I Stopped Fighting, But I’m Not Giving Up

I spent a year and a half fighting for my graduate thesis. Fighting for  every line and every word my adviser had something to say about on my draft.  It was my writing after all. It was mine, and I vowed, at age 10, that I would never again let someone coerce convince me to write something that I didn’t want to write.  I saw it as selling out. I probably could have finished my thesis “on time,” or early, if I had been willing to walk the path of my predecessors– you know, the one of smile and nods, and just doing whatever they want me to do, just so the work can be over with. In the end–of my thesis, anyway– I got on the conveyor belt, and behaved how a good graduate student should.

My entire life, I’ve never been quite fond of rules.  I complain endlessly for society trying to push me into line.  Don’t get me wrong, I agree to common courtesy, honesty, kindness, and following the law. But sometimes I just fight. I really just don’t like doing what I’m told.  My mom always told me, “Don’t cut off your nose to spite your face.”  Nonetheless, that’s what I do when I get pissed. It’s definitely not slow-paced living at all.

Today, after a less than favorable job performance review– I have to say, probably my first– understandably, I was devastated.  I want to do well in my place of employment. I was actually desperately in need of some confirmation I was doing okay. And I got the complete opposite of that today.  So the fight within me starts- I’m ready to pound my fists into the wall.  I’m thinking, “How the hell can I still do this my way?”  and “How am I such a failure?”

Why do I always have to do things the hard way– which is mostly my way, I suppose? Here I am, about to make the same mistake I made with my thesis. Fighting tooth and nail for what want, knowing that in the end, I’m not going to get what want, and I’ll be climbing up the steep side of the mountain all for naught.

I’ve spent a significant portion of the last couple class periods telling my students that they may not like their system of education, but they have to take what they can get from it– mostly, learning the discipline to do things they don’t want to do. Because, you know, if you don’t suck it up and do things you don’t want to do, how are you going to be able to push through the challenges and least interesting parts of achieving your goals?

Now aren’t I the silly hypocrite? How can I know so much and express this to others with exceptional clarity, but have a fog in front of my eyes. I’m trying to learn from Taoism- to stop fighting, to live in harmony with the universe, and to let the wind carry me in the direction it blows.

As of this moment, I’ve stopped fighting, but I’m not giving up. I’m going to do what I have to do to turn the review around (I have a second chance, ya’ll).  I’m going to get in line, and walk deliberately with the flow of traffic.  Although now, at least I know where I am, and can hop off the conveyor belt when I choose to do so.Image

(sorry for the accidental, unfinished post earlier… “Why I stopped shopping at the mall” should be up soon).

Advertisements

What you should stop stressing about right now: #6 What other people think about you.

Sibling rivalry taught me how to worry about what other people think.  I am the oldest of four. Two younger sisters, and a brother.  I’m going to preface this by saying that I am, by far, the most sensitive of the bunch, and most likely to over-read into other people’s actions and reaction.  Coming up, I thought my parents had a favorite.  And it wasn’t me.

By birth I am a strong Leo. For those of you who aren’t familiar, Leo is the fifth astrological sign of the Zodiac, and ruled by the sun.  It is the only astrological sign ruled by a star, in the center of our solar system no less.  Thus, it is by no surprise that Leo’s personality traits are often defined as such:

“…they love being center stage. Making an impression is Job One for Leos….these folks never shy away from the limelight.” —Astrology.com

“…driven by the desire to be loved and admired, Leos have an air of royalty about them. They love to be in the limelight…” —GaneshSpeaks.com

“…are driven by a desire to be loved for what [they] bring to others…Many Leos are attracted to the theater, the performing arts and public relations…[they] truly understand the importance of putting on a good presentation.” —HuffingtonPost.com

So imagine now, as a child who sought the adoration of others, I began to concern myself with who got better grades, who had the most stellar achievements, who had the best PSAT score, who went to the better college… all so that I could seek the approval of my parents.  Of course I couldn’t out-achieve my younger siblings and I felt inferior. I felt that my parents focused on their favorite because they out-achieved me. Poor, Talia. I thought.

Of course it is natural for a youth to seek these things, but as an adult, it’s who has the nice apartment, the nice car, the best job, the most money… and who has them first.  As the oldest, it’s only natural that I should have them first, right? Thus, I’d be worthy to be among them; so that my accomplishments and achievements are discussed a length; so I am the superstar adult-child. I have concerned myself at great lengths about what they thought, and making sure that I’ve impressed them. 

I sound vain, don’t I?  But that is what approval seeking is… it’s vanity.

Now what have I done? I’ve followed a certain path only for approval, and failed miserably at it. I’ve wasted precious energy trying to be something of value to other people.

Over the last few months I’ve been working to embark on a journey for myself. I’ve decided to shed any approval seeking  ways and begin down the road less traveled. I’m going to make unpopular choices, because when they make sense for me.  I’m starting my own business (and hopefully a non-profits) and whatever else I want to do even if I don’t meet some superficial standard I set to be good enough for my family.

When I pursue my ambitions wholeheartedly, I will find value in myself.   I am a Leo after all.

Lion

What You Should Stop Stressing About Right Now: # 5 Other People’s Problems

Now don’t think I’m a cold-hearted, narcissistic  a-hole for telling you to forget other people’s problems.  I care very much about the people who are close to me, and I pray for their well-being. However, worrying about, or stressing about their problems is really just a waste of my time and energy.

A couple of years ago really close friend of mine confided in me that her boyfriend cheated on her with one of her best friends. My heart broke. I was angry, frustrated and hurt.  I wanted to exact revenge on the perps. However, people who know me know that I’m only 98% words and 2% action (makes sense that I’m a writer, right?) Legally, I have no right to do anything anyway….

So I told this friend of mine that she deserved no such treatment, and I advised her to move-on from both of these people.  I raged and I fussed and I whined and cried to myself.  And what has happened? My friend has decided that everyone makes mistakes and they deserve forgiveness.  Another punch in the gut for me.

The thing is, people are going to do what they want to do. Doesn’t matter what advice you give them, 9 times out of 10, they’ve already made up their mind.  When someone comes to you with their problems, they want one of two things 1) Confirmation that they are doing the right thing and/or 2) Emotional support.

Another really frustrating situation is when one of your friends should be angry about something and they aren’t.  And for a span of time, this seemed to be happening to me quite frequently. Something bad would happen to a friend, and they were just so blasé about it.  And boy would I rage and fuss and tell them to take up arms.  I just knew that I could fix their problem for them, if only they would let me completely take over the situation and fix their life.  Do you know what happened after I went on my rampage? They became even more blasé about it

I’ve learned that if someone you love should be angry about something, let them be angry. If you get angry for them, then they don’t have to get angry. If you take action on their behalf, they don’t have to take action.  Sometimes, it takes time for people to realize what has happened to them or what they have done.  People come into their own understanding about life at their own pace.  Everyone lives and breathes at their own rate, and you have to let them do so. You can love people and support those around you, without completely taking on their problems.

Besides, if you are taking on other people’s issues, you aren’t handling your own.  Handle your business, and maybe, just maybe, those around you will follow suit.

The Tao of Pooh, The Stonecutter, and More Thoughts on Keeping up with the Joneses

I recently read The Tao of Pooh by Benjamin Hoff.  The book is a great introduction to Taoism.  Essentially, the book encourages readers to not fight the happenings of life, to just go with the flow and not try so hard.  

Actually, I was reading this book when I was researching the “Keeping up with the Joneses” post. In The Tao of Pooh there is a story which exemplifies being satisfied with your current situation, and not trying to live another person’s life.  You may be familiar with this story, or maybe not. I wasn’t when I read the book, and I found the story to be a great delight, which is why I’m sharing it here. The story is a Chinese or Japanese parable of unknown authorship. This version is excerpted from The Tao of Pooh. 

The Stonecutter

There was once a stonecutter, who was dissatisfied with himself and with his position in life. 

One day, he passed a wealthy merchant’s house, and through the open gateway, saw many fine possessions and important visitors. “How powerful that merchant must be!” thought the stonecutter. He became very envious, and wished that he could be like the merchant. Then he would no longer have to live the life of a mere stonecutter. 

To his great surprise, he suddenly became the merchant, enjoying more luxuries and power than he had ever dreamed of, envied and detested by those less wealthy than himself. But soon a high official passed by, carried in a sedan chair, accompanied by attendants, and escorted by soldiers beating gongs. Everyone, no matter how wealthy, had to bow low before the procession. “How powerful that official is!” he thought. “I wish that I could be a high official!” 

Then he became the high official, carried everywhere in his embroidered sedan chair, feared and hated by the people all around, who had to bow down before him as he passed. It was a hot summer day, and the official felt very uncomfortable in the sticky sedan chair. He looked up at the sun. It shone proudly in the sky, unaffected by his presence. “How powerful the sun is!” he thought. “I wish that I could be the sun!” 

Then he became the sun, shining fiercely down on everyone, scorching the fields, cursed by the farmers and laborers. But a huge black cloud moved between him and the earth, so that his light could no longer shine on everything below. “How powerful that storm cloud is!” he thought. “I wish that I could be a cloud!” 

Then he became the cloud, flooding the fields and villages, shouted at by everyone. But soon he found that he was being pushed away by some great force, and realized that it was the wind. “How powerful it is!” he thought. “I wish that I could be the wind!” 

Then he became the wind, blowing tiles off the roofs of houses, uprooting trees, hated and feared by all below him. But after a while, he ran up against something that would not move, no matter how forcefully he blew against it — a huge, towering stone. “How powerful that stone is!” he thought. “I wish that I could be a stone!” he thought. “I wish that I could be a stone!” 

Then he became the stone, more powerful than anything else on earth. But as he stood there, he heard the sound of a hammer pounding a chisel into the solid rock, and felt himself being changed. “What could be more powerful than I, the stone?” he thought. He looked down and saw far below him the figure of a stonecutter.

 

I love irony. We go day in and day out never being satisfied with what we have. What if, we were content with the current situation we were in? I’m not saying we shouldn’t aspire to be more, and eliminate all goals. But if we enjoyed what we were doing at the moment wouldn’t we be happier?

I think, I just graduated with my Master’s degree and I’m trying to figure out what I’m going to do now for money.  Shouldn’t I savor the moment where I’m really getting my freelance/tutoring business started? Even if I’m not making any money yet, isn’t there there so much possibility? Creative and inspiring business ideas are flowing through me like a flower about to bloom I shouldn’t envy other successful small business owners. I haven’t been where they’ve been or gone through whatever trials they’ve gone through. I can learn from their mistakes, but I’m on my own journey here. I’m just getting started.

Bon Voyage!

What You Should Stop Stressing About Right Now: #4 Keeping up with the Joneses (Kardashians)

When I was in college, I found a group of “friends” who liked to maintain a certain image.  While I loved my college, I found that many of the people who attended the school had their parents paying for everything.  I was lucky that my parents were paying my tuition. My first semester of college, I had very little money.  I didn’t save very much money because I have/had issues with delaying gratification when I was in high school (but that’s another story).

In college free time was spent eating out, going to the movies, partying and shopping.  I mean, how else could I solidify my new friendships? My peers came to Miami to immerse themselves in the carousal and debauchery of the city. Even though I came for an education, I was “supposed” to indulge. So, to fit in here, I had to change everything about myself: I had to get cute, skanky clothes, a tiny bikini, and have tons of money to go out eating (or whatever,) four or five nights out of of the week. I didn’t even bother with the designer labels I was supposed to have plastered on every piece of fabric I wore or carried.  Still, I never felt comfortable in the skanky clothes I bought and I really didn’t want to go out that much.  Forking over a ten-dollar cover charge to a cheap and dirty night club so I could suffer from midnight to four am was a waste of money, especially since I usually preferred sleeping during that time. My version of  “keeping up with the Joneses,” was keeping up with my “friends” at an expensive college in Miami.

What I failed to realize at the time, was these people weren’t my friends if the only way I could be friends with them was if I had to participate beyond my financial means. Real friends can appreciate you for who you are, what you do, not for how much you spend to hang out with them. The truth of the matter is, I wasn’t having that much fun trying to keep up with the things they enjoyed doing.

Yet at the time, I felt like I would have no friends if I didn’t spend my time and money the way they did,  dressed like them, and gave a flying fudge about my partying/drinking quota. Instead of involving myself in the cheap/free on campus activities and organizations that interested me, I got a credit card my sophomore year and spent more money than I had in the bank. This credit card spending turned me into an American debt slave who is now forced to find a full-time job to pay for my past transgressions. It’s been nine years and I still haven’t been able to escape the financial costs.

I guess that’s because I hadn’t figured it all out yet. Trying to “keep up with the Joneses” did nothing but made me miserable. I spent a ton of time wanting things I thought I wanted and couldn’t have. I didn’t know that

Happiness isn’t getting what  you want, it’s wanting what you have.

I saw that quote the other day, and it touched me in a profound way.  I’m sure I’d heard it before, but for some reason, it stuck with me this time.  It explains why I haven’t gotten to a place where I’m just content with what I have.  The idea of keeping up with the Joneses seems like such an antiqued issue. When I think about that phrase, I think of the Stepford wives. Identical houses, lawns, lives, all in a suburban subdivision.  Really? Who lives like that: Peering over our neighbor’s fence to check out their brand new super-deluxe barbecue grill.  That’s not me!  I don’t live in house with a yard and a fence.  I don’t even have a patio 😦 but that doesn’t mean I don’t get stuff envy.  I envy people’s high rise apartments overlooking the city, their nice new cars, and their Facebook lives. Everything people do these days is so transparent. You see every detail about peoples’ lives you barely even know.

Keeping up with the Joneses in 2013 is really about “keeping up with the Kardashians.”  We drool over lives of  people who are dripping wet with disposable income. Images of everything we cant have is plastered all over TV, Instagram, Facebook, billboards, and anyplace that has a flat enough surface for print and an image.

And we want all of that stuff and envy the people who have it.  While you spend time wishing you had more money to go on more vacations, or buy a new fancy camera to take Instagram photos, you could be living your life.  You don’t know what life is like on the inside of that life. Even if you wanted “their life” you could never have it. You could never be inside their life.

I try very hard to stop wasting time envying and copying other people. What they are doing and what they have has little to no effect on my  existence. I don’t know how they acquired the things they have. I am on my own journey. When I dance to beat of my own drum,I’m so much happier. Once I stopped trying to maintain a certain image (tight clothes, jeans shirts, etc.) everything has changed. I’m less concerned about fitting in and maintaining a certain façade. Instead of keeping up with the Joneses, the Joneses will one day wish they were keeping up with me. 😉

Life in the World Outside of Grad School: When Will I Have Time to Blog?

I would like to apologize to my readers for being MIA the last week and a half.  I had every intention of posting my series bi-weekly.  Unfortunately, (or fortunately, rather) life got in the way.  Last week I started a new job at a summer camp and don’t have as much time as I’ve had previously. And this past weekend I graduated with my Master’s degree (YAY!!!) and got to spend time with my out-of-town family.

I hope to be blogging again soon.  I tend to get hard on myself when I don’t do the things that I intended. I feel like I’m letting myself down, and I’m letting my readers down by not having my posts up and ready over the last 10 days. However, the reason why I started this blog in the first place was because I realized I can’t do everything all at once.  I need to take it easy and do fewer things at a time.  That’s not to say that I wont be back blogging at all this summer. I will be back soon with the rest of the series, “What You Need to Stop Stressing About Right Now,” #4-10.

I need to take some time to get acclimated to this new schedule and get a bit ahead on some new posts.

Cya soon!

What You Should Stop Stressing About Right Now: #3 Your Expensive Gadgets

Oh! How we get attached to our fancy gadgets.  It’s pathetic.  I get it though, because I do it too. We spend $199-$399 on a cell phone and then all of our hard-earned money goes down the drain when the screen cracks. Or it falls into a huge sloshing puddle when you get out of your car on a rainy day. It’s ruined, you didn’t buy accidental insurance, and you have to wait 15 months before you can get a new one without paying full price.

Think about the anguish you felt when your last expensive gadget broke before its time. That’s a lot of emotional energy for something that will be rendered useless in 2-8 years from the date of purchace.  The gadgets that we own have fleeting value. The phone that you cared for like a newborn baby will be treated like a hunk of junk in a few short years. Maybe sooner. That emotional energy that you are dedicating to a thing could be used for loving another human being or animal.

I’ve had people snap at me over “misshandling” their items. I’m probably guilty of it too.  Think about the anxiety you feel when a child picks up your brand new iPhone. (Curse those sticky and clumsy hands!)  All you want to do is snatch it back from them because it might get broken.  Real mature, right? Ever notice someone carelessly carrying a cup of liquid around you and your new suede loafers?  How quickly do you get away from them? We all have our items that we protect ruthlessly from damage.  At the end of the day, these expensive things will eventually become outdated, worn out, broken and in a dumpster.

I’m not saying that you shouldn’t care for your items. You should take care of them, but don’t idolize them and carry them around on a golden throne. These items are not kings and queens so stop treating them like royalty. Actually, these things are here to take care of you. I’m not just talking about gadgets. Anything that you might have splurged on: a pair of shoes, a purse, a leather jacket, a GPS device, is here to help you and make your life easier.  Nonetheless, you functioned perfectly before you found those items and can function just as well without them.

I’ve been trying to stay away from expensive gadgetry because I know I may get a little too attached to it, and worry about its well-being a little too much.  The screen on my Samsung Galaxy Player recently cracked from a 1.5 foot drop. It reminded me of the short life of these items and that I shouldn’t value them over time spent with loved ones. Sometimes it’s easier to have a lower-end phone because I have no desire to worship it.

In the end, I’m not saying you shouldn’t have any of these things because expensive and high quality items serve their purpose while they’re still functional. I’m just suggesting that you choose your gadgets wisely and understand their fallibility before spending your money.

What You Should Stop Stressing About Right Now: #2 What to Wear

Clothing is a mode of personal expression, personal style, culture and history.  They keep us warm and dry. And without clothes, we’d all be walking around naked. We cannot escape these simple facts.  For me, however, I’m starting to feel like making clothing choices is taking too long. As I researched my Fashion for Minimalists post and began a massive clean-out of my closet, I realized it doesn’t matter if I have fewer clothes if I’m still spending all that time pondering what to wear.

Yesterday morning I changed my outfit three times. If I hadn’t, I would have been on time to work. Living a slower-paced lifestyle to me is about spending more time on things that matter and less time on trivial  things.  My only requirements for work clothes is that they’re comfortable, cute, modest, and keep me from being mistaken for a high school student. And even with my new reduced wardrobe volume, I lose 3.5-4 hours a week thinking about clothing, trying to figure out what to wear, changing outfits, and changing back.  I could have been writing, sleeping, or making breakfast. How much time do you spend picking out your clothes?

As most people in the USA probably have noticed, most guys take five minutes in the morning to get dressed.  Why is that? It can’t be that most of them are dirty, stinky slobs. No, many of them just don’t value the meticulous coordinating that women do. My boyfriend has 10 of the same shirt he really likes but in different colors; many men do this.  It is simple to get dressed in the morning if all you have to do is choose one of those shirts; you just go with whatever one is clean. Yet every single article currently in my closet is different in style/shape/color than every other article.  It’s quite silly really; having such a wide variety of clothes seems ostentatious when I think about.

This past weekend, I was staring at my closet after the massive clean out I was telling you about. It was pretty empty. And I thought to myself, “What a beautiful, stress-free wardrobe!” I had to keep myself from getting too relieved because I had a good amount of dirty clothes that needed to be laundered and put away.

Still, I saw the light.  I’ve realized the potential in having fewer options of what to wear. When I researched my Fashion for Minimalists post, I wondered if other people would wear the same clothes every day. Apparently they do. Johan Woods, in his article “Why Mark Zuckerberg Wears the Same Clothes Everyday,” says:

By turning daily choices into a routine (like how you dress), you free up mental and creative energy to be used for higher priorities.

The article, and that quote expresses my sentiment exactly. Spending time selecting clothing, especially for someone who is already pressed for time and energy, is a waste of time. Thinking more and more about it, I realized I WANT THAT! In theory, it seems so easy, so effortless. I want to get up in the morning, take 2 minutes to put on my clothes, not even thinking about what I’m wearing,  and get on with my day.  Well not the exact same clothes, but the same outfit.   Now I’m not going to strip my wardrobe down to 7 identical tops and 7 identical bottoms because I’d like some variety when I feel like getting dressed up.  Maybe one day I will. For now, I am going to make more changes that involve limiting the diversity of my wardrobe.  (I’ve realized that I have some transitioning from grad school clothes, to grown-up/professional clothes and therein lies part of my clothing issues…)

I decided that having multiples of my favorite pieces and wearing those often is the way to go. I’ve purchased two of the exact same black skirts that I’ve been rotating along with some other maxi skirts; getting dressed in the morning has become a lot easier.  The black maxi skirt is pretty neutral piece that can be dressed up or down. All I have to do is pair it with one of the bazillion (smh) shirts that I have and I’m good to go. Once I get my shirts paired down to the essential few, for work and for weekends,  I’m good. The idea to never have to have that issue, “What am I going to wear today?” take up more than a few seconds of my time.

Stressing out about clothing is really a pointless endeavor. While our society is vain, judgmental, and probably cares too much about what people wear, don’t you want to wear something that fits within your lifestyle? That is what this is about for me. I could try to coordinate many different outfits and keep up with the latest fashion trends, but it hasn’t been working for me. I’ve often gotten stuck wearing things I don’t want to wear because my job requirements, or its so freaking cold in the office that there isn’t a choice… I’m just trying to get to the point where I can wear what I want without it requiring any extra thought or effort on my part. Time and energy conservation is all part of the slow life.