Re-Defining Success

Earlier this week, I was walking around Brooklyn, and I saw a huge poster with Maya Angelou’s portrait on it. Underneath, written in big, bold letters, was a quote.

“Success is liking yourself, liking what you do, and liking how you do it.” – Maya Angelou

It resonated deeply with me, because for the first time in a long time, I feel like I like myself, I like what I do, and I like how I do it. Granted, there is always room for improvement – for positive change and growth – but for now, I feel like I am finally in a good place. Is this what success feels like?

This quote could be applied to any area of life. I saw it, and I first thought of work. But later, I reflected on the other areas of my life where I see success, or sometimes, a lack of it. I think of my side passion projects – writing, reading, giving LGBTQ history tours. Am I successful in those? How am I measuring that success? And I also think of relationships with family, maintaining relationships with friends, making new friends, and in general, the perception from the world around me. It would be nice to feel successful in all of these areas.

It’s a spectrum. Sometimes, I feel incredibly successful, other times, I feel like a failure. And of course, it’s more complicated than that. I could “fail” on one project, but be successful in another. Or an apparent failure could lead to ultimate success. Maya Angelou’s quote caught me though because it seems so simple. I like her definition of success because it’s self-defined.

“Success is liking yourself, liking what you do, and liking how you do it.”

All of those characteristics are up to my discretion; they are my choice. I can choose whether or not to like myself (and trust, that’s a constant journey). I can choose to do something I like, and if I don’t like it, I can choose to do something else. And I am a man of free will, so I can make my own decisions in choosing how I do it.

It’s all about personal definition, personal choice.

It’s not about money. It’s not about how big your apartment is. It’s not about how expensive your clothes are. And it is so, so easy to forget that, especially living in New York City. Every night, I pass by other apartments with grand pianos in the windows, with floor-to-ceiling windows and crystal chandeliers. I see people with designer-brand clothes, making at least six figures.

I’m not sure if I will have any of that. And taking a deeper look into my own personal values, I’m not sure I want any of it. Because to me, that’s not what success is really about. That’s not what happiness is. And one of my favorite sayings has the same mentality: “Comparison is the thief of joy.” – Theodore Roosevelt

And in addition to everything else, it reminds me that it’s not what our life is, but how we choose to live it. When I was younger, I used to constantly play a game of cat-and-mouse. I’d chase things. A new job, a new apartment, a new city, a new friend, a new  boyfriend. And none of it made me any happier. Along the way, I met some amazing people, did some cool things, and lived in some fun places. But then imagine my surprise when I moved to the greatest city in the world, doing something that was supposed to be my “career,” with a rent-free apartment, and I found myself completely miserable.

That was when I learned that lesson. Because no matter what I did, I was constantly in a cycle of not liking myself, not liking what I did, and not liking how I was doing it.

Things feel different now. After 27 long years, I finally feel settled in a way that I am enjoying. It’s a lifelong journey, it’s a lifelong process, but rather than being intimidated by the unseen road ahead, I’m excited to keep building it up for myself, and continuing to pave the way.

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Finding Fulfillment

Happy Sunday, friends!

Earlier this week, I was able to meet with a friend in Washington Square Park after work – coincidentally, the same friend who convinced me to start blogging again after a two year hiatus. It was a great time for conversation, iced coffee, and a whole lot of laughs.

Typically after work, I am either too exhausted to do anything, or I run an errand or two, and by the time I get home, cook dinner, and eat, the night is over. I somehow turned into one of those “boring adults,” and I’m not sure how that happened.

Something that was incredibly clear, however, during our conversation was that what really matters, is what happens outside of work. At least, for the both of us. Sometimes, work can be really meaningful. But I’ve been in a place before where I put all my time, energy, and focus into my work (which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, especially when it is rewarding). But the problem is when work isn’t rewarding, when you have a stressful day, or a bad meeting, or an annoying co-worker. And then, all of your time, energy, and focus ends up into something that’s not rewarding, stressful, bad, and annoying. And what good is that?

The challenging part of all of this is time. I get in at work at 9am. If I’m lucky, I leave work by 5pm, but most likely 6pm, and during our “busy time,” probably closer to 7pm. And between that and my new old-person bedtime of 11pm, that leaves maybe six hours left in my day to do everything else, and that’s on a good day.

So, given that I’m not completely exhausted, that I have no errands to run, and that I’m feeling up to it, I have less than a third of my day for “other.” And within the “other” category is all the things that bring me the most happiness – friends, writing, reading, cooking, relationship, my personal passion projects…the list could go on. It’s not a matter of making more time. It’s not a matter of prioritizing. It’s a matter of working quickly and efficiently in those six hours to maximize the time you do have after work to focus on other aspects of your life.

Especially as I get older, I think about how important those other things are to me, and yet, how they are often the first to get left out of my life. There are few things I love more than going on a coffee date with a friend, but before this week’s, I can’t remember the last time I did that. Writing this blog post is the sacred hour every week that I know I will make the time to sit down and write, but otherwise, it usually doesn’t happen any other time. I don’t know the last time I finished reading a book, something I used to do on a weekly basis.

This blog post is a serious kick in the pants for me, as a reminder that these things need to come first, because they are so important to me, for my own happiness in life, and my own fulfillment.

The Responsibility of an Advocate

The first time I ever identified as an “advocate” wasn’t until grad school – when I accepted a job working in our diversity office on campus. I was 25 years old. Before that, I was living a life of ignorance and bliss. My privilege as a white, cis, man meant that I could ignore all the systemic issues in this country, and even worse, be completely unaware of these issues. Even as someone who identifies as gay, I was someone who has always been accepted by my family. I never needed to protest, I never felt like anything in my life was unjust.

But then I grew up a little, became more aware of the world around me, and I realized that just because my life seemed fine, that didn’t mean the world was fine. There was still (and still is) a lot of injustice in the world. In our country.

This week, all of this is incredibly prevalent on my mind for three reasons:

  1. Christopher Street Tours launched this week – a project I have been working on to provide free walking tours of LGBTQ history in New York City.
  2. I went to the National Conference on Race and Ethnicity in New Orleans, and learned a lot about the history of white people, and advocating for racial justice.
  3. It’s the first week of June, where so many people celebrate Pride and being their true, authentic selves (which is great, but it also makes me think of the history of the gay rights movement and why we even have pride in the first place).

Notice the common thread? History.

When I was a kid, I used to hate history. Ugh! So much memorizing! And my brain never used to work like that.

But now, as these experiences are on my mind, I think I realize part of the key of advocating is learning, understanding, and knowing the history of the movement. At the conference this week, I learned about some of the history of white people and the role that white people have played in the oppression of other groups. During Pride, I always reflect on the history of the gay rights movement, because without that history, we wouldn’t have some of the freedoms that we have today. And the entire mission of Christopher Street Tours is to provide that history of the LGBTQ community with the world in an accessible way.

History matters.

And while this may not be a twentysomething specific experience, I think it is especially relevant for our age group. During our twenties, so many of us are shaping into the people we are going to be for the rest of our lives. We are leaving home for the first time in our early twenties, finding our first job, possibly meeting a life partner…these are major life experiences. And within that, our entire world view is being shifted – our minds expanding, our world growing, which makes it even more important to be aware of these issues.

But something I learned at the conference is that being aware is only the first step. There is so much more to do. And not everything needs to look like a protest, which is something else I’ve learned through my own advocacy journey.

So this week, I wanted to share three ways that we can continue to create positive social change:

  1. Boycott
    • The Salvation Army brings Christmas cheer by putting your extra pocket change into those red buckets with little bells ringing, right? But in reality, the Salvation Army has a history of active discrimination against LGBTQ people. It also has a history of lobbying worldwide for anti-gay policies – including an attempt to make consensual gay sex illegal. And this is why history matters. Ever since learning this, I save my money for other organizations that make positive social change for all.
  2. Donate
    • Not all of us have the finances to donate money to organizations that we care about, or that are doing good work. But even just a few dollars helps! And if you don’t have the financial resources, you can always donate your time in volunteering, or a special skill you may have. For my own personal example, I’m donating my time and my knowledge in giving free LGBTQ history tours.
  3. Share
    • And once you have something you are passionate about, or a cause you are contributing to, or you’ve learned a specific bit of history that you think the world could benefit from, share it! Write an article, a blog post, tell your friends and family. Knowledge shouldn’t be contained, especially if the point is to teach someone an important piece of history that makes an influence on a social cause today.

And at the end of the day, we are all in this together. Inequality is a problem for all of us. It’s our communal struggle, so we have to learn to rise up together.

The Next Step: An Older Twentysomething Experience

Happy Sunday, twentysomething readers!

Today is my parents 29th wedding anniversary – can you believe it?! Twenty-nine years together, and they aren’t even 60 years old yet. I can already see it: they’re going to be that wrinkled, old couple, who are 100 years old and have been married for 80 years.

In today’s world, with today’s generation, doesn’t that seem near impossible? At least in New York City, everyone seems to be thirty, forty, fifty, and single. And loving life, I might add. It is a trend all over the country, though, that people are getting married later in life. It’s no longer the pattern of high school, marriage, kids, and owning a house all by the age of 25, and in that order.

Thinking of my own parents, at my age (27), my mom was already married, and I was running around the house as a little 3 year old. Usually, I laugh out loud thinking about myself in this predicament. I couldn’t imagine having a child right now, especially a three year old, and especially in New York City. I’ve always joked, “I can barely take care of myself, let alone a child!” And again, in New York, that just seems to be the norm. People are “too busy” or “too career-focused” to find love. Love is something to scoff at, because laughing about the lack of love fills the void.

So then, what happens when you do fall in love in New York City? When you do sign a lease together with someone you care about? When you’re ready for the next step?

Well, let me tell you friends, life becomes CONFUSING.

As some of you may know, I was basically the person who gave up on love, and then now, I’m living a fairytale happy ending with my boyfriend. Life is weird, sometimes.

I’ve noticed it in my conversations with friends, too. Where before, our conversations would be about late-night hookups and dance clubs, I now find the conversations to be about “next steps” with partners, wanting to settle down, when they think they’ll be getting engaged, and their timeline for kids. What the heck?! When did this happen?!

And even in my own life…I never thought I would ever be hit with the “next step.” Maybe part of me, deep down, still thought none of it was real. That I would eventually wake up from this fairytale happy ending all just to realize that it was just a dream.

But then, you are suddenly sitting in a Dollar Store parking lot, in a hot truck in LA after just meeting all of your boyfriend’s family, and all of his friends who are married and/or pregnant, having a conversation about how we better get married and adopt kids soon because gay adoption takes years and years and we don’t want to be old parents so we better get started.

And then both of us took a deep breath.

Where I once saw 27 as still too young to “settle down,” I now see myself as a person who has been lucky enough to find love, a person who is lucky enough to want to make these important next steps with someone (eventually…), and I just happen to be 27. That’s just when it happened to happen for me.

But in the words of Chani Nicholas, “Your worth is not dependent on having achieved traditionally age-appropriate milestones.” YES, Chani, PREACH.

Life is but a social construct. In other words, the only reason we feel pressure to get married and have kids at such an early age is because society tells us that we are “supposed” to do these things by a certain time. That is not true.

Life is ours to live on the timeline we want to live it. I think life is about making the best of each phase. When I was single, I really was enjoying those conversations about late-night hookups and dance clubs. I had a lot of alone time. But now, I have a person to share life with, and I couldn’t be happier about that. And the funny part is – if the Universe provided this when I was begging and praying for it, when I was 23 or 24, I don’t think I would’ve been ready. All I wanted at that time was to find a person to spend the rest of my life with, but I barely knew myself then, and I had so much personal growing to do.

Life always happens when it’s meant to happen. And in the meantime, we might as well enjoy this step, and not worry so much about what’s next.

When Ambition Falters

Hi all – happy Sunday!

This past week, I feel like I’ve been in a bit of a funk with my life (in New York City, and in general). And naturally, this is due to comparison to other people, which is always the downfall. “Comparison is the thief of joy,” in the words of Theodore Roosevelt. I’ve been seeing all these men out with huge muscles, when I see people working in cafes, I assume they are writing the next best-selling book, or when I see other people reading on the subway, I’m mad that I haven’t been reading anything lately.

I know that comparing myself to other people is (literally) the thief of joy, but I can’t seem to stop. It’s hard not to, especially in a city like New York, where you can feel the ambition of everyone around you poring out from the sidewalks and the buildings.

There is a certain level of ambition within myself, I know this, but sometimes, even the biggest bit of progress doesn’t feel like enough. And even further, sometimes progress doesn’t feel like progress at all. Or quite literally, no progress has been made.

What they don’t tell you is that ambition doesn’t equate success. You can be ambitiously reaching for your goals, but until you achieve something, you will always only be reaching. And that’s not a fun place to be in.

There are two views about this:

  1. Optimistic
    • Setting goals can give you motivation to achieve the best version of yourself. Each goal is something positive to works towards, leading to success.
  2. Realistic
    • In reality, goals are also just highlighting the current lack that exists in your life. It’s the “always reaching” syndrome, but never quite achieving. It’s a limbo. Not at the beginning, not at the end. Stuck in the middle of the road.

Some examples of goals that I’ve shared before:

  • I want to write and publish a book
  • I want muscles
  • I want to read more

And for a while, creating those goals provided me the motivation that I needed to works towards achieving them. I was writing every day, I was going to the gym, and I was reading every day in the subway. But after a few weeks of not doing any of that, I’ve realized:

  • I haven’t written or published a book
  • I don’t have muscles
  • I’m not reading more

And while these three things don’t equate happiness, it would be nice to be able to stay on track to achieve the goals that I’ve set for myself, which seem to be the same goals over and over again. But I have some advice for those who seem to be a bit off track from reaching their goals.

  1. Think ‘Big Picture’
    • Thinking big picture, I know that I have made progress on my goals. I also know there are more important things in life than some of those goals. For example, this weekend, my family came to visit, and we had a great time together. That matters. I have an amazing boyfriend, and we just signed a lease on a new apartment together. That is good, and that matters. I need to think about the things that truly matter, and just wish for the best (and work hard) towards everything else.
  2. Re-Focus Yourself 
    • In other words,  I need to re-center myself and find my core again. It’s okay to reassess your goals. Maybe I don’t want to publish a book anymore (or at least, right now). Or maybe I need to think about the rationale behind my goals, and my plan to achieve them.
  3. Prioritize
    • When I first posted about goals, I had over a dozen goals that I was working on. I’ve come to realize that working on all of them simultaneously may be near impossible. Prioritize what’s most important and work on that first. Then, continue working from there.
  4. Relax
    • This one is (obviously) much easier said than done, but sometimes, you just have to know when to take a step back, sit on the couch with a good movie and a glass of wine. You have to know when to take a deep breath and when to tell yourself, “It’s okay that you didn’t reach your goal today.” And even more difficult – but you really have to believe it.

So for now, I think I’m going to start with the relaxing, a take a step back. I’m going to pick a good movie out on Netflix to end my weekend with. Tomorrow, I can focus on the other three areas. But until then, cheers until next week!

For The Women In My Life

Happy Sunday, friends! And Happy Mother’s Day!

This Sunday, I want to share a special gratitude for all of the women in my life, mothers and non-mothers included. There are so many women in my life that have impacted who I am today, I don’t think I could list all of them. There are friends, family members, co-workers…really, in all aspects of my life there have been important women who have shaped me and played a monumental part of my life.

In particular, I always think of the Family Trio: my grandmother, my mother, and my sister. They are the three strongest women I know. But for most of my life, I’ve really only seen them in their identity in relation to me – the grandmother, the mother, and the sister. I know that they are people who live their own lives, but those titles are the ones in which they have impacted me the most.

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My grandmother has always been a source of support and humor. She is a woman with strong values and a persistence of teaching them to others. She was also a single mother of six children. I’ve only ever seen the big picture – how much strength that must have taken. But I never thought about the days when she must have been tired as fuck and didn’t want to cook dinner. Or when she was annoyed by a co-worker, or wanted to go out with a friend after work but couldn’t because she was a new mother. I give her so much credit for dealing with all of it and coming through on the other side with a positive sense of humor. She was the grandmother who would shout, “MAKE SURE YOU WRAP IT!” any time one of the grandkids told her they had a new boyfriend or girlfriend. We used to hide her teeth, which always gave us such a kick. You can always hear her muttering, “Oh balls…” every time something goes wrong, like when she is out of peanut butter for her 3am sandwiches or when she loses at cards.

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My mother has always been my biggest supporter. She taught me about unconditional love. She was 24 years old when she became a mom. Writing this blog as 27 years old, I can’t imagine having a three-year-old child. Her life was completely changed when she became a mother (hopefully for the better), but I know it wasn’t always easy. When she was over fifty, she was the lead decider in starting a new business adventure with my dad. And although now, four years later, it’s incredibly successful, I can only imagine the amount of anxiety and fear she held because of that decision, for fear of failure and risk, that she hid from her kids as a way to protect us. She loves her coffee in the morning (don’t talk to her before it) and her long naps after work. She is also someone who knows what is right, and has not only taught me the difference between what’s right and what’s wrong, but has shown me in her way of living every day. She’s also shown me the importance of friendship, and how rewarding life-long friendships can be.

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And then my sister, my best friend. After seeing so many other sibling relationships throughout my life, I feel so fortunate to call my sister my friend. For a while, she was always just my baby sister. But over the past few years, I’ve seen the woman that she has become, and I couldn’t be more proud. I’m still a self-declared stage mom, cheering her on with any role she takes on in life. She is twenty-one now and will be a senior in college next year! She has taught me so much about life (and about Ru Paul’s Drag Race). She knows more about the world at twenty-one than I probably ever will. She’s a fierce social justice advocate in her daily life, treating all people with respect and always keeping an open mind. I love that I can text her literally any time about anything, and I’ve lost count of the times I’ve texted her to see if I could call her because something was on my mind. She is always available to listen and I love her for that.

On top of everything else, two of my best friends from college are currently expecting, and I couldn’t be more excited for them (and to meet their little ones soon)!  Part of me still thinks that having a baby is an unrealistic thought for me. I joke, “I’m 27 years old, and I can barely take care of myself!” But deep down, I know that’s not true. I know that I am responsible, respectful, fun, and have enough wisdom to impart on a little one, some day.

But in the meantime, to all the current mothers and women in my life, and especially to my grandmother (Nanny Fine), my mother (My Lady), and my sister (Candle), Happy Mother’s Day!

When Life is a Vacation…

Happy Sunday, friends! I hope it’s been a good one.

On my end, I have a lot of updates! Every week, when I sit down to write this blog, I always think about everything that happened during the past week. Sometimes, I feel like it’s a million things, other weeks, I feel like I lead such a boring life. I ask myself, “I watched an entire season of Parks & Rec…and that’s about it…does that count?”

For this week:

  1. I saw Once On This Island on Broadway (It was amazing. Highly recommend. You should listen to the soundtrack on Spotify right now).
  2. I started writing again, after a few months of a dry spell, and it felt like my soul was returning home to its natural state.
  3. I unofficially launched my new business idea on social media, and started working on a website, and there has been a lot of positive feedback so far!
  4. I had some great events at work that I had initiated for the first time ever, and I had a lot of fun, and also felt really fulfilled.
  5. And lastly, I hopped on a plane at LAX, and I’m visiting California for the first time ever!!

At first, I didn’t know how any of this related to a twentysomething blog. But as I was thinking, listening to Once On This Island and drinking a black iced coffee, I realized that I am truly living my best life. And I don’t say that to brag, I just mean it in the way that I feel like I am finally taking advantage of all the opportunities that the Universe is granting me. Why not spend money to go see a Broadway show? Why not write, if that’s what’s calling? Why not start that business? Why not take a vacation? Travel somewhere new?

Personally, it feels especially good saying all of this after last week’s post about Leaving Your Comfort Zone – which in summary, stated that I really needed to stop talking so much, and just start doing, especially if it meant stepping out of my comfort zone. So now, a week later, I feel slightly more liberated in the fact that I just decided to start doing some of the things above, and it’s already making me feel like I’m living more of a purposeful life.

Depending on your view of death, this may sound morbid, or it may just sound like the truth, but the longer that I live, the longer that I realize how short life is. Why wait? Why wait to do any of the things above? Write that book. Drink that wine. Take that dream vacation. What’s holding you back?

And while I acknowledge that it’s not always that easy for everyone (including myself), I think I’ve been getting better about realizing what’s in my sphere of influence. Or in other words, what are the things that I can work towards? Maybe I can’t financially afford another European vacation right now, but I could definitely take $20 a week and either save that towards a vacation fund, or I can go to a fancy French restaurant in New York City and order crepes and a latte and pretend that I’m sitting at a cafe in Paris. I may not be able to publish a book right now, but I can certainly choose to keep writing one. It feels empowering to be able to sit down and focus on your goals. Some may take hours, or maybe days, weeks, or years (i.e. going to the gym and transforming my body into a beach body goddess). But others are less time-consuming, like taking 30 minutes to write earlier this week, or taking 30 seconds to hit “publish” on my social media post about a new business idea. By having both short-term and long-term projects, I feel like I can alternate between immediate gratification and more long-term successes.

Seeing Once On This Island also reminded me of the spiritual connection that we all share on a deeper level, and personally, the spiritual connection that I have with the Universe. I trust that the Universe is here to guide me along in my life’s journey. But it’s all-encompassing. Meaning, if something doesn’t go as planned, I also have to trust that the Universe has a different plan for me, and I just need to lean into that.

This coming week, I’m going to focus on my vacation in California. I’m going to be meeting a lot of new people and sharing a lot of new experiences. I’m going to trust in the Universe to have a fun time, enjoying every day for what it is, and being grateful for the new opportunities and motivation that is entering my physical self to achieve some of these goals.

To another week!

Leaving Your Comfort Zone

“Do one thing every day that scares you.” -Eleanor Roosevelt

When I was growing up, I never understood this quote. People around me always quoted it as a great source of inspiration, but I just thought it was foolish. Thinking about my fears, the very last thing I wanted to do is something every day that scared me. I will never not run away like a screaming fool every time I see a rat, and I will never go skydiving or bungee jumping. Those are just plain, simple, non-negotiable avoidances of my own fears.

But recently, I’m coming to understand this quote in a new light. It’s not literal. Eleanor Roosevelt wouldn’t want us to pee our pants because we are doing something that terrifies us (I don’t think…). But rather, it’s speaking more to going outside of your comfort zone. In my comfort zone, I am safe. I am content. Everything is familiar. But in order to fully acknowledge your own strengths and your own self, you have to be able to step outside of your comfort zone, and that in itself is a terrifying thought.

Lately, the Universe has been showing me that I am capable of a lot more than I think I am, or that I ever thought I could be, after I’ve stepped out of my comfort zone. Some examples:

  1. When I was in Costa Rica, I built shelters – lifting literal tree trunks, using a machete, nailing in bamboo rods. I’ve never done anything like this before.
    • I am stronger than I thought.
  2. When I moved into my new apartment, there was a lot to update – I had to set up a second rod in the closet, hang hooks for our pots and pans, and install a tile backsplash by the stove. Never in a million years would I ever consider myself a “handy man,” until we moved and these things had to be done.
    • I am smarter than I thought. 
  3. When I prematurely sent my book to a few publishers and was rejected by every single one, I was able to continue writing and continue to feel inspired by my story.
    • I am more resilient than I thought.

The underlying statement is: I am more than I thought. And I would’ve never seen this if I wasn’t put in these difficult situations, situations that I never wanted to be in. However, the Universe had other plans. It’s funny what comes your way in life, what situations we are all put in, and why. They say everything happens for a reason, right?

Simultaneously, after complaining to a friend this week about not achieving some of my own personal goals, she questioned me on what was holding me back. “You are the only one standing in your way,” she told me. “Take that French class!” I could hear the little voice in my head saying. “Write that book!” All of a sudden, I felt a flood of demands enter my head, as soon as the blocker of myself was knocked down. Maybe the reason I never took a language class is because I was afraid of embarrassment. And maybe the reason I’m hesitant to finish my book is because I’m afraid of failure.

Inspired by the need to step out of my comfort zone, and to knock down my own self-blocking, I created a small list of tasks for myself to accomplish that are definitely outside of my comfort zone:

  1. Sign up for a language class, French and/or Italian, despite the fear of embarrassment
  2. Write articles to send into online publications, despite the fear of failure
  3. Go see some of my favorite drag queens in NYC, despite the fear of sometimes being uncomfortable at gay bars
  4. Commit to working out regularly, despite the fear of humiliation amongst muscled body builders
  5. Create a business, despite the fear of being unsuccessful

Writing out that list, I realize how much is still holding me back. Unconsciously, I feel tied down by fear. It can be crippling, and clearly, limiting. Maybe we do need to do one thing every day that scares us. Maybe that’s the only way for us to release those fears, so then maybe one day, we will be fearless. And without that fear surrounding the things we want most, maybe then, we can truly be free from ourselves and achieve more than we ever thought possible.

The Tower of Twentysomething Terror

When I started learning how to read tarot cards, I was equally thrilled and terrified. I felt the need to connect with the Universe on a spiritual level, and using the tarot cards helped me to achieve that. I found beautiful cards, with gorgeous illustrations of flowers, angels, and clear blue skies – cards like Strength, The Lovers, and the Ten of Cups.

But then there were other cards that I dreaded. The Devil, Death, and the Tower. The Devil and Death are self-explanatory. For some, the ideas of the Devil and of Death are terrifying enough – but the cards themselves are relatively factual. There is no emotion in the depiction of the cards – they are just symbols.

But The Tower card is different. It depicts two people, who are clearly in agonizing pain, jumping out of a burning tower. What’s worse is that there are mountains at the bottom of the card, so you know that these two people are ultimately leaping to their death.

tower

Two weeks ago, I had an awful dream – a nightmare – one of the worst I can ever remember. I was in a crowded room with everything and everyone I loved, and we were all burning in flames. I tried to exit the room, but it was just eternal flames, licking the walls around me, no matter where I went. I woke up panicked, and even just typing it out now, my heart is starting to race. I walked around for a few days after the nightmare in a constant state of fear and anxiety. But then, a few nights later, I woke up again in a similarly startled way. I couldn’t remember my dream, but all I could envision was The Tower card. I woke up with the image burned into my head.

Despite popular belief, The Tower card doesn’t represent an untimely death. The Tower card, in my interpretation, always means sudden and drastic change. It’s feeling stuck in a life that you feel is so unbearable that you are almost about to jump from your metaphorical tower, even if there are mountainous rocks at the bottom of your fall. It’s a life where you will risk anything to just experience something different, where you crave something new, or when so much life is about to happen for you.

Is it just me, or does this card sound like the entire twentysomething experience?

Although for me, these past two weeks have felt especially Tower-like, with a lot of drastic and sudden changes happening or about to happen in my life.

  1. Finding a new apartment
  2. Living in a new borough
  3. Starting a new chapter with my boyfriend
  4. Finding a new appreciation for my job

It seems like everything in my life is new. And while I usually appreciate the change of scenery, it was an awful lot to take on at once.

These are some of the ways I learned to manage this past week or two, if you are ever feeling a Tower type of moment.

  • Take Deep Breaths*
    • *A lot of deep breaths. I found myself throughout these past two weeks just having to stop for a minute, taking in a deep breath, and continuing on about my day. Maybe it’s meditation, journaling…whatever calms you.
  • Manage Your Time
    • I know I am a slow packer, but I also know that I like to work under pressure. So, I took a half day on Friday and spend all afternoon packing. It was great, and I still had time at night to watch a few Parks & Rec episodes.
  • Find People Who Ground You
    • When going through a stressful time, it’s always helpful to talk with friends or family who bring you back to your center – people who remind you of who you are. I have one friend in particular who likes to say, “Michael, stop. Take a deep breath and relax!” And it isn’t until she says that that I know I was probably about to jump off the edge, so I appreciate her always reining me back in.
  • Learn To Say No
    • Over the last two weeks, there were things I wanted to do, events I wanted to attend, friends I wanted to see – but at the end of the day, I knew I had other priorities that had to come first.
  • Focus On Your Sphere Of Influence
    • All of my new life areas are so big picture, and they are all out of my sphere of influence. I really had to focus on what I could control since so many things in my life I couldn’t control at that time (I guess I really am Type A…). Focus on what’s right in front of you – one day, or one minute – at a time.

And now that the worst of the Tower moments are over -the anxiety and the waiting – I can now say that I feel at peace. I feel that everything happens for a reason. And now, sitting here, in my new apartment, I almost feel like a reincarnated version of myself. And I know that the jump was worth it.

#goals

There are three major times throughout the year where I sit down and critically reflect on my life – where I am and where I want to be. Oftentimes, this leads to a long series of conversations about goals, both long-term and short-term, both task-oriented and vision-oriented. Those three times are, without a doubt:

  1. New Year’s Eve
  2. My Birthday, and
  3. Whenever I feel like my life is a hot mess

Unfortunately, I feel like I’ve been falling into the third category most recently. Also, by process of elimination, it’s not New Year’s Eve, it’s not my birthday, and yet, here I am writing about #goals. Nothing serious is going on, no one needs to worry about me, but it’s just that lately, everything in my life has been in flux. My job has been stressful, which is prompting me to think about other career opportunities, the lease of my apartment is up in June, but I’m looking to sublet for May, which means I’ve also been searching for an apartment. So, quite literally, I’ve been in the process of uplifting my entire life and moving it around. Granted, I don’t think this is all bad – I think times of transition and change can be healthy – although, stressful.

I feel like I haven’t been able to focus on anything these past few months. My mind feels all over the place. To use another metaphor: I’m someone who uses several tabs on my computer when I’m browsing the web. For every thought I have, I have a new tab. I always mean to use the feature as a “I’ll come back to you later,” but what actually ends up happening is that I just continue to increase my tabs, never coming back to any of them, until my computer forces itself to shut down because I have too many tabs open for it to handle. My IT friends are probably cringing. Don’t worry. I’ve learned my lesson.

In an alternate attempt to write out my thoughts, I’m taking a different approach. A friend of mine at work has planned out her entire professional portfolio for the next year on post-its, posting them on her windows and walls, scattered all over her office. I decided to steal her idea, but use it for my personal life. Each goal is a new post-it. And since I’m moving within the next two weeks (hopefully), I didn’t want to liter my walls with paper with such transient circumstances.

Instead, I decided to create a digital version using note.ly (which I would recommend).

BEHOLD:

Screen Shot 2018-04-15 at 8.38.52 AM.png

Doesn’t it look so clean and so pretty??! Or maybe, it’s just the Type A nerd in me coming to life, the one who still, to this day, gets excited about new office supplies…

Anyways. I wrote out all of the thoughts in my head, all of the goals that I have for myself in the near future, but also, some for the not-so-near future. I’m considering my own organizational approach:

  • Row 1: Goals that I need to stop talking about, and just start doing. Although all of these goals will take time to participate in, they take no time to commit to. For example, I’ve talked about wanting to join a writing group for the longest time. I need to stop talking about it, and just do it. It’s not the time factor that I’ve been hesitant about, it’s the commitment.
  • Row 2: Goals that will take some more time, or goals that I’m considering for the relatively near future, but not immediately. Learning a new language takes time, so I added it in this category. And as for joining a chorus or getting a tattoo, I know I want to do those things, but those are farther in the future.
  • Row 3: Goals that are long-term, or will take a substantial amount of time. Writing a book is something I can work on every day, but publishing a book is different. These are goals that, in the meantime, I can work towards, but may not accomplish until the distant future (and that’s okay).

Just by organizing all of my goals, all of the things I want to do in my life in this moment, I feel like I have automatically organized my life. I found myself feeling bad if I wasn’t writing 24/7, because I wasn’t working towards my goal of finishing and publishing a book. But then I realized I was just working towards different goals. And I couldn’t be mad at myself if I wasn’t writing because I was working towards other goals, even if those other goals were just crocheting a blanket while re-watching the entire Parks & Rec series.

I’m also sharing my goals here, recognizing that it’s a vulnerable experience. I’m sharing my goals, and subsequently, my life. But I’m sharing in hopes that someone reading this will say, “Hey! That’s one of my goals, too!” and we can link up together to achieve that goal.

And in the words of Tony Robbins, “Setting goals is the first step in turning the invisible into the visible.”