Day 14: Change is good

I have a confession to make.

I’m one of those, “everything happens for a reason,” people. I believe that when the world appears to help you or hurt you, it’s because it’s all a part of a grander scheme.

But more than simply accept things for what they are, I like to reflect on how I arrived and what circumstances brought me to a given point. It’s something I’ve done with friendships, relationships and every other major component of my life.

I like to look back, review the course of history and find new meaning to small, seemingly insignificant happenings in my life and appreciate them for what they are: stepping blocks to the me I’m supposed to be. I like to consider what had to happen – and what had to not happen – in order for something to have taken place.

So what does that look like exactly? Usually it starts because I’m trying to figure out how I came across something, how I met a person or how I find myself in a given situation. Let’s take my relationship with my husband, for example. (Side note: there are a million ways to play these lines. I usually just pick one thing and run with it.)

I met Darrell at an internship. I took that internship because, quite frankly, all of the internships I applied for outside of Muncie didn’t pan out and I was getting desperate as the semester loomed closer. Don’t get me wrong: I loved my internship, but at the time I was convinced I was settling.

Anyway, back to the point. I met Darrell at my internship, but there’s more to it than that. The day we met, I was filling in for the receptionist while she was out sick; I only covered the front desk for a few days. Normally I sat tucked around a corner in the back of the office, but that day, I was sitting at reception. Take into consideration the number of life events (or non-events) that put Darrell at that same place at that same time and you’ve got yourself quite a tangled web of circumstance.

Perhaps more importantly, you have quite a few changes in plans. I had intended on going out of state for my internship; our receptionist had certainly never intended to get sick and Darrell had needed a change in professional scenery. It’s really pretty remarkable that we ever met, let alone fell in love and got married.

So what’s the point, you’re probably wondering? Every day, I’m filled with questions about what I should do next, what choices I should make and what battles I should choose to fight. But in reality, no matter how much I prepare or plan or ponder my decisions, changes in those plans and decisions are inevitable. Whatever happens, happens for a reason, and it’s not something worth agonizing over.

Que sera, sera, I suppose.

Might as well dive in and enjoy the changes as they come.

On trying, testing limits and taking a break

When I was researching whether to go to grad school, my queries were mostly centered around what type of program to choose, which school to attend and what it would take to get in.

I knew why I wanted to go back – or at least, I thought I did. I wanted a better chance at getting the jobs I had thought I’d prepared for in undergrad, but hadn’t yet landed. I wanted to join the more elite ranks of those with Masters degrees. I wanted more than what I had. 

So, I studied for the GRE, got the scores I needed and got into accepted into a graduate program.

And that’s when the whole thing went to hell.

I should have known from the start that I wasn’t happy. I chalked it up to starting a new job at the same time. I attributed it to taking two classes at once. I gave in to the idea that I wasn’t as smart as I always thought I was. I ignored the fact that I left every class either in tears or enraged and I dismissed the nagging feeling that I wasn’t getting any value out of them.

In fact, I did what any normal human being would do in a situation that causes such misery.

I stuck it out for another semester.

But it was somewhere in that second semester that my grad school related searches started changing. I searched about transfers. I searched about quitting and I stumbled across this post, which – not to be overly dramatic – more or less changed my life. I started wondering whether I wanted to finish classes, but decided I couldn’t just quit.

I’d told too many people. I’d spent too much time and money. I wouldn’t be alone because my husband was starting classes this year.

But perhaps most of all – I do not quit things.

So I registered for classes, took the summer off and prepared for another year.

But summer brought more than a few relaxed evenings – it brought a long sought after job change. It brought perspective and it brought me to the realization that I couldn’t see the point in wasting one more minute being miserable, just because I was afraid to quit.

Last week, the fall semester began. I dutifully went to class, took notes and braced myself for the readings ahead.

And then I saw this video, and it reminded me that I’m supposed to be doing this for me. I’m supposed to be doing this because I want to. That I shouldn’t be wasting another minute working too hard on something I care too little about, just because I think I’m supposed to.

So today, I withdrew from classes.

I quit grad school.  

I quit grad school and I feel relieved and scared, happy and terrified from one minute to the next. I suppose only time will tell if I feel the same as Jessica Ogilivie did in her blog post, but right now, I know this is the right choice.

I had to try. I had to go to grad school or I’d always be left wondering. I may try again or I may try a different program. I’ve tested those limits. I’ve seen what the stress and anxiety does to my life and my relationships and right now, I don’t want to test them any further. I’m taking a break – and I’m doing it because I want to.

Not because I told anyone I was going to. 

Expectations and Motivations of a Twenty-Something.

Growing up, we’re all given expectations.

Brush your hair. Do your homework. And for God’s sakes please do not jump in any puddles when you’re dressed for church.

Well, I’ll be honest. I hated brushing my hair. I was chubby and my little arms never could reach to the back of my head, leaving me with an almost unmanageable nest of twists and knots that would seemingly never be unraveled.

And I really, really liked jumping in puddles. Saddle shoes and poofy dresses always seemed to have that effect on me.

But as I mentioned last time, I feel like I more or less met – nay, exceeded – my parents’ expectations as a child. And as such, they spurred me on to continue making a positive impression on those I might meet even after grandma’s handmade dresses went out of style.

If they ever were in style. I’m not sure.

I suppose that’s neither here nor there. But now, as I’m stumbling through my mid-twenties, I’m realizing that it’s not others who are holding expectations for me.

It’s myself.

Yikes.

But let me explain. I’m writing this post after watching a couple episodes of The Conversation. And while I realize the amount of ridicule I’m opening myself up to by writing a blog post inspired by a show that airs on Lifetime, to me, it’s worth it.

And if you’ve ever seen an episode, you’d know why. This show is entertaining, inspiring and to be honest, downright frustrating. To insert the old adage of “you’ll laugh, you’ll cry” is a bit of an understatement, although not untrue. This show makes me think, makes me reflect and makes me wish I was just a little older so that maybe, just maybe, some of the wisdom these women have learned over the years would seem more applicable to myself.

I guess you could say that’s exactly the point. It’s supposed to show all of us who are still stumbling and bumbling around that we’ll eventually get it. That we’ll eventually see life is one big wonderful party and all we have to do to attend is put on our happy faces and go.

But I think more than anything, it’s showing that I still just don’t get it. Which is precisely why I’m writing this post.

I honestly do not think that any woman, in her twenties, really truly gets it. I think that some women are better at riding the waves. I think that some are better at rolling with the punches and making opportunity out of obstacles. But in the end, none of us really get it.

And it reminded me of exactly what I said when I started this blog in the first place. That there’s a great big pile of unknown out there and we’re all just sort of hanging around here until we figure it out.

And more importantly, I need to remember that’s OK.

That not knowing is part of the game. That when we’re children, our mothers tell us what to do; when we’re older, we tell our children what to do; but it’s in this middle ground, in this place where I’m not someone’s mother or someone’s daughter 24 hours a day, that I genuinely have no idea what’s supposed to happen.

And that’s exactly how it’s supposed to be.

There are a lot – and I mean A LOT – of sources out there where you can find all the tips in the universe about how to be a better ______. How to be stronger, faster, skinnier, smarter or a better wife and mother. There’s Pinterest to lead us to believe that in order to be a good mom or wife, we have to learn how to make everything clean, everything tidy, with cute organized labels, all while baking the perfect pie and serving dinner on coordinated platters.

Please. I’m all for improvement and things looking nice, but come on. We all remember that Martha went to jail, right?

If Martha can’t do it, how are the rest of us supposed to run the perfect household?

The honest answer? We’re not. Twenty somethings are going to question every decision they make. Mothers are going to question whether they are being the best version of themselves for their children. Business women are always going to wonder whether they’re undervalued.

And we’re all just in it here together.

So it’s important we keep ourselves (and each other!) grounded, fighting our own battles and recognizing that no amount of crafty DIY ribbon can wrap up our life and no perfectly flaky pie crust can make us into better women.

For me, I need to recognize that these outlandish expectations are a product of my own mind and no one else’s. In fact, I hope that others will realize that we’re all our own toughest critics, that none of us really know what the hell’s going on, and that we’ll all figure it out eventually.

We’ll all get where we’re going when we get there. We should probably just lighten up about it already.

The Dream Drain

At least, that’s what this place feels like.

I can’t tell you all how often I open up this site, intending to write something – anything – but leave with the cursor still blinking over a blank page.

I write over here for school of course, but so does everyone else in my class. I post my articles over here, but I don’t particularly want the depressing research I’ve been doing on animal rights and other topics to clog up this page.

So what’s up with the whiteout over here?

20-Something Mind Games

Mostly, I feel like I have no idea what direction I want to lead you in.

Heck, I don’t even know what direction I want to lead myself in.

I don’t know what to write or what to tell you because it seems like everywhere I look, I see people who are following their dreams and making things happen. They’re off finding careers, finding their callings or simply finding themselves. People have what would appear to be the job I’ve been searching for since graduation, leaving me to wonder exactly which step I took was the wrong one.

Granted, I have a wonderful life as-is; I have a husband I love very much, who still laughs at all of the weird things I do from day to day. I have a family nearby and a new(ish) nephew who – when he’s not spitting up on me – is just about the cutest thing to ever lay in his own poop.

And I’m lucky enough to be employed and own a home when so many people in this world do not. Don’t get me wrong. I realize all of these blessings and I’m thankful for them every day.

But here I am, four years later without so much as one position with the same title as subject printed on my degree, while people I know are running off being artists and photographers, doctors and lawyers and discovering their dreams and pushing them to reality.

And me?

I feel like I was out sick on “discover your dream” day in elementary school.

(And did I mention I had excellent attendance almost every year?) 

The Curse of the Over-achiever

I should mention, of course, that I realize I’m only 26 and that I should chill out. But if that’s your advice, you can go ahead and leave it somewhere else. Why?

  1. Because I did what I was supposed to do through school, getting good grades, carrying a part-time job and earning the respect of my teachers, professors, employers and peers.
  2. Because I’m really, truly smart and a hard worker and those are supposed to be my keys to opening whatever doors I so choose.
  3. Because this is my blog and I’ll complain if I want to.

OK, you probably didn’t need that third one, and I really don’t mean to complain, but let’s be honest – when you grow up hearing you can be anything you want to be, you kind of start to believe it.

Maybe it’s because everyone in my generation was told the same thing, and we need to realize we really aren’t that special.

Maybe it’s only those who have a true, live-or-die-by-it passion can really make something of themselves.

Maybe some are just luckier than others. Or maybe in this über-connected world we just see more of the bright and shiny sides and it’s hard to remember we’re all in this messed up world together.

But tell me: how are you doing it?

How did you know what you’re doing is what you’re meant to be doing? Or are you like me, wondering when that big, fat, passionate something will come around and smack you in the face?

In school, problems have solutions, questions have answers and there’s a right and wrong way to do things. In life, we’re not that lucky.

I’m just hoping to figure it all out someday.

‘Til then.

Resolutions.

If you belong to a gym, then you may think you know me.

I would be the girl that shows up around January 2nd ready & raring to go. I’ve got a New Year’s Resolution and I’m bound and determined to keep it.

For most, that story ends sometime around, oh, January 11th. Hey look at that – today’s the 11th.

But for me, this resolution has a lot more sticking power. And you’ll be happy to know it has nothing to do with showing up at your gym and making you wait for a treadmill. (Don’t get me wrong – I’m definitely trying to get more fit – but this time I’m doing it in the comfort of my own home because the husband and I bought a treadmill. So no worries.)

What really makes my resolution different, though, is that I’m focusing a lot more on my overall health and wellbeing, not just a number on a scale or clothes tag. And since I have this forum to help keep me accountable, I’m going to lay out those goals so you can all mock me when I don’t keep them up. So here goes …

In 2012, I resolve to:

  • Be a healthier person, in both mind and body
  • Take better control of my free time
  • Stop complaining about things I’m able to fix
  • Be a better wife
  • Write more!

That’s it – not too much, right?

2012 has the potential for being one hell of a year and I’m resolving to make it one.

So, how many of you are still keeping your resolutions?

Seeking Advice. No, Really.

Advice.

When you’re searching for something, or hoping to achieve a goal, it seems everyone has ideas about exactly how you should do it. Usually, it goes something like this:

“Just do what I did – (enter random example that doesn’t really apply in your situation here) – you’ll get there in no time and make millions of dollars doing it!”

And, because you’re at a loss for what to do, you listen. You heed their advice, take it all in and hope that this was the key to success you had been missing all along. Surely, this time, you’ve done what it takes.

In my case, I tend to seek out so much advice I wind up getting paranoid about my own methods. How do you know when you should follow advice over your gut, or vice versa?

To answer this question, I of course, asked for advice.

Via Twitter.

Or, The Twitter, as I like to call it.

Because I’m hip like that.

Anyway…I reached out to ask if anyone could give an example of advice that really helped them. My friend, Shawn (@ShawnMeier), obliged, supplying this little gem:

“There are 2 things you should never complain about: the things you can change, and the things you can’t.”

Obvious, right?

No?

Yeah, me neither. He continues…

“In other words, if u can change something, do it. If u can’t, don’t bitch or worry cuz it’s out of ur control. Just move on.”

And you know what? He’s exactly right. For he past few weeks months, I’ve been doing everything I can think of to improve my situation. I haven’t been writing because I’ve devoted all spare time to one project and – because the solution hasn’t presented itself – I complain.

I focus on all of the pieces I have no control over. I complain (OK, I downright whine) to my husband, who has been nothing but supportive as I struggle to make things happen. I retrace every step, wondering what I could have done differently when in fact, it’s more likely that nothing I could have done would have changed the outcome.

I’ve made the mistake of seeking advice from so many others that I’ve lost my own gut instinct. I think it’s time for me to take a step back and realize, as much as it pains me to say it: Shawn was right.

That was exactly what I needed to hear. Time to stop complaining.

What about you? Have you ever gotten advice that truly solved your problem? How do you sort through the advice you get in order to find the advice you need?

Keeping Tabs

So – as some or all of you know, I graduated from college more than two years ago. TWO years ago! I met some of the greatest people I’ve ever known, learned a ton of things I’ll never forget and spent more nights forgetting than I’ll ever remember. Unfortunately, things change after you graduate.

Yes. I’m struggling with it. Back up off me.

But because I no longer live just blocks away (or doors away) from my college-days best friends, making plans to see them has become a near-impossibility. Because I am no longer the constantly aspiring, A-student, damn-it-I’m-worth-it-point-of-view senior, I spend a lot of time thinking about the steps I didn’t take and the ones I should or will.

But you know that already. Hell, the name of this blog is “Un.Determined.” I think we all know I have no idea where I’m going from here. All of that aside, however, I think it’s worth mentioning that I’ve become completely jealous of all the people I know who are following their passions and at the risk of all things sane – doing what they do because they just have to do it. I’m just spending my days figuring out how to copy you.

Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, or something like that, right?

Anyway, if you want to know more about what I mean, just take a look at some of the folks I’m “Keeping Tabs” on. So this post is for you – all of the folks that I’m gaining as great new friends and some pretty awesome old ones I’m getting back in touch with. And if you know of more awesome (yes, I hate myself for not coming up with a more applicable word than awesome, but get over it) people I should follow, let me know.

Because all I hope to do is realize some of my passions – writing being number one – and spend some time growing up with all of you. I admire that you’re all doing the exact same thing, right in front of me.

And I’m working on getting past the fact that it’s not OK to put on a sorority or college T-shirt EVERY day.

Give me some time.