Lost Myself; Found Myself

Hello All!

Here I am, sitting at my elegant secretary desk, listening as the record spins on the player, sipping on some coffee in a dreadfully unromantic Styrofoam Coca-cola cup. What I really want to do is dump my mind onto this screen I’m staring at, but, for your sake, I’ll attempt to sort it into some kind of coherent thought beforehand!

Throughout my life, I have never been much of a worrier; especially long term. I try not to let things bother me, because I know, most often, they are beyond my control. That’s the person I strive to be: Joyful in all things, and fearful in few. But as Spring came to a close and Summer began (and maybe even before that), I found that slipping away. I was struggling to maintain that peace that I have held onto through Jesus, while fear and dread were gripping my heart more and more tightly as time went on. Where in the world was the Alyssa sense of adventure? It was like I didn’t understand myself anymore, because it didn’t feel like me. I felt like I had lost some part of myself, and what’s worse, I couldn’t figure out how to get it back. Where had this even come from? Normally, I can just push these feelings aside and barrel through, you know?

I had worked hard to get to the point I was at; what I wanted, was to be excited and confident about transferring to Salem College after earning my Associates. What I found, was that I was dreading it. Completely. I didn’t want to hate the thought. I didn’t want to feel unsettled in my stomach at the idea. I especially didn’t want to drop my head into my hands and shed tears about it late at night. But I was, and it was driving me crazy. Who even is this?

(Hang in here with me. I’ve got a point.)

I had just finished two years of college. It was a great experience. Well, most of the experiences were great… and the ones that weren’t; well, they were character building, right? I mean, really, I even cried on the way home from graduation. But the last two semesters, though successful academically, had been very stressful for various reasons and on multiple levels. To be transparent, I was just worn down. Absolutely exhausted. The excitement of completing my Associates was balanced out by (if not outweighed by) each reminder that I was really only halfway done.

It wasn’t that I was afraid of the work (although it’s never a pleasant thought, let’s be honest). It wasn’t that I was leaving home (it’s close enough to commute). But I just couldn’t shake the unfamiliar feeling of being terrified and stressed out to the maximum. I knew I was going to a place where my own ideas and standards were practically foreign. Where the ideas being upheld were so far removed from my own, that I would likely spend a solid portion of my time explaining myself, which, believe it or not, can be exhausting. Even for someone who is unashamed of their faith and personal values. I told myself, “Alyssa, you’re just going for your education. If you hate it, you get to come home everyday, and two years will go by quickly.” I guess it didn’t hit me how utterly pitiful this perception was. How “not me” it was. I, who believes in getting the most you can out of every circumstance. Who gives myself pep talks, and believes it when others say, “You can do it!”

(Again, stay with me!)

In the last couple weeks, however, I’ve felt things start to shift in my thinking. I attended a conference at the end of July (North American Youth Congress 2017), where God gave me a renewed sense of purpose. Ah! The refreshing contentment that comes with definite purpose! He opened my eyes to how twisted my perspective had been all summer… “Alyssa,” He said, “You’re not going there just to get your education and get out… You’re going to make an IMPACT. Education is just your bonus.” What a reminder! I had a “duh” moment. How could I have missed that? It’s not about getting something, it’s about giving the best of myself and sharing what I have experienced with others. As ironic as it may seem, that’s what I find brings true fulfillment. Since that moment, my excitement has grown. I know I am capable, because I am reminded who I am in Christ–I don’t have to rely on my own strength. He was the one that planted that joy and fearlessness in my heart to begin with, and He never removed it. I had just lost sight of it.

For anyone who is currently confused, this post is about having lost myself, because at some point, I lost the right perspective. This is my adaption of the “lost myself” story. Maybe it’s nothing like yours, but the point of this post is to encourage… You may not recognize yourself right now. Maybe you’re normally on top of things, and you’ve starting lagging behind. Maybe you’re a people lover, but lately, you just don’t want to deal with other people’s problems on top of your own. It might be something simple, like that you’re normally really good about reading books, but you just can’t seem to get around to it right now (been there, done that this summer). Or maybe you relate to my story: You’re normally the go-getter, but you’re just exhausted, and you know what, you just want to let things go. Whatever your story, take a minute right now: breath, reevaluate, pray; whatever you have to do. Question your perspective, and search out the right one. Know that this is just a chapter, not the end of the book.

~Ecclesiastes 3:1, I Peter 2:9, Jeremiah 29:11~

With love,

Alyssa

 

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GWtW, P&P, and Other Obsessions

Hello All,

Enjoy this lovely, lovely guest post by Elissa McKinney–known to the Instagram world as the beloved @janeaustenhumor! I am excessively excited to have her as a guest here at Pen to Paper Collections!

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My name is Eliunnamedssa McKinney, a Janeite and Iced coffee lover. I’m an introvert by nature and love spending my free time reading, cooking, taking long walks, and (#duh) watching period dramas.

It is a truth universally acknowledged that this has to be the most predictable way for me to start this post. Let’s just roll with it. 

Hey, hi, hello! My name’s Elissa, but most people call me Lue. I was born and raised in the wild spaces of the west; a farm girl with a reading addiction. 

Gone With the Wind was the book that started my affinity for Period Dramas. Rhett Butler was (and still is) my dream man. As a 19-year-old looking back at my 11-year-old self, it probably wasn’t the best story to be fantasizing about… But once I watched the movie, Clark Gable wrapped me up in his handsome mustache and there was no turning back. The summer of 2006 was spent on a make believe plantation in Georgia. A stack of hay bales was Tara. My cousin and sister were forced into being Civil War reenactors daily. They might still resent me for it, but we all got really good grades in history the next school year. You’re welcome, guys.

Now apparently, there is a limit to the number of times a “sane person” can watch Scarlett O’Hara throw a temper tantrum. For my mom, that limit had been exceeded. 

She loves the book, but if I’d quoted “Lawzy, we got to have a doctor. I don’t know nothin’ ’bout birthin’ babies,” one more time, I think she may have sent me to off to live on an actual plantation. 

*Enter Pride and Prejudice*

It was a typical Thursday night “girls night” at our house. Manicures, face masks, and Italian sodas were happening. I started to pull out GWtW, but my mom said that she had a new period drama for us to try… I think you can probably figure out what happened next.

English Period Drama became my thing. I couldn’t get enough. Still can’t. 

The 2005 Pride and Prejudice laid the foundation for a lifetime of Austen love. 

I read all the novels, watched most of the film adaptions, and started expressing my enthusiasm for the genre by trying out recipes, phraseology and hairstyles from my favorite works. I also began to search for other PD authors and discovered Bronte, Hardy, Gaskell, Dickens and more. To quote Henry Nobley: “…the truth is, I enjoyed stepping into history. The idea of a simpler world where love is straightforward and lasting.” #relatable

Speaking of hashtags, in 2014 I created an Instagram account to connect with other Austen fans on the world wide web (specifically those who enjoy memes). I had no idea that three years later I would have over 16,500 followers. I am so grateful to be part of a community where people can come together and share a giggle about boiled potatoes, bonnets, or Darcy’s painfully awkward proposal. Yep. I adore our little corner of the universe. Jane Austen, “My heart is, and always will be, yours.”

Sincerely, Elissa

To the People Who Gave Me Everything I Needed

Thursday Greetings!

Maybe it’s one of those introspective times in my life when I’m preparing to charge full speed ahead, but I can’t do that until I look back on all the things that carried me steadily (and sometimes less steadily) to where I find myself right now.

I am one of those fortunate ones that can say they were readily handed everything they needed to succeed in life. Just like that.

To the people who gave me everything I needed:

I want to say thank you. In all the years that I’ve wanted to be a writer, I’ve been far less afraid of what critics may say than of not living up to what I know myself to be capable of doing. Do I say that out of conceit? By all means, no. I blame it entirely on you. In those years, I’ve been told the cons of a career in writing; I’ve been told to prepare for unemployment, but a great deal more importantly, I have never not been told that I can and that I will.

It is you, Dad, that reminds me my bestsellers will put you in a nice retirement home and talks about me as if I’m already Alyssa Dulaney: world renown author. It is you, Mom, that gently reminds me I actually have to write to get there, while simultaneously telling me how proud you are. I hear and appreciate every word. It is you, Jamie, my best friend, that mapped out fantastical plot lines and created whimsical names with me at ten years old in a backyard camp out. It is you, Misty, that reads my writing, exaggerates its quality, discusses it with me, and listens to me ramble on about ideas and dreams.

I could go on in a never-ending list–Brookie-lynn, Spencer, grandparents, strangers that have left such kind comments–but suffice it to say that in the mind of this young writer, the voices of faith in me have drowned out any roars of doubt, impossibility, discouragement, and even lack of faith in myself.

Only this afternoon, I rediscovered the photo book from my high school graduation. In it are comments from you all, my dear friends and family. Here are a few that made me tear up (maybe):

  • “Keep walking tall, standing strong, and HE is going to take you farther than you can ever dream.” -Dad and Mom
  • “I love you a latte and am excited to see God use you mightily.” -Spence (Big brother)
  • “I am so very proud of the beautiful, talented, and genuine person you are. I couldn’t have asked for a better sister or best friend.” -Brooklynn (Big sister)
  • “Oh my beautiful Alyssa, you’re one of the most sweetest, happiest, and anointed girls I have ever met.” -Jordan Parks
  • “And I hope your future is as excellent as boiled potatoes.” -Karaline
  • “You’re a very brave person, you’re funny, smart, capable, and are both anointed and empowered to do amazing things.” -Josh F.
  • “I also can’t believe I have managed to put up with you for 7 years… I love you anyways.” -Jamie Marie

So to you all–friends, family, strangers–thank you. You have given me, and continue to give me, everything I need to succeed in life. Because of you, I know that I can and that I will, whatever it may be that I am chasing or dreaming.

A Reading Life: {Guest Post} How Jane Austen Changed My Life

I so enjoyed writing this guest post for Pages and Margins, an incredible and perfectly literary blog! Please read, and follow Beth’s site!

Pages and Margins

How Jane Austen Changed My Life

By Alyssa Dulaney


alyssa-2
Hello all! I am Alyssa—avid reader, aspiring writer, ambitious college student, and lover of coffee, Jane Austen, and Jesus. Did I mention blogger? I started Pen to Paper Collections having utterly no clue what I was doing, but knowing I wanted to share my passion for literature (and random musings) with others. I leapt blindly into the world of blogging. Two years later, I’ve yet to have it all figured out, because it’s a journey, as it must be with all things worth doing, but here I am. I’m honored that you are now a part of that journey!

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Once upon a time, there was a girl who was very fond of once-upon-a-times. She read many books; and not just the ones that were required. She carried them in her purse and in her heart, and she wrote them in her…

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Why This Busy Girl Loves to Make Extra Plans

I would say “Thursday Greetings,” but it’s 1:50 am, so there goes that.

Hello All!

Time and sleep are precious and limited commodities in my life right now. It often seems like reading, writing, and other things I love are taking a back seat, which breaks my heart. What’s a girl to do? Homework has a deadline, commitments must be fulfilled, and work calls my name.

I’m exhausted; but what keeps me going?

Plans.

In all the business and bustle of life, one thing I love the most is to have plans. What in the world do I mean? As if I don’t have enough on my plate! But hear me out. There’s just something about making an elaborate plan to do something that makes you happy. Yeah, it’s another date and time on your already-full calendar, but it’s not like the others. It’s escape time. This is why I go to theatricals on a more-and-more regular basis. If I were being completely honest, I would say it’s one of the things that keeps me sane. Just the knowledge that if I can survive until that Thursday evening (or whatever it may be), I can have a few hours to take in something wonderful and catch my breath from running life’s race…

Don’t get me wrong, I love my life. There are countless good things in it: my family, education, relationship with Jesus, books, and the list goes on. But great things can still be “busy” things when they are part of the day-after-day. So, I provide myself with something extra special (to me) to look forward to: something for which to count the days down. Recently, it has been another opera (La Traviata), which I went to a couple weeks ago; The Phantom of the Opera, which was a last minute plan that took place tonight;  and in only 14 days, a spring break trip to Vancouver Island. Some are big plans, some are small, some are last minute, and some have been on the calendar for quite some time, but they are all a block of time in which I am not a student, employee, or *fill in the blank,* but instead I can be the person I would try to be if I had all the time in the world.

Here’s my challenge for you: make some plans! If you’re feeling the blah of the mundane or just tired of pushing all day to crash at night, make a plan! Whenever, wherever. There’s something liberating about watching the time tick down on that countdown app. It’s not about forgetting to savor every moment, but it is about setting aside a time that’s tailor-made just for yourself. Then all those other moments seem a little more important, because they’re the stepping stones to the big shebang!

P.S. It’s okay to take yourself on a date. (Even on Valentine’s Day. I did!)

Gratitude and A New Year

Hello All!

The New Year season is a time of reflection and resolution, is it not? We think back on all the things we accomplished or experienced… or didn’t accomplish or experience; then, with fresh determination, we plan for what will be accomplished or experienced in the future.

I have been among the ponderers and planners of New Years. In 2016, my sister got married, my brother got engaged, twelve college classes were completed, I spent a week in Quebec, and I started a novel, among other things. Of the many events taking place in 2017, my brother will get married, I will graduate with an associates degree, and I will transfer to Salem College (hopefully). Aside from these are the things that I had hoped for or hope for in the future. Naturally, I had resolutions for 2016: I wanted to exercise more, I wanted to improve my piano playing, I wanted to become more fluent in French, and so on. This coming year, I wouldn’t complain were I to get fit, or finish the manuscript for my novel, or discover the love of my life, or…, or…, or… We all know the story.

My point is, we all come up with these grand schemes, and by all means, we can work toward them, but things don’t always work according to our carefully laid plan. In fact, they almost never do. Sometimes, I map things out in my head, then scold myself for doing so because now that I’ve got it all planned out, it is certain not to happen that way. C’est la vie–That’s life.

I am about to baffle you… Are you ready? Here goes:

I am thankful for all the things God has blessed me with–for every time He’s worked things out just like I thought they needed to be–but more than that, I’m so very thankful for the times that God withheld from me my own desires. For when things didn’t go just how I wanted them to, or in my own timing. For every relationship that didn’t start, despite how I felt in the moment. For every argument I didn’t win, every time I didn’t get my way, and every cancelled plan. Am I out of my mind? Maybe a little. But I believe that God’s plan for my life goes far beyond the human-sized life map I’ve drawn up. His ways are higher than my ways, and His timing is always perfect, even when it is ridiculously difficult for me to understand. So whether its 2016, 2017, or twenty years from now… Whether I’m where I had wanted to be in life or in a place I had never imagined for myself, I will be grateful in all things. I desperately hope you will join me.

One last thought for your New Years:

“Destinations are where we begin again.” –Josh Groban, “Believe.”

I thought this was suitable for the end of one year and the beginning of another. What does it mean from your perspective?

Happy 2017.

Love, Alyssa.