How to Live Your Best Life Ever
Live the life you want.
Don’t worry about what others think.
Live your best life every single day.
We’ve all seen the myriad articles, posters, quotes, and social media posts encouraging us to do just that. Hell, I’m even guilty of writing a few inspirational posts about how we all need to strive to chase our passions and just live the life we want. But here’s the thing I’ve been thinking about lately: Living your best life is freaking exhausting, scary, and sometimes, quite frankly, feels impossible.
None of us want to live a life of misery and fake feelings or a life that is superficial. We all want the inner peace that comes from living a life that is true to who you are. We all want that monk-like serenity and a confidence in our belief systems that comes with it. And I think I speak for most of us when I say we do our best to try to find all of that.
We read books and take online courses. We binge-watch motivational speakers who tell us how to live our life without caring what others think. We turn to meditation, yoga, nature walks, journaling, or whatever else we can get our hands on in order to find some centering and live the life that speaks to us. Still, so many of us seem to be struggling. So many of us seem to be unhappy and unsure of the life we’re living. However, few of us talk about that. We want to think that if we just put in the work or sift through our emotions, we can be smiling lakeside and taking deep breaths of air in a fresh, perfect life we’ve uncovered within. If we just keep smiling, all will be perfect eventually.
But the thing is: Many of us ARE struggling to find this best life. Many of us feel like we’re failing, which can create its own set of stresses. When you feel like not only are you failing at living your best life but you’re also missing the mark in even trying to find it, it’s easy to discount everything you’ve done. I think that’s perfectly understandable, and I think it makes sense why so many of us are having a hard time figuring out our best selves.
Foremost, there’s something hardwired in our society, especially as women, that creates deep-rooted conflict when we try to chase our best life. A major tenant of this aspiration is that in order to live the life you want, sometimes you have to ignore what everyone else thinks. Here arises conflict one: Most of us have been indoctrinated with the belief that to think of yourself and not others is morally wrong. Women especially are taught from a young age to put others first, to be charitable and considerate of everyone’s feelings. We are taught how to be gracious hosts, how to be sweet, how kindness matters above all else, and how to care for our families. We are taught to avoid conflict like the plague and to turn the other cheek. Often, this leads to all sorts of inner turmoil when we do the unthinkable and examine our own wants, needs, and feelings instead. Even when we know it’s happening, it can be really hard to nullify those worries, even at a subconscious level. Thus, even when we try to examine what we want, we almost always look at it through a lens of what others want from us as well. This means our views of what truly will bring us peace are always contorted by social mores.
In addition, self-doubt is a roadblock in our quest for the best version of our lives. Many of us are guided by fear and reality. When we think about what we really want in life, it can be a complete outlier to the life we are supposed to want. Society has a very defined view of what “living your best life” looks like, and if what you want doesn’t fit that mold, it can be easy to talk yourself out of it. Moreover, many of us let critical self-talk override our dreams. We’re afraid we’re not smart enough, brave enough, worthy enough to pursue whatever life it is we want.
And finally, I think the reason living your best life is so much harder than reading a few self-help books or meditating a few minutes a day is that if we’re honest, so few of us actually really know exactly what we want. Even if we can assuage those deep-seated teachings about selfishness and can overcome the self-doubt monster, many of us are left feeling lost in a forest of different paths when we really get down to it. We dig deep inside of ourselves and wade through the darkness only to find when we get to the center that there’s a big blank space. What the hell do I want? It’s a question I’ve tried to answer over and over and over again in my thirties. Oftentimes, I come up blank.
I don’t know if many of us can be 100% certain about what our best life looks like. If we did, we wouldn’t really need to struggle and to evolve in order to figure things out. We’d all come with an instructions manual and just follow the steps to achieve maximum self-actualization. Life isn’t made that way, though. So much of it, as cheesy as it sounds, really is about the journey.
So, what’s the answer, then, to this mucky ball of confusion surrounding self-fulfillment?
I think it’s that we keep trying to find that elusive pile of gold that is happiness. We try new things to see what sparks joy in us--I’m looking at you, Mari Kondo. We take time to self-reflect. We use the quotes and speakers and meditation and whatever else helps us stay grounded, but we also realize that these aren’t magic fixes. We assess our feelings. We change directions. We change directions again because we understand that our version of our best life might change as we grow, too.
We might get our “best life” wrong at first. We might think we know what it is only to get there and realize that wasn’t what we wanted at all. Sometimes, we might feel within an arm’s reach of our best life. Other times, it might feel like we have to trek through the Grand Canyon to get there and we’re all out of energy.
I hope, though, that no matter where you are in your journey to happiness, you remember this.
You are worthy of happiness, even if it takes a lifetime for you to really sort it out.
It isn’t easy for anyone, no matter what the cheesy posters and inspiring posts tell you.
And most of all, I hope you know that whatever life you’re living, whether it’s your best or not, there are beautiful things about you and your present. Don’t let the gorgeous mountain views pass you by because you’re so focused on reaching the top.
Whether you're newly married, just bought a house of your own, are in college, or are in the middle of your career, many of us struggle so much with our finances. In normal times, figuring out a budget and how to make your money work for you can be tough. During the COVID-19 pandemic, however, many found themselves in new, challenging situations; the long-term effects of the pandemic on finances are quite frightening as well. Thus, for many of us, 2021 is a time to reflect on our financial situation and plan for the future.
When my husband lost his job in 2019, we were sent into a scary financial whirlwind. Then the pandemic hit, and things got worse before they got better. We quickly realized that in our eight years of marriage, we really had never made a financial plan or budget to stick to. Thus, out of the wreckage of those hard years came some benefits--we learned how to create a financial plan and stick to it.
Here are three top tips if you're new to budgeting or if you just need a refresher.
1. Know where you are starting
The first key to a successful budgeting plan is to know exactly what position you are in. This means you need to get real about how much you are spending and where. You need to take a hard look at your debts and what money is going out. Some key questions to ask and to communicate with your partner about:
Facing your actual financial position can be scary. So many of us prefer to stick our heads in the sand and just go with the flow. However, this can lead to issues down the road, especially when the unexpected happens (like a loss of hours at work or a layoff). Know your position and what your goals are.
2. Use Cash
Many budgeting experts, including Dave Ramsey, note that using cash can help you stick to a budget. I implemented an envelope system for our family and have seen great results. Having the physical cash in hand allows you to better assess how you are doing with your targets each month and gives you a visual for what the impact of each purchase will be. I am much less apt to hand over cash on a wasteful purchase knowing how little I will have left in my spending envelope for the month.
Create envelopes for the categories that make sense for you. I have one for spending, one for vet bills, one for entertainment and dates, and one for my hair expenses (which is my splurge). I also have a cash reserve for emergencies.
3. Reflect and Reassess Often
The most important thing to do in order to adhere to your budget is to constantly reflect on how you are doing. Each month, I assess how well I stuck to budget categories and how unexpected expenses tripped me up. My husband and I now have frequent conversations about our money and our future goals so we are on the same page.
A big part of financial planning is simply being honest and realistic about how you are doing. It's easy to ignore budget categories and just swipe the card. However, I have found that the peace of mind that comes from financial peace of mind is worth the extra effort.
Has there ever been a moment, no matter how brief, where you fantasize about disappearing from your own life?
I’m not talking about suicide or kidnapping. I’m not talking about living a life on the run. I’m talking about getting lost in the fantasy of getting in the car and just driving away. Maybe it’s just for a day where no one can text you, the dog can’t ask to go out fifty times, and the dishes aren’t piled up in the sink staring at you. Or maybe it’s longer. Maybe in your fantasy, you drive until you hit a secluded beach town. You trade your corporate office for a job shaking drinks at a Tiki Bar and singing karaoke at night.
From what I’ve gathered, I think so many women have moments (or even many moments) where they fantasize about leaving their life, where they dream that they live a different life entirely. And I think a lot of women are afraid to admit that because it makes us sound ungrateful, selfish, and like bad mothers, partners, and workers.
But here’s the thing, ladies. I think it’s completely understandable why so many of us sometimes get caught up in wishing life was different, simpler, quieter. I think it’s completely reasonable that in modern times, women crave the freedom of being who they want and shedding some of the responsibilities. Because for the modern woman, life is exhausting.
That’s not to say men don’t have their struggles, too. To be human is to struggle. To be human is to be frustrated, to take on too many responsibilities sometimes, and to wonder if you’re doing it right. Today, though, we’re talking about the plight of modern women mostly because, to be honest, that’s what I’m familiar with. As a 33-year-old woman, I feel that’s what I can speak the most accurately to.
We are living in beautiful times as women in so many ways. This is not to say life is perfect or that equality is 100%. I know we still have our inequities, injustices, and major hurdles to overcome. Still, living in 2021 as a woman, I feel like I really do have endless possibilities. Want to be a doctor? Go do it. Want to go to the moon? Sure thing. Want to be a stay-at-home mom? Yes, yes, yes. You really do get to choose what you want to do in your career path, and although we could talk about equal pay controversies, let’s just agree that we do have more freedom of choice than our grandmothers and great-grandmothers. That’s a beautiful thing.
However, with choice and freedom comes responsibility. Because even though we are living in an era where women can chase careers and be who they want to be, there still is so much social pressure on us to carry our traditional roles. No matter how awesome your partner is, so many women I know carry the weight of running the household, dinner, laundry, carting the kids around, and all of the traditional domestic roles our grandmothers carried--except now, many of us are working full-time jobs or chasing careers. Or, even if you are a stay-at-home mother, there’s still so much more on our plates than those who went before us. Times have changed. Schedules are hectic. Gone are the days of quiet dinners at home and peaceful nights by the radio. We live our lives at 100 miles an hour plus, and it can be exhausting keeping up.
Add to that financial stresses, career stresses, social stresses of being a friend worthy of a romcom movie, and no wonder so many of us are walking around feeling like zombies. The to-do lists are never ending at work--and then we come home to a never-ending domestic to-do list. And even with the most helpful husband who carries half the weight, it just still feels like housekeeping and decorating and hosting seems to belong to the female side of the relationship. If my house were cruddy for a family get-together, I know--or at least I’ve been trained to believe--that everyone would be looking at me with disdain, not my husband. The “boys will be boys” attitude seems to carry over into adulthood and into domestic life.
There’s also the fact that for so many women I know, a sense of deep-rooted responsibility causes us to want to do all the things. From the time we are little girls, most of us are taught the worst thing you can be in the world is selfish. Our definitions of selfish morph and twist as we observe social mores, community beliefs, and standards. To be a “good” woman--and, henceforth, daughter, wife, mother, etc--one must be selflessly giving and nice. We must seek to make others smile. We must ask what they need and try to give it to them. We must do all the things for those around us so we can be cherished as a successful female.
Many of us grow up to realize that “selflessness” often treads into the dangerous doormat territory. At some point, most women realize that to give to all means to be empty. We recognize we must say “no,” sometimes and we must put our needs first if we are ever to survive. Still, I would argue that this deep-rooted notion of being selfless is so ingrained in most of us, we still abide by it even when we aren’t trying to.
It’s why we say sure to running all the errands while our husbands take some time to relax.
It’s why we push through and go to the game or the social event even when we feel like we have the flu.
It’s why we take on that extra committee at work even though it will mean we don’t have any time to ourselves during the week.
It’s why we do the dishes at midnight and wash that extra load of laundry and change the sheets on Sunday morning instead of sipping coffee.
It’s why we feel the need to be the best at work and at home. It’s why we feel like we need to do all the things--and with a smile worthy of a magazine, to boot.
It’s why so many women are running around bleary-eyed, passionless, and empty.
We put pressure on ourselves to be perfect at our careers, at our passions, as moms, as pet owners, as wives, as girlfriends, as friends, as mothers, as sisters, as daughters, and every other role we take on. We feel guilty for taking a break or saying “no.” Certainly we can do just one more thing or be just one more thing for someone. If we just do that one last thing, maybe we will be worthy.
But my question is: Worthy of what? Why are we feeling the need to do all the things all the time?
That brings me back to my point. Yes, we are blessed to have more choices than our ancestors did. Yes, the women who have gone before us fought for our right to have freedoms they could only dream of. Yes, I am grateful I can be a teacher or a doctor or a singer or a psychiatrist or whatever I want to be.
But here’s the thing, ladies. Just because you CAN be everything doesn’t mean you have to.
I think sometimes we get so caught up in being all the things that we forget to ask what we really want. What really matters? What fills us up with passion and excitement?
I think that’s where the fantasy of disappearing comes from. It is such a foreign concept for so many of us to get out of bed and be who we want to be and do what we want to do that we fantasize about it. We fantasize about just living for ourselves, about not having to wear a million different hats. I think that’s why so many of us wake up in our 30s or 40s and feel trapped, passionless, and used up.
And I think that’s a shame.
Now listen, I know we can’t all just throw down the laundry baskets and corporate reports and head to the tropics to start a commune where we have no chores. I know we can’t just live a life guided by our whims and our joys. Adult life is a downer in that way. There are some necessary evils of growing up. We can’t all pull a Chris McCandless and disappear from our lives, even if living in the quiet solitude on a bus in Alaska sounds joyous--although it didn’t end well for him.
We can, however, learn from people like Chris McCandless. I think we can realize that to live well is to live peacefully and to chase your dreams. That means you will have to say no to some aspects of your life sometimes. This means you will have to make some changes and that we, as women, must make some promises to each other.
Let’s stop fantasizing about escaping and find escapism in our own lives.
Let’s have those tough conversations with our partners about how burnt-out we are and how we need help.
Let’s stop cleaning baseboards and climbing on chairs to clean a speck of dust off fans when we’re hosting. Let’s be realistic about how busy women are and how we can’t be held to ridiculous domestic standards--nor should we be.
Let’s say “no” at work if taking on a new responsibility isn’t something we want right now. Let’s be honest about the fact that just because we can do it all doesn’t mean we have to.
Let’s stop worrying so much about dishes in the sink or baskets of laundry that need folded. Let’s say screw it sometimes and take the morning off to sip coffee.
Let’s team up with other moms to set up carpool systems so we can get some time to ourselves.
Let’s not feel like every single moment of our lives has to be scheduled or planned. Let’s aim for quality over quantity when it comes to activities. Boredom breeds creativity sometimes.
Most of all, let’s be honest in our struggles. Let’s stop wearing the damn fake perfect white teeth smiles of magazines. Let’s stop stressing about our hair and our weight and our outfits. Let’s be real that sometimes, sweatpants and a frizzy ponytail is the best we can do. Let’s put on that looser shirt when we gain a few pounds instead of starving ourselves to the point of passing out just so we have a flatter stomach.
Let’s stop pretending we are superwomen who can do it all with a smile on our face and high heels. Let’s stop thinking that asking for help is defeat. Let’s stop celebrating fakeness online where celebrity women accomplish millions of things on their own (newsflash: many of them have teams that help them).
Let’s stop idolizing exhaustion and start celebrating mindful rest. Let’s stop writing articles only about superwomen who achieve gargantuan lists of successes. Let’s start celebrating all women because every life is hard, and surviving a regular day is an achievement in itself.
I think if we can start working on these truths and being real about where we are as women, then maybe the fantasies will become more reality-like. And who knows, maybe we’ll find that when we pause and reflect, when we take a breath, that Tiki Bar by the beach is actually what we wanted all along. Or maybe we’ll find that we just needed a minute to make our own Tiki Bar retreat in our space in the world--and some honest reflection to go with it.
Lindsay Detwiler is a high school English teacher and the USA Today Bestselling author of numerous novels including The Widow Next Door and Inked Hearts. She lives in Pennsylvania with her husband, their six rescue cats, and Great Dane, Edmund. To learn more, follow her on Instagram.
By: Savannah Cordova
5 Delightful Romance Books to Look Forward to in 2021
Most of us could always use a little bit of romantic escapism — and especially lately, given the additional burdens of the pandemic. Even when we’re starved of everything from physical touch to the romantic frisson that comes from brushing past someone in a bar, books are still there as our steadfast companions to entertain us and give our imagination some fodder to run wild.
Indeed, the magic of creative writing is that it operates outside the realms of reality, where our wildest dreams can be realized! If you’re looking for your reality-suspending romance fix, check out my most anticipated 2021 releases below.
1. Act Your Age, Eve Brown by Talia Hibbert
Why not kick things off with a New York Times bestseller? You might already be familiar with Talia Hibbert’s Brown Sisters series, of which Act Your Age, Eve Brown is the third (and latest) installment. After an unfortunate set of events at a wedding, Hibbert’s purple-haired protagonist Eve, with her signature bashful chaos, is given an ultimatum by her parents — grow up and find herself, even if she’s not entirely sure how.
Cue the entrance of Jacob Wayne, an ambitious (and somewhat flighty) bed-and-breakfast owner on a mission to make waves in the hospitality industry. When Eve interviews for a chef role at Jacob’s B&B, the pair take an instant dislike to each other. But after Jacob is struck down in a car accident, he has no choice but to enlist Eve to hold down the fort…
If you’re a fan of the enemies-to-lovers trope, or just in the mood for a delightful, pacy romp, then run, don’t walk to your local bookshop! (And speaking of sexy romance series, you better check out Lindsay’s Lines in the Sand series — it’s perfect for the beach.)
2. Beautiful World, Where Are You by Sally Rooney
I couldn’t resist adding one of my favorite authors to this list — and I know I’m not alone in my fangirling! Rooney’s highly anticipated third book is due in September of this year, and if it’s anything like her smash hit Normal People or her exhilarating debut Conversations With Friends, it’s sure to be a zinger.
I’m slightly bending the rules by including this book, as it isn’t strictly a romance, but I’m sure it’ll be worth it. This book follows four characters (Alice, Felix, Eileen and Simon) navigating hookups, romantic entanglements, relationships, and everything in between, as well as all the learning experiences that come with your young years and new environments.
Much to my chagrin, I’ve not been able to get my hands on a copy of the gorgeous proofs that have been doing the rounds on social media — but if the comments from others are anything to go by, it’s sure to be an emotive and poignant read.
3. Reputation by Lex Croucher
Attention, Bridgerton fans! Croucher’s debut novel Reputation blends comedy, period drama, and romance to produce this funny and sweet tale about doe-eyed debutante, Georgiana, as she moves to a new town to live with her less-than-stimulating aunt and uncle.
Luckily, an invitation to a party allows for a run-in with the mysterious and enigmatic Frances Campbell — who also happens to be fabulously wealthy and one of the best-connected people in town. Without spoiling too much, Reputation is all about exploring first loves, sex, and consent when reputation means everything and a woman’s lot was much different than what it is now. It's full of glitzy parties, handsome men on horseback, and a very Austenian sense of humor, and I personally can’t wait to read it.
4. Love in Color by Bolu Babalola
Love in Color is a bit different to the rest of this list. Rather than being one epic love-infused saga akin to The Notebook, it’s a collection of short stories that draw heavily on the magical folklore of West Africa, ancient tales from the Middle East, and classic Greek mythology.
The stories traverse continents and eras, telling stories of prestigious Nigerian goddesses longing for partners that truly see them, to businesswomen trying to replicate their boardroom confidence in their love lives. The organizing themes of the collection are Babalola’s vivid writing and the potency of true love. If my words aren’t enough, take it from the queen of romance herself, Meg Cabot, who described it as “beautifully written and full of joy.”
5. The Soulmate Equation by Christina Lauren
Jess Davis has all but retired from the dating scene. As a single mom and a data scientist, she’s juggling lots of responsibilities — and having been deserted by the father of her child, she’s not sure she can hack another heartbreak.
However, everything changes when she hears about GeneticAlly, a brand-new DNA-based matchmaking tool. Unlike the tumult and unpredictability of falling in love, the logic of numbers is something Jess can get behind. That is, until she’s paired with the company’s founder, the aloof and brooding Dr. Pena, who she’s already met on the industry circuit — and written off. But once she’s convinced to try dating him, for his branding (and so she can earn some money), she realizes there’s more to Dr. Pena than what meets the eye…
If this has taken your fancy, you’re in luck — it was released in May, so you don’t have to spend months waiting for your pre-order in the post!
It’s definitely a great year for romance, so have fun getting lost in these absorbing reads. If you're looking for even more escapism, I can guarantee that children's books are another source of great solace (in addition to romance). Happy reading!
Savannah Cordova is a writer with Reedsy, a marketplace that connects authors and publishers with the world’s best editors, designers, and marketers. In her spare time, Savannah enjoys reading contemporary fiction and romance of all subgenres, as well as writing short stories.
*As an Amazon Affiliate, I get a small fee for any books purchased through the links below.