#Timesup: A Challenge

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“I have to ask, is your ass real?”聽 “Send me a pic of the magical booty” “I just really want your body” “I just want to see it”.
The above quotes are actual text messages sent to me from men either right out of the gate or after one or two dates.聽 It’s so common that it didn’t even occur to me to get mad about it until I told one of my friends about the latest guy, and how he wanted to “enjoy each other once or twice and then go our separate ways” after I told him that I didn’t really want to continue seeing him.聽 I rolled my eyes at the message and shared it for a laugh, but she got pissed.
“What the fuck!聽 What is wrong with men these days?聽 Whatever happened to a gentleman??” she fumed.聽 And her anger slapped me into reality.聽 These men could care less about me, who I am, or what I’m about.聽 All they see is I have a pretty face and a Kim Kardashian ass which is all they need to know to kick-start their lust and their bold messages.
The amount of talk surrounding the #metoo movement and Oprah Winfrey’s speech is sorely needed and long overdue.聽 To be fair, I don’t know of a woman who doesn’t appreciate a good compliment, but the amount of focus on our physical looks is complete bullshit.
I looked up a relevant definition:聽ob路jec路ti路fi路ca路tion;聽noun;聽the action of degrading someone to the status of a mere object.
“A mere Object”.聽 An OBJECT.聽 Non-human.聽 Non-living.聽 Non-worthy.聽 Most of all, replaceable.

We women have talked about stuff like this in the comfort of our small, intimate circles for forever.聽 “Oh my god, I got whistled at again when I walked by the gas station.”聽 “He totally grabbed my ass when we hugged” “I don’t really feel comfortable, but it’s my job so I can’t really say anything.”聽 聽It’s become a rite of passage; when did you first feel like the subject of a man’s desire?

And as much as it pains me to admit it, woman exacerbate the problem.聽 I can’t even count the amount of times I scroll through Instagram and see booty pics, cleavage shots, and suggestive eye winks staring me in the face.聽 I myself been guilty of choosing pictures to post solely based on the fact that I know my body looks good.

I don’t think that woman should have to hide their bodies, not by a long shot.聽 But there is a difference between classily showcasing your hard work and raunchily baring juuuuust enough where men feel confident sliding into your DM’s, knowing that they won’t be rebuffed.

Where has respect for ourselves gone?聽 I know without a doubt that the reason that so many men take the objectification route is because a lot of the time, it works.聽 I used to be the girl that thought she had to comply with whatever a man said just so that they would like me.聽 I found out the hard way, though, that once you give in, they simply move on.

Girls who give in have, sadly, become a dime a dozen.聽 And it’s not just because the amount of ‘easy’ woman have risen; how can we expect a girl to grow up knowing her worth when the only examples of men she has around her are the root cause of the problem?聽 When her dad is physically or mentally absent?聽 When she has 5 other half-siblings from 3 different women? When every other woman around her sees the objectification as status quo or worse, as a badge of honor??

As a gender, we need to give each other the strength to take a stand and demand the respect that any human deserves.聽 We need to applaud woman who have the courage to post makeup free and truly candid shots where their thighs might be squished or their face might be on their ‘bad side’.聽 We need to focus our comments more on how amazing their personality is or how awesome it is that they are helping out at home while their mom is recovering or how cool it is that they choose not to drink because it’s healthy.

Even typing out the above paragraph felt cheesy.聽 “Hurdy hur, I’m telling people to focus on inner beauty, I’m a nerd”.聽 THAT is how much sexualization has penetrated our inner selves–I can’t even urge my readers to focus on better things without feeling weird about it.聽 And that is exactly why all of this bullshit HAS to change.

And so, I have a challenge for myself, and a challenge for you:

Stop focusing so much on your body.聽 I know that you do.聽 There has not been one day that has gone by in the last 15 years where I have not had a negative thought about my body as a whole or in part.聽 Not ONE.聽 Where on earth has this thought pattern gotten me?聽 A rollercoaster of weight loss and weight gain, and even at my skinniest I never once was satisfied.聽 Focusing on your health and wellness and FEELING AMAZING should be where your focus is laser-pointed; the physical part will simply naturally follow.

Stop complimenting only the physical.聽 It’s so easy to do: “Nice boots!” “Omg I LOVE your haircut!” “You look so cute today!”.聽 These comments never fail to give a little ego boost, to be sure.聽 Yet how awesome is it if you hear something like聽“Wow, you are a really awesome mother.” “I really appreciated your help today, you made my morning so much less stressful.”聽 “I love how patient you are-you inspire me!”.

Stop comparing your body with others’.聽 This has become widespread with the rise of social media.聽 This girl’s bum is wayyyy more toned.聽 This girl’s hair is SO BOUNCY.聽 This girl’s stomach is so freakin’ flat.聽 But fast forward 50 years, and we are all going to be in the same state: wrinkled, grey, and playing Parcheesi with our fellow retired neighbors in our Florida condo.聽 Let’s seriously…SERIOUSLY…stop this bullshit.聽 It serves zero purpose.

Our bodies and our minds should both be at their healthiest state the majority of the time.聽 And when our inner self is full of positivity, the negativity from the world seems to have less of a hold on us.聽 The final step is to share that positivity with others, regardless of what might be thrown our way.聽 If WE start spreading how awesome we are rather than how sexy we are, the world will take notice.

Be positive.聽 Be helpful.聽 Be healthy.聽 Be YOU.聽 Inspire others to be the same.聽 And most of all, know that #timesup will continue to manifest into reality only if we relentlessly show that it is a valid movement.

Let’s do this!

 

The Paradox of “Breaks”

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As I prepared to write this post, I commented to my friend that “I don’t even know what I want to write about…I’m mentally exhausted.” And then, with a self-deprecating tone, followed up with: “…..from break.聽 I’m mentally exhausted from winter break.聽 What the fuck.”

It sounds ridiculous.聽 Yet it’s very true–I have had two glorious weeks off of my routine; gallivanting around during the weekdays, visiting friends, indulging in way too many adult beverages, sleeping in past 6am EVERY day, and generally being the most productively unproductive that I could be each and every day.

I know for an absolute fact, however, that I could not live my Winter Break lifestyle on a regular basis.聽 Don’t get me wrong, it was amazing to be able to do whatever I wanted for the last fortnight, but there is a part of me that is really excited to get back to my routine.

And the thing is, the very word “break” conotates that it is temporary.聽 If you are ‘breaking’, you are not fully stopping whatever journey you are on, you are simply taking a pause.

Taking a break from the regular makes you appreciate the day-to-day sameness that much more.聽 Right now, I am actually looking forward to get my gym time in at 5am every day.聽 I’m looking forward to my football and kickball games in the evenings.聽 I’m looking forward to having the school day structure when I can eat and (more importantly) when I can’t.

Before break, the routine was good, but it was getting old, which is why it’s so important to take the chances you get to go completely off-book: it helps you appreciate the playwright’s genius that much more.

It makes me curious, though, why having complete freedom for an extended period of time leaves you feeling crappier than restricted freedom?聽 Being held to a certain schedule, in theory, would be more aggravating than being able to choose from limitless options every minute of the day, yet I can say with certainty that it is not.

Personally, I think that routine is not the enemy, and is in fact our greatest asset.聽 I highly doubt any person who has accomplished anything of note wakes up every day and chooses their schedule willy-nilly.聽 The times that I have been most successful are when I had a strict routine and was actually pretty busy with multiple things in my life.聽 As the saying goes “if you want something done, give it to a busy person.”

More evidence for this fact comes from this break; I had a list of 3 major things I wanted to cross off my list because I had SO MUCH free time.聽 Guess how many of them I got done?聽 If you guessed all of them, you would be off by three. *slow head shaking*

However, I am actually glad that I was unproductive over winter recess, as I feel like it truly allowed me to actually TAKE. A. BREAK. and give my brain a chance to rest.聽 Now that I am staring down the barrel of a regular, routine-filled week, I am excited to fit in more of my goal-oriented tasks along with my must-do’s; it doesn’t feel forced, and it doesn’t feel overwhelming.聽 I’m good to go.

On a related note, I’ve also been thinking a lot about resting on a more minor, daily scale.聽 Purposeful breaks like meditation, reflection, mental preparation.聽 There are many times when I have 10 or 20 minutes here or there, and instead of viewing it as time I could use productively, I simply scroll through my Instagram, catch up on Facebook, or mindlessly swipe on Bumble.聽 Those things may be a ‘break’ in theory, and they are definitely not bad some of the time, but they should not be the go-to’s.

It is so important to give our minds a productive respite when we get really busy.聽 It’s easy to run on ambition for days or even weeks at a time, but to make continual, steady progress it is critical to refuel.

For some reason, however, it is quite hard to take these long and/or short breaks without feeling guilty if you are a person who prides themself on being productive.聽 It took me almost all of winter break to relax into the idea that it was ok to watch TV for the night, or to sleep in until 8, or to just go on a run instead of driving to the gym.聽 Yet because I did finally embrace it, I got to actually enjoy it AND I’m excited to start up the grind again.

There is no shame in shoving everything to the back burner for a period of time (key word: ‘period of’, not, ‘the rest of’).聽 If you get the opportunity to do so, sink into it wholeheartedly.聽 And if you aren’t lucky enough to be a teacher, make sure that you are taking your vacation days seriously as well as building in other breaks into your week so that you can fully take advantage of the days that you have to be ON with a full throttle.

In a nutshell, milk every part of life for everything it’s got; be FULLY lazy when you can be, be FULLY engaged when you need to be, be FULLY productive when you should be, and be FULLY happy in every moment.聽 We are only given so many minutes in a day, and while there is no magic ratio of how to spend them on certain tasks, make sure that you get the most out of each one.

 

2017 Reflections

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This, my 79th blog post, will be the last addition to the blog in 2017.聽 It’s hard to believe that I started this blog a full YEAR ago, publishing my first 432 words on January 2nd, 2017. As I was re-reading that first post, “The Optimization Operation“, I was struck by how much my simple site has evolved over the past year.

Since its inception, this project of mine has gone from “The Optimization Operation” to simply “Hannah Elizabeth.”聽 I’ve gone from 500 word posts to a standard 1000 words.聽 I have attended the BlogHer conference and gained a lot of interesting and useful knowledge.聽 My struggle for two weekly updates has settled into one.聽 My posts have been viewed as little as 8 times and as much as 165 times.聽 I’ve gained 71 followers.聽 I’ve received numerous compliments on my writing. Most of all, I’ve created something that I’m proud of.

When I first started this blog, I was determined to change my life around at a rapid-fire pace.聽 The idea of “optimization” seemed like something that would be noble to strive for, kicking me into high gear as I raced towards this always-out-of-reach goal of greatness.

However, it has morphed into more of a reflection space, a place where I can sort out what I think about certain things in my life and in the world, and hopefully help other people sort out what they think too.

As I look back on where I started the year, I’m honestly a little bit disappointed at where I ended up.聽 I feel like my projections of grandeur have dissolved into simple, ordinary life with no proof of concept.聽 I reached for the moon, and when I missed, I plummeted past the stars and slammed into Arkansas, and then built a hut and lived there whilst muttering about how the stars don’t shine that brightly anyways.

A bit of an exaggeration to be sure, but after re-reading how fresh and eager I was at the beginning of the year, I can’t help but be a bit disappointed in what little results I feel that I’ve produced.

A couple of days ago, I sat down with my notebook and wrote notes on every aspect of my life—teaching, fitness, dating, personal—and thought about what I have done well and what I have sucked at.聽 What I realized is, that this sort of activity should take place at least once a week because HOLY COW it was incredibly useful.

It’s amazing to me how much we put off creating habits that will benefit us.聽 Hmmm, I have ten minutes to spare…I could think about my day and pre-think through some things, or I can just scroll through Instagram…yeah, I need to catch up on puppy memes.聽 I find myself mindlessly doing shit like that ALL. THE. TIME.聽 And honestly, it’s not even a struggle because the thought of being productive for a spare 10-20 minutes doesn’t even usually cross my mind.聽 Which is completely sad…and completely normal for most people in the world.

Even though I am not religious anymore, as I try to steer myself towards a place of productivity and growth, I can see the benefits of religious practices: finding a daily quiet place for reflection and prayer/meditation, focusing on things of a higher nature both morning and night, living for a higher purpose….all of these things lead to a deep, calming centeredness and sure, steady steps towards the end goal.

With the realization that you cannot keep your engine turbo charged at all times without stopping to clean and rest and rebuild, my focus moving towards 2018 is going to be one of deliberate reflection, renewal, and movement:

  1. I will meditate for 10 minutes a day.
  2. I will set aside time every week for reflection on all aspects of my life.
  3. I will create a mantra for myself that I put on my bathroom mirror and repeat every morning and every night.
  4. I will take the time to create a vision board.
  5. I will utilize the Power List created by Andy Frisella (if you don’t listen to his podcast, check it out!)

This list contains only 5 things.聽 But they are ALL new habits.聽 And as easy as bad habits are to form, good habits are like sparks if you don’t have the proper plan: bright for a second and vanishing fast.

And so, I need a plan:

  1. Meditation:聽 I will set a reminder on my phone at 4pm, the time I usually arrive home from school.聽 I will do my utmost to not allow myself to do anything else until I have meditated.
  2. Reflection.聽 I will write this into my calendar (which I use on a daily basis).聽 I will also purchase a notebook to be used only for these weekly reflections.
  3. Mantra: I will put time and thought into creating these words that I will tell myself.聽 They will be put on the mirror where my face usually goes when I open the door.
  4. Vision Board:聽 I will go to Barnes and Noble and purchase several magazines that contain the message I want to send myself.聽 I will pin them to the bulletin board I already own.
  5. Power List:聽 Starting January first (basic, I know), I will utilize my reflection notebook for creating my daily power lists.聽 I will also put the first three items from this list onto my power list until they become habits.

If you notice, my plan for action includes things that will ENCOURAGE and make it EASIER for me to complete these daily habits.聽 They are in no way a GUARANTEE of success.聽 What this means is that it all comes down to me.聽 How bad do I want to improve?聽 How much do I want to succeed?聽 How many times am I willing to fail and give it another try tomorrow?聽 How long am I willing to struggle with it until it becomes easy?

There is no one path to success.聽 We are all just trying to figure it out, one messy step at a time.聽 But the armies who have a plan ultimately triumph over fools who grab a torch and run screaming into battle.

Last year, I was the fool.聽 This year, I will be the victor.

What about you?

What is Love? (Baby, Don’t Hurt Me)

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Currently, it is 10:30am on Christmas morning and I am sitting in my apartment, alone, preparing to write a blog post about love.聽 #situationalirony (yes, there are different types of irony–go look it up).

I thought that I wouldn’t mind being alone for Christmas–and technically, I’m not.聽 I just got back from breakfast with a former student and her mom, I’m have Christmas lunch with my friend and HER mom, and I’m eating dinner with on of the girls I met through football—so pretty much the opposite of alone.

But even with my full schedule, I still feel, well, ALONE.聽 I absolutely love all of my connections that I have made in California, but I nonetheless feel at times like I am sitting on the sidelines and watching people live rather than fully participating in the life that I have envisioned for myself.

Obviously, holidays can suck for single people such as myself simply because of that reason–seemingly every other person is posting adorable pictures with their significant other, or hilarious family moments, or innocent-yet-enviable posts of holiday cheer.聽 Even though I am very happy with nearly everything in my life just the way it is, I still have felt a twinge of “I want that” with nearly every scroll for the past couple of days.

Which, of course, leads me to contemplate WHY.聽 Why is this something that I envy?聽 Why do I feel that rush of impatience?

Especially since I could, with recent events, potentially have that.

This potential comes in the form of a former NFL player who I recently met on Bumble during one of my “lets reinstall this because I’m bored” forays at the car dealership.聽 I have seen him several times over the past couple of weeks, and on paper, he seems perfect: former glamorous career (Superbowl ring and all), great current job, tall, muscular, plays piano, gentleman, world traveler, loves adventures, and on and on.聽 The cherry on top?聽 He is head over heels for me and thinks that I am the hottest, most amazing girl he’s ever dated and can’t wait for any time we spend together.

Perfection.

Or so it SHOULD be.聽 For some reason unbeknownst to me, I am not quite following his headlong charge in Loveland.聽 My girlfriends think I’m crazy, and this whole internal waffling back and forth has caused me to do some serious soul-searching and head-scratching over the past couple of days.聽 Why on EARTH am I not allowing myself to get swept away?聽 What is wrong with me that I can’t be thanking the universe for sending me the man I’ve always wanted?

After a lot of thinking, I’ve realized that it’s “the spark”.聽 The magical, elusive, stereotypical flutters that appear in cartoons as floating hearts and romantic comedies as gigantic smiles and last minute airport chases.聽 In this man, I have everything I would ever want….except, so far, that spark.

I was talking to my friend briefly about it, and she pointed out that I could always grow to love this guy and that my relationship with him would be very safe-and that I want a man who chooses to pursue me.聽 All very well and good.

But there’s a part of me, deep down, that digs in my heels.聽 As much as I want to be pursued and adored, I want it to happen with a guy that I ALSO want to pursue and adore.

In my last relationship, I had a gigantic smile stretched across my face every. single. time I was driving down to see him.聽 The moment I knocked on the door, giant butterflies burst from my chest and flew wildly around from the anticipation of the lock click and hinge creak as the door opened to reveal my favorite person.

And the thing is, on paper, this person was completely wrong for me.聽 Always busy, focused on his own thing, hardly any time to spend with me, made me question his feelings for the first half of our relationship, never paid a dime over his half when we went on ‘dates’, and overall was kind of a douche in several different aspects of our relationship.

And yet….those damn butterflies.

And so, I find myself being pulled in two completely different directions.聽 One side of me is shaking its head that I would even CONSIDER leaving someone so seemingly perfect-because realistically, those butterflies still have time to manifest–the relationship is still quite new.聽 And the other side…the other side is digging in its heels and screaming bloody murder at the thought of settling for anything less than an explosion.

What sucks is, I know that there is no right answer for everyone…there is only the right answer for me.聽 There are several marriages that are built on solid ground where the only sparks that fly are on the Fourth of July.聽 And there are other relationships where you can hardly stand next to the couple because they give off so much heat.聽 Both types seem happy in their own way.

As I approach my 30’s at a seemingly breakneck speed, I feel more and more pressure to chose the path of least resistance.聽 Stay the course.聽 Choose safety.聽 Stay boring.

Yet I’ve always been a stubborn, headstrong, don’t-tell-me-what-the-fuck-to-do type of girl.聽 And I have an inner voice telling me that the path more trodden is just not my path.

Robert Frost tells us that the road less traveled makes all the difference.聽 So many people nod sagely at the Greats when they tell us to be daring, be bold, seize the day!聽 Yet when it comes to actually doing so, throats are cleared, feet shift uncomfortably, and no one actually makes a move.

I refuse to settle for less than the heart pounding, grinning, jump-into-his-arms-and-wrap-my-legs-around-his-waist love.聽 I have to believe I can find that with someone who also offers the other qualities as well.聽 Maybe the guy I’m seeing now will call up some butterflies if I give him a chance.聽 And if at the end of the day I don’t end up finding that?聽 I suppose I’ll have a lot of fun looking.

Merry Christmas, everyone!

The Infamous Flow

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Lately I’ve been perusing the endless possibilities of Bumble.聽 I’ve been on several dates, none of which (obviously) have manifested into the love of my life, but they’ve mostly all been interesting albeit a let down when it doesn’t move forward, especially because I actually enjoy meeting random people and hearing their perspective on life.

One date in particular, recently, was a bit of a disappointment.聽 We met on Thursday, had sushi and some wine, talked for HOURS without pause, and in general had an awesome time.聽 I came home on a high, and excitedly told all my girlfriends what a great time we had had.

A couple of days go by, and no second date invitation seemed to be forthcoming.聽 Determined to not slip silently into Bumble oblivion, I threw out a message saying what a great time I had had, and if he was free Monday or Tuesday, I’d love to get together again.

Crickets.

Needless to say, I was pretty bummed.聽 And immediately fell to analyzing anything that could have gone wrong.聽 Was it because of the holiday weight? (Damn you Christmas Walk cookies!) The zit that had popped up on my face hours prior to the date?聽 The fact that I seemed TOO interested?聽 Not interesting enough?聽 Perhaps because my hair was day-old curls and not fresh ones?聽 I could go on.

Of course, all craziness aside, it just simply comes down to the fact that he, for whatever reason, was not into me. *womp womp*.聽 No matter how much I wish I could capture his affection, I can’t.聽 End of story.

People always tell me to just ‘go with the flow’ and ‘it’ll happen when it’s supposed to happen’.聽 If you know me at all, you know that this seriously goes against my usual M.O.聽 I am (most times) a take charge, get-this-shit-done-NOW, no excuses type of person.聽 Sitting back and allowing love to manifest seems appealing to me; actually waiting for it to happen does not.聽 When I get an idea in my head, I cannot put it off for later; it must be accomplish ASAP.

Yet, as with all great things, you cannot force amazing things to happen; all you can do is put in the ingredients for success, stir it up a bit, and hope that it works.

For example, in teaching, I cannot walk in to the classroom and expect my students to instantly respect and adore me (as much as they totally should *hair toss*).聽 I have to come in and show them that I care.聽 I have to plan lessons that don’t suck.聽 I have to make sure that I listen when they are struggling.聽 I have to make class fun yet productive.聽 All of the ingredients can be carefully portioned out and folded together with a gentle yet masterful hand, and there will still be those days where that one girl in the second row gives you so. much. attitude.聽 Yet despite those few anomalies, if the ingredients are quality, the product will be amazing 9 times out of 10 IF you don’t open the oven every two seconds to check how it’s doing.

Similarly, I also cannot force myself to have the perfect bikini body, as much as I wish I could snap my fingers and look like Kim Kardashian.聽 Instead, I need to stick to my diet, exercise, refrain from alcohol (sob), and trust in that process to slowly change my body, however long it takes.聽 I cannot starve myself for a week and expect miracles.

Likewise, I am now acknowledging (slowly but surely) that I cannot will my perfect person into my life.聽 I simply have to create a more perfect version of myself, solidify what I want, and allow my vibes to permeate the universe and attract someone when they’re meant to come in to my life.

Which low-key DRIVES ME CRAZY.

But throughout all of my dating shenanigans, I have refused to compromise on what I want in a guy.聽 Which I haven’t found yet.聽 And that brings me to my conundrum:聽 how will I find my person if I don’t make SOME effort, yet why am I wasting my time on dates when I need to be focusing on the goals that I have set for myself?聽 How can I attract the right person into my life if I spend all my time looking for the person and not actually building myself into the person that my perfect person would love?

Truthfully, I can’t.聽 I need to take a step back and just….be.聽 And there are times that I do-I go through cycles, like I think that everyone does.

While ruminating on it, I’ve realized that failing at dating seems a lot less scary than failing at my goals.聽 Everyone fails at dating.聽 It’s normal.聽 It’s accepted.聽 It’s expected that date after date will turn into a great big nothingness (until the magical moment that it doesn’t).聽 Yet trying to do things that other people don’t normally do, such a blogging, a podcast, a second side career, writing books…failing that that seems more REAL.聽 More hurtful.聽 More in-your-face.

Not trying isn’t scary at all.聽 It gives you a lot of free time.聽 Yet one of my Bumble dates made a great observation when he said “the world is our oyster”.聽 Why wouldn’t I try to gather as many pearls as I can?

So, in the immortal words of Taylor Swift, I’m going “shake it off, shake it off” and turn my focus to what I want to do that will just be the cherry on top of my already full life.聽 I need to stop the bullshit and simply DO.

And so, dear readers, expect big things in my next year of blogging.聽 I’ll keep you updated, and you can keep me accountable.

2018—you’re MINE.

Growth Opportunities (Alt. Title: F*CKING UP)

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Last week was a WEEK.聽 I had a mix-up with my car servicing on Tuesday, my car got broken into on Wednesday AND I got a parking ticket that same night, and to top it off I got a talking-to at work on Thursday.聽 Needless to say, I was pretty much a mess by the time Friday rolled around.

However, even though almost everything that happened to me cost me quite a bit of money, the thing that upset me the most was getting talked to at work.

A bit of backstory:聽 I transferred to my current school this year because I wanted to move up to a high school and I wanted to get IB trained.聽 I ended up getting assigned 7th, 8th, and 9th grade (not really the high school grade levels I was envisioning) and getting misinformation that I WAS going to be trained, but then ultimately being told that I was not.聽 While I have fallen in love with my kids, I have been pretty grumpy about not being trained in IB since I had made up my mind that that’s what I wanted to do, had asked (and been told yes) several times, and was watching one of my friends prepare to go to training even though I had asked to be put in her position initially.

Needless to say, I am not a quiet person, and so whenever the subject came up I tended to voice my disappointment.聽 This came across as negative to a member of my department, who discussed it with my AP, who then came and discussed it with me.

Now, I am the first to get pissed off when I am approached about something that I don’t feel is right.聽 However, the reason I got so upset is because I knew that this person was actually correct.聽 I HAD been negative.聽 I HAD been dwelling.聽 I HAD made my friend feel bad (who had had no hand in assigning training).聽 I was in the wrong.

This, my friends, is the absolute worst realization ever.聽 I was wrong.聽 I fucked up.聽 I deserved to get a talking-to.

I was a wreck for the rest of the day after that discussion.聽 The silver lining that came out of it was my kids were super concerned about me, and I even got a note from one of them telling me how awesome I was and how sorry she was that I was “in pain” (#thesweetest).

Unfortunately, I can’t go back in the past and unsay everything I said.聽 I can’t go into people’s brains and change whatever impression they may have of me now.聽 I can, however, look at this whole experience as a growth opportunity, and take steps to learn and apply as much as I can.

First, I need to change what I can change.聽 I cannot change the already spoken words, but I can definitely change my attitude and my words that I choose to release in the future.聽 I also already made sure that I apologized to my friend so that I could undo some of the damage my careless words caused.聽 Realizing when you’re wrong sucks SO BAD, but the more important thing is making sure that you go forward armed with the new knowledge and not burdened by it.

Second, I need to apply the lesson to other areas of my life.聽 In this particular instance, I was dwelling on something that I couldn’t change.聽 Are there other areas of my life in which I’m dwelling?聽 Do I know that something is hopeless or not really in the cards and yet I am still ruminating on it and keeping it in my mind?聽 If so, I know that the potential results of that are at the least not promising and the most, disastrous.

Finally, I need to be thankful for the fuckup.聽 This, for me, is the absolute hardest one out of the three.聽 I pride myself on my ability to navigate life with grace and wisdom.聽 And most of the time, I do a fairly decent job.聽 However, this means that rather than a myriad of little stumblings, I have a handful of epic whoppers that bring me to my knees.聽 And yet, these catastrophic episodes of tumbling to the ground teach me so. freaking. much.聽 I can’t waste too much time crying about them, because they are a virtual goldmine of information that I can use to twirl my way through the next span of time (until I once again crash to the ground).

In reality, not one of us will get through life without some sort of fuck-up.聽 And truthfully, the bigger the fuck-up, the more valuable the lesson AND the more likely it is that you are trying to do something great.聽 If you stay in your comfort zone, you will not make mistakes that often.聽 Which feels great-who doesn’t like to be the master of something?聽 But the longer you stay in your area of expertise, the less likely it is that you will keep accomplishing at the rate that you had been previously.

Now, I’m not advocating for you to go try to screw up royally on purpose.聽 But I AM encouraging you to spread your wings and take a risk or two.聽 Don’t beat yourself up when you fail–that is my lesson that I’m still learning.聽 I tell my students all the time that “It’s ok to fail, but it’s not ok not to try”.聽 Honestly, I need to take my own advice.

Try something difficult.聽 Try something new.聽 Try SOMETHING.聽 And when you fail (and you will fail), be grateful for the lesson that it brings.聽 Adjust.聽 Grow.聽 And then, TRY AGAIN.

What is Family, Anyway?

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As I write this blog post I am currently sitting on a plane that is taking me away from one home and towards another.聽 Every year at Thanksgiving I make the aeriel trek home in order to eat some delicious food, see my family, and eat more delicious food.聽 I am never disappointed.

Despite the fact that I love my life in California, I am particularly morose this year as I journey back towards the land of sun and sand.聽 Being together with everyone has reminded me how much we all have grown up (and how much we haven鈥檛) and has made me realize how much I miss out on when I don鈥檛 get to see my siblings for a year at a time.

And yet, even with that year of time between being together in person, I experienced nothing but complete settledness.聽 Even with every single one of us branching out and living lives so completely different from one another, the moment we are back in our childhood house we immediately fall into our relationships with ease.

For those of you who are also able to experience this, how lucky are we?聽 We are able to grow and expand and experience and fall and succeed yet still have a place of safety and ease on which to land and take a break from everything in our regular lives.

The dictionary definition of family is “all the descendants of a common ancestor”.聽 However, this succinct phrasing cannot encompass the true meaning of family; having individuals in your life that you simultaneously love, can’t stand, and every other emotion in-between but overall, can’t imagine your life without.聽 Family means…everything.

FAMILY means acceptance.聽 There are five total children in my immediate clan, and two of them are married (hint: it’s not me).聽 Whoever walks into the door of my parents鈥 house opens a Pandora鈥檚 box of personality types, backgrounds, strengths, and issues.聽 I love so many things about every single person in this eclectic circle, and every single person has a particular way that they can Drive. Me. Up. A. Wall.

Yet, because of the bonds shared since womb-hood, I cannot imagine cutting any of them out of my life.聽 No matter how annoying, stupid, or irresponsible any of them can be, I accept them whole-heartedly.

The great and unbelievable thing about this is, is it is true in reverse.聽 I know 100% that I do and say things that drive my family nuts or rub them the wrong way.聽 There is no possible way to avoid doing so after 28 years of being around the same people.聽 However, I know that no matter what I say or do short of cold-blooded murder, I will never be cast outside of the fold.聽 And there is absolutely no better feeling than that.

FAMILY means constructive criticism.聽 While family may accept your imperfections, they are not averse to putting in their two cents when they feel necessary.聽 Yet in opposition to most criticism thrown around in the world, these thought-provoking comments or conversations spring out of a place of deep love and desire for the best for whoever is receiving the notes.

This Thanksgiving, I had finally gotten fed up with one of my siblings and had snapped a curt retort.聽 My grandma simply stated 鈥渃ool it, you鈥 as she walked past.聽 Straightforward, short, to the point, yet it completely shook me out of my annoyance and made me realize that my vitriol was not necessary.聽 Sometimes a simple reminder from people who love you regardless is just the thing you need to change a negative attitude or a habit.

FAMILY means safety.聽 The reason that I am able to fly so far from the nest of my youth is because I know without the slightest shadow of a doubt that I can always, 100%, rely on my family if I were to need help in any way.聽 Even with all of the pulls on their attention, if I were to ever get so desperate as to need a place to stay, I would have one.聽 If I ever need to vent and not worry about sounding like a Negative Nancy, I can call on any number of ears and take advantage.

Anything and everything that might crop up in life does not seem like a big obstacle because I have access to an incredible network of strong individuals that will do anything in their power to make sure that I am ok.聽 This knowledge is a powerful antidote to any fear or hesitation I might feel over any roadblock I may face.

FAMILY means abnormal normality.聽 My dad has been known to make up short bizarre songs on the spot.聽 My brother decides to speak in random accents at unforeseen times.聽 My sister loves to reference anything I do wrong in her eyes as the act of an 鈥渦ncultured swine鈥.聽 We 100% bust out the Disney songs when we ride in the car, and my voice is usually the loudest one.

All of these quirky, random, non-normal aspects of every single person in the inner circle makes my family, family.聽 Every single family in the world has their weird, zany, creative, off-the-wall, embarrassing habits that they would rather the outside world not know.聽 I say, however, that we should embrace that weirdness as OURS.聽 There is a distinct sense of pride in ownership, and your family deserves that pride as much as your car or your house.

As a teacher, I am privy to the heartbreaking reality that my family situation is rare.聽 There are too many children and adults that go through life without the love, acceptance, criticism, and sense of belonging that they need in order to thrive.

So for those kids and grown-up kids, who is family, anyway, if it鈥檚 not blood?聽 Thankfully, we can still get all of these benefits from families that we build ourselves.聽 Actively seek out people that can offer this support to you, and make sure to offer it in return.

So, if you are in possession of this sense of family, cherish it.聽 If you are not, build it.聽 Life is better with our people, and I think we could all do a little bit more to make sure our people know how awesome they are.

Because honestly, without the bonds of family, what is life, anyway?