2017 Reflections


This, my 79th blog post, will be the last addition to the blog in 2017.  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.”  I’ve gone from 500 word posts to a standard 1000 words.  I have attended the BlogHer conference and gained a lot of interesting and useful knowledge.  My struggle for two weekly updates has settled into one.  My posts have been viewed as little as 8 times and as much as 165 times.  I’ve gained 71 followers.  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.  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.  I feel like my projections of grandeur have dissolved into simple, ordinary life with no proof of concept.  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.  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.  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.  I find myself mindlessly doing shit like that ALL. THE. TIME.  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.  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.  But they are ALL new habits.  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:  I will set a reminder on my phone at 4pm, the time I usually arrive home from school.  I will do my utmost to not allow myself to do anything else until I have meditated.
  2. Reflection.  I will write this into my calendar (which I use on a daily basis).  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.  They will be put on the mirror where my face usually goes when I open the door.
  4. Vision Board:  I will go to Barnes and Noble and purchase several magazines that contain the message I want to send myself.  I will pin them to the bulletin board I already own.
  5. Power List:  Starting January first (basic, I know), I will utilize my reflection notebook for creating my daily power lists.  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.  They are in no way a GUARANTEE of success.  What this means is that it all comes down to me.  How bad do I want to improve?  How much do I want to succeed?  How many times am I willing to fail and give it another try tomorrow?  How long am I willing to struggle with it until it becomes easy?

There is no one path to success.  We are all just trying to figure it out, one messy step at a time.  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.  This year, I will be the victor.

What about you?

What is Love? (Baby, Don’t Hurt Me)


Currently, it is 10:30am on Christmas morning and I am sitting in my apartment, alone, preparing to write a blog post about love.  #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.  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.  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.  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.  Why is this something that I envy?  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.  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.  The cherry on top?  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.


Or so it SHOULD be.  For some reason unbeknownst to me, I am not quite following his headlong charge in Loveland.  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.  Why on EARTH am I not allowing myself to get swept away?  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”.  The magical, elusive, stereotypical flutters that appear in cartoons as floating hearts and romantic comedies as gigantic smiles and last minute airport chases.  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.  All very well and good.

But there’s a part of me, deep down, that digs in my heels.  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.  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.  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.  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.  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.  There are several marriages that are built on solid ground where the only sparks that fly are on the Fourth of July.  And there are other relationships where you can hardly stand next to the couple because they give off so much heat.  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.  Stay the course.  Choose safety.  Stay boring.

Yet I’ve always been a stubborn, headstrong, don’t-tell-me-what-the-fuck-to-do type of girl.  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.  So many people nod sagely at the Greats when they tell us to be daring, be bold, seize the day!  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.  I have to believe I can find that with someone who also offers the other qualities as well.  Maybe the guy I’m seeing now will call up some butterflies if I give him a chance.  And if at the end of the day I don’t end up finding that?  I suppose I’ll have a lot of fun looking.

Merry Christmas, everyone!

The Infamous Flow


Lately I’ve been perusing the endless possibilities of Bumble.  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.  We met on Thursday, had sushi and some wine, talked for HOURS without pause, and in general had an awesome time.  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.  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.


Needless to say, I was pretty bummed.  And immediately fell to analyzing anything that could have gone wrong.  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?  The fact that I seemed TOO interested?  Not interesting enough?  Perhaps because my hair was day-old curls and not fresh ones?  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*.  No matter how much I wish I could capture his affection, I can’t.  End of story.

People always tell me to just ‘go with the flow’ and ‘it’ll happen when it’s supposed to happen’.  If you know me at all, you know that this seriously goes against my usual M.O.  I am (most times) a take charge, get-this-shit-done-NOW, no excuses type of person.  Sitting back and allowing love to manifest seems appealing to me; actually waiting for it to happen does not.  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*).  I have to come in and show them that I care.  I have to plan lessons that don’t suck.  I have to make sure that I listen when they are struggling.  I have to make class fun yet productive.  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.  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.  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.  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.  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.  Which I haven’t found yet.  And that brings me to my conundrum:  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?  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.  I need to take a step back and just….be.  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.  Everyone fails at dating.  It’s normal.  It’s accepted.  It’s expected that date after date will turn into a great big nothingness (until the magical moment that it doesn’t).  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.  More hurtful.  More in-your-face.

Not trying isn’t scary at all.  It gives you a lot of free time.  Yet one of my Bumble dates made a great observation when he said “the world is our oyster”.  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.  I need to stop the bullshit and simply DO.

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

2018—you’re MINE.

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


Last week was a WEEK.  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.  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:  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.  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.  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.  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.  However, the reason I got so upset is because I knew that this person was actually correct.  I HAD been negative.  I HAD been dwelling.  I HAD made my friend feel bad (who had had no hand in assigning training).  I was in the wrong.

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

I was a wreck for the rest of the day after that discussion.  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.  I can’t go into people’s brains and change whatever impression they may have of me now.  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.  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.  I also already made sure that I apologized to my friend so that I could undo some of the damage my careless words caused.  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.  In this particular instance, I was dwelling on something that I couldn’t change.  Are there other areas of my life in which I’m dwelling?  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?  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.  This, for me, is the absolute hardest one out of the three.  I pride myself on my ability to navigate life with grace and wisdom.  And most of the time, I do a fairly decent job.  However, this means that rather than a myriad of little stumblings, I have a handful of epic whoppers that bring me to my knees.  And yet, these catastrophic episodes of tumbling to the ground teach me so. freaking. much.  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.  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.  If you stay in your comfort zone, you will not make mistakes that often.  Which feels great-who doesn’t like to be the master of something?  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.  But I AM encouraging you to spread your wings and take a risk or two.  Don’t beat yourself up when you fail–that is my lesson that I’m still learning.  I tell my students all the time that “It’s ok to fail, but it’s not ok not to try”.  Honestly, I need to take my own advice.

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