The Only Dating Advice I Really Need

As many of you know (or are trying to forget), Valentine’s Day is coming up. Which often means a heightened awareness of being in a relationship or having a lack thereof.

I happen to be in the latter category, and as such, have received, read, and given my share of dating advice. And don’t get me wrong—the realm of dating advice can be fun. Entertaining, even (see my friend Zac’s post here). But I think for me, all I really need to know comes down to this:

Date with charity. For others and for yourself.

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Faith over Fear: An Exclusive Interview with Violinist Rob Landes

This interview is the first in an ongoing series of conversations with young single adults and others who have great perspectives on using this time of life as an opportunity and a blessing.

Rob Landes is an award-winning violinist and YouTube artist who went from doing a sales job a year ago and playing occasionally on the side to pursuing music full time, producing a viral YouTube video, winning “Best Instrumental” at the Utah Music Awards, opening for artists such as T-Pain, and touring internationally. He also happens to be in my ward and an all-around fantastic person.

I had been thinking about interviewing Rob for some time, but when I saw a Facebook post he wrote telling a little bit of his incredible story, I knew I had to talk to him. He is a great example of seeing the single years as an opportunity to be a force for good and moving forward with faith in pursuing his dreams.

You can find Rob on YouTube here

Below is a slightly abbreviated transcript of our conversation on January 7, 2016.

Ariel: What made you decide to go into music?

Rob: Well, I’ve been playing the violin since I was three-and-a-half years old. I got a little tiny violin for Christmas and started taking lessons because my mom said, “You only have to practice the days you want to eat.” I’ve got six siblings, we all play music, and that’s how my parents taught us to work—through practicing music. But I didn’t decide on music until I was actually a freshman at BYU. I had been accepted to the BYU music program, but I was really worried about whether I could support a family on it, and was looking around. I didn’t know what else I wanted to do.Continue reading →

No New Year’s Resolutions. I’m Writing These Instead.

It’s true.

I’ve decided that this year, I don’t need resolutions. I need permission slips.

As some of you know, I’m a Brené Brown groupie, and I’ve been listening to her latest book, Rising Strong, on Audible.

In it, she talks about writing herself permission slips. You know, like the kind you got in elementary school to go to the bathroom or the nurse or whatever. Except these are permission slips you write to allow yourself to do something—to step out of the box of pre-conceived or cultural limiting beliefs that have been holding you back from living your life wholeheartedly.

I also read this blog post by Single Dad Laughing called, “My 10 ‘Rules’ to Break in Order to Break Free Already!

Inspired by these perspectives, these are my permission slips for 2016.

I give myself permission to love the fact that I snort sometimes before I laugh. I was informed that I do this by a rather precocious (and incredibly observant) five-year-old not to long ago. I had been oblivious to this particular idiosyncracy prior to that point, but I rather like it. I think it’s endearing.

I give myself permission to say NO. And to not feel guilty about it, either. I have this tendency to people please and want to do things for people because they asked me to without really considering my own feelings, and then I take responsibility for their emotional well-being. No more of that. Not fair to me or them.

I give myself permission to dance. In classes, in public, whatever, in the way I want to. BECAUSE I LOVE IT. And my soul is always so much happier when I dance.

I give myself permission to pursue my dreams and to do it in a way that’s right for me, not just following what someone else tells me. There are many ways to pursue a dream, and you can’t achieve anything big by yourself. However, it’s critically important that we know what we want and carefully consider if the help other people offer us is the best way to get there. We have to ACT rather than being acted UPON.

I give myself permission to own my own thoughts, ideas, opinions, and feelings as valid. This. This has been a problem for me. I tend to take the inferior position and think, “Oh, I must be wrong or there’s something I’m missing.” No. My thoughts and opinions are just as valid as anyone else’s. You can acknowledge the validity of the other person’s point of view without diminishing your own. I’m still learning how to do this.

I give myself permission to accept compliments with gratitude. The next time someone gives me a compliment, my goal is to say, “Thank you so much!” with a smile of appreciation. Period. No excuses or things like, “Oh, that was so kind of you to say, but it’s no big deal,” or something else to try and deflect.

I give myself permission to know that I’m beautiful. Because I am.

I give myself permission to get to know people without worrying about the implications. Especially boy people. If someone seems interesting, I give myself permission to talk to them without worrying about misinterpretation. Sure, there might be some to deal with down the line, but we can’t shy away from opportunities to develop worthwhile friendships because we’re afraid to have emotionally mature conversations.

I give myself permission to buy myself flowers. My soul misses flowers in the winter. So if I want them, I’m going to buy them. So there.

I give myself permission to experiment and figure out what I like. For example, I’d like to take a kickboxing class. Just show up once, see if I like it, go from there. Then maybe I’ll get a punching bag, I don’t know. But I’m going to find out!

I give myself permission to fail and be happy about it. Because, as Brene Brown says, “If you haven’t failed, you aren’t really showing up.” I read that line and though, “Oh my goodness—have I even FAILED??” Only a perfectionist can feel like they’re failing at failing, haha. I’m coming to believe more and more that the people who really succeed are the people who know how to deal with failure. Failure is an indication that you’ve been moving forward and daring greatly.

I give myself permission to geek out and be silly sometimes. Much, much more often than I have been. I have a friend who said once that she really begins to like people only after they’ve done something weird. We connect so much better with people once we see them being REAL. So I’m going to let people see the real me—the one that geeks out about stuff like Church history, laughs at really dumb jokes sometimes (un-jokes, I call them), and occasionally falls head over heels in love with a pair of shoes (hahaha—pun INTENDED).

I give myself permission to celebrate my success. Because I don’t do that very well. And if I want to be successful, I’d better show God I’m grateful for it.

So there you be. My permission slips for 2016.

You see, I’ve realized lately that I’ve been living my life in a box. A box of expectations and fears that have prevented me from moving forward. I honestly have felt a little bit like Elsa in the movie Frozen, who keeps herself locked away physically and emotionally. It has become clear to me that I’ve been basing my self-worth on the approval of others and giving away my power to think for myself, act, and CREATE.

So now, of course, it’s time to….

“Let it GO! Let it GOOOOO!” and step out into the sun of self-confidence, self-compassion, and living a joyful, grateful, DARING life.

That song will now be stuck in your head for the rest of the day. But hopefully that lesson will be stuck in your heart for the rest of the year and beyond.

You’re welcome. 🙂

Happy 2016!

The Gift of Receiving

It is our ability toI really enjoy the giving part of this season. Giving gifts in general, actually. It makes me super happy to see something I know one of my family members or friends will love and get it for them just because I know they’ll love it. Sometimes it gets to the point where I’m so excited because I’ve found the PERFECT gift, and I want to call them and yell, “GET OVER HERE RIGHT NOW AND OPEN THIS BECAUSE YOU’LL LOVE IT AND IT’S SO GREAT!!”

So yeah. Giving, I can do.

It’s receiving that’s the hard part.

I think we all know the warm peaceful feeling that comes from giving of ourselves to someone who needs our help and is so grateful that they don’t know how they can ever repay us. Sometimes—especially when you tend to be the “strong, independent woman” type—it ’s much harder to be the one who needs the help. And yet, receiving is as essential a part of the equation as giving is.

I think young single adults are particularly susceptible to the idea that we’re on our own and don’t (or shouldn’t) need help from others. When I graduated from college earlier this year and landed my first “grownup job” (with my own insurance and everything!) I think I subconsciously felt that I had ARRIVED—I was on my own now, and didn’t/shouldn’t need help from anyone, thank you very much. I was subsequently frustrated that I couldn’t seem to put my life together after three whole weeks in a new city, with a new job, new ward, new apartment, new everything.

Go figure.

Turns out, grownups need help too. I was recently called to repentance on this subject when I stumbled across a talk given by Kent Jackson at a BYU devotional. Professor Jackson says,

I have found that the philosophy of self-sufficiency…runs deep in many Latter-day Saints. Some think, “I don’t need any help. I can take care of myself, and everybody else should do the same.” This idea forms the basis of the political and social feelings of many, and it has caused not a few Latter-day Saints to not only miss blessings in life but also to misunderstand the nature of the gospel.

It is our ability to receive that enables us to give more freely.

Professor Jackson goes on to explain that we all need God and must learn to receive His grace—“service freely rendered,” where Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ do for us what we cannot do for ourselves—and that grace often comes in the form of help from other people.

Dealing with my mother’s passing from cancer two years ago continues to be difficult for me. Some days the grief wells up and I can’t hold it in anymore. A year ago, the day before my mother’s birthday in October, I was sitting in the BYU library at a computer, heart aching, throat tightening. The girl next to me, seemingly oblivious to my emotional state, cheerfully struck up a conversation. She said her name was Courtney. I can’t remember what she asked me, but I ended up telling her that my mom had passed away and it was her birthday the next day, and I started to cry.

Courtney, a complete stranger, reached over and took my hand and cried with me.

That day, Courtney was the answer to my prayers for a friend. I needed help and support, and she was the one God sent.

Our own lives and those of other people are blessed when we gratefully receive their kindness and service. We are blessed when we acknowledge our own need and recognize that God fulfills those needs, often through other people. Even when we feel like we don’t “need” other people’s help, maybe THEY need the blessings and the love that comes from serving us. I am learning to let people help me and ask for help too. Even if I think I can do something on my own, my life is richer when my joys and burdens are shared with others. Service brings the Holy Ghost, and the Holy Ghost is what binds our hearts together.

We need each other. And that’s okay. And it’s because we need God—His grace, love, and power of deliverance that we can never “earn” or ever repay—that we can learn to receive with a grateful heart and then turn around and share that love with others.

So today, I’m remembering the gift given on that quiet night so long ago, and I’m practicing receiving with gratitude.

Why I Need A Savior

Have you seen this video yet?

Watch it.

I’ve been battling some inner demons lately. The ones that tell me I’m not good enough, that I can’t change, that I have so far to go that there’s no use in even starting. When I’m in the mire of self-doubt, comparison, and criticism, it can be difficult to pull myself out.

On top of that, I’ve had some emotional stuff come up as well—grief from the loss of my mom and all the repercussions of that event. So much has changed over the last two years, and I’m still trying to come to terms with all the changes in my family and figuring out what role my mother still plays in my life.

To sum up my emotional makeup lately: grief, shame, sadness, anger, hopelessness.

The color gray.

Now, I know that’s kind of depressing. TMI, almost. (Don’t worry—I believe that therapy is a good thing.) But the thing is, life is real. Its challenges knock us down sometimes. The pain, grief, sadness, and shame we feel are a deeply poignant part of our human experience. I’m no exception. Neither are you.

Life is real. But the good thing is, so is the Savior.

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The Power of Gratitude

I wrote this post in the summer of 2012 as I was preparing to serve a mission in Rochester, New York. It captures a profound lesson I continue to learn about what gratitude really is and the role it plays in our lives.

One thing I have really gained a testimony of in the past few months is gratitude.

I have to admit that many times when I have heard people talk about being grateful, I thought it was another way to say

“Quit whining.”

I had never really tested the power of gratitude in my life.

But on one of my low, low days, when I felt myself slipping back into discouragement and despair (trying desperately not to cry in front of my computer at work) I listened to a podcast of an interview with Meg Johnson on the Mormon Channel. Meg survived an accidental jump off a cliff and is now a C-7 quadriplegic, which means she is paralyzed from the chest down and her hands don’t work, so she will spend the rest of her life in a wheelchair. Suddenly my challenges didn’t seem quite so bad.

As I listened to Meg speak I was so impressed by her beautiful attitude and her faith borne of her close and personal relationship with Jesus Christ. The two things she said that helped heal her soul after her body was broken?

Service and
gratitude.

So despite my misgivings about gratitude as kind of a band-aid solution (where was my faith?) I decided to give it a try. Whenever I hit my lowest points, I would stop, take a deep breath, and say a prayer in my heart sincerely thanking Heavenly Father for the ways he has so abundantly blessed me.

  • I get to go to the temple.
  • I have a family that can be together forever.
  • I am going on a mission to a place I have always wanted to see.
  • I have friends who love me.
  • I have seen miracles as God has opened the way for me to do what I need to do.

And the list goes on.

I am here to tell you that whenever I did that, whenever I opened my heart in sincere gratitude to God, peace so deep and so penetrating flooded into my soul that I wondered how I ever doubted. This isn’t to say that I never had low points after that, but whenever I have made the effort to be sincerely grateful, I have felt that peace come, and little by little, it has healed my heart.

Gratitude is not just a code word for “stop whining.” Gratitude is not just acknowledging that “someone else has it worse.” I have come to believe that gratitude is a way that we can act, that we can reach out to God and access the power of the Atonement in our lives.

We live in gratitude when we know that because of His Atonement, His promises are sure. And because He keeps His promises, we can be happy now, knowing that sooner or later those promises will be fulfilled.

Gratitude is an act of faith in Jesus Christ.

Live By the Word of God

Live by

As a young single adult, I’ve felt like so many voices vie for my attention.

One of the things I wasn’t quite prepared for in my move from Provo to Salt Lake was how…exposed I felt to all the loud and contrasting voices in the world, and I know that many young adults in my shoes are struggling to find their way in the midst of these voices clashing all around them. One of the spiritual impressions I’ve received repeatedly over the past several months is this:

Listen to MY voice, Ariel.

In the digital age, we’re surrounded by the voices of the media that bring news of things like terrorist attacks and the refugee crisis. Voices of contention over the policy change concerning same-sex marriage households. Voices that say it’s useless to want an eternal marriage, because statistically speaking, the odds aren’t in our favor. Voices that tell us we’re not enough. Voices that sow doubt, that encourage us to abandon the faith we’ve always known. Voices that say there is no hope. Voices of confusion. Voices of despair.

How do we hear the voice of God? How do we cut through the fog and the storm in the midst of the “war of words and tumult of opinions” we find ourselves in with increasing frequency?

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In the Arena: The Day “This Is Why I’m Single” Blew Up the Internet

Remember that one post I wrote? The one that was featured first on MillennialMormons.com, on LDSDaily.com, and most recently, DeseretNews.com? The one that, when I checked Wednesday morning, was at the top of the list of most popular posts across the Deseret News site?

Yeah, THAT post.

How, you may ask, did I react to all this exposure?

Well, on Tuesday, when my post first went up on Deseret News, I was pumped. (This is so cool!!”)

Then the feedback started rolling in. Comments on Facebook and the Deseret News site, other people tagging me in Facebook posts, friends and family texting to tell me about other people sharing and talking about my article, Facebook friend requests and messages from people I didn’t know…you get the idea.

At that point, I kind of panicked. (“What have I DONE??”) I couldn’t focus at work, and I may or may not have come home and hidden under the covers for a good 45 minutes. True story.

I couldn’t seem to quiet the voices in my head. What was I THINKING?? Did I really just broadcast to the ENTIRE MORMON WORLD that I’m single? How stupidly desperate do people think I am? How do I handle all of this attention? I’ve never experienced anything like this before! What do I do now?

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Note to Self—Look Me in the Eye and Tell Me I’m Good Enough

 Dear Self,

Let me clear the air right now—I’ve been so hard on you, and I’m sorry. I know that almost as long as I can remember I’ve told you in my thoughts, often subconsciously, that you weren’t good enough, perfect enough, pretty enough, socially adept enough, [fill-in-the-blank-here] enough.

Even though I’ve accomplished so much—graduating from high school and college with honors, scraping together the funds to go to London like I’d always wanted, serving a mission, doing what I thought I could never do and seeing incredible miracles, and meeting great people and making wonderful friends over the years—it was never enough. Never enough to measure up to this impossible standard I had set for myself. Never perfect enough, I’ve realized, to feel worthy of love and belonging.

Well guess what. I’ve been wrong about you. I’ve been told for years by people who love and care about me that I AM enough, that I AM loved, that I AM beautiful, and that I have tremendous potential, and sometimes I believed that I was. But in the back of my mind, those thoughts of self-doubt would always seem to creep in again. Sometimes they felt overwhelming, almost like they came of their own accord, and I realize that I kind of shrugged my shoulders and resigned myself to the fact that they would always be there.Continue reading →

This is Why I’m Single.

This post was featured on Deseret News, Millennial Mormons, and LDS Daily, and has been translated into Spanish and Portuguese. You can also listen to my Mormon Channel interview about it here.

Singlehood in Mormon culture can be a, well, singular experience. As a young adult approaching her mid-twenties a religion that emphasizes marriage and family (and rightly so), sometimes I feel like I’m in this strange in-between place that people don’t talk about much—that post-graduation, before-marriage limbo where I’m trying to figure out what to do next. Not where I expected to be.

I was one of those people who thought I would be married before I finished college, and then I would go with my husband off to grad school and we would start our family and life would be great. I freely admit that I had that expectation, and I don’t really feel bad about it. It wasn’t as if I was sitting on my hope chest waiting for Prince Charming to appear and sweep me off my feet; I was moving forward with my life, working hard for my education, and I just kind of assumed that this next step would happen naturally, just as many of my life milestones had up to that point. It almost did happen, actually, but when it didn’t work out I knew my life would end up looking much different than I expected.

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