Category Archives: Aspire to Inspire

Keep on Dream Chasing

by Tray Taylor
IG: @allusiontoreality

What does it mean to chase your dreams? Does it mean you don’t have a plan B? or does it mean you make a promise to yourself to just never stop pursuing what you dream of – no matter what age you are.

That is something I have been thinking a lot about lately. Mostly because I have been second guessing my own path.

Whether it was the right move to pursue a master’s degree in library science when my whole life all I wanted to be was a writer. Really questioning whether that choice was me going down my plan B path, instead of focusing solely on my plan A.

It has felt like a defeatist mindset to wonder these things, but it has also lit a fire under me in terms of motivation to get back to working on plan A.

Let me note that – sure, I love that I have a master’s degree in library science and I love being a librarian.

That isn’t what my doubt is about – and for those that find themselves wondering similar things, I know you get where I am coming from.

I’ve set out to make those changes this year by submitting more of my written work than ever before. Still not published, but it’s the journey – not the destination (or so I keep telling myself).

Last night I did the ultimate “check off the dream chasing bucket list”. I attended a writing drop-in (via Google Meet) at The Second City Chicago. If you’re familiar with Saturday Night Live or improv you will know how spectacular Second City is.

My dream, for a very long time, was to attend writing classes at The Second City Chicago – where many SNL greats got their start (if you know me personally, you know my admiration for Tina Fey).

Plans don’t always go the way we dream them up.

However, for two hours last night – I was living that dream. That little inner flame that has felt dim lately, ignited completely last night.

I got a taste of what it would be like to pursue what I love in practice, and maybe it was the enthusiasm of the instructor (shout out to Andrew McCammon). But overall, I think it was the energy of experiencing what I had always dreamed of doing.

What is something you always dreamed you would be doing in the lifetime? Did you ever pursue it?

This year may not be the year to do it, there’s a lot going on in the world (everything is seemingly on fire around us 95 percent of the time).

But if not now, when? No seriously. Put it on the calendar and hold yourself accountable for that future date.

I’ve always been a dreamer. I just stopped dream chasing for a bit, but I’m back and I’m ready to fail until I find success…what about you?

Pretzels & Poetry

by Tray Taylor
IG: @allusiontoreality

Let me start off by saying, I know I can’t be the only one who has felt topsy-turvy over the past few weeks.

This year I have been allowing myself to feel those kinds of feelings, but I am regretful that my weekly blog posting has suffered because of it.

I’m keeping it short, simple, and savory today.

A friend of mine that I used to coach with has been baking a lot of scrumptious things and recently she went on a soft pretzel baking spree. I love a good soft pretzel – anytime, anywhere. So seeing her post these delicious homemade ones made me curious to attempt to bake them myself.

I love to bake, but mostly cookies and cakes. So, I had never purchased yeast before and I didn’t know where I was supposed to find it in the grocery store (full disclosure I truly thought you had to go to some sort of organic or hipster grocery store to find it – go ahead laugh, I know.)

Thankfully my friend did not judge my ignorance and told me I could find packets of yeast in the baking aisle of a grocery store (this was my complete duh moment, but still forever grateful for her help in upping my adulting points.)

Shout out to the pretzel bites in the back because I dropped half the dough for what was supposed to be a sixth pretzel…

They turned out decent for my first attempt … except mine were thicker than expected. If you’re interested these are the ingredients I used (some modifications due to recommendation):

1 1/2 cups warm water
1 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon sugar
1 packet active dry yeast
4 cups of flour
3 tablespoons of oil, divided
1/3 cup of baking soda
2 eggs, beaten
Sea Salt to top them off
(because I couldn’t find coarse salt)

The rest of the steps can be found on Tasty through this link.

And I would like to end this post today with a poem that pops back into my mind every year around the holiday season. A good friend of mine shared it with me and I am forever grateful she did – so this is my gift to my readers, to pass it on to you all in hopes that you too appreciate it.

“I Invite My Parents to a Dinner Party” by Chen Chen
found on Poets.org

In the invitation, I tell them for the seventeenth time
(the fourth in writing), that I am gay.

In the invitation, I include a picture of my boyfriend
& write, You’ve met him two times. But this time,

you will ask him things other than can you pass the
whatever. You will ask him

about him. You will enjoy dinner. You will be
enjoyable. Please RSVP.

They RSVP. They come.
They sit at the table & ask my boyfriend

the first of the conversation starters I slip them
upon arrival: How is work going?

I’m like the kid in Home Alone, orchestrating
every movement of a proper family, as if a pair

of scary yet deeply incompetent burglars
is watching from the outside.

My boyfriend responds in his chipper way.
I pass my father a bowl of fish ball soup—So comforting,

isn’t it? My mother smiles her best
Sitting with Her Son’s Boyfriend

Who Is a Boy Smile. I smile my Hurray for Doing
a Little Better Smile.

Everyone eats soup.
Then, my mother turns

to me, whispers in Mandarin, Is he coming with you
for Thanksgiving? My good friend is & she wouldn’t like

this. I’m like the kid in Home Alone, pulling
on the string that makes my cardboard mother

more motherly, except she is
not cardboard, she is

already, exceedingly my mother. Waiting
for my answer.

While my father opens up
a Boston Globe, when the invitation

clearly stated: No security
blankets. I’m like the kid

in Home Alone, except the home
is my apartment, & I’m much older, & not alone,

& not the one who needs
to learn, has to—Remind me

what’s in that recipe again, my boyfriend says
to my mother, as though they have always, easily

talked. As though no one has told him
many times, what a nonlinear slapstick meets

slasher flick meets psychological
pit he is now co-starring in.

Remind me, he says
to our family.

Let it Rain into Self-Motivation

by Tray Taylor
IG: @allusiontoreality

Whenever it rains, especially for consecutive days – I always wish I was living in Seattle. I sometimes ponder to myself, if I have to deal with rainy days – why can’t it be in my favorite city?

I have had a thing for Seattle since my pre-teen years, and I don’t really know where the origin of my love for the city came from (I’ve only visited once, and this was way after I self declared it as my favorite city).

I do know my love for the city increased once Grey’s Anatomy premiered when I was in middle school (Yes my Sundays and Thursdays were once dedicated to that show & nothing else. No I don’t still watch, I stopped after Sandra Oh left the show). 

*The above photos are from the ONE and ONLY trip I have ever taken to Seattle. (yes, it was a spontaneous trip that I booked last minute, solo for my 25th birthday.)*

The truth is, I have been in a “anywhere but here” mindset lately – as I assume many of us may be. It has made it easier to lose sight of what I can be doing to take care of myself and my own well being.

So this week, with intention, I made a list of goals (I love lists, I am guilty of that). 

At the end of my list, I wrote a reminder to myself: If you stay focused, and get it done – you will find success. Easier said/written than done? Sure.

However, “success” is how YOU define it – and for me success is accomplishing what I want to get done to build towards my future self. As if I am investing in my future self – that to me is success.

Do lists work for you? Have you ever tried making a list- whether it is 2,3,5, or 10 things?

Need an example of a few things? (I’ll share a few that were on mine – I only wrote about 8 things) Don’t be afraid to start small, sometimes creating larger lists sets us up for disappointment, instead of “success”. 

A few off of my list: 

-Cook a comforting meal
-Work on manuscript for book
-Create more art/paintings 
-Schedule daily time to exercise (like, two days)
-Submit more writings for publication 

Crossed off the cooking a comforting meal off of my list last night. I love making chili this time of year, and it always has to spicy. As most things need to be that I eat.

Try it, make a list, and see if it works. Maybe it won’t, but at least you can say you tried. 

And to end this rainy day post.. I’ll leave you with a song that I’ve had on repeat for the majority of this week…

Time to Reset

by Tray Taylor
IG: @allusiontoreality

I’ve taken a clear pause on posting any writings. My creativity came to a screeching halt over the past few weeks, hard. 

For some days I was in a dark place, and I am grateful for those around me that helped to pull me out. I haven’t been in a space like that in a few years – which to me, was a wake up call. 

I’m planning on being intentional this week and in the coming weeks in setting my journey for the future – what are YOU doing intentionally for yourself?

We’ve also had a bit of a reset in the United States recently, gratefully. Although the hard truth is the majority of white people still voted for a man that stands for hate in all forms. Which means, I and other white people, still have a lot to do in terms of listening, and taking action. 

My partner and I had this song on repeat yesterday (I’m So Excited by The Pointer Sisters) – it brought us joy, and I hope it brings you joy as well.

Is This Thing On?

“You Matter, I Promise”
By Tray Taylor
IG @allusiontoreality

This past month has been excruciatingly hard for a number of reasons. I’ve been getting by this year at a “meh” pace – but these past few weeks I have felt on the edge of crumbling.

And today, well, I almost felt as if I was drowning.

Side note: I’ve struggled with depression the majority of my life and as the years go on anxiety is finding its way into my life too. Not to mention the herniated discs/on-going back issues I’ve had since 23 (when I said I was an old soul, I wasn’t expecting my body to follow suit).

Anyway – it has been a bumpy journey and it has felt like the cycle just won’t stop. And I know I am not alone in any of this, which is why I felt compelled to write this post.

This afternoon I reached a breaking point and I knew I needed to do something.

So, I went outside to clear my head and get some fresh air. For a brief moment I stood beneath my favorite tree just across the street from my apartment that turns beaming bright orange this time of year.

My moment of re-centering

I have felt defeated, voiceless, uncertain, and heavy lately- but in that moment I felt at peace.

After that brief moment of joy – I continued on my walk, turned my headphones up, went back to overthinking just about everything, and strolled to the store to pick up some wine.

So, I lend this moment to you. To everyone who has felt a bit scattered, alone, or just not themselves lately.

Allow yourself a moment to feel and re-center. Whatever that may look like.

(And I’d like to share with ya’ll the song that always seems to soothe my soul in moments such as these … *Joni Mitchell – River*)

Can You Smell That?

“The Intimacy of Heartbeats”
by Tray Taylor
IG: @allusiontoreality

What I intended to write about today no longer resonated with me after the end of the workday I just had. I felt I needed to write about something that would bring me pleasure and pass that on.

Some Mondays really are prickly than others.

I went out walking earlier this morning (during my break from virtually working) and I kept thinking how much I enjoy going for a walk this time of year. Mostly for the way the air smells so cold, crisp, and fresh in its own way. The skies seem bluer and the scenery more honest.

The walk reminded me of the way particular scents have a way of grounding and relaxing me.

My Dad was a chef (he is now retired) when I was growing up and he was always cooking or baking something which would smell throughout our house. Even on his days off he never stayed out of the kitchen for too long (as an adult I miss his cooking which has forced me into trying to emulate what I learned and continue to learn from him in the kitchen).

The humor, looks, charm, and culinary skills I possess I owe to this guy (my Dad).

I vividly remember the times I would come home from school, work, or practice and I could smell dinner from the moment my car pulled up to the driveway. And if he wasn’t cooking or baking – he was always burning a candle.

These sense of smell memories keep flooding back and suddenly I feel calmer than I did at the start of this post (writing is magic).

As my mind continues to wander down scent memory lane – there are the times I remember waking up with my window open and the smell of him cutting the grass. It’s funny to recall all of the smells that take me back to that yellow house and younger times.

What are the other scents that I can recall in this moment and the feelings/words I associate with them?

  • Ocean/Beach (home)
  • Campfire (warmth)
  • Mom-mom’s Sunday cooking (love)
  • Vanilla (childhood)
  • Lavender (growing up)
  • Coffee (Dad)
  • Books (inspiration)
  • Apple-cinnamon (comfort)

Honestly, my list is more than likely longer than this – but the point is to just list and relax. So, I encourage you – can you think of 5, 10, or more smells that bring you comfort?

My next task is to go cook dinner and hope that my apartment will fill up with some delicious, comforting smells.

Seek joy and sit with it (or smell it).  

The (Defeating) Path to Publication

“Look in the mirror and repeat”
by Tray Taylor
IG @allusiontoreality

How is it possible to stay positive when you keep getting met with rejection?

I’ve been posing this question to myself for the past couple of weeks. I recently took an initiative to try to get my writing published. While in grad school writing took a backseat for a few years, and now that I graduated this past May- I have my focus back on my true passion of writing.

A perhaps strange fact about me is when I was younger, I loved getting rejection notices, because it still meant my writing was being received. Lately, it has felt defeating and left me questioning my own abilities.

In those moments I try to think of advice from writers I admire. Remembering reading their journeys of how they got to where they are and that is was often met with rejection before it was met with admiration.

Some of the things that I have added to my to-do list to get past these drowning feels of rejection are:

  • Reading poetry – lots and lots of it
    • I’m trying to remember that reading words from poets I admire can inspire me to keep going. Some of the poets I keep reading over & over lately: Rudy Francisco, Mary Oliver, & Andrea Gibson. If you haven’t read any of their work – go read it now…even if you aren’t looking to get inspired to write…I promise you these poets will inspire you to DO ANYTHING you’ve been looking to get inspired to do.
  • Painting
    • This is not my area of expertise in any shape or form – believe me I have close friends that can ACTUALLY paint. However, my partner recently bought me a plethora of things to paint with and I have found it to center me when I need it the most. I’ve been experiencing plenty of “down” feelings lately because of writers block as well as rejection letters – so I am grateful for this newly discovered outlet. (Shameless plug of my “art” Instagram: @allusiontoreality).
  • Going for a walk
    • This is something I used to do a lot when I lived in Philly and that habit stopped when I moved to DC – p.s. Philly, I miss you. Starting back up the daily walking habit has helped though. Just as much as searching for flowers to take pictures of as I go. Looking for beauty around me to remind me of the importance of not allowing myself to stay in the negative headspace.
  • Sitting with it
    • Sometimes this is the most important thing to do. I allow myself to feel the feelings for a few moments, and then pull myself together to make a plan for the next move.

As I write this I am already thinking of the list of submissions I will make for this week.

What are somethings that get you through feelings of defeat? Or fellow writers, do you have any advice for feeling like you’re on a road that keeps putting rejection signs in your path?

Create Your Own Beginnings

“Create your own Beginnings” by Tray Taylor
IG @allusiontoreality

Well, after the big debate (with myself) I decided to create a blog again. I grew up in the blogging generation, or what I just declared as such. Where we all wrote about our days on Live Journal or Xanga. Then as the years went by that switched over to Tumblr. As an adult I had a WordPress for my writings, but then one day I decided to leave that all behind for a bit. Now here I am, again.

This time my blog will be different. It will contain my thoughts yes, and my writings occasionally. But, it will also contain more insight of what could be helpful to you, my audience. I will share what I may be listening to this week, or a recipe I discovered that turned out better than expected.

Writing is my first passion in life, but I would like to note this past May I received my master’s in library science. So, book suggestions may appear on this blog a few times as well. This is a blog about how my multifaceted personality functions and exists in this world.

I’ve never quite fit in a box, and I am learning that my blog doesn’t need to either.

I recognize that this is more about proving to myself I can keep up with what I set my mind to, and just hope that there are people out there that want to read my writing. That is what I have been holding on to my whole life as an aspiring writer. Wanting to make an impact on others with my words.

So, this is where it begins.