Living Each Day

New Year’s resolutions are not a new phenomenon. As the sun sets on each year, it is quite common for people to take a step back and reflect the on their past 12 months. That reflection time is often brief and results in a new found dedication to diets, exercise, organization, and other life improvement goals.  This year I took a step beyond making new resolutions.

Rather than just looking back on areas where I fell short, I took time to remember the days I found fulfilling, memorable moments, and all of the fun times I had. I was inspired by a friend (aka I entirely stole his premise) who explained to me at the close of 2014 how he took the time to identify his top 30 days of the year using fulfillment, memorability, and fun as the primary factors.

I found that I had a hard time making a similar list. It is possible that I didn’t dedicate as much time to it as my friend who came up with the exercise while studying for law school finals. Why is it that we are so often struck by great ideas when our focus should be elsewhere? Regardless, I am positive that I had many days and experiences in 2014 that were memorable, fulfilling, and fun; I just couldn’t recall all of them or pinpoint the exact day most occurred. But, I loved the idea of tracking those days and am taking a more thorough approach in 2015.

This year, I am using a very basic spreadsheet to track the most significant event of each of my days whether it be a meeting, a meal shared with friends, or a soccer game on an uncharacteristically warm January day. At the end of the week, I pick a “Best Day.” And from my list of “Best Days of the Week”, I pick a “Best Day of the Month.”  It will be easy come December to pick my “Best Day of 2015” because I will already have it narrowed down to 12 days.

It has been one month since I started this exercise, and already, I am incredibly grateful for it. Here’s why:

  • Even on the most frustrating and tiring days, there is a diamond in the rough. It might be an important lesson learned, but most days it is just the active choice not to let the bad out-shadow the good.
  • If I am ever a key witness in a criminal trial, I will be able to clearly recall my day’s activities. There won’t be any of Serial’s inconsistencies.
  • I love Sundays.

And most importantly, I have been reminded that each day is a gift. The time we have on this earth is precious, and we should use it wisely. Tracking my daily activities has led me to live my life in a more purposeful manner. So, here’s to 2015 and the implementation of pirated ideas!

and,

            That’s All She Wrote

The Truth about being Busy

Everyone is busy. That is a plain and simple truth. I don’t know one person that doesn’t consider them-self busy.The plight of being busy now begins in childhood. Even the youngest of children participate in multiple extra-curricula. By high school, students barely have time to eat dinner with their families, and most are too busy with one activity or another to even consider taking on a part-time job. *As an aside, I worry that many teenagers are missing an important opportunity to develop soft skills and to better prepare themselves to enter the workforce.* Those of us  already in the workforce face a constant barrage of emails and meeting invitations.  But, no matter your age or employment status, each of us is living life, and life has a way of being busy.

We are a society of multi-tasking, over-committers. And what’s even worse, it seems that many people seem to glorify being busy. I think we all know someone who attach some self-importance to being busy. They are the individuals who will spend an entire conversation meticulously telling you either everything they have to do or everything they have just accomplished. Precious moments that could be spent exchanging ideas are wasted on recitations of to-do lists.

I will admit with some embarrassment that there are times that I have been that person talking about my schedule. I don’t feel that being busy elevates me either personally or professionally. In fact on some days, I really begrudge being busy. But, I remember a time shortly after I started working that I would have given anything to have a way to fill my evenings. So on most days, I am grateful to have what I consider a full life, but a full life doesn’t necessarily have to mean a busy life.

A quote that is often attributed to Socrates reads, “beware the bareness of a busy life.” Now, I am unsure of whether Socrates ever said that, but since it is on the internet, I assume it must be true… Regardless of the statement’s origin, it puts forth a sentiment that I entirely subscribe to. A person whose days are full might have a very empty life.

I was especially struck by the distinction between a busy and a full life a few weeks ago while visiting a dear relative who has been a member of a monastery for more than 60 years. The members of this community do not have “busy” lives by modern standards yet their hearts and days seem very full.

Maybe your busyness is fulfilling and life giving, but maybe it isn’t. At the end of the day, I think that as a society we should stop the glorification of “busy.”

and,

            That’s All She Wrote

On New Beginnings

I moved to a small town in my home state and started my first ever, full-time job about a week after my college graduation. I had been so overjoyed to find a job (note this post where I admit to majoring in Political Philosophy and Latin) just a few hours away from home that I had never paused to consider it might be difficult to make new friends or get involved in the community. Looking back, I am grateful that I didn’t because if I had, I don’t know if I would have been brave enough to move.

The first few months were hard. I had gone from living in a sorority house full of friends always on hand to living alone in just one short week. I had spent much of my senior year envisioning what I would do if I had a free evening only to find that free evenings could be awfully hard to fill. The hours from 5pm to 11pm loomed in front of me seeming like an eternity. I had no idea how to go about meeting people and making friends. I was petrified. My office had a few young people, but they were all either married or engaged. In fact, nearly everyone I met seemed to be married, engaged, or in a serious relationship. I would have given anything just to have someone to go to lunch with me.

There were a few benefits to having no local friends. I saved a ton of money; visited home often and both got to know my brother’s girlfriend who later became my sister-in-law and spend time with my grandpa before he passed away; and I learned how beautiful it is to be and to have friends. I will forever be thankful for those long distance friends that spent endless hours on the phone with me both commiserating and assuring me that things would get better, and for my family who always reminded me of all that was good and put up with a fair amount of tears.

As summer turned to fall, I slowly started to make friends thanks to weekend work events and an invitation to play on a volleyball team (“Life in the ‘C’ League” post to come). But, I learned an important lesson along the way—life is what you make it. My summer of mourning became a fall of activity. My tears dried up along with the leaves, and I started building the life I had envisioned. I joined every organization I had an interest in, overcame my fear of arriving at events alone, and I worked hard. I often like to compare my shift in attitude to one of my favorite children’s book, Peter Pan. In the summer, I was convinced that Peter was right when he told Wendy, “don’t grow up it’s a trap,” but by fall I had decided that his comment that “to live would be an awfully big adventure” was  far more accurate.

Now, I am confident that I could start over again, and maybe someday I will. My advice to recent college graduates, or really anyone who finds themselves in a similar situation would be as follows:

  •  Make your home comfortable: You live there now, and whether it is a tiny, loft apartment or a five bedroom house, you deserve to have a happy place to call home.
  •  Get internet or television: Don’t cut yourself off from the outside world. I am not suggesting that you buy the fastest internet or the most extensive cable package, but money spent on basic cable or internet is money well spent. You might be spending a few more evenings at home, and why not make that time more enjoyable? Besides, people bond over television. You might meet somebody you could invite over to watch an awards ceremony or to indulge in a Netflix binge. Who doesn’t love a good Netflix binge?
  • Join a gym: You might meet people there, or you might not. Regardless, working out is a great way to beat the blues.
  • Moreover, be a joiner: Find a group the suits your interests and join it. Organizations are always looking for new members.
  • Be an asker: Do you like going out for drinks or grabbing lunch? Invite people to do those things with you. Sure, they might say no, but maybe they will put forth a counter offer.
  • Married people need friends too: I made the mistake of thinking that anyone in a relationship wouldn’t be interested in being friends with somebody that was single. That is ridiculous. Just because you don’t have the same relationship status doesn’t mean you don’t have all sorts of other things in common.
  • Push your limits: I spent a lot of time just waiting for my situation to change on its own, but that just isn’t how life works. We are in control of our own lives, and sometimes that is uncomfortable. But you never know, extending an invite to a new acquaintance or attending that event where you don’t know anyone could be a game changer

This year marks my third fall. My junior year in the real world has already been markedly full with family (I am now an aunt!), friends both new and old, and graduate school classes. And, one day a few weeks ago, three different people invited me to lunch. New beginnings are difficult, but Peter was right—to live is an awfully big adventure.

and,
That’s All She Wrote

Flat Tires: The first item in a series of things I know nothing about

I found myself on the side of the interstate with a flat tire on a bitterly cold evening last November. As you might imagine, the whole ordeal was fairly unpleasant. I have assembled a few worthwhile tips for others who find themselves, or would like to avoid finding themselves, in a similar situation.

  • Proper Rotation: First and foremost, rotate your tires every other oil change. This is (apparently) vital. The necessity of tire rotation very well might be common knowledge, but I managed to obtain various degrees and numerous other life skills without hide nor hair of tire rotation. I assumed that tires wore evenly. In fact, I still don’t really understand why they wear differently. Physics. Email me if you know because I doubt I will take the time to look it up. I have adopted the “Just Do It” motto when it comes to proper tire rotation.
  • Capable Travel Companions: If you don’t rotate your tires, make sure to choose your travel companions wisely. Consider only traveling with friends who are capable of putting on a spare tire in case of a flat. Fortunately for me, I was traveling with someone who pragmatically changed my tire while I held back tears and called my dad. You will, of course, be indebted to this friend for life, and should rehearse telling the “flat tire” anecdote. It is absolutely vital that you do this individual justice while recounting his or her heroic endeavors. Additionally, it is worth noting that just being male does not ensure the ability to change a tire.
  • New Skill: Like traveling alone? I too understand the call to the open road. To be more accurate, I realize travel companions are not always an option. I suppose that it might not be a bad idea to learn how to change your very own tire. That being said, I have no intention of acquiring this skill. I know my limitations. If I were to change my tire, it would only result in necessary angst over whether or not my tire is about to fall off of my vehicle.
  • AAA: Rather than learning how to put on the ol’ spare, I opted to subscribe to AAA. Membership is the only sure fire way to ensure that the need to utilize its services never arises. However, cancellation of your membership will likely result in immediate vehicular complications.
  • Roll the Dice: How likely are you to actually get a flat tire? Short on cash–doubtful it will happen to you? Then by all means, take your chances.

Take my advice with a grain of salt because, as the title notes, flat tires are just one of the many things I know nothing about.

and,

            That’s All She Wrote

A Latin Lesson

Had I waited until I was in my twenties to attend college, I likely would have chosen a more practical course of study. I may have become an engineer, an accountant, or majored in business administration. But instead, I was eighteen and chose to study Latin and Political Philosophy. Upon learning this, it is clear that people often teeter between thinking I am a high-brow intellectual or a raving idiot. I like to think I fall somewhere in between. Regardless, there is almost always a joke made about how useless Latin is in 2014.  The funny this is, Latin is actually fairly useful. Well, it is at the very least more useful than Political Philosophy…

Latin crops up quite often in our daily vernacular, but our use of it is sloppy at best. There was a time when all schoolchildren studied Latin, but as that is no longer the case, most people don’t realize that they are misusing Latin words. For example, have you ever referred you yourself as an “alum” or to your group of friends as “alums” of an institution? I hear intelligent people do it all the time. Guess what, you are not an alum. Look it up–Webster’s Dictionary defines alum as, “a potassium aluminum sulfate.” Guilty of this mistake? Don’t worry, you’re not the only one. See herehere, and here for just a few news stories that used either “alum” or “alums” in their headlines in the past twelve hours.

To avoid this mistake, keep the below in mind:

  • Alumnus = one man
  • Alumna = one woman
  • Alumni = group of men
  • Alumnae = group of women (pronounced like alumni)
  • Alumni = group of men and women

Whether or not you care, now you know.

and,

That’s All She Wrote

Daily Opportunities

I have a job where I have the opportunity to be both yelled at by people who are frustrated and cried to by people who are desperate. And, I promise that I am not being facetious in my use of the word opportunity. These interactions have not only opened my eyes to the real struggles that so many people grapple with, but they have also helped me realize the type of person that I want to be.

There are two types of people in this world those with real problems and those with fake problems. Each day when I awake and am safe, warm, and know that I will be able to eat, I am grateful that I fall into the latter category. I am privileged that I am faced with the annoyance of having to complete my homework for grad-school, the challenge of finding time to do basic household chores, and the looming fear of always being single.  My issues seem so petty and small when I am talking to people who in pained voices tell me about how they are losing their homes, jobs, or children. It is true that these people might be the catalyst for their own problems, but that fact is really only indicative of other, real problems lurking beneath the surface.

I am often blamed, implored upon, and taken to task on how to best solve challenges that generally are far beyond any help that I am able to give. After a year of being on the receiving end, I have decided that, no matter the situation, there is a basic three-step approach that can be applied to any social interaction.

  • Listen: How often do we allow ourselves to be distracted when friends, family, new acquaintances, or colleagues are trying to relay information to us? I am embarrassed to admit that I used to promptly forget peoples’ names after being introduced.  But in the past year, I have been forced to be an active listener, and for that, I am grateful.  Sometimes all people need is somebody to listen to them and be able to say, “I am so sorry. This sounds like a really challenging situation.” Listening to complete strangers all day long has led me to truly listen when I interact with those people I do know well and actually listening has deepened my relationships.
  • Be Kind: There is very little to be gained in life by being rude or short with people. I have never once felt good about myself after being snarky or snapping at someone. However, I have been proud of myself when I have been patient or bit my tongue when I wanted to be rude or short. Certainly, I stand up for myself if need be, but I try to avoid being petty. There are three areas in which we can be kind: thoughts, words, and actions. Sometimes in life you have to fake it until you make it. I am not suggesting being insincere, but if you choose to be kind in words and actions, kind thoughts will follow. The being is in the             becoming.  Choosing to be kind has brought me peace. Being on the receiving end of rude behavior only reinforces to me that I don’t want to be burdened by that type of behavior.
  • Be Honest: Honesty is the best policy, and honest responses should be delivered with sincerity. I am sure there is something behind the saying, “cheaters never prosper,” but more than that, I want people to tell me the truth. I don’t want to give people false hope, but rather, I want to help in whatever way I can. Sometimes the only way that I can be helpful is by saying, “I am so sorry but this is not something that I am going to be able to help you with.” We should all be honest and not just with others, we also need to be honest with ourselves. The alternative is being dishonest. And, who wants to be known as dishonest?

Taped to my computer on a very professional pink sticky note, I have written a Charles Dickens quote that reads; “have a heart that never hardens, a temper that never tires, and a touch that never hurts.” It serves as a daily reminder to listen, to be patient, and to be kind. It describes the person I want to be not just at work but at all times.

and,

That’s All She Wrote

100 Fewer Friends

Today I have 100 fewer friends, and I am apathetic about the loss. In fact if I am being entirely honest, I feel freer, lighter, and even a little relieved. I realized a while back that a large portion of my “friends” on Facebook are virtually strangers to me—or, I suppose it is more apt to describe them as “virtual” strangers. Scrolling through my newsfeed, I was bombarded by engagement announcements, wedding photos, new babies, new puppies, vacations, funerals, and an assortment of other major life events. Facebook was the sole reason that I was cognizant of these passing occasions. Although generally intrigued by the onslaught of personal information, I found one of the three scenarios to be true: the news had already been shared with me in a more personal manner, I was entirely disinterested, or the updates inspired me to be either judgmental or jealous. At best, it was old news, and at worst, Facebook was making me a small person.

Since I seem to be continually on a self-improvement kick (out of sheer necessity), I took a thirty-day hiatus from Facebook and reflected on what it means to be and have a friend. Our Facebook friend lists are deep and generally include acquaintances from high school, floor-mates from college, and fellow conference attendees from our post-grad lives. But, are these people really our friends? I think that we can all agree that they are not. Friendship is far more than liking flattering photos and remembering to wish people well on their birthdays.

Most of us have a best friend. Some of us are lucky enough to have a handful of close friends that can be entirely relied upon: the childhood friend who knows your entire family and the name of every pet you’ve ever had in chronological order, a smattering of college friends who stuck by your side during both toga parties and late night study sessions, and of course, the friends you make after college who help you navigate your way through adulthood (I am sure that there are other types of friends but this is as far as I have gotten in life). No matter the stage of life they were acquired, my friends are the people that I have laughed with and whose shoulders I have cried on (only the truest of friends love you enough not to complain about mascara stains and runny noses—this is doubly true if you are a female crying to your male friends). They are the people that I have stayed up all night with talking about both everything and nothing at the same time. They are also the people with whom I have been silent. I know my friends’ hopes, their business schemes, and how they plan to make a living if magically transported back to the 14th century (I plan to marry but have some concerns about being freakishly tall). Most importantly, my friends are the people I would do anything for and the people I could ask anything of. It is almost an abuse of rhetoric to use the same word to describe both the individuals to whom we bare our souls and the folks who know little beyond what is included in our “about” section on Facebook. But, thus is life, and I suppose there are more significant battles waiting to be fought.

At the end of my 30 days (and after being mildly chided by a friend who I do not get to see on a daily basis), I reinstalled the Facebook app on my phone. I recognize that it can be a great way to stay in touch with family and friends who live far away, but I decided that I do not need to keep up with people to whom I never talk or who were at the height of our relationships barely acquaintances. Society’s definition of friend might not be as lofty as Aristotle’s (see the Nicomachean Ethics or read a summary of it on the internet), but I think that, at the very least, I should only apply the term to individuals whose successes bring me joy and whose sorrows I am able to mourn. So, today I have 100 fewer “friends.” Do all of my current friends fit my qualifications? Probably not, but I got tired of being on Facebook.

                 and,

            That’s All She Wrote

Surviving Single

I have been out of college for two full years, and if you take that number and divide it by itself you will get the total number of dates that I have been on since graduation, one. In fact, I have had two different jobs and two different apartments but just that one date. I highlight this statistic not to inspire sympathy (but seriously, let me know if you want to set me up with someone) but rather because during my stint in singledom, I have learned a number of life lessons that are worth sharing.

  1. Lesson One: It is never appropriate, no matter the context, to ask a man his credit score. At least, that’s what I have been told. You might think that it is a reasonable question when somebody explains to you that they have bought both a small airplane and a large truck with straight cash. Be warned, everyone that overhears said conversation will not interpret your question as merely logistical intrigue. Go ahead and add credit scores to the list of topics to avoid in casual conversations. But really, what is your credit score if you only pay in cash? Asking for a friend….
  1. Lesson Two: Be wary of feeding male friends that are especially hungry. They will be so immediately grateful that they will wrongly conclude that the two of you are destined to be together. It is just the food talking. Hours later he will come to his senses and remember that the two of you actually drive one another crazy. There is nothing more threatening to the delicate balance of a cross-gender friendship than a well-timed, delicious meal. If you do find it necessary to provide nourishment to your male friends, be sure to prepare distinctly feminine dishes such as kale chips, veggie wraps, or gluten-free pizza. Avoid prime-rib at all cost, and proceed with caution.
  1. Lesson Three: If you have two friends that you think would be perfect for one another, sabotage any potential meeting. You are all going the same sporting event? Buy seats on opposite sides of the arena. Interested in seeing the same movie? Go to different theaters. Their union can only bring angst to your life. If introduced there are three probable outcomes: they have no interest in dating, they date, or they break-up. The first out-come is actually the easiest to deal with. Everybody feels awkward for a few days, and that’s that. The second two options have the potential of being far more disastrous. If they hit it off and date, prepare to spend an inordinate amount of time extensively discussing their relationship with each of your friends. There are a few perks when your friends date: everybody you want to spend time with is actually in the same place, you already like your friend’s significant other, and they might feel eternally indebted to you for setting them up. When your friends date, it is the best of times often followed by the worst of times. There is nothing worse than dealing with the aftermath of your friends’ breakup.
  1. Lesson Four: Remember the above scenarios when your friends suggest setting you up with their best friend/roommate/brother. It might work out, or it might be awful. Either way, don’t forget how your actions are bound to impact those around you. That being said, doesn’t it make far more sense to date someone highly recommended by a trusted friend?Feel free to hazard a guess on how I ended up going on that one date.   #Doublestandard.
  1. Lesson Five: Don’t forget that not all advice is good advice. Always consider the source. It seems intuitive that your male friends would give the best dating advice, but that isn’t always the case. Having male friends that you are comfortable enough with to ask for dating advice sounds great in theory, but in reality, you will have to deal with male friends who feel the need to give you dating advice. In the past few weeks, I have been told to try harder, to try less hard, to go on dates, to turn down dates, and to up my texting game (whatever that means). As it turns out, the road to singldom is paved with well-intentioned, but often misguided, advice.

To survive single, take the above lessons to heart. Already have these down pat? Don’t worry–there are many more faux pas out there waiting to be made.

and,

That’s All She Wrote.