Doing Your Best Right Now

Before this whole c*vid-19 mess, a recurring theme that I’d been talking about with my therapist was Brené Brown’s theory that people are generally doing their best. It’s been useful to remember to assume the best in the people in my life, and now sure seems like a good time to try to assume the best in others—that in our communities, and as a national and global society, we’ll care for and be considerate of everyone during such an uncertain and, frankly, scary time. (And by that I mean stay home and wash our hands and help out those in less fortunate situations than ourselves.)

I also think it’s a good time to turn that theory of “people are doing their best” back on yourself, AKA give yourself a break because I’m going to assume you’re doing the best you can. I mean you know if you’re not being kind or safe, but assuming you are, I think it’s more common for us to constantly feel like we’re not doing enough or being enough when we’re really giving all we’ve got to give.

And right now, I think the best thing you can do amidst a literal pandemic is cut the negative self-criticism and listen to your own needs while we spend this time inside.

Stop worrying about productivity. I get it; way easier said than done. You could argue that I’m here, pressuring myself to blog before the month is up, but actually, inspiration and discipline have brought me to this page rather than pressure. I’m still learning the difference, but I guess the easiest determining factor is that I want to be here. I want to feel connected to myself and serve others in any positive way I can. This is what I’ve got (and it’s enough that it’s making me feel better, though I hope it helps you too).

Other things that have brought me back into my own sense of calm and joy are: yoga, reading, journaling, tapping, sleeping, watching TV, and talking to my people.

I’m fortunate to be working from home, but I know my back and neck are extra tense, and Yoga with Adriene is helping that and to calm my mind. I’m admittedly slow at 30-day challenges and only on day four of her Home series, but it feels fitting to find peace on my mat and in my home since we’ve all got some time to get comfy.

I dove back into Cheryl Strayed’s Tiny Beautiful Things, a collection of essays she wrote when she was the advice columnist Sugar for The Rumpus. It’s one of my favorite nonfiction collections. I’ve been journaling when I’m pretty fed up with this whole thing and feeling anxious and in disbelief that at this random time, in a year I had already made some cool plans for, we’re somehow in the middle of what will surely be a bad page in a history textbook. It helps to feel my feelings, and then they’re not so loud once I’ve acknowledged them or gained some perspective on how I can move forward.

When I need an extra dose of positivity or a reminder of the best self I’m striving to be, I tap by following along with Gala Darling. EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique) involves tapping certain points of your body to basically rebalance your energy. Gala explains it better, and she keeps it real while being very optimistic and a huge believer in manifesting great things for yourself.

I mentioned sleep because I’ve been trying to make sure I’m getting my eight hours as a night owl who’s good at accidentally staying up much later than I mean to. It’s good for my moods and my immune system, so I highly recommend, especially since the stress of this situation is heavy and exhausting.

Of course, I’m watching Netflix, specifically New Girl and That ’70s Show and Tiger King (which is insane, so many more layers than anticipated). I’ve been trying to color or use activity books as well, something for my hands to focus on that isn’t scrolling through all the news or social media updates because I find that I can’t be plugged in all the time for the sake of my own anxiety. I’ve also been brushing up on my French with Duolingo, something I’m having fun with whether I spend five or 30 minutes a day on it.

And I’m calling my people; my family, my friends, my therapist. I’m working to expand my phone network, but I’m off to a good start with a birthday call for my brother’s 30th and a virtual spa night with my friends and other calls to vent and laugh and check in more than maybe we were before things shifted.

Essentially, I’m doing my best by taking the best care of myself that I can. I’m not doing all these things every day. I’m not feeling positive 100% of the time. I don’t know when things will go back to “normal”which will probably look different after all thisbut I’m still hoping for the best and holding onto the knowledge that I’m doing all I can for myself and for others by staying inside and finding joy in it.

Show up for YOURSELF

Happy August! Before I get into what’s been on my brain, a few crazy facts for you:

– We’re less than six months from 2020 (what?!)

– Those of us who graduated in May have been out of college for three months (how??)

– I’ve had to live with a boy (*queue Monica’s whining voice) for these past three months, but I think he’d agree that it’s going pretty well (we’re very much Monica and Chandler, what’re ya gonna do?)

– Anndd I’ve successfully completed an internship at an ad agency and had my position extended!

That’s really what I want to get into: getting used to this new 9-5 business. None of the jobs I had during college resembled a Monday-Friday, 9-5 office job, but now that’s my life.

Or is it?

I started writing this to vent about how the past months have flown by as I’ve tried to adjust to this new realm of adulthood. I’ve focused so much on the facets of my post-grad life–mainly getting used to my work routine, but also learning how to live with my significant other, making friends, and navigating/driving again–that I haven’t been writing.

While those things have compounded to make me feel pretty busy all summer, I think the heart of my frustration isn’t the fault of a time-consuming 9-5; it has been me trying to find safety amidst so much change. (For those following along, big surprise, right?)

It’s felt safer to me to avoid the writing I did for my thesis that was really getting somewhere but taking real work to get there. Safer to consume TV than to do the things I know would make me feel better more sustainably, like reading or yoga. Safer to slip into a routine with JT that involves more focus on us together than to carve space for myself because I haven’t had to before; we were hundreds of miles apart and I had all the space I could want.

These examples prove that safer is synonymous with easier. I’m letting myself take the easy way out by avoiding the work or peace-bringing activities I know in my gut I should be doing.

Sometimes I do need Netflix time with JT because my brain is exhausted, but if I don’t start setting aside the time and energy, if I don’t do the damn work, the writing won’t get done. And it’s about more than writing; it’s about personal fulfillment. My whole life can’t be based on logistics and my identity is certainly not my day job.

I have hobbies and passions and creative work that I feel like it’s my responsibility to bring into the world. I don’t want to ignore my impulses to take time doing the things I love and the things that make me feel connected to myself. I have to do better at creating space to pursue the things that enrich my life (or even just make it better for a few minutes) while also pursuing this new profession I’m trying on for size.

I don’t think I’m the only one learning how to handle showing up at a new job I’m excited about and still showing up for myself. I don’t have a magic answer, just a couple steps I’m trying out, like:

– Setting reminders on my phone. The goal is that these daily reminders become habits that don’t need reminding. And it’s super satisfying to click “completed” or whatever as soon as it pops up because I already put in the time writing or stretching etc. 

– Going to free workout sessions in my town that alternate between cardio, yoga, pilates, and even hip-hop dancing. It’s nice to have one night a week I force myself to get out of the house and just spend time being active and out of my own head.

– Visiting my library! I definitely just checked out too many books, but I want to be sucked into a good book (or three) because I find that so much more fulfilling than wasting time refreshing Instagram.

Whatever you’re struggling to prioritize in your new season is valid, but I hope this serves as reassurance that we’re in this together, and we have to focus on more than just showing up to work. Let’s show up for ourselves, too 🙂 

Summer Reflection

I begin my senior year of college tomorrow, and I’ve been reflecting a lot on how I want to answer friends, classmates, and professors who ask about my summer. I’ve had a hard time putting it into words because it feels like a long story, so I thought I’d tell it here.

I wrote a few posts already about figuring out what you can control and when you maybe need to step back from a situation. That’s because my summer was, well, kind of a mess.

It wasn’t bad; it feels messy simply because I can’t easily organize the events that unfolded or all the emotions I felt along the way. Looking back from this point, I am now able to see how things worked out for the best, even though the process felt like a roller coaster I didn’t choose to ride–though, technically, I did.

I decided to sublease an apartment because I really wanted to experience a Chicago summer. I thought it would be the perfect opportunity to test out living in a new neighborhood and gaining professional experience without the obligation of school. I got a jumpstart applying to internships and jobs during Spring Break last semester and then went through a long process with a competitive internship. The process ended with my being asked to apply again next year. I was bummed, but I began applying again.

When I moved into my sublease in June without a job, I figured that it was only a matter of time before I heard good news from someone. I went to another internship interview and was actually offered the position, but it ended up being very, very different than what I thought I was signing on for. So I declined and applied for an open position at a place where one of my friends works.

It made all the difference to my summer that I was hired, however, I started working a lot later than I expected to. It’s frustrating when you’re completely available to dedicate your summer to work, and you’re trying your hardest to do so, and the circumstances are simply out of your control. What’s more, is that when things don’t go according to your plan, you start kicking yourself for not sticking to a safer plan. My plan was to enjoy a beautiful, city summer on nights and weekends while I worked hard during the day to save for the future. It wasn’t that simple.

But like I said, I got that job. I love it, I still have it, and now, I have another that I’m even more excited about. Being in Chicago actually allowed me to interview for it, and my summer of adjusting to going with the flow prepared me to figure out last-minute logistics. I somehow navigated moving out of my sublease, then into my dorm early, and going on a brief trip with my family to drop my brother off at college in between. Plus, during the weeks I spent earlier in the summer trying to figure things out, waiting for responses, I did make good memories with my friends, here in Chicago and at home. I actually spent a lot more time in my hometown than I had planned, which worked out well so that I saw JT  and my family a lot more than I thought I would.

I don’t have one big lesson I can chalk this summer up to, only a lot of little ones, mostly about myself. I think I’ll be unpacking my somewhat-erratic, but altogether positive experiences for months to come. Right now, what feels important is that I had the experiences at all and that they left me feeling open to whatever opportunities this school year is going to bring, whether or not they present themselves as neatly as I would like.

So, I think I’ll just say that my summer had a rocky start, but left me in a really, really good place.