Paris Days 2-3: I Befriend an Irishman, See Amazing Art, and Have my Faith in Humanity Restored

Standard

Wednesday had me feeling like a giant blob of carbs, so after I woke up I decided to go on a run.  What better way to acquaint myself with the streets of Paris, right?  After a quick bite of almond butter (the last of my airport snacks), I laced up my Nikes and hit the streets.

I chose one of the few roads in Paris that seemed to go in a straight line for more than two blocks, and proceeded with an easy jog that allowed me to take in the sights while still covering quite a bit of ground.  It was amazing to me how many of the same stores there were: bakeries, hairdressers, pharmacies…it seemed like the streets would repeat themselves over and over, which made me wonder how they all managed to stay in business!

After turning around (I opted against venturing down any side streets so I wouldn’t get lost), I stopped at a park to do some lunges, squats, and tricep pushups.  I’m pretty sure that the other park patrons were slightly mystified by the tall blonde who was sweating all over the bench, but I felt amazing when it was all done.  If you are used to working out on a regular basis, going without for a while is torture.

After returning back to my hostel and showering (thank god for dry shampoo, as the hostel had no more toiletries to sell me), I ventured out on the metro to a random station to do some more exploring.  Wandering the streets of Paris may not seem like the most productive use of touristic time, but for me it was one of my favorite parts: everything was so similar yet so different than the US.  The romantic cobblestones of the side streets didn’t hurt either.

It was in the midst of my wanderings that I received a message from the Irish bartender from my hostel wondering if I wanted to stop by Montemartre and indulge in an adult beverage or two.  Even though I’d already been, I always enjoy hanging out with new people, so I hopped on the metro once again and proceeded to wile away the afternoon with glasses of Leffe and hilarious conversation.

Drinks of the amber variety tend to awaken the appetite, and that day was no exception.  Barney* knew of a great restaurant close to my hostel, and introduced me to the host before leaving to run some errands.  Several baguettes and forkfuls of salad later, I happily waddled back to my hostel to pack up my things and head to my next destination.

The student I had met on Tuesday through Caroline* (my student’s mother) had offered to host me for a couple more days in Paris so I could stay and experience Bastille day.  This is a true testament to the amazing hospitality of Turkish folk, as I was a complete stranger to him before our meeting on Tuesday.  I arrived at Peter’s* place around 10:30 at night after several metro and bus changes, and immediately felt welcomed in his tiny studio apartment.  The makeshift bed on the floor was sufficient, and I immediately passed out after showering the day away, thus ending my second full day in Paris.

20170712_084344.jpgI woke up the next morning fairly early by vacation standards, and was greeted by a delicious Mediterranean style homemade breakfast consisting of cheese, lettuce, and various veggies (and a croissant per request since it WAS still France, after all).  I savored every bite.

 

 

 

 

 

Sated, we packed up for the day and headed into the city to meet up with one of his friends at the Musee de Lourve.  This was one of the places I was really looking forward to seeing, and it did not disappoint!

The first thing I had to get over was seeing everything.  It would realistically take a 20170712_110841month to see every piece the museum had to offer, so we selected only a few spots to visit.  My favorite part was all of the sculptures; I cannot fathom hand carving such intricate details with such spectacular results.  Another highlight was, of course, the Mona Lisa, which was surprisingly smaller than I had imagined it.  Overall, I absolutely loved soaking in the history and artistry that permeated the entire building.

After several hours wandering the giant halls, I parted with my companions so they could get some work done, and took off to visit several different places including Notre Dame, the famous Arc de Triumphe and its accompanying street of swanky stores, and Luxembourg Garden.  And it was then I heard some welcome news-my phone, previously thought to have been lost to the seedy underbelly of Paris where the Parisian pickpockets ruled the roost, had been found!  The girl had picked it up in her courtyard, texted my friend (who was one of the contacts on my medical card accessible without the passcode), and within hours we had arranged to meet at 8pm that night so I could get it back.  Talk about serendipitous!

That amazing news prompting an even better mood, I proceeded on to my stops for the 20170712_160131day.  Notre Dame lived up to its reputation from the outside, but I voted against standing for three hours in the lines that snaked up and around the courtyard in front of the doors.  The Arc was great to see, and it was even greater to see the different people walking the street.  The highlight of the three, however, was Luxembourg.  It was HUGE, and it had an amazing chateau that was the main focal point behind a small pond where children floated small boats for a couple euros.  It was awesomely calm and peaceful, and I sat there for almost two hours just drinking in the nature in the middle of the giant City of Love.

Seeing that I still had some time to kill, I hopped on the metro after my peaceful reverie ended and headed to the Red Light district to see the famous Moulin Rouge.  Even though it was daytime and therefore not really the experience one would get if visiting at night, it was still fun to see the seedy streets and the different bars and sex shops that lined up one after another, enticing street travelers into their dark world.

20170712_192924After having a beer at one of the bars to while away even more time, I ran into a bachelor party where the garishly dressed participants enticed me with French candy and then (after I took the obviously required picture of them and then myself with the groom), they asked me to ring the bachelor’s bell-an apparatus made to look like a cock and balls pinned to the outside of his underwear.  Carefully grabbing nothing but the rope, I obliged while laughing hysterically, and they happily made their way down the street.

After this interesting encounter, I eagerly made my way by metro yet again to the Montmartre area for the 3rd time in three days.  Peter* met me at the station, and we went to the address we had been given.  The exchange went off without a hitch, and the Parisian girl refused my offer of compensation, insisting that “it’s the karma”.  All in all, it restored my faith in humanity and was a great experience to add to my memories of Paris!

Still with all the excitement, our night was not yet done.  Peter and I stopped by a sandwich stop and grabbed some beer along the way to the canal.  Here, we sat and enjoyed the food along with several other Parisian natives, as this is apparently quite a popular pastime.  A nearby bar was playing music loud enough to reach us, and the people watching was quite delightful.

After the beer and sandwiches, we decided to check out a nearby fireman’s ball (which I will explain in more detail in my next post).  Since it wasn’t that exciting, and we were both tired, AND it started raining, we decided to call it a night and headed home, thus ending my most packed yet most fulfilling day in Paris.

20196867_10213711063592168_1156643302_n

Rainy selfie

Whew.  That was a lot!

Lessons learned? A) There are bad people in the world, but there are also some AMAZING ones!  Focus on the good ones-they will pop up when you need them.  B) Turkish people are amazing hosts, and I mean above and beyond.  Such a small act of opening up your home, no matter how humble, is an amazing gesture that speaks volumes.  C) Take time to appreciate beauty, in all of its forms.  People can create amazing works, and nature is beautiful simply by being nature.  It’s all enriching if you take the time to really soak it in!

Paris Day 1: Wherein My Phone Disappears

Standard

After a forced bedtime of 2:30AM, I awoke on Tuesday around 9:30am (Apparently France makes me super lazy).  I googled my metro map to the area of Montemarte, and proceeded to take the (at the time) harrowing trek down into the bowels of the earth where the majority of Parisian public transportation lies.

IMG_7069

My love

I had yet to eat breakfast, so I stopped at a café with a gorgeous view of the church up on top of the mountain (which was the main attraction, I was to learn later).  I had a cheese crepe and a croissant, which was the BOMB.COM.  I think if I could marry French carbs, I would.  After consuming the culinary delight way too fast, I made my way up the 1,245,693,000 stairs and took in the view from the top.

 

 

Amazing.  The entire city of Paris was spread out before me.  Rooftops spread out as far as the eye could see, and you could feel both your immense insignificance and an expansive sense of wonder.  I took several long moments to soak in the view.  It was well worth the extra cardio.IMG_7072

After the requisite pictures and an attempted selfie, I headed into the church, but not before being denied entrance because of my spaghetti strap dress.  They gave me a piece of cloth to wrap around my shoulders, and I wore the cape of shame as I strolled through the grandiose hall.  The air was ripe with ancient respect and hallowed thoughts, and the ceilings were incredibly detailed and rich.  It was very cool to see, but quite honestly I’d probably skip the tour next time-if you’ve seen one old church, you’ve seen them all.

What interested me more was the streets.  Obviously, because that’s where all the delicious food was (I mean, that’s a given), but I also wanted to just soak in the wonder of a different culture.  I proceeded to wander around the streets aimlessly, looking at all of the different stores and building architectures and people.  It was a great way to acquaint myself with the real Paris.

The real Paris, it turns out, can be kind of a bitch sometimes.  After several attempts to find a restroom that I could use (turns out some restaurants are quite possessive of their toilettes), I got lucky with a nice, albeit reluctant, bartender.  The bathroom situation in and of itself was quite annoying, especially if you’re someone like me who enjoys copious amounts of water and therefore needs readily accessible facilities for the side effects of such hydration.

But wait, it gets better.  Twenty minutes and several blocks of wandering later, bladder deflated, I reached into my purse to grab my phone to check the time.  My hand grabbed air.  I paused, then opened the side pocket where the pink-clad mobile should have been resting to see if I had somehow managed to miss it.  Nothing but black cloth.  I unzipped the main compartment, feeling silly that I had misplaced such an important item.  Wallet, metro pass….no phone.  I checked both pockets again about 5 more times before accepting the fact that my phone was indeed not in my possession.

Thus began the frantic retracing of steps through the slanted streets of Montmarte.  The cobblestones that had led me so whimsically just 1 hour before now offered nothing but challenge and confusion.  No pink Iphone greeted me in the streets, and the only two spots I had stopped at both shook their heads.  My phone had vanished into thin air.

The acceptance of this fact led to the hunt for and purchase of a fancy (aka the cheapest) smart phone from the nearest mobile store.  Thankfully, you have the option just purchase network and load it on a sim card rather than have to commit to a contract, which was great for being able to get online right away.  One hour and 155 Euro’s later (4 E off for patience, whoot!), I was the proud owner of a cheapo Samsung and a new French number.

The afternoon of Day 1 therefore consisted of ordering a new phone for home (I have insurance, apparently, which was awesome!) and cancelling all service to the lost/stolen device.  Needless to say, I did not feel like exploring much more at all, but I did have an appointment with my contact in Paris to meet up later that night, so I was forced to shake it off and keep moving.

20170711_075620

FALAFEL!

My contact, Peter*, was a former Turkish renter of my student’s mother (who was kind enough to set up

 

20170711_091707

Wine ❤

communication between myself and several people over here in France).  We met at a Starbucks close to one of the Metro stations, and he proceeded to show me several different hot spots in Paris, including a DELICIOUS falafel stand on a random street, a cute garden enclosed in a courtyard where we enjoyed said falafel, the riverside where we started a bottle of wine, and finally ending the night in the Lourve garden with an amazing view of the Eiffel tower.  It was magical.

 

For someone who just up and flew across the Atlantic Ocean with little to no planning (which is 100% not my usual style), I got SO lucky to be put into contact with people who knew the city and were kind enough to show me around.  Looking back, I wouldn’t have had half the amazing experiences that I did if I didn’t have that advantage.

Lessons learned? A) Be aware of what is going on around you, and KEEP AN EYE AND HAND AND LOCK on your stuff at all times!  You may think you’re being vigilant…but trust me, you can be even more careful. B) Patience and being nice pays off.  I could have easily shown my frustration at the lady selling me my phone since it took FOREVER to figure out and set up, but I chose to smile and wait, and it paid off with a discount and good relations.  It’s so tempting to get frustrated when you’re traveling, especially when something happens that SUCKS and is expensive, but being kind is ALWAYS the right choice. C) Always, always, bring more money than you think you’ll need.  I thought I had more than enough Euros, but then I had to pay for my hostel AND new phone in cash, which took a giant chunk out of my stash.  You can always bring back money, but if you spend your last cent and you need more, it’s harder AND more expensive to get money when you are in a different country.

Paris Day 0.5: I Play Beer Pong with Children

Standard

I had a student this year who was born in France.  She is an amazingly talented and hardworking girl, and she happened to invite me to several of her dance competitions outside of school.  I took her up a couple of her offers, and met her mother, Caroline*.  During several of our conversations, Caroline informed me that Sharyl* loved me and that I was doing an awesome job as her teacher (which is always great to hear, and one of the main reasons for why I love my job so much).

In the midst of conversation after hearing that I was considering teaching overseas, she immediately perked up and started extolling the virtues of France.  In the end, she offered her place for my use whenever I wanted, which was completely unexpected and completely amazing.  After a couple weeks went by, I took her up on the offer, booked a ticket for the next week, and am currently writing this sitting on the train headed to Grenoble after 5 days in Paris.  What is my life!?

I experienced SO much and packed so many things into the 5 days-It was AWESOME.  I’m sure that I’m going to forget so many things, but I’ll try my best to relay all the juiciest details.

So, let me start from the beginning.

IMG_7054

My first view of France!

I arrived in Paris at 7 at night after a 10+ hour flight that felt like nothing because I slept the entire time.  Great for time travel, terrible for 9 hour time changes.  After disembarking, we waited for over an hour to get our passports checked and stamped, which was terrible and made me thankful I had peed on the plane right before (if you don’t know me, I have the bladder of a mouse).  I did make some cool friends in line though, and I hope they are having fun on their own European adventures!

After figuring out the whole metro pass system (which consisted of losing money to a broken photo machine and promptly using the next one to take probably the WORST picture of me in my entire life to proudly display on my card all week), I went below ground to take my first of many metro rides in the direction of my hostel.  Thankfully, this ride did not require a train change, and I arrived safely, albeit slightly more dirty than when I arrived.

I hauled my 60 lbs of lugguage across the way (note to self: PACK LIGHTER NEXT TIME) and checked into my hostel located near Gare du Nord Metro station.  The hostel was actually super nice as far as what I was imagining sharing a room with 7 other strangers would be, and the girls in my room kept to themselves but in a friendly sort of way.

All settled, I set out to explore the small chunk of Paris that I had landed in, and went out in search of food.  Since it was going to be my first real meal in the city, I wanted it to be a good one, so I checked out several different menus

IMG_7057

before settling on one that I deemed worthy.  Trying to be good, I ordered a salad and water (after an appetizer of cheese, obviously), but was sabotaged with my first of many (and I mean MANY) baskets of oh-so-delicious French baguettes.  I gleefully stuffed my face with doughy delicious carbs, and had to force myself to finish my salad when it came (which looked ‘off’ since it was topped with cooked green beans and carrots, but which turned out to be surprisingly delicious).

 

 

 

 

Full and still not being tired even though it was almost 11:30pm (thanks to my ‘morning’ wakeup of 6pm Paris time), I decided to check out the bar below the rooms to try to conjure up a beer-induced sleepiness.

 

I had been sitting with my beer for maybe 5 minutes when I was approached by a fellow male traveler from Mexico.  We sat and chatted for quite a while, and eventually made friends with the (literal) children sitting across the table from us.  They challenged us to a game of beer pong, and I squelched my teacher instincts to lecture them on the dangers of alcohol to take them up on it.  Being bested by a pair of Canadian 18 years olds (albeit by one cup) is not my proudest moment, but it definitely made my first night in Paris memorable.

At 2am in the morning, I decided that 5pm California time be damned, I needed to wake up at a decent hour the next morning.  So, I forced myself up into the top bunk bed I had been assigned, and eventually fell asleep, thus ending my first half-day in a foreign country.

Lessons learned? 1)  If you’re going to sleep on your flight, anticipate the consequences and take advantage of the messed up sleep schedule to check out different cool places (not just your sad hostel bar).  2) 18 year olds are surprisingly good at beer pong (or I’m just unsurprisingly terrible).  3) Even the most random vegetables, when mixed together, make a pretty great salad. 4) Everyone has a story; if you ask, they will tell you, and it’s almost always interesting.

PS-this is my first attempt at travel blogging, so please don’t hesitate to give feedback!  I have sporadic internet access and zero time, so my updates will be slow but they WILL come. :o)

What I’ve Learned from 50 Blog Posts

Standard

Good MORNING everyone!

It’s a great Sunday!  For those of you who don’t know, I am flying to FRANCE later today for three whole weeks, and I am just a tiny bit pumped about it.  *insert all the excited emojis here*  Don’t worry, there will be plenty of posts coming discussing my adventures and all the things I will inevitably learn about myself and the world at large.

Coincidentally, this post is my 50th (FIFTIETH!?) post that I will be putting up since starting this blogging venture in January, which seems crazy to me–this means I’ve written over 50,000 words this year so far! (Perhaps I should just start my book already)  I have absolutely loved this journey, and it has taught me quite a few things already:

Inspiration can come from the most random, seemingly inconsequential places.  There have been times when something major has happened in my life (such as my recent breakup or getting laid off) that has spurred major life contemplation which spawned several blog posts.  Other times, however, something very small happened or the tiniest of thoughts wormed my way into my brain as the result of a minor observation that day, eventually blooming into a full-blown post.

There is no way to predict where my inspiration to write will come from, but I have learned to relax into the knowledge that it WILL come.  There have been times when I feel like I’ve written about everything that I could possibly write about already, and within hours I observe or contemplate something that is completely new or a different way of looking at an old topic.  It’s comforting to know that motivation does not have to be sought after; it will come when it’s needed.

Consistency is imperative.  For the most part in the last 6 months, I have been posting with regularity once in the beginning of the week and once on the weekend.  However, there have been a couple of weeks where I have skipped a post due to circumstances or allowed myself to fall off my regular schedule simply because I didn’t feel like writing something that day.  Whenever I do this, though, I notice a decline in my readership and people becoming less engaged in what I write.

Like everything in life, you have to stick to something with fierce determination if you actually want it to blossom into something worthwhile.  For me, blogging is something that I want to continue to grow, so I absolutely cannot let myself treat it as anything other than vitally important.  It is so easy to let ourselves get into the ‘just this once’ mentality, but that is the thought pattern that kills any and all momentum.

Practice DOES make a difference.  When I first started out, I had to budget an entire Saturday morning or weekday evening to writing a post.  It would take me anywhere from 3-4 hours to write a post, edit it, and post it up on my Facebook page and Instagram.  Now, I can whip out most posts in about an hour, and it takes me about 15 minutes tops to create a picture for Instagram, post it, and link the post to my Facebook page.

We tend to forget when we first start out that it will eventually become easier.  We ALL suck at everything we do the first time we do it.  Most of us use that as an excuse to quit (I’ve been guilty of this quite a few times).  However, once you really start to get the hang of something, it can be a real source of joy and purpose.

Writing is the best way to process emotion.  For me, that is.  Whenever I have an emotionally trying experience, I am able to sit down and have words flow out of me.  When I’m done writing, I usually feel an awesome sense of release and a renewed understanding of how I really feel.  It isn’t healthy to keep your emotions unprocessed, and I have found that this blog has helped me keep moving forward emotionally in a really positive way.

Of course, not everyone has the same level of writing ability.  Some are much more fluid and practiced than I am, while others struggle to compose even the most basic sentence.  Even if you aren’t good at writing, there are so many other ways of communication that are available, from video to drawing to creating music.  Finding the way in which you are able to communicate clearly is unparalleled for personal growth.

Having a passion is invaluable.  Since I started blogging, I have looked at the world in a whole new way that has positively expanded my mind from its previously narrow focus on things only related to teaching.  I have fallen in love with writing and trying to find things of value to communicate, and blogging has opened up many different possibilities and exposed me to so many different things all in the span of 6 months.  There are so many things I wish to accomplish, and starting with this small but fiery fascination is spurring many different areas of growth that I would have never predicted.

Many times people sacrifice their areas of passion because they don’t believe that it will let them get ahead in the world, or that it will take time away from other ‘productive’ areas of their life.  This is the absolute worst thing that you can do.  Don’t ever, EVER give up your passions for anything in the world; they are what give you purpose and joy, and those areas of inspiration and motivation are where you can contribute at your maximum potential.

Overall, blogging has been an invaluable teacher for me thus far, and I am excited to see where it takes me in the future!  I have loved sharing my thoughts with the universe, and when I get a new follower, see a new post like, or have a new comment I feel an awesome little thrill inside each and every time.  This has been an amazing 6 months, and I am beyond excited to see where the next 6 months take me.

If you have been with me since the beginning, THANK YOU for staying around!  If you are a new reader, please give me your thoughts in the comments, and thank you for checking me out. :o)  And as always, please go out and present your optimum selves each and every day to the world.  The world is made infinitely better when we are all living our best lives.

<3, Hannah Elizabeth

 

Routine: The Essential Ingredient for Success

Standard

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

Standard

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.

My Top 5 Takeaways from #BlogHer17

Standard

The past couple of days, I’ve been in Orlando, Florida at the BlogHer conference.  It was INCREDIBLE.  It was the first time I’ve ever been to a conference of any sort, and I was blown away by all of the passion, information, and people that I encountered on my two day stint.

There was so much amazing knowledge that was shared, and so many insights I gleaned from my observations and conversations.  Overall, though, I want to share with you the top 5 takeaways I gathered from my 48 hours at #BlogHer17

Takeaway #1: You Serve Best by Doing What You Love

As I was listing to all of the keynote speakers, it was evident that they had SO MUCH passion behind their individual projects.  While each of the speakers had lofty aspirations they wanted to reach, and they all wanted to make an impact on the world, they were doing it in so many different ways.   Likewise, when I dove into conversation with other bloggers, there was so much variety in what people were targeting in their blogs.

If you look at what everybody else is doing, it is so easy to lose focus on what we originally set out to do.  One of the great quotes that I heard is “we envy what we don’t know”.  I have found this to be true with me recently, as I am trying to solidify what impact I want to make in the world and how I want to do that outside of my teaching arena.  I look at all the things others are doing and think “aw man, I should be doing that!” or “I should be doing this!”

In reality, we need to bring our focus back to us and what WE love.  If we have passion, that passion will be infectious.  However, if that true joy in what we’re doing is lacking, it will never end up being successful anyways.

Takeaway #2:  Don’t Be Married To An Outcome

There were several speakers who touched on this idea.  The notion that we are going to go from A to B to C without any forks in the road or hills to climb is laughable.  Oftentimes we decide on a path and continue to slog through the mud, come hell or high water, even when stepping stones to higher, drier ground appear before us.  There were many examples at the conference of people who started out doing one thing and then pivoted and did something completely different than what they originally envisioned.

This idea of letting life lead you needs to be balanced with drive and ambition, of course, but if you find that you aren’t enjoying something as much as you used to, or you discover something else that gives you more fulfillment, it is 100% ok to change direction.

Takeaway #3:  Pressure is a Privilege

A couple of people discussed this idea that they avoided success because it meant that there would be a lot more pressure put upon them to perform.  If you are the best tennis player in the world, people simply expect you to win, which can be daunting.  However, being successful and having that pressure put upon you is a privilege in that it validates your achievements and gives you a platform from which to amplify your message.

Not having any pressure to accomplish anything is dangerous; it leads to complacency and a cycle of accepting the status quo.  If you feel that pressure to get better, go to the next level, or advance your brand or business, be thankful: It means that you are making headway and an impact.

Takeaway #4:  Celebrate The Power of Others

There were so many women (and a handful of men) at this conference who were doing so many amazing things, big and small.  There were several keynote speakers who blew me away with their social change efforts, and a handful of open-mic night participants that moved me to tears.  It was incredible to feel the constant energy, and it completely fueled my fire to do big things.

Someone else doing amazing things in no way dilutes your ability to reach success, too.  If everyone helps each other up, all participating parties benefit.  There are so many authentically awe-inspiring things that are going on in the world around you-get involved with other people’s success, and it can only augment yours.

Takeaway #5: Dream Big

Many times we imagine what could happen if our wildest dreams came true, and then we tamp our thoughts back down into the firm cold ground of ‘reality’.  There were so many people who presented their accomplishments, and all of them conveyed them in a way that made it seem like it wasn’t an act of luck or happenstance that these things came to fruition but simply putting in the time or taking advantage of opportunities that cropped up along the way.

Our dreams are worth holding on to.  There is no point in chasing a ‘realistic’ dream; than it ceases to be a dream at all.  If you have aspirations that seem crazy, don’t let that dissuade you.  Keep those goals in the forefront of your mind and actually believe that you can achieve them.  We only have one life, and it is better to spend it working towards a bigger vision that squander it on the mundane.

Final Thoughts:

Overall, BlogHer was an amazing, mindset-shifting event that had a profound impact on my mindset and awareness.  While I still need time to process all of the information that I received, I am beyond thankful for the opportunity of going!

I highly encourage you to search up conferences related to your passions and professions.  Not only will you return with renewed purpose, you will connect with others who are like-minded and maybe, just maybe, you will have one encounter that alters your course for good.  In the infamous words of Shia LeBeouf, “Just DO IT!”