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!

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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.

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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:

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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.”

Building Your Personal Board of Directors

Happy Sunday, again, friends! I have to tell you, this week has felt like seven weeks. Each day has felt longer than the last, and they’ve all felt like a long Monday, which is just the worst. Long story short, it’s been a tough week, folks, but I’m happy now that I am able to sit down for a minute, take a break, enjoy this cup of tea on my couch, and write.

I’ll spare you of the details, but you know that feeling where you’re just meant for something bigger and better? I’ve been getting that a lot this week, which would also imply I am currently feeling quite stuck in my current position.

BUT, I will say, there have been some amazing people who’ve been there to show me some light at the end of this arduous tunnel. In Student Affairs, we have an activity with students called “Building Your Personal Board of Directors.” The student draws a rectangle in the middle of the page with six circles around it, representing chairs that each of their Board members will sit in. We ask:

  • Who sits at this table in your life?
  • How do you decide who gets a coveted spot at this table?
  • Who influences you?
  • How did you decided who to include? To not include?

And so on. This week, I’ve had to think a lot about who is at my own personal Board of Directors table, and frankly, who is not. And the more I learn, the more I realize that deciding who not to include is just as important as who to include. In the words of Leslie Knope, “If you’re gonna act like an ass, I can’t talk to you. Ever.” [On a side note, I started re-watching Parks & Rec, and it’s the best decision I’ve ever made in this high-stress time.]

But it’s the truth. If someone is acting like a jerk, or sucking out all of your energy, or infusing negativity into your day, it’s just going to have to be a big PASS for me from now on. And almost as if the Universe has heard me loud and clear, I’ve started receiving all of this positive energy into my life since making that decision. In addition to this god-awful week, I’ve had so many positive reminders of who should be sitting on my personal Board of Directors, and I am eternally grateful.

  1. First, foremost, and always, my sister. Because her music taste is impeccable, I texted her early in the week asking if she had any recommendations for “stress-free-vibes” music. And within the hour, she had created a playlist for me, titled Stress Free Vibes, with over 100 songs and more than 7 hours of music!! I just love her. I will always need her on my board.
  2. After messaging a friend on Facebook, sharing the latest drama, she immediately invited me over to share a Blue Box meal with her – a home-cooked meal at her apartment! “Bring the wine!” she said, and I happily agreed. She reminded me that I’m not alone, even when it feels like I am.
  3. After texting a friend who lives many hours away, when I was in the thick of it all, I was able to really process and reflect on what was happening, albeit, via text. She reminded me to take some deep breaths, take a walk, and that the Universe was on my side.
  4. I got drinks with a coworker (and friend) this week. It was towards the end of the week, when I probably had built up so much stress that steam was coming out of my ears. With no preface, she popped in my office, “Are you okay? Wanna grab a drink?” Within 5 minutes, we were at the closest bar. She provided validation and affirmation, and made me feel like I was sane again.
  5. If anyone knows me, sharing a cup of coffee with a friend is like the ultimate way to spend my time. And this week, I went into work late so I could spend time with a friend and share a cup of coffee. This friend reminded me of my purpose, where my truth lies, and that if we are truly living our genuine, authentic selves, there’s nothing to worry about. And if we aren’t, we better start thinking of a plan to start living more authentically, because we owe it to ourselves.

We owe it to ourselves to build ourselves up. And in order to do that, we need to pick the people to be on our personal Board of Directors who are going to help us grow and develop, who are going to support us, love us, and just be there.

So thank you, to my Board of Directors. I really needed you this week!

Clearing Your Mind

I have never been very good at meditation. Ever since moving to New York City, I am constantly surrounded by noises – blaring ambulances, screeching taxi cabs, endless conversations buzzing around my head. By the time I’m finally able to sit down at the end of a long, noisy day, the last thing I can do is “clear my mind.” Although, it’s probably the only thing that I should be doing.

This weekend, I travelled upstate to visit family and spend time away from the city. It was…peaceful. Relaxing. Calm. I barely thought about work. And the new noises that surrounded me were chirping birds, warm “hellos” from strangers, and familiar laughter. Upstate, in comparison with New York City, is a whole different world.

And maybe it was a coincidence, but as if by magic, I was finally able to clear my mind this weekend. All the recent stress from work seemed to melt away. I was reminded of the bigger priorities in my life – family, friends, fun. This weekend reminded me of who I truly am, rather than a tensed-up stress-ball (which is how some co-workers might view me, especially in the most recent weeks).

And maybe most importantly, as I was sitting in my local hometown coffee shop, a feeling came over me: I finally felt ready to start writing again.

Since November, I had taken a break from the book that I’ve been trying to write for the past three years. I needed some space from the manuscript. And now, four months later, I feel ready to approach it once more. Call it a coincidence, but I feel like being upstate for the weekend allowed my mind to clear itself, which allowed more room for the things I actually care about. In particular, writing.

Sitting in that coffee shop, I looked up at my boyfriend who was visiting home with me. I said, “I think I’m ready to start writing again…” and for the next hour, I was hunched over my laptop, tapping away eagerly at the keys. New ideas flooded into my mind – breathing life into stale characters and overused plot lines. I suddenly had the motivation to organize the story into a neat outline for myself, which will inherently help me in the future. I am excited to continue this work, but I was also feeling conflicted – why did it take me four months and a trip upstate for me to clear my mind enough to be able to start writing again? And more importantly, when I’m feeling bogged down by the daily life of New York City, how can I make sure that my mind is clear, to make room for bigger and better priorities?

  1. Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff
    • Reflecting now, I realize that most of the space in my mind on a daily basis is taken by things that don’t matter. Other people may think it’s important, but in reality, it’s not that serious. Perfect example: everything at my job. A student emailed me on Thursday (when I was out of the office), asking for something they needed by Saturday. Nothing in my job is life or death, and that student can wait. So, instead of stressing out about it, I’m just going to respond to her tomorrow, Monday, when I’m back in the office. No big deal.
  2. Focus on the Big Stuff
    • I find that since so much of my daily headspace goes to the small stuff, I barely have time to focus on the big stuff. I’d love to write every day, start working out, eating healthy. But instead, it’s easier to sleep in, go to happy hour, and eat mindlessly staring at a computer. Clear your mind of the smaller, less important things, to make room for the big things you want to focus on.
  3. Stop Talking, Start Doing
    • My friend is enrolled in a course on thanatology, or, the study of death and dying. And she has been teaching me an awful lot lately. One lesson that has resonated with me the most is this: We’re all dying, so we might as well start living. We don’t know how much time we have on this earth. We need to make the most of it, and instead of talking about what we want to do, we should just do it.

I’m also learning that accountability is a big part of my motivation and strategy. Eating healthy on my own is always a bust, but when I was doing Whole30 with my boyfriend, it became fun and easy! I asked my mom to text me when she starts working out after work, as a reminder that I need to leave the office and keep to my own workout plan. And with that said, if any of you are looking for an accountability buddy, in anything, I’m interested! Let’s start clearing our minds, focusing on what’s important to us, and creating positive life change for ourselves. It’s about time!

 

 

Folding a Fitted Sheet

When you know a thing, say that you know it; when you do not know a thing, admit that you do not know it. That is knowledge.

-Confucius

This week, as I was endlessly scrolling through my Instagram feed on the train, I came across a picture that actually captured my interest. It wasn’t a random selfie of someone I barely know, or a picture of rooftop drinks, reminding me that I have little to no social life, or even a picture of New York City, reminding me that I should probably get up off my couch.

No, it was a picture of a quote. About a fitted bed sheet.

IMG_5350(photo cred: @mumfordnosonz)

It made me stop my mindless scrolling. Because, well, DAMN! I’ve never seen a more factual statement about being an adult. Or honestly, about a fitted sheet. Honestly, who the hell knows how to fold a fitted sheet, anyway?

I thought about all the stages of my life, of adulthood, that I’ve already lived. When I moved away for college, I thought I was such an adult. And in my defense, it was the most adult I had ever been up until that point. But now, I look back and laugh at that thought, because I was living in a dorm where someone else was paid to take out my trash, I had a full meal plan, and my biggest worry was getting to class on time, which, was maybe a five minute walk from my dorm. I guess I equate “adult” with “independence.” But now, I look at my “adult” life. The older twentysomething adult life. And I see real responsibilities. I see bills, financial debts, stresses at work, expensive living costs…and the list goes on, am I right?

But I wonder, when I’m fifty, will I look back on this time in my twentysomething life and laugh at the thoughts, at the stresses, that I feel now? Will I wish that I was more appreciative of a simpler life?

And although I am still many years away from being a parent, I feel like it’s the same idea. You can read as many parenting books as you’d like, but there’s not one correct way to be a parent. You just have to do the best you can do, and hope that your kid doesn’t turn out to be a melon head. And if they do, I’m sure you’d still love and support them anyway.

It’s a lot like being an adult. I can read (or write) as many twentysomething blogs as I want, but there still isn’t one “correct” way on how to live your life, on how to be an adult. And Lord knows I’m just trying to do my best, hoping that I won’t screw over my future self. Like folding a fitted sheet, I’m sure some people really are knowledgeable in that art. As for my own technique, I never have to worry about that, because I only have one set of sheets. So my fitted sheet is either wrapped around my mattress, or it’s in the washer. No folding necessary. 🙂

And although the fitted sheet quote is slightly terrifying – just imagine, all “adults” are just pretend-adults who have no freaking clue what they are doing – it’s also incredibly liberating. As in, I’m not the only one who still feels like a child playing dress up and trying to catch up with the rest of the adult world?! I’m not the only one who gets confused about life sometimes? There are other people who also don’t really know how to be an adult? Awesome! That’s amazing!

But I think as we continue to learn, we can continue to share bits of information and knowledge with other pretend-adults, so we can all learn something from each other. We are all mini-experts at something, but will never know everything. We continue to learn, grow, and develop into who we are.

And maybe, just maybe, one day I will learn how to fold a fitted sheet.

Pura Vida: Lessons from Costa Rica

Mom Text I received this week: “Dad is giggling at the thought of u with a hammer lol”
Translation, Mom Text to English: “Dad is laughing at the idea of you with a hammer because you are probably the least handy person we know! laughing out loud!”
This week, I spent my time in Quepos, Costa Rica, on an alternative spring break trip, volunteering with ten students and a co-staff advisor. It sounds luxurious – soaking up the sun in Costa Rica, maybe with a nice piña colada – but even with the gorgeous views and blue ocean, it was far from a resort.
Every day, we walked 20 minutes to a boat, took the boat across the river, and then walked another 5 minutes just to get the the Community Center where we were volunteering – and that was just one way! The Community Center is the local place where kids from the community come for after-school activities and English lessons. Our jobs for the week revolved around social and community development. In other words, we painted new murals, planted flowers, and built new hut structures so the kids would have shaded areas to play outside…which is necessary, since in Costa Rica, the sun can easily burn through your skin.

And since gender roles are still rampant in Costa Rica, the women on the trip painted and planted, while the men on the trip were required to lift literal tree trunks and dig two-foot holes for each trunk-post.

holes.gif
So, although I’m sure there were women that were stronger than me on this trip, I found myself with a shovel, a machete, and yes dad, even a hammer.
The end result?
THIS:
Screen Shot 2018-03-15 at 6.29.09 AM.png
WE BUILT THIS. And yes, I am proud!
(We built two of these actually, in just two mornings, I might add…)
If anything, Costa Rica has taught me that I am more capable than I would’ve ever imagined. Back in New York, I suppose I live a relatively pampered life: I go to my stable job with the best view of Washington Square Park, I eat at delicious restaurants, I go home to my (relatively) spacious apartment, I see Broadway shows, I get pedicures. Life is good in New York City.
Yet, with that, I’ve realized that I haven’t exactly been challenging myself while I’ve been there. At first, everything was new, everything was a challenge, but then I became comfortable, and everything plateaued. How am I pushing myself to reach beyond my current capabilities?
I’ve thought about taking piano lessons again, or signing up for Italian classes, or joining a book club or a writing group – I’ve thought about all these opportunities, all these ways to challenge myself – but I’ve never taken part in any them. I guess I’d chalk it up to fear. Fear of failure, fear of not fitting in, fear of unhappiness, regardless of trying.
In Costa Rica, I didn’t have the chance to experience fear in the same way. They said, “You’re building this hut!” I said, “Um, are you sure about that?” They said, “Here’s a hammer, a machete, and literal tree trunks. Good luck!” And I walked away from that experience building not only one, but TWO shaded structures that will make a lasting, positive impact on the community. I surprised myself!
I also learned the value of a team. With me, there were three other students who were all working just as hard, and we were all able to figure it out together.
In Costa Rica, they say “Pura Vida.” Literally, it translates into “Pure Life.” It’s an expression that can be used for everything. Similar expressions might be, “It’s all good,” “Don’t worry be happy,” or “No worries.”
For me, it has put everything in perspective. Because in my opinion, I don’t think that everyone in Costa Rica is easily living their best life, constantly throwing out Pura Vidas. But for them, I think it’s a way to focus on the bigger picture. As in, every inch of my body may be sunburnt, I was bitten by a hundred ants, and I’m in a constant state of sweat, but all in all, in the greater picture of the world, all is good.
Pura Vida.