Archive for April, 2015

The world is overwhelming, but that doesn’t have to be a bad thing

One of the tasks we’re forced to take on as twenty-somethings is the daily battle against becoming completely overwhelmed. We’re stuck fighting feelings like, “I can’t get everything done,” “I know I’m forgetting something,” “There’s just not enough time,” “My mind is about to explode,” or worse, “I’m not good enough.”

We are smart and talented, kind and well-meaning, and we are “good enough.” But we really can’t get everything done. None of our educations, skills, niceties or good intentions can change that. As humans in search of “progress,” we’ve invented far too many tasks for any of us to complete in a given day. And it seems we haven’t invented a good enough way not to let this bother us.

Why not? Well, probably because we’re too busy trying to stay afloat amid a raging sea of everything else that’s expected of us at this age.

We’re adults, so we have to manage our finances, our apartments, condos or houses, our work schedules, our family time, our sleeping and eating and exercising habits, our volunteer time, our carbon footprint, our car insurance and electric bills, our resumes and networking contacts and our down time – if we have any left. And by now we’re supposed to have well-formed philosophies on major topics like what comprises a life well-lived – you know, so we can use those philosophies to help us sort through the rest of the noise that complicates our very existence.

We’re Millennials, so we’re expected to be hip to social media, frequently posting updates on several sites. We’re expected to want mobility in the workplace, yet we’re expected to work long hours in complete dedication to our jobs and to serve as unofficial IT assistants, explaining every new technology or computer quirk to our older coworkers at their beck and call. We’re expected to love craft beer and maybe craft whiskey and fancy wine, too, and don’t forget sushi and kale, quinoa and matcha and everything organic – which we’re somehow expected to afford. We’re expected to love Netflix and Uber and Airbnb and be impossibly attached to our iPhones.

Obviously these expectations contradict, and so might many of the goals we set for ourselves on this quest to live the best twenty-something lives with the only chance we’ve got.
Do you feel overwhelmed yet? I sure do. And that’s just a quick list of the things we’re supposed to not only manage but master all at once. So I know this sounds compliany and it’s such a first-world problem, but at the end of this list, all I’ve done is further convince myself – the world is overwhelming. That must mean it’s time for the old mental trick of seeing the glass half-full.

So the world is overwhelming. OK. Guess what? So are the blessings we receive each and every day we’re able to live in it.

There are warm pink and purple sunrises and nice employees who greet you by name at the gym. There are cell phones and emails to keep in contact with family and Facebook and LinkedIn to maintain our friendships and build our careers. There are cameras to capture the beauty around us and long commutes to ponder life. There are always new foods and drinks to try and there is value placed on maintaining and expressing our individual tastes. There are choices to make and they’re much more freeing, thrilling and exhilarating than bubbling in a scantron.

The world is overwhelming. It’s up to us to make it overwhelmingly good.

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The Law of Attraction and contagious optimism

The person on the other end of the line said she’s a “love attraction” coach. I knew I needed to ask more questions.

A “love attraction” coach? I thought. Well, that’s strange, and certainly not what I thought I was writing about …

Turns out this woman actually said she’s a “Law of Attraction” coach, which some might see as equally strange. But I’m discovering the so-called Law of Attraction actually is just a philosophy of contagious optimism. I was a skeptic at first, but I’m beginning to see the point. Here’s why:

My boyfriend first told me about the Law of Attraction. If you wake up happy and expect to have a good day, you will, he said. And if you wake up grumpy and expect to have a “Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day” like Alexander in the well-known children’s book, well, then, you will. It’s that simple.

Bogus, I called. It’s not that simple. Sometimes – OK, more like most of the time – I wake up groggy and annoyed that I can’t just go back to sleep. But that doesn’t mean my day actually will be tired, slow and annoying until it finally is time to go back to sleep. It just means I don’t wake up immediately on the right side of the bed and I need 10 to 15 minutes in the bathroom before I can rise and shine.

Fine, he says. It’s not that every thought that crosses your mind has to be positive. It’s just saying that positivity attracts more positivity, and negativity attracts – you guessed it – more negativity. It really is that simple.

I don’t know about that, I’d say. Back in high school, the principal’s tagline at the end of the morning announcements was “make it a great day or not, the choice is yours,” and while that makes logical sense, all it did was annoy us endlessly. It didn’t motivate us to set a positive mindset and keep it that way, bringing good vibes and good test results all day long. It just motivated us to make fun of the principal.

High schoolers, he’d say with a sigh, and leave it at that.

This type of conversation occurred multiple times and I could always find some reason to call bogus, mainly because I don’t believe in the old mental trick of “fake it ‘til you make it.” I don’t believe anyone can instantly go from pissed off to pleasant just because they want to; it’s a process, and it takes time. And I don’t think life and emotions and actions can (or should) be faked. This is the only chance we get, so we need to make it real and live it authentically

But every time I’d cast my doubts about the simplicity and effectiveness of Law of Attraction thinking, my boyfriend would bring me back to what he thinks is at its core: choosing to be happy, choosing to retain a positive outlook and choosing to see the glass half-full. It’s a choice, seems to be all he’s saying. You won’t feel perfectly happy all the time, but you can remind yourself that you have a choice. And that can help you take actions that might actually bring more happiness your way. And that I do agree with. So does the woman I interviewed who’s got some certification or another to be an official “Law of Attraction” coach for all the pessimists and doubters out there who can’t figure it out themselves.

As far as doubters, I’m not ashamed to say I was one of them. Sometimes this philosophical stuff sounds too pie-in-the-sky and full of fluff to be worth anything in today’s real world. But if all this Law of Attraction philosophy is saying is “you’ll be happier more often if you choose to be happy,” well, then I’m on board. And I’ll start now.

This Tuesday, I choose to be happy, and I’ll see what that happiness will bring my way.

 

(Disclaimer: This is not an official Law of Attraction post; it’s just one twenty-something’s thoughts.)

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Becoming givers instead of takers

I’m such a taker in my family. As a kid growing up, I’ve taken endless love, support, food, money, rides home, bedtime stories, clothes, speaking habits, homework help, advice, – everything – from my parents.

As a kid, a teen, a college student and now a twenty-something growing up, I’ve always taken gifts from my family for birthdays and holidays, too. And while my parents started the tradition early among my siblings of giving each other Christmas and birthday gifts, I recently realized there are too many others in my family to whom I haven’t started to give anything. My aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents – they’re loving, wonderful family members, too, and that means they deserve more from me than I’ve been giving.

This needs to change. Twenty-somethings can get a bad enough rap from the vague eye of society without adding to it a reputation as selfish takers.

So we need to change. We need to give. I’m starting not with items, gifts or presents, but with time, well-wishes and friendly messages.

I’m texting my parents more often to say hi and give them quick updates on my life. I used to buy in too strongly to the notion that it’s “lame” to text your parents. I figured I’d let them get in contact with me, by text, email, call or however they chose. But now I see how silly that is. I’m 27, not a rebellious teen, and I want to maintain a close, positive, loving relationship with my parents. So I should handle it like any other relationship – as something that deserves my time, attention and caring. And as something that warrants me reaching out and starting the conversation instead of always waiting for that communication to come to me.

I’ve tried to “like” more posts by my aunts and uncles on Facebook, and I’ve started to comment more on the events and activities that form the fabric of their everyday lives (even though some of them post far too frequently about these everyday events and activities …) I’ve emailed my aunts, uncles and my grandparents more often, keeping them a little more informed about my work, trying to let them know I care. And it was my sister’s idea, but she and I even went to visit my grandparents one Friday when we both had the day off.

The type of giving I want to continue doing is not about things, but about caring and sharing time together.

So if all of us twenty-somethings can give more of our time and love, to our families and others, we can make up for accidentally being takers. So let’s get to it. It’s time to give.

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Loneliness lives, but it doesn’t have to win

I’ve been thinking about loneliness lately. It’s not usually seen as a symptom of twenty-something life, luckily, but it can creep in sometimes.

There’s the “leaving a family gathering” sad feeling that tends to crop up when you’re headed back home to an apartment empty of friends, roommates or companions, when you’ve just spent a day filled with siblings, parents, other relatives and that generally awesome thing called love. It’s as if you can feel the warmth of family staying where you were and the coldness of reality, work, chores and adulthood seeping back in to where you’re going. And all you can do is drive into it and face it. Be an adult. Get back to the “real world.”

Then there’s the “quiet day at the office” isolated feeling that can happen if you work for a small company or everyone else is at a convention or your desk is off in some weird corner where the heat and AC don’t seem to reach. It’s as though life is all about work and work is the only important thing in life. It makes time pass soooo sloooowly and lunch, or your shift’s equivalent of the glorious stroke of 5 p.m., seem an eternity away. But all you can do is type away, click away, call away, write, design, compute, calculate, plan, organize and otherwise work the time away and be an adult. Get your work done or else. That’s life.

Some of us might get lonely for our college roommates or our high school besties or the bunk bed we shared with our brother. Others might get lonely for a boyfriend/girlfriend/partner who’s deployed overseas or a sister who’s working a job seven states away.

Lonenliness isn’t inherent to twenty-something life, but it’s an unavoidable, occasional emotion for people of every age. So lately, I’ve been doing my best to guard against it.

The easiest ways are through texts, gchats, Facebook messages, emails or phone calls. But the best ways are through real, in-person get-togethers.

I know you’re reading this online and half of our lives are online and kind words sent electronically can help to ease the “I’m all alone” blues. But they’re not the same as laughter heard face-to-face or high-fives shared over hockey shootout victories or even tears shed over the loss of a person, a place or a phase.

So loneliness. It’s going to strike. And by now, we probably know when, and we probably know why. But let’s do our best not to let loneliness win.

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