“Henry didn’t need things to be dramatic to feel alive because he paid attention to the small details that make life feel miraculous. His capacity for delight, his seemingly boundless sense of wonder, was one of the first things I loved about him. I just didn’t know it at the time.”
Brave is matching your insides and outsides. If one wants to ride and does, that’s brave. If one does not want to ride and doesn’t- that’s brave. Actions are not inherently brave- the honoring of the inner compass instead of the outer expectation is the braveness. Brave cannot be judged by the crowd. Sometimes we are the only one who knows we’ve been brave. And that is enough. That is everything.
I often think about giving up. Admittedly, today I started my day wanting to give up.
Not on life—no need to panic there—but I am constantly tired of always swimming against the current. I am tired of being resilient. I am tired of life seeming uphill more often than not. When I reflect on it, I believe it’s because I overexert myself. I go full speed, I take no breaks, I put my life on hold, which every now and then leads me to a point where I get frustrated, tired and resentful.
A few months ago, I received a promotion. And it has been exhausting.
Netflix recently launched a series called The Chair, staring Sandra Oh. The series explores the life of Dr. Ji-Yoon Kim, a professor who’s been newly named Chair of the English Department at the fictional Pembroke University, an elite college. In her new role, we see Ji-Yoon struggle to meet the demands of her new position, her role as mother, as a friend, and as a woman. In one of the episodes, she has to make it to a meeting so she drops her kid with her dad, who complains that her family barely gets to see her anymore. Frustrated, Ji-Yoon says: “Appa, I don’t know what you want me to do. This is for my job!” Her dad says “I thought this promotion means you don’t have to work so much.” To which Ji-Yoon wisely replies: “What promotion ever means you don’t have to work as much?”
Right?! When will work ever become easier?
It wasn’t until a couple of weeks ago, when I had to pull an all-nighter to stay afloat with work and I had a pounding headache that it dawned on me that life is not supposed to be like this. Life cannot be spent working 15-hours days. And you might think, umm that should be kind of obvious… well, yeah. I knew that I was working too much, that it was not a healthy lifestyle, but it never got through me how bad was the situation I found myself in.
So there I sat, at 7:30AM, having not slept at all, having to take a shower to dial into my “first” meeting of the day, feeling tired, frustrated, guilty and extremely mad. And I knew something had to change.
It was as if the universe had heard my unspoken pain and my unheard complaints that I found a book recommendation by Luisa Weiss: “Burnout” by Emily Nagoski PhD and Amelia Nagoski DMA. The term burnout was first established in 1975 by Hebert Freudenberger, a condition that encompasses emotional exhaustion, depersonalization, and decreased sense of accomplishment.
I am burnout, and it’ll take time to recover from it. I have found myself needing to take a step back and redefine the important and non-negotiable things in life. I am taking time to find my meaning in life. I am taking time to examine what I want my future to look like. I am determined to savour the days of work, but also the weekends, and the evenings. I am excited to broaden my interests and to go back to one of the things that I love doing the most… classes.
“If you are never getting noes, then you are probably not aiming high enough!” Beth is the founder, editor and creative director of Lindsay, based in Naarm (Melbourne), Australia. In this brief talk, she shares seven lessons that she has learned since starting her magazine: make something with love, pitch with care, never ever take silence as a no, don’t take noes to heart, don’t set your own limitations, it’s not meant to be easy and be proud of your successes.
Eric Eliasson and Lara Mitra interviewed several liders to understand what makes a successful career. While there is good advice there, there’s one that particularly caught my attention:
“We have never expected more from our careers. Jobs purport to give us everything: belonging, purpose, meaning, community, and an identity. Buying into this mindset can lead to unhealthy results: when work does not go well, you will feel unwell. For me, the key to avoiding this cycle is to diversify the things I am passionate about and dedicate my time to. Kat Cole, former President and COO at Focus Brands, shared in our interview how putting more time and energy towards volunteer work made her happier and ultimately more effective. By diversifying, I lower the stakes for what work needs to do for me — and all my human needs can be fulfilled with a variety of pursuits.”
Which reminded me of a sound advice given by Neal A. Maxwell: “[…] some of us neglect to develop multiple forces of satisfaction. When one of the wells upon which we draw dries up through death, loss or status, disaffection, or physical ailment, we then find ourselves very thirsty because, instead of having multiple sources of satisfaction in our lives, we have become too dependent upon this or upon that. How important it is to the symmetry of our souls that we interact with all [principles], so that we do not become so highly specialized that, if we are deprived of one source of satisfaction, indeed we are in difficulty. It is possible to be incarcerated within the prison of one principle. We are less vulnerable if our involvements […] are across the board. We are less vulnerable if we care deeply about many principles—not simply a few.”
Of all sights, my sisters laughing. Of all smells, an old book. Of all surfaces, a warm hand. Of all feelings, belonging. Of all sweet sounds, children laughing. Of all my journeys, the self-knowledge one. Of all other journeys, Spring City. Of cities, Provo. Of modes of transport, trains. Of the neglected virtues, quietness. Of the celebrated, kindness. Of the harmless vices, burgers. Of solitary vices, a long warm bath. Of the social pastimes, watching a movie at home. Of all the fruits, apple. Of all pies, apple. Of all that delights the cultivated mind, reading a book. Of all jokes, the silly ones. Of practical jokes, stealing children’s noses. Of all of Job’s afflictions, losing friends. Of beverages, fresh orange juice. Of ingenious devices, kindles. Of the proofs of God’s love, mothers. Of all character’s flaws, selfishness and entitlement. Of the forgotten sins, laziness. Of the erotic side-pleasures, smiling. Of domesticated creatures, dogs. Of all times, Christmas. Of all fears, the unknown, the uncertainty. Of sweet sounds to wake to, rain. Of all places, home.
Inspired by the brilliant Abby Rasminsky. Who in turn, was inspired by Maurice Riordan.
Growing up I distinctly remember my parents telling me ‘Be careful!’ when dropping me off for school, and then yelling it as I was walking out the door to go dancing with friends. Even as an adult going off to college, or going on a trip: ‘Be careful!’. These words have lived in my mind for decades, and I kind of wished they hadn’t.
Being careful implies avoiding danger at all costs; removing ourselves from situations that might cause us harm, pain, or discomfort. The problem is that life comes with risks. Uncertainty is inherently associated with new experiences; and unless we are willing to take those risks, we are sure going to miss out a lot.
I have lived my life cautiously. Almost every decision I have ever made has been taken with caution—extreme caution. From the most trivial decisions, like bringing an extra sweater to an outing ‘just in case’, to the most transcendent ones like buying a car or moving to a new city. I was taught to look at every scenario, to ask what could go wrong, and to always have a plan B. And so, I lived my life on the uneventful side, the predictable side, the safe side.
I was always the kid with the extra sweater, scarf, and jacket… just in case. To date I am the woman who always carries extra cash, a water bottle, and a pen… again, just in case. Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with being prepared; I thrive on preparedness, on having a plan, a schedule, a to-do list. The problem is when you refrain from being spontaneous because it isn’t on the list, or it doesn’t fit in the schedule. When our lists and preparedness get in the way of living, something has got to change.
Being careful keeps you safe but isolated. You cannot live life to its fullest, so you stay whole and incomplete at the same time. Making mistakes, failing, and being heartbroken are all part of life; they help us grow, and teach us valuable lessons. In her podcast, The Happiness Lab, Dr. Laurie Santos explains that humans are naturally drawn to sharing. When we share an experience with others our emotions and feelings are intensified. There is a sense of belonging in knowing that others have also experienced what we have. But, how can we ever relate to others if we have missed out on so many experiences? Being too careful can be alienating.
Being careful makes you scared. You know they say it is worse not knowing? It is true. Our minds are powerful, and uncertainty about an event opens the doors of creativity which allows us to manufacture a variety of scenarios ranging from mild to full psychotic (most of us like to dwell on the later). Conquering a fear might be uncomfortable, it might be scary, it might even be painful, but at the end it is no longer uncertain. It becomes measurable, finite, you can give it a number or a name, you have control over it. This means that it will be easier next time you do it because “it wasn’t that scary the first time” or “yes, it was scary, but now I know what to expect”. By choosing not to participate in certain activities we give up our power over them, we let them control us. By being too careful, we allow our fears to steal precious memories and essential lessons from us.
Being smart, as opposed to careful, means that you take a situation, you analyze it and you decide whether or not to act on it, rather than dismiss it altogether because it might be dangerous. It means that you take a risk, because the pay off might be greater than the downside. It means that you come to terms with the fact that you will get burnt from time to time, you will fall, and you will be heartbroken. But it will also mean that you will experience love, success, and amazement. It means that you will experience the full spectrum of emotions; you will live life to the fullest, with its ups and down.
Being smart allows us to acquire one of the most, if not the single most important skill in life: resilience. Pick up a psychology book, or a self-improvement book—any book; you will find without a doubt an emphasis on the importance of resilience, the ability to recover quickly from difficulties. A study by Dr. Seligman back in the 1980’s done on college freshmen at University of Pennsylvania concludes that it is the ability to recover quickly from difficulties or failure what successful college students have that their peers don’t. It is not talent, but resilience that leads to success. The thing about resilience, is that you can’t get up if you haven’t fallen. You can’t try again if you haven’t lost. As much as it hurts, falling is an essential part of life. Every scar comes with an amazing story. Collect those!
My advice, to young and old alike, is to be smart, not careful. You don’t have to sell everything you own and start a new life right away, although it wouldn’t be the worst idea. Start small, try a different thing from the menu, that one item you have always been curious about; or talk to a stranger in the bus, ideally a normal looking person; or maybe pick up a new hobby, something your inner child would be proud of. Build off from that and allow yourself to grow.
If I could go back in time I would tell my 15-year old self: ‘Be smart, not careful. Take risks, venture, experiment! You will learn more about yourself by failing that you ever will by succeeding.’ I am not saying to throw caution to the wind, I am saying be smart about it. Consider the pros and cons, evaluate your options, play the odds. If it comes down to a 50-50 chance, take it! Get out of your comfort zone, make some memories and live.
I’ve always found it very intriguing the disconnect that we all seem to have between the person we think we are and the person we really are. We all would like to believe that we will jump in to stop a bully, but in reality, when push comes to shovel, very few people have the courage to act. I don’t think that makes us (the by-standers that we all have been at some point or another) bad persons. In any case, it makes us sane…that self-preservation instinct, fight or flight, right?
However, what it’s admirable are those people who, despite their fears and their disadvantages, still choose to stand up for and stand by with those who need it.
This was an interesting reading to me because I can identified with how she was feeling. I too have found myself overly attached to a job, only to find that in the end a job is a job and nothing more. I don’t believe there’s anything wrong in loving what you do; the problem is loving the job itself. Recently, I too have come to the acceptance that I should not let myself love a job again.
As individuals who form part of a community, where ever we may be, we inherently have certain responsibilities to do no harm and to respect others. Really most of our civic duties could be summarized to never do anything that would purposely harm others. And while following these do-not-harm responsibilities should be more than enough to keep the peace and promote a safe environment to live in, I believe we also have a civic responsibility to actively and positively impact others.
It may be because I have lived abroad—in a country where people actively engage in their communities—that I believe we have a civic duty, to actively contribute to the betterment of our own specific communities. I believe we should care about raising the living conditions of those around us. I believe we should care about issues that do not necessarily affect us specifically. I believe we should be considerate of other people’s struggles, and more importantly, we should do whatever is in our power to fix them.
This week, I was touched by two examples of selfless people acting on behalf of others in their communities. Kelly Jensen is someone that I initially began following on Instagram because of her Utah-famous “Live Lists.” But in the 5+ years that I have followed her, I have been humbled by her courage and initiative to change the world, one small action at a time. This week, she rallied people to stop Jordan’s school district from cutting special needs programs in their high schools. People from all over the world, signed a petition—not particularly because it affected them, but because they understood that there are things that make our communities as a whole better (heck, I signed the petition 3000 miles away! fully knowing it would not change a thing in my life but because it was the right thing to do)—to voice their disagreement with this decision and ask Utah’s education system to keep in place these programs that are vital to some families. I was in awe at how quickly Jordan’s school district retracted from cutting these programs, all because people stood by each other in camaraderie.
The second act that I was deeply touched by was the story about two pianos between a wall. Two neighbors that shared more than a wall. Through the power of music, two neighbors connected and helped heal each other. Emil, a 78 year old, had lost his wife in December and had been alone in his temporary accommodation while his house was being sold. Giorgo was his neighbor, and while they never had met each other, they started to play music through the wall. Though the story has a bittersweet end, it totally portraits my point of selflessly looking to support people in your community.
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”
To act and not be acted upon. To be a force of change. To purposefully walk the path of improvement.
Of all the things for which we should feel responsible, I believe the most important one (and really the only one responsibility that will have a transcendental impact once we leave this earth) is to positively impact the lives we touch. So above all of the responsibilities we may have, let changing the lives we come in contact with for the better be the most important one.
Oxford Dictionaries define outgrowing as “grow too big for (something).” // “leave behind as one matures.” Lately, I’ve been thinking about outgrowing, about the painful experience that outgrowing implies.
We outgrow seasons of life.
We outgrow friends.
We outgrow jobs.
We outgrow places.
I’ve outgrown my college years. Happy as I was then, I wouldn’t go back to them. Because I now see the bubble that college is. I now know the realities of living a more mature lifestyle just as much as I know the joys of it. I’ve outgrown friends, due to one’s fault really. Because life is like that… kind enough to connect you with people who resonate with you in a specific way for a specific period of your life, but cruel enough to take each of you onto different paths. And that’s okay. I’ve outgrown jobs; jobs that were right for a specific time in my life: some gave me the warm comfort that came from the longevity and familiarity of it, some pushed me to be brave, to believe I could do hard things, some made me humble, some enhanced abilities for which I am grateful today. But at some point, in all of them, I reached a point where I needed to move on for reasons as different as day and night; but all with the shared reason that I had already learned the lesson(s) I needed to learn. I’ve outgrown places too. I outgrew my one-bedroom rental in Texas. I outgrew my apartment in D.C. I outgrew apartments in Mexico City. And, though hard to accept, perhaps I have also outgrown the apartment that I have loved the absolute most: the apartment that for four years held me in my solitude and brokenness, the apartment that carried me through many disappointments, the apartment that celebrated a few major, life-changing milestones, but also many—perhaps mundane, but just as necessary—minor daily wins. Perhaps I’ve outgrown Cornerstone #55 too.
But also implicit with outgrowing, comes the (sometimes unknown) blessing of starting new seasons of life, of making new friends, of findings new jobs, of filling up new spaces. Maybe even the opportunity to start all over again, just with the big difference of now being a better, stronger, and hopefully, a kinder version of yourself.