Carving a New Path

The following is more of a journal entry than a health-related blog post.  Conveniently, this is my site, and I can deviate from intended content without consequence.  Perhaps you’ll find my post-graduate journey resonates with your own experiences; I’m definitely not the first of my friends to feel empty-handed even with a diploma.  My intention is to share that even when the surface seems radiant, we all carry doubts.

Without further ado, my post-graduate journey:

Last December, I graduated for the first time.  The celebration of my 4 and a half years felt somewhat hollow.  Though proud of what I’d accomplished, my education journey was far from over, with MBA classes starting only a few weeks later.

Months before graduation, I’d made the decision to abandon my previous plans of attending OT school and started looking for a job.  With no opportunities jumping out at me, I enrolled in the MBA program.  I’d always known I wanted an MBA, but rushing into it was more out of desperation than desire.  I needed to feel like I was moving forward, even though I didn’t know what direction I was meant to head.

Occupational therapy was a calling I thought I had until an internship showed me how wrong I was.  I come from a family with established careers.  Doctors, therapists, lawyers, bankers… people who know what type of role they’re meant to be in, committed to obtaining proper credentials, and stayed the course.

I thought I wanted something similar.  The job security of a medical degree was enticing on paper, but in reality, it wasn’t for me.  Therapy follows a script, tailored to individuals and their needs, but nonetheless a script.  I felt my creativity was limited in this role, but I told myself it would be “okay” if I could obtain a pediatric role in OT.  As I did my research, I realized how unlikely it would be for me to start in pediatrics, and I pictured long days with post-op patients stretching out forever in front of me.  The security sounded great on paper, but the reality of being in one role for the rest of my life was terrifying.

At this point, some of you are thinking, “Well, you could move into a supervisory role.”  You’re right, and if I’d stayed that course, I would have done so with haste.  Luckily, I have an amazing support system who made sure I skipped the step where I was miserable.

My boyfriend was the first to speak up.  He made me realize that while I’d been creating a path in my head, that was the only place it existed.  In reality, my horizons were wide open.

When I first struck out in a new direction, it felt like hacking through undergrowth with a machete.  Gone was the comfortably worn path I’d prepared for myself.  There was a certain thrill associated with the terror.  The freedom to choose any direction was exhilarating, but the lack of certainty was nauseating.  As I told the people close to me about my complete lack of direction, I was shocked by the outpouring of support and love that met me.  It was this that kept me from turning back to my beaten trail and catapulted me ahead.

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Their excitement for my journey was contagious.  So I held my hands up and asked, “God what’s the plan?”  I quit deciding for myself, and I sought His leadership instead.  What a difference that made.

I have one more semester left in the MBA program, but my graduation in May of 2018 will be a much different affair than December of 2016.  I don’t have it all planned out – in fact I don’t intend to ever live that way again, but I do have a direction.  I’ve accepted a position with Cisco Systems in their Cisco Sales Associate Program (CSAP).  It’s a highly competitive program that will immerse me in all things Cisco, and I’m absolutely thrilled to have received this offer.

Sometimes, it’s letting go that lets us get everything together.  Staying the course would have been a safer decision.  For the rest of my life, I’d have woken up every day knowing the career that awaited me.  This is wide open.  There are ladders to climb, new departments to explore, and further on down the road, who know, there might even be new companies.  My psych degree tells me that human beings hate uncertainty, but I seem to be thriving on it.  I think that’s largely due to the huge safety net created by the loving people in my life.

So thank you daddy, because knowing you’d kick ass if I needed backup has made me bold.  Thank you mama, because having you as my #1 fan has made me confident.  Thank you Henry, because you’re the best built in best friend, and I always glow with pride when asked about my little brother.  Thank you Lawrence, because without you, I wouldn’t have seen my own potential.  Thank you to my girls (you know who you are), because I know on the hard days one of you will always be waiting with a bottle of wine.

I’m carving a new path.  It’s scary at times, but I’m living for the thrill of seeing where I end up.  I have two takeaway from this experience:

(One)     Never assume someone else’s path has been easy.  Nothing in my life has come as easily to me as I’ve made it look.  I blame my tendency to make difficult things look simple on my years of dancing – placing your body in varying states of pain all while making it look like art.  Be aware that you’re never alone in your struggles, even if the social media twist on reality makes it feel that way.  We all struggle.

(Two)     Embrace the unknown as a chance to find greater happiness.  Everything in our nature tells us it’s scary, but that fear makes the end result worth so much more.  Depend on your social support system and be dependable in return.  Facing the unknown is better than remaining locked in a miserable known life.

If you stuck with me to the end, I thank you, and I hope you could both relate to and learn from this post.  I’m truly so excited for my new position with Cisco, and I hope the new year brings excitement and joy for you, too!  Cheers to 2018!

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Vegging Out

The holidays are the perfect opportunity for a cheat day (week).  Luckily, I think there’s more to health than calorie intake, so by all means, forget about portion control and eat up!  If you are unaware of my model of health, it accounts for facets of well-being outside of our physical body, and you can read more about it hereUse the holidays as a time to recharge mentally while you veg out physically.

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Christmas Motto: hot cocoa, blanket, fire side, kisses… the great indoors

Being thankful is a state of mind, and the holidays are a great time to re-evaluate your blessings.  It’s so easy to get caught up in negative thinking.  Social media has really perpetuated this problem.  We see peoples’ social media lives and immediately make comparisons to our reality.  Comparisons are human, and it’s okay to make them.  However, you need to recognize the distorted realities that are being portrayed online, and you need to learn to be okay with your own reality.

Focusing on what’s good in your life is a great coping skill.  This doesn’t mean ignore the bad – trust me we all have mountains to climb.  But why think about the bad if you aren’t doing so constructively?  Rolling it around in your head until you feel ill helps no one.  So when you aren’t actively solving your life’s problems, turn your attention to your many blessings!

Recognize that being thankful starts with the small things.  It’s easy to be thankful for a promotion or the car you saved up to buy, but realize that waking up today was a gift in itself.  Seeing the festive decor, hearing your loved ones voices, and tasting the pie… just to be is magical, and to be well in life’s turbulence is nothing short of miraculous.

In our fast-paced world, what an incredible blessing it is to be able to gather around the table and share a meal.  Enjoy your time with family, friends, or even just yourself – I’m not telling you how to live your holiday; I’m just reminding you to live your best life!

From my family to yours, happy holidays!

#APerfectFit

Fa la la la Finals

I took my first college finals in the December of 2012, and next week will mark my second to last round of that misery.  Over the course of 5 years, I’ve made a lot of changes to my study habits.  They’re still imperfect thanks to a mind that wanders and Netflix list that constantly grows, but they’re much improved.  So here are the top 5 changes I’ve made that took me from academic probation (I blame Calculus) to the President’s list.


(1) Do sleep the night before an exam; do not pull an all night-er.

As a freshmen, my exam tactic was to spend 12+ hours in the library cramming every piece of information into mind possible, take an espresso shot, trudge across campus to my exam, pass out in my twin-sized bed for 4 hours, and repeat.  This is a terrible strategy.  Your brain is not going to be functional, and none of the data you’ve crammed in is going to stick.

I still don’t get luxurious long rests during finals week, but I do get enough hours to function properly.  Not only is sleep an important mechanism for your brain to recall information, it is also important for your immune system.  There’s nothing worse than trying to take a final in a medicated haze with used tissues encroaching on your paper.  Sleep is essential to both mental and physical health, so prioritize it.

(2) Do spend time with friends; do not pick parties over grades.

Humans are social creatures, and finals week is no excuse to sequester away.  I realize that some people absolutely cannot study unless they are alone in a quiet place, and for those people, a study group might not be an effective use of time.  That’s totally fine.  Text a friend and make your next coffee run together, though!  While social schedules belong on the back burner during finals week, friendships do not.  Stay connected to your support system and send encouragement to your classmates.  If there’s one thing being a part of the Clemson family has taught me, it’s that we’re all in this thing called life together!

(3) Do drink lots of water; do not treat coffee as a food group.

This goes hand in hand with getting sleep.  When you get sleep, you don’t need as much caffeine to keep your eyelids open.  Coffee is still an essential comfort in my study process, but it is no longer a requirement for me to function.  Plus staying hydrated by drinking water will help your immune system just like sleep, making you a much less likely target for germs.

(4) Do wear something you feel comfortable in; do not forget to shower.

This is something the MBA program forced me to learn.  In undergrad, I was leggings and a t-shirt on a good day, and finals week was a chance to rock sweat pants in public.  My MBA building requires business casual dress, which was a big adjustment.  I still think comfort is key to acing finals, but there’s a difference between dressing for comfort and dressing with a total loss of self-respect.  Even if sweat pants are your jam, take a hot shower and run a brush through your hair.  I find that looking less like a stress case externally helps me feel less like a stress case internally.

(5) Do use the resources available to you; do not trust exclusively in tribal knowledge.

For many classes, there are study guides that have been passed from one generation to the next.  Take advantage of those, but do not trust in them exclusively.  Professors can make changes, and the easier the study guide was for you to access, the more likely is is they will become aware of it.  Often if that happens, the final will change drastically.

While studying smart and focusing on the concepts most likely to appear will save time, make sure your review of the material is comprehensive.  Just because your hall mate had this exam last semester and swears it was only on that one graph does not mean your final will be only on that one graph.  Focus primarily on topics the professor indicated were important, take advantage of resources from peers, but don’t neglect entire sections of material based on word of mouth.


Finals can create stress levels that impact our mental health, and the studying time crunch limits our social schedules.  However, I hope you can realize what a blessing it is to have this stress in your life.  Some degree of stress is good for you as long as you’re coping with it appropriately.  A life without stress is a life without caring, and having something to care about is so essential to feeling your life has meaning.

If you’re in school like me, you’re preparing for a new phase in your life, and I’m so excited for you!  Keep the great things that will happen as a result of your education in the back of your mind as you tackle finals and don’t let the stress destroy your dreams.  Cling to why you’re doing what you’re doing.  At the end of the day, it’s just a number, and even if it isn’t what you hoped for, a bad grade won’t be your downfall.

Happy studying!

 

Winter Is Coming

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Photo by Christine Scott Photography

There’s nothing better than an oversized sweater, crackling fire, and marshmallows drowning in hot cocoa when it starts to get cold.  This time of year is when my motivation for physical wellness starts to slip, but my mental wellness is at its peak.  Food, family, and festivities abound in the winter months.

But how do you make time for your physical body without compromising on all of the waistline destroying treats of the holiday season?


Get the people you love involved!  I signed my family up for 8am Christmas Eve yoga this past year, and though my brother wore his Christmas pajamas, we got in a pretty good workout before hunkering back down.  It’s hard to make time to workout when you picture the rest of your loved ones snuggling by the fireplace, so by all means, be the team motivator.  Motivating your loved ones will also motivate you!

Remind yourself that you won’t be nearly as jolly and bright if you come down with a winter bug, and exercise is a great way to boost your immune system!  If you feel a little stuffy, it’ll drain your head and clear your sinuses.  Just remember to wash your hands thoroughly to avoid catching any gym bugs.

Mix up your routineThe exercises you do when it’s warm out don’t have to be the same as those you do when it gets cold.  I’m always an advocate for a little variety because being stuck in a rut makes it hard for me to keep going.  Right now, I’m crazy about hot yoga!  I love that it’s warm, as well as how detoxed and stretched my muscles feel when I get done.

As part of your new routines, find workouts you can do at home.  I have a list of these for rainy days, or even lazy ones, when leaving my apartment after class feels out of the question.  A quick 30 minutes before you shower and start/end your day will make a huge difference.  You can add it to your list of accomplishments, and just like making your bed,  accomplishing this small goal will make a big difference in how you perceive yourself.


The earth will warm back up soon, and sweaters will be traded for swimsuits in the blink of an eye.  Make sure you’re treating all facets of your wellness so you can feel great with every seasonal change!  Stay warm, and as always, love the skin you’re in.

#APerfectFit

A Thanksgiving Story

This week I took some old clothes to the Goodwill donation box and had a powerful reminder of how minute my “problems” really are. The weather hadn’t called for rain that afternoon, yet dark clouds formed and cold droplets were falling hard. I was grumpy, complaining to myself about how cold and damp I’d get in the 5 foot walk from my car to the dropbox. I was in a bad mood already because I’d had to stay in town for an exam and wouldn’t be able to leave for home until the day before Thanksgiving. I almost skipped my errand and went straight home, but then the rain slowed down.

I moved the first load from my trunk and shut the metal flap, still obsessing over how annoyed I was by the weather, this chore, and my to do list. I gathered the rest of my clothes and dropped them in, too. As my hand rested on the handle seconds from sending these away, I heard a man calling out, “Ma’am please, please wait! Could I look through those before you shut it?” Sadly, my first thought was for my safety, but when I turned, the man I saw was fragile and looked desperate but not unkind. He was running across the parking lot, followed by his wife who moved a little slower. She clutched a bag from the nearby fast food joint, and she wore several layers of torn clothes that were doing nothing to save her from the cold and damp.

“Thank you ma’am,” the guy was saying, bowing his head in front of me. “My wife needs clothes so bad.”

She just kept saying “thank you,” with a look of hope and happiness on her face.

“There are some old flannels,” I said, handing her the one on top, “I hope they’ll keep you warm.”

I got in my car, and now I was feeling sad. My heart felt like lead in my chest. And I did something many of us have done. I began to ask God why.

Why didn’t You call my attention to these people before I dropped the first load of clothes down the chute?

You see the second load had a few flannels, but it was mostly dresses. Completely useless for this woman. The first load had contained sweaters. And even better, it had contained an old coat – a puffy, warm coat that would have protected her from the elements this winter. All I wanted was for this woman to have that coat, but since there was nothing I could do, I gave my grief to God and tried to turn my attention elsewhere.

This isn’t a feel good story. Sure, she’s a little warmer, but she needed much more than she got. I’ve thought about her and her husband frequently since I saw them, praying for a change in their circumstances. This story is a reminder. We get grumpy when things aren’t going our way, and we forget about the bigger picture. If you’re reading this post, whether you’re on a cellphone or tablet or computer or even smartwatch, maybe this story will give you pause the next time you’re grumpy over something small. Because this couple was so far from grumpy. They were happy beyond measure to receive cast off clothes that I had whined about taking the time to give away.

I hope this post finds you recognizing what an immense blessing it is to wake up and have to decide what to wear, under the vents that keep you warm and the roof that keeps you dry. It reminded me that being thankful is easy when you realize nothing you’ve got in this life is a guarantee. Everything is a gift. I hope this post finds you gifted beyond measure, with a heart of gratitude to match.

Happy Thanksgiving from my family to yours.

Flow Through the Seasons

Life starts all over again when it gets crisp in the fall.

F. Scott Fitzgerald

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Thanks to: Christine Scott Photography

As much as I love to be warm, there’s something about the leaves changing colors in the fall that does my soul some good.  It’s been my favorite thing about the Carolinas since I moved “north” in 2012.  In Georgia, we never really had four seasons, and I’ve decided it’s not as bad as I thought it would be.

Today I have a very simple message, but it’s one that I believe needs to be said.  It’s one that I’ve needed to hear at points of change in my own life.

Be gentle when judging yourself.  Accept changes you make in your life.  Recognize that how you got to this point was an important part of your journey, but it is by no means the last chapter in your book.

We all have a construct of our personal identity.  We know who we think we are, and it’s based on so very many things.  Who our parents are.  Where we grew up.  The sports teams we cheer for.  The clothes we wear.  We look for people with similar identities, who don’t threaten this carefully constructed image we have in our minds.  And sometimes we forget a very important truth: we don’t have to be that person.

The beauty of being human is in the ability to change.  It’s easier said than done, but we don’t have to repeat our mistakes or even the mistakes of our parents.  We can change our minds about who we are when we recognize a flaw, and with effort and patience, we can change our being.

Encourage positive change.  We all go through seasons of highs and lows, peace and strain, certainty and confusion.  Each season is preparing you for the next, teaching you how to adapt.  If we were all born the same way we were going to die, life would be pretty bland.  How lucky are we that there is always something to learn?

P.S. I can’t wait to start a new season in my life and have an exciting announcement about post-grad plans coming to you soon!

#APerfectFit

Love Your Reflection

Since I’m trying to re-establish blogging as part of my busy work week, I wanted to get back to the basics this week and remind myself why my work matters.  So let’s talk about the girl in the mirror and why we love her!

Worldwide, women are under pressure to meet beauty standards.  Those standards are different wherever you go, and even within a culture, everyone has an opinion.  That means you are never going to be everybody’s cup of tea.  No body meets every beauty standard.

So where should you be focusing your energy?

IMG_6800Instead of conforming to your society’s standards, take a look in the mirror and see what’s there.  Then, find a way to love what you see.

Easier said than done.  We all have our hangups – a freckle we can’t see past, a curve we wish would shrink.  You are your own worst critic, and that’s okay.  We all have the potential to make changes in our lives, and as long as those changes are healthy, it’s okay to make them.  Just make sure you make changes out of love for yourself, not out of pressure to conform.

So how do you love your imperfectly perfect self?  Here are a few exercises for those days when the girl in the mirror isn’t living up to the standards living within you:

(1) Take “time off”

Nobody has the energy to be “on” at all times, and time off is at the heart of my self-love practice.  Light a candle, power down your networking apps, and pour a glass of wine.  Sink into the tub or under the covers.  Open the book that’s been gathering dust on your nightstand or turn on a mindless flick.  Just be.

(2) Accomplish small goals

Every morning, I make my bed, and no matter what happens during the day, I have accomplished that one, very small, goal.  It sounds silly.  For me, it works.  No matter what else happens, I have done this one small thing for myself, and at the end of the day, I get to pull the covers back and escape.

(3) Quicken your heartbeat

Get a workout in!  The amazing thing about exercise is that it works if you’re tired or if you’re too hyped up to wind down.  A meaningless day that drains you of all energy or a strenuous day that wires you with stress can both be reversed with a little cardiovascular training.

(4) Phone a friend

Call someone who sees what you are having trouble seeing: you are amazing.  Let them remind you of all the good you bring to the world, the enrichment you give to their life.  We all need a hype man sometimes.  Embrace their compliments and love!IMG_6774

(5) Just dance

Okay, maybe don’t dance, but do something you love!  If you don’t have a hobby that you can’t talk about without smiling, it’s time to find one.  Find something that makes you feel good about yourself, that lets your talents shine.

Whatever you choose to do, make sure you are keeping the outside world quiet so you can clearly hear your own needs! 

How do you remind the girl in the mirror that she woke up flawless?

#APerfectFit