should start considering whether or not we really need to show everyone + their mom the walk we went on, or the smoothie/coffee we had, or the places we are all the time, or put in such effort so that the spilled coffee on the mug isn’t showing or that everything in your photo is placed just right.

NIARA'S WAY breakfast
Real life: I took this one morning last week in preparation this post + I used VSCO to edit, and guess what? There’s a pile of books + a dirty mug of coffee from the night before just outside the frame. Plus the coffee burned my tongue.

Real life is spilled coffee + messy tables + staying up late because you procrastinated finishing your paper. Though there’s nothing wrong with folks posting pictures of the perfect latte or fun adventure, but it’s important for us to remember those things are slapped with a filter, and presented in a way that (sometimes unconsciously) makes it look surreal, cute, chic, cool, or somehing more.

I don’t think there is a problem with posting your weekend camping trip (because tbh I do that – I like posting pics! And it’s OK to like that!). I do, however, think that in uploading your life story to Snapchat + Insta in the moment takes away from the peeps you are hanging, traveling, camping, and doing life with! The problem isn’t social media, I think the problem lies within how devoted and attached and how consistently we are using it.

I had a weekend of adventures – and guess what – I shared a few pictures on social media. But from our trip – I have stories. Like my eerie night hike and sooo many more that are just mine to love + cherish + look back on – I turned off Snapchat, Instagram, and Twitter until the day after we got back. It was wonderful to just have those two good days with friends – and not the rest of the world. I didn’t get distracted by the screen in front of me (unless it was my Nikon), and I was able to let it all sink in. I want to try to do that more and more in the everyday. It’s valuable, and I think it’s something important for me to get back to.

All of my New Year’s Resolutions (see that post here) are small goals to help me live a more intentional life. A substantial part of that is taking time to do, feel, and take part in things we enjoy; to do things for myself and the people we love; and to let those experiences + activities + adventures impact us. That’ll happen so much easier if we are not feeling the urge to post every experience online.

Life is about being present, letting all the bad jokes and fun times and delicious coffee be memories and stories – without phones + tablets + laptops! If this is something you are interested in or want advice about, feel free to comment – and as always, my Tumblr anon box is open! Maybe I’m embarrassingly, horribly wrong about all of this, maybe not – but for me, an intentional life is about looking into the face of your fellow human companions, and not at a backlit screen. Either way, go live your life, peeps – and don’t be afraid to turn off the phone for a while, either.

till next time! -Niara

tropical popeye smoothie

Hi, friends! I hope you enjoyed the first week of March! Spring is just around the corners, and if you don’t have allergies, you’re probably stoked! Wildflowers in the forest will start popping up soon, and it’s just like the Earth is waking up from a nap.

I’m sticking to my new year’s resolutions pretty well so far – you can check them all out here. Since Matt and I are planning to summit Mt. Marcy (the highest peak in the Adirondacks and in the state of NY) this summer, I’ve been doing a lot of training. Lately, my workouts are mostly strength-oriented with lifting weights in my room and building up my core and lower-body strength. I’ll be doing cardio more once it gets warmer out – I’m not really in the mood to slip and fall on black ice on the sidewalks (true story. so painful.).

Working out, though, is only half the challenge. I’ve been eating pretty healthy this semester (if I don’t count the 3 nights in a row I had pasta midterms week [thats a good excuse, right?] and drank more energy drinks than water). Now that spring break is almost over, and I’ve gotten back into the swing of clean eating, I thought I’d share some of my favorite meals – both at home and in the dorm.

I call this the Tropical-Popeye smoothie. First, because I am lame. Second, because it blends some of my favorite berries (minus black and blueberries) and yeah, there is a TON of spinach. So here we go!

the tropical popeye smoothie

things ya need:

-blender (we have a ninja at home, and I have this personal blender at school)

-1/2 banana (slice it before you freeze it)

-1 peach (same prep as banana)

– handful of raspberries + strawberries

-2 handfuls of spinach

-1/2 cup of water

-1 scoop of women’s protein (I like vanilla!)

how to make it:

  1. i always freeze fresh fruit or buy a bag of frozen fruit (this makes your smoothie’s texture less lumpy than using ice)
  2. add your spinach (i do this first so it gets mixed really well)
  3. add your berries and banana
  4. pour in the whey protein (make sure if you’re a lady you’re using the right kind! men’s whey protein is different)
  5. pour in the water
  6. mix until you like the consistency, and the spinach is completely shredded and mixed into the smoothie
  7. enjoy!

I’m in love with this smoothie, y’all. It’s so good, so easy, and it’s helping me build muscle so I can climb all the mountains – I hope you like it!

The next month should be so exciting for the blog – I can finally shop for spring/summer capsule outfits, and cycle out some old pieces – capsule posts galore! And I’ll have some updates on my recent adventures, and perhaps do a post on skincare and makeup soon. Have a great weekend, peeps!

till next time! Niara

the perfect road trip playlist

Music can make or break a movie, it can make or break a “mood,” and music can totally make or break a road trip. We’ve all be there – sitting in the car with someone (usually a new friend or maybe even an acquaintance/colleague) and realizing, slowly and horrifically, that they have really bad taste in music. And suddenly, the whole car ride seems never-ending, and can ruin the entire experience of even a relatively modest commute.

Luckily, pretty much all of the people I ever dedicate substantial periods of car-time to have good taste in music. The other night, I was riding back home from campus with my best friend, and I realized that in long car rides especially, music is everything. It can keep you awake, get you pumped for the adventure ahead, and put you in the best/happiest/most energetic state of mind. I love road trips, and I love good tunes – the two together are an instant mood booster!

This is a condensed version of my playlist “road trippin'” on Spotify. You can find the full list here! The order fluxes from genre to genre to keep the mix entertaining. Here we go:

the perfect road trip playlist

  1. Salad Days – Mac Demarco
  2. Island in the Sun – Weezer
  3. Don’t Let it Break Your Heart – Coldplay
  4. I Sat by the Ocean – Queens of the Stone Age
  5. Fuckmylife666 – Against Me!
  6. Fight Test – The Flaming Lips
  7. Carried Away – Passion Pit
  8. Mo Money Mo Problems – Notorious B.I.G.
  9. California Love – Tupac
  10. Sunday Candy – Donnie Trumpet & the Social Experiment
  11. Treasure – Bruno Mars
  12. Hey Ya! – OutKast
  13. Somebody to Love – Queen
  14. Fever – The Black Keys
  15. Cardiac Arrest – Bad Suns
  16. Kangaroo Court – Capital Cities
  17. I Bet You Look Good on the Dance Floor – The Arctic Monkeys
  18. Mustang Kids – Zella Day
  19. This Charming Man – The Smiths
  20. West Coast – Coconut Records
  21. Goodbye Baby – The Walters

Happy road-trippin’ peeps!

till next time! -Niara

what i wore, 2.20

Holy cow, how is February almost over? I’m blown away at how fast the semester is already going by. Not only because that means I’m going to be studying my butt off more an more each day now that midterms are about to be over (which means finals are coming), but also that it’ll be SPRING soon! My favorite season – everything is coming back to life, and I can pick wildflowers on my hikes + the air is so gentle and sweet-smelling.

This week was very un-spring-like until Friday. Ohio is weird. We had a blizzard on Sunday, rain storms throughout the week, and Friday was breezy and almost warm. However, it was overcast and gloomy as heck, so as per usual, I got real bundled up. Here’s my capsule for the week!

WORN:  southwestern print cardigan: thrifted, similar here; high-low top: thrifted, similar here; high rise jeans: urban outfitters; shoes: minnetonka; watch: anne klein, similar here; bracelet: alex & ani; ring: gift; statement necklace: old f21 purchase

till next time! -Niara

THE VAGINA MONOLOGUES

The Vagina Monologues is a production of, well, monologues, but also poems and short stories, and was first performed in 1996, and was written by Ms. Eve Ensler about the joys, trials, and struggles that come from the identity of “woman.”

I technically didn’t take part in “The Vagina Monologues” but rather, a separate performance that came after the original program concluded. However, the second performance centered around the same thing – loving your body, being a strong woman, defying and challenging the systemic forces used to keep the female population oppressed. Together, 27 other vibrant, beautiful, sassy, and not-taking-shit women put on a performance to make those in our communities think, laugh, and cry about our vaginas – about our womanhood. And it was truly one of the most impactful things I’ve ever done.

Now, I’m not a theater person. I’ve done some public speaking, but nothing compares to having to take on the tone your piece calls for. Nothing compares to being brought to tears by the words you are saying, and nothing can compare to the tingle in your blood as those same words fill you with power.

Imagine, ladies, being in a room full of kind, smart, other ladies to talk about all the things you’ve ever felt as a girl, as a young lady, as a woman. There are a ton of tears and laughs, and I’ve never felt so badass and supported that when talking candidly with them about all the weird and wonderful things you go through as a female. I can’t wait to audition next year.

If you were wondering, it frickin’ rocks. Learning from and with other women about what it means to be a woman – the positives and negatives – is enlightening and incredibly eye opening. Plus, we raised over $3,000 in ticket, button, t-shirt, and cookie sales for the local women’s shelter in my college town.

If you want to feel empowered, united and proud of your femininity (and your vagina), I strongly suggest you check out some of Eve Ensler’s work! I hope everyone had a loving, wonderful, V-Day weekend!

till next time!  -Niara

the north face terra 55 review

I recently mentioned in a capsule post that I’d bought a backpacking pack. In fact, it’s the first one I’ve ever gotten. In the last few years, I’ve fallen in love with hiking, and naturally, the next best thing is to hike all day and then sleep on the trail so you can keep it up the next! So, I’ve decided to invest in a nifty pack that is versatile, comfortable, and durable! I chose The North Face Women’s Terra 55 pack.

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I did so, SO much research before buying this pack (some of this research happened after I bought a smaller pack and then returned it), but I’ll get to that in a minute. One of the most common beginners mistakes I was warned about, by forums and reviews and friends, was that most people try to get a pack too big, to accommodate what they think they may need. I originally got a pack too small, one that would’ve worked for overnight trips and day hiking. However, I plan on doing 3-4 day trips recreationally, and my study abroad calls for me to have a pack that can last 5 days (it’s a multi week trip, but we’ll have access to food/laundry off-trail).

This is the Kelty Redwing 32! Super comfy and has lotsa room for organization/storage in pockets + it’s affordable! I recommend this for day hikes and overnights only.

The trips I want to go on call for a 50+ liter pack – and for that reason, I opted for a 55L – perfect for my weekend/multi-day trips, and large enough for my multi-week study abroad.

I’m a huge fan of The North Face. Both their athletic and outdoor gear are ethically and well-made + built to last. Plus I’m not planning on any solo travels until graduation – so I’m not too concerned about divvying up weight. I am however, trying to go ultralight as possible on all my trips, so that my pack will be able to sustain the weight, and I won’t be on the verge of a dislocated hip and an asthma attack.

I’m really glad I ended up switching to the Terra – especially because I actually do have not-great hips, and the Terra provides awesome support for them, while the Redwing only had a thin mesh/cloth panel for the hips.

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The North Face Women’s Terra 55: look at all that cushion! – comfort while keeping the fabric soft and conducive to good air-flow.

The back panel frame uses their OptiFit adjustment system to raise and lower the shoulder straps so that the packs weight is perfectly distributed between my shoulders and hips, as well. Plus, great ventilation again – excessively sticky + sweaty back while hiking is not fun at all.

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The Terra also has grrreat places for storage! Which is important because I bring my camera gear + journal practically everywhere I go, so it’s nice that there’s a spot for them. The Terra 55 has 8 pockets – this includes the brain + its pocket, the two outer pockets you can see in the first picture with aqua piping, 2 hip pockets (perf for iPhones, compass/GPS + maps), internal storage pocket, and the two side pockets where you could store water reservoirs/bottles, and other things you need to access quickly.

Another rad feature of this pack is the separate sleeping bag pocket at the bottom – which makes for easy + quick storage/removal when you’re setting up camp! DSC_0075

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The main compartment of the pack has a drawstring top for easy access + fitting all the things you need into your pack.

 

This pack is so comfy!  The only thing I didn’t have was my tent, but I’ll be doing a demo on this pack after my first overnight trip with this pack at the end of the month, when Matt and I head over to Wayne National Forest for spring break (woo!!) – so I’ll have much more info then.

Overall, though, I’m really happy with the product. The North Face is a great, socially conscious (❤️❤️❤️) brand that guarantees quality product. I’m excited to get a lot of use out of this pack!

till next time! -Niara

a collection of poems

Hi friends! So I’ve been having a realllllll crappy few days. Like, crying at my favorite songs and feeling tired 24/7 kinda days. A lot of it has to do with my personal journey to compare myself less/self esteem, but there are a lot of other things going on, too!

Also, Mondays just are the worst.

So, I’m dropping a little love + light in the form of poetry on ya today! These poems were all written by Rupi Kaur, a true stand up gal. Most of these can be found in her book, Milk and Honey, which is just amazing. Also she’s my age – a wildly successful + smart + kind woman. Anyway, her poems make me love myself and I hope they make you feel encouraged and love yourself, too!:

“i will not have you

walk in and out of me when

i have too many miracles

happening inside me to be

your convenient option.”

~

“i want to apologize to all the women

i have called beautiful before i’ve called

them intelligent or brave. i am sorry

i made it sound as though something as simple

as what you’re born with is

all you have to be proud of when

you have broken mountains with your wit.

From now on i will say things like

you are resilient, or you are extraordinary

not because i don’t think you’re beautiful,

but because i need you to know you are more than that.”

~

“i do not want to have you

to fill the empty parts of me

i want to be full on my own

i want to be so complete

i could light a whole city

and then

i want to have you

cause the two of

us combined

could set it

on fire.”

~

“how you love yourself is

how you teach others

to love you.”

~

“it was when i stopped searching for home within others

and lifted the foundations of home within myself

i found there were no roots more intimate

than those between a mind and body

that have decided to be whole.”

~

Women are strong as hell. Thanks to women like Rupi Kaur who can say it in a much more eloquent way.

xoxo, Niara

 

 

how to save money in college

Saving money is a big part of being in college. Not only do students have the burden of loans, but sometimes it seems like your money is being pulled in a million directions! Organization dues, a quick coffee with friends, t-shirts for your favorite club, date party funds, the list goes on and on! In that chaos, it’s so easy to spend all of your money, even when you had every intention of putting some to the side and into savings.

Towards the end of fall semester, I realized I needed to be stricter with my funds. Not only do I need to pay for books and other supplies needed at school, but I’m hoping to study abroad this summer, buy my first car, and go on a few road trips. That is a ton of money. And by no means can those things be accomplished if I don’t spend my money wisely.

I don’t know about you, but my education of finances in high school was nonexistent. If asked to balance a checkbook, I wouldn’t even know where to begin. Luckily, I don’t have a checkbook (adult responsibility No. 9,305,34o,285 #avoided). However I do, in the realest sense, need to get my crap together. While on Pinterest looking for budgeting tips for college students, I came across the system of a Zero-Based Budget. It might sound scary, or like you’ll only have zero dollars, but all it means is that you use a method of budgeting in which all expenses must be justified for each new period. Basically, you’re making sure that all your money is used for a specific purpose and is accounted for each time you get paid. Not scary at all! And finances can be SCARY.

HOW TO GO ABOUT DOING THIS THANG

FIRST: try to gather as many receipts as possible from the last month or so (or list down the everything you can remember spending money on). That sounds silly and difficult even, but the small transactions add up. In addition, pull up your last few bank statements, recurring bills, etc.

SECOND: spend some time thinking about the things you want in the long term. Those cute frickin’ boots? A new camera lens? Gas money for your next road trip? Write it down. These are going to be part of your “fixed expenses.”

THIRD: Think about the other things you spend money on that you need! Examples: groceries, gas money, personal hygiene items, bills, etc. This is your “necessary spending.”

FOURTH: Unnecessary spending – for example: eating out, shopping for unneeded clothes, iTunes purchases, etc. Decide how much you want to be spending on these each pay period.

FIFTH: “Fun Money.” Because life shouldn’t be just about slaving away at your job and not reaping any relaxation time! For myself I have: movie tickets, coffee money, books, and the occasional bag of Sour Patch Kids.

THE REST GOES INTO SAVINGS (unless you tithe, then put aside that 10%). I used my past receipts and bank statements to add up where my money goes. Then I had to decide where the money spend will go beyond necessary spending, and divvy that up by percentages. Here’s an example chart of the real one I have on my white board, using my real percentages, but a made-up paycheck amount:

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Pretty simple, huh? Now, by no means whatsoever am I an expert on finances or budgeting, but this method works pretty dang well for me. I don’t go without things I need, I make sure I treat myself from time to time, and I’m always putting money towards goals I have for my future! It’s pretty nice to know where all my money is going.

If you don’t think you can hold yourself to this, try the envelope method! Basically, you put your savings into your account, and everything else goes into categorized envelopes. So, say you have $20 in your “fun money” envelope for the pay period, spend it as you like – but once the envelope is empty, you’re done spending on that category until the next pay period. It’s a stricter way to keep track of your funds – physically seeing how you spend your money, instead of putting it all in one place and perhaps forgetting where the money should be spent might help you keep track better and hold yourself more accountable!

I hope this was helpful for all of you out there who have some big plans + goals and needed some help figuring out how to be intentional about saving!

xoxo, Niara

what i wore, 1.27

Hey, peeps! This weekend I’ll probably be busy hiking and cuddling with Matt, so I’m doing the usual Saturday morning capsule piece a wee bit early!

I’m still into simple, neutral tones that are really versatile no matter how you wear them. I’m have simple tastes style-wise for my everyday looks, but they can be dressed up up with bracelets, rings, and/or a watch. Lately I’ve been wearing the black pairs of pants I have for that same reason – they can be understated and simple, or just sophisticated enough for brunch with a supervisor or an after-class meeting.

ALSO – I bought shoes. Well, shoes and a pack. But, shoes aren’t part of the capsule, and neither is outerwear/gear. So I technically haven’t infringed on the capsule, and these expenses were permissible in my zero-based budget (stay tuned for that post next Monday!). Saving money and working hard pays off in the most awesome way – I have some fresh kicks I’ve been wanting for a while (I’m talking months) and a pack that I’m going to get to take on all my camping, backpacking + oversea adventures! I’m stoked. Let’s get to the capsule:

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WORN: jeans: Madewell; cardigan: thrifted, similar here; top: Gap, it’s WAY cheap online right now!; booties: Minnetonka; watch: gift, Anne Klein, similar here

xoxo, Niara

the beauty of not knowing

I’ve only been twenty for two months, but I can already tell that this next decade is going to be a mental, emotional, and spiritual roller coaster. Which is wild. Because maybe in these next ten years I’ll see the world, “buy” a house, get two or more degrees, and work for a nonprofit! Or I could change my major, find a career I’d never even thought of, get married young, and throw all the “plans” I’d told myself I had to stick to out the window. That’s scary. There’s no way of knowing which way, or what hybrid, of ways my life may turn out.

I would describe myself as Type A with Type B tendencies. While I’m not extreme in organization and scheduling and ambition, I do allow those things to have a strong influence over how I live my life. Often times, I allow a small, unprecedented deviation from my “plans” to cause me unnecessary anxiety or frustration.

We hear the question “where do you see yourself in 5/10/x years?” so many times, and I’ve recently decided I don’t like it. I don’t think it’s wrong to be ambitious (in fact, I like that quality in people), but I think it’s a bit presumptuous to ask someone where or what they’ll be one day, when it’s laughable to think we could have any notion of it. Instead, I believe in having small goals for who you want yourself to be. If one is always striving to become better, they will likely discover who and where and what they should be surrounded by.

The next time someone asks me that, I’ll respond with: closer to Jesus, simpler, kinder, adventurous, and more passionate. Development in those areas will push me to the perfect career, friends, partner, geographic location, etc.

Even as someone who likes to schedule their days exactly (sometimes down to the hour), it is my hope that this year I can let go (1/3 of my New Year’s Resolution!). There’s beauty in the unknown – there is space for imagination, failure, learning moments, and growth. I need to learn to lean on the Father more, because if anything that can go will go wrong, I’ll need Him more than ever, especially in this ever changing decade I hope to live and thrive through.

“Being conscious about being more relaxed” might seem contradictory, but I’m a firm testimony that faking it till you make it can work. If I remind myself each and every day to give God the control, and only do my best with what he gives me, this humbling decade will allow me to blossom. Perceiving every failure, doubtful moment, and stressor as an opportunity to trust God’s plan and to learn something about my place in this world is much more constructive than freaking out because things didn’t go how I’d expected.

There’s beauty in the unknown. I might not realize it when it’s facing me like a frightening expanse of uncertainty – but you can always stick a candle in the darkness. You can find unthinkable opportunity and growth. I hope to find it, day by day, and it’s comforting to know I don’t have to do it on my own strength.

xoxo, Niara

 

what i wore, 1.23

Hi, peeps! This week’s update on my fashion capsule is ready, and I thought I’d share how this process has been affecting (and benefitting) me!

When I started the capsule, it was mostly because I was distraught at the environmental  + social impact of the fashion industry. I couldn’t believe how much was wasted, and how many companies I regularly shopped were so unjust. It just didn’t sit right with me.

I also started the capsule to save money, and BOY have I saved money. I’m not a huge shopper to begin with, but I had so many clothes that I very seldom/never wore. These clothes were just cluttering my clothes (and my life, if I’m going to be honest – I can’t focus in a messy room/workspace). However, donating/thrifting my clothes  – no matter how sentimental – has allow me to clear up this space. It also helps to remember that they’re just clothes, and we shouldn’t care as much about them as we do.

In saving money, I’ve become even more firm in my stance that one can tell a lot about the things they cherish by what they spend their energy + time on.  For example, I consider myself an adventurous spirit, and someone who enjoys traveling to experience more of the world. That however, isn’t free (and sometimes not even cheap). So, if I spent all my money on clothes, or coffee, or makeup – then clearly what I truly cherish are those items. Before, and especially since I started my capsule, I’m so much more intentional + conscious about how I spend my money. Because every buck, every hour I’m working, goes towards what I actually care about. PS: I’ll be doing an overview of my zero based budget so you guys can see how I budget and save – it makes sure every single dollar is accounted for and being used for a specific reason.

So, if you’re still reading this, the moral of the story is that this capsule as confirmed a lot of things for me – plus it’s fun to document my outfits to y’all. Let’s get to the outfit:

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WORN: long-sleeved knit tee: Brandy Melville USA, sold out (similar here); cardigan: J. Crew, christmas gift (similar in black here); jeans: Madewell (these are perfect for tucking into boots/socks); boots: gift, similar here and here

xoxo, Niara

burden of identity

I have yet to mention my identity on my blog, and honestly, it’s a shame. Because my identity is a substantial part of who I am, and it’s shaped my experiences and perceptions of the world. You may be asking “why do you feel the need to share now?” or “why does this even matter?” or “go back to talking about things more people can relate to!” And if you’re thinking those things, particularly the latter, it’s because I feel as though I would be doing a disservice to myself and you, Dear Reader, by avoiding these topics. Things aren’t always going to be relatable, and quite frankly, that needs to be okay sometimes. However, I feel as though sharing, acknowledging, and at minimum attempting to understand different perspectives and experiences is important.

I feel a burden. I feel a burden of expectation, of calculation, in my life. Now, this is not me pulling the “race card.” I want to clear that up right away. And before you can roll your eyes and say, “well I feel burdens, TOO, you know,” I want to tell you that I know – and that your burdens are valid too. But my experience as someone who identifies as female, and as African-American/Black, may not be the same as yours, and perhaps a bit more taxing. So do not write off my burden, Dear Reader, they are real, and I feel their weight as easily as if I were carrying a sack of brick and dried mortar on my shoulders.

The burden I feel is one where people expect something of me, because of what I look like. I don’t mean my glasses or my brown eyes, I mean the melanin count of my skin. A melanin count that has rendered my People at the bottom of American society’s totem pole for over three hundred years. Now, you may say, “but slavery is over! Black people can vote! Racism is dead! And I don’t see color!” and to that, Dear Reader, I ask you to open up your mind. For example, sexual harassment and rape are illegal, and yet it still happens. It’s explicitly noted that those are crime, and yet women are still afraid to come forward, women still deal with cat-calling, groping, and being told that they are “asking for it.” That’s a problem in our society as well, so you can see, just because something is written on a sheet of paper, doesn’t mean things actually change.

There are compliments that I receive as a black woman, that are offense and backhanded, while the one “complimenting” me doesn’t even notice. To name a few:

  1. You speak so well
  2. Wow! You’re so pretty… (which sounds fine, but it’s all in the tone – what they mean is: for a black girl)
  3. But you don’t act Black! OR You don’t really “count” as Black
  4. You’re like an Oreo! (i.e. only Black on the outside)

For the record, those aren’t compliments. If you have or do still say those things, don’t. They’re not nice. They point out that to the person “complimenting,” that I am “Other” or an anomaly that needs recognition from deviating from the stereotype that the dominant (read: White) society created of my People. That melanin cannot be beautiful, that people of color (POC) are not eloquent speakers, that there is a way to ACT a certain race. That is a burden.

People expect me to be able to dance, to know every rap song ever; they expect me to be sassy; when I voice my anger at world issues, I am the “Angry Black Girl”; if I embrace my sexuality, I’m “ghetto”; I am undeserving of my scholarship because of Affirmative Action. I cannot win. I am to support the Black men who are slain daily by the police, by gangs, and yet, they do not respect or support my trials. To whom can I turn?

There is a burden that comes with every identity. This does not just have to be race – it can be gender identity/expression, religion, socioeconomic status, even geography. I’ve decided that I’ll be discussing this much more on my blog. If that makes you uncomfortable, it’s okay to unsubscribe. I understand that some people simply cannot wrap their minds around the experiential perspective of those different from them. But if you want to learn, to stumble along, to have candid and frank conversations, I’m glad you’re hear. We can learn, experience, and grow together.

For this category, my anon box on Tumblr is open for any questions you folks may have. I will definitely be monitoring who I respond to, so if you are full of hate and anger, please refer to my posts about Jesus and His everlasting love here. Also, I am by no means an expert on race. I can only speak from my own experience – I am a college student who is learning and starting to understand how my experiences have made me who I am today. I look forward to these enlightening conversations with all of you!

xoxo, Niara

what i wore, 1.16

I thought I’d have a lot more outfits to post because it was syllabus week, but I guess I missed the memo where all of my professors decided that syllabus week wouldn’t be a thing. This week was crazy busy, I had my first official RA responsibilities + tablework for The Vagina Monologues (I’ll be reciting “Still I Rise” by Maya Angelou!!). Needless to say, I was exhausted. But I made good on my NYRs, running or working out in the morning, doing bible study/devotionals everyday before classes, and journaling at least once a day. So, despite the exhaustion + stress, I had a sweet week.

One of my favorite outfits was this little number, because Ohio is crazy and had weather mood swings, I wore canvas shoes the day after a blizzard. The midwest is not always predictable, people!

Also, my apologies for the low quality pics, my SD card broke so I won’t be able to use my camera until Tuesday when I go to the store (and apply for my passport – woo!!).

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WORN: turtleneck sweater: DKNY (thrifted), similar here; high-waisted jeans: BDG (old purchase), similar here; sneakers: Keds (sold out), similar here; ring: christmas gift

See you Monday, folks!

xoxo, Niara

the importance of community

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Sometimes, I’m utterly floored at how God can show you exactly what you need to hear or see right when you need to see it. Today I went to church with some of the folks on my staff – my first time going to church in my college town, mind you – and the sermon was on community. Something I’ve decided needs to be a big part of my faith from now on. Being a Christian isn’t an easy walk, and certainly not when you have to go it alone.

Now, I’m not saying that church today was earth-shattering or mind blowing and I walked out a drastically different woman, but I did need to hear that. Delight’s chapter won’t be continuing at my school this semester, so I definitely want something to supplement my faith throughout the week. Beyond that, having a support system that picks me up when I stumble and fall in my faith and constantly points me back to Jesus is not only something I need, but something I want. I don’t want to be isolated – in that way, I’m an easy target for temptation – because I am weak, imperfect, flawed + human. It will by no means be possible to be the Christian I want to be if I don’t have people around me to help keep me on the straight and narrow.

Often times we feel as though we have to do everything on our own. We feel that we are too smart/practical/strong/[insert adjective here] to need support, guidance, even criticism. But when we fall, it’s both humbling and beneficial to have someone else in community to help get you back to your feet.

The pastor based the sermon on Ecclesiastes 4:9-12, as follows:

“Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. 10 For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up! 11 Again, if two lie together, they keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone? 12 And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him—a threefold cord is not quickly broken.” (ESV)

Now to me, this passage is a gem for several reasons. One, WOW. “Woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up!” Not only are community and relationships in faith encouraged, but isolation is admonished. In sermon today, the pastor reminded us that we need comfort, “warmth”, in a world that tests us so much.

We can prevail against our adversary (sin, the devil, etc.), if we have community in Christ because in those relationships we can withstand all the temptations and trials we go through.

I don’t know if this is the ex-English major in me reading into things too much, but a three-fold cord seems very similar to the relationship of the Trinity: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. They do all things together. Even in creation, as God created, the Holy Spirit hovered over the void of Earth. And when God created Adam, He said, “Let US make him in OUR image” (read: All of Us – You too, JC and Holy Spirit! All of Us!). That threefold cord could withstand anything, and will never be broken. We are made in the image of all three, and if they use relationship – from creation to the resurrection of Christ and beyond – how laughable is it that we so often think we can do things on our own?

So here’s to building community, finding friends and fellow disciples, and growing in strength and faith this year! Have a great week, peeps!

xoxo, Niara

what i wore, 1.9

I’m sticking to this capsule thing, folks! Over break, I resisted the urge to shop (VERY hard when all your favorite shops are having great sales)! Everything but one item I collected over break was a gift. I did end up getting a Woolrich  jacket, that’s khaki and wool lined – and great for hikes – but it was thrifted at $1.07 (super steal for that brand – like I’m legitimately in shock I got it that cheap)!! I plan on buying only quality  and socially-conscious brands this year if I’m shopping new items. But thrifting is great, and I love that great items aren’t just being added to landfills.

Today I picked a sweater I’ve had for a few years, and Christmas gifts for the jeans + booties! It’s super comfy, but still looks put together and sophisticated (I have to do paperwork and meet my residents today!). I’m all about simple, yet chic + comfy outfits. Super casual, but still allows me to feel as though I put effort into my look.

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WORN: sweater: thrifted, similar here; jeans: Hollister; suede booties: gift, similar here and here

xoxo, Niara

up ahead: 2016

Hi, friends! I’m so excited to be back at blogging after a relaxing break. I only had three weeks home, which were jam packed with work (textbooks ain’t cheap), coffee dates, hikes + spending much-needed quality time with my family and friends. My brother works with a production company and network in California, and we hadn’t seen him since June, so my whole family tried to squeeze in as much as we could during the time me and my siblings were all home. Here are a few of my favorite memories from the last few weeks:

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Upon coming back to school early for RA training, and being one of the only people in my residence hall (a little creepy), I had a ton of time for self-reflection and time to think about what I want from myself and this blog in the upcoming year. I’ll be posting full-length posts on Monday mornings, and photography (this includes capsule posts) on Saturday mornings. I want to give myself more of an outlet creatively and verbally to express myself. I’ll also be doing a lot more to get feed back from you guys – I love the traffic I’ve gained in such a short time, but I want to build community, and I will start reaching out more to other bloggers for collaboration ideas, and more! Social media is such a great way to connect with like-minds, and I want to take advantage of that wonderful opportunity.

xoxo, Niara

college new year’s resolution

Around this time each year I get super antsy – for Christmas, family time, and New Year’s Eve. This is one of my favorite times of the year, and one of the best parts is the urge many of us get to create, and (hopefully) keep, our New Year’s resolutions. I actually kept mine this year, and feel great about it! Last year, I told myself I’d eat healthier and strive to get to a healthier weight. With a lot of feet dragging, I lost 20 lbs. in 2015, and it feels great! This was, however, the first time I’ve actually kept my resolution through the entire year. This time, though, I want to up the ante, and challenge myself a bit more: 3 resolutions – physical, emotional/mental, and spiritual resolutions.

Keeping a NYR in life is hard, but I feel like it’s especially rough in college. There are a million things pulling you in a million directions and it’s so easy to just say, “Ugh, I don’t have time to [insert your resolution here]. I can always do it later.” Usually later means tomorrow, or later this week, but can quickly turn into a month, then a semester, and if it gets that out of hand, it’s even easier to just say, “Forget it. There’s always next year.” NOT THIS TIME.

For 2015 and 2016, I made the actual resolution my last step. First and foremost, I give myself small lifestyle changes that I can hold myself accountable to do on a regular basis. The most important thing to remember while making up your resolution that you’re going to mess up, especially in the beginning. That’s okay! Make sure that if you do stumble, you make up for it on a day when you don’t have much to do, or if you find yourself with a bit of free time. These small goals will help you reach your resolution easier, and improve your lifestyle choices along the way. This is my simple method: day-to-day lifestyle changes while remembering what you want in the long run.

PHYSICAL: HIKE MY 1ST SUMMIT

If you keep up with me here on Niara’s Way, you probably know I’m a nut for the great outdoors. Hiking is one of my favorite pastimes, and in 2016 i want to take it to the next level. Summiting is something I’ve been thinking about a lot this year. I think it’ll be a great journey for me, in challenging my physical abilities, and also pushing me to get over my fear of heights.

My day-to-day changes: Training 3 days a week. This will encompass the 3 most important physical needs for climbing a mountain: strength, stamina and climbing skills. Mondays will consist of weightlifting and muscle-building, Wednesdays will focus on stamina (running and biking), and Friday’s I’ll train with rock climbing.

This also means I’ll have to make some dietary changes, mostly a reduction or elimination of breads, starches, and sugars. I however, love breads, starches, and sugars, so I might only cut them out of my diet during the week, and cheat on the weekends.

Knowing me, there will be days that I just can’t summon the energy to train, or days that I won’t be able to resist a lo mein bowl with steak and yum yum sauce, but I do have a love and motivation to keep seeking adventure in my life, and keeping that in mind often pushes me out of my weak moments.

EMOTIONAL/MENTAL: CONSIDER THE LILLIES

27 Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; and yet I say to you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 28 If then God so clothes the grass, which today is in the field and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will He clothe you, O you of little faith?

29 “And do not seek what you should eat or what you should drink, nor have an anxious mind. 30 For all these things the nations of the world seek after, and your Father knows that you need these things.

Luke 12:27-30, NKJV

This is one of my favorite Bible verses, because it calms me with an issue I struggle with so much – comparing myself to others, and being so often unappreciative of my blessings.

This resolution is going to be very hard. Not just because it’s very easy for me to forget that I care what other people think, but also because caring about what others think of you so easy to do. I feel like this resolution will also help with other vices we as imperfect humans fall victim to, like comparison and jealousy. I hate comparing myself to others and feeling envy, but it’s a hard habit to break. Girls in our society are taught from such an early age to view each other as competition, and fixing that for myself will be a challenge, but one that will allow me to love myself and my blessings a lot more, and be a better person and friend.

My day-to-day changes: Journal every night. I usually write in my diary to vent, but in my journals I try to do a lot of self reflection. It allows me to get down to the nitty gritty about why I feel a certain way about things. It opens me up to how I can potentially solve these problems.

Writing has always been a positive outlet for me, and I often feel as though I’m moving so quickly and worrying about so many things that I have no room for self-reflection, which I desperately need to do more often. It allows me to get things off my chest, analyze my emotions and behaviors, and gives me the sense that I can handle whatever is currently a burden.

SPIRITUAL: LET GO

I can’t control everything, and that is often a point of anxiety for me, because I am a control freak. I like to plan down to the last detail, and I easily freak out if one little thing I thought I could manage doesn’t go according to that plan. In my Bible study with Delight and my personal devotionals, I’ve noticed a trend in reading: letting the Holy Spirit walk with me. I know the Spirit is there with me, in everywhere I go, in everything I do, most definitely working so many blessings I can only fathom a few of them – and still I am afraid to surrender my belief that I can and need to control everything in my life.

Day-to-day changes: Surrender, completely. Allow the Holy Sprit to walk by my side, and trust that God knows a better outcome than me. He is greater, and I need to allow that greatness the room to work in me. How will I every continue to develop my relationship with Christ if I’m too afraid to wholly let Him be a part of my life?

I hope that I can become less controlling, and so, less arrogant of my ability to do everything. He > i, always.


 

I hope I’m as successful in my resolutions of 2016 and I was this year. A resolution is never an easy thing to stick to. But hopefully, by breaking down what I want to see from myself in the next year into 3 major sectors, I’ll be able to better focus on each one, and most importantly, remember the significance of my daily changes that will allow me to accomplish those resolutions.

Happy Holidays!

xo, Niara

 

surviving finals week

It’s that dreaded time of year, all! You’ve had your tease-giving break and it’s time to settle back onto campus for a week (or two) of grueling classes, and then, the beast of all beasts comes: finals week. hopefully, having endured that almost 3 times, I can impart some wisdom on you in getting through the test of the semester, with hopefully fewer nervous breakdowns and guilt-tumblring.

This fall, I’m taking 18 credit hours (6 classes), and 4 classes are outside of my major. On the course roster we have: Political Theory, The Politics of Law, Elementary Arabic, Macroeconomics, Literature as Social Action, and Biological Anthropology. Hefty list, yes. But also barely doable. In a shocking twist of events, most of my final assignments were due this week – even though finals week begins Monday. Which is good because I now have more time to study for my two exams this coming week, and bad because both weeks have been/will be, to put it lightly, the worst.

THIS IS THE MANTRA OF THINGS I’VE TOLD MYSELF EACH FINALS WEEK (in college – high school exams have nothing on this)

  1. If it’s not getting done tonight, it’s not getting done tonightI know that is incredibly redundant, but hopefully the repetition will allow my point to sink through. If you find yourself staring at the same flash card/paragraph/review sheet for 10 minutes and not retaining information – that’s your body begging you to go to sleep. You’ll feel a million times better if you get a good nights rest, rather that poring over information you won’t even retain. main idea: it’s a waste of time to keep studying when your brain is fried.
    • Little side note, if caffeine works on you, don’t drink Monster/Red Bull after 7 PM. It’ll keep you up, sure, but so will a cold glass of water. And a cold glass of water won’t leave you unable to fall asleep until 4:30 AM – just trust me on this one.
  2. It’s okay to cry. Life is messy, and finals week is messy, and people are so, so messy. On Wednesday, I was so overwhelmed and sleep-deprived, I cried at the drop of the hat. I’m not really embarrassed though, because you have that many external factors affecting your mood, it’s good to get the tears out. I’d much prefer crying to The Office bloopers on YouTube than when my professor hands out our exam this Thursday. 
  3. Make a daily to-do list. This is coming from the girl who loves lists (as I make a point on an already existing list), but it really works. The last few weeks of school, especially when classes are still in session, are prime times for small responsibilities to slip through the cracks. Have a quick meeting with an advisor? Put it on the list. Need to drop off an assignment to return a book at the library? Put it on the list. That way, small things can be handled right away, and not muddling your mind when you need to be 100% focused on class material.
  4. Take regular study breaks. This doesn’t mean checking your phone every time you hear a ghost vibration. Studies show that breaking up studying with short breaks helps you retain information better! I use the rule of thumb of studying for 45 minutes, and taking a 15 minute break. This can be anything from a walk to a quick coffee house stop, to calling your best friend and complaining about how much you have to study.  What’s important is that you allow your brain breaks to store the information you study, so it is retained for a longer period of time (you can find more on this study here). 
  5. Turn off your cellphone. This is just in my experience, but I sometimes find myself just holding my phone to do nothing – check the weather in a different state, close all my apps, whatever. It’s procrastination. And it’s taking time out of your 45/15 minute routine! I turn my phone off so I’m not even tempted to see if my friends laughed at my joke in a group chat, or wonder whether or not Matt has replied to one of my texts. 
  6. Make time for ~self care~. This helps with the whole, I-cry-for-no-apparent-reason-and-eat-to-hide-my-stress problem I sometimes stumble upon during finals week. Shower a little longer, and use the really nice-smelling shower gel. Treat yo self. Paint your nails. Watch (a limited) number of episodes of your favorite show. Netflix & chill with yourself. I promise if you do, studying will feel (slightly) easier. If you dedicate time to relaxing, instead of using your study time to procrastinate, you’ll actually feel at ease and benefit from these acts of self care.

Good luck, pals! May your GPAs soar high like the birds!

xo, Niara

give thanks

Around this time each year, the act of giving thanks is promoted so heavily. Companies capitalize on the nostalgic and compassionate emotions that run high from Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day. But do we really give thanks? I don’t think many of us do. Yes, we go through the motions, we hug and break bread with friends and family, and we take time out of our days to buy special gifts for our loved ones. However, I wonder if I can challenge myself, and others, to truly give thanks this season by doing something even more important that dinner and holiday gifts – give back.

There are so many people that we could probably impact each and every day if we were more conscious of our actions. I spend so much money on things that are pleasing to me, that I often make excuses for why I can’t give back. In reality, that one dollar going to a children’s hospital or hours spent volunteering at a homeless shelter does not take anything from me, even when I am giving my resources and time to another. Small acts of giving back to the community can have a great impact. What if we knew our dollar was saving a child’s life, or giving a meal to a family who had no idea where their next one would come from? I know I’d be a lot less selfish if I did.

You can also give back to the world this holiday season by using your voice. Speak up and out against the injustice you see in the world around you. Right now, there are 6.5 million Syrian refugees fleeing for their lives. And in the most un-American response, over 20 U.S. governors have insisted that we close our doors to them. Were Americans not immigrants once, fleeing from tyranny? Let’s not even get into the fact that states have no jurisdiction over who can and cannot enter their state territory. That is a federal power. But the mere show of politicians who are in charge, and showing such indifference to people in need saddens my heart, and quite frankly, scares me.

Even mayors (like David Bowers of Roanoke, VA) are claiming we should shut out refugees, in preemptive fear of terrorism. This is becoming a local issue in some places. In the local and state arena, our voices carry more weight. Call your state representatives and senators – tell your friends to do the same. Giving back doesn’t just have to mean donations, or in areas within walking distance from your home. Give back to those around the world, to those who need it desperately. Beirut, Nigeria, and Palestine are some of the few places who desperately need the acts of kindness passed around during this time of year. Charity databases, local organizations, and even your state reps can get you in touch with charity and relief organizations.

Giving back is so important, always, and the holiday season gives us a gentle nudge to do so. I hope everyone has a beautiful Thanksgiving. No matter where you were or who you spent it with, I hope you were and are safe, loved, and have a full stomach!

xo, Niara

what i wore / wardrobe cleanse

Hey, all! This is going to kind of a long post about a lot of things (there might be a list or two squeezed in here but who can say?). I noticed this weekend that in a lot of my blogs I mention comparison (and it’s something I deal with on a day to day basis, so I probably will mention it again in the future). As I was thinking about this, I wondered why I struggle with comparison so much. Often, I feel as though it is because I have my own personal struggle with being the best at or in anything, and that has seeped its awful way into many different facets of my life.

Beyond that, I’m a chick who is hoping to one day work with/start a non-governmental organization (NGO), so I really need to start being more socially conscious about my behaviors. It’s one thing to talk the talk, but I have got to walk the walk, too.

That made me think of materialism, which is incredibly intertwined to both of these issues (comparison/social consciousness). A big place those two intersect is in the world of fashion. Now, I’ll be the first one to say I’ve had a lot of Forever 21 and Urban Outfitters binges in my day, but in the past few months, that’s seemed very problematic to me, I just couldn’t put my finger on why. And then it hit me – it’s because I am a person who wants to help those who are exploited in the world, and I give my money to the companies and brands that hurt them more. Furthermore, I wanted to stop shopping so much, and feeling like I needed to own a million items of clothing in order to be stylish – which is false, by the way: quality > quantity.

Enter Hoda Katebi. I stumbled upon her blog via Pinterest when exploring the idea of doing a wardrobe capsule. Having a minimalist wardrobe (in quantity, not style) happens to be one of her focuses on her blog, Joo Joo Azad. Another is that of being an ethical consumer. She has a rad list of companies that you should probably boycott if you care about human beings being treated like, well, human beings. You can check that out here. Also, add H&M to that list, too (tragically, because I love them), because of their blatantly discriminatory statements that have caused an uproar in South Africa, as they insinuated that only white models portray a positive image. In south AFRICA. But I digress.

I used Katebi’s list for why you should minimize/the steps to minimizing here, and Un-Fancy’s steps to supplement that process, here. I thought it was going to be the hardest and worst thing ever to give away and sell so many of my “prized” items. BUT I found that I don’t wear 2/3 of the items I have anyway. I also made a few bucks (rad) from my higher-end pieces, and gave the rest to those who need them more than I do (rad-er).

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My bed, piled high with stuff the beast of consumerism tells me I need need need.
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1/2 of things I gave away. Embarrassing, I know.

The next day, I felt so happy/relieved that I could:

  • Actually find things in my tiny dorm closet, and,
  • Actually only wear items that I genuinely felt good in

That leads me to my wardrobe capsule, for 11.16! I have about 35 items in my wardrobe right now, and I’ll do shopping for the spring season beginning in March. So until then, I’m going to have to keep some of the items from brands that may not be the greatest – but hey, I’m trying. I’ll be using the rule of thumb of cycling out items with each new item I buy. This is my i-woke-up-for-class-late-in-early-autumn look!

WORN: Utility jacket: thrift purchase, similar here; top: Merona, similar here; scarf: hand-me-down; Jeans: Hollister; (too well loved) moccs: Minnetonka, sold out

I don’t know what I would title my style, but I love it a little extra now. I feel confident in my decision to only shop brands that are taking initiative to treat workers ethically, and give back. If that doesn’t put pep in your fashion step, I don’t know what will.

xo, Niara

road trippin’ to the Smokies

I think it’s an innately human instinct to get out and see this world. There’s so much of it — and I truly am awed by god’s creation every time I’m hit with it. The same one who created majestic mountain ranges, awe-inspiring canyons, and gushing waterfalls, created me too. I feel like there’s no way to not feel everlasting joy about that!

This past winter, I started getting the itch to travel. To see something new. I suppose it’s because I often get stuck in a rut in winter, but I also hadn’t traveled in some time. My family is one that loves road trips (big or small) – To see or learn about something new, weather it’s the Gettysburg battlefield or the Spanish moss and culture of historic Savannah, Georgia, my family loves travel. My mother packed up sandwiches and snacks, and we’d have our book and Gameboys ready in the back seat for a long drive. We’d ask our dad to play “It’s A Great Day to Be Alive” over and over, and then usually settle into some smooth Anthony Hamilton. I cherish those memories, being surrounded by my siblings and parents, all excited to see more, to get away, and to step beyond mundane life.

So I dragged Matt to this coffee shop that took WAY too long to get to (but had delicious mochas), and we started trying to plan. At first, we were set on the west – Montana, by way of Chicago and the Dakotas, to be specific. Then we added more people to our potential group, and the location shifted southwest, to Zion + Bryce Canyon + Rocky Mountain National Park. However, our parents were a tad uncomfortable with four 19 year olds who had never been out of state on their own, traveling across the continental U.S. together. So we adapted. We settled on the Smokies.

I was bitter at first, as I’ve been to the Smokies several times with my family. I’d wanted new vistas, new trails to hike, and new experiences. But when I put the dramatics aside, I realized it would be nothing like before. For one thing, I was older, and would be able to better appreciate the isolation and beauty of the land, and I’d be camping with my friends. I was right – it was like nothing I’d ever done before.

Camp food is the BEST, by the way – the popcorn + pancakes but especially the weenies. I’m pretty sure think I ate 15 hotdogs while camping, and I’m very okay with that.

I had to completely rely on myself and my fellow road trippers, to be able to cook food in the event that it rained, navigate teeny + twisty mountain back roads, and take care of me if I was injured. Luckily, nothing like that happened, but it was beautiful to see how our friendships grew in that short week. Beyond that, I was struck by how much more I want to separate myself from the negatives of society again. Every morning, I woke up to unfamiliar bird songs and to a vast array of butterflies, whose species I never see in my hometown or even on campus.

There was a tributary stream right behind our tent, and so each night we had the soothing sound of the water to lull us to sleep. We stayed in Cataloochee Valley on the North Carolina side of the park, but it was in the middle of a string of mountains, so it took about twenty minutes to get there after entering the park. This added an element of seclusion to the whole experience. We hiked for hours on one of the primitive trails near our camp, and there was often nothing more than the sound of the river, our feet crunching leaves, and heavy breathing.

One of my favorite parts was our hike on the Boogerman Trail in Cataloochee Valley, as it required several crossings of the crooked rivers. We weren’t planning on hiking those 7.5 miles, and I suffered from a bout of dehydration, but there was no denying the beauty of the topography and fauna we were surrounded by. Fording the streams was so much fun – we had to make human chains and use long branches to test the security of the slippery rocks under the water. Matt and I both had our cameras, so often someone would go ahead of us, and find the safest (and driest) way across – although sometimes that didn’t quite work out.

 

(this might look like a peaceful lil stream, but the current was actually super fast, as it had rained the night before. adam’s boots clearly didn’t make it.)

We went zip lining and white water rafting (no pictures of those things, [because we are broke college students]), and every guide we had was so awesome. While rafting, our guide, Flint, told us about a smaller area in the park where you could rock jump into waterholes and climb waterfalls – which we obviously did. The water was freezing, but crystal blue, and the waterfalls were gorgeous.

I can’t imagine never doing this kind of thing again. No matter who I go with, I’ve made a pact with myself to take at least one road trip annually until I can’t anymore – we only get to do life one time. Adventure is out there, and i’m going to keep seeking it.


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(Lower Laurel Falls, The Great Smoky Mountains, Tennessee)

xoxo, Niara

birthday eve reflection

this semester has been hard. really, really hard. and yes, there have been peaks. beautiful hikes, reconnecting with jesus, amazing professors and academic success. but that doesn’t always mean that everything is great.

as i’m trying to start up this blog, i want to be true to the reason i began it – to create a community. and a lot of the time, it’s easy to see blogs and what people show as so much better than what you have. but most of the time,  (as a friend recently told me) they show “the happy reels of life.” this isn’t bad, this doesn’t mean i won’t still love reading blogs, and seeing cute families + mamas + people having awesome adventures and documenting that. but in this world where attention and emphasis on being chic/cool/happy all the time is heightened because of social media, it’s really hard to remember not everyone’s life is perfect. it’s hard to remember that not everything for people with cute blogs + instas are happy 24/7. those same people have hardships, rough nights, and discouraging mornings.

on my plate this semester: 18 credit hours, working at the university career & leadership development center, being on exec for a feminist organization on campus (more on that later!), while trying to make time to crochet, talk to my mama and pops regularly + maintain a healthy relationship with my boyfriend who goes to another college and has his own whole life to deal with – that’s a lot to juggle. and there are days when i’m in meetings until 9 pm and can’t even get started on my work before i’m ready to go to bed for the night. there are days when matt and i barely talk + he feels a million miles away, not 75. there are days when i feel like if i slip up in just one aspect of my life, everyone i know will be disappointed in me.

then there’s the comparing! comparing myself to my peers + to people i follow on the good ole ‘gram. i think: her clothes, her SO, her life – better than mine. and comparing never does any good, because it makes us take our everyday blessings for granted. we don’t give thanks for what we have, because we are envious of others, and even though i recognize it in myself, it’s really hard to stop doing.

so something i’ve been making more time for is self care. i’m going to be twenty on monday, and i’ve got so, so much to thank God for. so i’ve been trying to take time for myself to just think without distractions + get back to things i enjoy. i think if i make self care important, it’ll make dealing with stress in other aspects of my life easier to deal with. crocheting, writing in my diary more often, journaling regularly, writing + TAKING NAPS. naps can be the most beneficial ways of practicing self care, especially for a college student. seriously.

but i guess what i’m getting at here is that i’m beginning a new decade and there’s so much going on. i want to make sure i enter this new stage in my life with good practices. i know that doesn’t mean i’ll always be happy. but i want to make sure i do things that help me get through the rough patches in life a lil better. i’m hoping the rest of the semester gets easier, and if not, that my new strategies of unwinding will help the days feel more manageable.

here’s to 20, stress management, and looking forward to all the promise + good things that are to come!

i’d love to know some different ways you guys handle stress!! any ideas would be appreciated!

xoxo, Niara

what i wore, 10.10

Hi, peeps! So I’m starting a capsule of my wardrobe for this season! The main idea is to save money, because I have soo many plans and dreams and hopes for adventures in 2016, and I want to start saving. I’ll be doing another post soon document my process of getting rid of so many of the clothes I don’t wear, and narrowing my wardrobe to do what I think will be about 38 items. Also, I’m not supposed to buy clothes until March (this excludes outerwear and shoes). Also, I want to document my outfits because sometimes I look presentable. For the past couple of years, I’ve been really into earth tones, with a pop of color. I’ll throw on patterned things sometimes, but fall seems very relaxing and comforting to me, and I like my style this time of year to reflect that. You’ll see a lot my colors + patterns in my spring ’16 capsule – though this usually just means a different palate of earth tones and pretty floral dresses + layering combos.

This past weekend I wore this, and the weather was weird. As in, it was supposed to be cold, but it ended up being like 66 degrees (which was nice since Matt and I went hiking that weekend) (also OHIO YOU ARE CRAZY). Anyway. I love the natural/oatmeal-y tone of this oversized shirt. and it’s so so soft – i can’t get enough of it!

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WORN: top, Brandy Melville USA, similar here; jeans, Hollister (old thrift buy); infinity scarf, gift, similar here

Ben + Phoenix

These two are some of the smartest and hardworking people I’ve met in my time at Ohio University. Phoenix just graduated with her Bachelors of Science in Psychology, and Ben got his second degree from OU, a Masters of Education. They also worked together with me this year on the Vagina Monologues, and  were so much fun to shoot. The love and support they have for each other has me SHOOK. Congratulations, B + P!