Stuck in the Middle

Do you ever feel like you’re going about your day, being productive in your work, but feeling like you’re…off? That the work you’re doing isn’t engaging you like you think it should? That if you weren’t required to do a certain task, you’d be off doing something completely different?

Because that’s where I’m at right now. And it’s a place that I have to be in, unfortunately, and I know I’m not alone in that. I think anybody in their educational career have at least one (or probably many) time(s) where you’re asking, “What is the point? I’m not interested in this. This doesn’t feel relevant to me.”

Whether it’s taking a required math class you despise, applying for a job you know you wouldn’t like, or scheduling a yearly doctor’s appointment when your health is a-okay, there are those moments where we look at the grand scheme of our lives and wonder why all of these seemingly minute details, ones that seem to not serve you, really matter. Shouldn’t we be using our precious time and energy always trying to better ourselves, fuel our passions, and make the most of what we have and are? That’s certainly the message drilled into our heads: no moment is guaranteed. Life is precious. You only live once.

Here’s my current example. I am in the midst of my second to last semester of my undergraduate career. The only classes I have left to graduate are those that are required for my Mass Communication major. As my mind has changed to recenter my focus on what I truly love and feel passionate about, I have felt very drained from taking classes about social research, writing for digital and broadcast media, and media law and ethics. Especially when I have a religion class that resonates with me so much more, going from that to all of my other classes is no comparison. I sit in the classroom just thinking, “This is so minuscule. How truly productive is this? I could be doing -insert other things here- instead.”

When you struggle to find that purpose in the seemingly dull, tiresome tasks, they just become even more strenuous. Our perspectives turn those tasks into mountains to climb every day, continually becoming steeper. If we can’t find a purpose, then it’s virtually impossible to find a motivation.

It’s easy to say, just find the reason you’re doing it in the first place and then you’ll be set, but if only life were that easy. Rarely can we just snap ourselves into a new head space and suddenly see the world with fresh eyes. Especially in the mundane tasks, classes and responsibilities, the reason you might see in going or doing what you need to do, doesn’t necessarily change your attitude toward it. Sure, you’re paying to be in class and you need to take these classes to graduate, but in the present moment? Fifty minutes is dragging on for what feels like hours.

So instead of taking a robotic approach to switching motivation on and off, be gentle and gradual with yourself. Practice mindfulness in becoming aware of your body, position and circumstances, putting more thought into what you’re doing instead of daydreaming about other “more exciting” things. Even just a single reason to go, even if that is to see a friend or silently criticize the relevance of a topic (which, in my case, has been my go-to reason), can ease you into a different perspective.

Cliche, I know, but we are truly so blessed, so when in doubt, find gratitude in whatever you’re dreading because chances are, there are people vying for such an opportunity. Like the ability to receive an education. Or have access to certain resources. Or just any little luxuries that we don’t think about when we’re finding every little detail to complain about.

Because maybe yes, right now, this less enjoyable task isn’t of end-all importance. But in the grand scheme, if it fits into your goals, then it’s a necessary step to take. I have the goal of graduating from college with solid grades in three years, and by taking the classes I am now, I will be able to achieve that. Even if I look back and cannot remember a single detail of what was discussed in those classes, I can be proud knowing that I did it, despite my reservations about it at the time. Same goes for graduating high school, or taking care of mental health, or going through eating disorder recovery.

Everything is intentional. Sometimes it isn’t very obvious. Heck, it can be downright frustrating and defeating thinking you might be wasting your time on something. Accept your current emotions, but know that you’re in the right place at the right time. There’s a purpose, obvious or not, for everything. The lesson you learn from it might not be listed on the syllabus. And at the end of the day, be proud of how far you’ve come, where you are right now, and where you’re going.

Take care, and keep the faith. -Allie

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The Last Fall

College classes don’t actually start for a couple of weeks, but I wanted to just reflect on what this next semester all entails. It’s slightly exciting, slightly scary.

I’ve taken a couple of summer online classes. I’m studying to take the German Language CLEP test next week which, pray for me on that one. And then I’ll be getting right back into the swing of things from there.

There were certainly moments this summer that seemed to drag on for years. With summer, that’s inevitable regardless of what you might be doing. But in other respects, now I’m amazed by how August is already here, and I will be starting classes in just a few short weeks.

I’m excited to see the people that I haven’t seen since last fall again. Summer is always difficult to try and coordinate plans with others (heck, I’m not great at it during any other time in the year, either), and since I was abroad in the spring, I don’t know what sort of adjustment period I’ll have now back in the States, if any. But I’m at a point with myself where I really want to go out and do things with others. There’s been up’s and down’s in my interest in socializing, but right now I just want to see and talk with everyone I can, invite people over to my apartment, get in a car and keep driving forever.

Ah yes, I have an apartment off-campus now which is another change I’m excited for. No more shower shoes, first off. I cannot wait to just have a space to call my own and go back to every day. A place I can keep to my standards of cleanliness (or try) and feel like it’s uniquely mine. Of course it’s temporary for the school year, but just having furniture in a bare space that isn’t university property is a nice feeling.

I also plan to be involved in some new projects this school year. I’ll be the campus Peace Corps ambassador and I want to kick start the campus chapter of NAMI, both causes I am very passionate about. It’s different than from what I’ve been doing my first two years, but I think that’s what makes it so exciting. A fresh start to the end. A way of signing off my time as an undergraduate by hopefully making a lasting difference.

Do I fear that taking my final classes in Media and Journalism might be interesting to say the least? I guess. While I’m finishing my degree in the field, I know have a much better idea of where I want to end up in the coming years, and that does not involve staying in the media world itself. It’s not for me, and that’s okay. But I do think the classes will still teach me more about how to interact and share with the world. Hopefully I can be of some help for younger students who might fall into my shoes in having doubts and major stumbles trying to enter journalism because they sure didn’t tell me anything. There’s one thing earning classroom credits, and there’s another thing teaching others the wisdom you’ve gained through life.

Perhaps the weirdest feeling I’m dwelling upon is the fact that it doesn’t feel like I’m almost done with college. I don’t feel like I’m old enough or qualified enough to say that I only have two semesters left. I am in an awkward phase of simultaneously feeling like I’m too young and quite old. But I chose to finish this part of my education early, but that comes with its own challenges. I have to make sure people take me seriously. That they know I’m not just getting done early because maybe I didn’t like college or I’m going for a less demanding degree. I’ve worked hard already, and that isn’t stopping anytime soon.

This summer was necessary for me to look upon the coming semester with the belief that I can do this, I can make my ambitions reality, and I can overcome whatever might arise. I can admit when I’m feeling overwhelmed, and I can know when to push myself to do more. I’m not perfect by any means, but when you’ve seen a lot of darkness, the simplest of transitions like starting college classes becomes blindingly radiant.

So cheers to what may come. To the inevitable stress and anxiety of assignments, tests, and obligations. To the tired mornings when a lecture feels like listening to white noise.

Cheers to the enlightening conversations with friends. To the sense of accomplishment from finishing long papers and receiving a better-than-expected grade. To the fulfillment of engaging with others and doing activities that provide joy and passion.

Cheers to it all. Regardless of what you might be doing in the next days, weeks, months, years, there is something worth celebrating and looking forward to. Any moment can become one of transition, change and growth. We just have to change our perception to see it as such. And that just makes the roller coaster of life that much more exciting.

Take care, and keep the faith. -Allie

Kindle Kindness

We all have plenty of reasons to be bitter in life. It’s not easy facing a multitude of challenges, whether they be within ourselves, a certain combination of circumstances, or other people that really push your buttons. We’ve all been there.

People can just not be fun to deal with, and I know that’s a light way of putting it. Both recently and just in general, I’ve faced my fair share of situations where people have acted wrongly, that they have made a decision that throws me under the bus, that drains and frustrates me. “If -someone- hadn’t of done this, then…”

It’s one thing to think back to your own mistakes and forgive those for yourself and move on, but it’s a completely different case for other people. It’s not like you have control of individuals’ thoughts and words, no matter how harmful. Regardless if we know and understand their intentions, people act as they do.

Admittedly, accepting how others act and what they say is a hard road to take. It’s call people out, to seek some sort of redemption. An eye for an eye, they say. We hope that by trying to reenact the same damage to others as they did to us, we’ll somehow feel satisfied, that justice has been served.

In reality, if you’re seeing this as a game, the other person is still “winning.” They are taking up precious head space as you think about the past, you speculate and scheme and think far too much about the negative situation than you should. It’s not benefiting anybody. And that negativity inevitably reflects in everything you do, extending far behind a single occurrence.

I know I have discussed forgiveness in the past. And even for someone who truly believes in the power of letting things go, I realize certain situations are just hard to swallow. Some things are so shocking or debilitating, saying forgiveness is key and actually following through feels impossible.

Luckily I haven’t had too many instances that I’ve faced this dilemma, but this summer has been full of them. Developments that completely shake my envisioned path into something that makes it difficult to move forward, especially when you have no clue where you’re going. So this is a reminder today for everybody, myself included, to really meditate on your feelings, relationships, and goals.

Whether you’re religious or not, a huge component of faith is loving the people and neighbors around you. I think we can all say we’ve felt unlovable at some point, that we make such mistakes and act irresponsibly that we feel unworthy of compassion. We expect others to lash out and act in revenge.

The best surprise then is to meet empathy and understanding. To encounter someone who, while recognizing anger, does not let that human emotion overshadow the love we all innately share. Just because you or whoever might not be ready to apologize doesn’t mean you can’t be ready to forgive.

So how do we find that zen, that inner peace exuding outward as a loving, accepting embrace? I go back to our quality of empathy. We cannot entirely walk in someone else’s shoes to understand why they do and say certain things, but we can decide to walk beside them and consider everything from another perspective. This doesn’t mean you have to keep in contact with or be close to whoever wrongs you. If the relationship is toxic and harmful, running back to the same situation is lesson never learned. However, you can still take time to yourself to understand the factors involved. Who knows, maybe you’ll have your own reasons to apologize, too.

But there comes a time to move on. How can you just let something that feels shaky, the loose ends never tied up satisfactory, and walk away? Whatever happened, it was for a reason, clear to you now or maybe never. But look at the present moment and, as cheesy as it sounds, count your blessings. Recognize what you’re grateful for. See the changes and growth you’ve experienced. Look forward to the possibilities ahead. What is the end of one thing is a new beginning, new activities and people. Ask for others’ support. Pray on it.

I do think the unjust will receive whatever they’ve given to others, that right ultimately redeems wrong, but you aren’t the one who should be balancing that scale. That’s for God, the universe, whatever to handle. What matters now is that whatever feels like is holding you back, a grudge or regret, is a passing moment. In the grand scheme of life, how much will it matter?

If some sense of redemption is what you seek, the best way to do so is through kindness. When potentially encountering the person on the street, show compassion, be friendly. They are still your neighbor, a fellow human. No human has the right to control your thoughts and peace of mind.

Trust me, I know how hard of a lesson this is to actually embody, to expect everything to come together for some reason immediately, but again, we’re only human. But having faith in growth and kindness is the sweetest treat of all.

Take care, and keep the faith. -Allie