Yes. Sure, why not?

Last night The H and I went on a spontaneous date of sorts to a pop-up shop in Manhattan that was having a sample sale. We’re on the mailing list from a previous purchase, and I had originally thought when I forwarded the email to Andrew we would go this weekend. Saturday we would go a bit out of our way en route to an event in Brooklyn. Sunday we would make an afternoon of going to the shop and stopping by a coffee shop that makes one of our favorite coffee drinks. But then he responded, “Want to go tonight?”

Yes. Sure, why not?

We went. It was fun. We got some great deals on unique items and on the walk home from the subway we tried out a local taco place that I learned about through my volunteer program. All before 8 p.m. The worst part was the added walking on my mysteriously sore calves. (Well not actually mysterious, just more like the “That was a rougher workout than I thought” sore.)

My point is, I said yes to a random trip into Manhattan on a Wednesday night in January after a long day at school. For some people, this is no big deal. Their social life and activity calendar are without boundaries. Since college, I have not been operating this way, which also means it is uncomfortable for me to be open to activities that might keep me out late on a “school night.” I have shows. I plan out our meals for the week. It is a bold move if I went to get groceries and was home after 6:00 p.m. I go to bed at the same time every night. Call it a by-product of living alone in smaller communities, but weeknights are for routine. Maybe it is also PTSD from being in a gazillion activities in high school where walking out the door with Schwan’s chicken patties in-hand was the best we could do some nights? Still, let me repeat, weeknights are for routine. Friday and Saturday are for plans outside the house, eating out, and merriment.

Moving around the country has caught up with this way of life and mindset. Don’t get me wrong, I still LOVE a good night at home with nothing going on. Even more, I LOVE multiple nights in a week where this is the case. Homebody? Sure. As I look back, I can see shifts. In Chicago it was a Craft Club I did with some girlfriends and a volleyball league I randomly joined. In the Bay Area it was working a second job and driving 45 min. one way in traffic to have free dinner with my husband. Currently, in New York it is friends who have life schedules I cannot compete with and realizing that the only way you will be able to get together with them is by going to Brooklyn on a Tuesday. People do things all the time! Social activities aren’t exclusively for Friday and Saturday nights. (Let’s not deny that Fri./Sat. still remain the most popular nights to go out and about for a reason, but still…) 

So, I’ve been trying to say yes, even if it is a conscious, forceful yes.  Many times I still want to say no. But, I truly have no good reason besides my old habits. My old habits are comfortable, yet they prevent me from experiencing my life in a refreshing way. Even after I say yes to things, I often have the “ugh, I don’t want to go” feeling shortly before going. But, I go because it is good for me. And, I almost always am happy I went. I love the people I’m with. I appreciate the experiences I’m having. I’m entertained by how this city always has its switch on “on” mode.  When posed with a social opportunity I need to remember their are 7 nights a week, not just 2. It’s about a growth-mindset, people.

Often we hear or read about how people need to up their stock in their ability to say no. So if you need to work on saying no, say no! I have found this way of thinking helpful over the years in specific settings. Some people probably do have too much going on on their social calendar. But, not me. Moving is helpful to your social scene (maybe harmful?) in the fact that you are rebooting old friendships, hoping for new friendships, and just aren’t as connected to your community to have tons of social offers floating around.

Saying yes has a component of fear, but saying yes also helps be feel more connected.  I’m going to work on saying yes and thank my stars for on-demand, Netflix, Amazon Prime, and HBO GO. (I can’t quit on Grey’s yet, I’ve come this far!)

Yes, I know the kick-ass Shonda Rhymes has a book literally titled Year of Yes. It is in my cart. Looking forward to all the yesses! 

What’s next? Dinner at The H’s work with a friend tonight, with a gift for the friend I’ve been carrying around since mid-Dec. because even when you are up for hanging out on all nights of the week, it is still hard to cross paths. Also, I’m working on being the invitER not the invitee, bonus points!

 

 

 

 

Considering fear.

I am afraid.

After last week’s breaking point, or blogging point, I have been asking myself a lot, “What are you afraid of?”

I tend to ask myself this most often when I am nervous/stressed about an upcoming event/thing/meeting/interview/job. (I realize “thing” is the vaguest of vague, but there are things and then there are things. I’m referring to the things.) I am fearful I will fail. I am fearful I will be disappointed. I am fearful I will be a disappointment.  I’m fearful people won’t like me. I’m fearful that starting or going to whatever it is I’m nervous about will send me into a sleepless spiral of worry, self-doubt, and a chaotic life there I won’t be able to find peace of mind.

Fear comes from confidence…or lack thereof, IMHO  (In my humble opinion). (Or the H is for honest, but I go for humble.)

Since I have not been feeling confident, naturally I am feeling fearful.

So, when I get to that point, to try to get over the fear-hump, I have been trying to ask myself, “What are you afraid of?” And all those things listed above, flicker through my mind – changing scenes depending on the day.

But what will happen if any of those things happen? Maybe nothing. Maybe I will adapt. Maybe I will have a shitty day or week, but I get into a new routine. Maybe I will accept the embarrassment or failure and grow from it.

And, what will happen if I am paralyzed by fear? Again, maybe nothing. But more likely, I won’t adapt. I will flounder. I will be anxious. And I will sure as hell not be feeling confident.

In the ten years since I’ve graduated college, I have done quite a bit and sometimes I sell myself short on that. I’ve been employed, even if not always a “dream job” or the ever-pride-cringing line of, “But I’m not using my degree” has had to be muttered as I shy away from eye-contact. I got an advanced degree in a profession that, while exhausting, was fulfilling and challenging. I got married. I’ve moved three times to vastly different geographic areas, all far (or far-ish) from family and friends. I’ve made new friends and stayed connected to many old friends. I’ve supported my husband in a career-change and pursuing a career opportunity 4 years ago we would’ve LOLed about to your face. I’ve really learned what I like about certain work environments. I’ve learned new skills in areas that I never thought I’d enjoy or be successful in  and how to adapt your skills from one job to the next. Which, P.S., I think is a hallmark of what actually defines your “career”. (Read Amy Pohler’s chapter on this in her book Yes, Please. It is good stuff.) I write all this to show me that the last decade has not been void of confidence, opportunity, risk-taking, growth, or courage.

I have had one specific anecdote related to fear, lack of confidence, etc. that has surfaced many times over the last couple years when I ask myself the question of the hour. When I was 21 and 22 I had a leadership role in a huge student trip for 2 years. This required planning and organization that I was surely ill-equipped for, but yet I did it. I jumped in with out my fear-floatings weighting me down. In a way, I was naïve. Naïve to what it felt like to be living out of fear. Naïve to the way of thinking that, at 10 years older and “wiser”, can freeze my confidence in an instant. That role I held in college was a lot of work, stress, effort, and worry, but I did it. I did it. I miss that type of naïveté. Where your inner-demons haven’t taken as much hold and fear is maybe on your radar, but you don’t let it alter your course.

I do not wish to be myself 10 years ago, that version of me needed a lot of work too. I just admire that version of me who wasn’t operating out of fear. If I have a heavy hand in successfully bussing hundreds of college-aged co-eds to New Orleans over Spring Break, provide hundreds of hours of service in communities, feed them, have a night on Bourbon St., spend an afternoon in Memphis, and get everyone back to class on Monday with all fingers and toes, I can do just about anything, right?

Make some connections, feel comfortable, be confident and remember what you could do at 22.

Confidently.

The last post I wrote, was after a good 10 minute sob sesh on our new couch we purchased this summer from an online retailer, Article. Love the couch! Hate that I cried on it. Not literally ON it, but you get the idea. While tears fueled that post and all the feels were bubbling at the top, I have put the tissue box back on the toilet tank for now.

One of the last things I wrote in my prior post was about confidence. Many people I know struggle with all things confidence-related. Having confidence. Gaining confidence. Keeping confidence. It is a great, empowering feeling to have, but, for me at least, it flickers in and out like loading a video on the good ol’ dial-up modem.

There are many benefits of having a spouse who works for a large company. With our moving “package” from IL to CA we were offered many “add-ons” that would come from what is essentially a moving slush fund. One thing I tried out last year was some career coaching.** Over the course of last year I had several phone calls and emails with a wonderful woman who really led me to explore myself, my interests, my passions. After every conversation we’d have, I would hang up riding a wave of confidence. I could do anything! 

At times it felt more like therapy than a “let’s find you a job” program. Which, I suppose, is good. At least it was good for me. I think career counseling can take on all sorts of forms and purposes. I’m sure some people have very clear goals and have had career experiences that are highly specific and specialized. The approach for them might be different. I’ll be honest and say all the career-related psychotherapy stuff (the surveys, inventories, personality tests) was not new to me because of some of my graduate degree coursework, but they were worth revisiting. INFJ, with slight E tendencies for life!

I wish I could tap into that confidence I felt last year, right now. Moving is haaaaaaaard on one’s confidence.

For some, confidence is a constant. They just don’t operate out of fear (like I think I do)? They have an inflated view of the value they can contribute and don’t get flustered by failure? They really are just kick-ass and amazing?

For me confidence and comfort are correlated. It is extremely difficult for me to be confident in an arena, situation, area where I am not comfortable. I don’t think I am alone in this. So since moving takes your comfort level and puts it into a blender with nuts, bolts, shells, and rocks, it is no wonder my confidence level is a little chunky right now.

Comfort also comes faster if you’re connected. I’m not really connected. I don’t have a regular job where I work with the same people. The H is gone at work a lot (which isn’t bad and I’m not trying to complain…it is just he has work peeps and friends, I do not). I volunteer once a week with a mentor program, but people are always coming and going from their own busy lives and when we’re there it is about the kids. We have friends. Good, solid friends. The old friends, I’m reconnecting with. And the newer friends…they are awesome, but they are newer friends. Ya hear me?

Connected, comfort, confidence.

** The career counselor I worked with was amazing, but was actually the second person I worked with in the program. The first made me feel terrible about myself and challenged me, but not in a good way. So if you are able to or seek out some sort of program, speak up if you do not connect with the person. They are there to challenge you, but also empower you! 

Currently

In the nearly two years since I’ve taken any action on this platform, we’ve moved around the country…twice. I’ve had three different jobs, of which the current one I wouldn’t really call a “job” more of a sometimes-I-work thing.

Currently, I’m substitute teaching. It is flexible. Awesome! There is no take-home work or stress. Great! I’m in small schools with small class sizes. Sweet! I can walk to school within 12 minutes. Fabulous!

I didn’t even look up the last time I posted something to this, but like I said I think it was about 2 years ago. Within that time my husband landed the career opportunity of a lifetime and we YOLOed to California. There, we spent exactly 365 glorious days in the moderate temps with abundant fruit trees, hikes, compost bins, and self-driving cars. I spent the year as a special education assistant at a middle school and, honestly, it was awesome. The district paid really well for the position and I got lucky with a really good co-teacher and group of kids. Plus, the whole outdoor campus thing really got me. Spending 5minutes walking to the office in 70 degree sunshine? Yes, please!

Late last spring, my husband’s work provided us with yet another opportunity. To join the growing office in Manhattan. This is one place I had always said, “I’ll never live there.” But, for some reason, I convinced myself that we should YOLO again. We were both on board and we hurried to do as many California things as possible before we headed to the other coast.

Arriving in the summer and having been out of my “career” for a few years, I was faced, yet again, with a starting-over point job wise. I had some great career-counseling during the course of last year and I had felt empowered to find something that was within my wheel-house once we moved. I had some interviews, nothing panned out. So I decided, for now, I would get my subbing license and get a feel for the area.

So, that’s what I’m doing. Feeling it out. Some days that feels good. Other days, it feels crappy. Regardless, that’s where I’m at. It has been a rough week emotionally coming off the after-Holiday high, and I think that is why I am turning back to this platform. I don’t intend for anyone to ever read this. I just needed to get some stuff down.  In the coming days I hope to write more. As an outlet to the sad and self-defeating thoughts I’m having. As a way to gain perspective and direction as to where I want to go next. And to hopefully regain some confidence and assuredness that I am enough.

 

 

 

Considering – Being Busy

The stank of August has lingered into the first days of September. Much like the body odor that collects on/in the The H’s workout shirts, I try all the remedies, but it still lingers and eventually I just throw them away. I can’t throw the month away, but I can re-purpose it into dust rags. The rest of September will be great, I just know it. There already have been bright moments with friends coming to visit, social gatherings, a full weekend off of work, and fall starting to work its magic.

I have been busy lately, and busyness (at least for me) can sometimes lead to me to throw away – of the little I have – all patience, be hyper-emotional, and overall just a plain ol’ grump. But between the couple of you reading one of you might be thinking, “Well, I like being busy.” Do you really? Or do you like to be consicously occupied?

As my schedule picked up speed over the last month, August kept throwing dirt on the world, and I started working with someone who seems to take pride in being busy all the time, I remembered a wonderful question/comment that I read earlier this summer. I would cite my source, if I remembered where I read it or whose Fbook wall I read it off of. (Hanging preposition, FTW!) Amanda, was it you?

Essentially the question/phrase was, “Is being ‘busy’ something we should be proud of?”

Many times in my life I have thrived off being “busy.” Bouncing from one thing to another, only having time to eat in the car, skipping showers between engagements (oh, don’t pretend like you’re aghast), etc. And a lot of those times, I enjoyed that pace. I wasn’t busy, I was actually meaningfully occupied. I picked up this distinction from this blog, Clarity on Fire. Please go read it now and then return to to this post.

Am I busy or am I meaningfully occupied? Are you busy or are you meaningfully occupied?

After I thought about it, I never have really liked being busy. It is stressful. It makes me emotional. It makes me grouchy. I will never really take pride in being busy again. It is not a description of my life I will give to people to impress them. What I do like is being meaningfully occupied.  As someone who has struggled with being ashamed and embarrassed of being “not too busy” for the last two years of underemployment, I felt lighter after I thought about this whole idea that busy = making you important.

While I’ve stressed, complained, bemoaned, begrudged, and, at times, misty-eyed my way through the last few weeks, this new way of phrasing really has helped me enjoy my free time much more.

The next time you start to answer the proverbial, “How are you?” with, “Busy!” I challenge you to rephrase your answer.

 

 

Considering – Seasons

August has been having a bit of a ‘tude. (Short for attitude if you never had a parent, teacher, or coach get right of the “atti” for you.)

I’m fortunate enough, dare I say blessed, that most of the punches and bitch slaps August has dealt out haven’t left their mark on my cheek. But for many other friends and colleagues of mine, August took their lunch money and ran. Miscarriage, deaths, health issues, accidents, colossal career shifts…and it is only August 15.

I pray for no more pending doom in the coming weeks. Actually, I pray for no more pending doom all the time.

Adjust your attitude August! Why are you so mad at the world? Is it because you are used to being hot and humid, and this year you are mild and bearable?

As I was running this morning, I had 3 hours and 7 minutes to mull the month over. (Yes, marathon training is. still. happening.) I thought of all the bad and sad that has happened in the last couple weeks. There is always bad and sad in the world, but sometimes it feels closer.

Closest to home for me was my grandma having a stroke. It was mild, but still shook me up. Farthest from home is Robin Williams, but that was a shock and heartbreaking. In between are a myriad of people I’m connected to, who have had some terrible, really bad, no good days.

It was also 55 degrees out this morning, which was awesome (at least awesome when you are out running many miles). I smiled at August, I still flipped it off, but I smiled. It felt like fall. The changing of the seasons is one of my favorite things about living in the Midwest. To see nature truly take its course and appreciate all the crazy beautiful things that take place when seasons change is a pattern in life I never want to take for granted. Yes, even when what The H called “white death” starts to fall. Usually by the end of one season, I’m ready to move on to the next. Which, biology aside, is a beautiful thing in its own right.

Thinking of the first part of this month and getting a hint of fall led me to reflect on two things. One was a conversation with one of my good friends about this underemployment being a season. Even if the underemployment doesn’t literally change, things around me will change, I will change, and so will the season. I had this conversation with her back in December before we met our husbands for a beer in downtown Denver and before my husband ordered a $36 beer on her tab. All in all, a memorable evening for me.

Secondly, since that conversation with my friend has stuck in my mind and heart for a while now, I also have started to munch on some flakes of feel-good, uplifting, vocation-minded genius from the book Let Your Life Speak by Parker Palmer. (Palmer, uninterestingly enough to anyone I did not go to college with, was a professor at the rival school across the river in the small Minnesotan town where I went to college.) As you might have guessed, this was a book I read in college for a class. We all know the vast majority of those textbooks we bought in college were either: a) resold right after your class finished to a mysterious company with a table in your student commons for an embarrassing amount (but hey, it was cash!). b) You thought, “I’ll use this! or “This will help me at my job”, and, in reality, they made your moving boxes extremely heavy and collected dust for years, there whereabouts currently unknown. c) You had the same thoughts as above, but your parents’ had a basement and large, empty, Rubbermaid tubs. Thanks, mom and dad! d) You were some sort of Suma Juma Cuma Lade graduate who devised a complete business plan to maximize your profit selling your books, which included setting up your own online store, and you are still living off those sales. e) eBay.

Personally I am part a, part b, part c, part e. When I was home in May, I finally said, “I hate trees!”, and I threw away what were, at one time, hundreds of dollars worth of textbooks. (Stop judging because I didn’t recycle them. Limited options in a cornfield, people, and sometimes you just need to purge with no conscience. But not before I sold two more for $40 each, 7 years out of college. Um Yah Yah!

This anecdote all leads to me telling you this. That book by Parker Palmer — I will keep that one. I remember reading it. (It is very short, so I can truthfully say I read it all!) I remember wanting to highlight/underline every single line of every paragraph. Which, when a book is so small, looks quite ridiculous.

This book changed how I thought of my life. When I was a sophomore in college I was consciously unhappy. I’m sure I had been unhappy or had a bad day before then, but I was in a state of perpetual unhappiness. Depression? Yes, but self-diagnosed now that I have a graduate degree in a mental health field, yes. But to know for sure, I cannot say. Regardless, I got through that season. I didn’t really think much about how I got through it, I just knew I went to Ecuador for a Spanish class in January and when I came back, I was happy. The sassy ones of you are saying, “Well you did literally change seasons by going and living on the equator.” Yes, I literally changed seasons.

I didn’t end up encountering this book until I was a senior taking one of my few remaining required credits. Here are some of the excerpts that I helped me be more aware of the present stage in my life.

“Before you tell your life what you intend to do with it, listen for what it intends to do with you. Before you tell your life what truths and values you have decided to live up to, let your life tell you what truths you embody, what values you represent.”

“We are exploring together. We are cultivating a garden together, backs to the sun. The question is a hoe in our hands and we are digging beneath the hard and crusty surface to the rich humus of our lives.”

“In my own life, as winters turn into spring, I find it not only hard to cope with mud but also hard to credit the small harbingers of larger life to come, hard to hope until the outcome is secure. Spring teaches me to look more carefully for the green stems of possibility; for the intuitive hunch that may turn into a larger insight, for the glance or touch that may thaw a frozen relationship, for the stranger’s act of kindness that makes the world seem hospitable again.”

So, August, this is to remind you that you still stuck right now, but remember you are a season.

Since the last post, I believe!

 

After 36 hours of travel, a hand-painted nail polish sign awaited.
After 36 hours of travel, a hand-painted nail polish sign awaited. We were in Brazil!

Since my last post, a LOT has happened. The first 55ish hours of our trip were terrible. See the following tweets for a review. Or read this if you have no clue what I’m talking about.

I have a note going on my phone listing things that I wanted to make sure to remember about our trip. Half of these were food related, 1/3rd people/soccer related, 1/6th driving in Brazil related.

I can’t tell you about them all today. I don’t know if I will ever tell you all the stories; in part for brevity’s sake, in part for lackluster blogging dedication, and in part because “you just had to be there.” There were the games (each deserving of their own novel), the adventures of getting to the games (e.g. a city of 3+ million flooding), cow carcass in the back of a fiat, sunburns, coconuts, random meetings 0f mutual friends, caipirinhas, our favorite local hangout (nicknamed The Triangle), how Brazil literally shuts down before, during, and after their own games, and some of the best people watching I’ve ever encountered.

One part of the trip I was disappointed with, was our lack of foresight into the amazing wardrobe decisions we could have made to be model citizens and highly increase our odds of getting on TV. I mean we were normal, RWB-wearing fans. We blended in. Which was fine, until you saw the AMAZING patriotic gear that people had saved since the 80s, found at a thrift-shop, purchased at a costume shop, sewn at home. My sister and I did our best to up our game for the last match. I think we succeeded considering the size of the beach town we were staying in and that (gasp!) Brazil really only cares about you wearing things that are yellow, green, and blue and not RWB.

Here are a few pictures to set the scene; with the hope of inspiring you to be a soccer fan tomorrow or for eternity (or for every four years),  motivating you to find the most in-your-face RWB outfit to wear tomorrow, and pumping you up to do the “I Believe” chant even if you are all alone watching the game like I  will be. Even if you don’t have stars and stripes spandex, don’t want to paint your face, don’t have time to rent a Lady Liberty costume tonight, don’t have a US soccer shirt, or don’t have any idea of the rules of soccer, there is at least one piece of clothing that has RWB on it in your closet. And if that fails, just hit up Old Navy and get one of those tastefully cheap 4th of July tees they sell every year. Think of it as an investment because US Soccer is a bigger deal now than ever! If you aren’t on the bandwagon, jump on! Seriously, if you think it is dumb or don’t care, you are unAmerican right now. I mean it is the week of the 4th of July. If you can get excited about fireworks and hot dogs, you can get excited about tomorrow’s game. They are actually very similar, loud, exciting, hot buns, drunk people, and full of flops. (Think about an uncooked hot dog…it is floppy.)

(If you haven’t caught on, RWB = red, white, and blue. Get with it!)

If you, like my family, have been US soccer fans since Alexi Lalas and Cobi Jones you won’t need these pictures to motivate you.  Regardless, it is fun to be reminded how it really is fun to be enthusiastic, to be a crazy fan, and to love the cheesiness, yet meaningfulness of phrases  like “One nation, one team” or “I believe that we will win.”

These pictures are limited in scope. Many outfits passed before our eyes before I could get out the camera and have gone to live in fan-costume glory.

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Yes, that is the Declaration of Independence and the US Capitol.
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Showing leg is always patriotic. As is not wearing a shirt, aparently.
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Who wears short shorts? American men wear short shorts.
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Gotta love a good Abe mask. Especially when it creeps people out walking behind you.
Patriotic Starter jacket. For. The. Win.
Goalsevelt meets other Presidents
The men gathering here are the men below. Teddy Goalsevelt, in particular, has become an instant hit. Read his quote below. And he’s from Chicago!
Mt. Rushmore and some dude
Mt. Rushmore?
Teddy Goalsevelt
Teddy on his sudden popularity and fame from They Daily Beast.  “Surprised is hardly the word,” he said. “I’m just one of literally hundreds people down here dressed in really amazing patriotic gear. I’m just the lucky dummy they cut to after scoring the goal.” D’Amico has been travelling to Team USA matches for years, albeit to far less exotic destinations than the Amazon—Kansas City and Columbus, for example. There, he was inspired by all the fans who are wearing “these amazing getups that they love.” He pointed out that every match has multiple colonial soldiers in tricorner hats and a guy dressed as a World War II fighter pilot.
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Another Abe. Where’s Waldo? And what is he hiding in his spandex?
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Plenty of flag-as-a-skirt wearers + facy/body/chest paint. We just happen to know many of the people this guy knows in Iowa.

 And then there is us and some Germans.

The soccer ball headwear was a hit! Not bad for supplies from a birthday party store!
Panchos were a necessary fashion statement for the hours leading up to US vs. Germany.
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And while not a US fan, this was the BEST transportation we saw. And, this was on the main road then went downtown in a town of around 1 million. Because it is Brazil.

Go USA! I believe!