Tag Archives: advice

Open (Door) Minded

Every minute, about one hundred and eight people in the world die.

Before I finish writing this entry, so many last breaths will be taken, so many eyelids lowered, so many hands gone limp.

And yet, here we are. We still wake up every day with thousands of opportunities spread in front of us, a breakfast fit for kings. Even the people who seem to have nothing, who don’t even know when or if their next meal is coming, are able to choose what attitude they’re going to take. They can choose what to do with their bodies to the extent that they are able to use them. They can decide which words will leave their lips. Those of us who have the necessities—and, usually, far more—are blessed with opportunity beyond reason.

But somehow, somehow, it doesn’t seem to be enough. After all, if I were more beautiful, I would have so many more options. People would likely be sweeter to me, and potential lovers would take more interest. If I were thinner, I could buy cuter clothes and not have to pay a ridiculous amount of money for them. If my feet were smaller…if I had more money…if my hair was nicer…if my college had bigger dorms…if I had that television set…if I’d only gotten that job…

It seems so hard when we see the things we wanted pass us by. We make decisions we aren’t happy with, our relationships don’t work out, and we don’t get the promotion. Sometimes these things are mildly annoying; sometimes, they’re downright earth-shattering.

You know what, though? Either way, life goes on. We find ourselves smiling, and eventually, laughing. We meet new people. We get a different job.

Life does not offer one chance to be happy; it gives us a nearly infinite amount. Until the day that we, too, take our last breaths, we have the opportunity to feel joy in our lives. How silly would it be to waste that opportunity because we’re too busy bemoaning the happiness that slipped past us?

We never really know how anything is going to turn out. You could go on a blind date to appease a friend and meet the love of your life, or you could marry the love of your life and find you didn’t understand that person at all. Either way, you won’t know until it happens. There is only one choice you can make that has a predictable outcome, and that is the choice to do nothing. When you make that choice, you’re choosing not to find joy. You’re choosing to relinquish all the other decisions you could have made. You’re choosing to give up on a life that’s waiting for you.

Life is a hallway to walk through, a series of thousands of rooms with thousands of doors. Sometimes, those doors are locked when we reach them, and sometimes, they bang shut right in front of our faces. But for every door that closes, another one must open. While it’s true that you can’t gain without the possibility of loss, it’s also true that losing one thing may very well allow you to gain something else.

There are no dead ends.

Rock bottom is still a bottom, not an abyss; you can climb back out.

Every minute, about one hundred and eight people in the world close their eyes for the last time.

…And about two hundred and fifty open theirs for the first.

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Let It Go

from here

I’ve never considered myself an angry person.

Sure, there are things that happened in my past I find hard to let go. There are people who can set me off with a word. And, okay, occasionally, my anger is misplaced. But doesn’t that happen to everyone? I’m willing to bet that most of us have snapped at someone who didn’t deserve it. It’s normal. But normalcy, I’ve found, doesn’t always make right. We’re also conditioned to accept bullying, to accept being mistreated, to accept many forms of discrimination. And so I wonder…how much of this anger is healthy, and how much of it is harming us?

I went through a number of years where I couldn’t have a good relationship with my mother. I don’t mean where I didn’t, I mean where I couldn’t; it seemed like five minutes spent together would inevitably turn to bickering. We didn’t understand each other. My grades were a constant source of friction, then my perceived godlessness, my disrespect. She thought it had to do with my self-confidence, how much time I spent on the computer, the people I hung around, and the fact that I just didn’t seem to care anymore. This was true only in the most surface way. The thing is, most twelve-year-olds don’t have existential meltdowns. People assume you’re supposed to still be talking about your future as a vet, not questioning God and life and purpose, certainly not struggling with depression. Yet there I was.

My family didn’t know how to talk to me, help me, or even discipline me because they had no idea what I was going through. I don’t blame them; no matter how much you love someone, you’ll never completely understand what goes on in that person’s head. But as much as I don’t blame them now, oh, I did blame them then.

It’s hard when the people who are supposed to be closest to you don’t understand you. Hell, it’s hard enough when some of the most insignificant people in your life don’t understand you. We all have very different ways of thinking and different ways of dealing with things. What hurts you may not bother others, and what you laugh off could absolutely kill them.

Here’s my point: life isn’t easy. When people are thrown together in something as crazy as our reality, disagreements are bound to happen. People are going to hurt you, and they are going to make you angry. Sometimes it may be bad enough that you will want to hurt them. Sometimes it may be bad enough that you will want to hurt yourself. Sometimes it will be what haunts your dreams at night. You’ll spend years gnashing your teeth without knowing why. The entirety of your pain may boil down to a moment. The person you love most in the world will, somehow, someway, someday, let you down.

You are going to have to let it go.

No. Listen.

You are going to have to let it go.

from here

I wasted a lot of my time when I was younger being miserable. I came to understand eventually that I needed to be the one who pulled myself out of the pit I was in, but it’s taken me much longer to understand that I had managed, in my time spent there, to make that hole even deeper.

Keeping so much pain and anger inside of you is not healthy. Yes, you can wield your hate against people; you can turn it into a weapon, and you can turn it back on them. But if someone stabs you, stabbing them isn’t going to make your blood stop flowing. You can use your anger to push you forward, which might work until you realize that the person you’re angry with doesn’t care what you’re doing or, moreover, you don’t even like what you’re doing. You’re fulfilled by doing the things you care about because you find joy in them, not because someone else can’t stand them.

It sucks that you’ve been hurt. If you’re thinking you didn’t deserve it, you’re probably right. You probably didn’t. None of us really deserve the hateful things we do to each other. But keeping it with you is not going to help. It’s only going to hurt you more.

Stop hurting yourself.

See, forgiveness is not always for the person you’re forgiving. At least, it doesn’t always start out that way. Maybe someday you can forgive them because they are fatally human, but that’s not what I’m asking you to do right now. I’m asking you to forgive them so that you won’t have to lug those emotions around anymore. It doesn’t mean you have to put yourself in a position to have them hurt you again. It just means you have to try and let go of the pain they’ve wrought before.

It’s saying, “What you did may not be okay, but I will be okay.”

It’s saying, “What you did was not my choice, and I won’t carry it around with me anymore.”

It’s saying, “This is not worth ruining my life over.”

After that, you can figure out whether you want to split ties. You can decide whether that particular person’s company can make you happy in the future, whether it’s a relationship you want to keep, or whether you should go your separate ways. Whatever you choose is okay. You also don’t have to do this all at once. Go ahead and get that anger out. Write down, or say, or scream, exactly what has happened to make you feel the way you feel about a particular person. Often at the end, when you are raw and tired from the release, you’ll find it much easier to let all of that stuff go instead of packing it back inside.

I’m not an angry person. But at some points, I definitely have been. Now, if I am going to be angry, I am going to be angry at the things I can change, not at people. Christians say that we should love the sinner and hate the sin. Well, I am fully prepared to be furious at injustice, at the senseless suffering that surrounds me, at homophobia and racism and a myriad of other terrible things. Funnily enough, though, the only thing that can fix these—that can heal our broken world—is a whole lot of goodness and love. Hate doesn’t fix hate. Love fixes hate.

Forgive the people who have hurt you. Most of all, forgive yourself.

Then the healing can begin.

from here

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On What Ifs, Positive Fear, and Passionate Living

from here

Today, in my Orientation to Psych class, my professor was telling us about what it takes to make it into graduate school and to get a Masters or PhD. Now, as someone who needs to get her Masters and really should get a PhD or PsyD to do anything specific in the field, grad school is a given. Today’s talk left me feeling a little more prepared, but mostly just scared senseless. I mean…

What if I don’t get into a good school?

What if I don’t get into a school at all?

What if I can’t pay for it?

What if, whilst taking my Writtens or Orals (or their equivalent), I get a question I have absolutely no idea how to answer?

What if I can’t find a subject for my dissertation?

I think we ask ourselves these sorts of questions a lot. Well, not necessarily these questions–we aren’t all freaked out about grad school–but the “what ifs”. Some of them are pretty silly. For example, if I couldn’t find a subject I thought was important enough to do the research required for a dissertation, then Psych is not the field for me and that worry is irrelevant. Still, some of the “what ifs” make sense. It is a very real concern that I may not be able to pay my way through grad school. So what if I can’t?

Well, then I can’t.

“What ifs” are a waste of time not necessarily because they won’t happen, but because you can’t do anything about them. All we can do is prepare ourselves as much as possible for the task ahead of us, then tackle it. Exuberantly. Without question. With passion.

There are two things I’ve learned about life lately, and though I have a long way to go, I think they have to be two of the most important things I’ll ever learn.

Here’s the first one.

Seriously.

It doesn’t mean you have to love everything you do. Brushing our teeth isn’t usually ecstasy-inducing, but it’s something that needs to happen. What it means is that everything you do should be done to get yourself into a life you are wild about. I don’t mean a life you can tolerate or a life where you’ll always be comfortable. I mean a life you are truly, madly, head-over-toenails in love with.

I can tell you now that it won’t be easy to get to that kind of life. You’ll have to do things that make you feel awkward, and change things that hurt to change, and push yourself harder than ever. You have to find out what you’re made of. But if you ask me, that’s what life’s about, anyway. Finding what you’re made of, what you can contribute, what your purpose is…and then fulfilling it.

The second thing I’ve learned is what relates most to what we discussed in class today, which is simply that if what you’re doing doesn’t make you afraid on some level, it isn’t worth doing.

Think about it. Getting a new boyfriend or girlfriend. Your first kiss. Your first day at college, or your first day on the job, or even getting a new haircut. It all comes with a certain degree of fear, from a tickle in your stomach to a writhing pit of snakes there. If we were never nervous, it would mean that we were following the same routine all the time, and the same routine…well, it produces the same results. You can’t grow that way; you stagnate. And really, who wants to live a stagnant life?

well, of course

To tag on to the end of this entry, I have a little bit of shameless advertising. Don’t worry; it’s not for me.

Miss Gala Darling has declared February the month of Radical Self-Love. She’ll be posting articles throughout the month about how to, well, have radical self-love. Gala is a wonderful source of inspiration, and I’m sure she’ll put out some goodies. I don’t agree with everything she says, but I do highly recommend her.

Click on the picture to read more about it at iCiNG!

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How Not to Suck at Giving Gifts

Sadly, this guide is a little late for Christmas, but there are plenty of birthdays, Valentine’s Days, and anniversaries where it can come in handy. I won’t claim to be a master of all things giftwrapped. However, I do love giving presents, and this year in particular I was on the prowl for gifts my friends would really enjoy. It made me think about the things I liked getting myself and the things that have worked best when buying for someone else.

Maybe reading on won’t make you the most beloved St. Nick in the room, but it should help you avoid that ugly Christmas sweater cringe your grandma gets every year.

UGH. Thanks a LOT, gramma!picture from here

Don’t Buy A Generic Gift

If your Auntie Barbara from Nowheresville, Unknown drops in one Christmas, sure, feel free to give her that ready-made lotion kit. A third cousin you haven’t seen in a decade? Hand over those lottery tickets! Your boyfriend of nearly four years? Honey, put the mini toolkit down. You and I both know he is never, ever going to use that screwdriver to fix the doorknob, no matter how many you buy him.

Don’t get me wrong here; I like getting ten Bath and Bodyworks sets as much as the next girl, but there is one thing it always says to me: “Hi, unspecified person I felt the need to get a present for! I don’t know anything about you, but everyone likes Sweetpea! Enjoy!”.

If you care about a person and want to get them a gift they won’t easily forget, you have to dig a little deeper than the Holiday Giftset stands in WalMart.

If You Do Buy a Generic Gift, Personalize It

picture from here

So maybe this person’s birthday is tomorrow, you don’t have any time to come up with the perfect present, and an ‘IOU’ seems insufficient. It’s okay. It happens. But when you pick up that giftcard, make sure it’s for a place they actually like. If you’re shuffling though the $7 DVDs, how about searching for a movie that has some significance? Maybe you all went to see Mamma Mia! in the theater a while back, and so-and-so really loved it. And hey, if you’re going to buy that movie, don’t just throw it in a giftbag and write your name on it. Add a bottle of Coke and a bag of popcorn and make it into a movie watching kit. If the movie’s for your sweetie, you could double that order and add a pseudo ticket that reads, “One free night out at the movies with me!”.

The point is, even if you do have to resort to typical gifts, you can always make it a little more personal. Wrap it up so that it’s super-pretty, add a homemade card that will make the person laugh…just find something that assures them you were thinking about them.

Pay Attention

Okay, this is kind of a no-brainer, but the ultimate rule of giving a great gift is knowing the person you’re giving it to. If you’re close to them, you probably already know a lot, and all it takes to figure out the perfect gift is some time to think on it. If someone’s birthday is coming up, start paying attention to the sort of things they talk about. Women, at least, often give hints to things they might like if they know you’ll be buying them presents.

Also, thanks to the magic of networking sites, we now have these nifty little tools called profiles to use to our benefit. Check out your recipient’s list of interests to see if that can help you pick a gift. Maybe you know a book that’s in a similar style to a series they love, or perhaps you’re fantastic with music and can whip up a great mix CD. Do be careful not to be a creeper, though; knowing the things a person likes shouldn’t translate to buying him a DVD of every single movie he’s listed as a favorite.

More Expensive is Not Always Better

picture from here

Here’s the best thing about being good at picking out presents: you don’t have to have a lot of money. I’ve gotten some big presents over the years, from a Wacom tablet to bedroom furniture, but when I think back over the things I’ve loved most, two that come to mind are a homemade journal and a painted jar. The journal contained a quote from a poet my friend remembered me liking. The jar was adorable and made to look like my favorite animal, a penguin.

So before you buy that super-expensive CD collection of a band your friend only vaguely knows about, think about making a homemade present instead, or giving them a coupon book of favors, or even just taking them out for a night. Personally, I’d prefer a picnic lunch over an $80 perfume any day.

That said, do pay attention to the person for whom you’re buying. While I know one of my friends loves homemade soap and would be happy to get a wrapped package of it, I also know my mother would much prefer jewelry, even if it’s not expensive.

The final thing to remember is that, corny though it may sound, it really is the thought that counts. Putting time and effort into your gifts will make them great, and even if they are recieved with a less enthusiastic response than you’d hoped, rest assured that for every gift that flops, you’ll give five that make someone’s special day ten times brighter.

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How to Make Good New Year’s Resolutions

It’s almost the end of 2009. Whether you’re devastated or delirious to see it go, make your amends now, ’cause it’s time to wave goodbye. Not to worry, though; when one door closes, another door opens, and 2010 is waltzing in and setting itself up to be the best year of your life–that is, if you want it to be.

Though every person has different traditions, from counting money to kissing to getting falling-down drunk as the ball drops, there is at least one thing we seem to have in common: the idea of New Year’s resolutions. Often, these resolutions aren’t made with a lot of intent…or at least, the intent dies quickly. But if you stop making New Year’s resolutions because you have to come up with an answer for a Facebook survey and start truly resolving to change your life for the better, they can be jumping off points for a wonderful year.

Today, I’m going to talk about how to make resolutions you can stick to and really use, not just forget two weeks into January. At the very least, I hope it’ll get you to put a little thought into your to-do list before you start your newest celery-and-water diet.

Put the Past Year to Rest

Whether it’s an opportunity you missed, not getting into your dream school, having fights with your parents, some cute girl or boy you couldn’t quite catch, or having an altogether sucktastic year, you need to let bygones be bygones. If there’s someone you really need to talk to, try to get it done before the year is out, or at least early on in January. If you made a mistake, take this chance to forgive yourself. If the life plan you had laid out isn’t going to work, prepare to find a new one. No matter how awful or great this year was, you have a chance to make the next one a thousand times better, so don’t hurt yourself by hanging too tightly to the past. Tack the moments you want to keep to the wall of your brain, then write a list of all the bad things and burn it. Dance around the ashes. Dance into the New Year.

Make Resolutions You Care About

Maybe you feel like knowing French is a requirement for being truly cultured but have never met a French person in your life and have no desire to see Montmartre. Maybe your metabolism works at lightening speed and you really, really want that slice of cheesecake but skip dessert because all your friends are trying to lose weight this year. Maybe you feel obligated to do something because it’s what a parent, friend, or lover would want. Regardless of the situation, you resolve to do this thing…and sure enough, two months later, you’re either chowing down on an extra large slice of cheesecake or have progressed to using your knowledge of French to say words that would make your grandmère blush.

If you’re making resolutions you don’t really care about, it’s going to be difficult and miserable to follow through with them. The point of New Year’s resolutions is to set a tone for the upcoming year that will leave you feeling delighted and powerful, or at least accomplished. If your long term goal is becoming a writer, make resolutions that will work throughout the year to help you get closer to that goal. Note that resolutions aren’t always fun, but they should always be something you really want. There’s no point in giving yourself unnecessary rules to follow when they won’t make your life into what you want it to be.

Don’t Give Yourself Too Many (Or Too Few) Resolutions

“This year, I want to lose weight, make more money, buy a new computer, get a dog, train the dog, enter the dog in talent shows, buy a new car, clean my house from top to bottom at least once every two months, buy a new house, meet the members of Green Day and kiss them all, travel to Greece, Spain, and Africa, fall in love, get married, have five kids, get an awesome job, discover a new planet, save the world…”

Sometimes, it’s easy to get carried away with resolutions. We can get really, really excited about things, so much so that we end up trying to lose one hundred and fifty pounds in a month’s time or set a crazy ultimatum for accomplishing a goal that we don’t have full control over (getting a record label or becoming co-owner of a huge, well-established company, for example). However fabulous and gifted we may be, we’re still human, and there’s only so much we can get done in a year. It’s better to have fewer resolutions than you’d like than to end up feeling like you haven’t accomplished anything because you set way too many.

On the flip side, be careful of setting too few resolutions. Being realistic doesn’t mean not believing in yourself, and once you accomplish that New Year’s goal of getting a hair cut, you’ll have 364 more days ’till next year and nothing left to do!

Remind Yourself of What You’re Trying to Do

I’ll be honest here. I’m not an organized person (which is one of the things I want to work on this year). I envy people who carry dayplanners and have neon post-it notes along their wall, but I’ve never been able to keep up with something like that. However, I have found that keeping a tangible reminder of your goals makes it harder to forget/ignore them. So put a list on your fridge, make a giant poster and tape it over your desk…heck, put it as your cellphone background if you have to. Just have a reminder of the things you want to accomplish where you can see it as much as possible.

Another great thing about having a tangible list of resolutions is the ability to check them off as you complete them. Finally mastered your grandpa’s famous garlic frog legs? Check! An even better, more thorough idea might be to keep a journal of your progress. That way, if your goal will take most of the year or if you can’t quite complete it in your timespan, you can at least put down what you’re doing to get it accomplished. That way, at the end of the year, you can see how far you’ve come and how much work you’ve put in.

Failing is Not the End of the World

Say we get to late December of next year and you haven’t taken that trip to Australia yet. It’s okay. Cry, stomp, scream, beat up a throw pillow, post an epic rant on your blog, tug your hair out…and then get over it. Have some wine (or sparkling cider, depending on your age and taste), toast yourself on a good effort, and start making resolutions for next year. The point is that you tried, and you can try again. Even putting that goal in mind is a step forward.

“It’s the journey, not the destination.”

Now the only thing left to do is go out there and start your resolutions! Try not to procrastinate on this one; the faster you begin, the faster you’ll get to see that beautiful finish line. I have to start writing my resolutions, too, so it’s time I wrapped up. (: Good luck!

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