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240731542552026114_Yb4YysjJAhhh! Interview week!

It’s totally bittersweet for me, but I think this was my most favorite week of the whole season! It was so much fun to see the questions my fellow Season 7 rockstars came up with and I had a blast answering them.

You may learn a few things about me that you didn’t want to know and for that I don’t really apologize…I’m quirky and I’m told its a pretty lovable trait. ENJOY!

Where do you see your self (or hope to be) 6 months from now? A year from now? 

In 6 months, I’m hoping to have a new job as a wellness coach {preferably working from home}. I will have the Elevate retreat, BiSC and a trip to the NC beaches under my belt and be reveling in all the magical memories I’ve made in 2013. I’ll be feeling connected to my authentic self and be fine-tuning my life to reflect that.

In a year, I hope to be feeling settled in my new career, and fresh off of another successful Holiday Council. I’m hoping that next year I’ll be feeling ready for a year filled with peace and enjoyment following all the changes I’m making in 2013. I imagine that participating in Elevate this year will push me well beyond my comfort zone and into that sacred zone of authenticity I’m seeking. So anything I do in 2014 and beyond will just be that much more awesome because it’ll be coming from a place of authenticity and fierce self-love.

What’s the best book you read this year? 

Well since I’m completely addicted to erotica – I’d have to say that Bared to You and Reflected in You by Silvia Day were my favorites. But the Fifty Shades trilogy was a close second. Try as you might, you will not get me to admit how many times I’ve read each of these books, but it’s a shameful amount! {Maybe these should be listed for the guilty pleasure question too!}

Do you feel like blogging about your life made you look at it differently?

Absolutely! I think I benefitted immensely from having to actually articulate my thoughts. While I’m not as good at it as some of my fellow bloggers, I did manage to stumble upon some realizations that I would never have made if I hadn’t been writing for an audience. Knowing that people were reading and possibly identifying with my transition made me dig a little deeper than I might otherwise have done.

Which current living celebrity do you think you’d be best friends with in real life?

I mean, I’m pretty amazing so I think they would all love me. But I have a thing for adorable southern girls. I’m just so fascinated by them and completely enthralled. So I think a spunky southern girl like Miranda Lambert, Kellie Pickler or Jennifer Nettles from Sugarland would be my ideal celeb bestie.

Did anything happen during the season that surprised you? 

Several people that I know in real life contacted me mid-season to say they had been following my posts and really identified with them. I hadn’t expected that! At all.  If I’m being honest, I was surprised when you lovely internet friends commented or tweeted me because I half expected most people to not relate to my self-perceived problems. So surprises all around!

What quote best summarizes what you’ve learned during the season?

“Your journey has molded you for your greater good, and it was exactly what it needed to be. Don’t think you lost time. It took each and every situation you have encountered to bring you to the now. And now is right on time.” – Asha Tyson

What is your guilty pleasure? What is it that totally lights you up that you’re afraid to admit to? 

Well I’m not sure some of you can handle anymore guilty pleasure admissions from me…BUT since you asked – I have a thing for really juvenile romantic comedies. Movies like A Cinderella Story, Freaky Friday, What a Girl Wants, Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants {1 & 2!}, 13 Going on 30, The Prince & Me, The Princess Diaries, Son in Law, Uptown Girls – all in my DVD library. I’m not sure whether this or my smut addiction should be more shameful. But you can bet I’m not losing any sleep trying to decide!

What is the biggest change you’ve noticed in yourself since we started blogging for Stratejoy?

I’m happier. I’ve relaxed my expectations of myself a bit and tried like hell to lose the guilt. I’m enjoying what I have in the present and not pinning all of my happiness on some future date or accomplishment. It’s fabulously liberating!

How did you fit blogging into your life? – Did you have a routine? Did it add joy or stress? Did you think about it over the week or just sit down and write? Etc.

I have a really random writing process to begin with and I knew it would be a bit of a challenge going into this adventure. I found that some weeks I was really inspired to write and others I was letting all the shit in my head get in my way. All those voices that say I’m not a great writer, no one will identify, my problems aren’t big enough for anyone else to care – they can all overwhelm me and leave me with the worst writer’s block. Add in the health problems I had in the fall and the plague that my little one and I both had twice and you can see why some weeks were more of a challenge. Thankfully, the completely adorable and wonderful Katie is a loving blogger momma and she put up with my incessant tardiness. {Love you sweet Katie!}.

I’d say overall the experience added joy to my life though. While I did struggle at times, the need to write something that seemed worthy of sharing was a great motivator to look more closely at myself and inspired some awesome discoveries! I am forever grateful to Molly for allowing me to be a part of Season 7! For the small amount of stress it caused – it added 10 times that much joy. So I’m pretty sure that’s what winning looks like.

How did people you know react? – did you share it openly, were family and friends supportive, did you censor yourself, etc.

I’m the kind of person who worries what other people think about me and I wasn’t sure how anyone would react – so I didn’t tell everyone I know in real life. As the season progressed, I found myself sharing with more people than I originally did. I didn’t have a single person judge me negatively – everyone had a positive reaction. I was honestly amazed that so many people could relate to my issues – which seems ridiculous to write because the whole premise of Stratejoy is that we all have these things that we struggle with and it brings us together to love and support each other and then realize we are all NORMAL. Why I didn’t think this same premise applied to the people I know in real life seems a little silly now.

Did you dig as deep as you could and open up as much as you could?

The simple answer is no. There just isn’t enough space for me to share all the chaos in my head when I’m limited to 500-1000 words per week. But I shared openly and honestly about the transition I’m going through. I share even more about myself on my personal blog so feel free to visit if you just can’t get enough of me!

When you’re curled up on the couch reading with a mug of something warm, what’s the book and what’s in the mug?

I drink a ridiculous amount of coffee {though I’m strictly drinking decaf now} so I’m sure I’d have coffee in my mug. I’m either reading some of the smut I mentioned in a previous question or some story about a group of girls that travels and has fabulous experiences. Because apparently my life is fueled by coffee, sex and wanderlust! Win!

What’s on your bedside table?

A hair tie, one earring, an iphone dock, a picture of me and the little person when she was a baby and a water bottle. Clearly I need some lessons in styling!

What were you like in high school?  What parts of you have remained the same?

Hmmm…high school. This is a tough one. I feel like high school was a bit of a blur. I went to a really, really small school {like 40 people in my class small} and we were all obsessed with having long-term boyfriends. Mine was older so I spent the vast majority of my time from sophomore year on with people who had already graduated. I didn’t partake in all the fun high school things. I rode a Harley with my boyfriend and watched his band play gigs in bars and whatnot. I was waaay too cool for high school. Of course, looking back I can see I was just a lost girl looking for somewhere to belong.

I didn’t really share my innermost thoughts with my peers. I was nice and had plenty of friends – I was even voted Miss Senior and was on the prom court junior and senior years. But I was more concerned about graduating so I could get married and have babies. I’ll go ahead and insert all the lyrics of “Unanswered Prayers” by Garth Brooks here because THANK GOD those prayers were not answered! I’m not sure I can say that I’m anything like my high school self, but then I’m an old lady. 2013 marks 15 years since I graduated. Wowza, where has the time gone?!?!

Who are the top 5 people on your “list”?  (You know, the list…  Those 5 people you could sleep with if you magically met them and your partner would have to be okay with it, because damn! You just slept with Johnny Depp!) 

Oooh, such a naughty question! I love it. And maybe I’m just boy crazy, but I hardly think 5 covers it!  So…

Sam Seaborn – {West Wing-ers tell me you agree!} He’s pretty much my ideal man. Be still my heart!

Chace Crawford – I don’t even care that he smokes pot. He’s beautiful.

Channing Tatum – Hi, did you see Magic Mike? Gah!

Bradley Cooper – Back off ladies! I get him first!

Ian Somerhalder – Those eyes, that jaw, the smile, OH MY!

And honorable mentions for Patrick Dempsey, Josh Lucas and Gerard Butler. I mean, I’m not going to turn them down or anything.

If you could give yourself 5 months ago one piece of advice, what would it be? How about you 5 months from now?

Worry less. Don’t lose sleep or sanity about things you can’t change. And stop caring what other people think. Make yourself happy and let the rest go.

In the movie of your life, which actress/celeb would play you? 

If I get to choose, then I totally pick Blake Lively. I mean, could she BE any more gorgeous? And that hair. We’ll pretend like the slight resemblances we have {i.e. long blondish hair and blue eyes} make her the perfect choice. Great, it’s settled. Nice to have you on board!

There you have it. If you have a great answer to one of the questions, I totally want to hear it in the comments below!

Guilty pleasures or “list” candidates anyone???

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Image via: Pinterest!

 

p.s.  The 3rd Stratejoy Essay Contest is open for entries!  Ready to win the $500?  Be featured here at Stratejoy?  Yes!  The theme: “How has a transition revealed a more authentic you?”

p.p.s.  The next Book Club/Tribe Chat Fest is going to be about marriage and partners.  Juicy, juicy. We’re reading Elizabeth Gilbert’s Committed: A Love Story and will be jamming about it on February 13.

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Here we are just past the middle of January. It’s a new year and so many people have new goals they are trying to tackle.

Many of you reading this likely have a theme for your year too. {If you do, share with me! I love to hear them!}

I’ve never been through the process of setting a theme and values for the year. I’ve set many resolutions, but I had no idea of the why behind them. Not surprisingly, they rarely stuck past the first couple of weeks of the year.

This year feels different.

Maybe it’s because I’ve declared the things I value this year and gave myself a powerful {to me} theme. Maybe it’s because I’ve let desires lead my goals.

I’ve chosen these things not because they are arbitrary goals, but because I expect they will make me feel the way I want to feel.

Even with all of the work I’ve done in preparation for the year, and all the excitement I have for the promise that 2013 holds for me, I’m worried about what will happen when the newness of the year starts wearing off.

I’m worried my old mindset will start creeping back in. 

It would be so easy to go back to what is comfortable. Pretty much all of my goals this year are pushing me outside of that comfort zone.

But this year, I want to grow. I want to improve my quality of life.

I want to be someone I can count on to get things done that are important to ME.

So I definitely don’t want to take the road that’s comfortable.

I’m so beyond thankful that just when I’m starting to worry about all the new goals and the draw of the comfort zone, I have Elevate coming.

I have 13 amazing women to inspire me, kick my ass into gear, and the lovely Molly to guide and support me – and to call me out on my bullshit when I need it. {Cue happy dance!}

I’m not at an official review point, but I stepped back this week to look at everything I’ve already accomplished. I’m still getting myself set up for the year, but I’m pretty impressed with everything I’ve done so far.

Because I’m obnoxiously Type A, I made myself a list of all the steps I’ve already taken towards those big, sexy goals on my list.

I’m sure there are more things I have done, but these are the big ones that came to mind right away. I’m pretty excited that I’ve accomplished this much in 2 or 3 weeks.

I can only imagine all the amazing things I can make happen this year with all the support and motivation I have.

I honestly believe this will be my best year yet!

Bring it on 2013!

NicoleBioBadge

 

Image credit: Flickr

p.s.  The 3rd Stratejoy Essay Contest is open for entries!  Ready to win the $500?  Be featured here at Stratejoy?  Yes!  The theme: “How has a transition revealed a more authentic you?”

p.p.s.  The next Book Club/Tribe Chat Fest is going to be about marriage and partners.  Juicy, juicy. We’re reading Elizabeth Gilbert’s Committed: A Love Story and will be jamming about it on February 13.

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Well Christmas has come and gone. New Year’s Eve and all the hype have passed. All the buildup for family time, presents, Santa, and the promise of the new year have all waned in importance. Most people are back to business as usual.

Here at my house, we have another day of winter break before school starts back up on Tuesday. My little person is missing her friends and can’t wait to get back to school.

I’m less enthusiastic than she is, but I know it is important for her to get back to her normal routine.

Even though we’re settling back into normalcy after the hustle of the holidays, I can already tell this year is different.

Since the Holiday Council started last month, it hasn’t been far from my mind. I tried hard to keep up with all the calls and worksheets, and was mostly successful for the first two weeks. When I got to the third week, I had some problems.

I’d let go of the things from 2012 that were no longer serving me. I thought hard about what kind of year I want to have in 2013 and came up with a theme and a vision board. I had values and was working on priorities and then it felt like I hit a roadblock.

When I tried to fit my goals for the year with my declared theme and values – it just didn’t work.

I felt overwhelmed and so much like the lost girl I was when I started writing for all of you.

Some of my problem was likely related to the virus I’ve been fighting off for the past month, but I really wanted to get my goals and action plans set before the new year actually started.

I took a short break for the holidays, then found some inspiration and support from my Elevate girls, and took another shot at the worksheets from week three. I wrote down all of the things I had in my head that I wanted to tackle in the new year {which turned out to be an insanely large list!}.

What I kept getting hung up on was the priorities vs values in the worksheets. I felt like choosing 20 things to do this year was too limiting for me. Not because I want to be a major over-achiever or something, but I have a number of smaller changes I want to make, in addition to a few larger changes. And I have more than 5 categories that I want to address.

The Holiday Council was tremendously helpful for me, but I was pressuring myself to fit my goals and aspirations into the exact system Molly has developed.

Once I allowed myself to do what worked best for me, things fell into place much more naturally.

When I looked over my list of goals for the year, it was pretty obvious what my theme for 2013 should be.

2012 was a year of awakening for me. I feel like I woke up and realized that I wasn’t living an authentic life. I’ve been saying that I want things to change, and I’ve written and analyzed my situation to death.

Now is the time for action.

I’ve said time and again that I want 2013 to be the year that I take action on all these things I’ve been dreaming up. And so my 2013 theme was born.

Take Action as a theme works for me because I can use it to keep myself on track, and push myself to accomplish my {seemingly} massive list of goals. I can’t think of a better time to tackle all of this than the year when I have Elevate to keep me accountable and empower me to take on the world.

Since I settled on my new theme for the year, I’ve felt peaceful. I’ve felt sure of myself and what I’m going to accomplish instead of feeling uncertain.

I’ve never started a year like this – I’m almost giddy from the excitement and anticipation. But also from the calmness that comes with having a plan and knowing my life is going to change for the better.

Maybe I won’t accomplish everything on my list in one year, but I plan to take full advantage of all the support I have. This is my year, and I’m going to rock it!

Happy New Year, soul sisters!

NicoleBioBadgeImage via: ME! {compiled from the wonderful goodness that is pinterest}

Well my “ah ha” moment has come and gone. My life hasn’t suddenly turned into a magical wonderland, and I’m still feeling lost much of the time.

I take some comfort in the fact that I have a general idea of where I’m headed because that is way more than I had when I started this journey.

But I want more.

I’m facing some major changes in my life and I don’t like feeling this uncertain.

I wish I was the kind of person who didn’t fear change. I wish I didn’t have a massive fear of failure. I wish I was at the point where I trusted myself enough to make the right decisions. I’m really trying to be that person, I’m just not there yet.

I’m terrified that I’m going to make the wrong decision. I’ve already wasted time and money pursuing a career that turned out to be wrong for me. Then I did it again. What if I’m destined to be the girl who constantly changes her mind? What if I change my whole life to pursue yet another goal and then discover I got it wrong – again? I’m not sure how I would even handle that.

On one hand, I feel like I know myself better now than I ever have. I’m more in touch with my desires, my hopes and dreams, my strengths and even my weaknesses. But what if I’m wrong? What if I’m just so desperate to find myself that I’m inflating my interests into passions?

All of these questions have been rattling around in my head since my public declaration a few weeks ago. I’ve been trying to work through them, but I just haven’t reconciled all of it yet.

What I have done is explore a few options that could lead me to a career with a wellness focus. I applied to a graduate program in kinesiology, and was accepted for the Spring semester. I’ve researched a couple of certificates that I could obtain if I decide that graduate school isn’t my best option.

If I do decide to pursue another degree, there are still some hurdles to jump over. While the program is a great fit for my goals, isn’t exactly perfect for my life. My previous program was completely online so it was easy to fit into my schedule.

The new program would require me to attend class a couple of nights a week – and the campus is a little over an hour from my house. As much as I like the program, that is a big deal {and potentially a deal-breaker} for me.

I don’t mind driving to the campus, but it is far more complicated when I have a little person at home. I don’t know how she would cope with me being gone a couple of nights a week. Also, I don’t want to continue to work on the weekends and miss even more time with her so I’d have to find a part-time job during daytime hours that would work around my school schedule.

There are just so many details that need to be worked out that it starts to feel a little overwhelming. Somehow my “ah ha” moment has turned into a continual spiral of questions that I can’t seem to get a handle on.

The further I delve into my psyche, the looser my grasp on that ever elusive balance is. Instead of clarity I have confusion and fear.

I know I can’t let fear rule my life. At some point I have to choose to jump into the unknown or remain in the same stagnant place I’ve been. I’m trying hard to work up the courage to jump because I really don’t want to be in the same place when November 2013 rolls around.

Image via: Flickr

I have some great news. Like life-changing news. I’m kind of surprised and giddy – and definitely ecstatic as I’m writing this.

You know how we’ve all been searching for purpose – spending our time journaling, blogging, reading and thinking about these big transitions in our lives?

Some of us have put it into words and others have just implied it, but we’re all searching for an “ah-ha” moment – the kind where we see a light shining through the fog of uncertainty. Where choirs of angels sing hallelujah and we suddenly have a whole life plan planted in our brains by some divine intervention.

Well that may be a tad dramatic, but hey if you didn’t already know this about me – I kind of have a flair for the dramatic. {Don’t judge me!}

Anywho, I’ve very recently had one of those coveted “ah-ha” moments. And now that I’m past it, I can’t even believe I didn’t see this sooner.

I’m not sure I would have gotten here if it weren’t for doing all the wrong things leading up to it. So now I can celebrate those things instead of regretting mistakes and missteps in my path thus far. I can’t tell you what that does for my sanity.

I feel lighter. I feel happier. I feel a little less lost in the big world with no idea where to go.

I’d been feeling like I was on the verge of this since I’d started blogging here at Stratejoy – I even told Molly so when we were discussing Elevate. It was so close I could almost taste it, but then it simultaneously seemed like I was never going to get there.

And then I did. And no choirs sang or lights shone. No secret life plan magically appeared. But with this clarity came peace.

Leading up to this, I’d spent a ton of time thinking about things that make me light up. The things I really enjoy doing that I could possibly turn into a career. It ended up being a decent sized list, but many of them aren’t things I actually want to pursue for one reason or another.

Next I made a list of the things I want out of life – I know I want to travel, have flexible work hours, possibly work for myself at some point, and I want to feel like I’m helping others. I want to empower someone else to improve their own life, especially women and young girls.

I feel really strongly about this particular demographic because I grew up with low self-esteem. I know what it feels like to feel bad about yourself, how hard it is to change when you don’t have a positive female role model who you really relate to.

Even into adulthood I’ve struggled with knowing who I am, what I want and how to love myself even when I don’t know the answers to these things.

I’ve longed to be a woman who felt she belonged in the world and had some positive contribution to the world. I want to change lives – and not because I want some glory or admiration for myself. This isn’t about me.

I want to show young girls and other women that their lives matter. That being comfortable in their own skin and taking good care of themselves is far better than chasing the latest trend and trying to be someone else.

I want to be a model of a woman who loves herself, who finds joy in ordinary places, who celebrates her individuality – and I want to pay it forward.

So what exactly was this “ah-ha” moment, you ask? Because I know I’ve been leading you on a little bit. And that is somewhat intentional and somewhat not. I’m not holding back for dramatic effect, but rather I’m indulging my natural tendency for storytelling.

I never realized this about myself until I was writing on a fairly regular basis. I’m not usually someone who can write informally and just pour out my thoughts. I’m a storyteller. I can see it when I look back over my posts thus far on Stratejoy, and on my personal blog. So this post will be no different.

I remember being in nursing school and absolutely hating it. I am completely enthralled with the human body and all that it is capable of. I could read for hours about the intricacies of each system and how they are all so interconnected. The problem, for me, arises when the focus turns to treating disease in the human body.

After I finished my bachelor’s in nursing, I thought that public health would be a good fit for me. It was less focused on the patient lying in the bed and more on the population as a whole. Public health focuses on preventing disease or restoring health after disease, but again it is on a broad scale – focusing on improving the health of the population.

This was better than nursing for me, but it still didn’t feel quite right.

After all this soul searching, talking to close friends, sharing with all of you and journaling my little rear end off – it clicked.

I’m passionate about wellness. I want to help individuals prevent diseases caused by poor diet, lack of exercise and high stress levels. I want to help young girls make health a priority and develop habits that will carry into adulthood.

I’m never more impassioned that when I’m discussing my latest workout regimen, sharing how to eat a cleaner diet, or thinking up ways to alleviate stress.

I haven’t settled on a specific job yet, but I have a ton of ideas.

Maybe I’ll work in corporate wellness – designing programs to encourage wellness behaviors and working with individual employees to achieve them. Maybe I’ll open my own gym or wellness center in the future. Maybe I’ll start a running group in my city. Maybe I’ll found a non-profit that focuses on the health of younger girls and gets them moving.

Who knows. But I’m excited to explore all these options, set some goals and get started.

Cue the angels, please!

Image via: Flickr

I have a confession to make.

Several weeks after my post about getting rid of our TV, and even after all your encouraging and motivating comments, that 47” widescreen is still staring me down from its corner in the living room.

After all that ranting and raving, it’s still there! Gah!

I did and still do believe it’s the catalyst to kicking off my other goals, so why is it still there?

Maybe I’m lazy after a hectic day. Maybe I feel too comfortable in that lazy routine. Maybe I’ll feel lost with that big gaping space in my living room. But really, I think the TV is still there because I haven’t clearly defined the goals I’d like to focus on in its absence.

In that last post, I vaguely mentioned that I’d like to read more, write more, cook more, swim more, learn more photography techniques, connect with friends and family more regularly, etc. Basically, I want to take all the little happinesses in my life and amplify them. Okay, good goal; but could I get any more vague?!

I think the reason I’m still hooked to Bones, The New Girl, Criminal Minds, and [yes, really] The Antiques Roadshow, is that I don’t know where to start once they’re gone.

With that said, I’ve taken a stab at defining my goals more clearly. I want to preface this by saying my biggest problem with goals in the past has been that I try to take on too much at once, get burned out within a matter of days, and completely give up all too quickly. Therefore, this is an outline of really tiny baby steps to help me get started.

1. Write [something, anything] 3 times weekly

I was an English major and I love writing, whether it’s journals, fiction, poetry, whatever. I miss it. Journaling-wise, it’s the only true way I can sort through my feelings and thoughts. Creative writing-wise, I miss the feeling of crafting a story or poem and experimenting with language.

2. Have a good reading session once a week

Ditto the above, but substitute writing for reading.

3. Cook 2 real meals weekly, including 1 new recipe

I like to think I’m a decent cook thanks to being taught various things by my parents throughout my childhood, but all too often I take the easy way out and throw a can of soup on the stove or something equally instantaneous. Actually cooking is healthier and makes me more mindful about what’s going in my stomach, not mention the fun I have when experimenting with ingredients.

4. Swim once a week

I used to be a runner, but after a half marathon left my knee in chronic pain, swimming is the only thing I can really handle. I started swimming while I was pregnant and loved it. It keeps me in great shape and helps my knee. Why I haven’t gone swimming in months is beyond me.

5. Avoid sweets and added sugars

This may sound a little radical, but I have a serious addiction! For me, sugar is all or nothing. Plus, a diagnosis of gestational diabetes despite no obvious risk factors while I was pregnant scared me into realizing the astronomical amount of sugar I’ve ingested over the years. I need to stick to fruit for my sugar fix.

6. Be more mindful of finances; look at my bank account monthly

Money stresses me out. It’s not that I’m totally fiscally irresponsible, but I have experienced tight spots that I should have foreseen instead of letting them creep up on me and give me anxiety attacks. I need to stick to some kind of monthly budget.

7. Take a walk at least twice a week

Currently, I live 500 feet from a forest preserve with an awesome grassy trail. Why I don’t get out there more I have no clue. Being in nature relaxes me, calms me down, and lets me more easily work through any chaos in my world.

8. De-clutter the house once a week

Maybe I’m expecting too much with a 40 hour work week, 2 hours of commuting, a baby to play with, a dog and 2 cats to take care of, and a husband to spend time with, but I really wish I could keep the house in better shape. For me, clutter = anxiety.

There’s more I’d like to commit to, but I know without a doubt that I’ll get overwhelmed until I’ve built habits out of these above goals.

I’m hoping that sharing these things so publicly will help hold me accountable. Wish me luck!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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I was so excited to be chosen for Season 7 here at Stratejoy. I was surprised and could barely form a coherent sentence when Molly called me because I was so giddy.

As soon as I got the email with information about our first few posts, I got to work. I was excited to be writing, and had so many ideas and thoughts pouring out of me. Sometimes more ideas than I could fit into 500-1000 words.

As luck would have it, the universe decided to throw me a curveball after I wrote my third post. I’d just outlined my focus for the next few months and I was ready to get started on the things I’d challenged myself to do.

Then my sweet little boxer, Emma, got sick. Really sick. I’ve been dreading the day for many years because I knew it would be overwhelmingly painful for me. She has been my companion for eight precious years. But I couldn’t let her suffer so I sent her off to doggie heaven {as I told the little person}.

Naturally I was very emotional for the next few days. I didn’t venture out of the house. I ignored everyone’s calls and just let myself be sad.

I went to work that weekend and tried to get on with life. In the back of my mind, I was starting to get nervous. I’d been avoiding journaling because I wasn’t ready to write the story yet. I was avoiding writing my next post because everything I could come up with seemed trivial and uninspired. I was getting behind on my posts and it was stressing me out.

I started my usual spiral of negative self-talk. I told myself that I was going to fail at this. That I said all I have to say in the first few posts. That I was fooling myself by thinking I could write anything of value.

Sometimes it’s really ugly in my head. I don’t know how any of us can get to the point where we treat ourselves so horribly. I would never talk to one of my friends the way I talk to myself. Yet I continue to treat myself this way.

As the days slipped by and I still couldn’t write anything, I turned to my journal for inspriation. Maybe I’d find something in there that I could expand on. I reread a few entries and stumbled on one talking about my inner critic.

And there was Molly’s voice in my head telling me not to blindly believe the critic. To voice the bad thoughts so I would understand they aren’t the truth – and then move forward with the actual truth.

The truth is my inner critic was twisting my fears into factual statements. I am afraid to fail at this, but I don’t believe I have yet. I believe I’ll continue to rise to the challenge. I believe continuing to learn and grow is the purpose of blogging here – and I’m doing just that. One baby step at a time.

I watched a video recently of the lovely Nicole Antoinette speaking at WDS 2012. Her overall topic was running, but she discussed how big sexy goals are accomplished one tiny unsexy step at a time. {Obviously this applies to areas outside of running, as well}. Talk about the perfect time to stumble upon the video!

I didn’t take any giant leaps this week on my journey, but I did take one tiny unsexy step. I was able to recognize the negativity running rampant in my head and stop the cycle.

I know, life isn’t always going to go perfectly. In fact, it will likely be filled with many unexpected challenges. My hope is that I can get to a point where those challenges don’t set off a negative mental spiral. A point where I can treat myself with the love and forgiveness that I would show to others.

I definitely have a ways to go before I accomplish that goal, but I plan to continue on with all the baby steps. One foot in front of the other until one day I realize I’m living the life I’ve been striving for.

Photo credit: ME

 

 

You know how I pledged to lose 100lbs? I was supposed to start on September 1, the day I also became a full-time freelancer. It made so much sense in my head that on this glorious day, I was suddenly going to become focused on healthy eating and self improvement. It was going to be GREAT.

 

I had salt and vinegar chips and French onion dip for breakfast yesterday.

 

Oh, and three Oreos. Breakfast of champions.

 

The rest of the day was no better…I “accidentally” ate a pint of that new Ben & Jerry’s Greek frozen yogurt. There was also a piece of pizza and a rich pasta dish that I found a recipe for on Pinterest. To say I was in rare form would be an understatement.

 

I have been overweight my entire life (except for the year I was skinny) and I’ve had a lot of time to think about why I do what I do. The main two things I’ve been able to come up with are:

 

1) I’m sabotaging myself. There is a huge part of me that finds comfort in being overweight. It’s all I’ve really ever known. Even though I am uncomfortable, unhealthy and embarrassed, being thin is even scarier because I just remember feeling like I was living in a body that wasn’t my own. People do treat you differently and after years of being treated a certain way, I was actually hurt and mad when people were nicer to the skinny me.

 

2) I am addicted to food. This is the only way I know how to explain why I keep eating like I do. It is not as easy as just eating everything in moderation; my brain doesn’t understand that concept when it comes to certain food. Most times, I am better off not eating those trigger foods at all because once they cross my lips, it’s all over. When I read about how drug addicts act, I feel like I am reading about myself with food.

 

Unfortunately (or fortunately), I feel like I’m finally at that point where I have to lose weight. I am bigger than I have ever been and I’m crossing in to dangerous territory. When I was younger I just wanted to lose weight and look good, but my intentions are a little more wholesome this time. I want to be HEALTHY. As we’ve already discussed, I am afraid of dying – and I know that what I’m doing right now is a form of slow suicide. How can someone who is so afraid of dying continue to contribute to their demise every single day?

 

Also, it is so weird for me to say this, but I want to have a kid. I am almost 29, and while I know that this isn’t “old,” I also know that I need to get my shit together if I want to have a healthy pregnancy within the next few years. I refuse to get pregnant while I am so unhealthy because I feel like that is just inviting in a whole host of complications. Gestational diabetes doesn’t really do it for me, ya know? I also have selfish motives – I want people to actually know that I am pregnant. I don’t want people wondering if I’m pregnant or if I just got fatter. I want it to be a wonderful experience.

 

So where does that leave me today, fresh off the heels of yesterday’s junk food binge? It’s another day and another opportunity to try again. I think it’s important not to let one “bad day” completely derail your efforts. I woke up this morning and actually measured the sugar and milk that went in my coffee and my breakfast was impressively healthy. I can’t tell you how the rest of the day is going to play out, but I can tell you that right now, I’m trying my best to stay in control. That’s all I can do.

 

Since I found out I’d be writing for all of you each week, I’ve spent quite a bit of time thinking about myself, my life and what the hell I want to do with it.

Sometimes I’m filled with grand visions that I can do something amazing. Change the world. Make a real difference.

Other times I’m so gripped with fear and self-doubt that I tell myself I’m not enough. I’m afraid I don’t have anything to share with the world that someone else hasn’t already put out there.

I’ve found myself easily slipping into the notion that my happiness and fulfillment rest on carrying out one of those grand visions.

Like I need to be wildly successful in my professional life or change the world somehow so that my life will mean something.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with dreaming big or reaching for the stars – and I may, very well, change the world in the future. But I want to focus on a few small improvements that can help me enjoy my life more RIGHT NOW, and maybe serve as the foundation for bigger goals in the future.

BE PRESENT – I regularly fail at giving my undivided attention to the person in front of me. It’s totally unfair and I’m positive I’m missing opportunities to connect on a deeper level with my loved ones. I want to challenge myself to put my phone away and focus on the moment I’m in.

BECOME A SELF-CARE ROCKSTAR – I’ve made some headway in this area, but I haven’t turned the practices into habits yet. I’d really like to be more consistent in taking care of myself because then I’m able to offer my best self to the rest of the world. {If momma ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy, right?}

PUT PEN TO PAPER – The written word inspires me. I want to challenge myself to write something every day – a journal entry, a blog post or even a letter to a loved one. I just want to let the words pour out and see where they take me.

GET MY REAR IN MOTION – I want to move my body more and stress less about the number on the scale. Ideally, my weekly workouts will consistently incorporate weights, yoga, running, and dancing around the house with my little person {that totally counts as cardio, right?}

BE ADVENTUROUS – I need to get the hell out of my comfort zone and try something new each week – a new restaurant, a new activity, a different kind of movie, a new workout class, a weekend getaway to a new city – whatever it is, I need to shake things up a bit. Hopefully this will help get me out of the rut I’ve been in!

If I had to choose one word to encompass my goals for the next few months, it would be intention. I want to actively choose what I’m spending my time on because it makes me happy or moves me forward. And I definitely want to stop falling into things simply because I didn’t have a plan.

As a side note – In writing this post, I found myself pretty overwhelmed with the task of goal-setting. I feel so out of touch with myself that it’s hard to articulate any specific goals that I want to pursue.

During the time I spent thinking and researching about goal-setting, I came across something that Marie Forleo said, “Clarity comes from engagement, not thought.”

Talk about a great reminder for me to get out of my head and TAKE ACTION. All the time spent thinking and researching won’t help if I don’t actually try some things on for size.

Here’s to discovering something amazing about myself!

Image via Flickr

In the interest of being honest and open, I have a confession to make: I am a total creeper.

I am the queen of hunting down everyone’s personal business on Facebook, being in awe of savvy entrepreneurs on Twitter and reading blogs that I never comment on. I am a member of many communities, and an active participant in none.

But I want to be.

The majority of my creeping has involved studying and admiring the lives of freelancers for the past two years. It was a life I knew I wanted for myself, but was too scared to embrace fully. I reached a point a few months ago where I realized that I was ready. My good friend was diagnosed with a brain tumor in February and has been in the hospital fighting for her life ever since. The diagnosis and resulting surgery were so sudden that no one, including her, had time to even process what was happening. I realized that everything that has happened to her could easily happen to me, and if it did, how happy would I be with what I’ve accomplished? How long can you live your life in fear before you realize that enough is enough?

Well, I’ve had enough. I gave my notice at my current 9-5 job and as of September 1, I can officially call myself a full time freelance writer. I’m nervously excited, but I am not afraid. It feels like the weight of the world has been lifted off of my shoulders. September 1 also began my quest to lose 100lbs. I have been big for my entire life, except for 7 years ago when I lost 80lbs. I was so proud…and then I gained it all back, plus 20 more pounds for good measure. I have spent the last few years beating myself up mentally and obsessing about where I went wrong and how horrible people must think I am. I am stuck in the past now, reminiscing about “the time I was thin.” I don’t want to be thin – I want to be healthy and most of all, happy. I want to stop trying to find happiness in a Burger King drive-thru.

For the first time in a long time, I don’t feel like I’m sitting around waiting for my life to happen. And it feels daaaaamn good.

In entering this new phase of my life, I also realize that I need a support system. I have wonderful husband (married 1 year in November!), family and friends, but sometimes you need a group that knows exactly what you’re going through. I’ve never been one to freely share my feelings with the world, but I want to. I think it’s an important step that will help me grow as a person. Stratejoy was the first website I found when I was going Google-crazy, trying to figure out if I was nuts for being unhappy with my current situation. “Quarter life crisis” wasn’t even a phrase that was in my vocabulary at the time, but when I started reading the stories of all the amazing women on this website, I felt like I was in the right place. Without even knowing it, you all have given me hope over the last two years while I creeped around Stratejoy silently.

I want to pay it forward and give someone else hope. I want to be friends with all of you and be an active member of your positive online community. My new endeavor has me working from home and I don’t want to feel like I have no one to talk to as I make these huge changes in my life. I consider being a Stratejoy blogger as my own personal form of therapy, and I hope it will be for others along the way, too.

INTRODUCING MARY:

“I am making a few transitions currently like learning how to be a step mom, losing weight and working for myself, but my major transition is learning how to live in the now.”

 

I am afraid to die. Terrified.

I am not actually worried about what happens after you die because from what I can tell, it’s pretty awesome if you’re not an asshole. I am basing this assumption on what I have learned from watching the show “I Survived: Beyond and Back” and from a psychic I talked to three times (my dead grandma told him that I am addicted to pizza. 100% legit).

It’s the actual end of my life that I am stressed about. I like to plan everything and I like to plan it as far in advance as possible. My entire wedding was booked two years before it happened and three months before I even had an engagement ring on my finger. Death freaks me out because I can’t plan it. I accept that I will eventually die, but if I don’t know when, how will I organize how the rest of my life is going to play out? Do I space out all of my goals and ambitions over the years or do I cram them all in to one big happiness fest?

WHAT IF I NEVER GET TO MEET BRITNEY SPEARS?

This fear has resulted in me planning “big” events like my wedding or becoming a freelancer, rather than stopping for two seconds and realizing how lucky I am in every day life. With my mind constantly on the future, I know that I am missing out on the present. I find it so ridiculously hard to just chill out, be thankful and embrace happiness.

I am making a few transitions currently like learning how to be a step mom, losing weight and working for myself, but my major transition is learning how to live in the now. My life overwhelms me so much sometimes that many days, I spend my free time sitting on the computer doing anything except face reality. I am trying to learn how to manage my feelings, step away from the glowing screen and get out of the house.

When my brain started to short circuit two years ago, I knew something had to change. I found Stratejoy in my online travels and immediately clicked with that season’s bloggers. As soon as I realized I wasn’t crazy and there were (a lot of) people out there just like me, I was relieved. Instead of being completely confused, I knew that it was possible to take steps to allow things to make sense again.

I have done a lot of self discovery in that time. I ordered a lot of books, took a lot of tests and spent a lot of time just thinking. I finally got myself to the point where I was able to fearlessly quit my job to begin freelancing. I’m not scared because I know I’m ready. I’m also really happy that I no longer have to explain to my friends and loved ones why I “can’t hold a job.” I absolutely refuse to stay in situations that make me unhappy, and that can be tricky to tell people without them looking at you like your career aspirations are not based in reality.

Well guess what? Shit just got REAL.

I’m beginning to feel more in control of my life than I have felt in a long time. And while I can’t control when I’m going to die, I can control how I live my life at this very moment.

Contentment is just around the corner…I can feel it.

 

PS: If you know what movie my blog title is from, I want to be your new best friend.

 

When I got Molly’s email notifying me I was a finalist in the Season 6 Stratejoy Blogger search, I was getting ready to board a plane to the Blissdom blogging conference.  It was late February, and I was just starting to come down from a bad winter.  I was down and out, depressed, anxious, and suffering from esphagitus.

It was a bad state of affairs.

After I hit send and sent in my Stratejoy blogger application, I forced it out of my mind, assuming I would never earn one of those blogger spots.  So as I sat in the sweaty seating area at Dulles waiting for my plane to Nashville for the conference, tears pricked my eyes as I read Molly’s email.

She liked my stuff?

Really?

Really?

REALLY?  ME?

I felt illegitimate in the blog world, suffered from a bad case of not-good-enough, crippled confidence.  So the thought that I made it to the final round of Stratejoy blogger contenders emotionally set me over the edge.

As I sat on the plane, I worked up my answers to Molly’s final questions, and sent them off to her the minute I landed.

Molly’s email said she’d give us a call with the results.  So when Sunday rolled around, and I hadn’t heard, I assumed I didn’t make it.  Then Monday came, and I was sure I didn’t earn a spot.  Around 5 p.m. on the East coast, my cell phone rang.  It was a number I didn’t recognize.  For a second I let myself get excited that it could be Molly.  But things like that don’t happen to me.

When I answered and heard Molly’s voice, I started thanking her for this opportunity, and I appreciate her consideration.  She stopped me and said, “Sarah, we want you, do you still want to blog for me?”

Umm…

YES!

I tell this story to show how broken I felt.  It hurts to think back on that girl.  So sad and without faith in anything about herself.

I also tell this story to show how I am not that girl anymore.

She’s barely recognizeable to me now.  Not that I’m “cured” of life crises.  I’m sure something will come up that will poke and prod at my anxiety.  But I don’t feel so feeble that I can’t stare a bad situation in the face and strangle it with both hands to show who’s in charge.

There’s a difference between feeling anxiety about life stuff but knowing you can make it through because you’ve so been there before and letting anxiety eat you alive until life becomes dull and sad.

So.

Where does that leave me?

I bulldozed my way through this quarterlife crisis by trusting myself as a mother, succeeding in becoming a group fitness instructor, setting up my own freelance writing business, and overcoming my anxieties about travleing.  Part of me can’t believe all I accomplished over the past fives months.

But the other part of me?  She sees challenges and says of courseI accept that challenge.  Why not me?  Why can’t I succeed?

Thank you for letting me share my story with you.  And thank you to my fellow Stratejoy bloggers for never failing to make me feel ooey gooey special; your kind comments made me feel all warm inside.  For more Sarah, you can find me at my personal blog Sunny Side Up and on Twitter for more self reflection, goal making, and oh, and of course, pudding painting.

 

**A Note From Katie: Oh, Sarah. You’re so great! Reading your posts and seeing pictures of your little one never fail to make me smile. While I’m sad that this is THE LAST POST of the ENTIRE SEASON 6 (which explains why it’s late being posted. I didn’t want to face it!) I’m extremely excited for the journey you’ve made over the last 5 months, and inevitably where you’re going.

You’re an amazing woman and an incredible momma and I’ll be following your journey close behind, being your cheerleader whenever you need it. I wish you so much luck and love and everything you need/want in life, dear!

xo-Katie

It’s interview week here at Stratejoy! Here is everything you never knew you wanted to know about me.

How has your perspective shifted over the past five months? How have you grown?
I think I’ve grown into a more confident person because I’ve really tried to take the unofficial Stratejoy mantra of “I am enough” to heart. I’m no longer imprisoned by this feeling that I have to wait until I’m thinner/richer/whatever-er to truly start living my life.

What do you wish you’d known before you started your QLC journey?
I wish I had known it was coming! I’m usually so even-keeled and un-emotional that I felt completely blindsided by this period of time where I felt like all I was doing was crying 24/7.

What little things in life right now make your toes curl with happiness?  Big things?
Little things
: the delicious cherries that my mom sent me home from New Jersey with, rediscovering a pair of funky earrings from years ago, finally rocking that fedora in public, getting pumped for a Barenaked Ladies/Blues Traveler concert next month.
Big things: one of my best friend’s upcoming bachelorette party (and later, her wedding), my super relaxing trip to Martha’s Vineyard this past week, and the fact that after a mostly silent summer, I’m finally starting to get some responses to my job applications again.

In the movie of your life, who would you want to play YOU?
I’d want someone who has a girl-next-door kind of look as opposed to a candidate for Maxim’s Hot 100. Someone like Drew Barrymore.

What goodies (books/music/travel/quotes/ideas…) have you found over the past few months that are helping your inspiration and creativity?
I address some of this in later questions, but I wanted to give a special shout to my girl Cassie. Cassie and I have struggled with some of the same issues and we’ve had some chats about them (that have been too few and far between!). She’s come so far since we started blogging and has such a great attitude about herself and the world around her that I both envy and am inspired by her.

If you were able to start over and start blogging for Stratejoy right now, what would your “Goals” post look like? What do you hope to accomplish by the end of 2012? How is it the same/different from your “Goals” post from earlier this year?
First off, I want to apologize to my fellow bloggers because I wrote this question and it’s like 600 questions rolled into one. Oops. A lot of my goals from 5 months ago still stand. They were:

– Volunteer twice a month. I’ve been doing that and definitely want to continue.

– Be more proactive about my love life. I’ve made minimal improvements here by going on one scary date and joining another online dating site. But I need to stop pre-judging all the guys and actually go out with some.

– Develop healthier habits. I am totally kicking ass at this – working out more and eating better, but still allowing myself to indulge. I am very happy with the admittedly slow pace at which I’m getting in shape.

– Get a job. Uhhh yeah, still need one. Anyone in NYC looking for an awesome Operations/Project Manager? =)

– Learn the Single Ladies dance. I learned about 45 seconds and then lost interest because it is a REALLY hard dance to learn by trying to mirror Youtube videos.

– Go to one adult gymnastics class. EPIC FAIL. Gotta get on that.

To this list, I would also add: start writing personal essays that would go into my book if I were to hypothetically write one (life goal life goal!), and work on getting more freelance writing assignments. So in general, write more.

Name 5 things you absolutely positively could not live without.
1. Cold beer on a hot day
2. My Brooklyn Public Library card
3. Cheesy top 40 music
4. Hoodies
5. My journal

Who are your top 3 celebrity crushes of the moment?
Jon Hamm, Paul Rudd, Joseph Gordon-Levitt. And in case you were wondering, I would totally switch teams for Kendra Wilkinson, Nicole Scherzinger, or Christina Hendricks.

If you had to dedicate your life to one cause, what would it be? Why?
I would love to work for Planned Parenthood. I think they’re an organization with an amazing mission and I fully support all the services they offer to women. I believe that reproductive health is extremely important, as is a woman’s right to choose what to do with her body.

What is one of your favorite memories?
I turned 18 in October of my freshman year of college, right at the point in the semester when you stop obsessively trying to hang out with any and everyone and start figuring out who your actual friends are. I was pretty upset because I hadn’t yet solidified a group of friends and thought I might be celebrating alone. The morning of my birthday, I found a huge chalk drawing outside my dorm in my honor. I got tons of AIM messages (remember those?!?), phone calls and notes on my white board, and a big group of people surprised me in my dorm room with a cake. It was one of only two times I can remember crying because I was so happy (the other was the day I found out I got into Tufts. An hour later I was still so excited that I locked myself out of my car with the keys still in the ignition and the motor running).

What’s your hidden talent?
This is a pretty lame talent, but I’m really good at functioning on little to no sleep. I’m also great at making t-shirts for events using iron-on letters, I can do a perfect cartwheel, and I’m excellent at finding free stuff in New York.

What was the last book you read that made an impact on you, and what effect did it have?
I recently read The Defining Decade: Why Your Twenties Matter – And How to Make the Most of Them Now, by Meg Jay. I would recommend it to anyone, male or female, going through a quarterlife crisis or other period of uncertainty. The driving point of this book is about not wasting away your twenties with an attitude of “Oh, I can just get started on my adult life in my thirties.” It’s about pursuing passion and fulfillment now, setting a jumping off point for the rest of your life.

What quote best represents you or motivates you in your current place in life?
I think the Linkin Park quote that I mentioned in my post about quitting therapy has been pretty representative of most my adult life: “I will never know myself until I do this on my own.”

What are three things that you are totally obsessed with right now?
At present, I’m devouring The Girl Who Played With Fire, absolutely adoring the MTV show Awkward (seriously, watch it), and getting so insanely excited to participate in The Color Run next month!

What is one thing you’d like to change about the world?
I’d get rid of the “Keeping up with the Joneses” attitude that so many people have (myself totally included). We spend so much time comparing and contrasting and judging that we lose focus on who we are at the core.

If there is one gift you could give to a stranger, what would it be?
I’d give a confidence boost to a stranger that needed one. All the self-exploration I’ve been doing over the last few months have made me realize that confidence is a huge component of finding happiness in nearly every aspect of life.

If super heroes are real (and they are), what super power would you have?
Flying. Easy.

What do you see when you look into your own eyes?
I see a weird combination of blue and green with a zig-zag circle of yellow going through it (wait, was I not supposed to take that literally? Ha!).

What songs are you loving right now?
I’m pretty obsessed with Girl Talk’s Feed the Animals album, which I shamefully didn’t own until about a month ago. And I can’t forget my Shut Up and Be Happy playlist.

What 3 lessons will you take with you from over the last 5 months?
1. If you can cut negativity from your life, do it. No one is obligated to keep anyone or anything around if it doesn’t make them happy.
2. You are enough. If there are areas in your life in which you want to grow, by all means work on them. But don’t change yourself to fit anyone else’s standards.
3. Life is better when you make yourself vulnerable. There are more ups and downs, but it’s so much more fulfilling to put your true self out there for others to see.

I posted about my interest in teaching group fitness and my first couple teaching experiences a couple weeks back.  And then I didn’t say anything about it again.

But I didn’t give up.

I was just waiting and waiting and waiting on my assessment.  The moment of truth.  The notice that I passed or…well, failed.

To back up, after my initial training, I spent weeks and weeks team teaching, working up to teaching a class by myself, and perfecting my technique.  After about a month and a half, I felt ready to tape myself for my video assessment.

On the morning of my taping – 8 a.m. on a Saturday to a 26-person class – I had that icky, sweaty palms feeling.  You know that sweaty palms feeling?  Where you keep nervously wiping your hands on your pants in a desperate attempt to get rid of that clamminess but it keeps coming back?  Yes.  That feeling.

As I fussed with the microphone and adjusted and readjusted my tune belt, I visualized myself executing the moves perfectly, saw in my mind how flawlessly I’d cue the moves.  Reminded myself to smile, speak with confidence, hold myself tall.  Have fun.

I signalled to my gym pals helping me run the video, watched the red light come on, welcomed the class to my taping, pressed play on my iPhone and off I went.

As soon as I heard that music, that music I’d been listening to for four months on an endless loop, my body blasted into autopilot action.  Those carefully-rehersed cues came out of my mouth in steady stream.

I hardly remember a second of that class.  At one point I remember being half way done.  And then I remember raising my arms high above my head, completing the last stretch of the cooldown track and feeling victorious.

My gym mentor and I agreed it was an excellent tape, and I should go ahead and mail it in for my final assessment.  So I filled out my self assessment form, made my way to the post office, and said a little prayer before handing over my DVD to the lady at the post office.

And then the waiting game began.

I could still teach without having that formal certification in hand, so I continued teaching classes and learning new tracks and waking up each day hopeful I’d receive an email with my fate.

In between sending in tape and waiting for my results, I continued to teach classes.  But I felt this part of me holding back, probably because I saw myself as an imposter without that all mighty certificate in my hand.

After a couple of weeks floated by, I started to panic that I’d fail.  The confidence I had after I made my tape started to drift away.  What would I do if I failed?  I’d have to retape.  Or decide I must not be cut out for this group fitness stuff.  I’d be devastated.

No matter how much positive feedback I’d receive after teaching or how much fitter and stronger I felt, I couldn’t completely embrace this new me without that certificate.

So a couple of weeks ago, in the midst of cramming new choreography into my head and perfecting my propulsive knee lifts, an email buzzed through on my phone.  I saw Les Mills as the sender.  And the subject line saying…

PASS.

I did it.

Part of me new I would.  And that other part of me – that doubter – felt proud for accomplishing a goal that only a few short months ago I never thought myself capable of.

The best thing about this acheivement isn’t so much the certification.  It’s the new way I look at challenges.  When I think of a hurdle I want to go over, I’m filled with excitement and can’t wait to toss myself into a daunting task.  I think, that would be awesome, I can totally do that.  Why not?  I committed myself to this BodyStep certification, worked hard, faced tough moments, but refused to let fear rule me.  And once fear’s out of the way, there’s nothing I can’t do.

 

 

When I was younger, I would spend every Saturday afternoon at my good friend’s house playing Sonic the Hedgehog on her Sega Genesis. We never tired of collecting rings, trying to get to new levels, and laughing about how Tails was more or less useless.

I remember how, as Sonic made his way through the levels, he would occasionally pass these little checkpoint poles. As he passed, the pole would rotate in a circle, there would be a happy dinging sound, and my friend and I would rejoice. Because once we passed those poles, no matter how many times we died in the future, we would always come back to that point instead of having to start from the beginning of the level.

I kind of wish we had this in real life, too. Wouldn’t it be nice to know that once you reached a certain point on your journey to a particular goal, you would never have to start back at square one? It might take awhile to get to the point where you hear that sweet dinging sound, but once you do, your progress becomes permanent.

Unfortunately, though, there’s no permanent progress in the quarterlife crisis. Not only that, but sometimes there isn’t even a “ding!” or any other positive sign that shows how far you’ve come.

While I’m certainly making strides towards not being in this state of QLC anymore, sometimes I feel like there’s no real evidence of my progress aside from the fact that I know it’s there. There are no rewards, no gold stars, no tangible achievements to give me that “HELL YES WATCH OUT LIFE BECAUSE HERE I COME” feeling.

Take my unemployment, for example. I’m constantly sending out resumes, crafting cover letters, and going on interviews. My job search, as a general rule, is fairly productive. But you know what?

I still don’t have a job.

And until I get a job, none of the cover letters or interviews I’ve gone on really matter. No one says, “Congratulations, you’ve interviewed at 14 different companies in the last 5 months! Only 6 more until you’re a level 4 Job Seeker! 11 more to receive the coveted Job Offer medallion!”

I wonder if my desire for rewards is a mark of immaturity. Since when are we entitled to a medal just for doing something that may, one day, help us reach a goal? I went on that OK Cupid date I was so scared of, and though it was unremarkable, I’m proud that I did it because it was an important step towards opening myself up to dating, men, and being more vulnerable in general. Since that date I’ve had this attitude where I’m like, “Okay, now that I braved the one date, guys should be lining up for me, right?” Except…no. That’s not how it works. So I’ve realized that not only do I not deserve a prize, but since I had no chemistry with this guy, I am officially no closer to having a love life than I was before.

So here’s what’s plaguing me: In a system with no rewards, how do you stay motivated? When reaching a goal is an all-or-nothing deal, how do you prevent burnout when you’re struggling in the nothing part? I’ve put a ton of work into improving my life and even though I’m not quite where I want to be yet, I just want it to be like it was when I was little and a teacher would give me a sticker anyway. You know, something motivating like “Good job!” or “A for effort!” or “Super!”

I think this is one of those instances where I need to quit my whining and just remember that sometimes life is hard and stickerless. Since no one is going to reward me just for making teeny tiny improvements, I need to count on my own strength to keep me going. Because even though I’m so fed up with writing cover letters that I nearly start twitching every time I have to write one, giving up and bitching about it isn’t going to get me any closer. I just need to power through it.

Or, as Dory would say, “Just keep swimming.”

It might be kind of nerdy to adopt a mantra from a kids’ movie (even though, let’s be honest, Finding Nemo is amazing), but I’m going to try to keep reminding myself of this. Whenever I get in that frustrating place where I feel like I’ve come so far yet I still have insanely far to go, I’ll think of it. There may not be any checkpoint poles or gold stars along this journey, but that doesn’t mean I’m not getting anywhere.

Just keep swimming.

 

Photo credit: morag.riddell

Recently I’ve been pondering the significance of what one of my college professors once said: “Every action or inaction you take is a political statement.” Since losing my job in the non-profit sector, it seems I’ve taken an unintentional hiatus from being consistantly in this mindset.  Last month I went to a protest with one of my friends, reigniting my zeal for social justice. It made me ecstatic to know that I’m still familiar with the old protest chants, that I still get enraged by injustice, and that I require the knowledge of the world’s happenings and must leave my hiatus of apathy by the wayside.

Four years ago I journeyed to the Dominican Republic visiting organizations working towards social justice, toured a “sweat-shop”, visited cooperatives, and was struck by the immense disparity between the wealthy and impoverished of the country. In one particular location walking with some friends by a river scattered with houses made from corrogated metal and remnants from flip-flops from the local sweat-shop, I looked over a concrete wall only to see ostentatious houses on the other side. According to locals, the wall was erected so that the wealthy wouldn’t have to see the penury prevelant in their own backyards. This experience inspired the poem below which I’m planning on including in the poetry book I’m working on. You know, the one I wanted to create in a loteria style.It is of course a rough draft in need of editing but it comes from a place of rage and dissatisfaction with the status quo. Rage though is nothing without action. This particular rage takes form in this poem, sharing conversations with my peers about the injustice witnessed, being conscious of where my clothing comes from, and recognizing that the battle never ends.

 

DIVIDING WALL

I can’t keep sitting on this dividing wall .

Self-made sweat powers one side,

while the other side consumes their civilized mannerisms and will eventually fall.

Hands bear our daily witness to energy exerted, 

sealing up life’s difficulties, measuring up the inertia.

Like lambs, the poor dig up the land with their callused hands

and I sit with my bloody palms trying to decipher

the lines of my unfulfilled prophetic fate,

 I haven’t died just yet.

Time rotates the opposite direction of the moving dials

and I feel defiled

by this progression I see:

humanity

to rapture brought on

by claiming other’s lives as one’s own,

robotic maneuverings day after day,

transformed into

more than these 24 hours

more than these 1440 seconds I possess

and the rich white men sit on the other side, sipping their martinis with Uncle Sam

and Capitalism gorges itself

on the red wine of human suffering

of childhood incessantly molting,

of decomposition occurring

in these sacred lives feeding the fire of unopened eyes

sacred lives blessed by mountain rain, plantain trees growing, rivers flowing

and cursed by policies to create pyramids of physically impoverished bodies

to lift up the soulless minds to the height of stratified society

who nibble sauces off their fingers,

have street kids wipe the dust off their leather shoes

so they shine and perfectly reflect their holier-than-thou magnificence

even looking down.

On my right, this no-man’s river land

fertilized by human feces,

shoeless people, shoeless hens, shoeless houses, shoeless babies

who cry

because their mothers’ breasts are dry.

That milk needs to be used to dye those GAP-made American clothes pure white

so that the teenaged in the United States can spend $30 bucks on a t-shirt to buy popularity,

money that could feed a family in what we call a developing country

(Developed countries= undeveloped minds)

but to you this is all fine.

Your selfishness has barricaded you into a system

the anti-revolution

the perfect equation            

      to the US made dream

still within my reach

but I’m thinking of jumping this fence

this reverse mojada,

pseudo anti-americana

is suffocating from marble houses being built across the street

from tin pan homes leaking hurricane rain.

Of course those assholes put up one-way mirrored towers to alleviate

their guilt-laced, covered-by-ignorance shame.

 

As people we are powerful. Our decisions impact the minds of our peers, the profits of companies, the direction of history. We are indeed a force to be reckoned with.

[photo credit: Photo-Fenix]

I was going to wait until June to make this confession, but circumstances have changed and it needs to happen early.

I never really intended to not drink for the entire month of May.

Before you come at me with pitchforks, I should explain. I was willing to abstain from drinking during Cinco de Mayo, Memorial Day weekend, flipcup games with my kickball team, and even a daytime food-and-drinks extravaganza here in Brooklyn. But there was one event – a big mashup dance party on a boat – that I knew I just couldn’t attend sober.

My grand plan was to take a one-night hiatus from sobriety to have a fun yet uneventful night on May 19th, get back on the wagon on May 20th (which, as I’m writing this, is today), and then report back on my booze-less month with a brief little sidebar: “Oh by the way there was one night where I drank but it didn’t impact my experiment or anything so yay me and yay not drinking and shh let’s pretend this one night didn’t happen, okay? Okay.”

My plan was working, at least for a little bit. I picked out an outfit, flat-ironed my hair and put on the heavy black eyeliner that I reserve for nights out. Around dinner time on what would have been my 27th alcohol-free day (because my first alcohol-free day was actually April 23rd), I started drinking.

To spare you all the dramatic details, I’m just going to pull a Seinfeld “yadda yadda yadda” and say that 5 hours later, right around the time I should have been boarding my boat, I traded my little black dress for some fleece pajamas and cried myself to sleep.

I’m bummed that I didn’t end up attending a party that I had been looking forward to for a month, I’m crushed by the events that led me to miss it, and on top of all of that I just feel really, insanely fucking stupid. I’ve devoted a lot of lip service to this sobriety experiment and the benefits I was getting out of it, but as soon as I abandoned it I realized that I haven’t come that far at all. While there was no way I could have predicted what ended up happening last night, I’m ashamed at how it took hindsight to see how this “one night hiatus” was a bad decision borne out of weakness. And of course, as is the case with all bad decisions, it wasn’t worth it. Instead of having a triumphant story of taking a full month away from alcohol, my record is marred by a night where I got wasted and had nothing to show for it but the tracks my eyeliner made as it ran down my face.

I know I should be proud of the 26 days where I successfully didn’t drink, but frankly I just can’t help but feel like I let myself down. If everything had gone well last night, I would have resumed abstaining from alcohol today and made it through the end of May, which would have brought me to 38 sober days, not including my one night off.

Now, as I sit here nursing the hangover from my night that went nowhere, all I want to do is give up. I want to put this experiment behind me, cap my sobriety at 26 days, and drink this day away. I want to visit the bar where my roommate works and bitch to her about last night while she supplies me with an endless stream of vodka. Because despite all the progress I thought I had made, I am really fucking upset and I know of no other way to make myself feel better.

I realize now how naïve I’ve been. What I thought was my new, self-love-fueled upbeat attitude was just a brief period that happened to be devoid of the usual bullshit. It wasn’t me getting better; it was life temporarily not sucking.

I just feel really beaten down. Not drinking for almost 4 weeks made me feel amazing, like I had really accomplished something and taught myself a lesson or two. Giving that up early and having my life immediately revert back into a state of beer tears feels like garbage. I hate that I didn’t have the strength to power through the full month, I hate unnecessary drama, and I hate that I don’t know if I can find it within myself to pick up the pieces of this crappy day and take out my frustrations at the gym instead of at the bar (update from later that day: I went to the bar, obviously. But at least I walked the 2.5 miles there).

As far as where I’ll go from here for the rest of the month – I have no idea. I failed yesterday and I failed again today, but tomorrow is a new day. Maybe I’ll take a lesson from Cassie in bouncing back. Maybe I’ll just spend the rest of May drinking as much as possible and making up for lost time (I’m really going to try to NOT do this).

I know I’ll get through all the bullshit and the setbacks. I just never thought it would be this hard.

 

Photo credit: kevin dean

I’m going to reveal my quinoa-eating, kombucha-drinking, yoga-breathing inner hippie and talk about manifesting today. Break out the incense, people.

Fifty percent of me is actually a healthy skeptic. I mean, wishing things into existence? Really? If it were as simple as that, where’s my winning lottery ticket or someone offering me a job as a professional puppy cuddler, complete with a six-figure salary and mandatory afternoon naptime? There’s gotta be more to creating the life we imagine than merely thinking happy thoughts and having them appear like I Dream of Jeannie— likely involving at least a few buckets of blood, sweat and tears.

But the other fifty percent of me has experienced quite a few situations– many of them quite recently– that make me unable to fully brush off manifesting as new age bullcrap.

1. In early January, I collaged a new vision board for 2012. I spent an evening tearing through magazines for words and images, trying to evoke the feelings I’d like to make central in my life over the next several months. For me, vision boards had never been about the manifestation of specific things, but rather a visual reminder to keep my goals and values central to my everyday life.

In one corner of the poster board I placed the cover of a creative arts magazine as a reminder to keep creating and experimenting… and, yes, part of me hoped to be published in said magazine someday.

Less than 48 hours after finishing my vision board, I received a message from the managing editor of that very magazine asking me to submit my artwork for publishing consideration after she’d seen some of my work online. I had only a few days to pull together the materials for submission, but I did it, and the editor ended up asking me to write an article for the magazine. The issue will be out this summer (yay!).

My inner manifestation skeptic gave this scenario the side-eye while wrinkling up her nose. Well, that’s quite a coincidence, she thought. Pretty AWESOME, but still, just a coincidence.

2. Also in January, I made a list of a few main goals I wanted to achieve in each of my nine “slices of life” areas. In the “Adventure” category, my number one goal was to take an international trip or an extensive road trip across the USA.

Later that month, my husband’s employer discussed the possibility of needing an engineer for a project in Ireland. Two weeks later, Mark was on a plane overseas and I followed shortly behind him, while all of our arrangements were taken care of by the company. Today, we are squeezing in amazing weekend trips around Ireland and to Scotland, with some travel planned after Mark’s work assignment ends.

The manifestation skeptic slowly unfurled her brow and tried to mask the curiosity building in her eyes.

3. Most recently– after sitting with the overwhelm I expressed in a previous Stratejoy post– I decided to finish up the final week of Stratejoy’s Create Your Magical Year program (yes, it’s now May. Is it obvious I’m a procrastinator?). I figured it would do me some good to clarify my goals for each of my various interest areas, since I clearly have too much going on. One of my revised goals for my “Creativity” slice of life was to sell a photography print or piece of artwork.

The morning immediately after I scribbled my artsy goals on my Magical Year worksheets, a lovely Twitter/blog friend contacted me randomly about buying a print of some of my artwork she’d seen in a picture on Instagram.

The manifestation skeptic couldn’t help but crack a little smile.

If these aren’t examples of manifesting, I don’t know what is. So how does the practical, over-thinking doubter find resolution with my flowy, hippie side to make sense of this all?

I’ve considered these situations from a variety of angles and I’ve determined that positive thinking is only part of the equation when it comes to manifesting.

I think that getting clear about my goals and values helped me recognize what kind of opportunities I wanted to arise. When I’ve been vague, overwhelmed, and confused mentally (such as during my period of bad jobs), I find the situations that arise for me are equally confusing. Every time I’ve gotten clear and specific, I’ve moved towards my goals or been presented with opportunities that align with them. And sometimes these moments of clarity happen long before they make sense– long before I ever met Mark, I knew it was important that my partner be an explorer and interested in other cultures. Maybe holding that value was one piece of the puzzle that brought Mark and me to Ireland.

I also practice being in a mindset of gratitude. I am incredibly grateful for the abundance in my life, the people that love me, and the opportunities I’m given– and I think that helps me continue to be open to experiencing good things (even if I’m not sure whether I’m “attracting” good things, or just teaching myself to be more mindful of what may already be available to me).

I’m working towards cleaning up my own mental junk. For me, this primarily has to do with my self-confidence and showing up authentically. This seems to be an important piece to the manifesting process so we don’t self-sabotage our efforts towards achieving our dreams. Because I’ve been working on authenticity and confidence (albeit slowly), I’ve become more comfortable with putting my work into the world, which allows this extension of me to be seen and opportunities like the magazine article and selling my artwork to arise. I’m learning to trust that when I put myself out there with authentic intentions, I will find my way to the people that matter.

I try not to get attached to the outcome. This is a constant work in progress, but I don’t want to inadvertently miss out on something because I had a different idea of how it would look. (Note to self: This is quite applicable to our fertility journey— our family might end up manifesting in a number of different ways.)

To me, the entire manifesting process is like training yourself to see doors where you may have only seen solid walls before. You don’t always know what’s on the other side of them, but you trust that it’ll be good– you wouldn’t create a home in a bad neighborhood, after all. Recognizing these doors allows you to walk towards them and through them– not to some magical land where puppy cuddling is a real job, but to a place where more and more doors are presented to you that all lead you closer to your dream life.

I don’t think my inner skeptic can argue with the beauty of that.

Have you heard? The Stratejoy Book Club has officially launched!

We’ll be holding our first LIVE chat discussion.  May 21st, 2012. Grab your girlfriends, some drinks, some snacks, and jam with Molly about this month’s book, MWF Seeking BFF by Rachel Bertsche.

Find out about the book, the live chat discussion, and how to host an event or attend an event right over here on the page with all of the juicy details.

My grandmother was 25 years old when she had my mother. My mama was 25 when she had me. Tomorrow, I turn 25 and I have no babies on the way and I find it strange that I’m considered an “adult” because frankly I don’t always feel like one.

Holy. Shit.

I’m turning a quarter-of-a-century tomorrow! I remember turning twenty and crying because I was saying hasta la vista to my childhood.

How am I going to celebrate reaching this epic age? Perhaps I’ll have cake, go out for a high tea, take a trip with Geoffrey to the gorges Ithaca. Maybe… I’ll even by myself a present like a cute dress or tickets to go to a Broadway show. Until then it’s time for a little speculation on the 30 things I’d like to accomplish before I turn 30 because I’m a list maker, and it makes sense to make an age related checklist before my it turns 10:10 tomorrow morning and I turn the big 2-5.

30 before 30

1 ) Get married (I know this is cheating a little since it’s already in the works, but I thought I’d include it anyway).

2 ) Spend one season growing and nourishing a garden. This garden would of course include tomatoes, snap peas, basil, and I’m going to try for beets too.

3 ) Travel to India with my fiance. During this trip visit Mother Theresa’s Sisters of Charity in Kolkata, set foot in the Indian Ocean, stay in an Ashram, visit Dharamsala (preferably when His Holiness the Dalai Lama is there), stay in Auroville, and of course visit some artisans.

4 ) Get into graduate school and go! This doesn’t mean I have to have my PhD by the time I’m 30 I just have to be well on my way towards obtaining that doctorate.

5 ) Learn how to make the following food items: spanikopita, cheese, cream puffs, jam, chutney and tiramisu.

6 ) Attend Burning Man with Geoffrey. I get bonus points if my siblings go too.

7 ) Walk the road to Santiago with my sister. If you’ve ever read Paulo Coelho’s The Pilgramage, this is our inspiration.

8 ) Take the train across Canada. This journey must include my lovely friend Kristin.

9 ) Visit Iceland. Have you seen pictures of the place? It’s absolutely stunning!

10 ) Sew a dress all by myself. Part two of this is to design and then sew another dress all by myself.

11 ) Make a quilt… you know, while we’re on the topic of sewing.

12 ) Become fluent in Spanish, continue with my Kiswahili, and begin learning French.

13 ) Have a little kiddo.

14 ) Read the following books: The Bible, The Qur’an, The Tibetan Book of the Dead, The Upanishads, The Tao Te Ching

15 ) Attend the Gandhi-King Conference. If possible be a speaker at the conference.

16 ) Go through Kingian non-violence training.

17 ) Sleep in a ger in Mongolia.

18 ) Go to Carnavale in Venice, Italy. Costumes must be worn.

19 ) Be in Mexico for The Day of The Dead.

20 ) Take part in Holi in India.

21 ) Go para-sailing. It’s just something I’ve always wanted to do. I might as well right? It looks riveting.

22 ) Get something published. This could be a poem in a magazine, or a novel, or an article in a newspaper.

23 ) Learn how to play the guitar. I was given a guitar when I was 13 and I still have yet to play it correctly.

24 ) Take part in NaNoWriMo and complete a novel.

25 ) Perform some of my poetry in front of a crowd. Eek!

26 ) Go to another film festival. Possible options include The Sundance Film Festival, The Toronto International Film Festival, or another one.

27 ) Meet someone I consider famous like Josh Ritter, Lila Downs, Nelson Mandela, Paulo Coelho, Andrea Gibson, etc.

28 ) Make exercise a routine part of life. Join a gym, take a dance class, or learn how to rock climb.

29 )Visit Coney Island before leaving the East Coast. Take lots of pictures.

30 ) Fully take part in these five years living in the moment, loving life, and giving it my all. I’m making this a goal because sometimes I forget to just enjoy myself.

Adieu my first quarter of a century. Farewell to braces and poor fashion choices. Sayonara growth spurts and puberty. Ciao school and living with parents. Goodbye intentional poverty and youth.

Hello Life 2.0. Welcome health and family. Greetings achievement and more travel. Enter in beauty, spirituality, and appreciation. I greet you my next 25 years with my arms wide open. I just think it might need to start with a piñata.

Photo Credit: smarnad

 

The most riveting and terrifying aspect of my life is that I never know what to expect next.

Six months ago my job with AmeriCorps ended and I transitioned to working with the organization I was with part-time; I began working as a barista at a coffee shop I respected for their sustainable business practices; and I was teaching a class at UCONN on Creative Democracy and Community Building.

Three months ago I become engaged; found out I lost my part-time non-profit job; and finished my super awesome teaching gig at UCONN.

Now, I’m working full time in the coffee business and sitting in limbo-land awaiting my next step.

Apparently I can’t figure out how to manage my time effectively. I tend to have this problem. The time I did best in college was when I was taking seven classes, reading a book for entertainment each week, and working to pay rent. Everything I did fell right into an appropriate time frame because it had to not because I had ample time to accomplish everything. Right now, I’m at the point where I’m paralyzed with all the crap I have to do and I don’t even know where to begin.

In fact, there’s a little recorder that plays over and over in my head each day:

Dear Camila just so you know you have to plan your wedding, take the GREs, start working on your blog, keep in touch with friends, clean your apartment, cook dinner, pay the bills, call your brother, hand wash some clothes…

and the list goes on.

This my friends is where you come in. I’ve found in the past that when I have folks checking in on my progress and holding me accountable then I’m waaaaayyyyy more likely to follow through with my intentions. Or, put in a more eloquent way in the words of my favorite author, Paulo Coelho,

“…when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you achieve it.”

If I pronounce wholeheartedly what I aspire to achieve in these next five months, work just as fervently to accomplish them, and have the support of other lovely ladies, then I’m confident that they will become tangible and not just meandering thoughts.

That being said, here’s what I’m pronouncing as my foci for the next five months:

1) Writing

I have always loved twisting words together to create poetry and stories. The first poem I ever wrote was about an owl. I have it somewhere, the little words typed up on a typewriter and cut out into a bizarre shape. Being that the only time I had frequent access to typewriters was when I was at the American School for the Deaf, I probably wrote the poem in Kindergarten. At age nine I wrote songs with my brother and friend Mia. Some of them were ridiculous “Lanza lanza in your panza, footsie wootsie in your tootsie” while others were a little better “I must go away from my land, go and march with that awful band. They’re mean and cruel and awful here, please oh please help me dear.” As of late though, I have not been that great about keeping up with my writing. No, I’ve been neglecting a craft I love. Writing on Stratejoy will certainly help me, but in the next five months I would also like to

a) start writing on my blog again at least once a week

and

b) draft poems for a poetry book. The theme of “loteria” a.k.a. Mexican Bingo has always fascinated me and I find the images that are a part of the game intriguing and beautiful.  This would be the premise for the book I would like to create.

2) Organization

People make two frequent assumptions about me. One is that I’m quiet (this assumption is true until I get to know you), the other is that I am an organized neat-freak. Ha, HAHAHAH, Ha ha. Lies. I’m incredibly messy which drives my family and fiance mad. I leave remnants of my existence wherever I go (don’t worry, I’m not like this in the homes of strangers). I am however somewhat organized in my chaos. I have lists of books I want to read on a Google Doc. I have specific notebooks for specific purposes. I like to wash dishes. However, I still suck at paying bills. I don’t always know where I keep my keys, and I often “wing it” without knowing the details of how I’m going to get things done. This has resulted in spending the night at Starbucks/Union Station; having nightmares that my wedding is next week and I’ve done barely any planning; and having my internet and phone disconnected. As such, here’s what I’ve got in mind:

a) create a financial plan. I would like to know when I need to pay what bills, how much I’m making and figure out how I’m going to make it through  the summer with a limited budget.

b) create an educational plan. In 2013 I yearn to go back to graduate school as well as become trained as a doula/midwife. I’ve been out of school way too long for my liking. I want to look up graduate schools in the Northwest, programs for doulas/midwives, and prepare to take the GREs..

c) plan and execute a phenomenal wedding: I need the nightmares to cease. I need to get a handle on this wedding since it is in less than five months and I don’t even have a wedding dress yet. Ahhhhhhhhhhh. Even thinking about it makes me nervous. I love planning and I’m incredibly excited for Geoffrey and I to marry, I just feel like I’m so far behind.

There you have it, just small components of my infinite dreams that never cease to expand and fluctuate. I set them forth into the world and ask for you to conspire with me to fulfill these little puzzle pieces of life that I have trouble fitting together and bringing into reality. Now it’s time to let the progress begin.

Being a chef is the first time I truly felt like “I am really good at this.” It took me a while searching in different restaurants, with different styles of cuisine, and different levels of dining (casual dining v. high-end). I left a job at a casual dining place because I wanted to do more elaborate plating and production. I loved being able to experience it all.

But I found my footing in the causal realm. It’s great to go to a high-end restaurant and see the artistic presentation of their dishes, but I love and find my happiness in the simple, yet elegant plating of a perfectly made dessert that has incredible flavors paired together.

 

I got into a disagreement with the owner of the last restaurant I worked in. It was May, which is beautiful dining weather here in Arizona. There was a breeze floating through the open patio doors in the dining room, and I knew the perfect dessert special for that evening was homemade s’mores.

Homemade graham crackers, thick and buttery. Homemade marshmallows, fluffy and airy, then toasted so that the crunchy golden brown shell forms on the outside and the inside is pure white goo. Really good dark chocolate, melting. Yeah, you’re nodding your head right now, because it’s damn good!

The owner strolled through the kitchen, though we rarely saw him, and had me make him one. He leaned on the prep table and crinkled his nose, “no one will want to eat this with their hands. They won’t want to get messy. You need to figure out a way to make it so they can eat it with a fork and knife.”

I almost fell over. “NO,” I told him. “It’s nostalgia. It is the grown up version of box graham crackers, marshmallows from a plastic bag, and Hershey bars. Everyone ate them as a kid. People will get it.”

He continued to argue with me. This was a huge moment for me. Usually, I don’t outright argue with someone, especially a superior, but he was dead wrong. I knew these would sell like hotcakes.

Finally the executive chef stepped in to back me up. The owner shrugged his shoulders, and left the kitchen. That night, I got a text at 6:58 pm (dinner service starts at 5pm), they had already sold out all 30 orders before 7pm. The evening sous chef told me later that people were ordering them, and laughing as they ate them. Adults shoving these fat s’mores into their mouths, marshmallow and chocolate smeared on their faces. A few tables were so delighted, they would order another plate. Servers would appear at their sides when they finished with warm, damp cloth napkins to clean up with. The customers kept telling stories to the servers about the last time they ate s’mores as a kid. Mission accomplished.

My run-in with the owner is why I left my job. Stupid people with too much money and no restaurant experience, trying to tell me how to do what I am good at. This is why the biggest goal I have here is to keep my courage up, while starting my own pastry business. Someday to be a gorgeous bakery (long-term dream).

Right now, I feel like I’m teetering on this ledge of things starting to falling into place for me. I know that nothing will ever be perfect. I am letting go of trying to plan everything. I just have to keep my momentum going.

One of the reasons I wanted to be a blogger for Stratejoy was for the support and accountability. I need the support of our amazing tribe to help me feel safe to step up and be myself. I’m sick of psyching myself out,  and want to have our tribe keep encouraging me to take one more step, then one more, then another…With that in mind, here are my intentions or goals for the next 5 months:

  1. To get my online pastry business rolling. I am terrified. I have read oodles of stories about how people start businesses and they don’t work out. Or they get so popular, so fast that they can’t keep up and go out of business. I want this to work and I’m attempting to do it in the most cost effective way possible, so I can grow the business off of its profits. Some days, I sit at my desk and cry because I’m so terrified that this will never work, and that I will never be able to make a living doing what I love.
  2. To be a better food blogger/writer and not be concerned with what people will think of me. I think if I can bring a more honest approach to my blogging, it will be easier for me to write. I have the experience to write about food, and I need to not be worried that people are going to attack me. Plus, I hope I will be able to attract supportive, receptive readers.
  3. Get a food piece published in a magazine or newspaper. I’ve had one story published nationally, and I’m hoping to be able to put myself out there, sell myself, and get some more freelance work.
  4. I have found the guy, Mr. Paul Child, (more on him in a later post) now I have to figure out how we make it work and find a balance, living +3 hours apart. (ah! We are meeting each other’s parents in the next month! Wish us luck!)
  5. Do the Fierce Love course. I need some Fierce Love for myself, and I want to keep learning and growing. I feel like even seeing my first post published here on Stratejoy was a huge leap for me, to help me really start opening myself up. For me, Fierce Love will allow me to love myself more, which will in turn make me a better daughter, sister, girlfriend, aunt, friend, etc. If you are taking the course too, please tweet me or facebook me so we can cheer each other.

This is what I’ll be working on for the next 5 months. I’m positive that some good stuff will come out of it. Stay tuned, dolls!

 

 

Introducing: Camila

“Love-wise I couldn’t be better. I just have a wedding in August to think about and I thrive on planning events. Career-wise I’m an absolute disaster”

“What are you?”

This is undoubtedly the question I get asked the most frequently.

I know what they really want to know though. They want to know about my ethnic background because between the cowboy boots I’m wearing, the ring in my nose, my coca-cola-foam-colored skin, and the brightly embroidered clothes I’m wearing, they simply can’t place what I am. Sometimes I give the simple answer of “I’m a Mestiza.” Other times I give the longer answer:  “well… I’m Spanish from when the conquistadors came to the Southwest in the 1500s, Mexican, Swiss-German, French, Italian, and Ute.”

Behind both of these answers, however, there is the truth that I am a mutt, a smorgasbord, a convergence of crossroads. Growing up between the free-thinking art town of Santa Fe, New Mexico and my family’s gorgeous ranch in conservative small-town Colorado was simply a part of life for me.

Being a nomad was the norm. I was accustomed to dropping everything at my dad’s declaration of “time to go to the ranch”, packing up and heading northward for feeding cattle, irrigating pastures, baling hay, and going on cattle drives (yes, I do mean like cattle drives in the Westerns) with my wonderful younger siblings and lovely parents. I was used to working my curvaceous Latina butt off to excel in all my classes at Catholic high school in Santa Fe. I was used to striving for excellence at everything I did.

My main philosophy throughout my youth was You should always bite off more than you can chew because you can always spit some of it back out. At least this philosophy got me into a prestigious university in upstate New York that I loved for four glorious years before I graduated… thought I knew what I was doing… and then it all kind of came undone.

When my friend Hala told me that after graduating from college I would experience an existential crisis, I thought she was kidding. I should have know better that life crises are often true. I mean… when my parents reached mid-life crisis time they got divorced, my dad became a woman and my mother moved in with her boyfriend and began expressing ideologies I scarcely knew she possessed.

For the first year after graduating college I happily declared to Hala that no, I had not yet experienced my quarter life crisis. Instead I was ecstatically working for poverty wage as an AmeriCorps member with an organization I strongly believed in. My day-to-day focus was on inspiring young people to create social change. How could I possibly go wrong?

Slowly though, the stress of working for $800 a month while paying off hundreds of dollars in student loans and hundreds more in living expenses became overwhelming. I was living in a living room with my only furniture being a bookcase… I didn’t even have a bed. The youth I worked with were amazing and constantly inspiring. They were great. The only problem was I only really got to see the results of my office work twice a year. For the remaining 360 days of the year, the feeling that I was not appreciated in my work place began to make me feel a little worthless and to question why I was continuing to do the work I was doing. Then, this Fall, I found out through the grapevine that my job ceased to exist.

That was the bad news for Autumn 2011. The good news was that my incredible, creative, compassionate boyfriend who bought me a piñata (yes a piñata!) for our first Valentine’s Day proposed to me in a castle after hiking up a quiet mountain path and having a homemade picnic!

Love-wise I couldn’t be better. I just have a wedding in August to think about and I thrive on planning events. Career-wise I’m an absolute disaster. Currently, I’m working at a socially conscious coffee shop making latte leaves and emptying coffee grounds. It’s a job that I enjoy well enough; it encourages me to be in the moment. This isn’t what I want to do forever though.

I want to be a doula/midwife and bring life into the world. I want to return to school and study the impact of folk art on women artisans and the way artists use recycled materials in their creations. I want to be an outstanding wife and eventually a fabulous mother. I want to journey the world with my husband-to-be and have conversations with random people. I want to be a poet and a novelist. I want to breathe in contentment knowing that the footsteps I leave behind on this earth are meaningful. I know I can do it, I just need to figure out how in the world it’s going to happen.

I remember the day my hamstrings loosened. I have kind of a terrible memory, so naturally I don’t recall the exact date. But oh, the feeling. I was in a yoga class last summer, about five or six months after my teacher training began. As I moved into parsvottanasana – a forward bend that makes me want to punch things challenges me – I noticed that something felt different. That day, my hamstrings didn’t scream quite so much as they had been for months prior. That day, there was space to go a little deeper. I inhaled, straightening and lengthening my spine. I exhaled, folding forward just a little more than I ever had before. It might only have been one-quarter or one-half of an inch, but there it was. Something had shifted, and I was present, breathing, noticing.

Now I have a confession: I didn’t accomplish any of the goals I set for myself way back when in my third post.

In my first few drafts of this post, I wrote an explanation here about why I didn’t complete them. But you know what?

It doesn’t matter.

I wasn’t ready.

Am I now? I think so.

Five months after the beginning of my Stratejoy journey, I’m getting that same feeling in my life as I did with my hamstrings last summer. There’s space now. Things are shifting.

* * * * *

Five months. 15 countries (including the United States and Canada). 37 beds, couches, futons, armchairs, air mattresses, and uncomfortable, questionably clean train seats. Thousands of photographs.

Have I changed? Good lord, yes.

How have I changed? That’s…more involved.

There are the obvious things, of course. I’m no longer working a 9-5 job. I no longer live in Brooklyn; my residence is still transient. I’ve put on weight. I drink coffee now, and I don’t spend as much time on the internet. I no longer hit snooze ten times when Joan Jett yells, “I don’t give a damn ’bout my bad reputation!” in my ear.

The more subtle stuff is harder to nail. Some days, I still feel stuck in the same patterns in which I’ve found myself for years. Other days, I feel like a new person. I frequently find myself feeling so fucking grateful for people, places, and moments that I want to explode with joy. I’m more at peace; I’ve shaken that stressed-out-hurry-hurry-frequently-annoyed attitude that I picked up during my six years in NYC. And overall, I’m feeling truly empowered and happy. I’m sure that there are other things, but those are the ones that I’ve figured out how to verbalize so far.

It seems that the nomadic lifestyle mostly works for me.

* * * * *

While preparing to write this, I took a look at my values from The Joy Equation, which I mentioned in my second post.

Connection. Bliss. Abundance. Trust. Adventure. Courage. Magic. Strength. Without even planning it, I’ve ended up posting about each of those over the past five months. I love when it’s suddenly clear that I’m on the right track, even when I hadn’t been planning every detail.

Seeing in concrete terms that I’m now living my core values feels really fucking amazing.

* * * * *

Though my time writing in this space ends with this post, my journey will continue. Today I’m on a flight back to New York. That was definitely not part of the original plan – but then again, neither was staying in Europe until February. I wanted time for yoga, tattoos, my favorite foods, and friends and family.

And then: Australia. I’m sad to leave Europe, and at the same time, I’m ready to develop a routine again. I’m excited to meet Kate and other new friends, and pumped to start teaching yoga again. I’m gearing up for summer, kickboxing classes, and maybe learning how to surf!

I hope you’ll continue following my adventure:

twitter: shinyredtype
facebook: pierced hearts and true love
blog: piercedheartsandtruelove.com
yoga teaching schedule: katselvocki.com

Thank you all for being a part of my QLC! And as Edward Abbey wrote, “May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view.”

[photo credit: my friend and travel buddy, Jenni]

New Year’s Eve is never much of a thing in my mind. It tends to sneak up on me, so I forget to make resolutions. I also don’t like crowds – especially after doing the Times Square ball drop thing in 2001 – which seems to rule out a lot of typical December 31 plans.

Mostly what this means is that I attempt to spend the evening with a small group of friends. We’ll eat, drink, and be merry, and then we’ll count down to midnight, champagne, and kisses. (Unless, of course, we get distracted by board games or conversation and miss midnight, in which case we’ll count down to a random time at which we yell “Happy New Year!” This has happened to me more than once.) So basically, it’s just like many other nights with my friends, except that we’re usually drinking wine instead of champagne, and high-fiving instead of kissing. I do my best to avoid straying too far from my apartment on December 31, because the last thing I want to do is commute home on the subway at some crazy hour with a bunch of crazy drunk people.

Some of my friends have New Year’s traditions that I really like, so in the past, I’ve tried to incorporate some of those into my own life. One of my best friends makes her resolutions at Chinese New Year. The holidays are her busiest time of year at work, so she doesn’t have a lot of time for reflection in December. When I considered doing that, I inadvertently let Chinese New Year slip by as well and avoided making resolutions yet again. Another friend always says, “Start as you mean to go on“. I guess I kind of do that now, as I described above, but that saying always makes me nervous. Since I already get a little stressed out about making plans that won’t involve the subway or spending a lot of money, I don’t want to add any more pressure to the night. Another tradition that I tried last year with a friend was throwing pieces of stale bread – each one representing something negative that we wanted to toss away – into the Hudson River. We used a loaf of bread that I’d baked with dough that had been in my fridge a little too long, and I found the motion incredibly satisfying. As 2010 involved my break-up and other challenges, I had a lot of things that I wanted to release. The whole process felt cleansing, though I wished I’d brought more bread.

It felt like I was Goldilocks trying all of these out, and nothing fit quite right – until I read about someone picking a word for the year. When I first saw a blog post about doing that, though, the person picked a word at random from the dictionary. Of course, I only had a French-English dictionary at home, and I ended up with words like scissors and hydraulic. Would you theme an entire 365 days around scissors or hydraulic? Hell no. I decided to declare the following 12 months my Year of Awesome. And it was. I traveled somewhere every month, saw friends and family, had a great roller derby season, blah blah blah. I was sold.

…until the next year rolled around and I completely missed choosing something in time for January 1. Old habits die hard, I suppose.

That moment confirmed that in my mind, New Year’s Eve is just another night. There is one day each year that does feel significant to me when it comes to making life changes, though: my birthday. These days, I select the word that will carry me through the coming 52 weeks by August 4, my new year’s eve. Beginning on August 5, that’s what guides me. As I mentioned way back when in my very first post, courage inspired me to make big decisions from August 5, 2010 through August 4, 2011. I dug deep to find the strength to follow through with that, and it was well-worth it.

At the moment, I’m approaching my halfway mark for my year of flourishing. Today and tomorrow, I’ll spend some time reflecting on that…

…or, if we’re being honest, I’ll likely just have a few drinks and spend time being silly with my friends.

Wherever you are, Happy New Year! May 2012 bring you love, joy, and the strength to follow your dreams – and flourish.

[photo credit: me!]

Psst! Hey, you! Gorgeous girl! Down here!

The Create Your Magical Year program is available right now! Looking for a great way to take a hard look at your 2011 (good and bad) and get clear on what you want for 2012? This joyful, all-about-you program is packed with awesome goodies, inspirational interviews, a soul-searching, colorful workbook, guided recordings, and other little surprises. 2012 is your year, woman. I can feel it. Wanna feel it too? It’s not too late to get this year off on the right foot.Let’s do this!

Moving sucks.

There, I said it.

I’ve sold my furniture; donated clothing, books, and other random items; and trashed mountains of paperwork that have been secretly breeding on my shelves and in my file box. (Honestly, all of my possessions must have been reproducing in my closets and drawers, because there’s no way I ever owned that much stuff.)

My apartment stopped feeling like home two weeks ago, when I repainted the walls. Before that, it was bright, cheery, and oh so me. When my ex and I decided to take this apartment, I agreed as long as I could paint some of the rooms: Kermit-the-Frog-green accent wall in the living room, pale blue bedroom, yellow accent wall in the guest room. The walls are back to being Navajo White now, and I’m closing this chapter on my life–the NYC chapter and the chapter with my ex.

I’m no stranger to big moves: I’ve shifted my life cross-country twice, both times leaving behind dear friends and comfortable cities. This feels different somehow, perhaps because Australia isn’t exactly in easy/affordable flight range for most people. Although the prevalence of twitter, blogging, and facebook in my life means I’ll be able to keep in touch with my New York friends (you know, the same way I keep in touch with my Seattle and DC friends now), I still feel flooded with sadness when I think about the moments I’ll miss here.

My heart breaks when I think about the fact that I’ll no longer be able to walk up to my friends’ apartment upstairs when I’m feeling stressed or sad, to sit on their futon and have their dogs and two-year-old daughter shower me with unconditional love. I start crying when I think about leaving behind the knitting group with whom I’ve spent nearly every Tuesday night for the past four years; they have been my strongest support through both the best and toughest times that I’ve experienced in this city. I start to wonder, What was I thinking? Connection is one of my core values, after all…

Like I said, moving sucks.

Fortunately, there are things that can help. Throughout this whole awful process of letting go of everything familiar–including possessions that had moved cross-country with me both times–the yogi in me has been reiterating that it’s good to practice non-attachment. All of this stuff doesn’t make me who I am. I’ve learned through my last two big moves that the people who matter stick around and stay in touch, and you find ways to maintain friendships across the miles. Asking for assistance is important; good friends are willing to do everything from assisting with painting or packing, to sitting with you while you cry and stare at your freshly-painted while walls. And of course, there’s been travel planning, which is pretty exciting when you’re meeting up with friends all over Europe. If I were only focusing on what I’m leaving behind, I’d never get anywhere. Connection may be one of my core values, but so is adventure. I want to find that balance.

With two days left in New York and barely anything in my apartment, I’m trying to soak up as much of my friends and the city as I can. I’ve been writing and taking photos, and also thinking about what I want from the next five months. After a few weeks of thinking about goals, I’ve finally settled on three:

Though I consider myself successful for quitting my job and taking this trip in the first place, I’m pretty certain that I don’t want to go back to sitting at a desk every day working for other people. I want to use the next five months–and the next year, really–to do everything in my power to create a life that won’t involve that.

This is it.

Two more days.

[photo credit: me!]

The universe is trying to tell me something. I’m convinced.

After a summer of stressing over getting someone to rent to me, I applied to a random Craigslist housing ad. I found a nice two bedroom within my budget. It was a little further out than I wanted, but there was no application fee – which *fingers crossed* meant no credit/rental check.

It’s like the universe wrapped its arms around me and gave me a hug. She rented based on character, not background. And she was one of the nicest ladies I’ve ever met! You just don’t meet people like that anymore.

Then came the cherry on top – the best writing gig EVER lands in my inbox. Cue me dancing a jig! I can’t give details yet, but it’s with a company I would sell my left boob to work with long term.

A place to live and steady income. Did I just achieve some stability? Why, yes, I think I did. Count this as me exiting fight or flight mode. Unless I’m crazy, that should mean I make better decisions for a while.

At the end of this five months, I’ll be ready to pop. As in, the brand new baby boy will be making his arrival like a soda can exploding in the freezer. I’m so excited for him, but I’m afraid for me. My doctor said I have a high likelihood of getting extreme PPD again.

Last time, it destroyed my life. This time, I have a much better support network. I have a wonderful doula, and I’m not in a relationship with someone I can’t stand – progress, right? (In fact, he makes me quite happy. And makes trips out when I get cravings. Yep – he’s a keeper.)

The next several months are going to be jam-packed full of goodness. But, it’s also just jam-packed – you know, crappy airline style where the seats are too close together kind of packed. I’m not crazy enough to hope for balance, but I am dreaming of joy. Even when things go bonkers, I want to feel the deep joy of knowing I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be doing what I’m meant to be doing. To commit to joy, I’m making three goals for my time here at Stratejoy.

My three goals for the next five months are:

To prepare as much as I can for the new baby. Mentally, this means making sure I have a network of wonderful women to connect with. I think Stratejoy is going to help with that a TON. Physically, it means yoga and setting up the nursery. (Because you KNOW it’s fun.)

To write my manifesto. Because I can’t write it until I understand all of the in’s and out’s of what I think. This is me committing to self exploration in away I haven’t before.

To open as many doorways as I can for my writing career. This means getting coaching, applying to grad school, working with amazing clients, and doing whatever I can to propel my writing to the next level.

It’s a good thing I like challenges, because this one is going to be one tough mother.

 

I feel very fortunate to be able to set my goals here where this amazing tribe can keep me on track. In the most gentle way possible, of course. Gentleness. That’s a big one for me.

Two weeks ago, when the first Stratejoy post was revealed, I read my first entry from a cubicle in an ad agency. There had been an emergency, and a friend had called me in for a ten-day job. I didn’t want to go back to that environment (16-hour days and people hating on your work for most of those hours), but I did because I freaked out about money.

And I felt like such a hypocrite! Here I was on Stratejoy proclaiming that all I want to do with my life is write meaningful things. And on the very day that post was published, a creative director was asking me to write scripts about how going to a popular fast food restaurant is now a beautiful experience that can change your life. It made me feel gross.

I was mad at myself. I felt stupid. And like a failure. Like I had taken a step back. Yeah, everyone does a job they hate when it comes down to the end of their savings, but in my mind this was the worst. I was pissed at myself and everybody. I stayed for fourteen hours that day. Thankfully, some (perhaps Stratejoy) angels changed the budget, and they couldn’t afford me another day. I got fired after just a day. Phew!

But the lesson I learned is that I must be more gentle with myself. My new writer life won’t appear RIGHT NOW like I want it to. And it’s okay if I admit to needing money. It’s okay if I go back to my old ways once in a while. I am now using that job when I need it. It is not owning me like it did five years ago.

Aaaand that is the long winded way in which I will get into my goals for these five long months:

Go easy on myself I have built up this belief that tells me I’m 31 and therefore I need to be at a certain point in my life. I need to have proven myself. I need to have ‘made it.’ And every time I find myself veering off that track, I’m not so nice to myself.  I would like to treat myself like I would a friend or family member– with compassion and love. Which brings me to…

Trust When I actually sit down and listen to my thoughts, I feel calm. Every failure I’ve ever experienced has taught me something, so I know deep inside that everything always works out. I want to remember that. I would like to always trust that I am right where I am supposed to be.

Feel pretty I would like spend more time on my appearance. I know it sounds like the opposite of what I’m supposed to say, but I just want to feel pretty. I spent this whole year rolling out of bed, putting on whatever clothes were on the floor, and going to write in a cafe. I’m sending the wrong message, and I don’t feel good about myself. I just want to make more of an effort to eat better and maybe wash my hair once a week. I owe it to myself to take care of my body.

Connection My computer knows me better than anyone, and I’d like to change that. I want to make it a point to ask more questions and have more lunches and simply be in the presence of my friends and family more often. I want to cultivate more of a community in my town and through phone calls with my family. I want to be a better friend.

Get Romantical I want to make dating a priority. I don’t want to make it a goal to ‘have a boyfriend.’ My goal is to simply enjoy the dating experience, meet people, say yes to new things, revel in heels, flirt, and have dinners. I have been seeing dating as a chore, and I want to change that.

Time Today I pressed snooze a few times, got on my computer in bed, started working, and forgot to eat until 1pm. No more! I owe it to myself to make time to meditate, to be grateful for what I have, to listen to my thoughts, to see the beach, to go outside, to LIVE!

Open I am the opposite of spontaneous. I always have a plan and a full calendar. I am so jealous when people invite me to a last-minute weekend camping trip. I never say ‘yes’ because I always have plans. I’d like to keep my schedule more open. Even if I have to PLAN to be spontaneous, I’ll do it!

Step into my path This is less a meaningful personal goal and more of a real life success goal. But I want to put it out there. I spent this last year writing a book that means so much to me. I know it will help everyone who reads it to know more about suicide and family and only children and love and lots of good things. I TRUST it. So… at the end of these five months, I would like to have a publishing house behind me, a printed hardback in the works! Eeeee! I said it. It’s out here. Oh my gosh. It’s GOING to happen! Right?

If it doesn’t, I will be gentle.

[Photo credit : my friend, Ramu. This is the last time I wore heels!]

I’ve been making a ton of huge changes lately, as you’ve probably noticed.  But, lest I seem like some sort of superhero, I want to be clear about something:  These changes are coming neither suddenly nor with amazing ease.

Everyone wants a magic bullet. Everyone wants an “instant” solution.  Everyone wants to think of something they want to change and have it *poof* happen without much effort.  I’m just like everyone else…Except not really.

I’m a creature of habit, and I like my creature comforts.  Change can be pretty scary for me, even changes that are positive. So, though it might appear I’m just doing a complete Life Overhaul, I’m not.  That kind of thing would send me running for the hills in a heartbeat.  Every big change I’m making has to be broken into lots of much, much smaller steps in order for me to succeed. Otherwise, I’ll just quit before I even see any results.

The job I recently left?  I was there for 3 years, longer than any other job I’ve held. I was too comfortable there to quit suddenly, and thought about it for a long time before even talking to G. about it, and *then* waited another two months before putting on my Big Girl Panties and actually putting my notice in.  Even then, I was pretty scared.

The album I just released?  Has taken me two very long years to get together, with stops and starts all over the place. There were delays and life events that interfered, and plenty of opportunities for me to abandon the project.  I just did the  little bit at a time that I could do and tried not to let that stuff get me down.

The health changes I want to make?  I’ve been working out on and off for months with no change until now. I’ve tried high intensity workouts, high protein-low-whatever diets, gyms,pedometers, weights, blah blah blah.  Those were all great for a couple of weeks at a time, but then I’d fall off the wagon and be back to my old, unhealthy habits.  The success I’ve had recently has been without any of those things.  I’ve started very, very small… literally, with small steps.  The only change I’ve made so far is to try to go on a walk every day. I’m not counting mileage, or even noting how long I walk.  I’m just going for a walk.  The goal is small enough that I’m not intimidated by it, and so I’ve been able to stick to it.

Even this post had to be done in tiny pieces (with a few breaks) before it was finished…but I got there eventually!

I guess the lesson in this for me is that, even when it feels like I’m not doing much at all, I am getting just a few tiny steps closer to my goals. Big, sweeping changes generally don’t last long, but teeeeeeensy accomplishments that build on one another can lead to permanent changes.

So yes, here’s to Big Dreams, because they are worth having and striving for.  But here’s to putting one foot in front of the other, slowly, to get there.

 

[photo by Nicola Whittaker]

I remember the moment like it happened yesterday.

It was a Tuesday morning in March and I was laying on my bathroom floor in the fetal position, sobbing uncontrollably.  My entire body felt numb, I couldn’t stop crying, and all I thought was, “I just want to stop feeling this way.” I had spiraled into my second bout of depression, this one much uglier than the first.  I knew why I was crying, why I felt numb, and why – for a split second – I was contemplating suicide, but I didn’t want to admit it.  Because when you admit something and put it out there, it becomes real.

It’s scary admitting I have contemplated suicide once in my life, but I know I would never go through with it.  My father killed himself when I was 12 years old and I was the one who found him.  At the time, I didn’t understand suicide or the kind of impact it would have on a child.

Even at 27 I still don’t understand it, but I know how emotionally damaging and soul-crushing it is to lose a father at such a young age.  The image has scarred me permanently.

I’ve been fighting depression on and off for the last eight years.  My first battle occurred in June 2003.  I was a Sophomore in college, trying to get out of an abusive relationship, and my mother had just passed away.  My world shattered instantly. I lost my mother, I had no father, I left my boyfriend, and I nearly failed school because I was too depressed to get out of bed, let alone go to class.

As I was laying on the bathroom floor that morning in March, images of my parents flashed through my head.  Moments of happiness.  Scenes from my childhood.  Memories of us laughing together.  Seven years of not grieving properly for my mother, and 15 years of not properly grieving for my father had finally caught up to me.

It takes courage to seek professional help.

“I need help,” I whispered.  I had finally said it out loud.  Even if I was the only one who heard it, I put it out there and it became real. I knew right then and there that it was time for me to work through my pain of loneliness and depression.

Two days later, I had an appointment with a therapist.

I wasn’t going to apply for a Season 4 Blogger position because I thought I had already conquered my Quarterlife Crisis. At the age of 25, I beat my battle with cervical cancer and was in remission, my nonprofit organization was successful and making strong profits, and I had survived the loss of both of my parents.  I had my life on track, a solid career path, and I knew what I wanted.

Looking back on all of it, and seeing where I am right now, I realize that I wasn’t dealing with a Quarterlife Crisis; I was dealing with a series of unfortunate life events.  Losing my parents.  Getting cancer.  It can happen to anyone, at any point in their lives.

Why did it happen to me at such a young age?  I’m still trying to figure that out.

I thought my run of bad luck was over, but then my law firm announced dissolution in December.  Two weeks before Christmas, the Managing Partner took me into his office and told me not to come back after the holiday.  I was devastated.  I took for granted the comfort and security that comes with having a full-time job that provides health insurance, a retirement fund, and free coffee every day (hey, it’s the little things).

If that wasn’t enough, my nonprofit was suffering from the terrible economy, clients decided they weren’t going to support us for 2011 because they didn’t have the funds, and my volunteers resigned.  When it rains, it pours.  Once again, my world shattered instantly and I felt like a complete failure.

Winston Churchill said:

“If you’re going through hell, keep going.”

I joke with my friends about how I feel like I’m 45 trapped in a 27 year old body.  I feel like I’ve been through hell and back, and you know what?  It sucks.  I’m in the midst of my Quarterlife Crisis, but I’m determined to come out on top.

For the first time in my life, I have no commitments, no deadlines, and nothing holding me back from living life on my own terms. So, I’m going to make the most of this tragic situation and turn it into an incredible opportunity. Im going to spend as much time as I want teaching English and traveling the world, and the most exciting thing is that I get to share this journey with you over the next six months.

New experiences, fresh opportunities, beautiful sights, amazing discoveries, and lots of soul-searching.

My goals for these six months:

1. Get certified to teach English. The 4-week program is going to be very intense and rigorous, and from what alums have said, it’s very bootcamp-like.

2. Embrace my fears, doubts, and insecurities as I spend the next six months living abroad on my own. I don’t like emotions and I’m very good at pushing negative feelings away, so I really want to work on this.

So, here I am, calling on you – my readers, my friends, my Season 4 ‘sisters,’ and Molly – to keep me accountable.  With a huge life-changing event such as this one, comes tons of emotions, insecurities, fear, and doubt. I’m trying to brace myself for what comes next, but I’m hoping you can support and push me as I work to complete these goals by the end of my Stratejoy adventure.

It’s going to be one hell of a journey, so sit back and enjoy the ride.

[Note from Coach Molly: Damn, Kate.  I knew all of this, but to watch it come out in one big massive post, tears me up and my heart wells at what a rough go it’s been for you.  But I know you are strong, and even more importantly, you are open to hope.  And new opportunity.  And grace.  You are facing your life and this next adventure with courage I can only hope to have.  I will so be here beside you (or across the ocean from you!) to support you through your goals.  Especially that lovely embrace of your hard stuff.  We are all going to be here for you.]

[photo credit: Leonard John Matthews]

WrBriJoyiting is my primary method of tackling the messy parts of life.  I’ve written about my break up from start to finish and I’ve tried to be honest and open with what worked for me.  I don’t often read through my archives, but I know other people have.  I hear of people who have been sent there because they’re going through a break up too, and that’s amazing to me.

That’s why we share our stories.  I share my story so people know they’re not alone in their struggles.  I share my story because maybe something I learned the hard way can be taught the easy way.  Just like the stories of other women inspire me to be stronger, bolder, and more fearless, maybe my story will inspire a woman fresh from a break up to keep going.

I hope so.  I’m living just one little life, but writing it down makes it possible to be bigger.

I would never describe myself as ballsy. I have a job that I like because it’s easy, not because it’s challenging, and I would never claim it’s my passion.

The big life decisions I have made have always felt too easy.  I applied to one PhD program, got in and went.  I interviewed for one job, got it and moved two weeks later.

I am incredibly grateful for it all, believe me, but it feels a whole lot like lucky breaks and less like I own my life.  I want to know I deserve this amazing life I live because of risks I took.  I want to set my life on fire and reclaim ownership of it.

I want to get every thing possible out of the next six months of writing here.  I want to share my journey of reclaiming my life and living boldly.  Here is what I am going to be aiming for:

I am so ready to share this journey with y’all.

[Note from Coach Molly:  And we’re so ready to tag along for your journey, Bri!  I love the goals you’ve articulated for owning your life.  And I’m going to throw out an “Everyone deserves to boldly love themselves!!”  Hellz yah.  Please know that I’m here for you as you ask for what you want and all the excitement and fear that comes with it.  Stepping into your own life is a gorgeous thing.]

I awaken to the peaceful stillness of early morning and slither out of my cozy bed. I sip a glass of pure water and pad quietly to a pillow on the floor, looking out into beautiful greens and blues, tinted with the dawn sun. I meditate for a while, stretch and move back to the kitchen to prepare coffee. As the water heats, I sit at the table with my favorite journal, and take time to be grateful for all the wonders of my life.

I’m 29, I think I’ve never been happier. Things just keep getting better. I’m grateful for my comfortable home, where I live free of debt, while working to improve it and build it as a permaculture haven. I’m grateful for my love, stirring as the smell of the coffee wafts towards the bedroom, who celebrates life with me, and teaches me to grow as I teach him in turn. I’m grateful for my work, that connects me with inspirational people, uses my creative talents and intellectual abilities, and provides me a postive income. I’m thankful for my yoga practice, that grounds me and connects me with other yogis. I’m grateful for delicious foods, my garden, my fruit trees, and the community around me that supports local agriculture.

As I pour a mug of steaming coffee, I assess my tasks for the day. Caught up in a rush of passionate thought, I sit at my computer and start typing away. Music starts playing over the speakers, and I swivel around to get caught in a good morning hug. “Breakfast?” I nod, and go pick some fresh fruits to run through the juicer while he prepares food.

We part ways after breakfast, he off to work on home projects and in his studio, I back to finish up my writing project before I head down to the community yoga center. After class, I grab lunch at a cafe with some girlfriends. We leisurely catch up over my favorite dishes, and plot out our weekend get-together.

Afterwards I bike to my sailboat to work on some maintenance issues. I’m confident in my ability to work on the mechanical intricacies of the boat, and reflect on how much I have learned about boating and sailing in the last five years. Exhausted and satisfied my projects are completed, I pour myself a glass of iced tea and lie on a cushion with a book as the late afternoon sun warms my hair.

I’m awakened from a light sleep by my boyfriend and several friends. Sunset cruise! We sail in light winds with the setting sun, playing around with the instruments on board, sharing in a meal cooked below deck. When we dock back at the harbor and send our friends home, we talk about our days, edit photos from our last hike and plot our next trips. It’s late, but when I’m tired I simply crawl into the bunk on board, and fall to sleep with the gentle rocking of the boat.

As 2010 becomes a year in my past, I am faced with the inevitable reflection and planning for the coming year. These past 365 days on this path of my life have held so many experiences, so many opportunities for growth and life lessons. I am SO GRATEFUL for all that I have learned, for all the people I have met, for all the love that I have shared.

The goals I set for myself in 2010 were incredibly ambitious. Some of my goals I don’t even want anymore, or I don’t feel they are important anymore. Some of my way-distant-future goals are happening RIGHT NOW. (Believe me, I did not imagine myself celebrating the coming of 2011 on a sailboat in paradise.) If anything, 2010 has taught me that anything is possible.

If I could choose one word to describe this past year, to summarize everything, it would be: conscious. I allowed myself to consciously choose my fate. I became conscious of my reality, of the good and the bad, of what I actually wanted and what I didn’t want at all. I became more confident in my path, different as it may be, and I grew closer to being the strong woman of my future.

In 2011 I want my word to be compassion. I want to treat the people in my life with more kindness, more compassion, more love. I want to spread warmth and optimism. I want to give more than I take. I want to listen more than I speak. I want to leave the people I encounter feeling more positive. I want to create rather than take.

Besides living with compassion, in 2011 I also want to

Who knows what this next year has in store – that’s part of the adventure! But I know one thing is for sure: I’m gonna learn. I’m gonna grow. A year from now I’m gonna be stronger and wiser. A year from now I’m gonna have 365 more days of life lessons.

You heard it here first: I’m going to start running this spring. I say “this spring” because I know myself and I know there’s no way in hell I’ll start running in the dead of Chicago winter. But this spring, when the ground starts the thaw, I’ll strap on some new shoes, I’ll brace my knee if I have to, I’ll flip on some offensive rap music, and I’ll hit the pavement.  I know it’s not going to be easy at first. I know I won’t be able to actually run far. But I can already tell this is going to be the best way to release energy and stress. After a semester of grad school, my body is craving some kind of outlet… so far it’s been wine, but that doesn’t get rid of the ache in my shoulders from sitting at my desk for 14 hours.

Truly, this is my one goal for 2011. I’m not the type to set New Year’s Resolutions; I set resolutions throughout the year. If I want something, I go for it. I don’t wait until January 1 rolls around.  I think that’s kind of silly.  But this year, the running bug hit me as the temperature started to drop. So I said to myself, “Self, next spring, you’re putting one of those paychecks to good use. Self, you’re gonna invest in a pair of shoes and some UnderArmor and you’re going to start to run. You hear me, Self?”

I talk to myself like that, for realsies.

The long days, the sugary coffee drinks, the “treating myself with nachos” is starting to catch up with me. It’s not that I feel fat; I have my days but 85% of the time I’m pretty happy with how my body looks. I just feel blah. I feel frumpy and lazy and globby… I feel like I need to get out of my desk chair and blow off some steam.

This probably comes as a surprise to anyone who knows me and anyone who has ever heard me say, “Oh, I don’t exercise. I hate it.” Or “I only run if I’m being chased.” But there was a time in my life when I could run a mile in under 6:30. Okay, I was 14 years old, BUT STILL. If I could do it then, I can do it now.

I don’t have bright-eyed plans to be in a marathon. That’s not realistic yet. Maybe I’ll try that Couch to 5k program everyone raves about. But this plan has nothing to do with competing with anyone else in any kind of race. It’s about me and how I feel.

So, if I were the type to make New Year’s Resolutions, this would be it. But I’m not that kinda girl, so instead I’m telling myself simply that next spring, I’m going to be a runner.

{photo credit: joshjanssen}

It looks like we’re halfway into this Stratejoy blogging gig and you’ve all been dutifully following our up and downs, trials and tribulations. I told you how terrified I was to start grad school and teaching.  I told you how money gives me an ulcer.  I told you my hopes and dreams.

So where are we now?

Midterms are over, marking one of the most hectic periods of my life.  This also marks the second half of my first semester of grad school.  I’ve made friends.  I’ve established a routine.  I’ve actually gotten all my shit done.  I’ve taken time for myself.  I’ve battled stress migraines. I’ve discovered the Bruno Mars station on Pandora.  I’ve paid off half my credit card debt. I’m so close to creating the perfect mac and cheese recipe. But the best part?
I signed up to cross something off my life list.
I registered for improv classes at Second City Theatre in January.

This is a goal I had barely admitted to myself… to study at one of the famed Chicago improv theatres.  I quietly added it to my life list with little pomp and circumstance. I told no one. Until one day, I checked out Second City’s website… and realized the week-long class was within my budget.  Then I started telling people. “I think I’m going to sign up for a class at Second City.”  I was worried about the reactions… I anticipated hearing, “Why?” or “Do you think you’ll learn anything?” or “Do you think you’re good enough?” or “What’s the point?”
Instead I heard, “Oh my goodness, we’re going to see you on SNL!” and “I’m so excited for you!”  And boy oh boy did that announcement get a lot of “likes” on Facebook!

Though my Sarah Palin impression rivals Tina Fey’s, I have no aspirations of the SNL stage.  In fact, I have no aspirations of any improv stage.  Improv in front of an audience terrifies me… but I’ve always wanted to try. Whose Line Is It Anyway was my go-to sick day show. I took improv in college but it wasn’t what I anticipated. I wanted more. I wanted to study under the best.

I thought, “Who knows how much longer I’ll be this close to Chicago? This might be my last chance.”

So I took the opportunity.  I’m doing this class for myself.  In January, I’ll spend a week in the city for me.  It’ll be like summer camp, only cooler.

{photo via drurydrama}

Back in February, I compiled a list of 20 things I plan to do in 2010.  And then, of course, I got sidetracked by life and sort of forgot about them.

That’s the thing with setting goals.  If you don’t keep them fresh in your mind, you lose track. Heck, if enough time goes by, you’re likely to forget what they were all together.

Hence, I thought I should review my goals to see if I’m making any progress.

Looking at my list, one section in particular jumped out at me:  Be Healthy.

I’ve discovered that being a writer is not the healthiest of professions.  Here’s an example of my typical day:  I get out of bed, make breakfast, turn on the computer and sit down for my first round of writing.  A few hours later I get up and get dressed.  Then I walk back into the living room, turn on my computer and sit down for another round of writing.  It goes on like that all day.

You could say I’m pretty sedentary.

So a focus on being healthy this year is super important. The good thing is, I have my list of goals to guide me in staying healthy.  And they’re pretty specific — goals that are less like “eat healthy food” and more like “take a cooking class that focuses on preparing healthy meals”.

I think goals that are super specific like this are easier to stick to.  Not to mention, a goal of attending a cooking class seems doable.  Eat healthy in general — well, that can feel overwhelming.  And if you slip up, you might decide to give up all together.  I strongly believe in baby steps.

It’s now been almost two months since I set my goals for being healthy in 2010.  As a way of holding myself accountable, I’d like to share my progress with you.

  1. Take an intro lesson at a rock climbing gym:  Nope, not yet.  But Steven and I are thinking of doing this one together.  We even have some rock climbing friends that have offered to take us the next time they head out.  This could be a win very soon.
  2. Take a cooking class that focuses on preparing healthy meals:  The shame.  I haven’t done this either.  I saw a great deal on a cooking class recently, and then I missed it because I forgot to pay in time to get the deal.  Note to self — don’t procrastinate.
  3. Master the Experienced Beginners level of my pole dancing class and move to Intermediate classes:  I’m close.  To graduate from the Experienced Beginners class, I have to master nine spins.  So far, I’ve got seven down.  Only two to go.
  4. Train for and complete a half marathon:  I’ve started the process and picked a training plan.  Now I just to need to decide which half marathon to sign up for.  Any suggestions?

That’s the progress I’ve made so far.  And I’ve decided something — I need a way to keep my goals for 2010 front and center in my mind.  I think I’ll revert back to what my mother did with my 4th grade art projects — I’ll hang my list on the refrigerator.

So tell me, did you set any goals this year that relate to being healthy?  What were they?  Have you kept up with your goals or made progress?  What’s kept you working at them?  Has anything stopped you from working on your goals?

photo credit: Pink Sherbet Photography