Traveling Alone As A Woman

Last semester, one of my professors posed an interesting question that still sticks with me now. She asked us to write what we could do if we were the opposite gender that we couldn’t do as our own gender. The answers ranged from funny to profound. But one answer stands out to me since I uprooted my life back home and moved to Dublin for an internship. A female student in the class said if she were a guy she could travel alone without feeling unsafe.

While any solo traveler should be aware of his or her surroundings regardless of gender, it unfortunately seems traveling alone is more dangerous for females. I suppose I can see where my dad is coming from when he worries about me booking trips to various countries alone. I’ve chosen relatively safe destinations yet I still can’t help but feel a little nervous each time I get on a plane alone.

I would love to see the day where all women can travel alone without feeling scared. However, that day seems pretty far in the future, and we still live in a world where women are often not treated like human beings. It’s going to take a big societal change to make traveling solo completely safe for women. So, until then I think it’s important to equip women with the proper tools to avoid danger as much as possible. Sure it might be a measly Band-Aid on a large wound but at least it’s helpful for the time being.see the world

Stick To Populated Areas

I’ll admit I’m not always thrilled about this guideline that I set out for myself but I still think it’s extremely important. While it’s really fun to happen across a restaurant or bar that’s off the beaten track, it also means you’re venturing into less populated areas. Unless you know the city you’re visiting extremely well, it’s very easy to wander into an unsafe neighborhood. Sure, the busy areas might be obnoxious tourist traps some of the time, but most of those sights are so heavily visited for good reasons! If you can’t resist and have to find your charming hidden spot make sure to do your research ahead of time. Ask the front desk at your hostel the safest way to get to your destination.

Have A Phone With You

Usually, it’s pretty easy to pick up a cheap phone and purchase a bundle of text messages and minutes. Make sure to ask at the store what the country’s emergency number is and add it to your contacts. Hopefully you won’t have to use it but it’s always better to have it in case something happens. The last thing you want is to be in a tough situation with no means to get help. It’s one of the easiest rules to forget about but probably one of the most important to remember.

Skip The Heavy Drinking_MG_1278

I know, I know. Now I’m just raining on everyone’s parade. Even with the rule you can definitely go out and have a good time. Try going out for one pint at the local pub earlier in the evening so you don’t have to worry about heading home alone in the dark. If you can’t fight the allure of the nightlife try to make friends with some of your hostel roommates. Then you can all head out for a drink together and walk back to the hostel as a group.

Get A Cross-Body Purse

Most of the cities you’ll travel to will be pretty safe with the biggest problem being pick pocketing. It’s usually obvious which people are tourists. After all, you are often holding a map or at least looking a bit out of place. Unfortunately, you’re the easiest target. The best thing you can do is carry a purse that crosses you body plus has a zipper. Bonus points if it has a flap that buttons over the zipper! This makes it much more difficult for a person to get your possessions. Nobody wants to have their vacation ruined by missing credit cards. Believe me. I’ve had the experience, and it’s nothing short of a nightmare.

More Tips

This is by no means a comprehensive list, and it’s always a good idea to research your destination before you leave. Safe and fun travels!!

A Quarter Life Crisis

Lindsey,

Hey, hey, hey!

So, I am writing this letter, because we are writing letters now… (yes I read your last post)

Now, what to actually write about ;)

My birthday is in a little less than one week from today. Can you believe it? 24 years old and I have to tell you for a while I was feeling a petite quarter life crises coming on. With the annual review of my life and reflection of where I am at I was slowly starting to get that deer in headlights feeling. You know the one where you are like “Oh, shit! What am I even doing and where the heck am I going? Is that the white light straight ahead?”.

The thing is this feeling is really not new. Every year before my birthday I have this same moment of panic which has me starting to believe I now know how Julius Caesar must have felt when he came across the statue of Alexander the Great when he was only a junior governor.

You don’t know the story?

Well, there are two versions of the story. In one it is said that Caesar was gazing up at the statue of Alexander the Great when a fellow companion remarked how interesting it was that Julius was at that time and place the exact same age that Alexander was when he died, 32. In the other version Caesar had been reading about Alexander’s life, but in both stories Caesar is said to have wept, because at 32 Alexander the Great had already conquered everything from the Adriatic Sea to the Indus River, and Caesar at the same age was just barley toe deep in his political career.Caesar-Crying-Before-Alexander-Statue

The truth is more often than not I feel like Caesar; constantly comparing myself to peers who are doing great things and feeling like I am falling behind in my own life ambitions.

But…  here is the thing. Caesar didn’t become consul (aka head honcho)  until he was about 43 and dictator some years later. That means he didn’t even start achieving his life goals until ten years after Alexander’s age of death! Yet, would anyone ever say the Caesar was less accomplished in his life than Alexander?

Leanda-Cave_photo-by-Larry-Rosa-EnduraPix.com_-e1351267596302My other spot of enlightenment came this past weekend after watching the Madison Ironman Triathlon. I had that Caesar moment watching the athletes and feeling so very unaccomplished compared to those men and women seemingly made of “tougher stuff”. I watched the race all afternoon, marveling at their strength, endurance, and perseverance before heading to the finish like to catch the winners.

The first man crossed over, the second, the third, fourth, fifth, and I realized there was a pattern.

The top finishers were almost all over 30! It blew my mind!

Then the lead woman came in, age 36… do you get where I am heading?

Perhaps not… I tend to ramble.

My thought is this, Lindsey. Perhaps I should not be concentrating on what I have not achieved yet in my 24 years of life; perhaps instead I should be focused on both what I have been able to learn and accomplish while also looking forward to all the amazing things that I will someday be accomplishing in the years to come! I may be 24 years old, but I am also 24 years young and there is so much more ahead!

For some reason knowing this has helped me to begin to recognize, and feel proud about the great things I have done thus far in my life and has stripped away some of the fear I had of believing that I had not having done enough by 24. (I do know that this is going to continue to be something I will have to work on).

PicMonkey Collage

What I would tell my 18 year old self now that I am 24:

  1. 33a42e45d08ed7edafe80966f955a53fBe good to your family they are the one thing that really doesn’t change. As time goes by and friends leave, you realize just how important these people really are. (Also… your parents are people too so cut them a little bit of slack now and then).
  2. The same goes for those few “real” friends who are basically family too! Know them, love them, and be a great friend to them in return.
  3. Don’t be so hard on your body. Relax! Don’t worry so much about how you look. Your body is beautiful because of all the things it is able to do! Think about it for a minute… your body is fricken amazing!
  4. 3dde2fc158762e73fae04000f435ae85Don’t worry so much about what people think… I mean does their opinion really matter? See 1 and 2 for insight on whose opinion should matter.
  5. Embrace your quirks and never ever hide them away under a false you. Being normal is boring! All my favorite people are a bit weird, so go ahead and be as ridiculous as you want! Wear patterns on patterns on patterns and sing Rise Against in the work bathroom… that’s who you are.
  6. Be the first to make the effort to say hi, smile, or just be nice to people. This is huge and hard to explain, but if you think about all the people who are lonely, or feel unacknowledged then couple that with all the people who can be complete assholes for no reason you can imagine why your little act of kindness can be a big deal.
  7. Be patient. Success is often not accomplished overnight, but if you do your best and keep moving forward you really can achieve what you set out to do.
  8. 84af70d44ca6fea7d8fc8e05f3224ea6Never stop trying new things. Just because you are getting older doesn’t mean you have to stop expanding your horizons. Never ever stop!
  9. It is ok to let people in, to love them, and let them love you. Moulin Rouge said it to me when I was young, but loving and even more so, accepting love is terribly difficult. This goes for all types of love; but I dare you to try. Open up and let go; it might be worth it.
  10. Go out and see and do new things! Don’t let silly things like money hold you back ;)

Sorry this letter turned in to a blog post… I will do better and write you a real letter this weekend ;)

Always,

Samantha Courtney.

The Other Side of a Breakup

f4e8d470098ed95900d354f9ef51f340Most say that breakups are one sided. Those people are clearly uneducated and/or never experienced a long winded relationship. The small ones that aren’t lengthy and have lasted only a few weeks to a few months are the easy kind that aren’t as difficult to overcome – so that is understandable in some cases. But, the ones that have been quite some time, the ones where you can list memory after memory – always seemingly picturing them in black in white or sepia because you can’t help but feel the nostalgia and sentimentality – those ones, those ones are precious. The ones that leave an imprint on your heart, mind and soul are the kind of break ups that are a completely unfamiliar story. Ugly or beautiful, special or not and whether they were full of hideous fights that lasted until 2 in the morning or full of love notes and thoughts of a possible marriage, there was still something there. Whatever that might be, only they will know.

What is the point that I am trying to make here? “He got hurt. She smashed his heart. After everything that he did for her. She didn’t have to go through anything. That evil fire breathing, spawn of satan, soulless bitch.”

It’s obvious. The girl broke up with the guy, and of course, after being in a relationship for, let’s say, two years, he is crushed. Why wouldn’t he be? I’ve had my heart broken multiple times and I can safely say that it feels way worse than how people actually describe it. It’s like taking an actual chainsaw and slicing it through your beating, bleeding heart. Once you experience it for yourself, it’s a completely different story. I’m not going to get into all of the gory details. (Like I haven’t already, right?) Either you know what I am talking about, and if not, well – you’ll find out someday and you can relate. But that’s not the point that I am trying to make.

What I want this to lead up to is to erase the assumption that only the “dumpee” gets their heart obliterated, because that is definitely not the case. I recently broke up with my ex boyfriend not too long ago because we were simply going down two different paths.

04-couple-with-distance-between-them-w724Sounds simple, huh?

No, it wasn’t. We weren’t connecting, or seeing eye to eye. We fought constantly and everything he did irritated me. I was beginning to realize that I didn’t get excited when I went to visit him. When he saw me away at college, we spent the day together and all I wanted was for him to leave.

Now that sounds pretty harsh, doesn’t it? But it was so true. He wasn’t growing up – and, I’m no saint either in the growing up department, but at least I was making attempts. It was as though he only cared about his band and said that band practice was him “going to work.” He was infuriating and pretty soon when he realized I was pushing away, he clutched tighter and that’s when I felt suffocated. It needed to end.

“Sounds pretty simple for you. Piece of cake, break up and move on. You got what you wanted, right? You malevolent, cruel and vicious woman, you”, is maybe something some of you readers are thinking. No, no. It’s okay, I understand. You would assume that it was a walk in the park for me, because from description above, he was someone I began to not stand and wanted to get away from. So, ending it all would solve everything and I could move on as if nothing happened, right? Well, you are wrong on that one if you think such. We had problems in the end, and it gave me clearity that our relationship was not meant to be, however, that didn’t mean that we didn’t have good times. I mean, that is why I took interest in him in the first place. Those were the euphoric days, the honey moon stage as some call it . . . the golden era. It was quite nice.

10bf872aed5f65b08ed2c157ad78f751He was my best friend, I mean that is how it started out. We hung out all the time, watched movies together, talked about music we were both passionate about, ate food together, made out, dressed up and went out to dinner, wandered to nowhere, talked about our future. He was – what I thought at the time – the best boyfriend I had ever had. Then things got serious. Things got rough. I broke up with him, and it was not, I repeat . . . was not easy. At all. I had felt so trapped and in deep for a month but I kept going on in the relationship in hopes that it would get better, and even when I knew it would, I kept it up. I didn’t want to hurt him or lose what we had. I didn’t want to lose my best friend and I was walking on eggshells everyday. Then I did it. It hurt like hell.

The dumpers – sounds so lovely, doesn’t? – can experience the same amount of pain. If not, more. Breaking up is not something we want to do, but know in our mind and gut that we have to do. It’s one of those mind over heart type of situations and yes, they suck. I certainly did not want to break up with my boyfriend at the time. I wanted to be in love with him and everytime I thought of us cuddling in his bed together, or jamming out to a song in his car, I cringed. It made the thought of breaking up with him harder, mainly because I was focusing in on the good times. I weighed the pros and cons and came to the conclusion that I was not in love with him anymore and that the relationship had deteriorated into something toxic and unhealthy. So of course, why would I want to stay in something like that? Of course it hurt me too. People assume that us dumpers call it off, go home, party, live it up – with the neon lights and smoke and all those lively effects symbolizing a “better life” – not even worrying about anything, as if we have a “feelings switch” implanted into our heads. Nope. When I broke up with my then-boyfriend, I walked in the house feeling as if there was a brick weighing on my heart along with the rest of the world. I had ended it; lost my best friend. In my heart I knew I had done the right thing, but it was still hard. My mom asked me how I was and in a strong response I said “I’m fine.” Two minutes later, I found myself weeping on my couch in the living room, curled up in a ball. 45af8a59c15fddb423e00618e4b768b3

The love is always there, but not in the same way. It dwindles and morphs into something else that makes us feel warm and sometimes humble inside. We can look back at the memories and reminisce.

What I’m trying to say is that . . . those songs dedicated to the people who got dumped, is also for the dumpees. Hey, I started singing along to sappy break up songs after I initiated the break up – no guilt. I think we deserve those songs, too. It hurts just the same, especially if you are caring and compassionate and did all you could to make he relationship grow and flourish. It hasn’t been the easiest for me. It stings here and there, but there have been worse break ups. My important point is that nobody should belittle ones feelings. 3cc28e5f2443b9bae49bb7dac465bc83Whether you were the one to break up with your partner, or you were the one who got dumped, it hurts both sides. We can all turn out to be emotional messes one way or another. We all have a story. We all have feelings and weird stuff going on that only we will be able to understand. And you know what? Sometimes, that is enough. :)

- Jules

It’s Totally Ok!

It’s Totally Ok to..

This week I decided to do a little something different.  These are 20 of the things that I think are totally ok to do.  Hopefully you guys think so too!

  1. aa1ed9d87f4aa927735c9675e66a2657Eat a spoonful of peanut butter and Nutella if you want.  It’s so delicious, and I refuse to ever regret it.
  2. Wear sweat pants at  home alllll day, but NOT every day. Buttoning a pair of jeans takes a half a second and you will instantly look ready to take on the world!
  3. Eat dessert as a meal.
  4. Sneak snacks into a movie theater at least once! I mean everyone does it right?
  5. Say you’re going to make something on Pinterest and then never do. I’m definitely guilty of this.
  6. Go shopping with a budget and completely going over it. The dress and shoes couldn’t be worn without each other.
  7. Buy things on sale even if you don’t need it. It’s such a great deal; how can you pass it up!
  8. heelWear high heels if you’re tall. I can’t really relate to this, but I have some tall friends who have been told they shouldn’t and I definitely disagree. Embrace the tall!
  9. Buy another gaming system. So what if you already have 3.
  10. Wait in line for hours to be the one of the first to have the latest and greatest of anything. After all, you’re an innovator and need to be the first to have it.
  11. To say you’ve exercised even if you just walked to your car and back. Or counting the “lifting” you do at work as exercise.
  12. Cancel plans to watch the latest season of your favorite show on Netflix.
  13. If you still watch cartoons. Phineas and Ferb are awesome!
  14. Have more hats than you could ever wear. There are just so many different kinds and teams.
  15. Swear like a sailor at a hockey game or any game really. Unless, there’s kids.
  16. customeDisagree with people. Don’t be afraid to speak your mind.
  17. Buy the ridiculously over-priced item you’ve been eyeing up. Just buy it already.  You’ll regret it more if you don’t.
  18. Start making your Halloween costume months in advance. You might forget if you don’t.
  19. Never throw away your favorite pair of jeans, even if they don’t fit anymore or have holes all over. There’s just so many great memories attached to them.
  20. Take the elevator even if you’re only going a floor up. After a long day walking up stairs just sometimes isn’t something I want to do.

I hope guys enjoyed my random list.  What do you guys do that you think is totally ok?   Comment below!

Screening Sentimental Value

I can’t exactly recollect my every thought through out the film, but I came out loving it with all of my heart. Since seeing that movie, I tried to recreate my life story from the story itself as I mimicked quotable lines, admired the main character’s quick witted attitude about the world, and the relationship between her and the leading male’s (Paulie Bleeker) character. My life was starting to fall into place, due to the fact that that movie became such a prominent part of my life – and kind of emulated a love story. Silly, I know but and I will tell you just how that came to be.

42ba88c00710088fe16c7d9fe3f54101When “It all started with a chair” in the movie Juno, it all started with “Yo, yo yiggity yo” for me when I met my first boyfriend, Ian. I told him that I loved that movie, and I knew exactly what he was talking about when he quoted the lines. From then on, it was all history. No, really it was. Being the small independent movie that it was, not many people had heard about the movie Juno. So, him and I instantly clicked. And myself personally? I was in complete awe. My freshman year of high school, I used phrases from the film such as “Totally boss”, “Honest to blog” and one of my favorites, “You are the cheese to my macaroni.” I wanted to be Juno – minus the pregnancy thing of course. I looked up to her and realized that her cool, effortless nonchalant attitude was one of the most awesome things ever. What started out as a simple, naive friendship, soon blossomed into a unique, exciting relationship with Ian and I. The film literally weaved it’s way in and around our young fifteen year old romance.For our one month anniversary, I remember him buying me a small, cute ornament with beads on it that said “Whoa, dream big!” (Another quote from the film).

92518c1afb3274683cf047c11559b7ee It was the summer of 2010 that he told me that he loved me, saying, and I quote “You really are a part time lover and a full time friend.” I just about melted, I will not lie. For our one year anniversary, I wanted to put a bunch of orange flavored Tic-Tac’s in his mailbox just like Juno did for Bleeker towards the end of the film. Everyone at our high school was starting to identify us as the “Cute Juno couple” or even sometimes calling me Juno and him Bleeker. As dorky as it sounds, I ate it up; I absolutely loved it. For Halloween when we were sixteen, I wore a graphic t-shirt with balls of shirts shoved underneath to make me looked pregnant, a red zip up hoodie, ripped jeans with my hair in a messy pony tail, carrying around a giant jug of Sunny D. and yes . . . I had the infamous hamburger phone. Ian, of course, wore the red “Dancing Elks” sweater and track shorts with the sweat bands which he so cleverly made out of paper. The movie itself was not only beginning to impact my life, but the soundtrack was as well. In fact, for our high school talent show, we thought about performing the song “Anyone Else But You” by Kimya Dawson, which is featured popularly in the movie. Instead, we did another Juno favorite entitled “Loose Lips.”  At the time during our young love, Ian and I had our hearts set on making “Anyone Else But You” and Cat Power’s “Sea of Love” our wedding songs. Both tracks still make me weep. We were just . . . that one weird couple who really loved that one offbeat movie – a lot.

First romance with the boy who I thought was my own personal “Bleeker” was truly amazing, yes. Still, I cherish the movie for more reasons than the other sentimental ones involving my first love. No matter what, the movie Juno will always hold a special place in my heart. It especially meant a lot to me during my times of early teenage-hood, because a lot of important events and “firsts” were happening to me during such a time that I adored the film. First love, first kiss, high school days, new friends, old friends, and most importantly – I was starting to figure out who I was and as insignificant as it may sound, Juno taught me that it was always 100% okay to march to the beat of your own drum. JunoWhile watching the movie, I saw that stereotypes in high school were irreverent. The main character Juno, who was the uncanny strange girl, was best friends with the beautiful cheer leading ditzy girl, Leah. Nothing mattered. The movie taught me that whatever is, just is because it is. Nothing made me happier knowing that, and that is one of the main reasons why I will always have a deep attachment with this film. As for Ian and I, we had a long four year relationship that slowly faded away with time as we grew older, graduated high school and reached adulthood. There was a time where I couldn’t watch the movie Juno during the times we weren’t together and I have told him this. Surprisingly, he admitted that he had trouble watching it as well. Still, I hold a special place in my heart for him and now with a patched up heart, I can look back fondly at the memories of little, fifteen, sixteen, seventeen year old us – smiling humbly.

The next time someone asks you what your favorite movie is, don’t just tell them what they want to hear. Tell them what makes you laugh, what makes you cry, what brings you back nostalgic memories. Tell them that you are passionate about something. And hey, if that tough looking dude can have a soft spot for the Transformers movies, I think I can have an exception with loving Juno. ;)

- Jules

The Revival of the Handwritten Letter

                In our hyper-connected world, handwritten letters are nearly obsolete. It is so easy to send a friend, family member or significant a text, Facebook message or email. Through these new forms of communication, we lose personal and more deeply invested – handwritten – letters.

                Nick and I began writing to one another in 2009 during the fall I went to college – a few months before we started dating. This continued for 4.5 years and has, quite literally, become a very complete journal of our evolving relationship. We’ve written to one another across many states and stages of life, through both our undergraduate college careers, and stopped just before moving in together.

photo 2 (12)

Embellish your envelopes! Here are a few between Nick and Elizabeth.

                Opening any random piece of mail between us would transport you to memories of the first time we went adventuring, confessions of feelings for each other, our first few dates, happenings in school between roommates and friends, Nick’s summers of field work in Wisconsin/Michigan/Indiana/Montana, my summer in Colorado, vacations, trips we’d take when Nick would visit me in college, plans to meet in Yellowstone, and, in almost every letter, our plans for the faraway future. The “future” we spoke of is no longer far off, and we are in a position that we’ve both been wanting for such a long time, but looking back on these letters full of thoughts and feelings is such a sweet and nostalgic activity.

                We have kept one another’s letters, respectively – embellished envelopes and all. They are a perfect, unchanged record of our past. It is one of my favorite things of what we have done for one another and how well we maintained our regular correspondence.

photo 1 (13)

4.5 years of letters between Nick and Elizabeth. When stacked, the pile is HIGH.

                I tell you about our experience with the hope to motivate you to pick up a pen and paper and write to someone you want to reconnect with. My younger sister and I have also written letters to one another for the past couple of years. She is the worst person to have a conversation with over the phone, but she updates me with (very funny) two page letters on a weekly basis. I look forward to getting these and responding to them every week, and it is always exciting to get something in the mail other than a bill, flyer, or general junk mail.

                So, dear reader, I challenge you to pen a friend, family member or significant other this week. Let them know why they are on your mind and what is new in life. Thank them for being your friend, and share great thoughts or happy memories with them. Decorate your envelope so that it is fun and exciting to receive! It will feel as good as it did when you passed notes between classes, now serviced by USPS between your apartments across much greater distances.

Thank you for reading!

Elizabeth

Delay the Real World, Take a Gap Year. Or Two.

If you’re anything like me you probably spent the month before graduation and the few following having a quarter life crisis. After I sat through my college graduation ceremony, I suddenly had a realization, I had a plan that would bring me through December, and then absolutely no idea what I was doing with my life. So, I did what every recent college graduate would do, I freaked out!

In March, I accepted a four-month internship in Ireland, and I was beyond excited. Yet, after graduation I wasn’t sure if my non-traditional path was a good idea. I was convinced that everyone around me had entry-level jobs secured and surely this meant they would be more successful in life than I would. If I didn’t take a full-time position at a Public Relations agency would I ever be able to break into a career I eventually wanted?

Well, after two or three months of constantly going over the  positives and negatives of accepting a short-term internship I decided it was the best thing I could do with my life. While there are many drawbacks to choosing a non-traditional path and often it’s financially impossible to fund an unpaid internship abroad, I’m going to lay out a few positives that outweigh any negative.

First, choosing to put off graduate school or applying for entry-level positions in order to travel will make you a smarter person. The moment I get into Dublin I’m going to have to hit the ground running. My flight comes in early in the morning and instead of catching some shut-eye I’m going to have to get myself to my hostel, take a quick shower and head over to my first day at the office. After that I’m going to have to start setting up meetings to try to find an apartment. I will be thrown into the mix from the moment I get to Dublin, and I will have to learn quickly how to think on my feet and provide for myself. I have no doubt there will be some moments of complete panic, but the experience will teach me to think critically and problem-solve. There are few things that will push a person outside of his or her comfort zone, but when you find something that does, it will completely change the way you process information and work through problems. Add that to your skill list!

o'connell streetAlso, if you take some time to travel after graduation you will learn how to interact with people better. Let me tell you, it’s terrifying to think about flying over 3,500 miles by myself to a city where I know virtually no one, but it’s also a little exhilarating. So, I made a promise to myself for my time in Ireland, which is to say yes to everything. Instead of assuming a person is inviting me to the pub or an event just to be nice, I’m going to take him or her up on the offer. Maybe the hours spent with the people who invite me out will be terrible and completely awkward, but maybe they will be some of the best memories of my trip. I plan to meet people I would never consider hanging out with back home. This means I will learn how to relate to a diverse set of people, which can only serve to help me in both my personal and professional life.

Lastly, if the other reasons don’t convince you, just think about how great something like a gap-year job or a short unpaid international internship will look on your résumé. Studying abroad is great and something I would urge everyone to do, but it’s so common now that employers don’t necessarily see it as something unique that places one candidate above another. Instead think about how you could say you didn’t only go abroad, you learned how to work with people from different cultures in a professional work environment. I don’t think it’s the wisest idea to do something simply because of how it looks on paper but I’m willing to use any argument to convince someone to travel and work abroad. So, if this is the only reason that will make you consider booking that plane ticket, I’ll use it.

I have a million other reasons to argue but I don’t have the time and I don’t want to take any more of yours. I’ll leave it there and let you decide additional reasons for yourself. And I’ll be honest, I will most likely come back from Europe without much money in my bank account, but I have a sneaking suspicion that I won’t come back with many, if any, regrets. I think it’s more likely that I’ll be planning my next trip abroad!

Professional Happiness: the Unformulated Learning Curve

I’m not going to sugarcoat it: I have never wanted to be a CNA. Even though I am going into the medical field, the profession never attracted me. I didn’t like taking the class: I hated  having to drive two hours round trip to the community college that offered the night class to then sit through a five hour class that covered topics that I had already studied in my other pre-med classes. The clinicals didn’t challenge me like I wanted them to, and looking for job openings scared me. Going through interviews and job orientation was something I dreaded, and when I heard my job placement on the last day of orientation, my heart literally dropped: I had been placed on the memory care unit at the nursing home, the most difficult unit in the facility with a high turnover rate of employees who get burnt out from working with some of the challenging residents on the unit.

Nurse-with-stethoscope-an-007

It’s easy for someone in my position to give up, not try, and do a half-assed job. I’ve seen it at my current job: bored employees who don’t want to be here but need the money to pay the bills. They are the absolute worst people to work with, and definitely disheartened me during my first few months at my current job. Despite witnessing some of this negativity, my mindset has always been that no matter how much I dislike this job, I am still taking care of PEOPLE: I am not going to stop giving the best care that I can just because I would rather be working elsewhere.

Md9eef2ea35edee92673c93dfad38501eIt’s easy to slip into lazy habits and not try hard, and I think it’s a lesson that I’m learning at this job about professional goals and integrity. No matter how low your hourly pay rate is, how well known your employer is or how much you actually want your current job, keeping your professional goals in mind make the difference that allows you to have a successful career. If I didn’t keep my goals of PA school in mind every day that I’m at work, I would have quit within the first two weeks, or turned into the coworker that everyone dreads to work with. Instead, I take each and every day as a learning experience and a chance to acquire new skills, whether it be learning to deal with the patient’s families, uncooperative patients themselves, fellow coworkers, or just my own patience and sanity while working a stressful and physically draining job.

I’m never going to say that I’m the best CNA on my unit, or that I’ve got my job all figured out. I’ll be the first to tell you that I still have a lot to learn. But based on what I’m experiencing at this job, I have begun to appreciate working in a profession that I don’t like. I have learned to appreciate my times away from work much more, put my professional goals in perspective, and how to truly work for something I want. I know that I’m on the right career path, and even though my first few jobs probably will not be my dream job, I plan to get as much out of each one as I put into them.

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Whether you already are working your dream job, hating your current one, or are aspiring for something new and challenging, don’t let where you are now stop you from getting to where you want to be. You should always strive to improve your performance and work towards something, rather than settling for second best or status quo. Try to find one thing that you can learn from where you are and one thing to work towards in the future. Through all the bumps and detours along the way, you’ll find that you learn a lot about yourself and how to be happy in your profession.

Seducing Passion

Sorry for teasing you with that coy title, but now that I have your attention let me ask you a question.

What are you passionate about?

I’m serious. Do you know?

Lately after becoming intrigued with a writing duo, The Minimalist (more later) such questions have been plaguing my thoughts causing me some significant unrest and discomfort in my life. At a point of crossroads I have never been more unsure about which way to turn next. The weight of cultivating my career, climbing the corporate later and becoming a “successful” woman in modern society levers against pursuing a more personal and perhaps bohemian existence against the norm. These options seem to teeter back and forward on either side of the scale.

My father once said that the trouble with “us” is that we put our dreams, our passions, aside for more practical roads. I used to think that this was a family problem, but I am starting to believe that perhaps it is really an ideology problem… an American Dream problem.

Why am I berating the American Dream you may ask?

Well on the most basic of levels it is because, quite simply, I am starting to believe that the ideals this doctrine has instilled in me does not actually correlate with who I fundamentally am or what I really desire for my life.

The American Dream has convinced me that to be happy I ought to be an important successful person, ideally within some sort of business or corporate sense. The level of success defined by the number of figures in my salary and the title that I have cultivated for myself through careful strategic career planning. Whether or not my career makes me happy is insignificant as long as I’m bringing home bank, because that successful career and that high salary will essentially give me the “freedom” to purchase my own American Dream, wrapped in houses, vehicles, a “relaxing” family vacation every year, and mountains of things.

Joy.

Yet, the kicker is, when is it enough?

When have you made enough money?

When do you have enough things?

It seems to me that this template for achieving a happy life that has been instilled in our society is a Catch-22. Earn more, spend more, need more. Or as The Minimalist would put it “Rinse, lather, repeat.”

Joshua & Ryan

This past week I went to see The Minimalist, Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus, speak at a local bookshop in Madison WI. They spoke about their own lives; rising high within a corporate environment, making six-figure paychecks, and filling their lives with lots of things. Yet, they were still unhappy.

As you may imagine part of their journey consisted of reducing the amount of items in their lives, keeping only what was needed or brought them joy. The other part, however, was pursuing their passion to achieve true personal happiness.

It was this pursuit of passion, which I latched on to the most. At one point Joshua said, that people commonly speak of discovering your passion as if it is something innately instilled in you. However, the reality is most people could be passionate about a number of things and you have to decide which of these passions you would like to pursue, work on, and cultivate.

Joshua explained this idea, admitting that when he was in the corporate world he knew that he was passionate about writing, and that at the time he defined himself as an aspiring writer, aka he wasn’t really writing that much, but he thought about it often.

In the book “Everything That Remains” he elaborated on this idea again, saying that often people confuse excitement with passion. Yet, for a passion to last, for it to be a long-term lifelong thing, you need to put in the hours and dedication.

Macklemore and Ryan Lewis

Macklemore and Ryan Lewis

It is here that I am reminded of these lyrics from “Ten Thousand Hours” by Macklemore:

“The greats weren’t great because at birth they could paint

The greats were great cause they paint a lot”

Word!

So how do you do it?

How do you seduce your own passion?

I think that there are many ways to go about answering this question and for each person it will look a little different, but here are three steps that I have taken towards pursuing my own passions so far.

1. Unclutter your life:

The Minimalist stress how objects and things can get in the way of a happy life and I agree. I had been under the impression that I had so little already that I had to grasp onto anything I possessed even if it was useless, but after listening to their talk I went home and finally got rid of the excess clothes and useless items in my apartment. Immediately a weight that I hadn’t realized was there was lifted and allowed more room in my life.

I encourage anyone interested in methods to unclutter your life of excess (clothes, relationships… etc.) to check out The Minimalist blog and their published works. Be prepared to be inspired!

2. Spend time with yourself to know yourself:

This may sound a bit new age, hipster, bohemian, but if you are anything like the average American your mind is a cluster of thoughts, a running to-do list, and stress.

Take the time to clear it all out, put it on hold. Perhaps you do this by mediation like Joshua of the Minimalist. Perhaps you do this in prayer, exercise, or with a hot cup of coffee and some background Led Zeppelin. Whatever works best for you!

Allow yourself that time and really dig into what things you are passionate about and whether or not pursuing one of those passions would add joy to your life.

3. Make a plan to cultivate:

Once you know which passion you would like to peruse the hardest part is to actually spend time working on it (this is where I am at now).

Make a plan and dedicate time toward make your passion an actionable and not just a thought!

Cultivating a passion!

Cultivating a passion!

I hope that this has inspired you at least a little bit to give more thought to cultivating your own passion and perusing your own ideas of what a happy life looks like!

Please comment below and let me know how you have begun to seduce your passion!

-Samantha Courtney

Try Something New


leave-your-fears-behindF.jpg.As humans we are creatures of habit.  We like routine and in most cases aim to avoid uncertainty because it tends to make us uncomfortable.

Now humor me for just a moment:  think of that one thing you’ve always wanted to try but never taken any steps toward it.  Maybe it’s traveling, learning a new language, paying it forward  with your morning coffee, asking for that person’s number, greeting a cashier by name, writing a short story, cooking a new food, going back to school, applying for your dream job even though you’re under-qualified, networking—you know what I mean. Anything that you have a desire to do but are afraid because you’ve never done it before.

Most recently, my “thing” was strength training.  I’ve never lifted weights seriously before and it’s something I’ve always wanted to try because I’ve heard about all the benefits.  However, walking into the weight room can be intimidating for a woman who has absolutely no experience.  So I sought out an option that I did feel comfortable with—a strength training class. And so one day I just bit the bullet and tried it out.  The instructor was helpful and encouraging, the music rocked, and I was mostly surrounded by other women.  And just like I had tried something new. And I came out alive. The ironic thing is I asked myself why I had waited so long–I should have started this a long time ago!

So maybe that helped you think of something that you have been wanting to try as well and now that you have your idea of “that thing” you’ll need to do something about it. Guess what doing something about it doesn’t even have to be that hard!

4 Steps to Getting Startedpartner-strengthF

1. You can ask a friend or partner to take on this new task with you so you have someone to keep you accountable.

2. Set some kind of deadline for yourself and stick to it. Put in on your calendar if that’s what it takes.

3. Muster up the courage and put your pride aside.

4. …next thing you know you did it!

So why should we try out these things?

1. You can cross it off your bucket list–doesn’t that always feel good?

2. It will build your self-confidence and self-esteem. Let’s face it, we will take any extra help we can get as we emerge as twentysomethings who are trying to figure our lives out one day a time.  Sometimes that extra boost can change your whole day.

3. Because you are brave and beautiful and you really can do anything you set your mind to.  (As cheesy as that is, it’s true, and you know it.)
So get out there and take a chance!
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