Inspiration

Me, myself and I.

How many times have you thought about yourself today? About what you want? About what people might think about you? Because I literally can’t count them all. I was at dinner last week and asked my friend Ben what his worst trait was. Almost without missing a beat he stated ‘selfish,’ it quite honestly hit me like a ton of bricks.

“Exactly, of course it is. It’s everyone’s worst trait. But why hadn’t I immediately thought that was my own?”

He said it so casually, and explained that it was something he tried to be more purposeful about, something he was continuously working on.

It was only the first time this theme would smack me in the face this week. A good friend of mine is a teacher for Teach for America in Miami. He and two other teachers brought a group of 12 students to Boston this past weekend to tour colleges and experience the (best) city. The students, all minority, were chosen for one of the following reasons:

  • They had dedicated the allotted time to the 10th grade math club these teachers had created.
  • They were incredibly bright yet didn’t show the motivation or effort needed to go to college.
  • They were incredibly bright and wanted to go to college.

This trip was geared to inspire these students to pursue college. For their last night in town I met them for a comedy show at the famous Boston comedy club, Improv Asylum. The show was hysterical and even included one of the students, Chris, getting pulled up on stage…the kid is a natural. After the show we ventured to Mike’s Pastries (I know, not the best but iconic all the same),  and spent the rest of the night gallivanting around the city on a perfect warm, clear night. I walked away from the evening so impressed by the passion of these kids, the spark that this trip ignited in some of them was simply impressive, all they needed was a little inspiration.

But it got me thinking, how great is my life and what I’ve got going on? What have I done today or this week to help anyone else?

Lately I’ve been somewhat obsessed with the theme of being a “lost twentysomething.” It’s addicting. It’s a common thread I’ve found with many friends and strangers, an easy conversation topic, discussing likes and dislikes, struggles and mini victories. But a little perspective from this weekend made me find fault in these consuming thoughts. Do I focus too much time on myself and not enough on anyone else?

Yes. Absolutely.

Is that bad?

I’m not sure.

Maybe yes and maybe no. We attract what we are. The more we better ourselves the more we surround ourselves with those that are better as well. Like minded even. I’ve struggled with this concept though. Is it OK for me to be focusing this much time and energy on myself and my own life? I walked away from this weekend feeling almost guilty. I grew up in a household that placed a strong importance on community involvement and volunteering. Not only through my parents professions but some of my fondest childhood memories included my dad’s “little brother” as part of the Big Brothers Big Sisters organization. Volunteering was ingrained in me. So when did I begin to find my own self discovery more important that helping someone else on their journey?

I believe that in these years of being a twentysomething self discovery is more important than ever. It begins with self-awareness, and this is where I struggle. It’s important to reflect on our own lives, and focus on bettering ourselves yet I leave you with this question:

Where is the line drawn between self discovery and selfishness?

“Practice being selfless. You end up getting more than you anticipate when your soul is giving.”

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Reset.

Its felt a lot like I’m starting over lately. Very obviously in many ways, new city, new job, new friends. But more than anything it feels like a reoccurring pattern. The past few months have certainly been challenging and I’ve realized, almost too obviously, that’s it’s because I once again hit the reset button. I worked four years long and hard to create a reputation, build credibility, and expand my network all just to graduate, hitting the reset button and sending myself back to the bottom on the totem pole. Realizing that as exciting as being in your early twenties is, the career path I’ve chosen, like many of my peers, is one of dedication, long hours, and an impeccable attention to detail. I’m learning from the bottom up. It’s the way it most always works, right?
 
 
I spent this past weekend in Houston with one of my best friends from college, Lauren. It was one of the first times people would ask how we knew each other and we became “old friends from college” rather than that simply being assumed. We poured over old school pop music, cheesy 90’s movies, and ongoing conversations about life and love. All too cliche for a girls weekend right?
 
 
Sunday we ventured down to Galveston to spend time with my Aunt Pam and Uncle Craig who welcomed us with homemade crab cakes, cheesy grits and red wine. I’ve always valued my relationship with them, but this time I felt like there was a shift. We shared stories of reunions, and family updates. But we also talked about work, and my Aunt Pam, a very successful business owner, even asked for my advice on PR and marketing for her company, it was the first time she saw me as a professional and a young adult. It was also a conversation about love, time, and a reoccurring theme in my life….the importance of relationships.
 
 
Since my post about the challenges of finding true girlfriends, I have been overwhelmed by the support of friends, family and mostly strangers that have reached out with similar stories. I didn’t realize I had tapped into a common thread many of us share, the struggles we face when we hit the reset button. Even my Aunt Pam, who has never met a stranger, shared her recent connection to the struggle trying to find friends in a new city while her husband, my Uncle Craig, was so often away. She so honestly stated “We seek those that share our same values, we seek the ones we can call in the middle of the night and they come running. That bond takes time, takes patience,” and she’s right.
 
 
This weekend was my mini vacation, it was my reminder of priorities, it was a my chance to sit back and reflect. This weekend was my reset button. Lauren and I shared our individual challenges we’ve faced with these new lives we’ve attempted to create for ourselves over coffee on the front porch overlooking the bay. We stayed in Aunt Pam and Uncle Craig’s getaway home perfectly named, “Exhale.” It was a perspective I needed to find. We all face our own battles everyday, no ones’ anymore more or less challenging than our own. We need those around us to often remind us to keep our head above water and push through. We seek change, to challenge us and to experience more. We seek these situations. We press the reset button everyday, we start over with every new chapter in our lives, and more importantly with each day we face. It’s a chance to excel, to embrace what is next. So often we fear change, we fear having to face the world on our own, but this weekend gave me much needed perspective.
 
 
In the midst of change we hit setbacks that often lead us to seek a way out. You will never know how great you can truly be unless you instead face your fears, face your setbacks, head on. No matter how big or small the change is, the challenge is, sometimes in the midst of defeat all we need is to simply reset.
 
 
 

seth godin

Three years ago (has it been that long?!) I took Integrated Marketing Communication (IMC) with Dr. Persuit, who is a huge inspiration to me. I immediately enjoyed the fact that she didn’t use text books but instead required us to read blogs, and books from notable marketing and communication icons. One of our texts was Linchpin by Seth Godin, which in turn inspired me to sign up for his daily blog posts.

Three years later and I still start each day with Seth’s words. Some seem extraneous while others I can’t seem to stop contemplating. Yesterday afternoon’s post highlighted his most recent book (at the top of my must-read list) titled, The Dip, and knowing when to quit. We live in a society where quitting is seen as a disgrace, tactless, an escape. Yet according to Seth, winners quit everyday – they just quit the right thing at the right time.

So maybe we shouldn’t be afraid of what we can’t do, but instead embrace what we can. Don’t quit to accept mediocrity, quit to instead excel in something else, to push yourself in the right thing.  Resistance is what drives us to quit, and sometimes that’s OK. Sometimes it’s alright to quit things that just aren’t working to simply make way for what you will overcome resistance for.

Winners quit everyday. Seth Godin said so.

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“Someone is going to come out the other side, someone is going to be brave enough and focused enough to be the best available option. Might as well be you.”

falling back in love

One of my biggest downfalls is my inability to enjoy the moment. I wish I could say I was spontaneous but I have a constant need to figure out my next step, make my next plan, that I often forget to enjoy what is simply right in front of me. I end up wishing away time to get to the next adventure and before I know it I’m 22, graduated from college, working 55+ hrs a week, moving to Boston, and about to start my biggest adventure yet. My goal this summer was to slow down, to enjoy the precious time left I had with my college friends, and fall back in love with Wilmington.

At the risk of sounding self-centered, this summer was entirely about me. It was my first few months right out of the gate and straight into adulthood. I started my job with Pure Communications as a Media Relations Coordinator and Account Assistant at the beginning of June and I quickly realized there would be no such thing as a 40 hr work week for me. Pure’s clientele is comprised of life science, biotech and pharmaceutical companies, areas I have no background knowledge of. So on top of learning a new company and position, I’ve been learning an entirely new field, science.

But more importantly I felt a need to reconnect with the first place that I could call a home of my own, Wilmington. After traveling abroad for a year, I had a hard time coming back and feeling at home here when I felt so eager for my next adventure. I was so eager to graduate, start my career, and find a new city, I forgot to appreciate the one I was in. This summer has been a blessing, it has been exactly what I needed.

So for my last two weeks I’m taking over my friend Lauren’s lease and living a mere 100 ft from the sand. When my alarm goes off at 5:45am for the first time I don’t feel dread, but truly pop out of bed and run to the beach. My beach run this morning felt like I had finally fit all the pieces together. My Wilmington puzzle is complete and that’s why I feel like I can leave, not because I’m desperate to get away, but because my time here is done. Exhausted from my feet pounding on the sand I ran into the ocean and felt truly at home as the sunrise surrounded me, filling the sky and reflecting on the waves. And not until I could fully appreciate what I was surrounded by, could I fully appreciate myself.

Today, I fell back in love.

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“Sometimes you just have to look back at your past, and smile for how far you’ve come.”

obligation into opportunity

I never considered whether I would go to school or not, it simply wasn’t a choice. While other students faked sick, or left school early to finish a paper, I never had that option, my parents made sure I was in school 100% of the time. It was just part of the routine, and often felt like a chore. Some days it didn’t feel fair that I had to be there, forced to try and absorb information that didn’t always feel relevant to me. Forced to follow strict bathroom policies, and consume lukewarm cafeteria pizza. Even after high school the next logical step was college, not a choice but an obligation.

It’s easy to complain about the overwhelming amounts of school work that never cease. It’s easy to make excuses and look for a way out of going to that 8 am class. But what if class wasn’t seen as an obligation but an opportunity? What if you didn’t have the convenience to read deeply, discuss freely, and write intellectually? What if as a female you were banned from obtaining an education? What if you had an opportunity to write and learn in spite of the law; to express what it was like as an oppressed female, seeking education. Knowing you had a story to tell, awareness to enforce, but if you were caught you would be killed. What would you do?

In 2009 at just 11, Malala, partnered with the BBC and wrote under a pseudonym, about her experiences living under Taliban rule. It started as she was banned from acting as a part of the school thus stripping her of her privilege to wear a school uniform, to being banned from attending school at all as many were closed down and destroyed. But she continued to write, continued to show courage and share her stories. She continued to live with hope, learn with desire, and lead with strength.
Due to a growing popularity, she was approached by the New York Times to film a documentary, to better tell her story. At 12 years old she became a known activist for female education. She was nominated for the International Children’s Peace Prize, and soon after awarded Pakistan’s first National Children’s Peace Prize.Yet despite her success, the looming fear of being found by the Taliban continued:

“I think of it often and imagine the scene clearly. Even if they come to kill me, I will tell them what they are trying to do is wrong, that education is our basic right.”

Last month her nightmares came true, the Taliban attacked a van carrying her and friends home from school. Shooting several, Malala was left with life threatening wounds being struck in the neck and head. But she lives; walking, reading, singing, laughing, she lives. In a time of desperation it appears Malala received a miracle.

I can’t help but feel ashamed. Ashamed for taking the easy way out at times, for not adding value and appreciation to my education each and everyday. For not taking advantage of every opportunity given. I’ve taken freedom for granted. Education for granted. Malala stood up for a right she deserves. She encourages others to stand up for that same right. And she encourages me to optimize today, this project, this class, this degree.

I write because I can, she wrote because she had to.

“Develop a passion for learning. If you do, you will never cease to grow.”

– Anthony J. D’Angelo.

this year.

I’ve been stuck, stuck in this feeling of limbo. I created this blog to share my dreams and goals of traveling abroad, my stories and adventures of travels and new friends. This was an outlet to express what I was going through and connect to friends and family back home. I had my year planned out my destinations set, and I loved and learned from every minute of it. Once it was over I wasn’t sure where my next chapter began. I wasn’t sure what to write about next.

I’ve since returned to school at UNCW for a final year, a transition year, a year I hadn’t thought about yet, a year I hadn’t planned. It will be a year that will end one chapter and begin the next. But more than anything it’s a year to enjoy, reflect and move forward. I’ve realized that I don’t know what I’m going to do come graduation in May. I don’t know what I should be looking for. I don’t know where I will end up. And honestly, all of these thoughts scare me. All I keep hearing is about how this is “the most exciting time in your life”, “you can do anything, go anywhere”, “don’t stress about a job, you’ll find something”. Thanks for the kind words and advice, but none of it seems to be helping.

So I’ve begun to turn for help, to career counselors, professors, friends and my parents.  Although they have all told me the same advice as above, they also included a few more insightful words of wisdom, and this is what I have taken away:

– Make connections everywhere. You never know who you will meet and who they might know and where they might be able to take you.

– Be indispensable. Sophomore year I read a book called Linchpin by Seth Godin talking about this exact idea for an IMC class and it’s stuck with me ever since, a good thing too because it’s a skill to value. It doesn’t matter what your job is and what responsibilities it holds, do them so well that the company you’re working for can’t afford to not have you. Magic Johnson told me that.

– Be open. In this job market, you don’t know what you might find or what opportunities might fall in your lap. Don’t be so stuck on an idea that you can’t take a chance and veer from the plan.

– Internships are great, but once you graduate don’t ever take an unpaid internship for more than three months. Unpaid internships are tricky, and under much debate about whether they are ethical or not…. I suggest you read this and then form your own opinion: http://blog.muckrack.com/post/29334070653/whats-the-ethical-use-of-interns-in-journalism-and-pr

– Don’t be so set on your goals that you can’t see an opportunity when it falls into your lap. Yes, it’s important to be driven and have goals but it’s not so important that you give up on other chances. Life happens, life will steer you in so many directions you won’t know which way your facing. But if you try to stay on the straight and narrow then, life is what you’ll be missing out on.

– Dream big. I recently asked one of my professors if it was possible to dream too big, he shot that down real fast. Training doesn’t matter, schooling doesn’t matter, resumes don’t actually matter,(this is a big statement I know, and I know they will absolutely get you a foot in the door but hear me out). What matters is product. You can go to the best schools in the wold but if you can’t perform when called upon then what good are you? So what if you go to a medium sized, southern, public school. Represent it well and prove that you are more than capable, prove that you didn’t need an ivy league to teach you how to perform, prove them wrong.

I want to say it’s a start, but I’ve been preparing for this since I started dreaming about “what I wanted to be when I grow up”. I’m just taking one more step, that’s how I have to remember it. I will be fine, I know I will.

“In order to succeed, your desire for success should be greater than your fear of failure.”
– Bill Cosby.
Erin.