Barre So Hard

Apologies for the massive delay in posting. I can’t speak for Sarah, but I have been a tad unmotivated recently, and the idea of blogging was stressing me out. I’ve been deep in the ol’ quarter life struggle (questioning what I’m doing with my life, comparing where I am to everyone else, finding solace in being miserable, the usual!). However, I am pulling myself out of that rut.

While I’ve been extra introspective and (to be honest) a bit of a bummer lately, I also did start something new, which I’ve been really enjoying- welcome to the topic of today’s post! I am teaching barre classes!

I started taking barre last January with some friends – we all bought new member class passes for a month. Just to provide some context here, I’m not a massive fitness person. I was never super athletic growing up. I mean, I always played various sports, but wasn’t super competitive so I never really tried that hard. That basically became my go to strategy for fitness throughout college, and into my post-grad life. I’d go to the gym and casually do some cardio, enough to feel like I wasn’t being too lazy, but never pushing myself very hard. So when I went to barre, I really wasn’t sure what to expect.

The first class I took was a real struggle. When I couldn’t get through the warm-up, I realized I was in trouble. It also didn’t help that I had to travel the next day, and was stuck, immobile, in a car for 8 hours. I’m not sure I’ve ever been that sore in my life. I usually shy away from putting myself in a situation where I’m struggling in public, but since I paid a decent amount for that class pass- I went back. I’m a fairly confident person, but I will say I did feel some insecurity. I would look around the studio and see all these really fit and toned girls breezing through class. Cut to Kate- sweating an aggressive amount and doing the saddest excuses for push-ups known to man. I realized a few weeks in, that I was the only one looking around the studio- everyone else was really focused on their work, and I think that was my turning point. When I stopped comparing my muscle tone, and my ability to complete the sets to everyone else, I was able to focus on getting the most out of my workout. When the one month of unlimited class expired, I bought a new package for 3 months even though my friends chose not to re-up.

Capture2

I’m the super sweaty one in the grey long sleeve (R)

While the classes never really got easier (that’s one of the great things about barre- it’s always a challenge), I noticed that I was sore a lot less frequently, and I was zooming through sets, and taking the harder options in class. Instead of panicking about needing to take a break, I was focused on making sure my form was correct. A few months later, a fellow student came up to me, and mentioned she thought I had gotten stronger and was looking more fit. I realized she was right. I had definition in my arms and legs that hadn’t been there before. My waist was more trim. But beyond all of that, I was actually happier in my day-to-day. I don’t know if it was because of endorphin’s from actually pushing myself in workouts (remember- endorphin’s make you happy, and happy people don’t kill their husbands) or from actually committing to something, but it was pretty exciting. I started looking forward to getting to the studio, and started chatting more and more with the instructors and other students. I was super content with being a member of our barre community.

About 10 months after I started taking classes, I got an email from the studio owner asking me if I wanted to teach.

“I wanted to tell you that our team mentioned your name when we had a meeting about asking some of our clients to audition 🙂 you have the BEST form and we would love to have you as a part of the team if you’re interested in teaching!”

I was flattered, but demurred. I had a convenient excuse as I was getting surgery, which required an additional month of no physical activity, but the real reason I didn’t immediately say ‘yes’ was fear. I have never taught anything in my life. I don’t think I’m a particularly bubbly-fitness instructor-type person, I’ve been repeatedly told i’m intimidating (i.e. people think I come off as a bitch). That kind of thing will get in your head! I also felt like a total fraud. Teaching a fitness class felt wrong- like I’d be impersonating someone far more qualified.

After my surgery, which I wrote about a while back, I was feeling a little unsettled. Not dissimilar to my more recent feelings that I mentioned at the start of this post. That confusion propelled me to have an out of body experience when my barre studio owner emailed me again asking if I was interested in teaching. I immediately emailed her back and said, ‘I’m in :)’. I wasn’t sure what came over me, but I was apparently going to get instructor training, and start teaching.

Capture1

My first real class- teaching dreaded push-ups

It’s been two months since I’ve been a certified teacher, and I absolutely love it. I was terrified I wouldn’t be able to design classes and playlists, or would lose count or run my classes way over their scheduled times, but none of that has happened. I find that I really enjoy making new and challenging sets, and developing my playlists is one of my favorite things. It’s been really rewarding to see students pushing themselves in my classes and has given me a totally new perspective on fitness. I don’t feel like a fraud, I feel like I get to share something I love with people who like it too. In fact, I just found out a student requested me to teach a private class that she was setting up for her friends, and I was beyond flattered.

Capture

Always working on that form

So here’s what I learned, (granted I already knew it, but in my experience, I have to keep reinforcing life lessons), taking a risk – doing something that scares you, almost always pays off. Overcoming fear is powerful, and worth doing. I also need to remind myself that fitness, and more importantly, life, is a personal journey and you shouldn’t compare your journey to anyone else’s.

Lastly:

Image result for exercise gives you endorphins. endorphins make you happy

 

 

 

Vulnerability in Writing

I’m alive! The last month or so has been a little rough for me which is why I have been MIA from the blog. I’ve noticed that when I’m in one of my slumps I find it very hard, even impossible, to write. I have sat down to write this post so many times over the last few weeks, and I just couldn’t bring myself to do it. So I started thinking about what was stopping me. Initially I just knew that I didn’t want to talk about all the things that have been going on in my head, and because my writing is usually pretty autobiographical, I obviously couldn’t write. Then I thought, “OK, I’ll just write something very objective and completely unrelated to my personal life and personal thoughts. Then at least I will be writing.” I brainstormed different subjects, but every time I actually tried to write no words came to me. Then it dawned on me that all writing is personal regardless of whether or not you are explicitly talking about your personal life. And if you are trying to leave certain pieces of your life out of your writing it makes it difficult to really produce anything of quality.

This has been one of the biggest struggles that I have had with writing. I am naturally a pretty private person, particularly when it comes to my struggles. I’d just rather not have everyone know about my flaws and I don’t like people to see me on my bad days. I think part of the reason for this is that I don’t like to address problems that I don’t yet have solutions for. I like things being neatly tied up, well-thought out and reasoned through in my mind before I talk about them.

Unfortunately, a lot of the questions that we struggle with don’t have clear answers and it is these unanswerable questions are often the central themes of writing. They are questions like: Why are we here? How do we live lives full of meaning and purpose? How do we make sense of all the suffering and tragedy in the world? How do we make and sustain connections with other people? Though these questions seem deeper and more profound than the subject of most writing, they are usually lying beneath the surface, quietly asserting their presence and their relevance.

Hemingway said, “There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at the typewriter and bleed.” This kind of honesty however can be very difficult to muster. Not everyone is willing to bleed so openly and freely for all to see. To write is inevitably to be vulnerable, and for me, and I imagine for many others, that is the hardest part. Regardless of what you are writing about, you are always writing about yourself. Your writing always reveals more about who you are than it reveals about your subject. And when you have secrets or things you don’t want to share with the world, it becomes very difficult to write anything at all.

So my goal for my writing is to not shut down when I am not in the best place mentally. I want to try not to partition off my struggles, but instead to allow them to infect and simultaneously to nourish my writing. Objectivity is impossible in creative pursuits, as it should be. So I will try to embrace the messy, the unanswerable and the painful questions because not to do so would be dishonest.

So in the spirit of honesty, here it is: I’ve had a bad couple of weeks. I feel stuck and directionless and unfulfilled. I have no idea what I want to do with my life. Sometimes all I can do is get up and go through the motions. I’ve set goals that I don’t care about because it felt better to have a plan than to admit that I don’t know what I want. And I’ve watched some of those goals disintigrate before my eyes with surprising indifference, leading me to wonder if I don’t care about what I have pretended to, what do I care about? I’m not entirely sure what the answer to that is. I do know though, that writing has always felt like something I was meant to do. So for now I am going to write, release the need to have it all figured out, and hope for the best.

I realize now that my attempt to remove my personal struggles from my writing inevitably robs it of its substance. Without the gut-wrenching honesty of these struggles, my writing is stripped of its core, and what is left is a hollow shell of words clumsily strung together. If we wait for the answers to life’s nagging questions to come to us before we begin writing about them, the page will always remain blank, the blinking cursor mocking our ignorance.

-S

She Persisted: Vol. 1

Happy International Women’s Day!

“A feminist is anyone who recognizes the equality and full humanity of women and men.” – Gloria Steinem

If you’ve read this blog before, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that I’m a feminist. I’ve mentioned this fact a few times, but it bears repeating. Equality shouldn’t be something that varies by gender (or race or sexual orientation or economic status or religion or any other factor other than your actions). It drives me crazy that we have to have ‘women in leadership’ programs – it should just be called leadership. I don’t like that we still have to distinguish the novelty of a situation whenever a woman does something exceptional.  However, because we still have a LONG way to go, that is the reality. I’m proud to be a woman, and I am proud to stand with the women who have come before us whose shoulders we now stand on.

So I’ve been wanting to do a feature on some historic women who maybe are lesser known than they deserve to be. There are so many incredible women across the globe and across history who deserve to be remembered- I think the film Hidden Figures really spoke to that. I’m hoping to do this on a semi-regular basis, but thought I’d start with a women who gets glossed over in Western History as I recently read a book about her, so she’s been at the top of my mind.  Additionally, while this particular installment is focused on a woman from western Europe- I plan to do features across the globe.

Catherine Parr

Catherine Parr was Henry VIII of England’s last wife. Most people are familiar with Katharine of Aragon and Anne Bolyen as that love triangle dramatically changed the face of Britain, Catholicism, and, honestly, Europe as a whole. Most people are also familiar with Henry VIII’s proclivity for killing his wives, so the fact that Catherine outlived him is a win.

She was an incredibly compelling figure, but managed to fly under the radar while accomplishing a significant agenda. Catherine was a very well educated woman, and actively worked to educate the women of her court and her step-children (one of whom was Elizabeth I of England- who is widely recognized as one of the most successful rulers ever. Catherine being Elizabeth’s step-mother during her formative years had a large impact on her eventual ruling style and legacy). Catherine also restored both of Henry’s daughters (Mary & Elizabeth) to the line of succession. Basically, she fought with her insanely unstable husband to mend his very complex relationships with his children- and she succeeded.  That alone speaks to how selfless, loyal, and persuasive she could be.

Catherine Parr was one of the first females to publish a book in England, although she did so anonymously. She did eventually claim credit for her first book and published a second book post-Henry’s death. Essentially, her books were based on her reformer views around the Protestant faith, and as Henry VIII was very fickle and often looked for excuses to find a new wife, he tried to have her arrested (with the goal of execution) on the basis of her religious beliefs, so her publishing anonymously was paramount to her survival. In fact, it’s notable to mention another amazing woman here.  Anne Askew was the first woman burned at the stake primarily because she refused to name Catherine Parr as a Protestant reformer. The enemies of Catherine Parr basically offered to let Anne go if she would give up the queen, but she refused and was killed. The fact that Catherine’s friends and associates were so loyal that they willingly died to protect her should clue you into the fact that this woman was pretty spectacular.  As an additional note, she managed to change Henry’s mind about her arrest by saying she only engaged in these religious debates with him to take his mind off of his pain, and he bought it and turned on her enemies. That is some master manipulation of an egotistical maniac by an intelligent and strong woman.

She also ruled as regent while Henry was off at war. In her three months in power, she ruled without challenge, and did effectively maintain her authority. She dealt with finances and supplies for Henry’s war while also passing royal proclamations at home, and effectively controlling the dangerous and evolving situation with Scotland. This time specifically is thought to have shown Elizabeth I what was possible for a female ruler of England (spoiler alert- EVERYTHING). Catherine was renowned for her morality and loyalty, but she was able to remain committed to her passions (religion and education) while navigating through an incredibly dangerous marriage and role as queen.

In summary, Catherine should be remembered as a pioneer and an example for women as she was able to write, speak, and act with dignity and implementing progressive views into society in a time when her predecessors met very messy ends for less.

So let’s bring this back to today-  here’s hoping Melania or Ivanka pulls some sweet Catherine Parr maneuvers, and subtlety (or overtly) influences the actions of their version of Catherine’s egotistical unstable Henry VIII. We could use a little bit of her influence these days.

So ladies, let’s get out there and inspire!

 

.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Get Your Fika On!

I’m back again with a new Scandinavian life hack! When I wrote about hygee a while back, I thought it was a one and done topic, but it turns out that our Northern friends have more than one thing we should be aspiring to in our daily lives. This time, we turn our attention to our friends in Sweden for a lesson on Fika.

Fika is a Swedish cultural concept that literally translates to ‘coffee break’. Now I’m sure some of you are sitting there going, ‘Is she insane? Americans drink coffee like water. What’s so special about this?’

Well friends, I may be insane, but fika is unique to the typical American lifestyle. Americans typically use coffee to jump start their day or to reinvigorate themselves during an afternoon slump. In my experience, coffee is a vehicle for forward momentum and moving as fast as we can to get as much done as possible. In Sweden, fika is synonymous with a break. The point is to savor the moment, enjoy a beverage with a pastry or cookie, and allow yourself a chance to relax. People engage in fika with friends, family, significant others, and even just themselves, in cafes and parks across the country.

Screen Shot 2017-03-03 at 7.31.37 PM.png

Fika is particularly important in a work setting in Sweden. It is common to have 2 fika breaks a day in corporate Sweden, one mid-morning and one mid-afternoon. Fika has become an integral event that allows employees a chance to disengage from work, while also engaging with co-workers on a more personal level. Often the entire office will break together and bond over fika. This seems like an incredibly simple, but powerful addition to any company. I find that when I have a chance to get to know people on a personal level, and take a second to break out of my normal routine at work, I am more productive and my communication is better. Granted, I don’t drink coffee, but I’m a big fan of tea, and when I’m at work, I really don’t tend to savor and enjoy my tea, but rather I drink it like fuel- propelling me onto the next thing. I want to try and incorporate fika breaks into my work week.

The Scandinavian lifestyle has a lot to be admired. That region is exceptionally productive with strong economies, and the people who live there tend to be happier and more satisfied with their lives. That’s a pretty strong case study, and I for one would love to incorporate some of what they’ve found to work into my own life.

So, get your fika on! See if you find yourself more relaxed with an uptick in productivity and empathy for the people around you. See if your work days move a little faster since you have something small to look forward too each day. See if you find yourself more contemplative and content. Can’t hurt, right?

 

Goals, Goals, Goals

There’s a lot of doom and gloom in the air these days, and most of my posts have been focused on that (I’m a real masochistic). It’s easy to get sucked into the black hole of the state of the world (and while it’s important to pay attention and get involved, it can lead to a pessimistic attitude, and I refuse to let this political situation take anything else from me). So, I want to re-focus on the future and my goals.

I’m a big fan of lists. I have random lists all over my apartment: grocery lists, to do lists, lists of clothes I want, travel lists, lists of books to read, and shows to watch… you get the idea. It’s lisztomania!  Anyways, while I’m not the best at following through with all my lists, there is one list I tend to focus on the most. One list to rule them all, you might say.

When I turned 22, I made a list. I called it my 27 by 27 list. That gave me 5 years to accomplish (or at least try to accomplish) goals in a variety of different segments of my life. Some were career focused, some were financial, some were personal, and a whole lot were based on travel.

Image result for bucket list

I think having goals/a bucket list/whatever you want to call it is important. I think it’s valuable to have a written record around what you want and what you’re interested in. Life moves incredibly quickly, and you can lose sight of lofty goals (or even basic goals) throughout the doldrums of everyday life. It’s good to have something to strive to, and to check in with. I keep my list framed in my closet so I see it at least once a day, staring at me, reminding me to get my ass in gear. I also find it amusing that more than half the items on my 27 by 27 list were travel based, clearly I had my priorities in order when I wrote it!

I know this is super different content than what I normally write about, but this is a large glimpse into what motivates me, and since this blog is about sharing our interests, concerns, and inspirations, I feel like it works.

So below is my 27 by 27 list, and the current standing of where I am.  I have around 2 years left to successfully complete this sucker, and it’s unlikely that I will knock them all off, but I’m having a lot of fun regardless.

Completed Goals:

  • Be promoted twice
  • Go to a foreign country completely alone
  • Celebrate Hogmanay in Edinburgh
  • See Stonehenge
  • Live alone
  • Learn to like whisky
  • Own Christian Louboutins

In-Progress Goals (Highly Likely to Complete by 27):

  • Go on 1 trip somewhere new each year (I have been super successful with this goal so far)
  • See the Northern Lights (I am going to Iceland in a week, and am planning on hunting the Aurora’s every night- who needs sleep?!)
  • Go on Safari  (This is booked for July of this year)
  • Go to 3 Major World Events (I’m at 2/3 currently)
  • Read Shakespeare’s complete works ( 16/37 left to read)
  • Savings Goal (I am 80% to my set goal, if you include investments, 401K, and Roth IRA accounts- and since this is my goal, it counts)
  • Read the top 100 books (67/140* left to read)
    • I ended up adding some to this list based on my interests, so my list is more like 140 books

There are 14/27 items I am confident I will be able to check off my list in the next year and a half. That leaves 13 items not covered above. Those items basically fall into the ‘stretch goal’ category or the ‘no longer interested category’. There are also a few travel goals scattered in there (Isle of Skye, New Zealand, Egypt, filling up my passport) which may be possible, but are currently not planned due to scheduling and financial constraints.

Stretch Goals:

  • Go on a trip to another country with a significant other
    • This is only a stretch goal since I am currently single, and in no real rush/don’t have a ton of interest in relationships right now.
  • I have a fairly aggressive salary goal that I would like to be making by 27, and I’m pretty sure I’m not reaching it (unless I achieve the goal under this one, and it ends up getting published…)
  • Write a book- I have been working on this since I was 22 and I’m only like 6 chapters in.
  • Learn the basics of another language- I took Spanish in school and was decent at it, but have forgotten most of it, and I haven’t made any moves in remedying that.
  • Take a class for a hobby – I want to take a photography or wine appreciation course, but just haven’t gotten there yet

I’m not going to bother writing about the goals I’m no longer interested in, but I will share the three new goals I have replaced them with.

  • Get certified in Barre
  • Be able to do the splits
  • Cook my way through the two cookbooks in my house (excluding anything I really don’t like)
So that’s my list. That’s what I am trying to get out of my life in the immediate term. Fun, right? I’m excited to see where I end up with this list, and what the next iteration looks like. Maybe it will be a complete 180, and my next list will be completely focused on my career or starting a family or building a home, or maybe it will be a list of new places to go and things to experience. As I’ve noted before, freedom can be paralyzing because you have so many options, but I find that by having a list, my future is framed just a little bit more. It works for me at least!

Framing Your Way to Happiness

I listened to a great podcast the other day on TED Radio Hour called “Simply Happy” which got me thinking about the nature of happiness. The premise of the combined TED Talks was that happiness is actually not as complicated as we make it out to be and that the human brain is actually wired to be happy. Happiness in the human brain is kind of a homeostatic state; regardless of our varying moods, our minds eventually settle into happiness, or at least into contentment. The podcast referenced a study which showed that even people who suffered very traumatic experiences returned to their previous baseline state of happiness within 2-3 months. They started diving into why this is the case, and it all boils down to our brain’s ability to frame things in different lights. So when we experience negative things, our brains attempt to frame them in positive lights, or at least to not dwell on them. This is more a survival instinct than anything; our brain wants us to be happy and so it allows us to frame things in a perspective that allows us to be happy. So in part, your brain does the work for you in creating and returning to happiness. But we also are responsible for this process, and this is the part that really got me thinking about what we can do to affect our own happiness. Though I used to groan at the cliche of “you create your own happiness” as I get older I find myself buying into this theory more and more.

Part of the reason I am more convinced by the day that we can control and create our own happiness is because I have seen the ways that it has worked in my own life. After I graduated college I had, as most people do, a very rude awakening. I had to get a job and support myself. I had to enter the “real” world which seemed like an onslaught of responsibility, chores, and just generally things I didn’t want to do or deal with. And for a while there I was really in a slump. I felt drained by the responsibilities of adulthood and I couldn’t fathom how anyone could be happy while having to pay a utility bill. (I fully recognize now the extent of my privilege that this felt so inconceivable to me). I dragged myself to work and then home and then to work again. I dragged myself to the gym, and to clean the house and to go out and do fun things. I had this mentality of “everything is hard.” And then it became too much effort to keep up this charade of misery. I realized that I was the reason that I was unhappy, and that it had nothing to do with my environment or with external circumstances. It all came down to the way I was thinking about and framing my life. And it was actually really hard work to constantly think about things in such a negative light. Since that difficult year after college I have made a point to be very careful about how I think about things. If I find myself wandering through the darker corners of my mind, I pull myself back out. I don’t sit around thinking about mistakes I made in the past, and I don’t dwell on negative things that I can’t control. I’m not trying to make this sound easy, or like I have all the answers, because it’s not and I don’t. But I do think that learning to train your mind to think in certain ways can make a world of difference in your outlook on life and your day-to-day happiness. And I think that when you start learning to control your mind, you realize it’s not really an uphill battle. Your mind doesn’t actually want to think about your ex-boyfriend, or that time the other day when a stranger waved to someone behind you and you thought they were waving to you, so you waved, and then realized their wave wasn’t meant for you and you wanted to die a little. Our minds really don’t want to dwell on the negative things in our lives, we just force them to.

So though it makes me sound like a crazy hippie yogi, I’m going to say it: When you control your thoughts, you control your life.

 

-S

 

Disclaimer: When I talk about happiness and our control over it, I recognize that for some people with clinical depression or other mental health issues, this is not the case. My theories on happiness only relate to people under relatively normal circumstances, without any kind of mental health issue.

Put It On Pause

Yesterday, I texted Sarah that I wasn’t sure what I wanted to write about this week. I have a lot of ammunition in the political arena, but I wanted to step away from talking about our soon to be President and his petulant and dangerous behavior for a minute.  Sarah asked me what I had been up to recently, and the honest answer is not very much. I had my life on hold for the past few weeks while I recovered from surgery.

I essentially spent an entire week in bed at my parents house, not being able to speak, not really being able to eat, and sleeping an average of 3 hours a night. I wasn’t reading or watching anything for the first few days. I literally was just staring at the ceiling, and to be honest, my ceiling isn’t that exciting. The second week was slightly better, especially towards the end as I started to be more active, and my voice and appetite started to return. It’s kind of like looking back at a dream now that I’m back at my regular life, albeit an insanely painful horrible dream.

It’s a little discombobulating to fully drop out of your normal life for weeks, and then to re-enter it seamlessly. It’s not like I was embarking on some life changing adventure during my recovery and expected things to be different. But, it is odd to go from being in so much pain and being a totally useless person, to being able to go right back to your normal life and job without any real struggle.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m grateful my recovery went well, and that my job was able to accommodate me, and that my friends were super supportive, and that my parents put their lives on hold to take care of me, but it does kind of make you wonder what kind of a real impact you are making on the world around you. Would anything really be different if I stayed on pause? Don’t misunderstand me, this isn’t a depressed rant bitching that I don’t think I matter or that people don’t care about me. I know that isn’t true- I have a great life and I’m content with it. My point is more about questioning where that life is heading and what do I want from it. Would I leave an impact or any kind of a lasting legacy on the world? Honestly, the current answer is no.Capture.JPGAnd that’s fine. I think I still feel a little lost when it comes to what I want from my life, and what kind of life I want to lead. I don’t think I’m alone in feeling that way. I’m conflicted when I think about the different paths that I could take. There is no one future that really calls to me. While I love feeling that the world is laid out at my feet and I could run in any direction I want, there is also something paralyzing about that kind of freedom. When you have numerous choices in the world, it’s difficult to commit to one. Opening one door usually goes hand-in-hand with closing a different one. That’s not to say that you can’t have it all, but life is full of choices that act like puzzle pieces, bringing you closer to the completed picture of what your life is and who you are really are. As I’m writing this, I keep ruminating on the lyrics from ‘Wait For It’ from the incomparable Hamilton.

‘I’m not falling behind or running late. I’m not standing still, I am lying in wait.’ 

I wish I felt that comfortable in my convictions. I wouldn’t say that I’m dissatisfied with the frame of my life currently, but I would like to feel like I am working towards something. I think I’m feeling a little listless and restless all at the same time. I’m scared to make the wrong choice, but I’m also terrified of standing still. I want to be free to fail- I want to be open to opportunity- I want to be focused on the future while maintaining a presence in the present.

There’s no real conclusion here as this is simply a snippet of what has been running through my mind recently. I’m not convinced I have a solid plan of action to institute a change in the way I live my life, but I’m excited about the prospect of that change. So, with that being said, I’m going to quote another song far more poetic and poignant than I am, and ‘keep your head up, and keep your heart strong.’  (Oh Ben Howard, how I adore you!)

-K

P.S. I really do want to thank my parents for being so incredible while I was so out of it the past few weeks. They were amazing while I was… less than amazing.

Project 333: Minimalist Fashion

One of my new year’s resolutions (cliche I know) is to downsize my closet. I feel like I have a ton of clothes, most of which I never wear that are just taking up space in my closet. I also have been feeling lately like I want to detach myself a bit from the culture of consumerism. I watched a documentary on Netflix called “Minimalism: a documentary about the important things” and it really made me think about how much I am consuming on a daily basis. In America, the overwhelming sentiment is that in order to be more we must have more. We slave away at jobs we hate just to be able to afford things we don’t need, or really want. I am definitely guilty of over-consumption (of food mostly, but that’s not what I’m referring to here) and it’s something I want to work on. I think that there are a lot of reasons that people over-consume. For me, when it comes to clothes it is just because I really like clothes. I feel good when I look good. But I also feel an overwhelming need to collect clothes and when I go to throw them away find myself saying “But what if in some very bizarre scenario I want to wear a shirt that has shrunk to be two sizes too small??? What if the new fashion is shrunken crop tops??” I have also been feeling lately like this overwhelming need to buy things really has nothing to do with the things that I am buying. And so it is my resolution to be more conscious about my consumption and to get rid of things that I don’t really like. I have already created a nice big pile for Goodwill and I can’t wait to get rid of it.

So in working towards this goal I decided to participate in Project 333. The concept is pretty simple: you chose 33 items from your closet and for 3 months you can only wear those 33 items. This includes shoes, jewelry and accessories. It does not include workout clothes or wear around the house clothes. When I tell most people I am doing this they are like “Oh, 33 items?? That doesn’t sound hard at all!” Well when you have over 200 items in your closet (I counted), narrowing it down to just 33 items to wear in 3 months is actually pretty tough. I made some pretty tough choices (Do I want this red plaid shirt or should I pick the green plaid one!?!? The agony!). Below is a picture of the items that I chose:

img_0721

I mostly chose a lot of tops because I like to have variety there. I was able to narrow it down to 4 pairs of pants and 4 shoes (not a big shoe person, plus it’s winter so not a ton of options), and two necklaces. I don’t wear a ton of accessories so cutting those out wasn’t hard, because it also doesn’t include wedding rings or jewelry of sentimental value. One thing I want to add to the challenge once I do this for a few weeks is to only choose 10 or so items of workout clothes to wear, because workout stuff makes up a huge portion of my closet.

I’m about a week into this challenge and so far it is going really well! I put these items at the front of my closet and then shoved everything else together in the back. It is really refreshing when I am getting ready in the morning to not have as many options. And since I chose all my favorite things, I don’t really feel like I am missing much. It has made me realize how much crap I have that I really don’t care about. My last day of the challenge will be April 1st. Let’s hope we don’t have a crazy heat wave before then.

Part of the reason I wanted to do this is because I wanted to do something concrete to work towards my resolutions. I feel like a lot of people just say “Oh I want to be better about this…” but then they don’t put a plan in place to do that. I think rather than making a bunch of idealistic goals that don’t fit into your life very well, you have to start small. For example, I wasn’t going to all the sudden say “I’M NOT BUYING ANY CLOTHES IN 2017!” Instead I chose something a little more manageable that I know I can actually accomplish, and I put a plan in place to do so. Baby steps, people. You’re not going to change your whole life over night, but you can make small concrete changes that push you towards where you want to be.

-S

2017 Hopeful

To be blunt, 2016 sucked. I had this same conversation with a ton of people over Christmas, and the conclusion was the same. It seems like everyone suffered this year on some level. On a global scale, violence and death have been pervasive- the Bastille Day terror attack, the Pulse shootings, Aleppo, the numerous killings of unarmed Black men, the Dallas police shootings, Hurricane Matthew killing upwards of 900 people, the Istanbul attacks, the bombings in Brussels, the Ghostship fire, Harambe, the attacks in Germany (just to name a few). It’s been a horrible year for celebrity deaths- I was upset enough when it was just Alan Rickman, but to add Prince, David Bowie, Muhammad Ali, Gene Wilder, Alan Thicke, George Michael, and now Carrie Fisher, and so many others, just seems like a slap in the face. We’ve had Brexit, and the horribly contentious 2016 US Presidential election (not to mention the fact that Donald Trump will now be the president). That article that came out saying Millennials are making less than their parents, and life expectancy is declining was just icing on the worse cake of all time.

Image result for this is fine meme

Personally, my year hasn’t been amazing. The last two weeks really sum it up well. A 4 hour plane delay followed by getting sick enough to have to leave a girls weekend in wine country to go to the hospital, then the ER, and capping it all off with surgery, and a super painful recovery! 2016 is really ending in a fine fashion.

However, things aren’t all doom and gloom, and things could certainly be worse. As we close out this year and embark on a new one, I aim to be hopeful. LBJ said it pretty well:

Yesterday is not ours to recover, but tomorrow is ours to win or lose.

So, with that in mind, I turn towards the future. I turn towards hope, I turn towards the light, and I turn towards positive progress. I’ll keep this short and sweet (everything 2016 wasn’t), and simply say that despite the shit-storm of 2016, moments of joy and happiness did occur (success at Standing Rock, Leo winning an Oscar, an Ebola vaccination was deemed successful, Harriet Tubman is going to replace Andrew Jackson on the $20, one of my cousins got engaged, another had a baby, the Nigerian Army rescued hostages from Boko Harem, and the ALS gene was isolated, which means a cure may be possible, the Cubs finally won a World Series Title).

As I will not be able to drink for the rest of the year following my surgery tomorrow, tonight I will raise a glass and toast to 2017. I will write my resolutions and I will stay resolute in the belief that this too shall pass. 

Image result for positive future meme

Why I Got a Dog

image2

This weekend Umur and I welcomed a new rescue pup to our family. We named her Luna, Luna Lovegood to be exact. She’s had a rough start to life after someone dumped her in a lake as a puppy hoping she would drown. She has spent the last 6 months or so in various shelters and foster care systems. It’s unimaginable to me how people can be so cruel and heartless, especially to animals that are incapable of such cruelty. I have always been a huge animal lover, so the obvious reason why we got Luna is because of this life-long obsession. When I was a kid all I wanted to be was a vet, until I found out you had to be good at science to be a vet, and then I quickly disposed of that dream. Another big reason I wanted to get a dog was because I wanted to rescue a dog. Not buy one at a pet store or from a breeder, but really rescue a dog that would have had an unfortunate life otherwise. We have created a terrible situation for dogs through excessive breeding which has landed millions of dogs in shelters all across the country, and I think we bear the responsibility for taking care of these animals. The easiest reason to explain for why I wanted a dog was because I have the ability to take care of her and I knew that I could make her life better. There is a sense of purpose that comes from that knowledge (and also a sense of overwhelming responsibility).

Aside from these clear and easy to understand reasons for why I wanted a dog, there was also another reason. This is the one that would most likely get me funny looks, so I usually go with the easier to explain reasons when asked. But really, I wanted a dog because I wanted to go on walks and be outside more. I know that sounds like a really silly reason to get a dog, but in the past few years of working I have felt more and more like my world exists inside several screens, rather than in the actual physical world. If I had to guess, I would say on an average day I spend about 10 minutes outside. I get in my car in my garage, drive to work where I sit inside all day without moving, then drive home, then drive to the gym and walk to the door which is about 20 steps from my car and that’s it. So maybe not even 10 minutes. The rest of the time I spend in front of my computer at work, and then in front of my tv and phone at home. And spending all this time in front of screens is enough to make a person feel very detached, easily distracted, impatient and even incapable of enjoying simple pleasures like taking a walk. I got a dog because I wanted to remember what it felt like to go on a walk outside and just take my time, without rushing to the next thing I have to do, or compulsively checking my phone every few seconds. Even in this act of walking her though, I can feel my impatience dulling the pleasure I take from it. I have even found myself telling her to hurry up when she is zig-zagging in front of me smelling every bit of grass in our neighborhood. This impatience I think will be hard to break, but I’m working on it.

The other day Umur and I went on a walk with Luna, and it was the first time in a long time I can remember us going on a walk together, with our phones away, just walking and talking and watching our crazy dog. I felt an immense sense of peace and authenticity in that moment. I felt connected to the world and to the living things around me and I felt present. I think she will bring me a lot of these moments throughout our lives together. We like to think that we are training our dogs to be better, but I think she is training me to be better as well. She is teaching me to be more present, more patient and more grateful for life’s simple pleasures. And that’s why I really got a dog.

image1

-S