Jun 29 2011

Gratitude Journal: As June Draws to a Close…

I’ve been working on a post for almost a week now, and it just doesn’t feel right yet.  It’s become a bit of a monster, really, growing more elaborate every time I revisit it.  (Clearly I need to work on my editing skills and make some friggin decisions!)  I have a feeling that I’m going to need a bit more time on that one.  So while I continue to plug away, here’s a Gratitude Journal—Summer 2011 Style.

I’m grateful for the new friends that I’ve made in the last year.  People who’ve added a whole new color to the spectrum of my life in Austin; energized me; inspired me; and reminded me that life can be full of wonderful surprises when you’re open to them

I’m grateful for the old friends who’ve rallied around me in the last six months.  They’ve provided support, distraction, words of wisdom, sage advice, confidence, and unconditional love. 

I’m grateful to live in a city that is so eternally filled with life.  And I’m grateful to discover something new about this city almost daily.

I’m grateful that I have a body that allows me to play, escaping from the trappings of my busy mind.

I’m grateful to have another season leading and playing on a women’s ultimate team full of enthusiastic, committed, fun female friends and teammates.  Teams like this confirm the value of women’s sports.  They’re validating; life-giving; challenging; motivating; stimulating.

I’m grateful to live in a country that allows women to be strong and athletic; to speak their minds; to be aggressive and assertive; to make choices for themselves.  (And yes, I know that we still live in a patriarchal society…But I’m thankful for the freedoms that I do have.)

I’m grateful for the things that I’ve learned about myself during this time of flux.  My life may be in transition, but I’m finding myself calmer, stronger, more resilient and more independent than I ever could have hoped.  I had almost forgotten that I was all of these things…And I’m thankful to have this opportunity to learn more—or be reminded—about who I really am.


Jun 14 2011

Magic 8 Balls, My Life, and Other Unpredictable Things

Remember when you got your first Magic 8 Ball?  You’d ask it to predict the future by asking questions like, “Will Jacob ask me to the dance?” or “Will I make the All-Star basketball team?”  Or maybe you were grade-conscious, and you’d ask about passing a certain test or whether you should sign up for advanced placement social studies.  You’d give it a good, solid shake, and wait for the answer to present itself. 

Of course, shaking it made it that much harder to read, because all of those little blue bubbles would turn to foam, further clouding the multi-sided die when it rose to the surface.   But you’d shake it anyway, because really—who can resist shaking a Magic 8 Ball?

My life has been quite the Magic 8 Ball lately.  And the questions are all much more grown-up, involving career and marriage, dream-chasing and realism, living situations and familial distance.

I’ve definitely been shaking this Magic 8 Ball.  And it’s alternately thrilling and terrifying, not knowing all of the answers.  The more I shake it up, the less clear things become.  But I’m feeling almost bizarrely calm about everything.  I’m just surrendering to the chaos.  I’m winging it, to say the very least. 

I most recently described the feeling to a friend:  “It’s like I’m carrying a really large tray, with lots of glasses of water on it.”

“So having a job would remove one of the glasses?” he asked me, because my simile was intentionally vague.  “Or would it be adding another glass?” 

I thought for a second.  “I don’t know!” I shrugged at him, because I really didn’t.  And I was (and am) strangely okay with that.  “But I feel like I’m doing a pretty good job of balancing it all.”

I’ve reached a point where I accept that the answers aren’t all that important.  I mean, sure, they’re going to make a difference in my life and all.  I’m at the proverbial crossroads; a turning point.  But as someone who likes to have control over everything, it’s been incredibly liberating to just wait and see.  To sit with this indecision, this not knowing, this constant change and uncertainty.  To trust myself enough to know that I’ll be okay—great, even—no matter what.  To allow the die to settle at the top of the 8 Ball whenever it’s ready and wait for the bubbles to clear. 

I guess I’m embracing the idea that there are no “bad” choices.  There are just different paths, and whichever one I choose (or whichever one comes to be) is mine.  It will be up to me to make the most of it.


Jun 8 2011

In Attempting to Play, She Thinks

In attempting to play, she thinks.

I begin every academic year by inviting my students to write six-word memoirs.  Some are painfully adolescent (I mean, they are twelve), but others are strikingly insightful and adult.  I treasure them.

And I always write my own as well.  This year my six-word memoir was, “In attempting to play, she thinks.” 

I come from a sports family.  Play has always been a huge part of the way that we connect with each other and with the world around us.  And I do love sports—even more now than when I was growing up.  As an adult, I really appreciate the way that athletics have given me a foundation for a healthy lifestyle; the way that I’ve built friendships (and even romances) around sports; the way that playing can be an escape from the exhausting places in my mind.

I say exhausting because even as I grew up around athletes, I found myself drawn to the quiet solitude of my room and my journal.  I was writing poems and novels as early as fourth grade.  By fifth grade, I’d decided that I wanted to be a writer.  (Or a dancer, actually.  But that dream was disregarded before graduating from elementary school.)  So while I spent a great deal of my spare time in gymnastics, softball, volleyball, field hockey, swimming, diving…I also buried myself in books and letters.  My mom says that she would watch me disappear even when I was young.  My family would take one look at me and know that I was blocking out the world; retreating into the distant musings in my mind. 

And that hasn’t changed.  But I have become aware of how scary a place my mind can be.  It’s sometimes a lonely place.  Other times it’s just overwhelming. 

So I’m thankful that I was also given the tool of play.  And I’m grateful that I’ve continued to play—and to love it even more—as a grown-up.  It’s a coping mechanism, really.  A place where I can turn off my brain and put the worries, the anxieties, and the neuroses aside.

Today, for example, I found myself spinning.  My mind was a twisting, turning, up-and-down rollercoaster.  By mid-afternoon I realized that I couldn’t sit by my laptop anymore.  I pushed through yesterday, and I’m glad that I did because eventually it became productive.  But today I hit a wall.  Today, I was on a downward spiral, digging myself deeper into the troubled recesses of my mind. 

I’d planned to go to yoga, as I regularly do on Tuesdays.  But I also knew that there was goaltimate (basically a form of half-court basketball played with a frisbee) a little later in the evening.  And while I adore yoga, my favorite instructor is out of town.  And somehow I knew that I didn’t need meditation or quiet.  I needed noise; I needed cleats on grass; I needed heavy sweat and grunting and maybe even a little cursing at a dropped throw or a defensive misstep.  I needed something all-consuming.  I needed the kind of tough competition that would shut out the very loud chatter in my head. 

In attempting to play, she thinks.

Even as I love play, it’s still hard for me to just let go sometimes.  To throw caution to the wind, let down my guard, and enjoy myself.  It’s a challenge to release my inhibitions and my insecurities.  Moreover, it’s difficult for me to just enjoy play when I’m so much in my own head, and I have to make an active choice not to criticize how well I play and my skill or decisions.  But I’m getting better at it.  And no matter what, I never regret playing.  I always feel better afterward.  Where would I be if I’d never been introduced to sports?  If I didn’t enjoy them so?  If I weren’t at least decent at them?  Or if I lived in a place that didn’t offer so many opportunities for physical activity?

I guess I’ll never know.  And I’m so, so glad for that.


Jun 4 2011

Notes From My College Self

This weekend, my classmates will celebrate our ten-year college reunion.  Unfortunately, I’ve moved across the country and can’t make it back there to join everyone.  But I started thinking recently about how I’ve changed—and how I’ve stayed the same—since I was a starry-eyed co-ed wandering around a small Norman Rockwell-esque liberal arts college.  I lent someone a book that I read as an undergrad, filled with my undergraduate highlights and chicken scratches, and thought about what those marks say about me now.  If that was my college self talking, what are the messages I was sending to my (arguably) adult persona?   

We’ve all thought about what we’d tell our younger selves if we could go back.  But if I could sit down over a cup of Cool Beans coffee with that girl, what would she tell me?  What advice would she impart?  What expectations would she have of her future self?  How would she hope to grow and change, and how would she hope to stay the same?

******

Choose your impulse purchases wisely. 

Mozzarella sticks are delicious.  But if you order them to your apartment at 3:00am, someone else will probably intercept the delivery guy on his way to your door.  And you’ll find yourself waiting up, losing your buzz, wondering where the hell those late-night appetizers could possibly be.  And if they do finally arrive, you’ll probably regret scarfing down all of that processed cheese right before going to bed anyway.  In other words, they may taste good, but they’ll cost you.   

 

Your friendships are just as important as your romantic relationships. 

This won’t change.  Some people say that it will.  They argue that eventually you and your friends will settle down with reliable men (or women), have kids, buy a house in the ‘burbs.  Your immediate family will eclipse your friends—even those amazing women that you live(d) with, who build you up, sometimes tear you down, call you on your bullshit and love you just the same.  But “some people” are wrong.  Because no one person can meet all of our emotional needs.  Ever.  You need your friends so that when the tough times come around, you have an army.  Trust me, you’ll be happy you have the troops. 

 

Be brave. 

Like, stupid brave.  And confident.  And uninhibited.  Being bold has worked for me.  I don’t think so much about what people are going to say, or how they’re going to see me.  I raise my hand before I’m sure that I know the “right” answer.  I take the classes that interest me and spend time with the people who inspire me.  I just assume that people are inherently good, and that they’ll believe I am, too.  And if they don’t, so what?  This is who I am:  Opinionated, confident, direct.   This is how I’ll make friends when I move to a new city, keep connections with professors, get jobs and sell myself in a grown-up professional world.  Be audacious.  Own it.

 

Give yourself a break sometime. 

You don’t have to be perfect.    Could I be better at field hockey?  Maybe.  But it’s so much more fun to let myself off the hook sometimes.  I enjoy practice, but I don’t let it make (or ruin) my day.  I could probably write some better papers, and be more responsible when it comes to my obligations.  But I don’t lay awake at night worrying over it.  I let some things go.  And that works for me.  And at the end of the day, I’m pretty darn happy with my life.  (Plus, I think it’s that much sweeter when I score the winning goal against Brown, or UVM, or whoever…)     

 

Do everything. 

I’m tired.  I’m an officer in aBiGaLe, co-chairing Poetry Circle, playing field hockey, and I made it into that acapella group and just picked up another minor.  Time is tight.  This is exhausting.  But it’s so worth it.  All of these experiences make me a better person, with interesting and supportive friends and experiences that feed my soul.  Sometimes you’ll feel full, but it’s the good kind of full, like a totally satisfying meal that covers all of the food groups.

 

And lastly,

Know yourself.  And then re-discover yourself when you change. 

One of the best things about college is that I’m still trying new things and learning about myself.  I think I have a pretty good sense of who I am, but I also know that I may be different tomorrow.  I don’t mean that I’m changeable or inconsistent, I just mean that I might know even more about myself next week or next month.  I may discover something that I’m good (or bad) at, or something that I enjoy way more than I realized.  I may meet a new friend who brings out a different quality in me, and that may be a good quality or a bad one.  But it’s part of who I am.  It’s complicated.  And I’m okay with that.