Letting Go of All the Versions of Me to Reveal… Me

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Photo by Vince Fleming on Unsplash

I spent a majority of my life trying to be several different people, all at once. It maybe all started with what I call a success-hybrid I created as a kid. Someone would ask, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” And I’d say, “A doctor-writer-veterinarian.” As I got older I adored to try new things. I played soccer for a year. I played the clarinet for 3 years. Theater and singing lasted longer, almost 8 years. I took on International Studies as a minor for a semester and dropped it almost immediately. I am a girlfriend, a daughter, a sister, a friend, a best friend, I work during the day, and write at night.

All those years I always compartmentalized who I was. If I was in a relationship but my friends were single, I would insist we not talk about my boyfriend. I didn’t want them to think I was actually that sensitive. (But I am.) I wouldn’t talk about my writing with my friends at the gym. I hardly ever mentioned my outside interests at work. It could seem at times even wrong to do so. I operated each piece of myself on its own.

Which ultimately started to drive me crazy because it was impossible to balance my time. Sometimes being a girlfriend took up three more hours than I had planned for. And so I couldn’t be a writer that day. Or I’d have to work late, and not be a friend that day. I have no idea why I did this, but I did. It wasn’t until the last year, maybe two, that I noticed it and attempted to stop it.

I asked my friends to welcome my boyfriend into our friend circle more fully, I made very close and dear friends at work, I told my superiors when I had work published so we could all celebrate. Instead of one or the other I was getting closer to the idea of me that I had as a child, I could be a couple things and it would be alright.

By removing my own compartments, I am a much happier person. My time doesn’t need to be parceled out hour by hour. My planner has become less precious to me. I write in the same room as my boyfriend. I am writer-girlfriend. I share my poems with my co-workers. I am poet-coworker. I make friends at work and introduce them to my boyfriend. I am coworker-girlfriend-friend. The more I combine my passions closer to one another the more like myself I feel. Every time I do not compromise one part of me for another, I glow. The tighter I wind in, pulling it all back, the more complete and whole I feel.

It turns out that I don’t need to be one person for each scenario. I just need to be me, in my entirety, and I will be happy. The closer I can get to my own core, the closer I get to being truly happy with the life I have built.

 

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Key to Happiness? Space & Time.

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Photo: Zohar Lazar from NY Mag

I adore my New York Magazine subscription. I know I can almost always read the stories in the print edition on my phone or laptop but there’s something about holding the physical copy in my hand and reading it on the subway that just makes me feel SO good. (It’s also just easier on my aging eyeballs.)

This week they really nailed the cover story… How to be Happy. Which is of course also available online so you can read it too. (But grab it off a newsstand if you can, if only so we don’t all wind up like the humans in WALL-E.)

The story is structured around the most popular course at Yale– Psychology and the Good Life. Why is it so popular? Because college kids are more stressed and depressed than they ever have been before. And arguably, so are the rest of us. The article takes a skim across the course curriculum and its structure. A huge chunk of the course is focused on how our brains trick us into making us unhappy and then moves on to how to rewire our behaviors to be happier. Our brains are basically sabotaging us. Which is depressing to even think about. My favorite takeaway from this portion was that 40 percent of our happiness is entirely within our control. Holy shit.

I will not go on to recap the article here but I strongly suggest you give yourself the time to read it. Which brings me to where I wanted to get to… TIME. The breakdown is this: people are happier when they have more time to just BE than when given some extra money.

Living in a city like New York, it is so hard to see the value in having empty time. It’s a city of hustlers, the city that doesn’t sleep. But filling every waking hour with work, with side hustles, with stuff just to feel “busy” is making us depressed. The misconception is that “busy” means productive and “free time” means lazy.

I have been so guilty of this it’s not even funny at this point. I used fill every wakeful hour with whatever I could. I thought I was being productive. But by the end of the year (for many years) I didn’t move the needle much on any of my goals. I had just kept myself busy and stressed for essentially, the sake of being busy and stressed. I was trying to match the busy and stressed out lives of my peers. Which makes me sad just thinking about it.

This article has come at such a good time for me. I have been exploring self care, meditation, and relaxation techniques for the past year. It’s insane to think that I have to research how to be chilled out, that I actually have to read articles about this to learn that it’s OK to spend an entire weeknight just resting… but I do. And if I’ve learned anything, it’s that almost all of us have work to do in this department.

Happiness and success in America have always been measured by money and by time spent working… things that stress us and depress us. It’s time to flip the switch and change how we talk about ourselves and each other. If a friend likes to spend every Thursday night sitting in a coffee shop alone reading our reaction should be “Wow good for them for carving that time out,” instead of  “Shouldn’t they be working on their small business idea?” And the next time you want to spend an hour reading a book, let yourself. Give yourself the time and space you need to be truly happy. I know I am trying.

 

 

 

 

What I Read in April

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It’s another two book month because I’ve been traveling like crazy for the good ol’ day job. And you would think I’d get a lot of reading on done on the plane but lately I’ve just been trying to squeeze in a little bit more sleep or just rest because it has been non-stop. I also picked a real difficult book this month that was not for speeding through. Read on to find out what it was!

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I was really excited to read Elizabeth Gilbert’s latest non-fiction book. Categorized as “self-help” this book is all about letting go of fear and worry to unlock your creative potential. While there were definite moments of “Oh!” and “Love it!” I mostly plodded along feeling like I had read a lot of it before. While I appreciated that she is a little less woo-woo thank other self-help books, I didn’t walk away feeling unchanged or different about my creative outlook. I did appreciate her recognition that we need to take breaks creatively once and awhile that it’s all part of the game. Especially because this month has not been creatively fueled. I’d pick it up if you’ve never done a self-help book before.
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Now this was the tricky book I picked up. I could only read it in sections of 20-30 pages at a time before I feel like my brain had been roasted like a cauliflower. I didn’t notice that the quote on the front was from STEPHEN HAWKING until much later but I probably should have known better. This book is about how randomness rules our lives (so cool) but handle it through mathematical theory and probability theory. Whew. I found most of it interesting, even when I was struggling and in the end it was a super rewarding read and I am glad I stuck with it. It supports a lot of self-book theories actually, just in an extremely different way. If you’re looking for a challenge (like a class in college you’d want to drop after the first week)… this is for you.

Hopefully in May we will see the return of a book a week. But until then, I hope you try these very distinct books out and tell me what you think!

 

Small But Mighty: Away Carry-On Luggage Review

You guys have been LOVING my reviews lately, so I am stoked to share with you my latest on Away Travel luggage. I had been obsessing over this luggage like every other travel nerd on Instagram for quite some time but it wasn’t until Old Faithful (my fuchsia piece of Target luggage I bought in college) broke on my trip to Miami in February. It was a sad day. I had used that piece for about a decade, so I figured it was time to treat myself a little.

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Away comes in several sizes but I went with the smallest roller bag known as The Carry-On. I went with the deep forest green because I thought Navy and Black were too generic and I wanted something that wouldn’t turn brown after a couple of uses. It’s a beautiful color.

The best part of this review is that I have been on a whirlwind tour of the country for work and so in the past month I’ve carried it with me on planes, trains, and too many Lyft rides to count. Here’s the breakdown.

SIZE: I went with the smallest one because I wanted to guarantee it could fit on any flight, anywhere. Thank god I did. The overhead storage on a recent flight to Hawaii was so teeny, tiny and my bag fit no problem. It looks super small but this can fit A LOT. I had to do San Francisco and Hawaii back-to-back so I needed to be able to pack for 60 degree and 80 degree weather. Mission accomplished.

PACKING: In this little bag I packed: 3 pairs of slacks, 3 tops, 2 dresses, 5 workout outfits, 2 pairs of flying leggings, 2 casual outfits, countless socks and undies and bras, Converse sneakers, ballet flats, my laptop charger, my poetry book manuscript (really), all of my skincare items, and my makeup bag. Even though it is small, it is thoughtfully organized so everything has a place to go. Brilliant.

WEIGHT: I honestly was worried it was cheap because it weighed so little. It is super light, even lighter without the charger in it. I was able to lift it overhead with ease, even when it was stuffed to the brim.

EXTERIOR: Ok so this is disappointing. I got green so it wouldn’t stain but I didn’t expect white paint! From bell closets at hotels (and my own closet) my poor baby got a lot of white paint marks. Luckily they’ll come off, but I only do this after a trip, so during I have to suffer the scrapes!

DURABILITY: I didn’t abuse it too much but it seems to be putting up with all the trips and airplanes good enough.

WHEELS: The wheels move like BUTTAH. Seriously. This rolls with such ease I wanted to die. That said, they are tiny little baby wheels. So at the Amtrak station and on Boston’s uneven streets they got caught a lot. They’re great in the flat surfaces in the airport. Even carpet.

CHARGING FEATURE: Omg this thing can hold a charge. Between myself and everyone I traveled with we charged our phones A LOT on it and I didn’t need to recharge it all. It’s still on the same charge from March! And I went to Boston, Miami, San Fran, and Hawaii. It’s that great. I had no issues flying with it. Delta made me pop it out and put it in my purse. Easy.

AESTHETIC: It’s totally good looking. A guy in the airport even stopped to ask me what I thought and asked to feel it up. I gave him my mini-review while we waited in line together. I got other compliments on it as well.

So was it worth the $225? I say, YES. With the exception of it’s tendency to pick up paint everywhere I go (seriously), it’s an excellent piece of luggage. I cannot believe the amount of stuff it fits and I love how easily it fits into any overhead bin. Consider me obsessed.

 

 

How to Be Resilient

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Photo by Hyungyong Kim on Unsplash

2018 at my day job has been wild. We’ve lost a lot of great people to new jobs and it was painful for me to let go of friends and mentors all at the same time. I won’t say that I handled it particularly well because I had to call my mom to keep myself from crying one day. That’s pretty rare for me. I mean, I waited 24 hours to tell her I spent the night in the ER with a broken nose.

What she told me that day stuck with me and since then, each challenge that arises in my life, whether in direct relation to these big changes or not, I think about it to calm down.

She said to me, “All of this proves just how resilient you are.”

Wow, that’s a word. A word I was and am proud to have bestowed on me. Resilient! I sometimes walk around wondering if I am crazy for putting up with certain things or for not jumping from place to place, job to job, like many of my millennial counterparts. I often think of myself as a lame duck, just paddling along with one sad foot. But resilient? I feel flattered, Mom.

She’s right by the way.

I am not sure when change became so trendy– Quit your job! Travel the world with your savings! Keep moving until you’re happy. All of those concepts never resonated with me. Sure, on a surface level I was like “Hell yes let’s do it!” But deep down, I am the type of person that much prefers to work through the complications I have in front of me, to find happiness and joy in the everyday. I mean, duh, this blog is dedicated to that. But I needed her to remind me that this tendency also makes me resilient.

(PS – I mean if you’re unhappy please find your own happiness, I am not telling you to be miserable! That’s different and you know it. Don’t pin that on me. ;))

Resiliency can be a learned trait. I truly believe this and I will preach it to anyone who will listen. Learning how to be resilient comes from learning how to be uncomfortable. Finding comfort in your life is like finding comfort on a crowded subway– you may not have seat, but you can probably work your way into a safe corner. Since everyone responds well to lists, here’s a “How to Be Resilient” list to get you started on your own journey or to continue growing (everyone, no matter how resilient, always has room for improvement!)

HOW TO BE RESILIENT

  1. Learn to Be Uncomfortable – Life is never going to be 100% sunshine. Find joy in rain. If you’re avoiding a work project because it seems complicated, try to find a way to un-complicate it. Create space where you are.
  2. Find Your Edge, And then Push Past It – Like with exercise or eating kale or starting a particularly hard book… If you stick with it, just past your edge (your breaking point, the day you usually give up) you’ll find that it is possible for you to get past whatever is holding you back. And you don’t need to go far past it, just enough so that tomorrow, you’re a little bit stronger.
  3. Support Others – Believe it or not but helping others to get over their own fears and problems will make you stronger. Others give us purpose, which in turn gives us strength to carry on.
  4. Take Breaks – No human being is going to be capable of taking sh*t nonstop. Learning how to be resilient also means learning how to take a big old break from the work of getting stronger. If you’re tired, take a seat, just don’t turnaround, you are so close!

How often do you think about being resilient? Does thinking of this word make you more capable? Is this the first time you’ve applied the word to yourself? Do you feel resilient now? Let me know…

Love, light and red wine,
Amanda

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