At Any Given Moment

Sailboat

I had coffee with my 18-year old cousin today, and it was so nice to catch up with her and find out about her plans for college. I realized that she has so many experiences still ahead of her and I couldn’t help but express my excitement for her. She has a whole world in front of her, just waiting for her to make of it what she will.

And then I realized that I, too have a whole world in front of me. At any given moment, we all have our entire lives in front of us. Whether it’s a few more months or 80 more years, we still have time to make the most of the rest of our lives. At any given moment, there are hundreds of choices we could make to help forge our own path.

Choices that could change our day a little for the better. Choices that could alter the entire direction of our life.

Sometimes we feel stuck and only see a singular path for ourselves. It takes some introspection, but soon you’ll realize that what you are doing at this very moment doesn’t have to be what you are doing a year from now. Look at all the choices available to you right here, right now.

Here’s a hint: there are more than you think.

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Knowing When to Unplug

photo 1

I’ve been having trouble unplugging lately. I work most of my day at a computer, bowing out of the office for a half hour walk at lunchtime, and arrive home and immediately boot up my laptop while cooking up some dinner. Most days, it’s my personal laptop instead of my work laptop, but still – this adds up to about 75% of my day being behind a screen.

Many Millennials are seeking jobs that offer an emphasis on work/life balance, and luckily for me, I feel I’ve found one. However, that doesn’t take away from the fact that I’m constantly on my computer or phone. What happens when this constant connection gets to us?

Headaches. Trouble concentrating. For me, my happiness levels drop and I become tired without having actually done anything. When do we stop? Ideally, before this all starts! Some of my best evenings have been where I’ve failed to charge a laptop so it winds up dead and unusable, or when I have forgotten my phone in the other room (or even better – at home).

I won’t claim to be even remotely well-practiced in unplugging and logging off – in fact, I’m writing this post for myself as a reminder of how much I need to make room for this in my life. I mean, how easy is it to sink into a Netflix marathon after work? Easier than Easy Mac. But, with that said, here are my best ideas for unplugging

  • Read a book. A what? A nook? No. A book. Sit on your patio or go find a bench or a grassy spot in a nearby park. Spend time in silence, reading whatever you want to read – you’re not in school anymore! You have the time to choose your own textbooks and novels now.
  • Nature, as much as possible. Even if it’s a few trees and a pond in the middle of an office park. My 30-minute walks at lunchtime are always a wonderful way to rejuvenate myself before finishing up a day of work. As a disclaimer, though, I do usually spend the time talking on the phone with a member of my family. I consider this second-best to in-person socialization, but since I’m not looking at a screen, I count it as being unplugged. Technicalities.
  • Spend time with animals. Stop texting while you’re half-heartedly petting your dog. Pet the dog like you mean it. Like you’re not a robot. My rabbits sure know when I’m not paying attention to them, and they take full advantage (my carpet is in tatters – another story for another day).
  • Cook dinner. I’m so anti-boxed foods these days. First of all, I’m scared of the weird, unpronounceable ingredients. Secondly, I cherish the time I get to spend away from screens and interacting with raw, beautiful vegetables. Is that just me? It might just be me.
  • Sit in silence. Do it alone. Do it with a friend, a significant other, a stranger. I don’t care. Just sit in silence and take in the noises around you. Immerse yourself in the real world, instead of lightly treading through a weird, digital reality. Practice listening and being a spectator instead of being actively involved with commenting, following, liking, emailing, chatting, etc. This is my biggest challenge. Silence makes me, and many people I know, uneasy.

I can’t say that I practice all of these every day. I can’t even say that I practice some of these some of the days. All I know is that these screens are starting to get to me, and I desperately need to make time to unplug. How do you skip the screens?

 

 

Dressing Like a Million Bucks (When You Don’t Have It)

I’ve grown much less attached to the idea of variety in my wardrobe – these days, comfort and functionality are the name of the game. However, there are special occasions where the basic t-shirt and jeans combo is absolutely not appropriate. Cue serious frustration.

Because anything even remotely appropriate for interviews, banquets, and formal meetings gets pricey fast. A simple suit can cost upwards of $200 without anyone blinking an eye. No, thank you.

So if you’re willing to take a chance on a slightly different technique for scoring a few great pieces for your fancy affairs, take my advice – don’t buy retail. In many cases, it’s best to even shy away from the clearance rack. My advice? Ebay.

First, find out the exact size and style of clothing you’re interested in. For me, I wanted a complete suit and a little black dress from Express, which was easy to scope out. I tried on a few styles and found the perfect cut, and then bee-lined out of the store (okay, fine, I checked the clearance rack first – guilty).

Express Outfit

My blazer and little black dress wins from Ebay

I was able to search around on Ebay for the style I had in mind and after doing a bit of research on the seller, the listing, and the items, I started bidding away. I ended up with 2 blazers,  2 pairs of pants, and even my first awesome LBD for roughly $70. (I’m guessing it would have all cost me somewhere around $450 had I purchased them in-store).

If you’ve got an interview or formal event coming up and don’t want to scavenge through thrift store racks to find a suitable outfit, definitely check out any live auctions or Buy It Now items on Ebay. Here’s some tips for success:

  • Buy early. Consider the length of time between when the auction ends and your event – will it arrive on time? It’s best to invest in a good go-to formal outfit well before it’s needed so that you don’t end up spending more than you need to.
  • Trust the seller. You can check out each seller’s history and ratings easily on Ebay. I usually stick with people who’ve clearly been selling for a while and have nearly perfect ratings, just to be sure.
  • Know the item – has it been altered or are there imperfections that are just too glaring? It’s not uncommon to find items that are still new with tags (NWT) or new without tags (NWOT), so keep an eye out for that.
  • If the items are not new, get used to the idea of wearing used clothing. It’s definitely a change from wearing all-new items, but there’s no cooties a good wash or dry clean can’t get rid of. Know that the items may have some imperceptible flaws, but those cases are where you get the best deals!

As a final note, it’s a good idea to invest in more neutral essentials so that you can carry them over from interview to formal banquet to classy wedding. Multi-purposing is key with these clothes!

Getting Stuck in a Rut

I’ve been stuck in a rut lately. Wake, exercise, work, eat, sleep. I’ve been fairly removed from anything else. Occasionally I’ll read a chapter or so of a book that I’ve been meaning to read, and sometimes I’ll toss in a trip to the grocery store, but that’s pretty much my routine.

All work and no play...

All work and no play…

There’s nothing wrong with routines, in fact I think they have enormous potential to make us more productive and creative. Scheduling time to pursue our creative endeavors can allow us the freedom to truly express ourselves. But what happens when there’s not enough hours in a day to schedule our creative time? For me, writing this blog is something that I try to pencil in as often as I can, but other obligations override it: more work, trying to keep up with my exercise routine, playing with my rabbits, sleeping.

I’m working on getting out of this rut and getting back into a well-rounded schedule and these are the activities and exercises I’m going to try.

  • Taking ten minutes a day to truly do nothingThe idea of meditation intimidates me, but when it’s rephrased as simply “doing nothing” and observing my thoughts, I’m more inclined to try it. I haven’t yet sat down to do this, but I’m looking forward to seeing how well I handle sitting still for that long.
  • As soon as I find myself in a rut, I’ll get up and take a walk. This morning, I found myself completely unmotivated, so I put on one of my signature pump up songs and hopped on my stationary bike for five minutes. Last night, I was getting tired as I was chipping away at some work on my computer, so I dropped everything and went for a ten minute walk. My usually racing mind appreciates this time to just focus on physical activity instead of brain-draining tasks.
  • Accomplish something smaller. This morning, after attempting to motivate myself, I didn’t start right in to my to do list. I washed my dishes and then cut up a bunch of plastic bags and made them into a bouquet. I felt accomplished (and a bit ridiculous), and I was then able to make myself some coffee and jump in with this blog post. Starting off by accomplishing smaller tasks makes me feel more prepared to tackle larger ones.
  • Creating habits. This is something that I’ve been attempting to do by working out every morning. I’ve been horrible about talking myself out of this lately, so I need to get back to it. (I recently read The Power of Habit–a fascinating read if you’re interested in the science behind habits) Insert your desired habit after a certain trigger in your life–like waking, eating lunch, or after you brush your teeth at night. It doesn’t matter when you do it, but by giving your mind a trigger to complete your desired habit, you’ll be more likely to create a routine. (Hello , flossing!)
  • Create a real (or even imagine) community that depends upon your progress. My goal is to run a mini-marathon with my mother in the fall. Honestly, that might not happen, but she’s able to check in on me and encourage me to continue running. When I think about blogging, I find myself noting that I have a few followers, and that they may be looking forward to my next posts. I have friends who ask about my blog. Creating this sense of responsibility may be limiting to some, but I personally am motivated by being held accountable for things I say I’m going to do.

So what do you do when you’re stuck in a rut?

Practicing Gratitude Even When Times are Tough

The difference between stumbling blocks and stepping stones is how you use them. -Unknown

To all of my friends, coworkers, acquaintances who are going through a rough time: it does, undoubtedly, get better. Although it seems counter-intuitive, now more than ever you should seek to be grateful for something.

Be grateful for your loved ones, your pets, your health, whatever it takes–and you’ll make it through. I think that focusing on moving forward is the best thing you can possibly do. Don’t dwell. I had a massive reality check a couple of months ago:

Rory and Niels

Rorschach and Niels (the black bunny), who is now almost 100% recovered

I was sitting in the waiting room at the vet, preparing to hear the news about Niels, my little mini lop bunny. He’d been having trouble walking for a few weeks, and a few hours after I dropped him off at the vet, they called and gave me a quick update: my sweet, precious, fluffy, beautiful boy had a broken back. I was devastated, and unprepared to say goodbye.

As I waited to see him, a woman came in to drop off her dogs to be boarded for the week. She explained to the receptionist (who knew her and her dogs well) that she was in a hurry to catch a plane. The woman said a tearful goodbye to her dogs, who clearly meant the world to her. She turned to the receptionist and said:

“I have to go to Florida to say goodbye to my dad. We’re taking him off life support this weekend. He’s dying.”

I was crushed. Here I was worried about a small rabbit. I begin to think about how irreplaceable my father is. I took a few deep breaths and told my boyfriend, it could be worse. My human family is alive and well.

When times are tough, it may be hard to focus on the positives. But find one thing, anything that will help you keep your head held high.

*As a note, Niels was prescribed rest since his spinal cord was not harmed. Now, a little over two months later, he is hopping and playing almost at his normal capacity. I couldn’t be more proud of my little miracle bunny.

What defines you?

Crochet StripesI had an interesting conversation with some coworkers the other day. We were discussing the fact that Americans typically answer the question “what do you do?” the same: with their occupation. But think about it. That’s what you do less than half of the time (if you’re working a typical 40-hour week). If you absolutely love your job, maybe what you do and what your occupation is are the same. However, for many Milennials that isn’t the case.

What would you say if you weren’t expected to share your occupation? Or better yet, what would you do if you did not have a job or have to work?

We need to start considering what truly defines us. For example, I might say that I’d like to crochet all the time, or make coffee, or raise rabbits. None of these things are particularly profitable, but they are hobbies that I hold important and that make me happy.

Don’t think any of your hobbies are silly. Contemplate them and consider them investments in your future–in fact, get really, really good at them and you might just be able to make them into your occupation. That’s the goal, right? I’ve noted time and time again that if I ended up pouring great coffee for people for the rest of my life, I’d probably be satisfied.

Don’t let your occupation define you, especially if you are unhappy in your job. If you identify yourself by your miserable, woe-is-me job, you’ll actually push yourself backwards. Focus on your most productive, enjoyable habits and hobbies, and look to those when you’re feeling the need for a pick-me-up. Define yourself, and you won’t have to assign your life and your worth to a dollar amount or a ranking within the corporate machine.