The Boringer the Better(er)?

I have always had a big issue with people who seem to think their life is just so much infinitely more interesting than others and everyone else is boring. They are that person who hears you say “oh I just worked all weekend” and responds all big eyed “oh sounds like a blast” paired with the awkward ‘I pity you because I think your life is boring as shit’ nervous laugh (story of my life).  Then he/she will launch into some story about how their car got stolen as they were at dinner so they called the cops and Eminem showed up instead and went clubbing with them and who gave them a free cell phone and a song appearance on his new album, all weekend long.  I don’t necessarily resent people who seem to live above the level of cool in terms of their general life, but I certainly do not appreciate my 24 hour work weekend being knocked as excitement-lessly boring.  Hey…it was so exciting to see how busy a Saturday was and to get take out for lunch. That salad was the bomb! So you met Eminem, while I once again ate from plastic cutlery and had to eat one bite every half hour due to how swamped we were. Basically…I have always appreciated a routine and revel in the down time when it’s available.  Being boring really is way more fun than most people think. It poses all kinds of benefits like the security of a full night’s sleep, avoidance of ‘lost all my personal property at the bar’ nights, and the ability to answer what are your plans for this weekend (uh let me check…yep working again). It is okay to have consistency especially in your personal life.

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 In class the other day we had to go around and do those dreadfully painful introductions that professors make you do when they feel too awkward about reading you the syllabus and then letting you leave too early. The worst part is seeing the pain on everyone’s face as they stand up and try to look as nice and approachable as possible. I am constantly amazed at my ability to forget to answer a mere four statements about myself…I always leave out “what was the most interesting thing you did this summer?”  The entire class went around and there were the exciting people who had amazing hanging with Eminem summers. As the three exciting summer people rattled off their vacations the mood took a turn for the worst when the rest of the class responded by saying that everyone didn’t do anything fun or interesting, we all apparently just hung around and worked.  It was like we all were so let down by the lack of coolness in our lives. We went on to each new person, and every time it was like the entire class had such high hopes of hearing just one skydiving story only to be crushed to hear that they just stayed home helping Grandma (which I thought was absolutely adorable to say!). I looked around wondering if I should make something ridiculous up like swam with alligators while harnessed in a meat suit just to up the morale during the first hours of what is sure to be a very long semester.  

I didn’t really start to feel inadequate about my generic answer that was to come until the professor interrupted saying, “Is that really all you guys do? I’m sorry your lives are so boring.”

Aw man again with the why is your life so boring thing?  I even felt a little offended.  You should know that the most exciting thing he did this summer was that he made it to every single reds game. Look out we are in the presence of a regular old Nik Wallenda. Without ranting too much…what about repeatedly cooking in pure summer inferno, squished in between crowd members dressed in camo and sweaty jean shorts, sounds like fun? Not to mention that most of the time you go and the biggest excitement is the fact that you get a hot dog for a dollar. I love a baseball game as much as the next person but come on…my weekend takeout easily competes with your dollar hot dog.

What I ended up taking away from the class that day was that boring is in the eye of the beholder.  And even if you are legitimately boring you are a perfectly acceptable member of society. Us boring people are the reliable ones, you know where you can find us, and we will listen with ‘edge of your seat anticipation’ to how exciting your life is in comparison.  

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Exhibit A

-R

Switching Gears

I was looking around my room last night and was horrified to find out that I had been forgetting to clean it the past two months. Not that it looked atrocious or really all that unmessy to the general visitor, but after being in the habit of obsessively cleaning my hardwood floors every other day, the dust that I knew I would find and that pile of laundry in the corner weren’t making things better.  All stages of summer were just hanging around sucking the motivation out of the place. For example… I should be working on my resume but oh look there is my tennis racket…anyone want to hit?! The entire day I mentally prepared for the intense cleaning I was going to do when I got off work because both myself and my room needed it. I had bags of things. It was like I spent my entire summer living on foot out of some random over sized bag that looked horribly banged up and worn from grinding the skin off my shoulders as I trekked around doing whatever I just spent my entire summer doing (working). Literally I had accumulated four tooth brushes, random un-matched socks, and for some reason lots of unused napkins.

I finally got home so excited to clean it all and found myself done a mere half hour later. So the big room cleanse wasn’t as eventful as I thought… nor was it as messy as I was hoping.Classes were starting the next day and I realized a lot of the stress was coming from the fact that we are transitioning back into school. The thought of managing 7 classes, jobs, workouts, clubs, and a social life made me want to drop kick my planner out of the third story window in hopes that it could all just work itself out…clearly not the case. For some reason my brain didn’t (and still on day two of classes really doesn’t) want to go back to school. I don’t know why it wouldn’t want to change gears…obsessively relying on blackboard to tell you what you will be doing next and discussion boards that won’t load on your computer that are due in 30 minutes for 50% of your grade sound like a blast! Anyways…I tried to think of other things that could be done to help trick myself into thinking that colder months, hours of note taking, and the fear of not graduating could be more enjoyable than spending afternoons by the pool, or having the time to read a book that doesn’t cost $500.

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Here are a few that I came up with…

1. Throw away unnecessary last year school junk: as I was cleaning I came across this 6 page handwritten mess I actually turned in for a grade last year and the wave of school anxiety began to surface. Looking back on all of the hard work you put in during previous year’s work for many can feel intimidating, unless you are truly one of those go get em’ students who lives for long weekends of APA formatting. 

 
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2. Restock hygiene products: your deodorant-less summer may have been acceptable since you spent it on the beach, but intro to sociology doesn’t need to know about your brief lifestyle change. You will feel better if you show up feeling clean and sanitary.

3. If all else fails…run through it: Figure out how to sweat about it.  What screams sweltering 90 degree summer day like sweat dripping down your face and awkwardly sporting a t-shirt that is soaked in all the most flattering areas? Integrating fitness into your new school schedule has infinite health benefits (that I am sure we will tell you more about :]).  Exercise allows you to channel all of the back to school energy into something productive.

4. Look in the mirror really fast: so the last time you got a hair cut there was snow on the ground. And your makeup may have gone missing since it melted off in the heat anyways.  No big deal but you may want to consider not looking like a member of the white walkers (Game of Thrones reference see picture here) on the first day. Besides, nothing resets the dread of anything like a new hair-cut and fresh appearance.  

5. Don’t hate me but, check your check book (Had to say it): When you are about to transition back into a new phase of your life your entire daily routine will change as well. This means that while you may have avoided knowing the true balance for the past few months, chances are you will need to assess the damage done on those three vacations you took.  Dread is a very accurate way to describe how many students feel about finances, but the more you understand where your money goes, the easier it will be to avoid those emotional back to school shopping sprees. 

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6. Do spend money on: a travel coffee mug (or the alike). Whether you are on the morning caffeine or not the daily habit of starting your day off in a certain way is extremely beneficial. Research studies show that daily routines as simple as a morning cup of coffee can help calm stress and give the individual the comfort to go and take on the day in a slightly more coherent manner.  Your daily stress reliever may not come in the form of a travel mug, but find something that works for you.  For many it is a workout, listening to music, sitting down to breakfast etc. As long as your cute travel mug doesn’t become 12 donuts on a daily basis (i.e taking healthy to sugar coma). 

Once you establish your routine, the rest will follow. 

GOOD LUCK WITH CLASSES! 

-R

Why You should Travel without a Destination

I have always had a very serious interest in and love of travel. I sit and read WanderingEarl like it’s my job, but I guess I have never been one of those people who is brave enough to drop everything and just go. I’m way too much of a planner for that nonsense. While this has absolutely limited me from seeing the parts of the world that I plan to conquer eventually, I was ecstatic when I was able to squeeze in a last minute trip to northern Michigan.

Yes calling those days off work and not packing the computer gave me a minor hot flash, but I knew this trip was worth it. Between 3 jobs and being a student you take what you can get. It was no excursion to the summit of Machu Picchu, but it sure as hell beat the dog poop covered sidewalks and garbage day air/metro bus exhaust air of the urban city where I live.

We were going to Traverse city Michigan and by we I mean one of the two dudes (read more here) and myself.  What gives this family friendly destination vacation a little edge is the fact that we had absolutely no plans but the general expectation to go exploring to the best of our time there.  My expectation was to at least replicate one of the thousands of advertisements to Traverse City that depicted happy kayakers in crystal clear lake water. Again…no zip lining through the amazon, but still some serious out doors-ness that I was looking for.

We managed to have the best time by taking the plan as you go approach. Hiking dunes, trying amazing food, and some serious kayak time left me feeling like I had packed a week of activities into a 3 day time span.  Every travel adventure I have taken has been moderately planned or is that one trip you take and never change anything about i.e. traditional family beach volleyball tournament…”same teams as last year!!”

So here is why you should try traveling without a destination

No shame One of the most challenging parts of doing a trip with anyone especially groups is constantly living up to the feeling of “must follow the jam packed agenda” or else someone will be unhappy or feel that they were jipped out of the experience they signed up for. While exploring without an agenda I had no shame of suggesting an ice cream stop due to the fact that there were no plans to throw off with this (extremely edgy I know) spur of the moment decision.

Decide on the fly How many days of your life have you spent planning out your time down to the hour? My planner says….yep…pretty much every single day.  I can’t even deny that I have been guilty of planning out when I have time to wash my dishes. This lack of plannerized time was an amazing opportunity to embrace whatever came next. Shockingly enough the world didn’t self implode when I chose to leave my planner at home.

No big deal So you show up and the place is closed. Or that day long hike you had planned turned out to be a three mile trail around a pond. Or you got stranded in a sinking canoe and were forced to swim the rest of your trip (that really happened once). When there is no agenda things not working out really becomes an experience rather than a disappointment. There is something exciting about the possibility that anything could come next.

Do what you want for the first time ever on any trip I have been on, I felt no guilt about giving into my extremely guilty pleasure of mulling around whichever bookstore I can find in the nearest vicinity. Oh you think bookstores are lame huh? Please feel free to come up with another suggestion that provides you with any type of entertainment you could ever hope for in the palm of your hand.  You have total freedom to decide how you want the day to go. I had no idea how scheduled out my days have been by events that are out of my control. It almost felt wrong to have the power to decide the next move to make.

No yearly ‘stand by the same tree to show off how you’ve grown’ picture self explanatory. Destination-less trips are all about the candids and overlook pull offs. The pictures are as unique as how you will be spending your time. Spare me the annual ‘pinch your sibling with a crab leg’ picture the first time that happened was more than enough for everyone’s eyes.

No expectations=no complaining I was a little nervous that the lack of planning would leave me stressed out about well…the lack of planning. Going into the situation with no expectations made everything that happened a pleasant surprise and an experience that was uniquely new.  It is never a bad idea to try and surprise yourself from time to time. No one wants things to get too predictable right?

-R

Don’t be a Simpleton

Throughout life I have struggled with a very difficult and overwhelming concept…simplicity.

“As you simplify your life, the laws of the universe will be simpler; solitude will not be solitude, poverty will not be poverty, nor weakness weakness.”  

-Henry David Thoreau

It took me a while to realize that my lack of ability to simplify has really been the root cause of numerous issues including but not limited to…obsessively checking emails…scheduling 30 hours of events in a 24 hour day…eating a whole bag of almonds in place of breakfast, lunch, and dinner…walking into work with the pants inside out…and the ever classic only shaving one leg in the shower.  Once you forget how to simplify it’s like all logic is left in the dust, just like that poor neglected right leg.  The other ridiculous things that clutter your life become more important than oh I don’t know general hygiene, or mental clarity for example.

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As summer starts to come to an end I feel like things have veered off relax in the sun road and are heading towards overwhelmingly hectic (and when I say veered  I mean came hurdling like a projectile missile in the opposite direction of peaceful bliss).  I am not sure if my issue with simplicity comes from misinterpreting its meaning or some irrational fear of being boring…maybe it’s both? Regardless of the root cause, the main thing I want to avoid in a quest for simplification is living like a simpleton. Simpleton life is when your body imprint is clearly identifiable in the couch, and the remote is now a molded replica of your grasping hand…finger prints and all.  Simpletons may find the thought of arriving 5 minutes early unthinkable, or rent by the due date out of the question. No, I could not stand to have the most exciting moment of my weekend be adding some new documentaries to my instant-que (which would probably be a very real issue if I actually had Netflix). I think a lot of us are wired this way, or at least we are socially pressured to avoid being that boring girl who likes to clean the kitchen on a Friday night.

 ImageMaybe relaxing a little too seriously…

When considering simplicity I realized many other factors that may hinder the ability to simplify. Here are a few of the big ones…the ones that could mean the difference between unintentionally sprouting an extra limb to manage your life and calmly finishing your day relaxing on the couch.

Before finding simplicity you must have…

1. Patience: As you strive to simplify be patient as your busy bee tendencies try to squash your attempt to sit down and read a book. First and foremost step away from the computer it is the ultimate trap if you are trying to think of things to fill your time. This is what leaves me up at 2 am typing things out as opposed to sleeping on a Sunday night. I tried laying on the couch yesterday and committed to watching TV purely for the purpose of zoning out. It was a rare occasion in which I had a day filled with nothing planned…so so so rare. You wouldn’t believe how hard that was! I spent the entire time feeling antsy like I was hoping the show would end early or something so I could go do stuff. If you are trying to simplify finding patience in the little moments, and being comfortable with turning off the to-do list is a must.

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2. Discipline:The ‘gotta get shit done’ tendencies are so tempting. How awesome would it be to go clean the entire apartment, have dinner with 5 different people, and send 200 emails all in one day? Uhh undeniably amazing?! Productivity is a huge source of reward in this busy world we live in. Before I sat down and tried to watch TV yesterday I went on a walk. No more than 20 minutes in was I trying to make more plans to fill the rest of the day instead of simply enjoying the time to be outside.  Luckily I came to my senses and was forced to scale back the big plans. When you are committed to simplification it will be easier to see what in life is allowed to stay and what has gotta go.

3. Perseverance: Keep simplicity as a theme, consider it a lifestyle change in order for long term success.  Unfortunately one day of forced relaxation can’t tame even the most disciplined and patient Busy Bettys.  When you add work and education into the equation that whole being present in the moment thing seems as absurd as a full nights sleep.  Life will always be chaotic to some degree. By taking the chaos in small doses and analyzing how to simplify, things can become much more manageable.

…and most importantly don’t become a simpleton.

-R

51 Books You Should Read Before The Summer Is Over

Needing some new books about this time of year such a great list!

Thought Catalog

Now that it’s August, we’ve reached the inevitable dog days of summer and that four-week decline before school and college starts and our regularly scheduled lives begin again. Whether you’re an undergrad or a 9 to 5er, the next month is do or die when it comes to your summer reading list — the last time to get caught up on the books you’ve been putting off (because your relationship with Netflix is very demanding).

Here’s 51 books you should cross off that reading list before the Summer ends and why you should read them. You won’t get to every single one, but surely you can fit in a couple. Orange is the New Black can’t take up that much of your time, can it? And if not, there’s always your Fall Reading List. That’s a thing, right?

1. Gone Girl by Gillian Flynngone-girl-book-cover

Because you want to have an…

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Life Lessons According to a Pewee Tennis Player

I have spent the majority of my summer interacting with humans who are pushing four feet, show up with fart puddy in their back pockets, and are in the midst of understanding which one is truly the writing hand.  When I say interacting with I mean trying to gain some sense of dominance over 10+ little ones on a tennis court.  Yes bribery has been utilized and I am not ashamed to admit it, but understanding what goes through the mind of a person who’s greatest desire is to eat ice cream for breakfast is exhausting. 

         

These future tennis stars have become masters at the step and punch as well as “that one shot you hit with one hand instead of two”…better known as a forehand. I can only hope they have as much fun playing as I do coaching them into pre-kindergarden. I expected to have only about 10-15 minutes of actual tennis play happen, spending the rest of the time struggling to carry all of the heavy balls into the cart discussing the latest gossip…who scored their first goal in soccer, who scraped their face while bike riding, why ants are the 8th wonder of the world…etc.  What I didn’t expect were the incredible life lessons these kids would teach me on a daily basis and how insanely hilarious each one of them is in their own special way.

Here are a few invaluable life lessons according to a pewee tennis player…

Own up to your mistakes: “that toss was too high”…”you ignored me”…”we didn’t play around the world.” The amount of times I was called out due to making my feeds too challenging or calling one of the 4 Maggies in the class Megan by accident was unbearable. I never realized the gravity of my own flaws until I was surrounded by 10 little voices waiting to pounce on the next slip up.  Everyone in life will hold you accountable on some level whatever your role is someone is counting on you. When you devalue that accountability your stock begins to drop.  In my case accountability was more along the lines of that one time I accidentally put the Friday Fun Day Popsicles in the refrigerator over night and was forced to admit my bonehead move publicly to a pack of sugar hungry children with tennis rackets.

 

You always get another chance: Life is hard as a pewee. You see your older siblings hit each shot over the net with such ease and here you are 20 balls later still double bouncing into the net or rocketing off into the shelter. If there is one thing a pewee is sure of it is that there is always “just one more try.” When real life starts happening it is easy to feel like you only get one try at things, or sometimes you just don’t get what you want. Watching these little players try as hard as they can to get that ball over after so many tries is an amazing reminder to continually strive for what you want out of your current situation. There is always another chance.

Admit when you are wrong: An ongoing moment of shame in the beginner tennis lessons is happened frequently while warming up in the process of switching from forehands to back hands. They are two completely different shots requiring the racket to go to either side of your body.  Once the peewee would realize their mix-up the panic would ascend…heaven forbid…and in front of the whole class too…simply mortifying.  And you thought you were a perfectionist, try being newly graduated from Velcro shoes trying to find your place in the world.  I had never seen someone fight so strongly in the refusal of accepting their mix-up.  You would have thought I was asking them to admit a felony.  It was a lesson we learned together in creating an environment where it was okay to acknowledge where you were wrong and make corrections for the better.  If you don’t feel safe to admit your wrongs in the current environment there is no room to cultivate growth from learning, and essentially no use in my endless reminders “racket low..all the way sideways…”  

Run don’t walk : No matter what at any point in time everything in the life of a pewee is a race. You win the race then you are the best no matter what. In the world of a swim club you constantly hear “WALK WALK WALK” hollered by the life guards all day every day. There is no easier way to wipe a smile from a child’s face than by forcing them to stop running. The joy quickly returns when they get to start running again. Lifeguards will disagree but having the desire to run though life can only lead to better things especially if you go really really fast!

Follow Through: Oh my I would be embarrassed to know how many times I uttered these words in hopes of the pewee hitting just one ball over the net. While the goals may have been small at the time this necessary aspect of the tennis swing clearly translates into all facets of life.  “You promised we would play a game after this”…”You said I could have a drink”…”I thought we were getting candy today”…You would have thought I magically acquired the ability to harvest slushies out of my ears at the rate they were asking for them.  This lesson correlates with being held accountable. The more I followed through on my promises, the more willing the kids were to listen as I hollered this lesson for hours on end.  If you don’t follow though with your shot you will lose the point. Simple as that.

 

Sometimes they deserved it: Picture this… pewee #1 goes and deliberately smacks his brother (pewee #2) in the face. Now multiply that situation by 5 and you start to consider the idea of revenge.  While I am not a supporter of whacking the people who wrong you with a racket, there is something to be said for standing up for what you want.  Maybe it is my job to teach them to be selective about who they whack. Slinging your racket around and hitting people clearly is no way to solve the problem, but it always opens the conversation for how to have better handled that situation. 

-R