What Life Should Be Like

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I’m back post-holiday to return to my blogging roots–talking about some serious business. *Queue Serious Music* I took a little break to get into the holiday spirit with my gift guide and to support a group of incredible female entrepreneurs. But now… it’s back to business as usual.

Today I’m talking about shoulds, how they haunt me.

Sometimes (seriously, sometimes) I can come off as pretty collected and calm. But that’s after many years of learning to be that way. By nature I am a worrier. When I was 12 I stopped sleeping at night, plagued by insomnia and anxiety by my very *complicated* life. I was sick over old things and worried for new things and was very tightly wound. My memory of that year, and even the next couple after that, is of lying in bed every night, wide awake and troubled.

I’ve come a long way since those days. I am often able to sleep through the night and have been doing that for years. But lately, I find myself falling into old patterns. Waking in the night to start worrying and overthinking. Spiraling knowing very well I shouldn’t be. It’s odd to find myself here 18 years later.

The cause of it all, of course, is the shoulds of my life. I am straight up shoulding myself. Maybe it’s because I turned 30 this month or it’s because my life keeps butting up against serious life moments (for not just me, but my friends and family around me too) and it is causing me to look at my life and start making choices for my future in a new and terrifying way.

When I was younger all I wanted was focus and security, even though my nature is (again) the opposite of this. I crave new things, excitement, and change. To counter that I made highly secure choices and this, unlike my efforts to calm myself, has backfired into making me feel caged in and to put it bluntly, kind of a big fat failure. I keep telling myself that I SHOULD be doing X,Y,Z or that I SHOULD HAVE done X,Y,Z when I had the chance. On the surface I guess this looks a little like a midlife crisis but really it’s the return of the same fears I had at 12 years old:

What is all of this? What should life be like? 

Smaller goals over time (graduate high school, graduate college, do not starve) gave me the ability to stray from the bigger picture, the life picture, that I saw back when I was a little girl who could not turn her brain off no matter how hard she tried. No matter how tired she was at school the next day and the day after. The smaller goals are now accomplishments to be proud of,  but as I stare down the next phase of life, without any small hurdles to cross, the big questions I never answered “What do I want to be when I grow up?” “What do I want to see and do?” “Who do I want to be?” are bubbling up with a ferocity of a caged animal.

The positive in all of this is that with my blinders removed I have the opportunity to start exploring the things I have always been afraid to try. And that is what I need to keep in my mind–that instead of anxiousness for the future, I can instead feel excitement for it. I am standing on a cliff and I can jump or I can worry about would happen if I did. (I hope there’s a net there…)

The answer to what life should be like is this: to not look for shoulds and instead find joy in the past we’ve survived the potential of what can be in the future.

But it’s never so easy. I’ve been here before. You’ve all been there with me and you’re probably rolling your eyes getting ready to push me off any old cliff already. I feel you. I can say it and I can write it but living that truth is so much harder in reality. I’ll keep working to balance out of course… that’s who I am and though I’ve tried not to be, that hasn’t changed. I’ve been here before and I am sure I will keep coming back to it. I can only hope it will one day result in something great.

How do you handle your fear of the future? Do you keep trying obsessively to smooth out your life or am I crazy? Curious to know.

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I Know My Brand is Indistinct… And I’m OK With It

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Photo by Benjamin Voros on Unsplash

Very few of you probably don’t know how I spend my time off the blog and off the page. I work a regular “9-5” job in an office in Midtown Manhattan. My official title? Marketing and Brand Innovation Manager at a hotel company. Which means I spend my days creating and honing hotel brands and then determining how we market those brands to the wider public.

So why does my personal brand seem a little…wacky and unfocused?

Well, cause I am wacky and unfocused.

My brand is me.

I once spent a lot of time trying to cram myself into different, single boxes, to make a brand work. I was going to be Fitness Amanda or Writer Amanda or Book Reviewer Amanda or Foodie Amanda. And then I tried to be all of those things at once, trying to be an expert in every single one of my hobbies. It took years for me to realize that the most authentic true brand I could create for myself, was just to let my freak flag fly and see who came running.

That means I talk openly and honestly about how tough all of this is. I sometimes cook on my Instagram stories but rarely share photos of the food I prepare on my feed because I am terrible food photographer. I workout all the time, but only post the occasional photo of what that looks like. I share poetry more often. And I share photos of my day-to-day life, of the beauty in a life that sometimes either feels too fast or too boring. I share the balance between all those aspects of who I am and I encourage my followers to do the same.

I love a beautiful brand. I love curated photos. I love color schemes and different tones of voices and I adore creating logos. (Truly!) And these are all aspects of powerful important brands and we should learn from them for our businesses. But for me, a lack of focus and a lack of breadth are just who I am. I am a little wacky. I am overwhelmed a lot. I become obsessed with something and then abandon it weeks later for something new. I am a creative nutcase and I share it. And I’m ok with that.

So tell me, what’s something you’re doing that you KNOW isn’t the “right way” but you’re doing it your way anyway? Why do you do it this way? Why is it important to you? Tell me in the comments or make an IG post and use the hashtag #cheapcourage.

What I Don’t Want to Tell You

I recently read somewhere (Forgive me I completely forget because I read anywhere from 5-20 articles a day, plus countless social pages. So if this was you or you know what article I am talking about, shoot me a note and I’ll link to that sucker right here!) that whatever it is I don’t want to share or write about, is exactly what I should be sharing or writing about.

And I don’t mean boring topics like “All the Times I Forgot What Day it Was” but the things that scare me a little. The topics and thoughts that put a little pit in my stomach when I think of telling someone about them. They’re the things I think I’ll be judged for and they’re the things I should be sharing… According to this article or quote I can’t even link to.

I really took this to heart, and since this is Cheap Courage after all, from it I am going to start a series of blog posts all about the shit I don’t want to share. The hope being that: a) You find out you’re not alone b) I find out I’m not alone c) We all get closer d) I help someone. And I hope by me sharing the tough stuff will give you the courage to do the same. We’re all human and we’re so beautifully imperfect I really think it’s high-time we start embracing that.

First off I’m tackling FAILURE… dun dun dun… 

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Ok so, there’s this huge misunderstanding out there that anyone who is “successful” is “gifted” or “lucky”. Sure, some small percentage of the time this is true but really, a successful person is someone who didn’t give up after their first 55 failed projects. Success is resilience. It’s almost as frustrating to me as when someone tells me I am lucky to have great “genes” to keep me fit and I have to correct them and say “I have great workouts 6 times a week”. Success takes work and time and patience.

I have been out of school for 7 years. I have been writing “regularly” for about 4 or 5 of those 7 years. I am JUST NOW doing the following: a) Submitting work to be published regularly b) Asking for critiques c) Sharing my work on social media d) Figuring out this blog. I have had some really minor successes and I hope to have more and more and maybe some major ones… but what’s nuts is the following list.

Here’s everything I’ve failed before getting to where I am now (that I could remember):

  • Creating workouts and recipes consistently for this blog
  • 2-3 blogs of my own before this one
  • Writing for a food blog, a neighborhood blog, 2 pop culture sites, a woman’s site, a comic book site, a recipe site, a cheating (really) website, a travel site (all of them went under)
  • Trying to start a VLOG
  • Attempting to become a food writer, columnist, editor, freelance grammar checker, fact checker, research, blogger for hire, a movie reviewer
  • Finishing a spec script for various shows
  • Writing stand-up, doing Improv, writing sketches, writing a humor blog

And here’s everything that’s either still in the works, has come back recently, or I am not ready to give up on yet:

  • A book of essays
  • A book of poetry
  • A podcast or two
  • A travel video series
  • Some sort of fitness certification
  • Becoming fluent in French
  • Creating collage art

So you see… this stuff is HARD. There’s a million things out there to try, to attempt, to research, to learn, to forget, to pick back up… some of it sticks and some of it doesn’t. Some of it sucks, some of it is fun, most of it is a huge “waste of time”.

Turns out I have some resilience but finding focus has been difficult for me. I love the shiny new object, always. This year has been a great exercise in discipline and focus and it has paid off with a few good hits and some fantastic work.

You see, creative work is like an iceberg. The rest of the world sees this one small glowing accomplishment when really below it is a bunch of scary and weird failures we’d rather hide. Well, not today my friends, not today.

Are you ready to share a failure with me? Leave a comment! WANT TO SHARE IT WITH THE WORLD?! Post on Twitter or Instagram with your failure and hashtag it #cheapcourage. Let’s get it out there and move on my friends.

xoxo

 

Working On: Staying Sane

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I honestly can’t believe it’s been a month since my last post. I knew it had been awhile but REALLY?! A month? What I have I been doing with myself… Wait! I can actually answer that question this time. Really! Normally, these weird sabbaticals wind up with me returning with an embarrassed grin and little to say about my absence. But I do have answers this time.

  1. The Election – The election did one positive for me. It woke me up out of the dream state I had been living in for the past couple of years. I’ve been finding new ways to give back, donating more money than ever before, and wrapping my mind around how I can be the best ally to my loved ones that will need my support, not just for the next 4 years, but forever. To those people, I’m sorry that I’ve been sleeping. I am here now.
  2. National Novel Writing Month – Nov. 1st marked the beginning of yet another NaNoWriMo. If you know me well, you know that I typically engage in this insane challenge and pump out 50,000 words in a month. While that is challenging in its own way, it wasn’t what I needed this year. I tend to pump out a lot of work and then never touch it again. I abandon my writing. So this year I challenged myself to STICK with pieces, edit pieces, finalize pieces, and get to cracking on finished stuff to submit with wild abandon. It went well. I spent most of the month reading work from the past 3 years and finding the work worth keeping and moving forward.
  3. Emotionally Drained – If you didn’t know, I write mostly non-fiction. About my life. So the reading of ALL of my work for the month also meant I reflected on a lot of not so great parts of my life. I had to confront a lot of different demons (namely who I used to be) this past month and it was EXHAUSTING. But that was part of the work. And so I did it. That said, the last thing I wanted to do after reading my poor writing about my own life was share more of me– and that definitely meant I skipped the blog a lot.
  4. Holiday/Wedding/Birthday Circuit – This is the busiest time of the year for so many of us. Social obligations really ramp up, which leaves little time (or focus) on projects like these.
  5. Promotion – Work has been absolutely crazy as well. The promotion is going well but that means I am incredibly busy, most of the time.

So that is where I’ve been–mentally and physically– and it has proven to be a real challenge for me. Editing is slow work. I rarely feel as though I’ve made progress at the end of a working session these days. It’s so different than just pounding out whatever you want and then leaving it on a drive somewhere to grow moldy. My pieces are going to take a lot of readings and sessions to get them right. I’m learning such patience.

I’ve lost control over the organized part of my life since the beginning of November. My planner is in disarray, I barely know if I am coming or going, and I just try and do as much as I can with my head on straight and hope for the best with the rest of it. I know that this will all calm down after the holidays, and that I will be able to restructure my goals and my life. And I am clinging to that knowledge!

Tell me, how as your holiday season been going to so far? What’s something you’ve stopped doing because of it all? What are your plans to get back on track? I’d love to learn some new tactics for focusing around this time of year.

Until next time. (Which I hope is soon!)

 

6 Books To Make You Feel Strong

Can you hear that? That’s me sighing so deeply that the roof is rattling. The past two weeks have been trying, tiring, and… good for my character. Two weeks ago I received a promotion at my day job. This was a position that I had been chasing for two years relentlessly. And now it’s here. And now it’s mine. And now I am hella tired.

Adjusting to my new role has, on the surface, been alright, I feel like I am where I need to be finally… however, I come home exhausted, I work later, and my balance of life has been thrown for a loop. It’s amazing how small changes affect our entire being.

At the same time as my promotion I really hurt a tendon in my left leg and had to stop training for my half marathon. I am unable to run. Running is my main source of stress relief so not only have I found myself coping with new issues but I do not have my usual coping tools available to me. It’s been a weird September.

I found myself going back to my bookshelf for comfort. Reading books I read a decade ago for the first time, to help relax me. I wanted to find a center and I hoped it would be in those pages. I read Kerouac’s On The Road, Hornby’s High Fidelity, and I’ve been eyeing my Fitzgerald collection (I own all of his books) with a hunger I usually reserve for pizza.

As a result of using texts to soothe me, where I would normally use my body, I’ve put together a list of books that have made me feel strong in the past and that deserve a re-read. I’m hoping you too will pick up on of these books and feel strong and centered.

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