A New Beginning

For over 2.5 years, The Modern Austen has been my home.

My digital scrapbook.
My personal stylebook.
My own unique community.
My side business.

It has been the most wonderful and rewarding learning experience, one that has changed everything for me, both personally and professionally. I didn’t realize when I signed up for a free WordPress.com account in May 2012 that I was embarking on the journey of a lifetime, but now I know that it was woven into my plan all along. I have loved every second of the journey–even the periods of burnout–because it has stretched and pushed me to become a better person: a better writer, a better marketer, a better creative, and, most of all, a better friend.

Though The Modern Austen hosts numerous embarrassing posts and lots of fluff, I am extremely proud of several gems that I published over the years. Nearing the end of 2014, I began feeling the itch for change. In the past, that often meant switching up the design, introducing a new feature, kicking it up a notch in my community. But this time felt different. As much as I adore the brand behind The Modern Austen and still feel its message is relevant to me, I knew that it was time for a more drastic change.

After several months of daydreaming, planning, designing, collaborating, doubting, brainstorming, reinventing, organizing, and writing, I am FINALLY ready to announce my latest creative venture.

Introducing Ampersand Creative.

A lot of soul searching led me to one major conclusion: it was time to narrow my focus. I dug through the echelons of my brain and mindmapped my way to discover my real passions that could simultaneously serve others: creativity, entrepreneurship, and blogging. It is my aim to help millennial bloggers and young professionals identify and achieve a fulfilling creative lifestyle. You’ll find musings on the side hustle, discussions about navigating the job search, insight into other creative individual’s projects, how-tos to get your schemes up-and-running, and whatever else strikes my fancy that might be of use to others.

Before I leave you to go and explore my lovely new site (designed by the incredible Sam Bell Creative), I want to say thank you. Thank you for sticking with me, for being such a supporter over the last three years, for being so flexible no matter what direction I took the blog, for getting to know the girl behind the blog, for reading, for commenting and emailing, for challenging me. I am eternally grateful. I know this new direction won’t be for everyone and I understand if you choose to turn down another path. But please know that you have made a difference in my life and I appreciate you. Here’s to new beginnings!

SBC_AmpersandCreative_HiRes

Life Lately

I’ve been away from this space for quite some time and I have to say, I miss it. I know I’ve been alluding to a brand new venture I’ve been working on and I am indeed plugging away at it (and SO very excited about it), but I miss the familiarity of this space from time to time. Most of all, I miss all of you, lovely readers of mine.

Instagram Collage Life Lately

@marissaburdett

Life has been a bit of a whirlwind recently. I’ve been traveling for work, dancing, working on side projects, balancing time with friends and family, and supporting my mom through some difficulties. While there have been some bumps and bruises here and there, I am overall very content and excited for the future. I feel encouraged and motivated by the many driven people around me and am anxious to see what opportunities lie ahead in the next few months.

As of yesterday, I have been back in Pittsburgh for an entire year. The decision to move back home was a difficult one, but I can’t believe how much that one choice has affected everything. Where and who I was then is miles and miles away from where and who I am today. I knew that I would one day be “on the other side,” and I am humbled and thrilled to finally be there and only going up from there.

I’ll be posting some hints here and there on social media of things to come, so stay tuned for that, BUT what I want to know is: What are you working on? What’s keeping you motivated and giving you that excited feeling in your stomach? Let me know in the comments and share a link so I can ooh and ahh over your brilliance!

If We Were Taking a Walk through the Strip District . . .

31st Street Bridge Factory Building

If we were taking a walk through the Strip District of Pittsburgh, we’d start blocks further away than is necessary just so I could show you my weekly stomping grounds and the specific path I take during lunch breaks. Because, you know, you’re interested in that kind of thing. If you weren’t from Pittsburgh, I’d refrain from matter-of-factly telling you that right in front of the tavern we just passed, some guy was shot during my first week of work, because I wouldn’t want you to get the wrong impression. (Okay, I’d tell you anyway.)

Between admiring the interesting murals and pointing out the cool backdrops Angelica and I use for our outfit pictures, I’d ask you what your plans were for the weekend and how you were celebrating the holidays. I’d want to know about your family traditions and what makes you filled to the brim with joy year after year. I’d share that Thanksgiving will be a lot different this year and that I hope that I can just soak up and rest inside Christmas this time around, instead of rushing through it. Pausing to browse through Zerrer’s Antiques for a few minutes, we’d swap our favorite ABC Family 25 Days of Christmas specials and plot our upcoming cookie exchange.

If we were taking a walk through the Strip District, we’d journey down Penn Avenue and you’d shift our conversation into something more reflective. Where were you at this time last year? you’d ask. You wouldn’t believe me when I’d tell you how only eight months ago, I could count on one hand the times I had personally driven in the city. I’d tell you it almost feels like last year wasn’t even real– instead it’s some messed up, confusing, sad, yet inspiring film that occasionally replays in my mind. We’d talk about how great it feels to be here instead of there, but still–we’d have to admit that we had to go through there to get to here. Just when we begin commiserating on the necessary balance of life, we’d conveniently stumble across Pittsburgh Winery. Obviously, we had to do a tasting because . . . well . . . #ShopLocal.

Suddenly, our loosening tongues would remind us of our empty stomachs and that it’d probably be a good idea to take advantage of the many restaurants in our reach. On our way to Penn Ave Fish Company, I’d share that so many things are changing and I’m not quite sure how to take it all in yet and oh, if I could just have the answers, my direction would be so much clearer. You’d remind me that change is necessary for growth and that I should try as hard as I can to treat it like a blessing. You’d also remind me that I should be listening for God’s direction, not my own. Naturally, you’d be right and even though I really don’t enjoy admitting my shortcomings, I’d appreciate your insight even more.

If we were taking a walk through the Strip District, we’d geek out over Pentatonix’s new Christmas album and debate if it was too early to listen to Christmas music already. Sitting down for lunch, I’d somehow I’d find a way to bring up swing dancing and plead with you to just try it with me. I’d promise you: you’d LOVE it. After a break in the conversation, I’d pluck up the courage and, while twirling the straw in my drink, I’d tell you about Mom. I’d tell you about her diagnosis and I’d tell you how I’m scared, but hopeful. You’d reach out and squeeze my hand and tell me it would be okay and that we’d get through this together. Even though there’s never a good response, you’d find a way to make me feel reassured. You’d always been good at that kind of thing.

With stomachs full, we’d walk those last several blocks, snorting at the fact that there’s a McDonalds in the midst of a melting pot of cultures and after telling you about the fantastic Kina Grannis concert I recently attended at Altar Bar, we’d agree that more concert-going would definitely be in our futures. Next time we’d meet, we’d have more answers (and likely more questions), but we would pinky promise to embrace it all, no matter what life threw at us. Deal? Deal.

How to Start (and Enjoy) a Gratitude Practice

Back in September, I attended a local Levo League event at which the fabulous Britt Reints from In Pursuit of Happiness spoke with us young professional women about her experiences practicing gratitude. After all, gratitude isn’t just something you feel, it’s something you do. You can choose to practice gratitude, just like you can choose your attitude.

It isn’t always easy, though, and it often gets pushed to the back burner when there are so many other emotions that push gratitude aside and fight to the front of your brain and too many tasks to complete right up to the point when you can close your eyes and collapse in exhaustion seemingly each night.

Even so, we all know gratitude–feeling grateful and appreciative for what and who we have in our lives–is a good thing. A fantastic thing. A necessary thing. We need it in order to fully understand life and to reflect on where have been and where we are going. And sometimes, it’s the only thing that helps us get through difficult times in life. Gratitude makes us happy.

Did you know your happiness also has a ripple effect–there are three degrees of separation between you and the people who can feel your happiness! This means your friends’ friends can feel the effects of your happiness. With how seemingly ugly the world can be at times, it’s more important than ever to help foster and maintain gratitude.

In order to bring more opportunities to feel and share gratefulness throughout your life, try starting a gratitude practice.

Ralph Waldo Emerson quote about gratitude

What is a Gratitude Practice?

There are several ways you can practice gratitude. The goal in each practice, however, is the same: take at least a certain amount of time to pause and reflect on what you are grateful for and commit it to memory in some capacity (usually on paper) to be able to review and share later. The effect? Stronger self-awareness and understanding of one’s happiness and goals AND chances are, the people around you will feel it, too.

If you think you’ve been feeling pretty grateful recently but still aren’t all that happy, read Britt’s take on Why Gratitude Isn’t Making You Happy…Yet.

Ways to Practice Gratitude

At the Levo event, we created Gratitude Journals. We were provided fun and colorful notebooks (who doesn’t like a brand new black notebook with college ruling?! If you don’t understand this kind of excitement, I’m not sure you can truly understand me.) and tons of stickers and washi tape with which to decorate and adorn. This gave us ownership over our new gratitude journals and by creating them as a group, we automatically built this sense of accountability with one another. Even though it wasn’t likely that we would share these journals with each other at a later date, there was always the chance that we would bring it up in conversation later (after all, the whole evening was full of such great conversation that it was bound to be brought up again!)–so you better believe I wanted to start and hopefully maintain my journal.

The goal of a gratitude journal is simply to write down at least three things you are grateful for every night before bed. Done. That’s it. It seems simple, but this intentional act will do more than fill up a cute notebook.

10 Ways to Practice Gratitude

In addition to a gratitude journal, here are nine other ways to practice gratitude:

  • Fill up a Happiness Jar
  • Post a picture a day on social media with one thing that you are grateful for
  • Participate in #100HappyDays
  • Send a text or call one person each day just to tell them thanks
  • Post little notes around your house as small, but consistent reminders
  • Establish a bed time routine with your spouse, significant other, children, or friends to talk about what you are grateful for each night before you fall asleep
  • Leave love letters for strangers. After all, the world could use more love letters (and you’ll be surprised as to how it will affect you in return.)
  • Make a donation to an important cause near and dear to your heart in honor of something or someone you are grateful for
  • Write yourself a thank you letter or blog post. Read it a year later.

There you have it: 10 Ways to Practice Gratitude! What other ways can you practice gratitude on a regular basis? I’d love to add your suggestions to this list!

I’ve Practiced Gratitude. Now What?

It’s one thing to practice gratitude, but it’s another to process and reflect on the act of being grateful. Personally, I was really good with my gratitude practice for about a week and then it became sporadic and random. The other day, however, I went back through my previous entries and it was so enlightening. I found a lot of trends and connections between the days. For example, I found that some of the things I felt most grateful for included being able to take walks at lunch time, spending time with my family and friends, enjoying opportunities and responsibilities at work, and embracing new experiences. These trends really reflect what is important to me now and can say a whole lot about you.

One thing I found particularly interesting while I practiced gratitude was that every time I went to write down my 3+ things, I also began thinking about things I wanted and needed to pray about. It may seem obvious that there is a connection between gratitude and spirituality, but I was surprised to witness how much the act of reflection and appreciation could have such a profound effect on the things I wanted to talk to God about. It wasn’t just the things I was grateful for, however, but it also included my concerns and worries and stresses. I discovered that a gratitude practice helps me think through and process these emotions and thoughts in a healthy way–seeing the things I am grateful for on paper reminds me of how blessed I am despite these worries.

If you’re someone who has trouble finding gratitude in the midst of a bad situation, read what Angelica has taken away from her gratitude practice.

Gratitude isn’t just for Thanksgiving, but it sure is a great place to start. If you’ve contemplated starting a gratitude journal, I encourage you to start now. It’ll always be there for you, even when you don’t write in it for weeks or months at a time.

Go on, be grateful. I dare you.