People always say you should do what scares you in order to grow. That’s an intimidating concept at its core and one I have ran away from for a long time. What scares me? Being alone.
I’m not scared of being alone in the romantic comedy sense, but rather, for the majority of my life, I was scared to actually do anything alone. My freshman year, I skipped a lot of meals in the dining hall because I was too scared to eat alone. Why? I was so scared that everyone who was there with their friends would judge me for being by myself. In my head, I could hear laughter about how I had no friends. In reality, no one even batted an eye, but my inner monologue and fear controlled me.
When I went to Disney, I felt it was time to change: I only had five months to take in this place and if I only did things when others were around, I knew I would leave with regrets. So, I did park days by myself. I booked meals for one. I explored the resorts when I wanted to. I also spent time with my friends and enjoyed their company, but I didn’t let my fear of being judged stop me from doing things alone too. It was about balance: I could be alone or with people.
So, I want to share with you all my favorite ‘alone’ activities, in case you’re new to spending time with yourself like I was.
Coffee Shop. I’m convinced there is some hidden power in coffee shops (and I’m not talking about caffeine) because when I’m in them, I find it completely comfortable to be alone. I love working in coffee shops and so, I often bring my laptop to write an essay and do some readings, but I’ve also found I love coffee shops for relaxing alone time: I love just bringing a book and sitting and reading in a coffee shop. It’s a space where so many other people are by themselves that this whole idea of being judged for being alone goes away.
Museums. The first place I ever went by myself was the Renwick Gallery in Washington, DC. Going to museums alone is one of my favorite activities, because you get to explore at your own time and pace and be taken away by what strikes you. I spent a good half hour just staring up at the ceiling at the Renwick and it was amazing– never before would I have been able to spend that type of time like that.
Shopping. This one intimidated me. I had always gone shopping with either my mom, my sister, or my friends, but never alone. However, when I shop alone, I find I’m willing to take more risks in what I try on because I’m not worried about anyone commenting on how awful something looks on me. So, I try on things that look horrible but sometimes, I find a surprising good find that I would have completely missed out on otherwise.
I still hate eating alone at a sit-down restaurant and I sometimes hear that inner voice telling me everyone is judging me, but I’ve also found a solace in being alone and learning to enjoy my own company.
As a kid, I was woken up every morning by my mom telling me the weather in the happiest young. I always responded with a groan and “ten more minutes…five more minutes…just one more minute.” You could say that I am definitely NOT a morning person. I’ve tried to be a morning person and hit up that 7 AM spin class so I could get my workout in and start some work before the day even really began. But, it never worked. I ended up despising the gym, feeling exhausted by my lack of sleep because I only got about 4-5 hours because of the early wake up, and I didn’t really get anything done.
One formula doesn’t work for everyone.
Mornings don’t work for me– they are not how I become more productive or happier as a person. So, this semester, I’m trying something new: I’m doing weekends differently. In the past, my weekends included me waking up around 10, struggling to do work all day but feeling really distracted, and meeting up to go out with friends at night. I would end up drowning in work on Sundays because Friday and Saturday had been pretty unproductive. So, this semester, I’m changing my schedule to work with my own personal productivity.
I like working at night. 6 p.m. is when I start to feel energized and focused so now, that’s when I’m starting my work on weekends. During the day, I’m enjoying myself. I felt like in the old schedule, I never really spent quality time with people during the weekend. Maybe, we went out to a party together or to a big dinner, but I never got to have the long conversations and connections I really wanted to have. So now, I’m having coffee and lunch and sometimes, even breakfast with friends on the weekends. Another thing I found was I had bogged my weekends down so much in work and honestly, not being productive, that I was never getting to spend time in D.C. and enjoying this city. With my new schedule, I actually have time to go to the museums I love and take advantage of all the opportunities that exist here.
So, this quick post is just to tell you: do what works for you. Don’t have a schedule that leaves you feeling disconnected and unproductive just because that’s the conventional way of doing things. Change the pattern and you might find life looking a lot easier and happier.
With the start of a new year, there’s a sense of excitement. There’s a million ideas and goals floating around. After the initial excitement and urgency wears off, reality sets in: if you’re not organized, all of your resolutions will be failed and forgotten before January even ends.
There are some people who organization comes naturally to, I am not one of them. Despite my best efforts, my tiny dorm room quickly becomes cluttered and papers start to disappear. However, this disorganization has gotten me to invest in some fool-proof ways to get and stay organized throughout the year:
Invest in a good planner. I love Google Calendar as much as the next person, but I do find that when I write things physically down, I am more reasonable about my commitments and time. I also am obsessed with my planner and adding stickers to my monthly calendars– the pretty aesthetic really gets me to stick with it.
Write everything down 3 times. Repetition, repetition, repetition. It works. I keep three calendars, write down all my goals 3 times, and set 3 alarms. By the third time, it is ingrained in my head and I am ready to face the task, piece by piece.
Buy everything you need before you start a task. At the beginning of the your task, make sure you have all the materials you need. There is nothing worse than looking at your next step and realizing you have none of what you need to do it. Your productivity plummets as you recognize you have an additional step now to achieving your goals. Avoid this problem– buy all your materials in advance. For me, I buy all of my pens, highlighters, books, and notebooks before classes really start up.
Prioritize your to do list. Life piles up and it’s easy to think everything is urgent– it gets overwhelming. Make a to-do list with three sections: high, medium, low. High priority items are ones that must be done by tomorrow, medium is within 2-3 days, and low is non-urgent. I also often will make an event section of my to-do list, so that I am reminded of my time commitment and make a reasonable schedule for myself.
Work with others, when possible. When you make commitments to others, you are more likely to stick with it. Make plans to study with a friend, workout with a buddy. Staying organized is so much easier when someone else keeps you accountable– use your support system to help you be the best version of yourself.
I hope these tips help you with all your goals and share your goals so we can work together to achieve success.
For the past week or so, I’ve been feeling stuck. My focus has been lacking, my creativity has been nonexistent, and I’ve just not been feeling like myself. When I’ve been trying to write, I’ve felt a wall go up: I can’t figure out what I’m ready to share about myself and my experiences. Every time I try to write about my experiences, I lose my words. It’s like a wall goes up within me that stops me from sharing. I haven’t been able to figure out exactly why I’m in this rut right now.
I’ve spent a lot of time recently reflecting and I keep coming back to this point: a year ago, I was preparing to embark on an amazing adventure that would cause huge amounts of growth in me as a person. For the last year of my life, I have changed locations and routines approximately every four months. I have not settled and now, I’m going back to a routine of sameness and I can’t help but fear that in settling in one spot, I’m not growing enough as a person. I had a feeling I would go through a struggle this semester, and it’s the very reason I did not study abroad: I need to learn how to be in one place for a while.
Staying physically in one place and one lifestyle though does not mean my life needs to be boring, mundane, or lack growth. Today, I realized that staying in one place and having a routine here is giving me the opportunity to do what I haven’t done in a while: pursue things just because they’ll make me happy. I have been so constantly moving for a year that I haven’t taken time to do things just because. I’ve felt like I had to experience everything all at once because each place I’ve been in, I’ve had a limited time there. Even over break when I was home in New York, I felt this weird sense of urgency: I had to go to the diner and my favorite coffee shop and to see a Broadway show, because I don’t know when I’ll be back and able to do it all. Now in DC, I don’t have that urgency and when I push aside my fear of sameness for a moment, it’s almost freeing to be able to prioritize my happiness without feeling like I’m missing out on something.
So, this semester, I’m going to do things for no reason other than that I want to and they will make me happy. And to be honest, I have no idea what I’m going to do. Maybe, I’ll take that pottery class I’ve always said I was going to take. Maybe, (when the government opens again), I’ll spend a day reading at the National Portrait Gallery or maybe, I’ll find my way back to an old hobby, like songwriting. I don’t have to plan it all out perfectly for once. I can just live in the present for a while.
Sometimes, it feels like everyone has it all together except for you. Everywhere you look are people who have it all figured out for the next ten years and then, there’s you. You don’t even know what you’re having for dinner tonight, let alone what’s in your path five years, or even one year down the line. It feels like the world is spinning too fast and you’re at risk of falling off the planet altogether.
BREATHE.You are not alone in this. There is nothing wrong with you and I promise you, gravity will not abandon you anytime soon.
Behind the Picture
Often, we assume we know people and their lives better than we actually do. We forget that we only see what other people want us to see and with that, we miss most of the story. The girl who has our dream job doesn’t share the tons of interviews she went on before she landed that job. She doesn’t share her struggle with mental health that affects her daily. She only shares the perfect pictures with the world– the good times, the perfect-fitting suits, and the success. We assume we know her life, but we don’t see any of it. This is not to say she is not doing well and her successes shouldn’t be celebrated, but rather that it is not all picture perfect. She does not have it all together all the time– she’s just convinced us she does.
Making it Through
Personally, I find there’s something comforting when you take the mask off and see the reality of the world around you: everyone is making it through their own struggles, their own way. That’s the thing though: everyone is making it through. The Earth hasn’t stopped spinning and people with struggles are not spontaneously combusting. Everyone is fighting through, day-by-day, because that’s life. Life is not about having the perfect picture, but rather about making it through our struggles, scarred and bruised, and coming out the other side with a smile on our face.
I think life might even want us to embrace our baggage and our wreckage. It is the moments with no direction that truly determine who we are. It is when nothing is given to us on a silver platter that we find our strength, determination, and path. We live in a society that so badly wants to stuff our struggles under the carpet, but when we do that, we lose out on showing the world the most beautiful and bright parts of ourselves.