Living Your Fullest Life

 

New York City has a special way about it – maybe some people feel this way about other cities, other places, but this was an experience I had never felt until moving here. New York City makes me want to be my best self – it makes me want to live my best life.

For me, it’s a lot of things I’m not doing. Like, the biggest one probably right now is going to the gym, working out, etc. And I know this isn’t the case, but I feel like everyone in NYC is ripped. Swimmer’s bodies, muscles all over – and although comparison is the thief of joy and I completely agree with that – it’s also something that I want.

Also, I think I have seen more friends these past two weeks than I have in the past two years combined! It’s so amazing. There are all these people around, always, and I thought the introvert in me would hate that, but actually, I think I’m starting to become more of an extrovert…

Anyway, there’s something about the competitive nature of the city (which I can imagine some people absolutely hate), but for me, I absolutely love it. It’s what keeps me motivated. To grow. To challenge myself.

With that, it’s starting to become very clear which areas of my life that I’m excelling in, and which areas I still need to work on. I’m going to refer to my old friend here, the wellness wheel, to help me out.

wellness-wheel.gif

I read this as seven areas of life that contribute to my own individual wellness, and a guide of sorts. So, in wanting to live my fullest life, to be my best self, I find myself looking back to this diagram and seeing which areas I’m okay in right now, and which ones I still need to work on. [Disclaimer: this is not finite. Please feel free to add your own sections to the wheel].

For me, I’m going to do a self-check:

  • Emotional
    • Self-care. How are you taking care of yourself? For me, I’m learning the balance of work in NYC, social time, and alone time. It seems to be working out okay so far, so I’ll give this one a thumbs up.
  • Spiritual
    • I don’t necessarily see this as “religious,” although, it could be. I think this refers more to beliefs, values, morals, etc, and how you are living those out. 6/10 for me right now.
  • Financial
    • I just checked my bank statements this morning, and surprisingly, I’m doing okay!! I thought I would have gone bankrupt by now…
  • Environmental
    • I absolutely feel like I am meant to be in New York City right now. It could be my forever place, I feel that strongly about it. So, yes, I am loving the environment here. 10/10.
  • Social
    • Please see above – so many people to see, so many new friends to meet – I love it here, especially for this reason!
  • Physical
    • Yup, still working on this.
  • Intellectual
    • I am leaning a whole lot in my job – but I want to start expanding that! Taking classes, learning new hobbies, etc.

The point of me sharing all of that was not to go on and on about myself. The point is for you to also check yourself – how are you living your best life? How are you fulfilling all of the categories in the wellness wheel? And what ones are missing/not relevant?

In the meantime, here’s a tip about living out the wellness wheel:

  • It’s fluctuating
    • There may be some days where the wheel is out of balance. And that’s okay. You may need to focus your energies on a different section to get it up to par with the rest. It’s exhausting to work on all seven areas at once. For me, I feel good about environment, social, financial, and emotional. And I know the others are still areas of improvement – but, piece by piece, one at a time. Choose your focus area, and go with it!

 

Building a Life – One Piece of Furniture at a Time

So, it’s been one whole week since I’ve moved to New York City!! …and I still can’t believe it. Every time I step outside I’m like, “I live here?!” Yes, I live here.

And although there have been so many exciting moments (which you can read more about here), the one thing I wanted to share in particular on this blog was the STRUGGLE (the struggle was real) with building all my furniture. In total – a bed frame, a book case, a nightstand, a dresser, AND a couch. That is five total pieces of furniture I had to build – mostly by myself because I’m stubborn and don’t like to ask for help – all within the week. And to be honest, I never want to do anything like that ever again. Most everything was fine, with three exceptions:

  1. I threw out my back trying to move my bed frame from the package delivery room on the first floor to my apartment…on the seventeenth floor.
  2. I spent over four hours on said bed frame, trying to assemble it, but ended up being so frustrated that I am essentially now sleeping on a cracked slate of wood.
  3. Oh, and also, the smell of all these wood pieces is like sawdust, which reminds me of those wood shavings that you put inside of a gerbil’s cage. So, now my apartment smells like a gerbil.

But, on the plus side of all of this, I now have 95% of my apartment furnished.

And as I was sweating profusely over one very stubborn drawer hinge, it hit me, building furniture is like building your life. Without taking the time to build it, it’s just going to be an empty room. It may be long, dull, and tedious at times…but let me tell you, it feels so nice to actually sit on a couch and not on the floor. For me, there are different approaches to this.

  1. The Night Stand
    • This was the first piece I put together – it was tiny, and the directions were easy to follow. It took some work, but I didn’t have to exert myself all that much. And then at the end of it, I had a nifty little night stand! These are the things I see as the day-to-day operations. How are you building your life up every day? i.e. How are you interacting with the people you see on a regular basis? What are you doing to practice self-care? etc. The building blocks. IMG_0728
  2. The Bed Frame
    • Literal shambles. The box was too heavy and I threw out my back. Pieces were broken. There were 18,000 steps involved. It took over four hours. I was tired. And by the end of it, I ended up with some janky version of a “bed frame.” But basically, it was turning hundreds of little pieces of wood into one big piece of wood for me to sleep on. The moral of the story is sometimes, it’s not actually worth it. And that’s okay. Because honestly, that is four hours of my life I will never get back, and I would’ve been perfectly happy sleeping on my mattress on the floor. IMG_0737.JPG
  3. The Sofa
    • By this time, I had almost given up on my furniture. I was like, “I’ll just sit on the floor, thanks.” But then I had a gentle nudge from a friend, and we ended up putting the sofa together. Surprisingly, this was the easiest one! It was like an accordion sofa, folded up in a giant box. And when we took it out of the box, we just unfolded it and threw the legs on. Piece of cake. I see this as the reward. After building that pain-in-the-ass bed frame, it was God’s way of saying, “Here you go! Enjoy!” And of course, everything is always better with a friend.  13892045_10153750270502555_6665383943139599097_n.jpg

I’ve learned it’s not about what you’re building, but how you build it. The outlook you have about what you’re doing. That’s what really matters.

 

Ending A Chapter

As of right now, not including today, I have 18 days left in Buffalo. I remember the days when I was sitting in a back-to-back class where it felt like I had 18 years left in Buffalo and that it would never end. But now, 18 days.

I’m not necessarily sad about leaving the physical place that is Buffalo. I get the whole revitalization piece, and the Bills are like, okay…but what I’ll miss most about it is the people. I have met so many incredible people over the last two years, in completely unexpected ways. I have also strengthened some already existing friendships over the past two years, and that has also been incredible.

So in the words of one of my good friends…TO FRIENDSHIP!

Leslie-Knope-Cheers.gif

But, as we all know, as one door closes, another door opens. And even though I may not know what that other door is, I know that another opportunity will be waiting for me. But in the meantime, I wanted to make sure I learned to be at peace with Buffalo, specifically, leaving Buffalo and ending another life chapter. So, here are my words of wisdom for this awfully tricky time.

  1. Make peace with the past and right your wrongs
    • This is probably the toughest one on this list, which is why I started with it. It’s also the most important. When I left my job before coming to Buffalo, I really couldn’t wait to leave. It wasn’t necessarily the people or the town or the place or any one thing in particular. It’s just that, I wasn’t at peace with my situation. And rather than try to make peace with it, I just up and left. And looking back, I think it would’ve been nice to have that comfort in officially closing that chapter 100%.
  2. Make a Bucket List, and do it
    • I’ve thought about starting a Buffalo Bucket List before today, but never went through with it – I had thought I had done all the Buffalo things I wanted to do. But then I’ve been seeing all these “Buffalo Checklists” on Facebook, and I have a few friends who are desperately trying to convince me to stay in Buffalo…and even though I have no intention of staying, I might as well make the most of it while I’m here and enjoy the time I have left.
  3. Reflect on time spent
    • I spent two years out of my life in Buffalo! Not only that, but it’s where I did my graduate work, and where I had a really amazing start in diversity education work. I will never forget these two years. But it’d also be easy for me to kind of just move on to the next thing and say, “Yeah, two years in Buffalo for grad school,” and that’s it. When the reality is, I learned so much here and met so many great people.
  4. Say goodbye
    • Maybe this one is obvious…but I think it goes back to making peace with the place you are leaving. With the chapter you are closing. Make sure to take the time to thank all the people who have been influential during your time there.
  5. Plan a return trip
    • It’s hard to leave all these people that I love and care about. For me, it’s always been easier to leave if I already had plans to come back. Fortunately, I am working to help plan a conference that will be happening in Buffalo in October, so I will definitely be back for that. But even if you never want to go back to the place ever again, plan a trip with the people from that place, the friends you’ve made, so you know when you’ll be seeing them again.

And just remember, even if the next chapter isn’t in sight, you are the author of your own life.

Playing House, IRL.

Do you remember when you were a small child, playing House with your siblings or group of friends or maybe even your stuffed animals? It was my favorite game growing up. I had it all figured out – my little six year old self. I was married (to a woman), I had four kids, two dogs, was a famous chef, and my favorite color was blue. I was set.

But damn, how wrong I was about everything my future would be.

Being a twentysomething is one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do in my entire life. And I know that sounds dramatic, but for all my other twentysomething friends out there, you know that’s the actual truth…right? A very wise professor told me earlier this week, as I was venting/complaining/crying in her office, that the twenties are the shit years. That’s it. The shit years, she said, just like that.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I’ve had some really amazing experiences so far in my twenties. I really have discovered a deeper sense of myself, although, I’m coming to realize that that is an everlasting journey. And yet, at least in recent times, there is absolutely no stability in my life. At all. It could also be the fact that I’m graduating. But right now, I feel as if everything in my life is unstable, about to undergo a major transition. I’m graduating, aka losing my job (and have yet to find a new one). Not only that, but I have no idea what I want to do “when I grow up.” I’m trying to emotionally prepare myself for leaving so many amazing friends that I didn’t even realize I had in Buffalo until recently. It’s just…a lot. Everything is changing – relationships, friendships, jobs, location, school, my purpose, my path…and surprise! I have absolutely no control over any of it.

So, what do you do when you feel like your life is spiraling out of control?

  1. Just breathe
    • I’m not kidding. This really helps. Take a deep breath for 4 counts, hold for 2, and then release the breath.  Now repeat. Repeat again. I’ve been doing this a lot lately, because to be honest, I’ve needed it. Taking deep breaths centers you, and brings you back to your core. Everything else might be up in the air, but I still have breath, and having that reminder brings me back.
  2. Do what you need to do, so you can do what you want to do
    • You know what? I hate transcribing interviews. But if I want to graduate, I have to do it. And you want to know what else? The job search is incredibly stressful, but I need to apply to jobs so I can actually do something with my life after graduation. It sucks, and that’s okay, but some things, you just can’t avoid.
  3. Take time for yourself today, so you can be your best self tomorrow 
    • AKA, instead of going out with friends, buy yourself $50 worth of wine on a Friday night, stay in, drink, clean your room, and sleep. Hypothetically speaking, of course. And I can’t take credit for this one. A good friend of mine gave me this little nugget of advice. In other words, do what you need to do to take care of yourself today, right now, when you need it, so that way, you can be your best self for others, later.
  4. Trust the universe. 
    • This is my new favorite saying lately. I apologize, I feel like it’s been in the past twenty blog posts I’ve written, and I say it at least five times a day. But really, trust in the universe, and the universe will give back. Others choose to pray. I choose to trust in the universe. It’s the idea of karma. Send good vibes out, and good vibes will be returned.

And although it was much easier as a six year old playing House, it is (kind of) exciting to be actually living a real life now, no matter how stressful it may be.

 

In Another Town

Who are you?

That was the question that was asked to me for my most recent job interview. “Make a 15 minute presentation that answers the question, ‘Who are you? Personally and professionally?'”

Well, damn. How do I answer that? I know who I am, or so I thought, but I think like many of us, I just get so wrapped up in the day to day life, that I often forget to sit and reflect on who I am as a person.

As many of you know, this past week I was doing a bit of travelling. I had an interview at NYU, but made a pit stop in Albany to visit some family. So within the past weekend, I was in New York, Albany, and now Buffalo. And it was bizarre. I felt as if I was living three separate, very different lives.

In New York, I felt like the person I wanted to be. I was dressed to the nines in my stylish new suit,  I was wearing my favorite pair of dress shoes, I was making my way up and downtown via subway and cab, and meeting so many incredible people. All in the span of one overnight trip.

In Albany, at home, I always find myself in this strange role. Does anyone else feel that way? Even though I’m 25 years old, and basically a full adult, I still find myself molding into my old high school self.

And then now, here I am…back in Buffalo, writing this blog post. Today is great – I’m surrounded by friends “doing work” [hey, friends], but in general, I’m not the most thrilled to be back. There are only a few months left, and I will definitely miss some people here, but especially after such an amazing trip to New York, I’m kind of just ready to be there.

But that got me thinking.

In general, I used to think that no matter what setting, I was just myself. The same Michael, regardless of the situation or the people I was around. But I’ve been realizing lately that I am different…not necessarily around different people, but definitely in other places.

At home, I’m happy. It’s good to be home. But my role is very different. In Buffalo, it’s cool…but it’s not the place for me, and my happiness level has plateaued here. And then, visiting a completely new city in hopes of potentially moving there, I realized I am a completely different person. I felt complete in a way. I had the time to be with really good friends that I missed a whole lot, while also feeling fulfilled in (hopefully) doing really well in the interview. I just felt that, for the first time, I was living the life that I wanted. This potential job would be amazing, having a consistent group of friends and social supports would also be great, and on top of it all, I was meeting so many new people that I would love to get to know even more.

In another town, I am the same person. In another town, I felt completely different.

“Maybe you just need a change of scenery,” some people have said. But I’m always torn by that. Do I really just need a change of scenery, or am I just running away from a life that I am not completely happy with, and haven’t necessarily put in the effort to make any better?

Who am I? That is a really great question. And through this visiting of other towns, I’ve learned a lot about myself, especially considering that this next step in particular will be choosing the next significant part of my life. I’ve learned that I am someone who needs social support in my life. AKA, friends. I can’t move to another new place where I don’t know anybody and hope for the best. I’ve learned that my next job is important, but it’s not the most important thing. And maybe most importantly, I’ve learned that no matter where I go, I am still myself.

So, regardless the all the other towns, who are you?

 

 

Why Everyone Should Shave Their Head

During the summer of 2011, I shaved my head. I was in the downstairs bathroom gripping the edges of the white porcelain sink and I had this absurd thought of shaving my head. And just like that, I grabbed my dad’s clippers from upstairs and did it in a few smooth motions. My sister saw me with my new self-haircut, and she cried. She was fourteen.

Here is a picture of me in a tree donning my beautiful lime green RA polo in a tree.

shortcare

 

Earlier this week, I had a horrifying dream. I’ll give you the SparkNotes version. A friend of mine was super excited about something, and I was super curious. Then all of a sudden, she says, “We should shave your head!!” And of course, in this dream, I replied just as enthusiastically…”Yes! Of course we should!” Now, I thought it would be one of those situations where someone invites you out to coffee, but never actually intends to follow up…we’ve all been there, right? Well, to my surprise, my friend pulls out the clippers right on the spot and I start freaking the frick out. I’m crying – sobbing, really – and fighting against her as hard as I can to not have my head shaved.

The end result? I looked something like this:

barbie-doll-bad-haircuts-dgaaxnny5jggreuy

As it turns out, according to a dream dictionary, having your hair cut is a sign of success in a new venture or sphere of activity. Could this possibly apply to my upcoming interview at NYU? Let’s hope so.

My interpretation was a little different. Having my head forcibly shaved in this dream meant that it is time for a significant life change – one that I am very consciously resistant to. I know that I am ready for a change, and that it’s time for something new. But as always, transition and change bring stress and challenging times. And while I’m trying my best to be positive, I can’t deny that I have been completely stressed and a tad overwhelmed these past few weeks. Back to my dream, it’s time to cut something loose. Out with the old, in with the new.

As Regina Spektor says in this song,  “Maybe you should cut your own hair / ’cause that would be so funny / it doesn’t cost any money / and it always grow back / hair grows even after you’re dead.”

So many people I know are going through times of transition and change, and let me tell you, it is HARD. I definitely don’t want to diminish the challenges that are associated with these times. But I have some tips to potentially help with the “shaving your head” metaphor.

  1. Maybe you should cut your own hair…
    • Transition and change is difficult. But the first part is accepting it. I need to embrace the fact that by this time six months from now, my life will be 100% completely different. The first step is realizing what you have the power to control, and letting everything else just happen.
  2. …’cause that would be so funny
    • Loosen up a bit. I found myself venting to a friend earlier this week about all my stress, and she laughed out loud and said, “Michael, it’s not that big of a deal.” She even imitated me. And admittedly so, I did sound a bit whiny. We tend to make a bigger deal out of things. Laugh a little bit, it’ll be good for you.
  3. It doesn’t cost any money
    • Cutting your own hair doesn’t cost any money. Change and transition doesn’t have to cause stress. Enjoy the present moment rather than stressing about the hypothetical future that isn’t even in existence yet.
  4. It always grows back, hair grows even after you’re dead
    • You can always change your mind. If you hate your new shaved head, or if it’s a total hack job, it’ll always grow back. In time. Give it time. New perspectives usually come with time, which is never a bad thing.

Now, go shave your head.

 

 

Twentysomething Taste: The Kitchen Sink Frittata

Hey all,

Welcome to another Twentysomething Taste! This week, we’re learning how to make a simple, easy dish that takes (maybe) 15 minutes.

But what’s a frittata? you might ask. Great question. A frittata is an Italian egg-based dish, made mostly with vegetables, cheeses, and meats. This twentysomething spin takes eggs and whatever else you have in the kitchen. So let’s get started!

  1. Preheat the oven to 350F, and crack 2-3 eggs in a bowl.IMG_9591 (002)
  2. Add a splash of milk, salt and pepper, and literally any combination of veggies, meats, and cheeses that you think would taste good. In this case, I used broccoli and feta. Ham and Swiss is also good, you could throw in some mushrooms and onions…literally anything you have. Mix all ingredients together.
  3. Spray a small pan with cooking spray and add the egg mixture (left). Cook in oven for ten minutes (right). Be careful lifting the pan out of the oven…it’ll be hot!
  4. Slice, serve, and enjoy!IMG_9597 (002)

Hello, It’s (the Twentysomething) Me

As all of you MUST know by now, Adele released her newest single, “Hello,” this past week. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, please click here immediately before continuing to read this post.

People all over the world are freaking out about this song. In a good way. “Adele is back!” “What an amazing song!!” “All praise Queen Adele.”

All for valid reasons, and I 100% agree.

But I’ve also heard some push back that I need to address. “It sounds selfish, Adele making this album for herself.” I’m sorry, what?

Adele has said this: “My last record was a break-up record and if I had to label this one I would call it a make-up record. I’m making up with myself.” Well, damn. Isn’t this the pinnacle point of all relationships? Break-up, make-up, repeat. The catch here, which I absolutely love, is that it’s Adele making up with herself. And the whole entire reason I’m writing about this is because of that idea. Yeah, sure, I love the song and it’s been on repeat nonstop all week. But for me, it has a deeper meaning. This isn’t a break-up song. It’s a make-up song.

And speaking unitedly as a group of twentysomethings (and people of all ages, really), I’m going to generalize and say that we all need to embrace this concept. Make up with yourself. The past is the past. What’s done is done. I’m more concerned about looking ahead. Living in the present, yet still being able to move forward. And how can we do that? Make up with the past, and make up with yourself.

In the song, Adele says three simple (yet oh-so-complex phrases) that start with “Hello.” All of which lead to “Hello from the other side.” In my mind, the other side is after we have made up with ourselves…embraced the past, accepted it, and moved forward. So how do why get to the other side? Let’s start by acknowledging the three “Hellos.”

  1. Hello, it’s me.
    • Who are you? This is a real question, not rhetorical. Take out a piece of paper and a pen, and write down five of your most salient identities. For example, I am a son, a brother, a writer, a student affairs professional, and a graduate student. Reflecting on your identity is such an important concept in getting to the other side and in moving forward. Who are you? Who do you want to be? Are those two visions aligning? In order to get to the other side, you need to be able to say, “Hello, it’s me,” in a clear, confident tone. Know who you are, who you want to be, and where you are going.
  2. Hello, can you hear me?
    • Listen to yourself. Can you hear yourself when your intuition is telling you something? I have found this to be especially true in coming to term with your values, especially if you find your own personal values to be changing in ways that you would’ve never thought of before. Just listen to yourself. What feels right for you? Getting to the other side requires a certain amount of self-awareness, and in order to get there, you just need to listen.
  3. Hello, how are you?
    • Self-care. How are you doing? How are you feeling? This one is so so important. After you discover that new sense of self-awareness, think about how you are going to maintain it. If you know that you need to have a challenging conversation, have it. But make sure that you are doing everything you can to take care of yourself first and foremost. Some see it as selfish, I see it as wise.

One last thing: this is a process, people. Getting to the other side is not as easy as One, Two, Three. I think you can hear the pain in Adele’s voice with this new song. AKA, it’s not going to feel easy, but it’s going to feel right.

For more inspiration and everything good, please refer to the letter from Adele herself below:

Adulting is Hard…and Other Tales

I’ve noticed something.

Being a twentysomething is only a phase. You’re probably thinking, Duh, Michael…did you think you would be a twentysomething forever?! Okay, well let me tell you…it FEELS like forever. Not that I’m rushing it, by any means, but to me, being a twentysomething means more than just being between the ages of 20 and 29. With that identity comes a sense of limbo, and that’s the tough part. And even though it is just a phase, there are some side effects that seem to last forever.

I’ve also noticed a new phrase in recent months…and maybe it’s just the new slang (what all the cool kids are saying nowadays) or maybe it only comes as you grow into your mid-twenties, but the phrase is “adulting.” It’s a verb. Specifically, “Adulting is hard!” And it is.

And to commemorate how hard adulting can be, here are five experiences that I don’t think will ever get better, regardless of how old I am.

  1. Laundry
    • I don’t care if I’m 25 or 75. Will laundry ever be a fun task? Especially now that I have to pay for it? Ugh. I feel like laundry should be a right, not a privilege, and at no cost! You all know the moment: hamper overflowing, clothes starting to pile up on the floor…how many pairs of underwear do I have left? Eh, maybe it can wait a couple more days.
  2. Paying Bills
    • I don’t think I know anyone, regardless of their age, who gets excited to pay their bills. Whenever those envelopes start to come in the mail – Verizon, National Grid, Sallie Mae, etc – my heart internally cries a little bit. Goodbye bank account. Yay for being a responsible adult who can pay their bills? But raise your hand if you have a serious side-eye emoji every single time those bills come through.
  3. Weekend Commitments
    • I was up at 7:16am this morning. Just a reminder, it’s SUNDAY. Why? Because I have things to do today. I’m working at my part-time job from 3pm to 11pm, I have to go grocery shopping, meal prep, laundry, AND homework on top of everything else. All before 3pm, and all of which needs to be done before the week starts tomorrow. Can’t we just make a universal law that states weekends are 100% free time for 100% of the people? That would be nice.
  4. Grocery Shopping
    • I have to be honest, I actually really enjoy the act of grocery shopping. I like being able to pick out any food I want, going up and down the aisles, thinking of recipes in my head. But what I don’t love is when the cashier tells me my total and I have to swipe my credit card. Damn, Michael. Do you really eat that much?! I tell myself it’s all good food, and for that, I can’t feel bad about the dollar amount that comes up every. Single. Week. Another thing about grocery shopping is the status of your fridge the day before. Yesterday, for example, my fridge was so empty that there was a tiny echo coming from inside of it. For lunch, I had chicken broth with one poached egg cooked inside…I called it “soup.”
  5. Friendships
    • If you’re a twentysomething, you’ve definitely thought about this one. Friendships as a twentysomething are HARD. During college, everyone seemed to have all this free time, even though everyone always thought they were so busy. And even if everyone really was so busy, at least you lived on the same campus and were able to get coffee once in a while. Maintaining friendships is difficult in this new limbo phase of life, but also making new friends has its own challenges. But I’m not sure it will ever get better. From here on out, friends will always have their own things going on in life, their own people. New friends will still be hard to make, especially as you get older. Quality, not quantity, right?

What Other Tales do you all have? Feel free to share or comment below!