Be Careful What You Wish For

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This weekend is the very last weekend of the summer *stifles sobs*.  On Monday, I will be greeted with 150 smiling faces in rotation, all filled with as much trepidation and anticipation as mine will be.

This year, it’s going to be different for me because I chose to move schools after the whole being laid off thing got taken back just as quick as a toddler grabs back a toy he’s offered to someone else after he’s changed his mind.  I had the choice to go back to my old school, but instead of sticking somewhere where I was well-known and had built my reputation as a good teacher, I decided to branch out and move to a high school a) because I’ve always wanted to teach high school and b) I felt like I had already reached the peak (or close enough to it) at my old school and I was ready for a new challenge.

Oofda.  Did I ever get a challenge.  Firstly, I discovered that I would be teaching 7th and 8th grade (not quite the high school experience I was envisioning) along with some 9th grade classes.  That’s right.  Three preps.  Considering that last year I taught 8th across the board, that in and of itself was enough to make me think that perhaps I should opted for comfort over novelty.

Secondly, not only will I have three preps, but the middle school classes are designed to prepare the students to enter the IB Diploma Programme in 11th and 12th grade that has just started at this high school, which means that they need to have TOP-NOTCH instruction in an inquiry based setting.

Now, in my previous schools, if you were able to get the kids to behave and respect you and also learn something along the way, that was enough to get you through (not to mention middle school is less rigorous than high school).  I have my relationship building tools with my kids down pat, but I have not yet had a chance to really test my actual TEACHING capabilities with kids who are, shocker, eager to learn.

Of course, I wouldn’t be teaching if I thought that my kids didn’t learn from me.  But my focus has always been on more of the social-emotional piece for my kids, because that’s where I saw the most need.  Now, on top of preparing for three different classes each day, I need to make sure that my lessons are interesting, high-level, and relevant.

ON TOP OF the academic side, there is the reality that I have no real support system at this school.  I chose this school specifically because my old principal worked there as well as several old coworkers who moved there during the last couple years, and because of the IB programme; being trained in that will be invaluable for my own skill set and my ability to move anywhere should I chose to ever leave California (doubtful, but possible).

However, all of my old coworkers have since formed new bonds or tighter bonds with their fellow middle school cohorts, and I left our first day of meetings feeling a bit adrift in the sea of it all.

Now, at this point, I could either curl up in a ball and wish my hardest to turn back time and go back to comfort and familiarity, OR I could narrow my eyes, set my shoulders, and prepare to knock this shit out of the park.

When it comes down to it, challenges are the spice of life.  Think about it.  Every single thing that is good is challenging at first.  Learning to walk?  There’s a reason diapers are so fluffy.  Marriage?  There’s a reason counselors make bank.  Parenting?  It’s a wonder that we’re still alive as a species.

Challenges make you grow.  They make you question things.  They make you stretch yourself in ways that you never thought possible and then stretch a little more.  You may chose your challenges or have your challenges thrust upon you, but the outcome is still the same: you get better.

An unchallenged life is truly an unlived life.  Think back on all the times you have grown and changed as a person.  Usually, it was the direct result of a challenge to your security, belief system, or familiarity with something, and when you look back you wouldn’t have it any other way.

The thing is, you WILL get what you ask for if the Universe knows you are ready (and sometimes even if it knows you’re not).  Most of the time we have no idea what we’re really asking for until it comes to us and then we realize that we have called something into reality that we aren’t quite sure we actually want, but by that time it’s too late.

Most of the time, however, these unexpected manifestations help us hone what we really want, and build up strength to get through the tough times of life.  I wanted nothing more than to get married young, and boy, did I get what I wished for even though it was quite possibly the worst decision of my entire life.

Yet, I’m thankful for this challenge that I overcame, because there have been so many times I’m able to share my experience with someone who is going through almost the exact same thing, and it is so gratifying to be able to see them relax and know that I truly understand what they’re going through.

If your life is on autopilot, choose a challenge for yourself or open yourself up to the Universe providing one for you.  While the temptation to stay in the cocoon is quite strong, remember that no one looks twice at a brown lump hanging from a twig, yet a butterfly can capture the attention of even the most hardened of hearts.  You are that butterfly.  All you have to do is narrow your eyes, set your teeth, and never stop pushing until your wings are free.

And then, friends….you are free to FLY.

 

Routine: The Essential Ingredient for Success

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It’s been summer vacation now for exactly two weeks.  It’s been amazing to have time to do whatever I want to do, and in those two weeks I’ve been to Orlando with fellow bloggers, partied it up in Vegas with my awesome friends, celebrated, and I mean CELEBRATED, the 4th of July, and squeezed various other fun summer activities inbetween.

The one thing that I haven’t been is productive.  I am out of my normal routine, so I’ve been seriously slacking the the fitness department, completely forgotten about my real estate venture, and haven’t made a dent in any of my books I was eagerly anticipating reading this summer.

In short, in everything besides enjoying myself, I’ve been a complete failure.

Of course, there’s nothing wrong with taking some time to decompress and shake the manacles of stress off your ankles after a long, hard slog.  But at some point, there needs to be a ‘come to Jesus’ moment where your life straightens back out.  And for that to happen, it is absolutely essential to have a routine.

Having a routine gets a bad rap.  Oftentimes sticking to a schedule means that you are viewed as someone who is unable to be flexible with planning or considered someone who is No Fun.  However, having a specific plan for each day of the week is the best, nay, the ONLY way to reach your goals that you have set for yourself.

Having a routine ensures consistency.  If you have ever tried to lose weight or make some gainz, you know 100% that you will NEVER reach your goal if you are not consistent.  Eating a healthy amount of nutrient dense food as a habit ensures a lower body percentage just as a regular gym routine lends itself to increasing muscle density.  In the same manner setting aside specific times to work on whatever you want to accomplish (and keeping those times sacred) is the only way to ensure steady progress towards those goals.

Consistency is the key aspect that can make or break a long-term play.  Once the steady pace is broken, the momentum falters, and it takes quite a bit to get it going again.  Keeping all your goals in forward motion is the key to gathering speed and cutting down on time and effort once things really get going.

Having a routine does allow you to be flexible.  If you know that you always read an hour before bedtime, even on Fridays, but all of your friends are checking out the new wine bar opening on Friday, all you need to do is simply move up your hour of reading or break it up during the day to get it done.  If you have established that something is important enough to you to get it done on a daily or weekly basis, you will find the time to fit it in if other things come up.

Flexibility is the key to not going insane.  There are some routines that should never be compromised (such as brushing your teeth or hitting the gym/being active every week), but having specific tasks to accomplish shouldn’t mean that every aspect of that task is set in stone every.  Being rigid in what you want to accomplish and soft on how you accomplish it at times is a recipe for success in all aspects of your life.

Having a routine guarantees results.  If you do something on a regular basis, there is no way that that dedication will not show.  Read ten pages every day, and eventually you WILL finish the book.  Read ten pages today, then 6 pages next Friday, then 15 pages in a month, and that book may still be sitting on your nightstand two months from now.

On the flip side, your results may come from negative routines.  Sit on your butt in front of the TV every night munching on Cheetos, and there is a 100% chance you will end up fat with unhealthy innards.  Simply show up to your job, do what you are told to do, and then skedaddle home will guarantee that you are in that exact same position 20 years from now.  You get what you give, and if you consistently give your mind, body, and soul all the wrong things, it can only reflect that negativity back to you.

Overall, we as humans need to have a routine in order to feel satisfied.  Even if their lives are chaotic and they are in France today, China next month, and back home only sporadically in-between, healthy people make sure that they have set patterns within the turmoil.  This may be always completing a room workout no matter where they land, or making sure to take 10 minutes morning and night to meditate and reflect on their day.

No matter what you need to set in place for yourself in order to feel accomplished and continually grow, the fact remains that there does need to be some regularity held sacred in order for the benefits of routine to be the most potent.  

Think  about where you want to be.  Everything starts from this knowledge.  If you have a clear vision of where you’re going, it is much easier to read the map to get there.  While you may end up somewhere pretty cool simply by wandering the streets, it is more likely that you’ll end up taking a wrong turn and stumbling down the alleyway on the wrong side of an invisible territory line.

The great thing is, you can know where you want to go and still enjoy the scenery and unexpected detours along the way.  Perhaps you weren’t expecting the croissant shop that materialized on your way to the Eiffel Tower, but you can still savor the warm pastry while navigating the streets towards your destination.

Life is a balance between enjoying the journey and accomplishing an end goal, and the reality is that if you are continually growing, you will never reach 100% of your goals right away because they will get bigger and better.  Life is 99% the experiences along the way to that 1% goal.  Routine will push you to reach that 1% while still allowing full exploration of that other 99% if the right attitude is put in place.

Don’t be afraid of committing to different patterns for different times in your life, but don’t make those lines so rigid they can never be crossed.  Live your BEST life, and set up the parameters to make that possible.

 

Health: Priority #1

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For the past week, I have been fighting off a common cold.  Yes, a stupid, annoying, nose-reddening, cough-inducing virus.  I cannot remember the last time I was sick, and the fact that this misery came the day of my promotion speech and immediately prior to two summer trips was, to say the least, cause for great frustration.

Thinking back, it’s no wonder I got sick: I was in charge of a million things, running around non-stop for the end-of-school madness, and still trying to maintain some semblance of progress towards my personal goals.

In other words, I ran myself into the ground, and I’m still trying to snort out the clumps of dirt that were shoved up my nose in the process.

It has made me wonder: how on earth do people who are chronically ill or always affected by various ailments do it?  I have had a mild cold for a week, and I feel like my abilities to perform at my peak have been SEVERELY diminished-and it drives me nuts.

Regardless of my state of suffering right now, it has reinforced several key lessons that I will keep firmly planted in the forefront of my mind (that are quite obvious, but good to review every once in a while).

If you don’t have health, your quality of life sucks.  I don’t care if you have ten million dollars in the bank; if you don’t have the ability to do what you want, when you want because of hangups with your health, you don’t have anything.  For some people, money is the barrier to their desires, but that can always be earned.  Once you lose your health (in a manner far more serious than a cold), you cannot buy it back.

Something as simple as not being able to breath through your nose can sharply decrease your enjoyment and productivity of everything you do.  How much more would this be amplified by not being able to walk five steps without resting, or feeling weak because of chemo, or simply feeling slightly ‘ugh’ every day because you have a shitty diet and are overweight?

You must, must, must make prevention a part of your life.  In my case, I should have slowed down a little bit and tried to take some more time for myself just to rest and relax to ease the stress that my body and mind were under.  I remember thinking that the only thing getting me through the two week whirlwind was the thought of summer vacation just around the corner.

But what if you don’t have a break shining in the horizon?  It would be even more imperative in that situation to put self-imposed boundaries and routines in place that allow you to be productive yet still take care of what makes you productive: you!  So many people make the excuse that they saving time by eating out, or getting more done by skipping their workouts, but in reality, they are simply burning through their potential at a faster rate.  Eventually, it will all catch up to them, and they will end up fat, sick, and unable to be useful to others or themselves.

Being healthy feels damn good.  With everything that I was dealing with for the last month of the school year (both personally and professionally), I started to slide on my diet, skip workouts, drink more on the weekends, and  overall ended up gaining a couple of lbs (and, obviously, getting sick).  Nothing to panic about, and nothing that anyone else would really notice, but there was a huge difference in the way that I felt both physically and mentally.  I no longer felt like I could do anything I wanted to do, I was unmotivated to work towards several goals I had set for myself, and I didn’t feel physically attractive.

All of those feelings boiled down to the fact that I wasn’t being healthy.  Don’t get me wrong, I was still way more health-conscious than 99% of the American population, but I had slipped below the level of awareness that my body and mind had become accustomed to.  Once you get used to the feeling of everything operating at an optimal level, it is incredibly hard to give that up.

Overall, being healthy is something that is taken for granted when we have it, and sorely missed when we don’t.  Sometimes, we are in the state of ailment long enough where we forget what it feels like to be strong and capable and trust our bodies implicitly.  If there is one thing that will dramatically increase the quality of your life no matter where you live, how much money you have, or who you are surrounded by, it is your health.

Everything stems from our physical body: it is where our mind has to reside, and if it doesn’t have a welcoming environment, it won’t operate at its peak.

Therefore, make sure that you are taking care of your physical being and that it is your number one priority at all times.  Eat the damn vegetables (and make sure they are organic, if possible).  Drag yourself to the gym (and make yourself do 12 reps instead of 10).  Get outside in nature (and deeply breath air that has been recycled by plants and not by air filters).  No matter how much you feel like these things are cutting into other important obligations, I promise you that they ARE the important things.

This is your only life.  Do you want to spend it with aching joints, increasingly larger pants sizes, and lungs that don’t quite expand to the proportion they need to?  Or do you want to have the mental and physical benefits of feeling strong, knowing you’re capable of anything, loving that you’re able to bounce out of bed sans coffee, and embracing the body that you were born into.  You can have the latter.  All it takes is dedication and desire.  No matter what level you are on, progress is possible.

Don’t wait until crisis mode to get your act together.  Get off your ass and make it happen!  Don’t worry….you got this.

Nobody Cares if You’re Motivated

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The past couple of weeks, I have been mentally out of the discipline game.  I haven’t gone off the deep end where I’m running around eating, drinking, and doing whatever I want, but I feel like I definitely have allowed myself a lot more slack than I normally do.

This might not be the end of the world, but for me, who is used to carrying things out in a timely and orderly fashion, I can completely tell that I am not at the top of my game, and I hate it.  I have so many things that I want to accomplish, yet I seem to keep sliding backwards when I should be striding forward.

I desperately want all of my goals to be accomplished.  So why is my motivation not propelling me forward in the way that a burning desire should?

Motivation isn’t the catalyst.

I read or heard something recently that you don’t need more motivation, you need more discipline.  This could not be more true in my experience: I am completely motivated to get my real estate license and to lose the last 5-8 lbs that I need to lose in order to be completely happy with my bikini bod, but the last couple weeks with discipline being completely thrown out the window, I can tell that my body is a little softer than it was 4 weeks ago, and I’m still on my first real estate book when I had planned to be on my second by now.

And so, here I sit, no real estate license in hand and jeans a bit more snug that I would like.  Nobody wants to hear about the time you were motivated to almost finish a race or almost start your own business.  We love stories about actual results.

Why, then, are people so quick to blame lack of motivation or claim they need to do all these things to get motivated to do something?  Why don’t they simply put their nose to the grindstone and start to see results?

 

Sadly, the truth isn’t exciting.

Quite frankly, discipline sucks.  No one WANTS to constantly resist all of the tempting foods that are constantly being shoved in our face.  It’s definitely not FUN to stay home on a Friday night once again so that you can pop out of bed bright and early on Saturday morning.  It’s BORING to sit down to the table to read a chapter for the 17th day in a row rather than flip on the TV to the latest hit show.

Motivation, on the other hand, is addicting.  It’s highly enjoyable to get all hyped up about something, especially if you are getting pumped up in a crowd.  You see people who have accomplished what you want to accomplish.  You hear about how they achieved this body or that amount of customers or traveled to this many places, and their story inspires you to make more of a push for your goals.

But the thing is, most goals are not going to be accomplished in the hour or two where your motivation is at peak levels.  If motivation is the only that that is fueling your fire, than you will be shivering in the cold long before the end game is in sight.

It takes discipline to go the long haul.  You are going to have to go out to the woods, chop a tree, bring it back piece by piece, and do this over and over again to keep that fire burning.

Simply put, discipline is the ONLY THING that guarantees your results.  The very nature of discipline implies consistency, and if you are consistent with anything long enough, you will eventually achieve your desire in one form or another.

Any time that I look at what I have or don’t have and try to mentally complain about how it’s not fair that I’m not at this or that level, I can always force myself to look back and see the lack of consistency that led me to where I am at that moment.

Discipline is hard.  But eventually, discipline leads to habit, and once you’ve reached habitual levels of consistent effort, your progress will speed up tremendously.

However, life still likes to throw roadblocks at you in the form of unexpected events.  When I have a week where my routine is uninterrupted, my food consumption, gym attendance, and learning schedule are unchallenged and go off without a hitch.

But throw in a random meeting or two, life responsibilities that take a lot of time in my otherwise normal day, and people who are visiting or who want to hang out, and my discipline goes out the window.

So, in reality, I’m actually not that disciplined.  If I was, I would be able to navigate those stumbling blocks with ease, and keep my eyes on what it is that I want long-term.

This is a sucky thing to admit to oneself, especially if you have an image in your mind that encompasses all you WANT to be, versus where you really are.  And once again, I have all the motivation in the world to want to be fit and advance my learning in general, but when it comes down to it, desire doesn’t matter.

Your body doesn’t react to what you WANT it to look like-it shapes itself based on what you do to it and how you feed it.  Your business doesn’t grow based on what you WANT your revenues to be, it yields tantamount to the consistent effort that is put forth by you and your employees.  When it comes down to the wire, your efforts will show, no matter how much you will them to be different than they are.

There is no shortcut to any success.  Motivation may cause an initial burst of energy that will get you past the breakers, but it is the slow, steady strokes, hand over hand, that will get you across the channel.

So sit down with yourself.  Acknowledge where you want to end up, and how far you are away from it.  Steel yourself for the long haul ahead.  Write out a specific plan for your days, and how you will handle routine interruptions.  Settle into the reality that it’s not going to be a high-energy, full speed ahead race where the finish line is reached in mere seconds.

The journey is long.  It’s arduous.  It’s full of moments that suck.  But in the end, the steady turtle of discipline will outpace the bounding rabbit of motivation every. single. time.

Quilting Happiness

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Recently I had a conversation with someone where they helplessly said “I don’t know…I don’t know what’s wrong with me, I’m just not happy with anything in my life.”  Hearing that broke my heart; living unhappily is such a terrible existence.  And yet, so many people live the majority of their lives in a permanent state of misery.

Sometimes, this misery becomes so ingrained that it doesn’t even feel like misery.  I had no idea that I was living such a wretched existence until I separated from my ex-husband and felt little inklings of happiness stretch like tentative rays of sunshine after a storm.  While I certainly knew I wasn’t ecstatic, I had no idea how bad that life really was while I was in it.

In this moment, if you were to ask me if I was happy with my life, I would unequivocally answer “yes.”  This may seem strange if you know my present circumstances: recently laid off, freshly single, one million minor crisis’ happening at work on a daily basis.  And yet, overall, I am joyful.

This got me thinking: WHY am I so happy?  What is it that I, or anyone with a constantly positive state of mind, do or don’t do that contributes to this feeling of joyful contentment?  After some contemplation, I settled on several key factors:

Have a reliable, positive, and multi-leveled network.  This is such a big component because we as humans are wired to interact with others.  However, you cannot have all surface acquaintances or all deep bosom buddies; our connections need to be varied.  I have a couple of extremely close friends, several good friends, and lots and lots of positive shallower connections.  Going through my recent breakup, I lost one of the major keystone connections in my life, and had he been all that I had, I would have been completely at a loss.  However, with the help of my close and good friends as well as my continued positive interactions with everyone else, I have been able to stay afloat and keep my spirits up.

Putting in the time and effort to create and maintain these relationships may seem like a burden, but I firmly believe that if you do not have quality relationships in your life, it is impossible to be truly happy.  However, these relationships must be reciprocal; you cannot simply mooch off of someone else, and you should never allow someone to mooch off of you.  When both parties put in the same level of effort, that is when this piece of happiness falls into place.

Exercise.  As much as we like to deny the hard science of how our minds work, putting in some sweat equity on a daily basis is a serious piece of the happiness puzzle.  Although starting a workout is pretty much the worst thing ever, finishing it is one of the best feelings in the world.  Your endorphin’s are kicking, and anything that negatively effected you throughout the day simply fades away into a haze of “ahhhhhh that was awesome”.

And lets face it, it’s hard to be happy when you don’t like what you see in the mirror.  Presenting the best version of ourselves physically primes us to be the best version of ourselves mentally.  It’s difficult to be miserable when you reach for something and notice a little baby bicep flexing as you bring it back.  Hard work is hard freakin’ work, but it seriously boosts your mood to see results.

Work towards something specific.  Throughout my entire life, I have always had something to work towards.  First, it was my degree.  Then it was finding a job.  Then it was my Masters.  Now, I am working on getting my real estate license and have plans for an admin credential and possibly a life coach certification within the next ten years.  The point is, I am never resting on my laurels.

If you are working towards a specific goal, it is obvious if you have achieved it or not.  And working to get that accomplishment tucked under your belt gives you a sense of purpose, which contributes to happiness.  If you know you are on the road to achievement, you feel excited about getting up each day and have the gumption to persevere through the rocky patches.

Actively seek improvement.  I am constantly looking for ways to make myself a better person and teacher.  If I hear of an awesome teaching strategy, I try to implement it in my classroom.  Outside the confines of my work, I am constantly reading all different types of books and online articles as well as listening to podcasts on various topics.  I love getting into deep conversations about the world.  All in all, I am always trying to be better than I was before.

Truly desiring to make yourself better requires a humble acceptance of yourself as you are right now.  However, acceptance does not mean stagnation.  Just because you have accepted that you have slid into the ditch does not mean that you stay in the ditch.  Seeing yourself grow and looking back to see how much you’ve changed for the better is a big piece of long-term happiness.

Love the majority of your day.  There are very few parts of my day that I dislike.  I love breakfast.  I love jamming to my tunes as I drive to work.  I love getting organized for the day.  I love interacting with my students.  I (usually) love the gym.  I love writing blog posts.   I’m ok with learning new real estate things (although I’m not going to lie, I’ll be pumped when it’s over).  The only things that I truly hate about my day are when I have some students act like a-holes, or when something goes awry that I did not forsee (usually traffic-traffic puts me in a TERRIBLE mood).

If you genuinely LIKE/LOVE 80% or more of your day, it is highly unlikely that you will be unhappy.  So many people tie themselves to jobs, people, or circumstances that they hate, and then wonder why they are miserable.  If you find yourself unhappy with something, make moves to change it.  Money, “security”, and comfort are NOT worth a constant state of misery.

Be ok with YOU.  You have to be ok with who you are as a person before you can truly settle into a state of contentment with your life.  I recently went through a period of time where I thought that my career goals and life aspirations were not good enough because I saw other people passionately pursuing other things that seemed ‘better’ or that might bring in more money.  My happiness severely diminished during that time.  When I mentally slapped myself and replanted my foot firmly on the soil of MY dreams, my joy returned.

You are a unique person.  It is impossible to accomplish the exact same thing that someone else has accomplished, so it is silly to even try.  You know what gives you joy, you know how you want to live your life, and you know what gives you a sense of purpose.  When you fully embrace what YOU want, not what the yoga masters, hardcore businessmen, or spiritual gurus tell you to want, THEN you can embrace your personal happiness.

Overall, your happiness is like an old, hand-pieced multicolored quilt that has been in your family for generations.  It blankets everything.  It is handmade.  No one else has one just like it.  Sometimes, a square or two might come loose, but if it’s a quality quilt, those squares aren’t completely lost and there are still enough squares to cover up with until the damage gets repaired.

If you find that you are unhappy with your life, take stock of all of the pieces.  Magnify those squares that give you joy.  Mend the squares that let in the draft.  Sometimes, an entire square might have to be replaced, and that’s ok.  Happiness IS something that you have complete control over, no matter how much we lie to ourselves and argue that we do not.  Take charge now; in the end, our money will be spent or given away and our possessions will break or change hands.  It is only the intangible-our relationships, our integrity, and our happiness-that we will get to keep for all time.

Choosing the First Domino

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For the last couple of days, I’ve been in mild panic mode over something most people would consider glorious: I have an interview every day for the next three days.

Now, most people in the California teaching world would be excited to get one interview, let alone three.  And don’t get me wrong, I am over the moon that three schools consider me a strong enough candidate to want to meet me in person.

So why am I not JUST excited?

If all goes spectacularly, having three interviews means three potential job offers.  However, I can only take one.  Which means I have to make a choice.

Having choices is slightly immobilizing.  Now granted, I don’t have the actual choice yet between these three schools, but I COULD, potentially.  And that makes me nervous because I want to choose the right one.

Many times, we are faced with choices that are not really choices.  For example, should I take this job 10 miles south that pays $X, or ten miles north that also pays $X.  Either way, it’s pretty clear that either choice is going to have the same outcome.

However, my three jobs prospects are in LA, Irvine, and Encinitas.  For those of you not in California, these jobs are essentially perfectly placed along the coast in a 150 mile radius from Los Angelos to San Diego.  Which means I have to decide where I want to live.  I also have to decide how much money weighs in versus location since all three schools have varying salaries.  To top it off, I may not even have to take a new job at all if my RIF notice is recalled, so I’d have to decide between the known and the unknown.

In a word….AHHH!

But before you mark this post off as simply a self-indulgent, woe-is-me, first world problems post, let me get to the meat of what I’ve been thinking.

There is no right choice.

Each time you are faced with a decision, all of the options will lead you in a specific direction.  It does not necessarily mean that any of the choices will bring you to a better or worse place, it simply means that the destination will be slightly different.

Of course, there is always the exception, which is why this truth only applies to comparable options; if you are choosing between McDonalds and a corporate company with benefits, that really isn’t a choice.

So, then, what exactly IS a choice?

A choice is a decision between two or more outcomes that are equally valid.  This is what makes them so hard.  I’ve made decisions to move across the country and/or across state lines more than once in my life, but the option of staying seemed so ludicrous that I didn’t really ‘choose’ to leave; it was simply the way my life went.

You can only make decisions based on the information that you have now.  This is where really knowing what you want comes into play.  There are many stories of people who settled into the family life at 22, only to regret it in their 30’s and 40’s.  There are an equal amount of stories of people who put off relationships to become successful, only to end up jaded and lonely.  Of course, if you find the right person, you really can do both.

It all boils down to how you see your life going on a macro scale.  If you envision yourself traveling the world, why would you NOT accept a job offer where travel is a major component?  If you see yourself raising a family and cannot picture your life without children, why would you take a time-consuming, highly demanding job?  If you picture yourself enjoying fresh breezes all winter, why would you agree to take a long-term management position in your company in Iowa?

And honestly, once you figure out what you really want, the choice becomes as simple as the one between McDonalds and Goldman-Sachs.  Once you have lasered in on your true vision, you will gravitate towards the options that lead you closer to your end goal.

Our lives are simply a series of different elaborate domino set-ups.  One decision leads to the next, to the next, to the next.  When you take a step back, you can see the awesome pattern laid out before you, but when you’re in the trenches, straining to push over that first domino, it can feel like the most confusing and random scene ever.

And yet, if you don’t push that first domino, you will get none of the awe-inspiring affects that come with perfectly placed events cascading one after the other.  So if you are faced with a true, difficult choice in your life, take a step back. Breathe. Realize that either domino represents an adventure.  Take some time to get to the root of what you want your life to look like.  And when you figure that out?  Simply put your finger out and push.

 

Do YOU

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I have a million things on my mind that I want to blog about today.  And of course, knowing me, I am choosing the hardest one. But as I feel it is the most important one, here I go.

Last weekend it was pointed out to me that I have become less authentic to myself.  Not personality-wise; I am still the same positive, goofy, spontaneous, organizational freak that I always was, but I am in danger of applying other people’s ideas and life goals verbatim onto my own.  In other words, I am failing to take a step back and truly think about what I want for my life and unapologetically issue my personal stamp of approval.

Now, I feel that this happens quite a bit in life.  Parents are a big offender: Sarah wants to try to be an actress, but Mom and Dad want her to have a more stable life, so eventually Sarah takes on their thoughts and ideas as her own the more and more they preach about it, forgetting that she actually has a passion for the arts and not for inputting data.

I think the hardest culprit to discern, however, is the one that is the most subtle: the people around us whom we admire, with strong personalities and goals for their own lives who are charging full steam ahead.  Oftentimes, their belief in their personal project or path is so strong that they come across as looking down upon anyone not on that path without meaning to.

When you admire someone, you naturally want them to think highly of you.  And as the saying goes, imitation is the highest form of flattery.  But the thing is, if you are truly admiring the right people, they will want you to become the best version of yourself, not the second-best version of them.

It is only the secretly insincere individuals who crave followers; leaders want to surround themselves with leaders.

This realization that I had moved into fangirl territory was upsetting to me.  I pride myself on my strong personality, and I have always thought of myself as independent and able to carry my own torch.  The fact that I am in danger of losing my own personal vision for my life is heartbreaking.

This problem could be easily solved if I got rid of everyone in my life and had no outside people influencing me.  But that solution sucks, obviously.  No one wants to go through life alone, and it’s pretty much impossible to avoid outside forces unless you live out in the woods eating roots and berries and communing with nature.

So how do you keep those strong, admirable individuals in your life yet still stay true to your personal vision?

You have to have a personal vision.  Lately I have come to realize that thus far, I have had a vague sense of direction of where I want to go, but I have not taken the time to sit down and specifically map out what I want out of life.  As I have discussed in other posts, this is dangerous; a ship without a compass is pretty much just a bathroom toy subject to the whims of any giant two-year old splashing around in the tub.  You need to have a sense of direction, and a sense of direction only comes when you have a sense of purpose.

You need to be in tune with yourself.  People avoid actually getting to know themselves.  Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat, Orange is the New Black, and millions of other ways to entertain ourselves are waiting to be utilized at the snap of a finger.  Entertainment in and of itself is hardly a bad thing, but when it is used to avoid introspection and examining your life, it becomes a convenient set of blinders rather than a small moment of fun.  It is critical that you spend some time alone; not alone with your music or your books, but really, truly alone with nothing but your thoughts.  Who is this person you only slightly know as yourself?

You need to stop living in fear.  We are social beings.  We want to be liked.  And that makes us shy away from anything that may potentially end up in us being put in the outer circle of society.  But in all honesty, if you are true to YOU, people who are really true to themselves will recognize that and appreciate it, even if it is different from their truth.  If someone doesn’t care for your vision, fuck ’em.  People who don’t value an honest and true expression of intent aren’t the type of people who are worth keeping.  And it all honesty, it becomes so much easier to shed people you don’t want and attract people you do when you simply commit to your truth.

When we are not fully focused and committed to what WE want to do, we project other people’s judgement onto our lives before they even have a chance to, and for some reason allow this mythical judgement to influence us.

The cliche of ‘dancing in the mirror’ has come to represent freedom, self-expression, and self-acceptance.  It sounds hokey, but when you try it, you realize how much of yourself you are hiding from yourself.  Back in the day, I couldn’t even watch myself dancing for two seconds without being embarrassed and thinking omg, I look SO dumb and stopping–and I was alone.  There was no one to judge but me.  Why the hell did I care how dumb I looked?  I was looking at myself from an outside perspective, and I found lack because I had not embraced my inner truth that I just wanted to freakin’ dance.

When you take the time to get to know who YOU are, you become dissatisfied with becoming anything that doesn’t align with your desires for your life.  Take  the time to get to know yourself; at the end of the day, you go to your grave wrapped in solitude, and eternity is a hell of a long time to spend with a stranger.