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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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

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

“What’s Your End Goal?”

Up until about a year ago, I thought I’d have an “Ah-hah!” moment when I became an adult and knew what I was doing with my life.  Then, I realized that becoming an adult is accepting that nobody knows what they’re doing, and becoming a responsible adult is just doing the best you can.  Fake it until you become it, as they say!

I have a simple short-term goal: receiving my MBA and finding a job to pay the bills.  My long-term goals are a little less quantifiable, though.  I want to find a fulfilling job; one that provides a two-way street allowing me to impact the world while developing me as a person.  I also want to inspire women to find love for themselves, which I believe starts with finding love for Jesus.  This blog is my meager attempt at building the foundations towards that goal.

But in all truth, there is no end goal for me.  I will die with goals I haven’t yet met, because as I reach one milestone, I set the next one.  That’s the burden of being a goal-oriented person.  Goals are always evolving, adapting to fit my capabilities and emotions.

If you aren’t sure what your purpose is and feel surrounded by people who seem to have it all together, you are not alone.  Just know that even when you feel purposeless, God has a reason you’re here.  He just doesn’t always make His reasons known.

So well-meaning people of the world, please stop inquiring as to my end goal.  There is no end goal.  There is a series of goals that will continue to evolve as I continue to grow.  We aren’t meant to know our end purpose, and it’s high time we stop trying.

#APerfectFit

What does “wellness” even mean?

My definition of wellness involves physical, mental, social and spiritual health.  I  place the most importance on spiritual health, but I try to tend to all 4 facets on a daily basis.  Some days, one area needs a little more attention than the others, and that area gets prioritized.  This encompassing definition of wellness means it’s perfectly healthy to skip a morning at the gym for a brunch with your girlfriends if you’re lacking in social health that week.  However, you have to be careful to prioritize in a way that maintains the quadrants equally, instead of focusing on your favorite each day.

What do I mean by that?  When I was competing in the pageant system, physical health fought to become my single definition of wellness.  I was surrounded by girls with phenomenal bodies, and I was going to stand on a stage next to them.  I didn’t skip workouts.  It didn’t matter if I hadn’t had a real conversation with my roommate in a week or given myself some time to rewind all month.  I focused all of my energy on that one aspect of health, and it resulted in neglect of the other areas.

When I graduated in December of 2016, I had a lot to think about.  One evaluation I made involved looking at my beliefs and how they were driving me.  This 4-dimensional model of wellness is something I’ve always stated was part of my belief system, but my actions hadn’t been adding up.  I realized I still believed it was the best model of wellness for my life, but I was letting the picture-perfect models of Instagram alter my reality.  I was prioritizing based on the mindset I ended up with after scrolling past perfect picture after perfect picture on social media.  I knew I had to make a change.

I took a serious look at my mental health and recognized how harshly I was evaluating my body.  My physical health was no longer about true health.  It had become more about being as toned as the (often edited) photos than about BMI and clean eating.  This twisted perception of physical health was certainly impacting my mental health.  It was also hurting my social health, as I couldn’t skip a day at the gym.

In my last post, I admitted my physique isn’t what it once was.  Despite a few new curves, my body is still strong and healthy, and now, I have a mindset of strength to match.  My social calendar is always open to new bookings, and I can truly say I am happier than ever.  All that despite facing a new challenge in my life.

Working part time while staying on top of my MBA coursework has simply been exhausting.  If I didn’t have amazing people in my life building me up, it probably wouldn’t be going as well as it is.  As disciplined as I try to be, I don’t have time to do everything I want to do.  I am slowly becoming proficient at prioritizing, but it’s a skill I’ll be working to improve for the rest of my life.

There are moments when I see a fat girl in the dressing room trying on clothes that are no longer the size 0 I once wore.  There are moments I want back the abs that generated buzz.  They are fleeting and becoming more infrequent with each passing week.  My investments in social activities have resulted in waves of love and support, and my mental health is doing much better focusing on my daily successes instead of my physical appearance.

It’s difficult to talk about appearances when everyone’s perception has been effected by numerous positive and negative events.  Your body is the vessel through which you can impact the world, and physically taking care of it is important.  But I encourage you to recognize how much more there is to health than weight.

Tonight is going to be a candlelit bathtub and wine kind of night for me.  What do you need to do tonight to be well?

#APerfectFit

Why Hating Valentines Day Matters

There was a time in my life when I said I hated February 14th, but I absolutely loved to hate it.  Valentine’s Day was a celebration with my gal pals – we ate chocolate, threw gummy bears at couples in movie theaters, and in later years, popped bottles.  As much as we whined and complained about being single and forever alone, we were never actually alone.

Fast forward a few years… it turns out I wouldn’t be single forever.  You won’t be either if you don’t want to be.  I love him every day, but he gets extra attention today both for the Hallmark holiday and his birthday.

So what’s the point of this post?  I guess I just want to give a little bit of completely unsolicited advice to all my single friends.  And maybe even to the younger girls whose relationships with boys are so much less important than their friends (even if they don’t see that right now).

Hating Valentines Day is one of the best girlfriend activities in the world, and if you aren’t embracing it, you are seriously missing out.  By embracing it, I mean pouring your heart and soul out to your friends.  Laugh and cry and verbally abuse people who have done you wrong.  If you’re doing it with your best friends, it’s going to turn into a beautiful memory, and all the mushy outcries are going to make you closer.

Hate on couples and romance, but immerse yourself in the love of your friends.  Open your heart up and be vulnerable with the people who will stand by you at the altar one day, tears in their eyes because they know how much you prayed for the person standing across from you.  Don’t harden your heart on a holiday about love.  Just because you’re single now doesn’t mean you don’t or can’t love, it just means you have extra feels for your friends right now.

As thankful as I am that I have a man to do life with, when I hear my roommates talking about getting wine, cookie dough, and a chick-flick for tonight, my heart aches a little.  Because as happy as I am to be in love, some of my best memories with those girls include those very things and hating on everyone who had done wrong by us.  So my advice is simple: embrace the stage you’re at in life; you’re going to miss it tomorrow.  If that means wine night and Magic Mike, engage in every minute of it.  You might have all the romance your heart craves next year, but until then, be with people that matter today and love them with all you’ve got.

And to my beautiful roommates, thanks for having a second go round on Thursday so I can participate.  Knowing a night with my best friends is only a couple of days away heals the FOMO I have about going on a romantic date tonight.  Thanks for making it possible for me to have both.  I can’t wait for Galentines!