Inspiration Must be Sought

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This morning (a Saturday), I woke up around 6am and hopped on my bike to take a lap around the Back Bay area, which is a beautiful lake-like bay that I just discovered a couple of weeks ago right by my house.

As per usual for my morning rides, I popped in my headphones and scrolled through my podcast list to choose a title that caught my eye.  The past week, I’ve been listening to either The MFCEO Project by Andy Frisella and his cohosts Vaughn and Tyler or The School of Greatness by Lewis Howes.  I absolutely love the former podcast because you can feel 100% that the information given is valuable, and that the people giving it are authentic.  The latter is great as well because Lewis brings on pretty cool guests.

The point is, my four AM bike rides this week means that I have listened to four different podcasts, all with varying messages and main points.  The one common factor, however, is that starting off the morning listening to people who want to make a difference in the world and who are very successful has motivated me each day to start getting my shit together again, and to focus on the different areas of my life that I want to improve.

During the past couple of months, I haven’t been as motivated as I have been in the past to get working on all of my side goals that I have for myself.  My real estate books have fallen by the wayside, snacks have made their way into my tummy way more often than I’d like, and my book ideas have remained just that….ideas.

This is partly due to the fact that I am starting out a new school year with a heavier workload than I’ve ever had before, but it’s also because I have neglected to feed my mind with inspiration in order to keep my vision at the forefront of my mind.

Successful people always say that you will not be motivated 100% of the time, and you have to be able to simply put in the work anyway regardless of how fired up you feel in the given moment.  I completely agree.  However, I think that the hard work will eventually peter out without periodic bursts of oxygen to get the fire roaring again.

However, there sometimes is this idea that inspiration is something that must hit you like a strike of lightening, and it will come out of the middle of nowhere and BAM, you will be triggered to throw yourself wholeheartedly into your passions once again.

Don’t get me wrong, sometimes inspiration DOES happen like that.  However, most of the time those who get re-inspired get that way because they are constantly seeking out people, stories, and actions that motivate them.  And it is only when they can’t find that outside galvanization that their work ethic kicks in, and they do what they need to do anyways.

So how do people find such motivation on a regular basis?

Follow people who have done the work.  While social media sometimes gets a bad rap for being a time suck and perpetuating images that simply aren’t true, there are people who put out a lot of really valuable content and give inside looks into their day to day routines that lay out the blueprint for how to emulate their success.

If your feed is filled with people who are constantly hustling and improving themselves, you cannot help but feel obligated to catch up.  If your feed is filled with memes glorifying laziness and constant partying, you will feel pretty great about where you’re sitting and feel completely unmotivated to change.

Expand your knowledge.  There are so many smart, life-experienced people who have taken the time to write about what they know to be true.  We can cut our learning curve by quite a bit if we take the time to take advantage of each perspective of life that has been offered to us.  There is nothing more motivating that reading the life story of someone who has overcome obstacle after obstacle and finally came out on top (and stayed there).

Even if you read something that you don’t agree with or that don’t resonate with you, you can still use the pieces that do make sense to fuel your fire or to add more to the picture of your life and where you want to go. Gathering information that you end up discarding is not a waste of time if it solidifies the direction that you’re going.

Motivation doesn’t have to come in a glittery, splashy package; sometimes it simply is a phrase that you come across or a small conversation with a friend, or a quote that grabs your attention as you scroll through Instagram.  But the thing about inspiration is that it is not a constant, and it is not the end game.

No one wants to tell stories about how they spent their life being motivated.  You need to use that impetus that you find on a daily or weekly basis to actually work toward something tangible.  A spark is necessary for the flame to start, but the labor of cutting down the trees, hauling them to the fire pit, and physically putting them in the ring is what creates the fire that is usable.

The bottom line is inspiration isn’t necessary to do hard work, but the hard work comes much more quickly and easily if you have the inspiration.  Seek out ways to become motivated, but then don’t let that motivation go to waste.  A horse that is spurred to run but is chained to a wheel will only be trotting in circles.  Don’t place inspiration above putting in the work, but recognize the advantages of the extra fuel.  What you focus on grows, so make sure that spotlight is shining on the right things.

In other words, set your intention, seek out those above you, and go get inspired to actually do the work!

Dedication Becomes Habit

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Today I started my routine of waking up at 5am and doing cardio before heading to work.  I had stopped doing it a month before the last school year ended, and didn’t pick it up again during the summer.  However, because I have certain Halloween goals (Spandex suit, anyone?), I am dusting off ye olde alarm clock (or the earlier alarm clock setting, anyways), and utilizing my brand-spankin’ new hybrid bike and exploring the roadways around my house.

When I mention that I get up at 5am, most people are surprised and feel sorry for me.  When I mention WHY I get up at 5am, people make comments like “wow, really?” and “you’re really dedicated!”

Which is funny because to me, dedication sometimes seems like a chore.  Something that you have to slog through and mentally grit your teeth about and put your head down and just.get.it.done.

Yet for me, because I’ve done a 5am wakeup call for so long (minus my three month haitus, of course) I was able to slip into the routine this morning without a problem.

Of course, in the beginning, my routine was nothing but a problem.  I mean, waking up at 5am when it’s still dark as pitch out and only the hard-core commuters are there to share your misery is not anyone’s definition of a good time.

And yet, as I groggily opened my eyes morning after morning, it become something that I simply did.  Engrained.  Part of the daily grind.  A habit.

In order for the hard things to reach the point where they are no longer hard, you have to struggle through the beginning stages.  When you pick up your first weight at the gym, it has to give you a little bit of pain in order for your muscles to actually get stronger and be able to handle heavier weights.

Obviously, if you pick up a heavy weight one day, and then two weeks later pick it up again, that won’t do anything.  That’s where the grinding comes in (and not the fun grinding on the dance floor).  Pushing yourself to go headfirst into the suck day in and day out until eventually, it starts to suck a little less and pretty soon, it’s not sucking at all!  In fact, you might actually find yourself enjoying it.

So, how do you find it in yourself to actually make it past the daunting gauntlet of suckage to get to the enticing, seemingly unreal goal of actually liking this thing you once hated?

Mental fortitude.  You simply cannot reach this point if you don’t have the mental balls to tell yourself that you are GOING TO DO THIS, DAMMIT!  Having the discipline and strength to get through the terrible times is invaluable and indeed, 100% necessary to turn your desires into a habit.

Many people let themselves have the easy way out.  Catch yourself in the act, and force yourself to follow the harder (yet more satisfying) path.  This will be a major bummer the first couple (or more) times, but it eventually that dedication will pay off in great habits.

Start small.  If metal toughness and going all in on a goal is something that you’ve always struggled with, start small!  Sometimes the easy goals to hit are overlooked.

If you eventually want to become the top salesperson at your job and know that your skills are sub-par, but just can’t make yourself concentrate on the classes or practice that will get you what you need, start with one thing.  Find one small tweak that you can make that is so small it seems laughable, and challenge yourself to do that for one week.

Once you’ve accomplished this small, insignificant goal, you will feel a small ego boost.  This will carry you through your next round of attainable mini-goals, and eventually, you’ll find that the target that seemed so far off before now seems, well, actually attainable!

Sometimes, we may look at someone and feel like they have their shit 100% together and they don’t struggle with anything because they are always following through with what they set out to do.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  There are some days where I go to the gym and my ENTIRE BRAIN is screaming at me to turn around and hightail it back home.  Hell, even tonight I didn’t want to write a blog post, but because I try to post every Tuesday and Saturday (barring anything unforeseen), I opened my laptop and started typing.

You will never be at your peak in all areas of your life (unless you are super human).  However, with time, you will be able to build up the different aspects of your life after a period of dedication to each one, and then you will be at a point where you are able to start optimizing rather than playing catch-up.

Plowing into the dedication stage does really pay off.  You will mostly likely want to tear your hair out and quit, but if you stick with it for a while, you will be so, so glad you did.  Building up to a habit is like building a house-the foundation is the dirty part, the framing is a little easier, but once you get to the point where you can decorate it, live in it, and show it off, all the blood, sweat, and tears WILL be worth it.

Just know, you CAN do it.  All it takes is faith, trust, and a little bit of commitment dust. Then, friends, you are ready to fly!

 

 

 

Friendship: Life’s Greatest Gift

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The greatest gift of life is friendship, and I have received it.

-Hubert H. Humphrey

Yesterday was a terrible day at work.  Not only have I found myself panicking slightly over keeping up with three different grade levels, but I was publicly (via e-mail) chastised for reaching out to the staff (via e-mail) at my new school in order to introduce myself and hopefully establish some tentative connections.

If there is one thing that I cannot stand, it is illogical actions and reactions.  If I see the logic in something, even if I don’t like it, I have no problem acquiescing to that request.  However, to have my friendly gesture immediately squashed and frowned upon seemed to be the epitome of injustice, and I found myself in tears, huddled over my desk like a 12 year old who just got rejected by her first crush. (Note: Yes, I am aware I cry very easily-thanks Mom-something that I hate about myself but have come to accept).

Of course, being that I am at a new school with little to no shoulders to (literally) cry on, I contented myself with texting the whole saga to my friends from my other school, and was gratified by their responses brimming with outrage, support, and love.

There was no judgement for my hasty tears (even though there was plenty from myself).  There was no “Well maybe you should have thought about it first”.  There was no trite responses and quick changes of subject.  There was simply friendship.  And what put the cherry on top of the cake was the fact that one of my friends stopped by my school during Back to School Night that night simply to give me a hug and chit chat for a few minutes before jetting off to her date that night.

Reflecting on the whole shebang, I am still irked at what transpired (although I actually received more introductions and support because of that negative response than I believe I would have if none had been sent, so there was a silver lining).  However, I am so incredibly grateful to have made such amazing friends in my time here in California, and it made me appreciate anew how incredibly important real, true, deep friendship is.

We all have those friends that we see from time to time, and every encounter is filled with laughter and fun memories.  However, those aren’t the moments when friendships are made strong.  I have people that I could hang out with thousands of times who I would feel as close to day 40 as I did day 1.  Epic memories are great, but it’s those small, fleeting moments of interaction where your guard begins to fall where true friendship is forged.

True friendship is listening to your friend cry over anything that is upsetting her and offering not only an ear and a tissue but but advice, support, and a gentle outside perspective.

True friendship is going to your friend’s Mary Kay launch party even though you have no interest in their products and but plan to buy one anyways.

True friendship is grabbing your friend’s dry cleaning because he overslept and delivering it to her at work because you always give yourself extra time in the mornings and today, he needs that suit for his big presentation.

True friendship is telling your friend exactly what you think about those jeans and her butt (and helping find a new outfit if it’s bad).

Overall, true friendship is really about true love.  To borrow a phrase from the Bible, “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.  Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.  It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.”

True love is simply operating at our highest capacity.  When we are with the people that are the ones we’ve chosen as our family, we WANT to be at our best, even when they accept us at our worst.  True friends bring out the amazing parts of us that we may not even know existed.

If you have real, pure support behind you, you can do anything.  Simple words of encouragement can do wonders when we are bogged down on our journey, and knowing someone is within shouting distance on their own trek through the jungle truly invigorates the soul on the nights that the journey gets rough.

If you are lucky enough to have such friends, take a moment to pause and give thanks.  Treat your friends well, and show them the love and support that they always show you.

If you have yet to find such friends, take a moment and dissect what you offer as a person.  Are you willing to inconvenience yourself for friendship?  Are you ok with giving in order to receive?  Are you ever in a place where you let your authentic self shine?

Life is hard enough without having to go through it alone.  Thank god that we have the ability to create a network tight enough to withstand any storm.  Friendships are life’s emergency plan, and even though we will hopefully find our best friend and romantic partner all wrapped up into one, there is something pure about those solid friendships that don’t venture into the romantic territory yet are every bit as loving and committed as those we pledge our life to.

Friendship is the world’s greatest gift.  Treasure it.  Take care of it.  Give your own.  And always, always remember that a simple token given in love is worth more than all the riches in the world.

 

 

Six Things to Do Instead of Watching TV

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I’ve been thinking a lot about time lately.  Mostly about how I don’t have enough of it.  There are so, so many things that I want to do and I usually cannot find the time to cram them all in.

Which is why it boggles my mind when I hear some people talk about how much TV they watch, and relay tales of binge watching their Saturday away or catching up on the latest scandal on CNN as their evening’s activities.  Don’t get me wrong, I find nothing the matter with watching an occasional movie or couple episodes of Big Bang Theory here or there.  But I. personally, could NEVER make it an actual daily or even weekly practice.

TV is entertaining, no doubt.  And I’m sure if I let myself, I could really get into Game of Thrones, or follow the Orange is the New Black saga with bated breath, or find a couple of new releases to patronize each weekend.  But in all honesty, entertainment, especially mindless entertainment, is not productive.  And when seeking entertainment becomes the main focus of your free time, you are losing out on so many awesome points of life!

But some people have become so accustomed to watching TV that they have no idea that there is a whole entire world beyond their 60″ Plasma, or that they themselves could create the type of life they so envy on the silver screen.

Instead of pressing play, you could:

Go on a walk.  Especially with your significant other, kids, or friend.  The fresh air is addicting, and you can have so many good conversations if you go with the people that you love.  There have been so many great discussions that I’ve had with my friends as we meander the sidewalks or trails, and you come back refreshed and energized rather lethargic and blahhhh.  Not to mention the obvious perk of burning rather than consuming calories.

Read a book.  Even when a novel is entertaining you, it is making your brain process information, put ideas together, and decipher the meaning of new words.  It is the best form of entertainment because it is relaxing yet still mind-expanding, especially if you skip the fiction and go straight for the self-improvement reads.  Some great fiction reads are A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, The Help, or The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime.  If you lean toward the non-fiction side (which you should at least every once in a while), I would recommend The Power of Habit, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, and You are a Badass.

Join a club of some type.  One thing that I have recently started up in the past year has been beach football.  I have never played an organized sport in my life, but there is a league in my town and I, on a whim, decided to join.  I love it!  Joining something that fits a new or old interest not only keeps your zest for life alive, but it is an amazing avenue for meeting new people.

Learn to play an instrument or learn a new craft.  Making music is an innately human way of expressing emotion.  Even if you are not musically inclined, setting aside time to struggle and eventually master a new skill is not something to be sneezed at.  When the mind is stretched it expands, and the more things you add to your toolbox the more valuable you become.

Create a second (or third, or fourth) stream of income.  Think about it.  You could either spend 1-4 hours a night wasting your time with episodes of Friends you have seen hundreds of times, or you could put your time and effort into something that could actually pay off.  Enjoy crafting?  Start an Etsy shop.  Have a particular set of hard to master skills?  Market them.  Have a business idea?  Actually start it.  If it’s something you actually enjoy doing, the same amount of time will pass while giving you way more options in terms of money and connections.

Call a friend.  How many times have to thought to ourselves “oh, I wonder how so-and-so is doing?  We should catch up!”  and then simply never followed through?  Connections with other people are extremely valuable both for sanity and for creating a vast network of resources from which you can draw whenever necessary-IF you put the time in to create those reserves.

The trouble with the majority of options outside of the black box is that they take a least a minimal amount of effort.  So many people like to think of their hours of diversion after a long day of work as a reward, when the truth is that real rewards come out of real effort.

Constant entertainment is taking the easy way out in life, and it makes you accustomed to the road less bumpy.  Yet there WILL be parts of life that are not entertaining, and if you simply fall into the habit of putting blinders on and ignoring it because your reality muscles are in a state of atrophy, those bumps can prove to be disastrous rather than merely annoying.  The most beautiful waterfalls are at the end of the unbeaten trail, and the best life experiences are best actually lived by you.

So the next time you are tempted to press play, put the remote down and step away from the boob tube into a realm of endless possibilities.  Stop watching other people portray scripted exploits, relationships, and feats of grandeur, and go out and create your own!  Life is meant to be lived, not watched.

The Devil is in the Dirty Work

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Lately I’ve been realizing that I need to do more.  In pretty much every area of my life.  More cardio.  More planning.  More thoughtful gestures.

The thing is, in each of the areas of my life I’m sitting at at an OK level.  My body doesn’t look terrible, and I can pull off a tight dress if I want to.  My teaching meets acceptable standards, and I am confident that my students are learning things in my classroom.  My relationships are all fairly solid, and I know that there are few, if any people who would have bad things to say about me.

But come on—this is a scenario that is easily applied to SO many other people, and dammit, I want to be at the TOP.

This is something that I’ve written about before, and sometimes it’s frustrating because I have the personality where if I feel that something needs to get done, than dang it, I’m going to try to get it done NOW.

But I’m slowly starting to realize that transformations like this cannot be accomplished NOW.  They are not a one time thing.  Rather, they are achieved through DAILY dedication and eventual mastery of the habits and mindsets that only the great people have.

Which means that you have to do the dirty work.

Every single day.

It’s one thing to set your alarm for 6am on a Saturday morning and go for a long run and feel accomplished about it all week.  It’s another to consistently get up at 5am and get your cardio in and go to the gym after work for weights and watch what you eat every day not just weekends and do that day in and day out and never. ever. falter.

That shit is HARD.

It isn’t fun AT ALL.

Yet the people who have enviable physiques, lives, and results all do the unenviable on a daily basis.

It all comes down to a decision.  It’s really that simple.  When the moment comes, you can either decide to do the thing that is hard or do the thing that is easy.  And so, so, so many people choose easy.  Hell, I choose easy a lot of the time.  It’s easy to pop in a couple chocolate covered raisins rather than resist.  It’s easy to “forget” to go on the stairmaster. It’s easy to throw together a plan last minute and call it “good enough”.

But every single person that I read about who is winning chooses hard.  Not because they are a masochist or because they think that the more pain they put themselves in the more noble they are, but because they know that that is what it takes.

Most people can’t see past the immediate.  They see the sweat and sacrifice and do an about-face.  But nothing great was every accomplished by retreat, and we need to forge our own warriors mentality with everything that we do.  Battles are not won only on the battlefield, but during every day that leads up to the final epic clash.

So how do you ensure that you will, in fact, be victorious on the battlefield?

Become a leader.  I was listening to a podcast by Andy Frisella on how leadership isn’t about bossing people around but being willing to do the smallest of things every single day.  Essentially, if you are a true leader, you may have someone assigned to do the dirty work but if you see it needs to be done, YOU do it.  Practicing doing what needs to be done on a daily basis, regardless of who is ‘supposed’ to do or when it ‘should’ have been done is a surefire way to ensure self-respect.  And people who have massive amounts of self-respect are unstoppable.

Stop the excuses.  There are so many times I have told myself “It’s Friday…one treat won’t hurt” or “I did a really hard workout today, I don’t need that extra cardio.”  If you want better than normal results, you have to put in more than normal effort.  This is a hard and fast rule that really can’t be bent, broken, or manipulated.  Our excuses are like fast food-convenient in the moment but over time they add up to a shitty lifestyle and a fat ass, neither of which are appealing.

Educate yourself.  If my goal is to be the next female body builder, I could dedicate myself to running and eating low calorie all day long, but I will never achieve the results I want.  I have to be willing to spend money on the best trainers, dedicate time to researching my nutrition and exercise, and constantly be prowling for the best and newest information.  Learning does not stop after we graduate high school or college.  If you want to truly succeed, you must constantly try to learn new things.

Do the dirty work.  I cannot stress this point enough (especially to myself).  I cannot expect to accomplish any of my grand ideals if I don’t grab a shovel and start clearing the hole for a solid foundation.  And once that foundation is made, I need to grab a hammer and nails and start building.  And once the structure is made, the drywall needs to be hung.  And so on and so forth.  The point is, you can image the most beautiful house in the world, but if you don’t actually break a sweat to get it done, it will remain naught but a fantasy.

Everyone in this world has a vision of what they would ideally like their life to be, but there are only a few who actually roll up their sleeves and dig in enough to make it happen.  We have one life.  Why wouldn’t you brave a few cobwebs and dust bunnies to uncover the potential treasure trove that lies beneath?

Grab a shovel, friends.  It’s time to get dirty.

 

 

 

Why Tinder has Ruined Dating

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Last week I downloaded Tinder.  Last week I also deleted Tinder.

To be fair, the only reason I downloaded it in the first place was because I was fairly bored (aka being lazy) and all of my friends were merrily swiping away all around me.  It was a moment of weakness in which I was like “wellllllll ok, I’ll play”.

Just to be clear, I am not looking for men to sleep with; notches on a bedpost do NOT appeal to me.  I want to find a quality man that I am attracted to and who obviously shares those feelings in return and eventually build an amazing life with that person.  (But Hannah, why are you on Tinder then?  Yeah, Yeah, I know).  While I do not want to meet my future husband off Tinder, I also was curious to see what was out there because frankly, the dating pool in California majorly sucks.

With this goal in mind, the only thing I put in my profile was my height and the tagline “if you’re not ready to take me out on a legit date, don’t even bother.”   This, I thought to myself, should weed out any potential booty solicitations.

What I didn’t take into consideration, however, was the fact that I was supremely busy and didn’t actually have time to go on many dates.  And every message I got asked me when we were going to meet up for drinks, or coffee, or dinner.  It was overwhelming!  Yet also exciting-so many men who wanted to meet me?  Really?? Oh the possibilities!

The same sword that slays the dragon can also cut the hero, however.  The fact that there are so many options at your literal fingertips seems glorious at first, until you find yourself discarding this one or that one due to minor issues that you wouldn’t even have known about yet had you met them in real life.

The seemingly endless options that we have available at any moment has made us picky to the point of ridiculousness.  Why would I settle for THIS guy/girl who has 9/10 of my wants in a mate when I could just swipe a couple hours more and possible get a guy/girl with 10/10?

Choices are not the enemy, but they definitely make commitment harder and loyalty a treasure more precious than diamonds.  The endless option atmosphere that permeates almost every aspect of our lives, while amazing, is making us fickle and SO much more shallow.

This was made incredibly real to me when I went to fair by myself.  I had spent the day intermittently working and swiping, and had had several different conversations with eligible Tinderinians who fit my initial attractiveness criteria for swiping right (which means they were HOT…I have high standards.  #sorrynotsorry.).  At the fair, I ran into one of the guys running a booth and we struck up a conversation.

This guy was not my usual type.  Scrawny, blonde, a smoker, not unattractive but definitely not movie star status, and just over my height.  Yet for some reason, I found myself attracted to him more and more as we talked.  Our vibes just clicked.

We kept in contact, and each time I get a text, I am always excited.  Which completely weirds me out.  He is NOT someone I would have EVER pictured myself with, and I’m pretty sure that this won’t actually go anywhere, but just the fact that I wouldn’t be opposed to being taken on a date by someone I would have never, ever swiped right on is indicator enough that it’s time to take dating back offline.

Online dating has made us hyper critical of everyone else while simultaneously complaining that we can’t find a man or woman who loves us for who we really are.  We are quick to dismiss people we may actually be quite compatible with simply because they don’t fit what we have envisioned for ourselves or because we fear what other people might think or say.

Online dating has also made us scared to actually start something in real life.  I have been in so many situations where I had a great conversation with a dude only to have it end with a “see ya around!” rather than a “hey, let me get your number.”  Granted, some of those men might have just been friendly and/or already taken, but I get the feeling that the vast majority find it a lot easier to miss a match than to get shot down in person.

Additionally, online dating has made open sexuality permissible.  If the initial messages aren’t sexual from the start, its becoming more and more acceptable to introduce sex as a topic on the first date.  I went out for drink with one guy, my age, from Tinder last week, and by the end of the first cocktail he mentioned that (R rating alert) he wished I was sitting on his face.  I had known him for less than 12 hours and he felt that this was an acceptable addition to the conversation.

This is contrasted to a date that I had on Saturday night with a guy who was older than me by 7+ years.  He checked about my dietary restrictions, made reservations at a vegan friendly restaurant, and bought tickets to a show that I’ve wanted to see for forever.  There may have only been 7 or 8 years between those two men (and I met them both on Tinder), but there was a world of difference in how I felt about how I was treated.

So what’s the solution?  How can we balance all the amazing things this new generation has to offer with all of the pitfalls that come along with it?

Honestly, it comes down to you, the individual.  You decide how you will view the world, and you decide what you’re going to accept and what you’re going to reject.  It may take more work and more time, but you WILL find someone who has decided on the same values.

When you find someone who gets you, truly gets you, it doesn’t matter how many matches you made or how many right swipes you may be losing out on.  All that matters, truly, is how THEY make you feel and how much you elevate each other to become your best selves.  And that, friends, is the best match you could ever make.

 

 

 

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.