Birthday Thoughts 2014

    Today, I begin another year of my life.  I would say that I turn another year older, but especially in this day and age, I’m still young.  Actors Ryan Gosling and Macaulay Culkin were born the same year that I was. Actor and performer Bobby Steggert is less than a year younger than me. (Our parents are friends, so we met when we were babies, and I met him as an adult this past weekend.) Therefore, if you want to find out how young I am, you are more than welcome to do internet research, find out what year we were born, and do the math accordingly. I suppose I’m at that point in my life where I know I still have plenty of time to do most things, yet a part of me thinks I should have accomplished X, Y, and Z by now.  That being said, I also know that it isn’t always that black and white.  Somehow, I thought I would have a Ph.D. and be married to a professor in New England by the time I was 30, but now, I realize that it wasn’t fair to expect that of myself.  Life throws us unexpected curve balls sometimes, and if we’re willing to put in the time and effort, we can usually get what we hoped and dreamed for….just not necessarily within the time frame that we thought.  Some things come sooner, and some things come later.  It’s just the way life is.  

    Therefore, I’ve decided to focus instead on what I’ve learned, and had to re-learn, in the past year and what I still hope to learn in this next year of my life.  I’ve learned that it’s important for me to pursue my passions, writing and helping others, even if they’re not going to necessarily make me rich. They nourish my soul, and that’s what is best in the long run.  Yes, I’ve had the occasional fantasy of talking to Oprah about my bestselling book, but deep down, I know that my writing might not make me rich.  But, between writing and teaching the craft that I so dearly love, I will make enough to pay my bills.  I’ve learned that there are too many positives in my life for me to dwell on the negative.  Yes, the prince who was on his way through the forest might be lost or might just be taking his sweet damn time, but honestly, I don’t need rescuing anyway.  Both of my parents were raised by single mothers because their fathers tragically passed away at a young age, so I was taught to be very independent, especially since I’m the older sibling.  That’s a trait of my personality that I’m proud of and that I don’t intend to change, regardless of what the future holds for me.

     I’ve learned that we’re all human and that we all make mistakes, but it’s important to love each other anyway, or at least respect each other and treat all people with dignity. I can’t control other people’s actions or feelings, but I can control my responses, so I need to focus on that part and how my responses reflect my character.  I’ve re-learned that we can’t go back in a time machine and fix the mistakes in the past, but we can learn from them and move forward.  I’ve re-learned that some good things must end so that better things can come along, and to be open to new experiences, even if they’re not what I thought.  I’ve learned that love of all kinds, whether it be friendship, family, or romantic, can hurt when someone doesn’t want to love you back, but regardless, it’s always worth a try.  If nothing else, the heart becomes stronger by reaching out to others.  I’ve learned that I need to continue to pray, whether or not I’m in a church building, and to take long walks outside so I can clear my ever-churning head.  

     What I still want to learn is what makes me tick and how I can be the best version of myself.  It’ll take effort, but I know I can do it.  I hope that I can be a more fit version of myself, a braver version, a version more willing to take risks and be creative, and a version who continues to be a strong writer and a great friend.  Hopefully, I will learn and re-learn even more in this next year of life.  

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Summer Goals

   Recently, I finished my first full year of coursework in my Ph.D. program.  Overall, I was happy with how it went.  I hit a couple of rough patches, as tends to happen in life, but I still managed to persevere.  I was successful in my classes and learned a lot from my colleagues, professors, and assistantship tasks.  Now that summer has arrived, I will still have work and my classes, but I am also hoping to have time to focus on myself.  I also know that I tend to be undisciplined if I do not set concrete goals for myself.  Therefore, while I am sitting here at Cool Beans coffee shop at my “old school” stomping ground, I figured it would be worth taking time to set goals for myself, so that my dear friends and blog followers can help hold me accountable.  Also, please feel free to make me your accountability partner in these situations.  Those who know and love me know that I can “tell it like it is” sometimes, but that I mean well and can be a good cheerleader.   With that, here are my personal goals: 

1. Travel, but in an inexpensive and creative way.  I am going to New York City as a birthday present from my family memorial day weekend and to a conference in Columbia, South Carolina (the Children’s Literature Association Conference on the weekend of June 21st, for those others who love the genre).  I really wanted to go out west for July 4th weekend, but I cannot afford the plane tickets as they are priced right now.  So, I would love to do something fun, but inexpensive on the weekend of the 4th, so friends, let me know if you have a bandwagon I can join.  

2. Start weight lifting again, and just overall being healthier: Since I started graduate school, I have gained a total of 15 pounds.  I could sit here and make excuses, and I did have a lot of life changes this past year, but I also know it’s my own fault when it’s all said and done.  That being said, I need to take responsibility and be more proactive about my health, since this issue seems to run in my family.  Therefore, I have started myfitnesspal, more water, more walks, more trips to the Ramsey Center elliptical machine, and no more alcohol and dessert in the house.  My doctor thinks these are steps in the right direction.  She also recommended less bread, whole grain when I eat it, and to go back to my weight training.  Therefore, if any Athenians want to join me in the Ramsey weight room or elsewhere, then let me know.  That place makes me extremely intimidated for many reasons, but this is something I need to do for myself because I want to be healthy.  

3. Write more: I have one article that my friend and colleague Jennifer and I are almost done with, and I’m ever so excited about it!  I really think we have a good chance of getting it published.  I also have two papers in the mix, both of which are seminar papers, and a potential co-author piece that I am working on with another colleague.  They’re all great ideas, but if they are going to come to fruition, I have to discipline myself to actually work on them.  Also, I would love to blog more and to work on some creative writing that I’ve been putting on the back burner recently.  Therefore, if you want to write with me this summer, let me know.  I am an extrovert with some introverted tendencies, so while I love to write, it helps me to get verbal feedback from other people.  

4. Get out more: when you’re in graduate school, it can be hard to meet people outside of your bubble.  And to be honest, I absolutely hate online dating.  However, I know that I am at the point where I need to, ugh, date again.  Therefore, I am trying to find ways to meet people that are fun than potentially getting catfished.  Hopefully, summer will bring cool festivals in both Athens and my other home city, Atlanta.  

5. See the glass as half full: I feel like we all have negative things happen in our lives, but it’s better to focus on the positive ones.  Therefore, I’m going to try to be more mindful of my thought process so I think more positively about myself as well as others. 

So there we have it.  Lists of five seem to work, as we all have five fingers.  I also have a five year finger plan, but that’s a story for another day.  My friends Kat, Nic, and Jessica want to know about it, and if you want me to elaborate, talk to me.  Maybe you can help me write about it in the right way. 🙂 

Graduate School Life Lessons

Graduate school is a time to be inspired by theorists, writers, and scholars.  During this past year, I have read and written more than I ever thought possible, and my brain has expanded as a result.  Along the way, I have also learned and re-learned some important life lessons.  I wonder if they parallel lessons others have learned in graduate school.  

1. Don’t procrastinate.  This is good advice for any period of life, but especially for graduate school.  The work load always hits hard during midterm season and final exam season, especially since we tend to write papers rather than take tests.  Therefore, it’s important to plan ahead. 

2. File folders in your email and your account are beautiful and helpful tools, especially if part of your assistantship is doing administrative work. 🙂 

3. Stay active.  Graduate school has its stressful periods, and I spend significantly more time sitting than I did at my job last year of teaching middle school students.  Therefore, I have put on ten pounds since the start of the school year, and I know others who have had this happen to them.  Therefore, try to get some form of exercise every day, and yes, walking counts!  Exercise helps me at least to remain positive and to sleep better. Also, if you’re like me and you have the unfortunate combination of gaining weight easily and loving wine and desserts, try keeping the wine and dessert out of the house and only indulging on those vices when you are out and about with friends. 

4. Eat healthy and drink a lot of water.  It is harder to do the former when you live in a college town, believe me.  But it helps my overall mental state. 

5. If someone who is a significant part of your life is not being supportive of your hopes and dreams, it’s sometimes better to let that person walk away.  It sucks in the short run, but it’s better in the long run.  Life’s too short for people who bring you down more than they lift you up.  (As a side note, ladies, if you’re pursuing higher education, I suggest finding a smart significant other who has a strong ego.  I’m not saying he has to be an “alpha male” personality who is trying to fit society’s definition of “success”.  I just think it’s best if he feels comfortable in his own skin and is at least working toward what he wants in life, both career wise and on a personal/social level).  

6.  Besides your family and a few of your closest friends and closest advisers, the only person you can really rely on, besides God if you believe in that, is yourself.  It sounds cynical, but it’s true, and I wish I had realized it sooner.  Some people are not who they seem to be, and unfortunately, since we’re all human and we all make mistakes, people will let you down at times.  But I really believe that as long as you do the best you can with the circumstances you’re in, things still have a way of being okay in the long run. 

7. When God closes a door, He (or She) opens a window.  Some situations don’t work out the way we want them to or the way we initially planned.  That’s just how life is, and that can be hard for people like me who need a certain amount of structure and reliability to thrive.  But sometimes, when a situation doesn’t work out, an opportunity that fits better may be around the corner.  

8. Be willing and open to forgiving people for their shortcomings, because again, we’re all human.  Also, for my fellow perfectionists out there (and we run rampant in graduate studies), be willing to forgive yourself when you make mistakes.  It doesn’t help to wallow in them, but it does help to learn from them.   

9. Remind yourself of what your end goal is and what you hope to accomplish.  The day to day gets busy, but for me at least, considering the big picture is helpful. 

10. Take time to spend with your friends and explore new places.  It helps with the burn out factor. 🙂 

I hope these reminders are helpful to people, and I’m curious to see what other people think!  For now, enjoy the beautiful weather and a short Maymester break, if you have one!