// forcing habit

It’s been a week!

I guess I can write this now!

So. In my earlier post about saying no to things so you can say yes later and whatnot I referenced a few things I was doing to kind of get myself back on track and pave a smooth way for the semester.

And I can honestly say I’ve learned a lot during that process.

So! A recap!

This week, I:

Said “no” to coffee, and “yes” to water and tea.*
I woke up with a cup/glass/or water bottle every morning this week, because I want to embrace the positive effects a hefty dose of water can have on your metabolism in the mornings.

Some observations, though:

  • It kinda threw off my body’s schedule LOL
  • I’ve noticed a small difference in my ability to focus and in the quality of my skin. [I had headshots taken yesterday so this has been a mild blessing!]
  • It has made me aware how little I drink water now. Because I start my day with it, and because it seems to be a memorable part of my mornings now, I think about it more. And I also seem to have a subconscious thought of “oh, welp! That’s your water for the day!” So I’m hoping to override that.
  • I did break my non-coffee regimen 2 times this week though [1.5 if you wanna get technical about chai tea lattes]. I will say though! These “breaks” were backed with purpose–
    • one “coffee” event was spent getting through a difficult, yet rewarding as hell conversation
    • the other was a purposeful consumption of an espresso iced coffee to power through a video editing session. I totally got in my “flow” state and absolutely reached hyperfocus as a result.
    • [EDIT: annnnnnd whoops technically I guess I also had a break today I totally forgot about–I ordered a Matcha latte at work today because I’d never had one before and I wanted to see if I’d like it. Does that count? LOL]
  • I guess the biggest thing for me with regards to the coffee is that I wanted to consume it more mindfully, and more purposefully, rather than just having it be my “given” for the day. And on that front, I think I succeeded. [:

I said “no” to notifications, and “yes” to waking up more mindfully.
I don’t think I really realized how much my mind raced in the morning until the end of last semester. Over winter break there wasn’t quite as many commitments, so I was able to wake up with notifications and skip the mind racing, *but* I was then able to fall into the trap of endlessmindlessscrolling (I didn’t have a class to race off to, so of course I was able to just sit and absorb. At least, I told myself I could). So. By keeping airplane on all night, I knew for a fact that nothing would be able to get through.

Some notes though:

  • I did violate my rule once this week because we were expected to get a ton of snow, and, let’s be real, I didn’t want to miss the university closure texts.
  • This habit MAJORLY helped in that it gave me a clear mind for the morning to breeze through my other tasks, such as drinking water, making myself a smol breakfast, and getting ready for the day [I should time myself on all those things, actually, just to see how long they *actually* take and now how exacerbated they are when interrupted with screen time! :D]
  • It also just gave me a nice…buffer? I guess? A little extra time between being asleep and immediately “on” and awake.
  • I’m able to more accurately process my mornings!! I am here, writing this post because I *remember* my mornings– not just as a rushed blur of mundane, but as a little more *mindful*! That’s exciting!

Said “no” to “checking in” and working right away, yes to observing my breathing and bringing back my wandering thoughts.
I was probably worried the most about this one.  Mediation, I knew going into this, was going to be the one I was most averse to for this week. I didn’t do that well in terms of setting aside a solid 5 minutes to watch my breathing. Rather, I made some observations:

  • I traded sitting cross-legged on my floor or on my bed for walks to work without headphones.
  • I declined music in the shower, opting instead for a 5 min timer and just embraced the fact that my mind was going to wander and made an effort to enjoy it.
  • I did a few brain dumps. On paper. For me, this is highly meditative for some reason.  I started with a blank sheet of paper and by the end of 10 mins or so, I had built a complete list of thoughts and notes and “to-do”s and by the end my head just felt SO MUCH BETTER. Chris Bailey quotes a lot, “your brain is for having thoughts, not holding thoughts.” That’s what the meditative brain-dumps are for [;

There were a few other things I did pretty consistently this week that I hadn’t intentionally set out to do,  though, and they surprised me!

I made my bed every morning.
Anyone who has seen my room knows I’m pretty scattered. But I’m actually super proud of the way I’ve been able to keep it tidy over the past week. Among my morning hustle, I try to make my bed look made just so I have a good thing to come home to. But also because it’s hard to lay out clothes and spread out what I need for the day on a mangled up tangled ball of blankets :B

I made myself breakfast every morning. 
The routine as of late? Oatmeal + egg and cheese. I whip up the oatmeal [it’s instant, we’re getting there LOL], and then make an egg with shredded cheddar to get that protein in. I cannot TELL you how many times I went last semester [especially towards the end there!] without eating a single thing in the morning. [Well, I did have a single thing– and it was coffee. #yikes] If I was running late, I opted for something more portable [I think that only happened once this week] like a granola bar of piece of fruit. Otherwise, I carved out time for breakfast. And, on super late nights like last night, I did the prep work in the evening so I could be prepared and get the extra sleep in the morning. [I know it all probably works out to be even– the time I spent prepping was taking away from my sleep time, but in my head this makes sense and it *feels* like I get to sleep more, LOL].

I did all of the above with the help of a “Gmorning” checklist! 
I love lists. I don’t know where I would be without them. What started as a way for me not to lose track of all I had to do in the morning turned into a daily event. I would take a piece of paper, write out my tasks for the morning, and write something encouraging on the top of it. The cherry on top? Leaving Lin Manuel Miranda’s book, “Gmorning, Gnight!” right on top of the list so I could flip it open to a random page to be inspired. I think positive self-talk, especially early in the morning, is super underrated. I’m not quite to the point of confessing love for myself in the mirror yet LOL, but I am finding that reading just a blurb of something positive each morning has a really nice effect on the day.

The crazy thing? There were points this week where I felt myself pushing back on all of this. Where I wondered, what’s the point?  Heck, today I saw someone reference today as “Ditch All Your New Year’s Resolutions Day,” as if we’re supposed to just up and lose motivation on the 15th of the first month of the year.

But the funny thing about routines and habits– you come to expect them. You come to think about them during the rest of the day, and even look forward to them. So much so that when you feel like you’re starting to veer off the tracks, you seek solace in them again. And it’s like come on we just spent so much time getting this together. Why stop now?

…And when you see that they’re starting to work, starting to pull you up and help you rise, you’re inclined to give them another chance every time the sun rises. [:

What about you guys? What 2019 energies are you keeping up with?

xx

 

for the grads.

This is a stereotypical graduation post, I know.

Two of my siblings walked the stage today, and I couldn’t be more proud. It was weird being back in my high school, even weirder to be back in that ceremony. But wow, what an experience. To be on the other side, to see all of these high school seniors bright-eyed, looking forward to their summer before they start college and knowing they’ll do incredible things. I also learned a bit about myself today.

The faculty speaker at the graduation, a dude very near and dear to my heart, had some of the best words [well, more like ideas/concepts] of the whole ceremony, and I just have to put them here because they were so important, in addition to some words of my own. Being at the ceremony made me aware of so much– from my personal growth since sitting there in a cap and gown, to the acknowledgement of the growth that I know I have yet to happen.

So here’s a list of random things that I want to pass along to all those who are continuing on their journey, whether that’s jumping straight into the business world, taking a bit of a life-pause, or continuing on to college.

Remember these “inequalities of life”. [I’m pulling right from the speech of the beloved faculty speaker I mentioned earlier, here]:

EXPERIENCES > POSESSIONS
TIME > MONEY
OTHER > SELF

Fact of the matter is, all of things that are “less than” are not the things we’ll be missing when we look back on our lifetime, when we make the judgement and the statements of regret. So the gift of your time [for yourself or for others], the respect and care for others, and the memories you make are all going to be superior to any tangible thing you could ever want.

You will never regret being kind. If you have the opportunity, take it. Also, there is a difference between being nice and being kind. Flashing a fake smile is an illusion of kindness; sitting with someone, talking to them and going the extra mile is not only the better way to build connections, it’s more fulfilling.

Do your best to value sleep. If your sleep habits are reasonably good, a lot of other ones will fall into place. You need sleep to function.

Take time to self-reflect. For me, this means writing here. This means keeping a journal, this means reading other things. Often. All of these help me get back on track, whenever I feel as if I’ve gone off of the rails of who I am, or who I used to be.

Turn off your phone sometimes. Being behind a screen all day is more insidious than you’d think. Take a break, go for a walk, or a run, or pick up a book or call someone up [do people even call other people nowadays?] NOT on speakerphone, so you can’t be tempted to multitask while building friendship connections.

Do your best to fail productively. No one likes failure, no one likes rejection, no one likes disapproval. But if you know how to take those things, look at them objectively and see where the wheels came off and even more importantly, look at it from a “what did I gain from this?” perspective, it’ll be a lot more easy-going.

Build tiny routines into your week. That way, when everything feels like it’s falling apart coughespeciallyduringmidtermsfinalsweekcough   , you at least know you can expect to be doing some small things as scheduled, such as making your bed, writing/reading every night before bed, starting the morning with a stretch and/or a prayer, etc.

Drink water. Lots of it. End of story.

Don’t take yourself too seriously. This was mentioned the graduation speech today, but it’s also something I’ve held onto for a really long time that I was reminded of today. Embrace the quirks, the imperfections, and know that it’s okay to be human sometimes. There’s times and places to be serious, like in your work and at funerals. But sometimes, it’s just necessary to be goofy, to fail often, and look at yourself in an honest, candid, not-too-harsh light.

Consume carefully. Be an intelligent consumer. Be thrifty, have a budget. It’ll save you SO much stress and uncertainty down the road. And that’s just for shopping. I also mean be a careful consumer of media. Be reluctant to trust things until you’ve looked at multiple sources. Be wary of the terms and agreements [read them through before checking yes!!]. Consume consciously. Aka don’t fall into auto-pilot mode and scroll for eternity– be mindful about what you’re looking for and consider why you may be looking for those things. AND. In the realm of alcohol… just remember that you have a choice, and that consequences will kick in the moment that drink touches your lips, and you have to be willing to accept those.

Do not rely solely on others for your happiness. This is something that I have struggled with [and continue to struggle with] for a long time. Whether it’s friends, a relationship, or some other source of something– the fact is, if there is unhappiness rooted deep within you, chances are it needs to be addressed where it is–deep within you, in areas you wouldn’t think to look in, in areas that instinct and desire for comfort tells you to avoid. Which brings me to the next one…

Embrace the uncomfortable. Before I left school for the summer, I saw a TEDTalk about how we should be striving to immerse ourselves [when we can] in the unfamiliar, to explore what is different from is. This is how we learn. This is how we find similarities amidst differences we thought we couldn’t see past. This is how we bridge the gaps. Try saying “yes” to things that [situationally] make you uncomfortable. I’m not saying abandon your morals or sacrifice your safety– I mean more along the lines of engaging in [perhaps] challenging civil discourse, making the first move to befriend someone, going to a club or organization meeting just to try it. Whatever you do, there’s something to learn from it.

Take pride in all you do, and don’t be afraid to be a “try-hard”. Trying hard doesn’t have to mean you’re a nerdy show-off. No, in fact, just the opposite. It means that you quietly show up, you get ready for success every day because you did your best to prepare, put your best effort forth, you do your best to meet in the middle, and have confidence in your skill.

Keep up with at least 1 of your passions on the side. Gives you something to look forward to on a weekly basis, as well as a safe space to learn and grow, and further figure out what your interests are.

Speak up when your gut tells you you need to. That’s the only way we’re going to beat an insidious indifference, looming hatred, and other nonsensical injustice.

Whole-ass everything. Your homework. Your friendships. Your art. Your instrument. Your practice. Your relationships. Things change, people change, sometimes it ends in heartbreak but embrace the risk. Embracing the risk in the first place is what catapults you into learning about yourself.

Befriend vulnerability. Whatever that means to you– breaking the small-talk routines and injecting a bit of yourself into daily discourse, admitting from time to time that no, you’re not “fine”, or not being afraid to tell someone how you feel. This one was/is a big one for me. You don’t have to be “on” all of the time, and sometimes it’s great to just be alone with your thoughts and your truth, even if it’s far from “perfect”. Perfection is a myth, anyway.

TALK IT OUT. I’m thinking more in the realm of relationships here… but. Don’t be afraid to talk to someone. Letting them in on your uncertainty, your doubts, your fears, your desires, whatever it may be– it’s those often difficult conversations that are going to bridge the gap between separate understandings, separate truths– and it’s ultimately what paved the way for authentic friendships.

…And LISTEN even harder. Good, active listening means immersing yourself in the words of another as they’re saying them, empathizing and showing you care. It’s harder than it looks. But it’s so much better than rapid-firing retorts back and forth and using the other person’s speech as planning time for what you’re going to say right back to the person. Also always be willing to practice this.

Have hope, and dwell in gratitude often. “When life closes a door, God opens a window.” I have never experienced this more than I have in the past year, I’m pretty sure. There’s always a way, there’s always something to look forward to, even if it seems a bit far in the distance or non-existent. Having faith is key. So being able to sit down and look around at what you have and realize that it’s enough, that you’ve been blessed with so much already that you need to put the breaks on chasing unnecessary desires, is a really, really important tool to have.

I could probably go on and on but the truth is I’m still learning how to implement these more fully myself, and I have so much to learn in the meantime.

But for now, just focus on being you and staying true to what you know you want.

xx

Right Back At it Again.

^Wow, I never make Day To Remember references… until now, haha.

It feels like I’m just now settling into summer… even though it’s basically gone…

If you recall my last post, I was going off to a German hibernation of sorts, hidden from the outside world.  My earlier hypothesis? It would be “either fantastic or really rough”.

I’m happy to say it was the latter. Times 100.

Being thrown completely into a non-English environment was cooler than cool, even if it was a bit scary at first. I’ll admit, the first week was hard. And I was easily intimidated by all of the fluent or nearly-native speakers.  But it faded after the first week– I was learning so much. The whole experience made me wish my classroom environment were that awesome….awesome in that we had an enthusiastic group of students who found it cool to speak the language and actually wanted to put effort into creating as close to a full immersion environment as possible…

But it was amazing.  I grew close with so many people (what else do you do when you’re around them for 3 weeks? lol) including one of our RA’s– Maria. She’s super into theatre (it’s part of her major), really cute, (short, like me!), has a great sense of humor, AND she does trapeze for fun/exercise. PLUS her German is flawless (she studied abroad in Heidelberg and I am so jealous). I learned so much from her, and what amount of wanderlust I didn’t already have, came from her.  I can’t tell you how much I want to go to Germany (or just Europe in general) now. Annnnnnnd those opportunities may come– my aunt has said words about visiting her brother, and a friend proposed her visiting there and her need for a translator….. :O So we shall see.

I really can’t fit all of my experiences into a single post, so I’ll just say that we lived, laughed, ate, learned, had drama, all in German. I even started to dream in German, which was totally weird but also very fascinating. The day my parents came to rescue pick me up, I could not English. It was a struggle. And hearing the English of my instructors and RA’s for the first time was…. earth-shatteringly weird. Oh, and did I mention I learned Chinese? Only a bit, mind you. Since English

So just because I can, here are some pictures in an attempt to somehow show you guys how epic gov school was.

People + me in a Luray Caverns– the tour was in German! (left to right: Sandra, peep Dylan, Alexa, Marley, Katie & Me in front)

 

Me in cave + RAs Mariah and Meredith (left to right.

 

ME AND LU LAOSHI our Chinese teacher– he was so sweet, so patient…so amazing.
(Lu Laoshi ist Lieben, Lu Laoshi ist Leben)

 

A pic with a huge group of people before the last dance of the German Academy.

 

Our X-treme volleyball team. We were the “Faultier Frauen” (“sloth women”, because Allison’s fave animal was a sloth) later to be mixed with a group of guys… we compromised on the team name “Faultier Fenster” because they had named their team after the window two guys had broke playing soccer in the dorm halls…. XD

 

We’re fierce.

 

Wandern! (German for hiking, but it’s got an added spiritual element to it– it’s not just your average trekking through the woods experience.

 

Washington and Lee has some gorgeous forest and water around it 😀

 

…The mountains are gorgeous too…

 

All of the people in the academy after wandern 😀

 

Dunno why this is black and white, guess my camera was on that mode when the pic was taken, but this is the 4th of July at a street market on the campus of VMI (Virginia Military Institute).  You may not be able to tell but the building looks like a castle prison, and I’m standing with Matt, a good friend I made at the academy. We sang together and he is an insane guitar player.

 

Just me with an inflatable dinosaur.

 

Our attempt to make a star with our bodies on grass. (same day, July 4th)

 

Found a four-leafed clover that day too

 

An unconventional 4th of July dinner with the boys in the academy… Bratwurst inside hotdog buns and Kartoffelsalat.. but we managed to have iced tea! In this picture the boys are imitating Lu Laoshi… he taught us our favorite Chinese words “canting” and “chifan”, which mean “place to eat” and “eating”. We’re strange children.

 

Not far from the university, they had hot air balloons in the sky (this was also the 4th of July) and I pride myself of this artsy shot with the lamp post right in the middle LOL

 

The Wiener Cafe!! You could invite your German teacher to this traditional-style eating get-together in the W&L dining hall– traditional dress was encouraged, and I though all these guys looked amazing, so I snapped a pic 😀

 

….Steve’s shorts in honor of ‘MURICA day… (he was one of the guys who broke the window, btw)

 

I love this picture because Haley (the ginger cracking up on the left) is so amazing… Our last week of gov school we had a “Geheimnesfreund”, a secret person who we’d smuggle gifts or nice favors to anonymously, and at the end it was like a Secret Santa revealing, and you’d give your last present to the person so they’d know who you were, and Haley gave Calvin (the guy in the chair) a picture of a green penguin she drew herself. Just because she’s cool like that.

 

The guy in the yellow shirt and white pants was the bane of my existence.  RA named Lenny. He’s only 19 but he’s.. insane. He fooled all of us with a wig on the first day…

 

Internationales Abendessen! (International Dinner) with the other academies– French and Spanish 😀 The girl behind me spoke excellent French, as did the guy in the red shirt.  The guy in the black is named John, he was another German partner in crime. It was so cool– English was forbidden (like always)– we could speak only our languages…I know only a handful of words in French, the French people knew only a few German words… so we met in the middle and I talked in Spanish with a French girl who knew some Spanish (enough to get by). It was such an interesting experience trying to understand each other.

 

Left to right, our energetic RA’s… Makenna, Leah, Matt, Mariah, Meredith, Lenny.

 

Marley and Me with a mustache (LOL she hates it when people make that movie reference with her name, but I love her so it’s okay).

 

UNSERE DEUTSCHE FUSSBALL MANSCHAFT! (Our German soccer team!) The last week, we had a soccer tourney against the other academies… whoever won the most games was champion. The Spanish academy scored like, 7 goals… we scored 1 and the French scored none.  But the Spanish were cocky as hell so the French rooted for us when we played against the Spanish LOL

 

3 Wochen auf Deutsch

Three weeks in German. No English allowed. This will either be fantastic or really rough.
A couple months ago I applied to the Governor’s School program– you can pick an area of study that you are proficient/interested in and apply for it– I chose to study German for three weeks. Woo!
In order to make it as close to a full immersion experience as possible, they cut all participants off from civilization. Which is, a good and bad thing.  It’s a great thing, because you get to take advantage of the attempted immersion. AND you don’t have a bunch of social media obsessed kids on your hands for three weeks.  Instead, you have a bunch of half-insane/deprived kids writing letters home, lol.
Yes, we’re allowed to write letters. With paper. And pen. It’s been such a long time….
The bad part of it is that mail is slow.  And also I’m selfish and want to be able to talk to people (J!!) while I’m there.
Buuuuut I know that it’s for the better… And it’s cool and exciting and nerve wracking– I leave tomorrow at 7am to drive 3 hours to Washington and Lee University… and then I’m there.  For three weeks away from home. YAY It’ll be like college–living in a dorm and eating on campus and taking tours and kadlfj;daklsjf it’s gonna be awesome. You can tell I’m not pumped at all…
Speaking of college, I visited JMU for a generic tour this past Thursday.  It was fabulous.  I reaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaalllly wanna go there.  One thing our tourguide pointed out at us was that there are little circles of stone on the sidewalks on campus. If you stand in the middle of it and clap your hands, in addition to your handclaps you hear a little squeaking noise.  It’s the weirdest thing and only the person in the center can hear it.  (<– these people aren’t crazy, it’s a real thing!)
Not a major reason why I wanna go there, but you know (;
Wish me luck– I’ll be MIA for 3 weeks or more so I’ll MISS YOU ALL and reading up on you guys ),:  If y’all have a list of basic German phrases that you feel like I shouldn’t live without, feel free to comment and/or send them to me!
Aufwiedersehen!
~Steph xoxo

Pearls of Wisdom from my Economics Teacher

We’re at that point of the school year where classes are uneventful pointless, and everything is due before exams, making it both crazy and hectic.
In my Economics class, however, my teacher shared with us (he was feeling generous) a couple bits of advice for college and the real world, which I found rather humorous.  I wrote them down, and thought I’d share them with you.

Prof. W’s All-Purpose Words of Wisdom to Survive College and Life
  • “You are not a special snowflake. No matter how special and unique you think you are, there will always be someone just like you, even better than you.” Seeing that Prof. W’s humour is very dry and sarcastic, I took this to mean “don’t be overly cocky and think you’re the shit,” because nobody likes someone who is like that.  That being said, embrace you for you and don’t fall into the all-consuming trap of comparing yourself to others.
  • “Do the work, no matter how genius you are.” Again, assuming you’re being cocky, prescribing yourself as a genius who doesn’t think doing the work is required, he’s telling us to calm down. In order to be a special snowflake, you have to work hard and earn it.  No one likes fake snowflakes.
  • “Be nice.” Duh. Short and sweet, and probably the most important and basic things to know.  Be nice to others, be kind, and people won’t hate you.  It’s not hard.  Plus, being able to get along with people is a precious skill in the workforce.  Might as well do it in school and in college, and just everywhere you come in contact with people.  Which is everywhere.  All the time.
  • “If you can’t be nice, be funny.” This is Prof. W’s humour again.  You should always strive to be nice, but he reasons that if you’re funny, you can most likely at least disguise your less-than-pleasant attitude towards people.  However, different from Prof. W’s advice… being funny is different than being good-humoured.  Pick comedy and people may regard you as an asshole, depending on how you pull it off.  Pick good humour and people will find you easygoing and nice to be around. You shouldn’t use humor to cover up your assholiness, just…. work on it (;
  • “Follow your dreams, but always have a plan B.” Man, he sounds like my mother ranting to my older brother.  But it’s true! Do not, for a minute hesitate in chasing your passions. However, that does not mean that you should abandon all sensibility either.  Prepare for change, and have a flexible counter plan handy just in case you don’t happen to get famous, be president, or get a record deal.
xx