Day 13: Opportunities #GIG2017

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I would have never even pictured myself going to an island to teach English if I had denied myself opportunities that didn’t “seem right.” But trust yourself. You’re doing your best.

Regardless of what school-type environment you’re in, you’re automatically exposed to others doing great things, accomplishing so much for themselves, and it can feel overwhelming to then look at yourself and wonder…am I doing my best? Am I missing out on opportunities and somehow “falling behind”?

Time and time again, the comparison game likes to creep up on us, making us doubt anything and everything we’re doing, longing for something more, whatever that means. Any of us can pinpoint others living their lives and fulfilling their ambitions, and then think of how we stand up.

Before I get too ahead of myself, I wanted to share an exciting update about my future ventures. After graduating with my Bachelor’s degree this spring, I will be traveling to American Samoa for a year to teach English with the organization WorldTeach.

I cannot count the number of times in the past few years and months I felt like I wasn’t doing enough. That I was forever a lost person barely eking by. What I first expected for myself in media kept falling flat. I felt so defeated. No matter how hard I tried to make something work out as my peers and advisers wanted for me, I just always felt off, leading me to make more mistakes and become even harder on myself. And once people associate my identity and reputation with a certain occupation or field of study, am I just stuck as mediocre, just putting up a facade to cover up my shame and disappointment in myself?

What we consider to be “success” and “doing our best” is so abstract, so subjective to whatever might arise in a given moment. That doesn’t mean we don’t still fall into that trap of wanting what we don’t need, physical items and opportunities and awards and recognition and talents…yeah, there’s a lot to think about.

And not for any truly good reason either, except that we create certain expectations in our heads of what will look best on our resumes, how to achieve this noteworthy goal, how to become esteemed in some way we think would be important, what will make us distinguished to others, make us feel worthy.

Maybe I’m just talking in complete hypotheticals here, but self-doubt seems to be a part of our culture, our psyche. We’re surrounded by influences where we show off our absolute best to others, we see advertising for every little thing we might use once but still definitely need to spend money on, we see examples of what accomplishment looks like, and somehow that is supposed to be reasonable for us to conveniently apply to our own lives.

Ultimately, what today’s gratitude is all about is the closed doors for any opportunities we came across but didn’t opt for, or goals that didn’t pan out as we planned them to. They didn’t look like how others in our same position completed them, and that somehow translates into falling short or failing on our part.

But that is not the case. What is laid in front of us isn’t an exact itinerary of what is best and worst for us. What might make for a killer Instagram photo or status update might not be the best for your life and circumstances.

And if you think we haven’t all had our fair share of pitfalls and mistakes, well, that’s denying the nature of life itself. We now have the pressure of 24/7 availability to every single good thing everyone has to share, so inevitably we are left questioning the only people we know of every little flaw and mistake: ourselves.

Let’s be grateful for the opportunity to have ways to communicate and share with others near and far, and let’s use that as a tool to congratulate others and celebrate our successes, big and small. We are all different people at different stages in our own lives. Regardless of where we’re at, there will always be people ahead and behind, and that’s okay. Everybody is on their paths, their own timelines of fulfilling their purposes.

Be grateful for all the opportunities that didn’t pan out because there’s a reason they didn’t go as planned. They weren’t for you. Or they were for you to learn and grow from in another way that was unexpected and maybe not as glamorous as others’ experiences. That doesn’t turn your situation into a complete failure. The only way you can fail is if you dwell upon it, use it as gateway to comparisons, and don’t see how to utilize that opportunity into what lay ahead next for you.

Be grateful for your unique gifts and circumstances. Those provide you the necessary groundwork to make and reach the goals you see for yourself, and even goals that you never made yourself. Those can sometimes be the best of all. Be grateful that life has a way of working the kinks out, of balancing the darker moments for brighter ones. Be grateful for this present stage and everything in this moment; it will be necessary for what you will eventually face, and we need to appreciate it more rather than always wishing for it to pass so we can move on to the next phase.

And be grateful for every closed door that ends up opening a window. When something doesn’t work out, you just gain more room to make another experience and ambition into reality. We don’t have to regret our pasts because there’s always more in store.

I’m grateful to finally realize that what is best for others, isn’t made for me. An opportunity that looks perfect for you on paper doesn’t necessarily manifest itself in that same way. And that’s okay. It’s okay to do things differently than you or others have planned. To go down a different path and seek another opportunity. True gratitude, after all, is realizing and appreciating what you are capable of, respecting those gifts, and believing what opportunities will come to you are meant to be.

Take care, and keep the faith. -Allie

 

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What’s in Your Hand?

Rick Warren: A life of purpose | TED Talk | TED.com
I highly recommend looking more into Rick Warren, especially this TED Talk for some instant inspiration.

Been a while since I’ve dabbled into TED Talks, but I’m back at it. At least for today.

This particular talk came from Rick Warren, a well-known pastor but still seems very down-to-earth and mellow which makes him very approachable, especially to someone who steers clear of any preachers who full-out preach in all of its yelling, loud glory.

Anyways, back to the talk. Don’t get caught off guard by having the message come from a pastor because it can truly be applied to everyone, regardless of your, if any, religion.

It’s so easy to get into that mindlessly numbing routine. Every day looks the same. You wake up, brush your teeth, go to work or class, come home, and go to sleep. A little more in the middle, of course, but in a basic premise, this isn’t much in day-to-day life that goes beyond simply existing.

That’s what it so often feels like. We’re just getting by, surviving. We find some successes and accomplishments along the way, but for the most part, we all deep-down would like to know that everything we’re doing right now is worth it. We want to know why we’re here on this earth. We want to somehow make this daily, insignificant task list into something more.

It’s always a good reminder, but you matter. I matter. Everyone matters. We’re not just wandering around for no reason. We each have a significant contribution to make. The problem is figuring out what that is. That’s when we start trying to make patterns and connections, sometimes out of nothing (think of how often people see the face of Jesus in every object out there).

We assume that God or the universe or whatever else will wave some magic wand and give an obvious signal of where to go in life, what to do. Sometimes we do hear those urges and whispers, but chances are, they come from within. We shouldn’t expect society to spoon-feed us the answers to existential questions. We have to rely upon introspection and prayer for that.

Or we’re thrust into situations we didn’t plan on, that go against what we see as our designated purpose and throw everything for a tail spin. Rick mentions writing a book that becomes a worldwide bestseller, provoking attention he never wanted. We go through struggles and challenges that seem to only bring about pain and suffering, unnecessary stress.

I see this a lot in myself. Knowing that I am not good at decision-making and can be scatter-brained in my ideas and interests, I’ve felt like I needed to force myself down the paths of purpose that seemed right for me. If they were right for so many others and look good on paper, why wouldn’t it fit my own situation? Well, until you actually start learning more and experiencing more of that path, then you realize it’s not for you. You feel like you just wasted precious time and resources for nothing, for failure. But there was a purpose for that, too. Not an immediate one, perhaps, or one you understand right off the bat, but it is.

The bottom line is, it’s not about you. It’s not about me. It’s not about our individual selves envisioning our own separate ideas of our own success and happiness and our own accomplishments that top everyone else’s. Our egos and sense of competition get in the way of actually feeling fulfilled. We aren’t meant to be absolute rulers of our own kingdoms.

Life finds purpose from everyone else. Our interactions, our relationships, our place in society are what bring clarity. We are not leaders, but stewards simply guiding others and sometimes letting others have more control. Our lives and everything in it are temporary; we don’t have sole ownership. Establishing a worldview within ourselves that sees our position as humanity to be more than “just another species,” then we can take on appropriate responsibilities and actions that benefit yourself and everyone and everything around you.

Life is not about looking good, feeling good, and getting the goods, as consumerism and materialism tell us. Possessions do not determine your self-worth and happiness. Being good and doing good are what really matter. Giving your life to something beyond your own ego. The purpose of having influence, is to a voice speaking for those who fall quiet, that we might overlook, issues we might toss aside.

So here’s the most important question: What’s in your hand? What have you been given, and what are you going to do with that? For a lot of us, we might say things that determine our identity, occupation, and income. Talents, education, freedom, opportunities, ideas and more. And if you have influence from those things, that is a great power with an even greater responsibility.

We’re all made and are are in our own circumstances to fulfill our purposes. We have innate gifts and gifts we receive and our worldview will decide how to use those. I hope that with what is in your hand, you serve others. You use your experiences as tools for others to learn from. You expand your horizons beyond the single day of mindless activities and look deeper into what these little things, added up, can amount to for others.

Take care, and keep the faith. -Allie

Stuck in the Middle

Stuck In the Middle With You | Music and Meaning: The RBHS ...
Did this song come into your mind, too? Hey, at least it’s catchy.

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