Thursday, January 31, 2013

No Complaints Here

Taking Life As It Comes

Moving Forward Day-by-Day

Recently my life has been shockingly uneventful. It seems that I am always being confronted with some sort of challenge, crisis, or bad news. Every once in a while I'll be surprised with something exciting, fun, or fabulous. But, at the moment, neither seem to be the case and I must admit that there are no complaints here about it. I am appreciating the ability to effortlessly move forward day-by-day without being interrupted by anything out of the ordinary. While at times my life seems monotonous or a tad boring I am learning that I can appreciate my life for what it is at this moment. I'd prefer a boring and typical day to a chaotic and painful day at all times. It's hard for me to accept that my life can truly be ok. I feel as if I usually have the need to resolve a problem, cope with a tragedy, or overcome an obstacle. I have always tried to take life as it comes; but usually life seems to come to me in atypical or unfortunate ways. As my life starts to settle down and bear a sense of normalcy, I am forced to learn how to take life as it comes when my life is, for all intensive purposes, ordinary and simple. I have no complaints about learning how to accept and embrace an uneventful life. I am thankful to go to my classes everyday, see friends walking on campus, finish school work, and return home to snuggle with Milly and go to sleep. When I rest my head on my pillow I am comforted by the fact that I had a mellow and standard day; I look forward to having a similar day when I awake in the morning. The calmness and commonness of my life is a welcome relief. I am pleased to continue moving forward day-by-day without cause for concern or startling interruptions. 

"Life is really simple but we insist on making it complicated."

- Confucius

Is Confucius's statement really true? Is my life actually simple and its just me and mind that make it seem complex? Are my thoughts and actions making my life more difficult than it needs to be? Recently my life has felt rather simple or at least less complicated than it has been previously. This statement and the current normalcy of my life makes me wonder if it is truly my life that has changed or if it is me. Perhaps unfortunate things continue to go on around me but I am simply processing and responding to them in a new way? Maybe I am seeing challenges or bad news in a different light? The answer could be that I am no longer taking on others issues and mistaking them for my own; this is an issue that I tend to deal with a lot. 

I hear that a friend is going back into treatment and I turn it into a personal crisis. When I have had friends pass away I somehow manage to make myself feel guilty for still being alive or I begin to question my own life and purpose. When I realize that my weight or behavior is bothering (or triggering) to a friend I allow myself to feel shameful and at fault. But in my immediate past I haven't been absorbing the issues and troubles of others. Yes, I have plenty of friends who are struggling but I have been able to separate their problems from my own. When it comes to my own struggles and eating disorder lapses I haven't been going into panic mode as I usually do. I have been able to put the issues into perspective and realize that just because I am struggling a bit does not mean that I am going to end up very sick and back in treatment again.
Moving Forward Day-by-Day
I don't have a definitive answer regarding what has changed; it could be my or it could very well be my life. But I am not going to spend any more time questioning it. Over thinking it, which would be my typical behavior, would just be playing out the above quote. I don't need to complicate the matter by analyzing it and attempting to figure out the cause. It's a very simple fact that my life seems to going smoothly and I don't intend to turn this pleasure into a complex issue that will turn my brain into an obstacle course of thoughts. I am just going to appreciate that I have no complaints or hardships at the moment and continue to move forward day-by-day, taking life as it comes. 
Today was a nice, easy, and productive day. I went to my classes, met with a classmate for a group project, hung out with my friend who is staying with me, and took a relaxing bath. I have fun plans for tonight- dinner than drinks with my friend- and I intend to enjoy each moment, embracing the simplicity and pleasantness of the experience. I am not going to worry about what might happen tomorrow. I am not going to think about issues or stressors that are not currently relevant. I will not let my brain fly off into another dimension- dwelling over the past, fearing the future, counting calories, worrying about my weight, thinking about tasks that need to be done. I am simply going to take in the now because that's all any of us can really do. We can't change the past and we can't predict the future. We shouldn't allow our minds to take control and detract from our abilities to take life as it comes and enjoy what's going on in the present. Lets take Confucius's words to heart and think about life as a simple matter. Perhaps if we allow ourselves to move forward day-by-day and take life as it comes, rather than attempting to juggle and think about a million different things at once, then we can avoid making life more complicated than it is.

Keep it simple and enjoy,

Monday, January 28, 2013

Game Change

Taking Steps to Regain Control

Your Decisions, Your Actions, Your Life

Over the past few days I have been completely and utterly exhausted; there were two days this weekend that I didn't manage to get out of bed until 6 pm. I have been moving through life so rapidly and engaging in different activities non-stop; I was bound to crash at some point. My life has been going at a pace that I just can't seem to keep up with. I am unhappy with some of the choices I have been making- going out incessantly, drinking often, staying up late- and it's time that I incorporate some major alterations into my life; it's time for a game change because the game I have been playing recently is simply not manageable. It's impossible to give 110% in all areas of your life- school, socializing, family, friends- and not expect some physical and/or mental repercussions. For me these repercussions materialized in my sleeping for basically two days straight. In terms of academic responsibilities I can't afford to lose two days to sleep. It is physically painful because lying in bed for 48 hours results in aches and stiff muscles that take a few days to mend. And emotionally, disappearing from the world and being inactive and nonproductive for that length of time is debilitating. I wake up feeling fat, lazy, and worthless. My stress and anxiety shoot through the roof as I realize the amount of time I have lost and the work that I need to catch up on. I feel as if I have lost control over of my decisions, actions, and life. This lack of control results in further situations that create feelings of chaos, such as my sleeping for two days and missing classes. As I think about this upcoming week I am conscious of the fact that I hope to make a game change. This change involves taking steps to regain control over my life and beginning to truly own my decisions, my actions, and my life. This game change requires that I actively make decisions that meet my wants and expectations and than follow through with these decisions via my action. 
It can be intimidating and overwhelming when we choose to embark upon a mission to change our ways. We can be filled with doubt; if we weren't able to do it before why should we think that we can change now? Anxiety can overcome us as we recognize all the different elements of our lives that we hope to alter. Feelings of shame or guilt can also often enter the picture. I think back about my behavior over the past week or so- neglecting responsibilities, missing class, going out when the right choice would be to stay in- and I feel guilty for not making better choices for myself. I remember times when I acted foolishly- drinking a bit too much, saying something stupid, behaving in a way that doesn't accurately reflect my values and personality- and I am filled with shame. But doubt, anxiety, guilt, and shame aren't going to help us as we try to move forward and regain control. In order to successfully undergo a game change we need to tap into our positive qualities and resources- organization, confidence, internal values, desires, and diligence. But, perhaps more importantly we need to build and utilize a sense of self-assurance; we need to believe that we are capable of taking steps to regain control and consciously make decisions, act, and live in accordance with our morals, values, and wants. Before I go into detail about my plan to regain control I want to introduce an affirmation about that we can focus on and contemplate in order to aid us in our quest.

I have the power to control my life and the direction in which it is going.

Let us use this affirmation to bolster both our confidence as well as our self-assurance as we work toward regaining control over our lives. So, the question is, how do I plan on bringing myself back down to earth? What do I need to do in order to commit myself to my priorities and act in a way that supports them rather than counters them? How can I be sure to follow the plans that I set out for myself, rather than succumbing to both personal pressure as well as unintended peer pressure? Well, as always, I am going to rely on a detailed and organized plan/schedule that will help me as I pursue this game change. I need to take note of what tasks I need to complete, when my classes are, and what is required of me in order to fulfill these academic obligations. I must exhibit a degree of self-control. If I say I am not going to go out because I have an early class or that I am not going to drink because I am getting over being sick than I need to stick to my word. Saying that you are committed to doing something is meaningless if you fail to follow through with it. It will be important for me to set up guidelines or rules for myself in order to feel as if I have a level of control over my life. As I formulate this plan, made up of organization, self-control, and structure, I am keeping in mind my numerous priorities and attempting to picture how I can manage to balance all of them within this program that I am creating. 
"...keeping in mind my numerous priorities..."
I suppose my top priority is my responsibility as a student. I don't want to do anything that will interfere with my ability to perform to the best of my ability or that will prevent me from fulfilling academic obligations. Another priority I am keeping in mind is the significance I ascribe to my meals, caloric intake, and body image. I am striving to find a balance so that I am able to function and be healthy while also making choices that enable me to feel comfortable. I want a put an end to intense drunk eating that forces me to restrict for days after. I become tired and miserable. I don't feel happy in my skin and everything starts to feel like it's going to shit- school, friends, appearance, life itself. I hope to figure out a way that I can balance my eating so that I am not subjected to these extreme feelings and moods. While I want to focus on my work and add structure to my eating I would also like to maintain some semblance of a social life. 
Different levels of priorities-
I want to go out, spend time with friends, drink occasionally and in appropriate amounts, and have fun. But, I need to put some limits on my fun- socializing, going out, drinking- in order to respect the other areas of my life that I find important. By giving myself a set rules or guidelines, such as not going out if I have an early class or not drinking if I have work to do the next day, I can create a life that honors my values and desires. During the week I can continue to hang out with friends but, by keeping it low key I am ensuring that I will not let myself down as a student. My plan allows me to let loose on weekend, which permits fun and socializing to remain in my life. When we realize that our behaviors are not in line with our wants and expectations for ourselves it is our duty to take it upon ourselves to makes changes.

"If you don't like something change it; if you can't change it, change the way you think about it."
Take action to make change-

- Mary Engelbreit

In my case, I have the opportunity and ability to change some of the things in my life that I am not exceptionally fond of. I am choosing to change my decisions, follow through with these choices through my actions, and subsequently change and regain control over my life. However, at the same time the latter part of this quotes applies to my situation. I have been thinking about the way I have been living over the past week or so and I am unhappy about it. While these thoughts have had a positive impact on me, provoking my game change, they have also managed to effect me negatively- evoking negative feelings of sadness, anger, frustration, shame, and guilt. I cannot change my past actions and what has already transpired; but, I can change the way that I think about them. Instead of dwelling on the past and allowing it to fill me with negative emotions I can choose to reflect upon it, embracing the experiences, and be thankful that it has inspired me to take steps to regain control. We all have times in our lives when we seem to get off track. We lose focus on what matters to us and begin to neglect our priorities and values. Instead of mentally punishing ourselves for deviating from our planned path we should congratulate ourselves for realizing that we are not moving in the direction that we had hoped. We should offer ourselves additional complements when we choose to take steps to regain control and put ourselves back in the right direction. Finally, we owe ourselves some type of reward when we are not only able to make good decisions for ourselves but we are able to honor these decisions through our actions. 
Do your actions equate to your wants?
Take a moment to think about what is important to you in your life- work, family, boyfriend, health, school- and then take a look at your life. Do your actions accurately reflect your priorities and values? Do you feel as if you have control over your behaviors and the subsequent results? Are you happy with the way you are living? Are you proud of your life? If you can answer yes to all of these question than I am giving you a virtual pat on the back. 

"Are you proud of your life?"
If, like me, you are unable to answer affirmatively to these questions then I urge you to join me in making a game change. Assess what needs to be corrected or altered in order to get back on track; determine what you need to do so that you can regain control and move forward in the direction of your dreams and aspirations. Then make a plan that you can follow in order to change the elements that you recognized as bothersome or debilitating. If we can follow our personal plans then we will soon be able to answer all of the previous questions with a resounding yes! Yes, my actions correspond with my priorities and values. Yes, I feel as if I am in control. Yes, I am proud of the way I am and I am happy with my life! All of this is within our grasp once we recognize the we have ownership over our decisions, our actions, and our lives. If we are able to follow through with the decisions that we make then we have the ability to create and live lives that meet our expectations, values, and desires.

Mix it up and make a game change,

Regaining control and getting it together sometimes calls for a game change-

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Perfection Does Not Exist

We All Have Our Shit

Perception is Not Reality

Perfection is as real as unicorns-
From the outside my life seems ideal, nearly perfect. I was lucky enough to be born into a wealthy family that could provide me with any material possession I could possibly want. I am earning straight A's at an Ivy League University. I have a large pool of friends and a decent social life on campus. When I walk out my door I look put together; there is not a hair out of place metaphorically speaking. I live in my own cozy apartment that is decorated flawlessly, reflecting my style and personality. I have an adorable kitten who snuggles up with me. I have long brown hair. I am thin, enabling me to wear almost anything out there. I am for all intensive purposes attractive. It appears that I have it all together and that my movements are effortless. Everything seems to be perfect; but, in fact, nothing could be farther from the truth. 
Would you guess that I often feel this way?

I am chronically ill with anorexia nervosa. My mind is overwhelmed, attempting to balance school, eating disordered thoughts, depression, and my OCD/perfectionist tendencies. Everything I do- each accomplishment, completing assignments, eating, socializing, cleaning my apartment, waking up each day- requires a painful degree of mental and physical effort. It is nearly impossible for me to be present and have fun when my mind is always preoccupied. 
Bones as cold as ice-
Just walking across campus leaves me out of breath and exhausted. When it's cold, like today, my bones feel as if they are made of ice. I am constantly sick because my immune system is weak from malnutrition. My hair line is receding and my arms are covered with abnormally thick hair, called lanugo, that my body has created as a means of additional warmth. It is difficult to fulfill obligations while also maintaining my health and my sanity. I live my life on a prayer, hoping that I can stay well enough to graduate from college (finally) and begin to create a life for myself post graduation. But I am filled with doubt and uncertainty. I have been maintaining my minimally acceptable weight for quite awhile now, but I know that my situation is precarious. One bad week of symptom use and/or anxiety and I am screwed- below an acceptable weight, unable to function, back in treatment. What is my point in sharing all of this information with you? I am not looking for sympathy nor do I want applause; I'm hoping to help you recognize that perception is not reality and that perfection does not exist because we all have our shit lying beneath the face that we put on for the world. Growing up I remember seeing other girls and imagining how wonderful their lives must be; they seemed perfect and I would have done anything to be one of them.

"Stop trying to 'fix' yourself; you're not broken! You are perfectly imperfect and powerful beyond belief."

- Steve Maraboli

I probably would have benefited from hearing Maraboli's advice back in the day. (But knowing myself I probably wouldn't have believed him or I would have adamantly refuted his statement.) Wishing that I could be these other people was a waste of time and energy for two main reasons. The first comes directly from the above quote. I did not need to 'fix' or change myself in order to create a life and persona that pleased me. It sounds very cliche but instead of wishing I should have been accepting; accepting my flaws and figuring out how to build a life for myself despite my imperfections. The second reason is knowledge that I needed to gain on my own. With time and experience I began to realize that this supposed perfection was a falsified image that I had created based on limited information. These people that I emulated were not perfect. They had shit too; I just wasn't privy to it. Never in my wildest dreams did I think that one day I would be someone who was seemingly worth emulating. 
Is this worth envying?
I am flawed, my life is imperfect, my past and present are painful, my future is unknown. Who would ever want to be me or be like me? I was shocked to discover recently that others saw me in the same way that I saw those seemingly perfect girls during my youth. They looked at my accomplishments, my appearance, and my behaviors and came to an inaccurate deduction; they assumed that my life was more desirable than theirs. People envied and applauded my ability to be in school. They acclaimed me, saying that I was "bad ass." And people wished that they were as thin as I am. My reactions to these words were numerous and varying. At first I was angry; how could people not see how much pain I am in? How dare they disregard the degree of effort I have to put forth by assuming that my life is perfect or that I live with ease? After my anger and frustration came sadness and disappointment. I felt like a fraud or a fake. I go about my life at an anorexic weight and write this inspirational blog, earn good grades, go out with friends, and live a somewhat typical life. 
Stand up to the Pro-Ana movement 

I am concerned that I have been unintentionally sending the message that you can be anorexic and function, that anorexia can be a lifestyle choice. I feel like a fucking walking, breathing, living pro-ana campaign and it makes me sick to my stomach. The pro-ana movement counters my values, morals, and beliefs. I would never wish this disease upon anyone, so it is appauling to me that there are people out there who wish it upon themselves and/or help others attain it. How can I feel good about myself when I am unintentionally promoting and supporting a movement that defies everything I stand for? How can I be proud and satisfied with myself when  I am leading people to believe that you can live a fulfilling, productive, and happy life while also holding onto your eating disorder? The truth is that you can't. 
"I would never wish this disease upon anyone..."
I may appear to have it all- confidence, fulfillment, functionality, success, happiness, my anorexia- but in reality I am living a half life. Other's perception of me and my life is not reality. It may look as if I have everything figured out, that I am put together, and that my life is whole; but, in reality my anorexia is robbing me of my health and happiness every single day. You may not see this from the outside but I can feel it on the inside. I still have my shit and so do you; we all do. It may not be obvious to others. It may not materialize physically- weight loss, self-harm, obesity, extreme plastic surgery- but it is still there. Just because your problems aren't visibly apparent does not make them any less real or significant than those that can be seen by the naked eye. Ultimately we all struggle because perfection does not exist. 

"Perfect? How can you define a word without concrete meaning?"

- Ellen Hopkins

Perhaps we say that perfection does not exist because there is always room for improvement, always the possibility of doing something better. Or maybe it is nonexistent because we all have different ideas of what perfect means.
What is perfection?
As Hopkins explains, one is unable to define a word that lacks concrete meaning. There is not unanimous agreement regarding the definition of perfect and its meaning changes depending on the situation. If you describe someone as your perfect mate you are asserting that the individual fulfills your wants, meets your expectations, and makes you feel complete. It doesn't mean they are flawless; it simply means that they are compatible with you. However, if you are referring to a perfect score on an exam the meaning changes. In this case perfect refers to an absence of errors. We can't claim that an individual has a perfect life when we can't agree what perfect means. What I deem perfect may be completely different then what you consider to be perfect. Perfection does not exist simply because its meaning is constantly changing depending on the person, timing, context, and situation. How can we aim to achieve something that lacks a definitive meaning? It seems to me that it is more logical to work toward improvement rather than striving for perfection.
I always need to add a bit of humor !

"Don't worry about getting perfect, just keep getting better."

- Frank Peretti

Yes, there is always room for improvement; but, can we do as Peretti suggests and work toward getting better without having perfection as our ultimate goal? What's the point of practicing and working if we will never achieve perfection? It comes down to realizing that there are other reasons behind wanting to improve yourself, your abilities, and your life. You may never be perfect, but you can always work toward being kinder, more committed, less argumentative, happier, etc. You might not perfect a specific task but you can continue to work toward improving your skills and abilities. I will never be perfectly fluent in French but that doesn't stop me from studying everyday and absorbing as much of the language as I possibly can. 
I know my life will never be perfect or fit my version perfect. (As I said before we all ascribe different meanings to the word "perfection.") But am I supposed to give up on bettering my situation and life simply because it will never be perfect? Since I can't achieve perfection should I resign myself to live in squalor? Absolutely not. My life may not be perfect but that is no excuse to simply give up. I can put forth my best efforts to make my life as fabulous as it can possibly be. I will continue to do things that bring me comfort- cuddling with Milly, journaling, snuggling in my bed. I will always strive to succeed and commit myself to do my absolute best in everything that I do- school, job, relationships, apartment upkeep. I am going to actively engage in fun- going out with friends, baking, shopping, travelling. And, I will continue to pursue happiness with fervent effort.

"I will continue to pursue happiness with fervent effort."
My life will never be perfect; but, that fact is not going to stop me from working to create a life worth living. We have only one chance to experience life and I plan on taking full advantage of this opportunity, filling my life with friends, family, success, peace, laughter, pleasure, and joy! It is time that we start accepting the fact that problems exist and the we all have our shit. We need to stop walking around, looking at other people, and envying the lives that they seem to have; our perception of them and their life is not reality. At the end of the day their lives probably aren't worth envying because no one lives a problem free life. Instead we should recognize that we have issues to deal with and be active in working toward resolving them. Dwelling on our problems, feeling sorry for ourselves, and wishing that they would miraculously disappear is a waste of valuable time and mental faculties. Life is made up of a multitude of elements- good and bad- including the existence of problems. We can't pick and choose what aspects of life we want and which ones we don't. We either engage in all of it or have none of it.
We All Have Our Shit

"The problem is not that there are problems. The problem is expecting otherwise and thinking that having problems is a problem."

- Theodore Rubin

When we see people from afar and do not have access to inside information regarding their lives it is easy to imagine that everything about them and their life is perfect; we fail to comprehend that perception is not reality and we dream up the fact that some lives aren't burdened by problems. In doing so we set ourselves up to be disappointed with ourselves and our own lives. As Rubin says, the trouble is that we believe that life is possible sans problems; this false notion results in us thinking that having problems is an issue. Having shit feels wrong or as if it taints us in some way and consequently we judge ourselves because we are not perfect. 
It's time to realize that perception is not reality-
We compare ourselves to those who appear flawless, which results in further disappointment and self-loathing. All of this needs to stop right now. We can't afford to continue thinking that perfection exists. We are endangering our emotional and mental well-being by comparing ourselves to an impossible ideal. If we can understand that perception is not reality and believe that we all have our shit than we can finally put an end to the assumptions, comparisons, and judgments that bring us down. Once we recognize that perfection does not exist we can begin to make realistic expectations for ourselves and our lives. We can create fulfilling lives  by working toward and meeting these personal expectations. No, I am not perfect. My life is not perfect but I don't expect it to be because no one's life is. We will never achieve perfection but that does not mean we are unable to achieve happiness.

Appreciate every moment of your imperfect life,

Learn more about anorexia nervosa- symptoms, warning signs, and risks- and help me and millions of others by spreading awareness about this life threatening illness. Thank you for reading my blog. You and your responses are constant sources of support and happiness for me.

Lets live life FUN !

Monday, January 21, 2013

Technology Overload

Old Soul in the New World

Navigating the "iWorld" and Beyond

Technology Overload
These past few days have been technologically eventful for this old soul. After writing a detailed and in depth post about gratitude, appreciating our abilities, and recognizing our own personal "zest," I was heart broken to discover that it did not save. If it had, my blog would have been updated two days ago. Clearly me and my old soul are not properly equipped to conquer this new world and its accompanying technology. Today proved to be just as stressful as I went through a technological overhaul and subsequently a technology overload. My father treated this old soul to a new iPhone and iPad. As I tried to sync both devices to my computer as well as each other I found myself becoming overwhelmed and stressed. These technological innovations are supposed to make our lives easier and more convenient. Yet, I seem to be incompatible with these new technogolical devices and I am concerned that I'll never be able to navigate the "iWorld" and beyond. Perhaps I am bound to be dedicated to my written day planner and personal cards.

Maybe I'll never be the most tech savvy person. But, it would be nice to be able to utilize the newest technology and navigate the "iWorld" without experiencing a panic attack. It would be reassuring to know that I could write a blog post without fearing that I may lose it to the intangible internet. It makes me wonder if I am truly an old soul or if I better fit in the category of "keep it simple stupid." Am I choosing to be unique by standing my ground and refusing to accept the "iWorld" and beyond? Or am I simply afraid of change and newness because I fail to understand or trust it? I am not sure. I am trying to thrust myself into the throws of this new world. But, doing so is causing me an uncalled for amount of stress; it is a stress that I am deeming technology overload. 

However, I am doing my best to become accustomed to all these technological opportunities while holding on to some of my old school rituals that I am comfortable with. I will continue to rely on my trusty day planner. I will opt to send hand written cards instead of impersonal e-mails. I will continue to religiously journal and read from hard copy books. 
But, I am choosing to delve into the "iWorld" out of practicality. The iPhone is just the most convenient device for me considering I am able to access both my e-mail as well as the internet from it. I am willing to try out the iPad seeing as it is significantly lighter than my laptop; I am certain it will help in reducing the mass amount of knots that I currently have in my back. I am trying to live as an old soul in this new (and ever changing) world; but, I am beginning to question whether or not this is feasible.

"But, I am choosing to delve into the 'iWorld' out of practicality."
I guess ultimately it comes down to two main questions. Firstly, how can we integrate change into our lives yet manage to avoid an overload, such as I experienced? And secondly, how can we make these shifts while staying true to our beliefs and ourselves? These questions expand beyond the realm of technology and innovation. How can we remain calm when experiencing life changes- going off to college, become an empty nester, getting married, becoming a parent or grandparent? And how can we hold on to our sense of selves while undergoing these life changes- small and major? I am going to offer us two quotes; the first quote is about change and the second is about self-acceptance. I am hoping that we can take a piece from each, integrating elements from both into our daily lives, and figure out how to maintain our personal qualities while simultaneously embracing change and newness.

"You must welcome change as the rule but not as your ruler."

- Denis Waitley

I liked this quote from Waitley because I felt as if it was on a similar track as my own notions regarding change. We know it is coming; we can't stop it. But, at the same time, we can't allow it dictate our behaviors, what we believe, or who we are. We must be willing to accept change and even test new waters at times; however, we need not allow change to completely alter our sense of being. I am willing to dabble in the "iWorld" but I refuse to let it completely change the way I live my life. You will not see me slyly sending emails underneath the dinner table. You will certainly never find me on Twitter or Instagram (no matter how many times my brother attempts to set both up for me.) And I refuse to give up on some of my forms of communication that are now deemed old-fashioned or out of date. This old soul is welcoming the changes that come with this new world; but, I am not letting go of actions and beliefs that are atypical, differentiating me in this age of insane technological advancement. This sentiment leads me into my next quote about self-acceptance & appreciation.

"...first rate version of yourself..."

"Always be a first rate version of yourself, intead of a second-rate version of someone else."

- Judy Garland

It is easy to lose a sense of who we are at our core in this ever changing world that promotes reinvention and self-improvement. The number of weight loss adds on television is alarming. To me they are saying that you are not ok just the way you are; you need to lose and change because somehow your outer appearance reflects who you are on the inside. The push to change from hard copies and hand written texts to technology is telling us that the old ways are no longer relevent or useless. Reality television shows that display obscene amounts of wealth and pure over indulgence promote a global shift. It is a shift that reflects a change in international values and changes that put greater significance on materialism and money. These three examples are just some from a host of changes taking place in our new world. We have a few options when looking at the "iWorld" and beyond. We can choose to completely ignore it; but in doing so we do a disservice to ourselves. We can't completely neglect the fact that our world is changing; but, if we make this choice we are sure to be disappointed because some day we will look around us and feel like foreigners in our own world and lives. We can opt to fully embrace everything that this new world has to offer and change ourselves in complete correspondence with the shifts going on in the world.
But, again, I need to give warning in taking this route. There is a part of us that is innate and completely unique to who we are. By allowing change to dictate our core values and beliefs, natural behaviors, and identity we are at risk of becoming "second-rate version[s] of someone else," rather than "first rate version[s] of [ourselves]." Instead I am proposing a third option. Let us accept change and innovation; let us find a way to integrate both into our already existing selves and lives. We can navigate the "iWorld" and beyond. We can appreciate change and choose to incorporate newness that seems practical and beneficial to our lives. But, we can simultaneously maintain our inborn value system and continue practices that are distinct to us. I can proudly say that I am an old soul in a new world. I will never be the most technologically savvy individual out there. (There really is no point in me even trying; it's not going to happen!) I believe that friends and family are more important than money and opulence. (Although I do appreciate a pair of designer shoes every once in awhile..haha.) 
Greeting cards- my guilty pleasure !
I won't succumb to social pressure that suggests that I throw my day planner out the window (G-d forbid) and give up on personal cards because email is "so much more convenient." I am willing to recognize and accept that changes are taking place around me and I am even up for taking part in these changes when they seem practical or it is absolutely necessary. But, I refuse to change who I am to the point where I no longer recognize myself. I am willing to settle on being a "first rate version" of my seemingly outdated self because in my eyes I am not really settling. To settle would be to embody all the shifts taking place around me; in doing so I would be sure to experience more overloads and certainly end up becoming a "second rate version of someone else." Changes- moving, graduating college, technological innovations, divorce, starting a family, political shifts, alterations in national values- happen and there is usually nothing we can do to stop them; it is out of our control. But, what we do have control over is how we opt to respond to these changes. Our responses can be separated into three schools: denial, embodiment, and integration. In this case I have to push for integration- recognize the new shifts taking place around you and make use of those that fit with your values and lifestyle. Allow change to help you in becoming a stronger, more productive, and better version of who you are already. Utilize innovation to become a "first rate version of yourself" because there is truly no one else out there like you.

Change is good when used accordingly,

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Sick as a Dog

Starting Second Semester

Playing Catch Up Already

Sick as a Dog
I apologize for my lack of posting recently. As I found myself starting second semester I discovered the unfortunate fact that I was sick as a dog. A trip to student health verified my suspicion that I had a double ear infection. I couldn't think of a less convenient time to be overcome by illness. It is the beginning of a new semester- new classes, new teachers, new start- and have been unable to attend a number of classes. My French course is already in full gear. There is one class I have yet to go to at all. And I am already overwhelmed and stressed because I am playing catch up so early into the new term. I am behind on readings in all my classes. I haven't completed a number of assignments already due in my French course and I have a quiz tomorrow that covers material I haven't even glanced at yet. I am frustrated and anxious. We aren't even two weeks into the is it possible that I feel so behind already? The next few days and the upcoming weekend will certainly be dedicated to catching up in all my classes. It is so important that I begin the semester strongly because it will set the tone for the remainder of the semester. Missing classes and fall behind on assignments is not ideal way to kick off second semester. I suppose I need to be fair to myself. It is not my fault that I became sick as a dog. My inability to attend classes and finish assignments is not reflective of my aptitude and dedication as a student. I know that once I am back to my regular, healthy self that I will be able to focus on my classes and my work in the manner that I have become accustomed to. But there is a great deal lying between me and my regular and healthy self. First and foremost I need to get well. Once I am feeling better I can concentrate on catching up and then move forward with the semester. I can't focus on new material being presented until I have caught up on what I have missed. 
Playing Catch Up Already
I am trying to remain calm in the midst of this catch up game that I find myself in; becoming overly stressed will on interfere with my ability to make up the work that lies in front of me. I am attempting to look forward rather than backward. I cannot help the fact that I became so sick so quickly. I can't rewind the past few days and undo the choices I have made. I decided to stay in bed and rest instead of pushing myself to go to classes. (I am conveniently forgetting the fact that I found myself unable to move let alone attend a class.) I went to bed early and slept late; consequently I did not have the time to pay attention to my workload that was quickly mounting as I lay sick in bed. However, my choices, to tend to my health needs, allowed me to get up today and make my way to my two classes. Yes, I am behind but I can't let this stop me from continuing onward. Now that I am feeling better it is up to me to concentrate on the tasks at hand, get up to speed in all my classes, and move forward. How am I going to help myself while attempting to do these three things- concentrate, catch up, and continue forward? I am going to focus on a calming affirmation that will enable me to stay relaxed as I strive to fulfill these three goals.

I am calm, relaxed, and in control.

It is key that I embody this affirmation in order to confidently move forward. Being calm and relaxed will allow me to see things clearly. The haze of stress interferes with our abilities to clearly recognize what needs to be done and prioritize tasks accordingly. 
Breathe in calm, breathe out stress-
If we can remain calm and relaxed in the midst of stressful situations then we have already one half the battle. A calm mind correlates to a clear mind; a mind that can organize unfinished tasks and complete them with focus and accuracy. Control is another crucial element when confronted with an anxiety provoking situation. When everything seems to be flying around chaotically, when life seems to be moving at an unbelievable speed, when work bombards us with unrelenting force, we need to compose ourselves and regain a degree of control. How do we obtain this control when everything seems chaotic and unmanageable? Well, honestly, it's difficult to say. The first thing to do is sit down, stop moving, and breathe. Let calmness wash over you and clear your mind. Then, with this new found clarity, look at the work and tasks that you need to complete. Once you know what you need to do then look at the amount of time you have to complete said tasks. Organize your work in conjunction with your available time. Plot out a plan or a schedule. Look at your plan and recognize that you can do this. You have the time to complete the work that needs to be done. You have control over this stressful situation; you can remedy the problem. It is easier to believe that you are in control and have the power to fix the issue (in my case catch up) when you can look at the dilemma clearly and concisely.
"[I] can remedy the problem."
As I am writing this I am breathing and letting go any stressful energy that I may have been holding onto. I am allowing myself to feel calm and relaxed. I am clearing my mind. I am preparing myself to face the mountain of work that accumulated while I was sick. I will begin to list my assignments and tasks with a calm and clear mind. I will tackle them with an air of relaxation and confidence. I will prioritize my work and schedule all assignments and tasks accordingly. As I begin to construct a plan I will feel more in control of the situation the I find myself in. I may be playing catch up already but that does not mean that I will be feeling behind and overwhelmed for the remainder of the semester. No, this has not been the best start to this semester; however, I have the ability to collect myself and move forward strongly. As I begin to make progress with my work I will be able to see that maybe I am not as far behind as I thought. I will chip away at my mountain of work; in time I will be back on course. I will move forward with the semester and in hindsight this period will appear as a blip on my radar. I need to put this situation into perspective rather than blow it out of proportion. I am only one week into a semester that spans 3 months. I guess I have to ask myself, how far behind could I actually be? The answer is obvious- probably not that much. If I approach this situation calmly and confidently then I am sure I will find that this issue is easily remedied with a few days of dedication, diligence, and focus.

Time for me to run and start catching up,

Saturday, January 12, 2013

The End is Near

Recognizing How Far You've Come

Dreams are Attainable

The End is Near
I have been struggling a lot recently with the fact that I am still an undergraduate and am uncertain as to exactly when I will finally be graduating. I worked on transferring credits over break and the process is slow and frustrating; only 3 courses have been accepted by Penn so far. However, the fact that I have submitted the majority of my credits is a relief. My part is done; now it is just up to Penn to evaluate my previous courses and give credit where credit is due. Although only 3 credits have been accepted and processed so far I am hopeful. I believe that the majority of my course from George Washington University will be approved. I met with my advisor and realized that I am much farther along than I initially thought. I probably only have about 6 more courses to take after this semester in order to complete my degree. I mapped everything out and I have finding that the end is near and I am starting to believe that dreams are attainable. 
"...long and atypical path."
It has been a long and atypical path but I will be able to finish my degree. I could potentially graduate next Fall if I take heavy course loads over the summer and in the next Fall semester. However, I could take it easy and relax a bit by taking lighter loads and in that case I would graduate in the Spring. Either way I am confident that I will be graduating sometime next school year and I am relieved. This process has felt endless and I feared that I would never actually graduate. I was failing to see how much I have actually accomplished; I neglected to recognize how far I have come. I will not graduate college until I am 24 but I am starting to come to terms with that; it's ok. I have struggled and fought. I have taken an abnormal route. I have lost time to illness, treatment, and medical leaves. 
Dreams are Attainable
But, my dream is still attainable. It may not have come about in the fashion or timing that I anticipated but it does not mean that it is lost. Life throws us curve balls. We stray from the course. We find ourselves in situations that we never could have imagined. These irregularities distract us from recognizing how far we've come. They can make us feel as if are goals are impossible to achieve. Meeting with my advisor proved to me that despite my issues and digressions my dream is attainable and although the end is not here, it is near. I can see the light at the end of this dark and twisting tunnel. I am almost there and I could not be happier or more relieved. I finally feel like I am being rewarded for all of my hard work. My experiences and dedication has not been for naught. I will graduate and be able to move forward with my life.

"If you don't know where you are going you will probably end up somewhere else."

- Lawrence J. Peter

"I was wandering aimlessly..."
Until yesterday I was doing just as Peter warns us against. I was wandering aimlessly without knowing exactly what I needed to do in order to achieve my goal. I hadn't taken a good look at my previous course work. I hadn't met with my advisor in order to determine where those courses would fit in or apply to my major requirements. I knew I wanted to graduate but I was not being proactive in achieving this goal. I was signing up for courses that I thought might apply to my degree but I wasn't considering them in conjunction with my previous credits that needed to be transferred. I had no idea what I was doing comparable to not "know[ing] where [I] [was] going." By blindly pursuing my goal I was bound to end up wasting time, taking unnecessary courses, and consequently "end[ing] up somewhere else." I was taking the longer, scenic route unintentionally and without want to do so.
"...taking the longer, scenic route..."
I am not sure why I kept putting off transferring my credits or taking a hard look at what I had left in order to complete my degree. Perhaps I was afraid of what I may find out- discovering that I had years of work ahead of me before I was able to graduate. Maybe I was just being lazy but I kind of doubt that; I am not a lazy person. I think that the most likely explanation was fear. I was afraid that all my previous courses would not apply to anything here at Penn. I was concerned that I would the end was far off. I feared that it would take years and a large numbers of additional credits in order to graduate. I felt that if this were the case it would be impossible for me to stay healthy long enough for me to finish me degree. I am so happy that I finally sucked it up- really looking at my previous course work and meeting with my advisor. I found out that I had no reason to be afraid. I can graduate within a year. I can manage to stay healthy for a year. I can remain dedicated to my school work for one year more. I can do this. The end is near and my ultimate goal is in sight; my dream is attainable.

"The important thing is to strive towards a goal, which is not immediately visible. That goal is not the concern of the mind, but of the spirit."

- Antoine de Saint-Exupery, translated from French by Lewis Galantiere

When I first began my journey at Penn my goal was very far off. I knew I had at least two years of work ahead of me and it seemed as if all the time I had put in at GW was a waste. How would my business courses apply to a Communications major? It just didn't seem possible. I felt as if I would be spending the majority of my twenties in college. I was concerned that I would never be able to enter the "real world" and have a "real," adult life. My goal was "not immediately visible"; it was far off in the distance. But, despite feeling as if it were nearly unattainable, it remained in the forefront of my mind. I continued to pursue it and fight any obstacles that hindered me from achieving it. 
This goal, as Saint-Exupery, says was not one of the mind, "but of the spirit." My soul knew that I owed it to myself to earn my college degree. My spirit kept pushing me forward because my intellect and mind deserved a college experience. I deserved to have my intelligence validated by receiving a college diploma. Not only did I feel as if I deserved to graduate, I wanted to graduate. I wanted to be fed knowledge. I wanted to be surrounded my smart individuals who had similar aspirations as me. I wanted to take full advantage of being a college student- absorbing new information, discovering different interests, engaging in intellectual conversations with teachers and peers, using my brain, proving my abilities by achieving high marks in my classes. My spirit spoke out via my goal; it said that I deserved and wanted to graduate from the University of Pennsylvania. A lot has changed since I first embarked upon this academic journey at Penn. My goal is finally immediately visible. I can see that the end is near and my dream is attainable. But, I never would have gotten here if I had given up when things got difficult. I wouldn't be able to sit here telling you that I will be graduating soon if I allowed my fears to control my actions. If I let the distance of dream dissuade me earlier on than it wouldn't be attainable now. There were so many moments- when I left GW mid-semester, when I transferred schools and had to start from scratch, when I took medical leave last Fall, the times my doctors told me I was going to die, when I experienced lapses, the numerous occasions when I learned of a friend's death- when it would have felt easier to just give up and settle. But almost in spite of these challenges and upheavals, I persevered. Just because your dream is far off does not mean that is not attainable. In time you will come ever closer to reaching it and before you know you will find that the end is near. While my dream of completing college is in sight, I still have a number of aspirations that are far in the distance.
There's no such thing as "too many dreams-"
I want to move to New York City. I want to get married and have a family. I want to be an advocate for eating disorder awareness; I want to be able to help girls and women who struggle like I do. All of these dreams are "not immediately visible." There is still a great deal I need to do before any of them can become a reality. But I am able to believe that I will get there some day because of where I am today. I have recognized how far I have come and realize that this dream, graduating college, is attainable. If I can accomplish one of my dreams than I am capable of fulfilling an infinite number of dreams and goals in the future. When you find yourself doubting yourself think of dreams that you have already achieved. Look at what you have already been able to do and recognize how far you have come. Your dream may seem distant but so were many others once upon a time. If you are capable of working and fulfilling one goal then nothing is stopping you from achieving more in the years to come. Don't allow yourself to get dissuaded by anything- hardships, obstacles, letdowns, tragedy, illness, doubt, fear. 
Use the phrase, "dreams are attainable," like a mantra. Repeat it to yourself when you find yourself struggle. Repeat it when you start to doubt yourself. Say it over and over again when you start to think negatively, when you start to feel that your dream is impossible. I am hear to tell you that it is not impossible; I am living proof that dreams are attainable.
I think if you take a look back on your life you will find that you too are proof that goals can be achieved and dreams can be attained. When we finally accomplish something, or come close to reaching it, we tend to forget that at one point in time it was merely a distant dream. Most dreams start off far in the distance. It takes time, work, and dedication to get close to achieving them; you have to fight for the right to scream from the rooftops that "the end is near!" Maybe, like me, your dream is right around the corner. Or, perhaps, like my dream to be a mother, your dream is far off in the distance. Either way don't every forget that dreams are attainable as long as you continue to work toward them. Some day you will be able to look back and recognize how far you've come; you too will be able to announce that the end is near.

Never give up when pursuing your dreams,