Warning: This is a Rant. But I’d love for you to read it.

I’m upset.  My stomach is turning and words are stumbling out of my fingers wondering how far I’ll go before deleting this entire post and continuing on with my day.  As you may or may not have noticed from the lack of posts over the last 6, 8, 12 months…I’ve got shit to do today, I don’t have time to write.  But I think this is important.  So here it goes.

In light of recent events, there is a lot to be upset about.  Listening to the media would have you feeling like society as we know it is crumbling down to the ground one shot at a time. I’ve spent a good chunk of my time just wondering how much time I should spend thinking about my role in this- what should I think, how should I act; do I go about my day like nothing happened and keep high spirits?  Do I reach out to friends and followers on social media, expelling opinions like I’m turning a profit on them?  Times like these challenge our civility and beg the question: How do I Be?

Today was different.  I woke up to another report of a sickened individual with a vengeance grown on pure hatred and fear, hunting and haunting another group of innocent people.  Most alarmingly, my first thought was not what happened, but when will this happen next…and to whom?  I’ve come to realize that I no longer feel shocked by the radical actions of the chronically fearful, but instead I myself feel fear for when these same individuals forcefully enter my personal circle.  Fear.  The same emotion I’ve been unpacking since starting this blog.  Fear and all its friends.

Still, this isn’t what I’m here for.  It was a later news report that finally tipped the scales.  Enter the newly passed GOP Platform. Yes, it’s getting political.  Feel free to jump off the ship now if you want, no questions asked.  The GOP Platform, amidst the chaos that surrounds this obsessively publicized campaign, has decided to move to the right of DONALD TRUMP when it comes to LGBT issues.  As in, stamping a big exclamation point on the otherwise fading ultra-conservative subgroup of constituents.  As in, including language that is specifically symbolic in nature to further solidify the party’s efforts to marginalize a community just as it grasps its first glimpse of equality along the horizon.  As in, forcing an ill-equipped and abused teenage girl into become a parent while legislating away the right of a loving couple to provide a safe home to a child.  As in, alienating an entire community from the conservative ballot and consequently invigorating partisan extremism.  As in, planting a nearly identical seed of the institutionalized inequality- and subsequent fear/hate therein- that has driven us to this point in the first place; at the risk of overusing a cliche, history unlearned is doomed to repeat itself.  There are countless incomprehensible prime-time news stories today that will become the incomprehensible histories for future generations to examine…but this is something we are actively choosing to allow by passively refusing to take control.

When it comes to the tragedies and the travesties that have thrust their way into our daily experience at increasing frequencies, I am at a loss for answers.  We cannot change the demented crusade that has berated our society, we can only learn from it.  Our individual lessons will not be duplicated, but they will lend meaningful action to the collective conversation when transmitted from the heart.  My lesson: do not draw lines between what someone can and cannot do because of an arbitrary category that the disembodied voice of the masses has created.  Do not cheapen the experience of another because you have not shared in it- they are not wrong for the lessons life has passed to them and not you.  Do not give in to the fear of an ego that accepts only sameness in others.  Celebrate the differences, show love to a stranger, and treat yourself the way you want others to treat you.  Spill out the courage and impartiality from your heart to drown the flames of hatred rather than feeding them with fear.  Find the little cracks that YOU can change- be it a targeted joke, throwing fair and informed punches in constructive arguments, or simply letting that car merge on the freeway- and patch them before they split wide open in a cataclysmic debasement of Us.  I could care less who you are voting for in November so long as you know what you are supporting.  The history books are counting on you.

Good Morning, Sunshine: 10 Ways to Make Sure You Kick Ass Today

This one has been on my mind for a while now, and it’s time to share.  Mornings are lovely and exciting times for everyone; the sun opens its warm shiny rays upon us, birds are singing, animals frolicking- the world is waking and YOU get to witness it!  Unless you are not a Morning Person…in which case mornings are your sworn enemy- a time when you are rudely robbed of your right to bask in the glorious cloud of dreamland.  If you hit snooze multiple times on your several alarms, rush out the door, and hope to someone there is coffee in the office, READ ON.  We’re going to take this slow, and we’re going to do this together.

Daily Disclaimer:  I am not naturally a Morning Person, so I (absolutely) do not do all of these things every day.  Some days it is difficult to drag myself out of bed and I have to eat my words for breakfast.  One thing is for sure, on the mornings that I hit the most of these targets, I have the very best days.  Think of this as a menu of options for your own daily dose.  And then expand. Grow.  Brush your Teeth.  Call your mom.  Okay, I’m done.

1.  Stop Pressing Snooze

This may seem obvious, but it is important to be honest with yourself the night before.  A good morning routine starts before you even get into bed.  Take a moment at the end of the day to rehash your experience.  Do this OUT of bed so that you don’t carry along as an obstacle to sleep.  Set your alarm clock for a reasonable (and achievable) time to wake up, not a reasonable time to start pressing snooze.  Give yourself a little pep talk about that time, and mentally set your body clock for the same time.  By eliminating the unpredictability of when you will wake, you increase your chances of a more meaningful sleep.  The simple act of anticipating a good night’s sleep actually increases the chances of it occurring.

2.  Move

An important first step to your morning routine is simply taking one.  Or maybe a few.  Go for a walk until your eyes open.  Focus on open-chain movements and calisthenics, finding rhythm in your mind, body, and breath.  Yes, I know that you don’t have time to exercise/go to yoga/run 5 miles…save the excuses and make time for just five minutes of movement.  Although I love to work my way through 30 minutes of the Ashtanga Primary Series followed by a solid savasana, there are (many) days when I don’t have time.  My favorite alternative is to take a walk while shuffling my legs like a Olympic hurdler and moving my arms like a crazy person pretending to swim along the sidewalk.  Bonus points if it’s raining.

3. Think

The same way you did last night before bed, take a moment to set an intention for your day.  That Morning Person I mentioned in the intro loves mornings because they serve as one a beautiful backdrop emanating a delicate balance of peace and energy that is marvelous in the truest sense of the word.  So do it; marvel at it.  Sit and listen to your body and the way your breath naturally dances with the nature around you.  Things are coming to life, and  you are lucky enough to bear witness to it.  Let it inspire you to be just as amazing throughout the day.

4. Drink

Don’t forget to hydrate for your day.  You’ve been sleeping for the last few hours and your body has been working hard.  Fill that gas tank!  Schlepping down some agua first thing in the morning will do wonders for the cells in your body and leave you feeling refreshed and ready to take on the day.  Personally, I think it helps fend off the impending coffee jitters though I have no scientific proof of the relationship.  I’m chronically on the verge of dehydration because I get too distracted to listen to my thirst siren, but starting my day with a big Spring water has helped me stay privy to my needs.

5. Cold Showers

This one took me a long time to embrace, but I promise it is worth it- especially on those days that I only have time for one or two morning activities.  There are plenty of gnarly dudes in the Cold Thermogenesis field worth giving a look and listen, and finding your own way to incorporate it into your routine is key.  My quick tips?  Pay attention to your breath and your shoulders, make plenty of noises.  If you are holding your breath, your shoulders are raised- both no no’s in the stress-release world.  Once you mentally prepare yourself to hop in, continue breathing controlled, smooth breaths.  You’ll never need coffee again (stay tuned).

6.  Stay Naked

Who says you have to put clothes on the moment you dry off?  One of my favorite taboos on my To Tackle List is Nakedness.  The only way to get over your own aversion to it is to practice it.  Stay naked for as long as you can, wherever you can.  If you are lucky enough to get some sun on those buns, do it!  Pay attention to the way being naked makes you feel.  Does it feel wrong?  Sexual?  Embarrassing? Do you feel that your body is connected to your mind at all?  The art of being naked in non-sexual situations is incredibly energizing and equally intriguing if you take the time to analyze your feelings about it.

7.  Unplug.

Notice the punctuation here.  There is no question mark, and no room for ‘unless’es and ‘until’s.  Put the phone down.  If you are in a profession that requires you to be accessible, keep the volume on but seriously just put it down.  Emails can wait.  Texts can wait.  Facebook can absolutely wait.  If someone needs you as badly as you think they do, they can call you.  The only person able to enforce the work-life balance is one that makes a promise to their self about boundaries and enforces it.  No one else is going to do it for you.  If you want to fully dedicate yourself to your profession, make sure you have the best self to give.  Take your naked morning coffee moment and savor that shit.

8. Create

Make something.  Let your inherent ingenuity out of its cage.  You don’t have to paint a masterpiece or make a spectacularly crafted meal (but if you do, c’mon over to my house).  It can be as simple as making your bed.  Do anything that is a small accomplishment that you can take a bit of pride in.  It’s the proverbial “step in the right direction” that can set the tone for the rest of your day.

9. Learn

Spend a little time educating yourself about something you are interested in.  Read a book or newspaper.  Get those neurons firing about something that excites you.  Start thinking critically and write down ideas that pop up.  Clearing the fog in your brain before you get to work is an essential ingredient to the “How is she always so on?!” reaction.  Plus, you get to learn stuff!  Stuff and things (ie: passions) are good for keeping in touch with your youness and the world you plan to interact with today.

10. Protect

This one is admittedly general, but make your morning your thing and guard that bubble of gold to the death.  Stop telling yourself that you don’t have time for you.  I get it; I’m not a mother, I’m not an executive, I’m not responsible for your typically defined “high stakes” anything, but I am happy.  I work hard in an emotionally demanding industry, and I’m able to give myself to my work each and every day…Just don’t expect me to drop my morning for you (okay well once and a while, sure…but I’ll be sure to accomplish at least a few things first).  I’ve made this clear to those that depend on me, and I set that alarm early enough to be ready to answer their calls when they need me.  So yes, this may sound naive, but what if it’s not?  I dare you to try.

Gen Why: The Problem with Millennials

The Millennials.  Oh, the Millennials.  Everyone has something to say about this rambunctious group of young people taking over the planet…literally (pun intended…literally).  Who are we?  Why are we making headlines?  And why is it so damn hard to understand us?  The corporate world doesn’t know what to do with us; Marketing firms have their very own subject devoting to engaging us; Older generations scoff at us just hoping the next generation will save us…and if you’re anything like me, our parents are absolutely terrified of us.  I’m not speaking from experience, but as far as I’ve heard, we are something so acutely undefined that society trembles at the mere thought of us.  But here’s the kicker…our numbers indicate that WE are society.  So, what is it that makes us so different than every other generation?

Problem No. 1: Definitions

Generation Y is loosely defined as anyone born in the time spanning the early 80’s to early 2000s.  We’re the first crowd to come of age in the new millennium (ahem, the name).  Anyone from 12 to their mid thirties could technically be categorized as a Millennial, and that’s a huge spread.  In some cases, parents could be in the same generation as their kids.  How exactly are you supposed to define a group of people so large?  It’s easy, just use the word diverse, which is admittedly accurate but about as telling as the Natural Flavor label we’re all protesting.  Trying to confine us to this ambiguous un-definition is a problem.  And you wonder why we’re all so avidly trying to break away from labels!  The one that is most commonly ascribed to us is completely irrelevant, so it follows that we rebel against any others you try to pin to us.

Problem No. 2: Society’s Box

We are essential a society of boxes.  Humans just love to categorize things, it’s the way our brain works (or so the brainiest in our society tell us).  Millennials are sick of the categories, and we aren’t confining ourselves to the solid structures our parents so happily passed on to us.  We grew up in hand-me-downs and we don’t want or need any more of them.  Our world is quite literally bigger than our parents’ was as we grow more and more connected and find easier ways to experience life in every different corner of the world.  Backpacking through Europe for the summer out of college has turned into years spent as nomads chasing our dreams and living on pennies, smiles, and the pure knowledge acquired from living in cahoots with foreign soul siblings.  We embrace the ways in which we don’t fit in a box, and celebrate the uniqueness in others.  We all go through the same awkward, mortifying (thanks to the explosion of social media, selfies, and the “share” button) stages in life when our confidence is knee high to a grasshopper, but luckily the elders of our beloved Gen Y are there for us with powerful campaigns to reach out to each other in moments of need.  The confidence that follows is a force to be reckoned with.

Problem No. 3: Success

It’s suddenly cool to have a passion, not stacks of cash.  We absolutely do not define the quality of our life by the depth of our pockets.  And who could blame us for questioning this paradigm?  We went to college like we were told, traded our souls for a diploma, and got strapped with crippling debt that will last until we’re sixty.  Money means almost nothing to a person with $100,000 of debt accruing interest- especially when it was spent on a Brand (college) of education that does almost nothing in the workforce. When we do amass a bit of extra money, we spend it on things that improve the richness of our experience, not flashy toys to look at.  If you ask most of us, we’d be perfectly happy living a simple life on the country side surrounded by the ones we love;  Love is the thing that drives us- a love for each other, a love for a cause, and most importantly, a love for ourselves.  You would never ask the person you love most to work a lousy job that made them absolutely miserable.  As we grow into the shoes of self-love, we treat ourselves with this same tenderness.  So yes, the head honchos of previous generations may call us soft and unmotivated…but more than likely it’s because we’re gearing up to walk out of that awfully lit cubicle for the last time with a big ol’ Fuck It stamped to our backs.  You can’t quit something you never really started.  More and more Millennials are rising to executive levels and six-figure positions and trading it all in to follow their dreams.  Don’t take it personally, ‘cus we don’t.

Problem No. 4: Entitlement

It’s easy to get caught up in stereotypes of the few of us that emit the pungent air of Entitlement wherever they go, but don’t put that on all of us; there are bound to be a few in every crowd.  It’s not so much that these folks are bad, they are an extreme case of what a lot of us believe in: the idea that there is more to life than just getting a job, finding a S.O. to marry (in extravagant fashion), having kids…you know the story.  This is not to say that Millennials are anti-marriage or family, we are just waiting longer to dive in.  We are living longer than ever and there is less of an emphasis on the race to family life.  We are beginning to understand the difference it makes to know who you are before you try to raise another human or promise your life to one.  In true Millennial fashion, we question the societal pressure to “settle down” and its apparent measure of well-being.  Back to Entitlement- I will be the first to admit that there is certainly a crowd of folks in our generation that wear this word proudly and make the rest of us shake our heads.  However, there is also a bit of a blurred line between Entitled and Unsatisfied.  We are more willing to up and quit it all not because we feel that our 40 hours aren’t valued, but because we don’t value those 40 hours.  If it feels like a waste of time or goes against the standards we’ve set for ourselves, no amount of money will make us feel satisfaction.

Problem No. 5: Gen Why

My very favorite attribute of my fellow Millennials; we are the pinnacle, the epitome, the alpha, and the omega of the WHY.  We simply do not allow a statement to linger unquestioned.  We are curious creatures with an affinity for investigating.  If you tell us it’s healthy, we want to know exactly what it has in it and why it belongs in our body.  If you tell us its dangerous, we want to know who decided and how they came to that conclusion.  We absolutely do not adhere to the “Because I said so” or even the simple “No.”  We care about what is going on in (and to) the world, and we’ve lost a lot of trust in authority figures  (sorry y’all, but you haven’t been exactly a beacon of assurance!).  The idea that someone has a more important voice than any other someone is suffocating to us, and we won’t stand for it.  We have an unprecedented understanding of the different walks of life that bring us all to the same table, and we value each and every individual as much as we value ourselves.  We know that experience fosters learning, and given that each person will experience life through different eyes and realities, we are hungry to learn from and with one another in a mutual exchange of information achieved through good conversation, a bit of wine, and a lot of questions.

Last Thoughts

Millennials are inquisitive folks, and we have infinite access to information at the tips of our fingers.  We have the ability, creativity, and information we need to follow our passions and we do so.  We enjoy making connections–rather than competitions–with each other.  We’re finding our deepest selves and what makes us tick in a way that no generation has taken the time to, and it’s making us more confident and innovative than ever before.  Our generation spans almost 30 years of growing, and we’ve got a lot to show for it.  But maybe Millennials aren’t so different, maybe society is undergoing a “House on Mango Street”-esque coming of age.  We challenge the boundaries that the previous generation has created to keep society in line and in doing so we are inspiring growth, connectivity, and an ambiguity in which this fearless generation takes comfort.

A Note on Hipsters: Okay, yes, I too giggle at people that spend inordinate amounts of money to get clothing that looks just thrifty enough…but I also spend more time than I’m willing to admit putting on makeup that looks like I’m not wearing makeup so am I really one to judge?  Nah.  The case I want to address here is when people, even Millennials, complain about “the hipsters taking over.”  I live in Austin, Texas.  I get it.  But you’d probably be lying if you said hipsters don’t bring their own gamut of insanely delicious food and drink.  It’s creativity that you can physically consume and it’s fantastic.  Often pricey, but fantastic.  Now, if you’re going to charge me $7 for a PBR I’ll probably just turn around and leave.  But then again, I probably wouldn’t order one anyways when you have such a huge selection of locally crafted beers on tap.  Stop hating on the hipsters yall!

 

 

Build Your House pt 1: Foundations

Let me just start off with a quick disclaimer; contrary to popular belief, I have never built a house.  So yes, there may be some speculation about the accuracy/efficacy of the analogy, but let’s just let that slide.  I want to talk about how I would build my house, should that day ever come.

I think it’s safe to say that if I ever build a house for me and my family/friends/lovers/whathaveyou, I will take great care to build it “correctly.”  I will not “phone it in” or cut corners (for those of you who know me well, can I get a #nohalfassness?!)  If I am building a whole damn house, you can bet your booty I’m going to make sure I put in the work and do my best to make it the best it can be.  After all, I’m going to be LIVING in this thing- likely for the rest of my life if I want to!  Sure, it’ll change over the years and need to be redecorated.  Maybe I’ll add something on or change the layout.  Regardless of my plans for future change, I certainly won’t build it with the idea that the effort I exude at the front-end of things doesn’t directly affect how happy I am with it later.  Why would I bother building something that is only going to last for a few years?

Makes sense, right? Cool.  Now let’s flip the script right fast.  What if, instead of a house, we talk about building a LIFE.  Doesn’t it seem like a life is at least as important as the house you live in?  Why, then, do we take the time and energy to be perfectionists when it comes to building a house but we passively waste the same time and energy letting life happen to us?  There is no monetary value that can be attached to a rich life.  Our experiences are our treasured decorations, our bodies are our walls, and our relationships to the world we live in are our foundations.  We all have the choice of where we want to shop for materials.

Just as it is premature to decorate a house without a foundation, so is it foolish to expect to experience life without a solid base of support.  We build from the ground up, from the inside out.  Of all places in your home, this is the most important to take the time to be truly diligent to the art of perfection, and this is where it comes down to you.  There is an odd irony in building the foundation of your life- you cannot do it alone, yet you (and you alone) have complete autonomy over the process.  I struggle with the push and pull of independence and need.  The challenge is to rise above this silly dichotomy and realize our foundation recipe calls for a bit of both.  To need others is human nature, and to ignore this need is to succumb to societal pressure.  When we admit we need others, it is so often seen as a weakness.  Why?  Would anyone question you for asking for help in laying the foundation of your house?  No.  Because you need help doing the things you’ve never done before.  We love to be independent and associate this character trait with that of a real go-getter, a self-made individual, someone who don’t need no nothin’ from no one.  That’s fine and dandy, but if you don’t know how to lay a foundation are you really going to just cob-job it for the sake of looking strong?  To whom?  No one looks at a house and says “Damn, you really laid a great foundation all by yourself.”  Ask for help, invite some need into your life.

That being said, too much outside intervention can similarly cause unhappiness with the finished product.  More important than needing help is knowing what kind of help you need and taking charge of the decision.  The balance between independence and need is critical, and you are the only person that can control it.  If you invite the wrong person to help your foundation, or if you allow someone who doesn’t serve your interests to push their way in, you may end up with a faulty base.  When unfortunate things happen to us- when we find cracks in the concrete- it is up to us to let it heal.  Every foundation is going to settle, and some will end up with cracks.  It is up to you to make sure those cracks don’t spread.

After we establish our foundation (even if it means going back to basics and reevaluating a standing foundation), we get to move on to other things…like living.  Do you still want to cut corners and deal with the consequences of your (in)actions later?  Or do you want to grab this one, amazing, MAGICAL experience by the heart and GO with it?!

 

“I’m Not a Yogi” and other silly things people say

I see you over there.  You with the excuses.  You’re not fooling anyone.  The more I practice yoga, the more I hear my peers tell me how they ‘wish’ they could do the same.  I’m here to tell you that that is premium ba-lon-ieee.  I’m here to give you a little insight.  And, while I acknowledge your opinion, I’m here to give you a bit of tough love.

I’m not really a ‘Yogi’

Cool, me either!  What exactly is a yogi?  At what point do you stop being a regular person and turn into one?  Sometimes people have this image in their mind of what a yoga practitioner looks like but they fail to take a peak inside a studio.  It may come as a surprise to some, but you are not actually required to be vegan in order to roll out your mat in a public studio.  Yoga is an attractive practice because it is fundamentally individual.  There are no two identical practices, and yours can never be replicated…even by you.  So, while you may have a certain stereotype set in your mind, I challenge you to throw it away.  Find a studio that caters to the type of yoga you might be interested in.  There are so many “craft” studios around- from Senior Yoga to Death Metal Yoga (Jacob Stone, that one’s for you)- you’re bound to find something approachable.

I don’t have time for that

You don’t have time for YOU?  This myth plagues our society.  We are constantly on the move, working multiple jobs and trying to still manage a family/social life/fitness regimen/etc.  There are never enough hours in the day.  Let’s talk less about hours, and more about efficiency.  Through my own personal experience, I have found that yoga actually gives me more time.  My mind is more focused, my body more energetic, and my heart more open.  I am able to be my best for others because I take the time to be my best for me, too.  This is a realization that snuck up on me- I started to see a pattern in my work productivity, attitude, energy and yoga practice.  The weeks when I convinced myself I was too busy or too tired to go to yoga were the weeks that I got the least done and felt the most overwhelmed.  I figured out that it wasn’t my workload that made me so stressed, it was the fact that I took away my ability to release that tension and recenter my focus.  If your schedule doesn’t coincide with your local studios, try a home practice!  That beautiful technology thing that consumes most of our daily lives can be re-purposed for good!  Double win!

Okay, but I’m not flexible

When it comes to yoga, this has to be the most widely used excuse..and it is such a myth.  I started practicing a little over a year ago and touching my toes was not in the cards for me.  I still have a long way to go before I’d consider myself to be physically “flexible” but I’ve learned that this is not a great metric of success.  In fact, learning to let go of all metrics of success is what makes yoga so open.  When you walk into a yoga studio, your fellow practitioners may be excited to meet you, but make no mistake- they are not watching you.  You could be front and center and sit in child’s pose for the entire class and no one will notice.  The most beautiful thing about yoga is that is not a competition.  The physical practice of yoga is only a teeny tiny little part of a the big picture.  The only flexibility required is an open, flexible mind.

I don’t know what “Adho Mukha Svanasana” is

You’re not alone.  With over 3,000 poses, it’d be amazing if any average practitioner knew all of the poses. You will inevitably hear some Sanskrit throughout your practice, but that yoga certification your teacher has means he or she has spent 200+ hours learning how to show you what poses look like through safe verbal, visual, and hands-on cues.  Don’t like to be touched?  No problemo.  We ask first.

I’m not …… enough

This excuse has a few permutations:  I’m not fit enough/I’m too old/I’m a dude/I have chronic pain (in which case you ABSOLUTELY should consider practicing) ect.  It all boils down to one thing: you do not need to be a young, beautiful, bendy female to do yoga.  You do not need to walk around the room on your hands to do yoga.  You do not need to move at all to do yoga.  Yoga is not for anyone, yoga is for everyone.  There are no prerequisites.  You are enough, and Yoga needs YOU.

Live Your Happy

WildThingHow to make happy happen every-damn-day?  That is up to you.  However, there are a few tried-and-true tips that I’ve put in my stash to make happy happen at least pretty often.  The first clue?  Don’t read this if you’re looking for something to make you feel better right now.  Just as poppin’ a pill or taking a swig is a temporary distraction, there are no words I can offer that are going to make your life forever peachy.  That’s not how happy works.  Happy is something that you have to practice- something that you have to work at.  It’s not so much a feeling as it is a perspective.  Maybe it’s just me, but the only thing that makes me even less happy on a unhappy day is someone who is exuberantly (dare I say it, excessively) happy telling me how to be more like them.  My knee jerk response to such advice is usually something very eloquent and mature, along the lines of “that’s dumb” or even the occasional “you’re stupid.”  So, if you’re feeling a little Debbie Downer today, maybe(definitely) bookmark this one for later.  If not…

Find Something Beautiful

Anything.  The bright blue hue of the massive sky above you.  The tiny little grubs crawling around in your garden.  The fine human specimen you refer to as your significant other.  It can be as big, small, lasting or impermanent as you want.  Just find something beautiful and appreciate it for a hot minute.  Sometimes we get so caught up in how wrong things are going that we tend to forget that we are sitting on a big ball of rock and water spinning in circles around an even bigger ball of lava in an endless mass of something so mysterious that we can only label it as creatively as space.  If you give yourself a few minutes every day to look at your surroundings through new eyes, pretending as though it’s the first time you are really seeing it, you will find with time that it gets much easier to find something beautiful wherever you are.

Rid Your World of Strangers

It’s easy to hate on strangers.  They don’t have names.  They don’t have feelings.  They are potentially the worst people you will ever encounter.  Strangers are mysterious people walking around us like big targets for misdirected anger.  On good days, we slow down to hold the door for a stranger, we let them merge safely in front of us, we might even flash them a smile.  But on bad days, strangers are the worst.  They drive like idiots, they don’t say thank you, they bump into us as we just try to go on our not-so-merry way.  Is it really a coincidence that you only cross paths with the most horrendous strangers on your bad days?  Or is it you?  This realization struck me recently in an intense bout of road rage.  For a minute I thought that the person I was dedicating some of my finest foul mouthings to was one of my students and my heart dropped into my butt.  And then it hit me- this stranger may not be one of my students, but how embarrassed would I be if one of my students saw me- the crazy lady with the loud horn?  Is there anything in the world that differentiates this guy with one of my students?  Suddenly, that jerk that cut me off was no longer a stranger.  You can get rid of strangers without meeting a single soul; you just have to treat them as such- a person with a soul- and things will be inevitably happier.

Write Your ______ A Love Letter

Take a few minutes every day to stop, breathe, and say something positive.  Okay, you don’t have to actually sit down and literally write a letter (but you could…and it helps tremendously) but at least create a mental memo to someone, something, or YOURSELF.  It could be as simple as “Dear Shoes, Thank you for not making my feet sore, I appreciate the work you do,” or “Dear Me, You did a great job feeding yourself some healthy stuff today, you look and feel like all that jazz.”  Done.  With time and practice, your appreciation for the little gears that make your world tick will grow.

Let the Sad Come Too

Suffering is not the absence of happiness.  Happiness is your perspective of suffering.  So often our suffering is compounded by the idea that we are alone in it, that no one else experiences the pain we carry.  True, you are probably the only one feeling your own personal flavor of hurt, but you may find solace in the fact that you are not alone.  To feel such raw feelings is a blessing, and it helps to compile a bigger, brighter spectrum of emotions.  Without suffering, we cannot feel compassion, sympathy, empathy.  What a truly mundane world it would be if our ability to connect to another’s feelings evaporated.  Let the sad come (and go) so you can paint your world with the most vibrant of palettes.

Happy is as Happy Does

One very common misconception is that Happy people are just like that All.The.Time.  I call bullshit.  Seeing a person living their happy and saying “I wish I could be as happy as her” is like seeing someone work hard for their successes and saying “I wish I could be as lucky as her.”  No. The only thing in your way is your attitude and your willingness to commit.  Although there is a lot to be said about those special souls that make us feel warm and fuzzy, happy is not something that can be given to you;  you have to be diligent about making it yourself.  And while it might seem to come easier to some, it’s probably just because they have more practice.  So buck up barbie!  Go live your happy!  

The New Bildungsroman: An Ode to 20-somethings

BirthdayzIn just a few short hours, I will tackle the huge obstacle of accepting 23.  Now I know that for a lot of people, 23 is still very young.  I am not under any impression that I’m getting old and wrinkly or that my life is all down hill from here.  I have always filled the spot as “the young one” in my peer groups, and whenever my older friends complained about their birthdays I’d laugh at them and tell them that they were being ridiculous.  But here I am.

I guess the thing about birthdays is that you can’t stop them from coming.  As much as you drag your heels or make excuses, it’s going to happen.  So why is 23 sticking out so much in my head?  It’s not all that significant- there are no definite new responsibilities that come with being 23, but whenever I thought of 23, I thought of someone who is very much an adult- they’ve got it all figured out and are on their way down their chosen path with a real handle on the whole life thing.  I look around at my fellow 23s and it just ain’t so.  “No Offense.”  The majority of us just aged out of the college lifestyle but are still the low woman on the totem pole in the office.

My only real exposure to an upper-level literature class was Spanish Lit, and although I was focusing more on the language and cultural aspects, I did pick up a few literary terms along the way: e.g. Bildungsroman- the Coming-Of-Age story.  This is a really popular niche for authors because- and I’m making a huge assumption here- being a kid is F*ing hard and makes for an exciting story.  There are so many erratic emotions flowing through these kids as they try to figure out how to have their own mind and what to do with it, yet they face the paradox that they aren’t really allowed to make any of those decisions at all; it’s like growing a new voice that no one can hear.  I get it- I did it and I never want to go back there again.  When I reminisce about not being almost 23, I do not  envision the 15-year-old me. Helllllll no.  Anyway.

So the real definition of Bildungsroman is a literary genre that focuses on the journey from youth to adulthood.  For some reason, a lot of these stories focus on teenagers and their first dabbles with maturity.  It’s a great field guide for kids going through all of those changes, giving them hope that it’s going to be alright and that they aren’t going to explode in a big hormonal fireworks show.  But it never tells you what happens in the years following the almighty “Age” that they “Came to”.  For many of us, we think that we came of age, we went to college and thought we had our shit together because we did well in school and had that first taste of independence…and it was all working.  Shit, it was even fun.  But then you graduate, and reality sets in.  The real Bildungsroman doesn’t end with the main character splurging on cute first-apartment decorations and Instagram posts;  The real Bildungsroman shows the main character putting down the bottle of wine and buying some toothpaste and paper towels because you can’t just steal them from campus; it shows her forgoing the cute new bikini in favor of some adorably bland, unisex “office appropriate” slacks and matching flats (slacks wasn’t even a word in my vocabulary until 23 came at me).  We’re facing those annoying paradoxes of our youth all over again!  We’re expected to have jobs that put meaning into our fancy degrees, but we aren’t accepted anywhere without five years of experience that we somehow missed.  We’re supposed to be self-sufficient and live in cozy apartments with rugs that really tie the room together, but most of us have crippling debt (see above: fancy degrees).  Our elders tell us to take advantage of our youth/stop worrying so much/live in the moment, but scold us for being lazy or entitled when we follow their advice and set high standards for ourselves.  We want to travel and learn and explore, but again, that crippling debt thing.  There is so much for us to figure out, and our resources are limited.  The one thing we do have?  Time.  And just like birthdays, it will pass whether we want it to our not.

The lesson we get to learn as we trudge through this Bildungsroman is that we already fought for our voice in round one..so use it.  We didn’t go through all of that high school growing up nonsense just to pore over any Buzzfeed article that validates our sense of confusion.  The very nature of our 20s is that we have to start making meaningful decisions, and these little shits are tougher than working through the games section of the LSATs or figuring out if that “We’ll be in touch//I’ll call you” was genuine.  The original Bildungsroman chronicles youngens as they summon the bravery to reach emotional maturity; they decide what they believe in, but ultimately they still can’t make solid decisions about the important things in life (like where to find the cheapest organic food).  I love to imagine our classic “Coming of Age” characters like Scout Finch or Stargirl making all of these outstanding strides towards independence, but still having a bedtime.  This time around, as we come of age again, we really do get to call the shots.  We already know what we believe in.  And hey, if we’re wrong…well we’ve got time.