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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

 

Awesome Begats Awesome

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At this moment, I am sitting on my couch, basking in the memory of an incredible birthday weekend spent with people that mean the world to me, gallivanting around the southern half of California, and dancing the night away.  *sigh of contentment*

My birthday was amazing.  And if you know me, you know that I planned it out approximately 5 months in advance, invited everyone I cared about, and sent out hourly reminders until the day of.  There was no room for error, and I loved every single second.

On Sunday, I was discussing how awesome my birthday Friday was with someone, and I made the comment that it turned out great because I made sure that it turned out great, leaving no detail left to chance.

He offhandedly remarked “well yeah, but it probably had a lot more to do with being an awesome person.” *cue blush*

After my initial flattered response (sadly, it wasn’t just a compliment for me), we discussed how the people who are generally wonderful have positive and amazing things happen to them, while the people who are generally terrible have shitty and negative things happen to them.

In a phrase, you attract what you radiate.

This concept is nothing new.  I have read multiple articles on the topic, sayings like “your vibe attracts your tribe” are everywhere, and people are always quick to point out how someone caused their own downfall in one way or another due to their mindset.

And yet, it is rare that people actually take this truth into consideration in their daily lives.  There are so many times that individuals see something that they want and are flabbergasted when they cannot seem to obtain it or when it does not fit into their life.  If you want something out of life, first you must become attractive to that thing.

The biggest example I can think of to illustrate this concept is our relationships with other people, both romantic and platonic.  If you as a female are attracted to strong, intellectual men yet you are a party girl who just wants to get some dranks every weekend, you will not appeal to that type of man.  If you are a male attracted to feisty, independent women, you cannot be living with your parents and crumbling to their every desire.

If you want friends who are ride or die and will be there for you no matter what happens, you have to give that to them first.  If you want friends who can travel the world with you, don’t limit yourself to your high school bestie who has never left the hometown except for the occasional Christmas at Grandma’s the next state over.

People who are awesome want nothing but the highest quality out of their relationships, careers, and daily life.  They also tend to have universal traits: Kindness, passion, drive, consideration, and zest for life rarely are possessed by subpar individuals.

There are also things that could make someone extra amazing to one person, and be a total turnoff to another.  One random example of this is geekiness.  In my view, going crazy for ComicCon or the latest Star Trek movie is not my idea of impressive, and if I met a man who was obsessed with these things, I would not give him a second glance.  Yet for other women, this same trait would be their kryptonite.

Our life is created not by what we desire, but by what we offer.  There is a reason that I am not attracted to comic book nerds: I am the furthest thing from that myself.  However, if I want to attract the strong, confident, successful, fit man that I want to end up with, I have to make sure that I am embodying those things.

Now, people constantly change, and there is nothing wrong with desiring more than what we can give at the time, but if you are not making strides towards closing the gap, that opportunity or relationship will drift away.

If an opportunity or a person shows potential, it’s worth it to explore it to the fullest.  However, nothing will come to you with its potential fully realized, gracefully draping its fully bloomed self across your lap.  Anything that seems like it could lead to the Realm of Awesome will take effort.

 

This is why potential without action is useless.  There is everything right with seeing true potential inside or outside of yourself.  There is everything wrong with simply sitting back and expecting great things to happen with no effort.

If I had not taken the time to plan out my birthday to the tiniest minute details, who knows what could have gone wrong or what expectations might have been crushed.  However, because I acknowledged my own desires and took action to make it happen, I got to enjoy a magnificent day.

Every single person has the potential to be someone AWESOME.  But just as a medieval fire would not start without the action of striking flint to stone, your potential for awesome will not alight without you taking strides to make it happen.

Take time to cultivate the impressive parts of yourself.  Devote energy into investing in you.  And when you decide to fully hit the road to Awesome, you’ll find it’s quite easy to link up with others on that same journey on your way.  And once that happens, who knows what other amazing, breathtaking, wondrous things are waiting to transpire?

 

 

Validation

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Today I had a very humbling realization:  I don’t always do the right thing.

Now, as much as I know, logically, that I can’t possible do the right thing every single time, there is a part of me that feels that I usually bat 1000 when it comes to human interactions.  I pride myself on my ability to integrate myself with others, and today I was slapped in the face with the reality that sometimes, I’m not only not good at person to person relations, there is the occasional interaction that I completely, utterly fuck up.

To elaborate, there are 18 teachers in my school, including me, who received possible non-reemploy notices for next year.  One of those teachers is 4 months pregnant, and she was devastated at the news.

Today after our staff meeting I gave her a hug and attempted to cheer her up by saying “look at it from the lens of possibility!  You’ll be ok!” to which she replied “shut up Hannah…just shut up”.

Now, my immediate inner reaction was to rear up on my high horse and and condemn her for such rude hostility.  How dare she not be inspired by my waves of positivity!  How could she not see that I was a vibrant fountain of constructive forward thought!  Fine, she could just wallow in her negativity.

When I mentioned this story to someone else (with the expectation, of course, that he would immediately agree that I was such a beacon of light and my coworker needed to recognize), he simply said “people don’t want to hear all that.”

This made me pause.

Why WOULDN’T someone who is feeling down and out want to hear about how things are going to get better and that they will come out on top?  Isn’t that better than agreeing with them that the world is crashing down around them?  Don’t people want to have someone point out all the good things when they are focusing on the bad?

And then I realized: people don’t want to hear anything until they know that their current feelings are validated.  Feeling validated is a basic need of every single human being, and any advice given before validation occurs will simply be seen as patronization.

This, of course, was a bitter pill to swallow.  Here I had been riding along on my high horse, thinking that I was magnanimously sprinkling goodwill flowers for everyone to enjoy, when really I was coming off as the smug little goody-two-shoes, pat-patting everyone on the head with a small “there there”.

Being the type of person who legitimately wants to help people, this realization kills me.  Being the type of person who will not accept less than perfection from myself, it also prompted thoughts about how I can truly, honestly legitimize someone’s feelings.  How can I change my approach so that I am ACTUALLY someone people can count on versus only being that person in my head?

In my view, it all comes down to one simple thing: listening.  When I was busy spouting my words of supposed wisdom, I was failing to actually listen to what my co-worker was going through.  This woman, a cornerstone of our school, is facing the possibility of bringing a baby girl into the world on only her husband’s income with no health insurance.  If you live in the boondocks, that’s no problem.  Here in California?  HA.

The bottom line is, her feelings are extremely real and valid, and no amount of positive fluff will change that.  There is an extreme difference between being legitimately there for someone versus using someone else’s issues to showcase your own thoughts and feelings.

Listening to someone, really listening, is usually the only thing that truly helps in any sort of rough situation.  Feelings are ever-changing and maddeningly, unaffected by logic.  Yet paradoxically, sometimes the only thing that can help change someone’s emotions is the simple acknowledgment that their state of mind is real and that it is okay.

When I think back on all of the times I’ve been upset and stayed upset for any length of time, it was simply due to the fact that I felt like my feelings were not heard.  When I have confirmation that my current reaction is acknowledged, usually, magically, my negativity dissipates.

Facing realizations about how you have screwed up sucks.  I always want to be the best version of myself, and when it’s pointed out to me that my approach to a situation was terrible, my prancing gelding suddenly turns into a rock that I am frantically trying to crawl under.

But if I know one thing about myself, it’s that I don’t give up.  And so, I turn my head onward with the torch of new realizations lighting my way.  I’m sure this won’t be the last time I come across someone in a state of internal agony, but I will try my damndest to make sure that it will be the last time I try to fill the space between us with my own useless words.

Shit happens.  Life can be a real freakin’ bitch sometimes, and people react to things in different ways.  And you know what?  If I think the way I react to things is ok, I have no right to judge how others react.  The only thing I can do is listen, squeeze their hand, hand them tissues, and then shut up and listen some more.

Making a Choice

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If you are a frequent social media user (and really, who isn’t these days), I’m sure you’ve seen the “Just Do It!” video put out by Shia Lebeouf over a year ago. While his gesticulations,  posturing, and total commitment to this piece invite a lot of humor, his overall message fits in nicely with my thoughts today.

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We as humans are masters of making terrible choices and of avoiding decisions whenever  possible.  Which, of course, is the opposite of what we should be doing.  Most people avoid making choices because a)they don’t know what they actually want, b)they don’t want to work hard, or c)they want to keep all options open as long as possible.  In order to get ahead in life, you need to Make. A. Choice., which means you need to have an awareness of the following things:

What do you actually, honestly, want?

There are few, if any people in the world who are true free agents.  Every person has obligations to someone, whether it be to a parent, a spouse, a child, a boss, or another established relationship in your life.  Before you make any choices, you need to think about how your options will affect those commitments, if at all.  Most of the time, we find that we have been using our responsibilities as an excuse to get out of making difficult decisions.  “I know I need to eat healthier, but my family won’t eat the healthy food I make” or “I know I need to work out but my boss demands so much of my time time” or “I want to stop drinking so much but my friends go out all the time”.  The only conclusion that can be drawn from this is that you actually don’t want it that bad.

If you really, truly want something, there will be nothing that stands in your way.  I have a friend whose boyfriend drove an hour and a half, in traffic, every weekend in the beginning of the relationship because he valued her.  He actively CHOSE her, against all inconveniences and drawbacks, because he knew what he wanted.  I have another friend who uses his lunch break to work out so he can focus on other personal goals before and after work.  He actively CHOOSES to sacrifice sleep and social time because his aspirations are important to him.  I get up at 5am every weekday so that I can complete my cardio workout regardless of what might come up after work.  I actively CHOOSE to forfeit lazy mornings because I want to maintain my health.

Figure out what you wantMake that knowledge so ingrained in your mind that no one can make your focus waiver.  Then, make choices based on that solid foundation of desire.

What are your options? 

When people make a passive choice (something that they chose by their thoughtless actions rather than actively pursuing it with their mind) they are allowing themselves to believe that they don’t have any other option.  Passive choices come from not acknowledging that there are, in fact, two or more options, but instead simply falling into the easiest pattern of behavior.  “Ah, its after dinner, time to sit and watch TV” or “It’s Taco Tuesday-margaritas again!”  Stop.  Think. What are your actual options?  Which ones are going to lead you closer to where you want to be?

There are always alternatives.  Absolutely hate your current job?  Get a new one.  Sick and tired of constantly buying a bigger pants size?  Change your lifestyle.  Completely annoyed with your roommate?  Find a different living situation.  For every passive decision you have made, there were 2 or 3 other choices that may have led you down a better path.

“But wait”-you’re thinking-“It’s not that easy!”  Of course it’s not easy.  If it was easy, you would have already done it.  We are more than water falling down a hill-we should not always take the path of least resistance.  Honestly look at all of your options, and choose the one that leads you closer to where you want to be, whether it is one big decision or many small cumulative choices.

What aspects about that choice are going to be tough for you?

If you already have a set pattern of behavior, making a choice that directly conflicts with your established system will be difficult.  But what’s even more difficult is looking back ten years down the road and realizing that your life could have been so much different (i.e. better).  Yet you are also not doing yourself any favors if you blithely make a decision and skip off towards your goal without actually considering where you may stumble.

Take measures to be successful.  I know that if I come home from work absolutely starving, it’s going to be extremely hard to wait for my healthy meal to cook without devouring everything in the kitchen beforehand.  Therefore, I cook everything a day in advance so that I don’t have to wait and tempt myself.  If you know that you cannot say no to cookies in the break room, don’t go into the break room.  If you know that being alone with a certain person may cause you to be unfaithful to the man or women in your life, don’t be alone with that person.  If you know that you won’t go to the gym if you stop home beforehand, don’t go home until your workout is complete.

Don’t make the mistake of thinking that you can will yourself through any and all temptation that comes your way when you are first starting out.  Believe me, I’ve told myself that “I got this” for many a social gathering, and then the next day I wonder how the hell I let myself get so out of control.  By anticipating your weak moments in advance, you can make sure you have barriers in place that prevent total collapse.

What do you have to sacrifice?

For some choices that we decide to make, there will be nothing to sacrifice.  However, for most life-changing or hard decisions, there will usually be something that has to be given up.  If you want to lose weight/get in shape, you have to give up unhealthy foods and sitting on your butt all day.  If you want to start a business, you have to give up time spent on happy hours and Sunday Football.  If you want to initiate a new relationship, you have to sacrifice one night stands and going out on weekends prowling for the opposite sex.

However, most of the time our ‘sacrifice’ is not really a loss.  Once you start eating good food, you feel amazing and can’t believe you ever ate crap to begin with.  Once your business gets off the ground, you realize that most of the hours you ‘gave up’ would have actually just been wasted existing rather than growing.  Once your relationship is established, you appreciate the steady love of someone who supports and complements you more than the momentary excitement of a new conquest.

If you truly want what you are choosing, the things you are giving up will not feel like losses.  And when all is said and done, you may realize that your sacrifice actually ended up being a blessing in disguise.


In the end, our most defining feature will be our choices.  Don’t let fear, other people, or routine make your decisions for you.  Don’t make half-choices where you waffle back and forth between two or three different things because you don’t have the cajones to take a stand.  Decide who you want to be and focus your selections based on that conception.  Once you start narrowing your vision and making strides towards your optimal life, you will find whole other planes of existence opening up to you.

You control your future.  You control your present.  You control you.  If you really sit down to think about that, its a terrifying reality yet an amazing opportunity.  Decide what choices will get you to where you want be and Just DO IT!

-Beauty-

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Today I went to the beach for the first time in WAY too long.  It had been raining off and on all day, but when I got out of the gym the sky was full of sunshine, and the air was fresh and clean just waiting to be breathed in.  When I walked onto the boardwalk and saw the glittering ocean, a giant, cheesy smile immediately came across my face, and reappeared intermittently throughout my 45 minute walk.

The point of sharing this is quite simple: beauty.  In our pursuit of creating greatness for ourselves, or simply trying to tread water in some cases, the thing that most often gets overlooked is the beauty around us.

Here in California, we are beholders of some of the most breathtaking landscapes in the country.  Every single time I go to the beach, I ask myself why I’m not there more often.  I have been organizing my apartment like a madwoman the past two days, and while I love the feeling of accomplishment I have right now, it was so nice to take some time out from optimization and just be.

Observing the beauty in the world can bring you so much joy.  Take a pause today to really soak in the beauty around you.  Maybe that beauty is as simple as a piece of art in the office you always pass by but never really study, a swath of untouched snow, or even a vibrant green sprig in the cracks of the dull cement leading up to your front door.  Creating the time to pause and soak in all of the small glimpses of beauty in your life will bring you a calmness and appreciation that is all too often lost in our crazy roller-coaster lives.

Observe, just be, and revel in the knowledge that you are alive.