Things feel different this semester

I am back to working my crazy number of hours just like all Doctoral students. I get stressed. And afraid. And sad. I want to stay in bed some days. I am embarrassed by how little I know compared to other students in my cohort. I question whether this is the right path at least once a week. I don’t want to see faculty. My seminar class gives me anxiety. I have moments when I want to give up. I know, it’s only the sixth week of classes. I quit my job so I could focus on school. In doing so, I took on a leadership role in a student organization. I love this position so much. It excites me. It motivates me to keep moving forward. Still, it is a lot of work. Thankfully, I have a team of officers who blow me away with their willingness to help and take on some of the workload. I’m also still a teaching assistant and taking three classes. I see this tiny light ahead of me. Comprehensive (or Qualifying) exams are the most dreaded part of our program. I’m just as nervous to take them in the summer as anyone. But at the end of each day, I’m OK. I’m calm. I’m content. I have my shit together for maybe the first semester in the history of my grad school career.

So what’s different?

I think I’m different.

This summer I did a lot of self-reflection. I made a lot of changes to my daily routine. I focused on changing negative self talk. I asked myself so many questions.

  • Why am I here (grad school)?
  • Where do I want to go?
  • What do I want to do with this degree?
  • What skills do I possess (inside and outside of school) that will allow me to get there?
  • Who do I need to meet so I can get there?
  • Who do I want to be (in my job, in my relationships, in the Universe)?
  • How do I want to be remembered?
  • What makes me thrive?
  • What makes me most productive? That is, what do I want to spend time and effort doing in school?
  • What inspires me?

I told a best friend a few weeks back that the upcoming national conference in my field would solidify for me whether I continued down this path or if it was time to change direction before it was too late. I went to that conference last week. I brought with me to that conference those questions I had been asking myself all summer.

That conference shook me up. I made some incredible connections in the field and I made new friends. I saw old friends and colleagues who made my heart happy. I had important conversations with students who have graduated from the program. Opportunities almost fell into my lap (though I know I sought out those opportunities and the Universe worked with me). I attended a panel that lit a fire in me and reminded me that what I want to do is exciting and rewarding and important even if that goal does not align with the goals of my cohort or faculty. I received some positive feedback from strangers (and from faculty and students).  I took on responsibilities within an organization.

I’ve made decisions about what I value, what I need to do, and where I need to go. I’ve changed my perspective. I am content. What’s more, I have come to terms with taking control of my life. That is, I am defining success on my own terms and I am moving toward my own goals. So often in grad school, we are compared to others, we are treated (negatively) in the same way others were treated, and we are held to a particular standard of values that are often not healthy. I am continuing to bring people into my life who make me better, who push me, who understand me, who are kind to me, and who support me.

I had to make a decision. I had to prioritize. I see that tiny light at the end of this seemingly endless tunnel and I want to prepare the best I can. I don’t want that light to grow larger in my view and then fail just before I get to it because I procrastinated or didn’t prioritize in a healthy way.

Things are different because I am different.

Or maybe, I am learning a little more about who I am this year.

Maybe I took a baby step toward breaking free from fear?

Maybe.

P.S. I got a tattoo in Vegas last week.

{“Fearlessness” and seagulls to represent Jonathan Livingston Seagull, the ocean, and my grandmother}

We have the choice of life or death, love or fear, in each moment. We set out to better ourselves, only to find legions of reasons to break our commitment to health. We say it is too difficult to make the hard choice today. And yet the obstacles in our path *are* the path. Every time we stretch beyond our resistance and our fear, we make a choice for life. And every time we choose life, we find that fear loses its grip on us. ~ Rolf Gates

We can lift ourselves out of ignorance, we can find ourselves as creatures of excellence and intelligence and skill. We can be free! We can learn to fly! ~ from Jonathan Livingston Seagull

The last four weeks

On September 1st I said:

August was probably my favorite month of the year so far. Sad to see it end, but optimistic about the rest of the year.

These handful of weeks between the end of summer and the beginning of a new school year have been a strange, beautiful time in my year so far. I feel… I don’t know… blessed… to be part of my own life recently.

The Summer to Fall transition is always a magical time to me. The lifting of the veil between what we consider to be the spirit and mortal worlds. Beginnings and endings. The toe curling ecstasy I feel with the shift in the weather. These last few weeks have been a little too heated at times, but never to the point of boiling over. More like a slow simmer that I think is now cooling off just enough to allow me to think, breathe, focus, and orient myself in the direction of my goals.

I know what I want. Most days. I know what I need. Most days. I want to continue to be present in all areas of my life, careful to never look backward or forward for too long.

I greeted this new school year with an open heart and an intense optimism. You won’t often see that kind of excitement and steadiness from me around this time of year. Someone last week mentioned that I had a strong wind under my sails… a current, a charge, a breeze created by the joy of changing my perspective, taking huge risks, and surrounding myself with people who light a fire in me. Sadly, one of those fires died too early, but the fire was there and I am thankful for it. I still have this energy around me, inside me, and I hope it will remain for a long time.

I want to remember this time in my life, so this is how I choose to summarize the last four weeks.

Sushi.

And yet, so much more than sushi. It was a wonderful weekend with two of the greatest people I’ve ever known. Ever so thankful to have found them, or rather, that they found me. I also enjoyed having brunch with a great guy friend, catching up with a certain DC Princess and meeting a Twitter friend in real life.

A leave of absence.

Yep, I am taking a leave of absence from a job I love to focus on my last year of course work. I am taking on new projects and responsibilities on campus. I’m still juggling, shuffling, wearing lots of hats, but this year I refuse to put my health on the back burner. My income has been drastically reduced, which means I’m making some lifestyle changes. I wasn’t kidding when I said this Fall was bringing lots of new beginnings!

That damn hurricane.

I know, why would I want to remember the hurricane? My family in North Carolina was safe, my grandpa’s house in North Carolina was not damaged too badly, my apartment didn’t flood or leak even though the first floor of my complex did, and I spent a couple days with my mom at her house. For those of you who follow me on Twitter, thanks for dealing with my hurricane tweets. Here are links to images of Irene’s devastation (despite it being “no big deal”) – The Big Picture and WVEC (local news).

Strength.

Setting personal goals and meeting them is incredibly rewarding. Enough said.

The Naro.

YouTube Preview Image

{Someone brought his Delorian to the Alt Daily showing of Back to the Future, image via Becca Kennedy}

I spent a lot of time at the Naro. Back to the Future was packed and so much fun. The Trip made me laugh harder than I’ve laughed at the movies in a long time. Midnight in Paris was a delightful reminder of living for today and loving with all your being.

Friends.

My friends are the best in the Universe. They’ve helped me work through a number of… we’ll call them… inconvenient, sad, exhausting, and annoying situations this summer. I will be eternally grateful for their time, advice, love, and hugs. This time they helped me move forward with online girl talk, a great movie, and some tequilla. Next time, maybe we’ll go for beer and pizza?

Lessons learned.

This summer I remembered that I sometimes give people the benefit of the doubt when they’ve given me plenty of evidence to the contrary. It isn’t that I trust too much; I have a difficult time trusting. I do see the potential greatness in people and I cling to it, sometimes to a fault. Other times? All evidence points to greatness, but they are unable to see it in themselves. Sometimes else I remembered this summer: As much as I do not crave, desire, seek, or need drama, I sometimes attract it. What is the lesson in all this? I must continue to surround myself with people, places, and things that help me achieve true calm, balance, and stability. I must surround myself with people who allow me to be a better person. This doesn’t mean I will not take risks. I will always take risks because I want to continue to grow, to put my heart out there, and to break down the fears that held me back most of my life. I want to love and be loved, so I will continue to shine a little of my light into the Universe. We are all one consciousness.

Ten years later – staying connected

Last Saturday was my ten year high school reunion.

Yep. We’re officially getting old.

I didn’t care too much for high school. That’s for another post. Or maybe not. I don’t look back on my past in anger or regret. I just would not want to re-live any part of my life over again. The people who tell us our high school years are our best years? I have finally decided that they are very unhappy adults. The best years of our lives are the years when we’re adults, having learned from our mistakes and triumphs, when we’re creating the life we dreamed of for ourselves. Adulthood is more difficult in some ways, sure. I think my best years will be my 30s. But high school? Please.

Many of my closest friends graduated the year before I did, but I still had friends in my graduating class. I was what most people would call a “floater.” I didn’t belong exclusively to any one group of people. I had friends in a few different circles. Sometimes I found it to be difficult because I never felt like I belonged. This is a common theme in my life. I have lots of friends with very different lives, interests, goals, families, habits, etc. but I don’t have one group with which I identify. I thought it would be different in grad school, but it is just the same. I digress…

I’m happy to say that I’m still close with some of my high school friends. Some I’m closer to than others, of course. I love that the Internet allows us to stay connected when we are cities, states, and countries apart. Worlds apart, but just a Skype call or tweet away.

{10 years ago – spirit week and graduation parties}

 

Just before we graduated from high school, a friend of mine made our little group a couple of mix CDs. He was a musician (and still is, which is so wonderful). The name of the mix was “Music For When The Parties Die Down.” I still have those two CDs in their original packaging: folded yellow paper with handwritten messages and a little skeleton stamp.

A couple weeks ago, he emailed some of us a new mix. Of course, he shared it on a server instead of CDs. And each song was created by a band with whom he has worked with personally. By the way, you should check out his stuff (and if you live in LA, it’s essential that you check out a show).

It makes my heart all warm and fuzzy knowing that even though ten years have passed and we barely talk to one another, those memories will be with us forever.

It was so wonderful to catch up and see certain people again. Some people did not make it to the reunion, but I was able to catch up with them afterwards at a local bar. Some of us have changed, some have stayed the same. Ultimately, some of us will always stay in touch.

{We are all grown up – kinda}

Time flies. Make time for the people who really count.

Alex’s guide to getting over a guy in four days (featuring doodles by Jenn and quotes from Ally McBeal)

I’ve been dumped before… This isn’t pain I’m feeling, it’s nostalgia. - Ally McBeal

A Maybe came and went.

I am no longer seeing anyone. We split a month ago. It’s just taken me awhile to write this post.

Things were going well. I even thought he was a “Maybe.”

Check him out – even if he’s a Maybe; even if you know he’s not really The One, but you feel he has a chance of being The One. Coz the right ones – even those who have the remotest possibility of being The One – they don’t come by too often, if they ever do come at all. – Ally McBeal

A Maybe is the kind of guy you consider to be a long haul kind of guy. A Maybe is someone with whom you go furniture shopping and talk about the future only knowing him a month. A Maybe is someone with whom everything is easy. When it’s almost as if you’ve known each other forever, even if you get that nervous butterfly feeling around him.

I prefer to leave the rest of the details off the blog. Those closest to me know the details (and probably wish they didn’t – love you guys!). It wasn’t one of those dramatic breakups. It was a conversation between two adults who realized it wouldn’t work out. We couldn’t give each other what we wanted or needed. We were both busy, had different priorities and communication styles, and we were on different schedules. I wasn’t exactly jumping up and down with excitement that he wanted to end it, but it had to end given the situation. It hurt. It made my stomach flip (and not in the good way). I lost my appetite. I felt a little nuts. I’m an INFJ and a Pisces for goodness sake. I over-analyzed and internalized. I cried.

But then… something strange happened.

I got over it. In four days.

By “over it” I just mean I stopped feeling crazy, I started eating, and I laughed about it. I realized I might be a grown up, after all. I have come a long way from the girl I was just a few years ago. There were some red flags I should have paid closer attention to. But you know what? I am so happy he was part of my life temporarily and I hope he is happy I was part of his life.

And it was time to move on.

They say it’s all in the attitude and mine has changed. And this time it’s gonna last… maybe even a week. - Ally McBeal

How on earth could I get over a Maybe in four days?

Here is my guide to getting over a guy in four days.

Thanks to Jenn for collaborating on this post with me!

1. Have the most ridiculously awesome ever friends on the planet. This requirement must be met before you find a Maybe.

2. Keep those ridiculously awesome friends in the loop when you’re dating. Your friends can point out times you or the other person are acting crazy, give you advice on what to do and what not to do, give you virtual and real hugs when you feel sad, squeal and giggle when things are going well, and share their own dating stories. Basically, friends keep you grounded a little when you start getting your head stuck in Cloud 9.

 

{Image by Jenn}

3. Send messages via text, gchat, Twitter, and email back and forth among some of these friends. Pinch yourself. Your friends are awesome.

4. Go visit a friend who you haven’t seen in awhile. You know the friend. That one who has her shit together more than just about anyone you know. The one who is in a great relationship. Maybe even about to have a baby. Just sayin’.

5. Go to the beach with another friend and your brother. Spend the whole day at the beach. Get a sunburn that ages you ten years. It’s totally worth it. I promise. Besides, you’ll have a nice tan by the time you get around to #10 on the list.

{Image by Jenn}

6. Watch Season 3 of Ally McBeal on Netflix streaming. Dance in your kitchen when she dances. Cry about heartbreak when she cries. Laugh uncomfortably when you see your life flash on screen. You might also want to marathon some Archer with your brother.

7. Car dance. Lots of car dancing. And singing. Blast some Armin van Buuren, sing “Unforgiveable” at the top of your lungs, and don’t stop for a second to care what people think of you as you drive past them.

8. Froyo. Strawberry and vanilla with extra hot fudge and coconut.

9. Cardio. Lots of cardio. Jump on that goddamn elliptical, channel your inner angst, and keep moving until your legs go numb.

{Image by Jenn}

10. Log back in to Match.com (or whatever dating site you deem appropriate for your needs) to see who has sent you messages or viewed your profile since you last logged in months ago. Contact some of these people. Spend an hour looking at profiles. Some of these interactions will turn into dates. Go on lots of first dates. Pay for yourself and just go out for coffee or a beer. You’re awesome. You’re hot. You’re smart. Remind yourself that one day you will meet another Maybe, but it’s also OK to go on lots of first dates for awhile to get comfortable with that idea. And just remember – physical attraction will only carry you so far in a relationship. The guys who make you laugh until your face hurts or the guys who can carry on a three hour conversation without alcohol or awkwardness are more worth your time than super models who don’t have time for you outside of a booty call. I’ve read so many articles (science and opinion based) telling us that we want what we can’t have. But as a friend said recently, it’s worth squeezing a guy into your schedule if  he wants to lock that shit down pretty quickly (e.g., he asks you out on a second date an hour after your first date).

~~~

What did I leave off the list? How did you get over your last Maybe?

Alex’s guide to getting over a guy in four days (featuring doodles by Jenn and quotes from Ally McBeal)

I’ve been dumped before… This isn’t pain I’m feeling, it’s nostalgia. - Ally McBeal

A Maybe came and went.

I am no longer seeing anyone. We split a month ago. It’s just taken me awhile to write this post.

Things were going well. I even thought he was a “Maybe.”

Check him out – even if he’s a Maybe; even if you know he’s not really The One, but you feel he has a chance of being The One. Coz the right ones – even those who have the remotest possibility of being The One – they don’t come by too often, if they ever do come at all. – Ally McBeal

A Maybe is the kind of guy you consider to be a long haul kind of guy. A Maybe is someone with whom you go furniture shopping and talk about the future only knowing him a month. A Maybe is someone with whom everything is easy. When it’s almost as if you’ve known each other forever, even if you get that nervous butterfly feeling around him.

I prefer to leave the rest of the details off the blog. Those closest to me know the details (and probably wish they didn’t – love you guys!). It wasn’t one of those dramatic breakups. It was a conversation between two adults who realized it wouldn’t work out. We couldn’t give each other what we wanted or needed. We were both busy, had different priorities and communication styles, and we were on different schedules. I wasn’t exactly jumping up and down with excitement that he wanted to end it, but it had to end given the situation. It hurt. It made my stomach flip (and not in the good way). I lost my appetite. I felt a little nuts. I’m an INFJ and a Pisces for goodness sake. I over-analyzed and internalized. I cried.

But then… something strange happened.

I got over it. In four days.

By “over it” I just mean I stopped feeling crazy, I started eating, and I laughed about it. I realized I might be a grown up, after all. I have come a long way from the girl I was just a few years ago. There were some red flags I should have paid closer attention to. But you know what? I am so happy he was part of my life temporarily and I hope he is happy I was part of his life.

And it was time to move on.

They say it’s all in the attitude and mine has changed. And this time it’s gonna last… maybe even a week. - Ally McBeal

How on earth could I get over a Maybe in four days?

Here is my guide to getting over a guy in four days.

Thanks to Jenn for collaborating on this post with me!

1. Have the most ridiculously awesome ever friends on the planet. This requirement must be met before you find a Maybe.

2. Keep those ridiculously awesome friends in the loop when you’re dating. Your friends can point out times you or the other person are acting crazy, give you advice on what to do and what not to do, give you virtual and real hugs when you feel sad, squeal and giggle when things are going well, and share their own dating stories. Basically, friends keep you grounded a little when you start getting your head stuck in Cloud 9.

 

{Image by Jenn}

3. Send messages via text, gchat, Twitter, and email back and forth among some of these friends. Pinch yourself. Your friends are awesome.

4. Go visit a friend who you haven’t seen in awhile. You know the friend. That one who has her shit together more than just about anyone you know. The one who is in a great relationship. Maybe even about to have a baby. Just sayin’.

5. Go to the beach with another friend and your brother. Spend the whole day at the beach. Get a sunburn that ages you ten years. It’s totally worth it. I promise. Besides, you’ll have a nice tan by the time you get around to #10 on the list.

{Image by Jenn}

6. Watch Season 3 of Ally McBeal on Netflix streaming. Dance in your kitchen when she dances. Cry about heartbreak when she cries. Laugh uncomfortably when you see your life flash on screen. You might also want to marathon some Archer with your brother.

7. Car dance. Lots of car dancing. And singing. Blast some Armin van Buuren, sing “Unforgiveable” at the top of your lungs, and don’t stop for a second to care what people think of you as you drive past them.

8. Froyo. Strawberry and vanilla with extra hot fudge and coconut.

9. Cardio. Lots of cardio. Jump on that goddamn elliptical, channel your inner angst, and keep moving until your legs go numb.

{Image by Jenn}

10. Log back in to Match.com (or whatever dating site you deem appropriate for your needs) to see who has sent you messages or viewed your profile since you last logged in months ago. Contact some of these people. Spend an hour looking at profiles. Some of these interactions will turn into dates. Go on lots of first dates. Pay for yourself and just go out for coffee or a beer. You’re awesome. You’re hot. You’re smart. Remind yourself that one day you will meet another Maybe, but it’s also OK to go on lots of first dates for awhile to get comfortable with that idea. And just remember – physical attraction will only carry you so far in a relationship. The guys who make you laugh until your face hurts or the guys who can carry on a three hour conversation without alcohol or awkwardness are more worth your time than super models who don’t have time for you outside of a booty call. I’ve read so many articles (science and opinion based) telling us that we want what we can’t have. But as a friend said recently, it’s worth squeezing a guy into your schedule if  he wants to lock that shit down pretty quickly (e.g., he asks you out on a second date an hour after your first date).

~~~

What did I leave off the list? How did you get over your last Maybe?