5 Ways to Style a Fleece Vest

This post is sponsored by Dicks Sporting Goods and Stylinity, but all opinions, thoughts and content are my own. Thank you for supporting the brands that make EmilyVentures possible

When I moved to Colorado 4 years ago, a friend of mine who lived here gave me this advice: “get a good pair of sunglasses, and a nice vest”. Soon I understood what he meant — the vest is the unofficial Colorado uniform. Fleece, puffy, down, or utility — they’re all appropriate at all times.

Besides looking cool, vests are great for the rapidly changing Colorado weather — the perfect combination of style and function. I honestly find myself wearing a vest of some kind almost every other day — especially since Dick’s Sporting Goods sent me this Patagonia Better Sweater I’ve been lusting after.

So I thought I’d share some of the many ways I’ve styled this vest the past couple weeks. What is your favorite way to style a vest?

For Work

I generally dress up for work, and would never wear “outdoor gear” — but this vest has been on repeat! I wear it over dresses (like above) or with a skirt, boots, and a warm long-sleeve underneath. It keeps me warm, still looks good (and professional), and is convenient (pockets!).

For Date Night

Full disclosure, I was not actually on a date during this photo, but I can imagine it would be a great outfit for one. For a fall afternoon of wine tasting/brewery hoping, this is the perfect pick. I dressed it up a little with a bootie, some jewelry, and a darker lip. Casual, classic, and warm.

For the Outdoors

This is probably what you think of when you see a Patagonia vest — hiking, mountains, and general outdoorsy stuff. And for good reason! It’s the perfect weight for a fall hike. I love throwing it on over a flannel, and then having several layer options if I get hot or cold on the trail.

For a Night In

Whether you’re sitting in front of a fire, playing board games, or just watching some netflix, this is the perfect cozy vest for a night in. I often pair mine with leggings, a comfy top, and a cozy pair of socks. It feels like a hug. :)

For Every Day

Honestly, you can wear this at any time — for any occasion. I love to throw it on to run errands, get coffee, or explore downtown. It keeps me warm on a crisp fall day, and has the added utility of pockets. I love to pair it with sneakers for a fun and casual look.

What are some ways you've styled a vest?

And check out my Stylinity Dick's Sporting Goods promo page -stylinity.com/coupons/@dickssportinggoods/@emilyventures


Why? (why, why, why, why)

“He who has a why to live for can bear almost any how.” 
― 
Friedrich Nietzsche

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Do you think you have a calling in life? Something you were just meant for? I think about this a lot. I think there are certain professions where people tend to say a lot of things like “it takes a special person” — and teaching is one of them. As if there are these certain jobs that are “a calling” or more important than others in some way. ⁣

You know what though, I don’t think teaching is my calling. Like, at all actually. But, I do think I have a calling — I’m just using teaching math to express it right now. ⁣

There’s this thing I’ve heard about a lot “The 5 Whys” where you ask why to yourself or someone else 5 times — to really get to the core of the, well, why. And it’s so interesting to actually do. ⁣

I’m a teacher. Why? Because I want to do something that affects the next generation. Why? Because I care about the future of our world. Why? Because I believe that people are good and deserve an equal and just society. Why? Because I’ve seen and experienced both sides, and the devastation inequality creates. Why? Because I care about inequality. I care about others. ⁣

So, why am I a teacher? CliffNotes version — because I care about inequality, because I care about others. Not because I’m called to teach. I can live my calling in so many different ways. In my work and outside of it. But for now this is one of the ways.⁣

Big question, I know, but what do you feel called to do?

If you want to change your mind

“I feel I change my mind all the time. And I sort of feel that's your responsibility as a person, as a human being – to constantly be updating your positions on as many things as possible. And if you don't contradict yourself on a regular basis, then you're not thinking.” 
― 
Malcolm Gladwell



yoga handstand

So obviously I haven’t stuck to my “every day in November blogging challenge”, but it’s not because I’m just lazy. Hear me out.

I decided not to blog on the weekends. Weekends, for me, are for rest. Whether that’s travel, or cleaning, spending time with friends, maybe even just watching movies or reading books — it’s all things I choose to do because they make me feel good. While I enjoy blogging, I don’t like the pressure of having to do it on a weekend. That’s not what a weekend is about for me.

So I changed my mind. Changed the rules. Because, um, I made all of this up — and so I can. I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the idea of changing your mind. My mind. My opinions. And you know, it’s okay. Really.

I always hear people say that they are the type of person that, when they “make up their mind they never go back” or that “no means no and yes means yes — no going back” as if this is a good thing. And if it’s something you really believe in, yes, of course. Don’t waver. But what if you are presented with more information? What if the circumstances change? Then what?

It can feel like you’re betraying yourself and everyone who knows you once believed or said ______ if you change your mind. It takes courage to say that you’ve changed your mind. That yes, once I thought _____, but now I don’t. And it’s okay.

It reminds me of those facebook posts where a zealot from one political party will post a video from 15+ years ago of someone from the other party saying something that doesn’t align with what they are saying now. I always just want to comment (but don’t because dude, facebook is not the time) “hey, isn’t it okay to change your mind? To be presented with new information? To learn?”

If I can’t change my mind, then imagine how terrifying it would be to ever take a stand on anything. Because what if I’m wrong? Then what? Well, then I can change my mind, that’s what. And how amazing that is. How lucky we are. To be able to grow. To learn. To experience new things. To be influenced by them. And make decisions based on them.

I mean, isn’t this all the definition of “open-minded”? What is something that you once believed and then changed your mind on? When presented with new information?

Friday Favorites -- 11.9.18

One of the strangest things about the internet, to me, is how many people want to know what _____ I am wearing in photos. haha. I mean I get it, I think that too when I’m scrolling — I just never thought people would wonder those things about me. But here we are. So here are some of the things I’m wearing, and some of the things I’m really loving this week. :)

MVMT Sunglasses

I LOVE these glasses. I got the matte black, which is really striking — I’ve gotten tons of compliments. It’s also my first pair of polarized sunglasses — and wow, what was I thinking not buying these before?? Especially in Colorado. I drive into the sunrise every morning for work, and these are truly amazing. They’re a little pricier than sunglasses I’ve had in the past, but I can say after a few weeks of wear, they are totally worth it. Check them out here. And use my code: emilyventures15 for $15 off your order :)

Fireplace channel

If you watch my Instagram stories, first — sorry haha, and second — you’ve probably seen my love of the fireplace channel. I don’t have a fireplace of my own, but this honestly does the trick. I looked it up on demand one day and never looked back. I’m the type of person that likes a little background noise so the cackling sounds are perfect. I can clean, read, whatever, and have a little ambiance. It’s especially great on a snowy day. Making the most of what you have. :)

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Outdoor Voices Set

Everyone is hip to Outdoor Voices now right? I can’t tell if it’s everywhere, or if I just think that because I spend so much time on their website that all of my ads are targeted towards them. Hmm. Well if you aren’t, you gotta get on it. Outdoor Voices is a woman founded company that has a great mission, doesn’t airbrush, and has the coolest gear. The fabrics are awesome, the styles are original (although now often cheaply imitated) and they honestly just feel good to wear. I’m not in any way sponsored by them (although, hey call me :) haha) I just really love my pieces, and want everyone to know. My leggings are here, and crop is here.

hallmark

Christmas movies

Gosh, I’m really into a lot of sitting on the couch this week aren’t I? Haha… but seriously I kind of am. The time change hit me hard, and then a cold hit me even harder. This week has mostly been about getting home from work, putting on something cozy, and going to sleep early. In between there somewhere I have watched two Hallmark Christmas Movies. A little early, I know, but I can’t help it. If you need an escape of any kind, this is the way to do it. They are so unrealistic, and so predictable — but I love that about them. It transports you to a different state, you don’t have to pay too close of attention, and it just makes me feel good. Everything doesn’t have to be so serious. What’s your favorite Christmas movie?

the dream

The Dream Podcast

I’ve just caught up on this podcast, and it is really interesting — basically just the topic. It’s about MLMs (multi-level marketing) companies and it really is fascinating. I won’t give too much away, but if you’re wondering about all the things your friends are selling on Facebook, and/or need a new podcast to binge, give this one a shot.

Thanks for reading :)

TBT

“Be happy in the moment, that's enough. Each moment is all we need, not more.” 
― 
Mother Teresa

jasper alberta

Sometimes I get comments and messages from people who give me a hard time about why I’m posting places “when I’m not even there”. This really bothers me. One — if you don’t like it don’t follow me (and definitely don’t take the time to write a comment/message) and two — who says something is important or interesting or worthy of being shared just because it’s happening now? Where did this come from? I actually think it’s so odd when people post when they are actually doing something. That must be really annoying to everyone else. Being stuck behind a phone. Trying to write a caption and edit a photo instead of enjoying the moment that is worthy of being shared.

I wrote a little about it on Instagram today:

“This photo wasn’t taken this morning. It’s a #tbt of course. Like many of my photos, I don’t aim to post in the moment. For safety reasons first, but more to stay present. In the moment. I take my phone out to capture a scene and then I put it away. I don’t want to spend any time editing or coming up with some caption. ⁣

Photos, to me, have a life beyond the moment. Isn’t that like.. the point of a photo? It’s an artistic expression. So why would I ever feel that it couldn’t be shared again? Later? That a picture isn’t relevant if it wasn’t happening in this moment? ⁣

I think about the life of art sometimes. The picture on the wall. Where it’s been. What it’s seen. The people who have interacted with this same piece over the years. The meaning they ascribed to it. ⁣

Because if there’s one thing that frustrates me about social media, it’s the disposability of it. The fleeting nature. That a moment in time is only interesting for a moment. Before something better comes along. Memories don’t work that way. Art doesn’t work that way. Neither are disposable. They have a life beyond the moment. A life I want to continue to remember. To reminisce. To make meaning from. I hope that’s alright :) “

Because a photo isn’t a beautiful photo because it was taken right at that moment. A story isn’t moving because it just happened. We live in an instant gratification culture, where we want to know it all now. Take the time to step away from it. Wait a little. Experience things first. You’ll be glad you did.

Authenticity

“Once we accept our limits, we go beyond them.” 
― 
Albert Einstein

I heard Seth Godin say once that one shouldn’t always strive for authenticity. That sometimes professionalism is more important. That sometimes you may not want to do something — it’s not authentic in that moment — but to not do it would hurt others (or yourself).

I’ve been thinking about this a lot. And I have to agree. While I think some is semantics, the idea that you should be fully “yourself” at all times isn’t appealing to me. I mean, myself isn’t always great. I don’t always have the best intentions. My first thought isn’t always kind. I don’t necessarily make all the best choices — do any of us? So while I want to be “myself” I also always want to self-monitor.

Let me explain. Self-monitoring is just a process of understanding myself. Regulating myself in certain situations. Things we all do. If someone asks me how I feel about something, my first authentic thought might not be helpful, so I monitor myself and share something else for the greater good. To keep a friendship. To not get fired.

So while I am striving for authenticity in my life — I’m not in all situations. I may not always authentically want to wash the dishes, or go to work, or show up to a friends house. But I’ll do it anyway. Because what we want isn’t always what’s best. Being myself isn’t always a good thing.

What do you think? Should you be authentic and risk hurting others? Yourself? Do you practice radical honesty and authenticity, or do you self-monitor?

Under the weather

“If we are creating ourselves all the time, then it is never too late to begin creating the bodies we want instead of the ones we mistakenly assume we are stuck with.” 
― 
Deepak Chopra

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With the end of daylight savings time comes the beginning of another season: sickness. I seem to always get a low level — but hard to shake — cold this time of year. I’m tired and achy. And it would be easy to write it off as “just that time of year” — but I also know I haven’t been taking care of myself as well as I normally do.

I haven’t been eating as clean. Drinking as much water. I haven’t been going to yoga as much, or hiking as much. So I’m going to do something about it. I don’t want to be tired.

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I’ve been meal prepping my lunches all year, but I haven’t been as careful about snacking and dinners. So my first goal is to get back into cooking healthy dinners, and cut out snacking.

Second, I need to drink more water. So… I’m just going to drink more haha. I am going to track my glasses of water in my planner. I did this last year and it really helped.

yoga salt flats 3

Third — more yoga. I got a little burnt out on yoga during teacher training, to be honest. And like anything in life — especially workouts — it’s hard to get back on a schedule. So I’m setting myself up with some goals. If I go to yoga ___ times this week, I will _____. I write this in the margins of my planner each week, deciding in advance what classes to go to, and if I hit the goal I reward myself. This week I will probably reward myself with a new book.

Because intrinsic motivation starts extrinsically. And I want to feel better. What do you do when you’re feeling unhealthy or blah?

Friday Favorites -- November 2, 2018

People ask me a lot of questions about my favorite “x, y, and z”. Unfortunately, I am not always the best at responding to messages and questions. So here are a few of my favorites today:

Favorite New Jacket — Eddie Bauer MicroTherm 2.0

Full disclosure, Eddie Bauer sent me this for free, but I am under no obligation to write about it. I just want to! It is the perfect fit, color, and weight. It also goes perfectly with my pink/purple jacket collection :)

Favorite Book — Lost Connections

I just finished reading this book. I am no expert, but I really enjoyed it. This is one of my favorite authors, and despite being full of information I read it in just a few days. Definitely recommend.

Favorite Food — Butternut Squash Soup

I am so into my Butternut Squash Soup recipe! I have shared it in my stories once, and gotten tons of good feedback. I’ve already made this 4+ times this fall, each time making enough for several days. I top it with mushroom brie from Trader Joes, chives, and pecans. Grab a glass of wine and you’re set.

Favorite Beauty Product — The Ordinary Caffeine Solution

I’ve talked about this before, but I honestly think this has changed my life. It is one of the only beauty products I have completely used up and bought more of (generally I want to try new things) It is THAT GOOD. I use it on my eyes every morning and see a marked difference when I don’t.

Favorite Game — Trekking the National Parks

Again, full disclosure, I was sent this for free. But again, so fun! I am not obligated to write about it, but I have had so much interest in it I knew I needed to link to it here. It is the perfect game for families, game night, and National Park enthusiasts.

Begin Again

Whenever you want to achieve something, keep your eyes open, concentrate and make sure you know exactly what it is you want. No one can hit their target with their eyes closed.”
― Paulo Coelho
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I love blogging. I do. Buuut….. you might have noticed that this blog was last updated almost a year ago. Yikes. Like many blogs I’ve come across, I just let it go. It’s a lot of work. I have to be in “the zone” — or do I?

I don’t think so. Creativity takes work. Blogging takes work. Writing takes work. Inspiration takes work. It’s not just magically there.

So I’m going to work on it. I’m going to blog every day this month. I wrote several sentences and deleted them just now in this space with excuses. If I don’t do it. That I might not make it every day. That things might come up. It might be hard. But nope, not letting myself out that easy. I’m going to blog every day this month.

Even if it’s short. Even if it’s just a photo. I’m committed.

See ya tomorrow.

17 in 17 - Podcasts

“We have two ears and one mouth and we should use them proportionally.” 
― Susan Cain

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Some of the questions I get asked the most are: how do you handle long road trips alone? Aren't you bored? What do you listen to? And, while I'm honestly perfectly happy sometimes to listen to the same 4 songs for 7 hours straight (what? I like what I like) -- more often than not I will listen to tons of podcasts. They make the time fly, and I get to learn something new. Win win. 

I've written about my favorite podcasts before, but thought an update was in order (there are SO MANY podcasts now) So whether you are driving, flying, or just listening in the shower, here are 17 of my favorite podcasts of 2017: 

1. Bitch Sesh

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Maybe I should be embarrassed that this is my can’t miss weekly podcast? Nah :) Casey Wilson (of snl, Happy Endings etc) and Danielle Schneider discuss all things Real Housewives each week. They (and their guests) are hilarious, and give me another reason (as if I needed one) to watch some trashy Bravo shows. 

2. The Limit Does Not Exist

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This is a podcast centering around the intersections of STEM and art — right up my alley. They interview innovative creatives each episode, and offer really interesting insights on being a multi-hyphenate or “human venn diagram”. 

3. Dirty John

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This is the perfect road trip podcast. Like Serial, it presents a true crime (ish) saga through several episodes. I listened while driving from Colorado to Vegas, and it made the trip super enjoyable. 

4. Goal Digger

goal digger

This is a podcast that may seem cheesy to most people (and some of it is) — but it’s definitely helped to motivate me into a different direction creatively. Host Jenna Kutcher is super likable, and has some great guests that I admire (like Lara Casey) in the archives that I would recommend listening to if you are in any way interested in creative entrepreneurship. 

5. Dear Sugars

dear sugars

This is an old favorite, but with good reason. Hosted by my idol Cheryl Strayed (along with Steve Almond — both former Dear Sugar columnists on The Rumpus) — each episode presents letters from listeners and then the hosts gives them advice/talk to authors about their situation. If you liked Tiny Beautiful Things (and who didn’t) give it a shot!

6. Oprah's SuperSoul Conversations

oprahs supersoul

Duh. Oprah. But really, she has some great interviews in the archives. I recommend Brene Brown (obviously), Sebastian Junger, Glennon Doyle Melton, as well as basically all the other episodes. :) 

7. Women on the Road

women on the road

I was on this podcast! Reason enough! (haha episode 4 for like 5 seconds :)) The other 99.9% of this podcast is also super inspiring — hosted by my amazing internet friend Laura Hughes, it profiles Women on the Road (duh). I love them all (seriously)

8. She Explores 

she explores

I’ve been listening to this podcast since the very first episode — and it is so very me. Each episode centers around a theme or an interview with a woman who is in the outdoors in some capacity. There are 50 episodes currently and you really can’t go wrong with any of them. 

9. Girl Boss Radio

girl boss radio

This is one that I don’t listen to weekly (if that is even when they are released?), but that I have found some good content on. Maybe an unpopular opinion, but I really like Sophia Amoruso (host, founder of Nasty Gal, author of Girl Boss, etc..) and she interviews other entrepreneurial women who are, like her, kind of controversial/not universally loved. If anything it’s interesting and will give you something to think about. 

10. Embedded

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This is another fav I’ve written about before. It’s popular so you may have already listened, but if not, I’d recommend going back to season 1 to listen to “The House”, “We Found Joy” and “The School”. 

11. Slate Political Gabfest

slate political gabfest

When I’m feeling like I need an extra dose of politics or debate, I listen to this weekly podcast. It can be a little grating at times, but I do generally enjoy the perspectives and feel like I come away with a better understanding of current events than I do from many other information sources.

12. Radiolab

radiolab

This is another super classic podcast I’m sure most of us have listened to, but I couldn’t make a podcast list without it. It’s science, philosophy, sound, storytelling — everything really. The longer ones are my favorite, but try any!

13. Pantsuit Politics

pantsuit politics

I’ve been listening to this podcast since the very beginning, and I still really enjoy the interaction between the two hosts — friends from Kentucky who are on different sides of the political spectrum. They have a balanced and nuanced approach to their debates, and bring an interesting perspective to things that are happening in the news. 

14. Invisibilia

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One of my favorites for the last few years, Invisibilia (Latin for invisible things) uses storytelling and science to explain how the invisible forces around us shape who we are. I’m not eloquent enough to expound, but if that sounds interesting (and how could it not), then try it out. 

15. The Dirtbag Diaries

dirtbag diaries

This is the ultimate in outdoor podcasts. It has been around for something like 10 years, and it shows in the storytelling. There are so many great episodes I don’t even know where to start. So just start. 

16. The Tim Ferriss Show

tim ferriss

Another polarizing figure — Tim Ferriss (of The 4-Hour Workweek) interviews inspirational people from all walks of life. I really like any podcast set up in this format as long as the interviewer is entertaining and knowledgeable — and I think Ferriss is. There are tons of episodes so scroll through the archives and find a guest that you like — there are sure to be many. 

17. Joe Rogan Experience

joe rogan

I dated a guy earlier this year who told me about this podcast. I listened so we would have something to talk about (we needed it haha) but it ended up being a good move. I had seen it before (it’s always in the top charts on itunes) but really had no idea what it was and only knew Joe Rogan from Fear Factor. Again, I don’t listen to every episode of this one, but I have found some good interviews that work really well for road trips — they’re like three hours long! Like the Tim Ferris Show, find someone interesting in the archives and give it a shot. 

 

Happy listening!

My Insignificance

“Whatever you do will be insignificant, but it is very important that you do it.”
― Mahatma Gandhi

grand canyon 1

Insignificance. It’s a word (but more of a feeling) that I’ve been thinking about a lot. That I’d argue we all think about a lot. Constantly even. We are all living our lives in a constant quest for some sort of significance. In our work and in our relationships. We all want to be seen. Valued. Significant in something or to someone. We live in a culture that values fame. Likes. Achievement. Be the best. The smartest, richest, happiest, and best looking person. But in our quest for significance, we constantly fall short. Of course. We aren’t the smartest, richest, happiest, or best looking person. Annnnnnd cue existential crisis. 

But is insignificance really something to be feared? 

grand canyon 2

When visiting National Parks, one of the things I value most is the scale of it all. Driving across vast open spaces, hiking in the midst of tall trees, with huge mountain ranges towering over me. I feel my own insignificance. It’s visceral. I am a small part of a huge and beautiful world — one that’s existed before me and will exist after me. 

I’m not (obviously) the only one who feels this way. Reminders of our own insignificance are a big part of why anyone goes into nature. To remember our place in the world. So why is insignificance seen as a negative in all other situations? 

We live in a world that is more connected than ever before. I can have a conversation with a friend on another continent after reading an article posted one minute ago about a story that is unfolding across the country in real time. We have access to everything. We are constantly bombarded with notifications of the rich and famous. Those achieving things we’ve never even let ourselves dream of. And by the way they’re like, probably 12. We can’t compete.

So the downside to this fame obsessed culture is that we see the best of everything. The smartest, richest, happiest, and best looking people are constantly in our feeds. And we compare our own achievements to theirs. The big fish in a small pond analogy doesn’t really exist anymore. We are all small fish in the huge pond of life. And while we innately know that on some level — we now have the added existential challenge of seeing it. Constantly. 

And when we compare ourselves against the most significant our fear of insignificance is only strengthened.

grand canyon 3

You know those 2 types of people memes? You’re either a  _____ or a _____ person. You set one alarm or fifteen. You put your ketchup on the side or on top of your french fries. You use a bookmark or you dog ear the pages. You pick a side consistently. While I generally think there is a huge amount of nuance and gray area in almost everything — I do think there is a consistency when it comes to the fear of insignificance: those who embrace it, and those who don’t.

The people who are afraid of their own insignificance are in a constant state of anxiety. They’re comparing. They conflate their sense of purpose with their rank in absolutes. If they aren’t the smartest, richest, or best looking then they aren’t anything. Second place is the first loser. Of course, these people aren’t totally delusional and upon recognizing that there is even one person better than them at anything — they shut down. Become disillusioned. Identity crisis. Existential angst. Whatever buzzword that’s currently being used to describe the dread that is taking over a good portion of our entire generation. 

And this realization leads to another bifurcation: you either give up, or you lash out. You believe you never deserved anything and are actually the worst at everything, or you still feel entitled to the best, feel like anyone who disagrees is a cheater, and then bully anyone who says otherwise. And hey guys guess what? Neither one of these people is likable (just fyi). 

Happy and content people are those who recognize and even embrace their insignificance in the world. They aren’t afraid of it. Don’t stay up at night because someone else got more Instagram likes. They know that they can’t be fully there or supportive of anyone else if they think they are the center of the universe.

They know the world doesn’t revolve around them. 

grand canyon 4

When I think about the fear of insignificance, I think of fear in general. Some is healthy and serves an important purpose, but too much is dangerous. We should care about our lives. Do our best. Set goals and achieve them. Contribute something meaningful in our work and in our relationships — but we shouldn’t wreck ourselves in the attempt to achieve unrealistic absolutes. 

As a teacher I spend a lot of time differentiating. Because not every kid is the same. They don’t come in with the same skills or brains or attitudes. They are interested in different things. They process differently and the entry is different for everyone. An A+ isn’t the only way to master a skill. It’s the same in our lives. Our goals and achievements will look different than everyone else’s. And that doesn’t make one better or worse, or more or less significant than another.

Our ultimate insignificance leads to freedom. Really. There are so many people, places, things — I will never see it all, be it all, or the best at literally anything! (and if I am at some moment in time, chances are that will eventually be forgotten) That frees me up to so much. 

There are so many things you will never do or ever be or even see — we are insignificant in the grand show of life — a small part of a big and beautiful universe — so why do we care so much about these other — also insignificant — things? Why are we so convinced that in order to be anything we have to be the best at everything?

You are not the center of the universe. At all. And holy crap thank goodness — otherwise your bad day would throw everything out of orbit. 

Let me explain.

Earlier this week I was super sick and was forced to call in to work at the last minute. As a teacher, (and someone who has a tendency to think they are the center of the universe) I was super stressed about what would happen while I was gone. Who I would disappoint, what would get lost, and how would this one day off irrevocably ruin 150+ children’s lives (and my own). As I reluctantly opened my email the next day with one eye closed and a grimace anticipating what I was sure would be hoards of mean, disapproving, and urgent emails… I was surprised (somehow still, after all these years) to have not even one email regarding my absence. No one needed anything. I didn’t ruin anyone’s life. I didn’t miss any meetings or make anyone mad. The world kept turning. 

Shocking. I know. 

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In fact, generally, I’m pretty sure no one even notices when I’m gone (maybe not even all of the kids in my actual classes) — and once I get past my own ego I’ve realized that’s a great thing. It means I’m doing my job well, not the opposite. Things can — and do — go on without me. 

We are so conditioned to see the best and worst extremes that we miss the value in the middle. Significance is like anything in life — it’s relative. Things that are significant or insignificant to you are just that — to you. Everyone’s problems are more significant, their experiences more meaningful and the quality of their work more professional — to themselves.

It’s okay to just be okay at something. Humans have limitations. You can’t actually hack every area of your life for “unlimited productivity” or “crush all the obstacles in your path”. And that’s okay. It makes room for the things that, well, the things you still probably won’t ever be the best at — but the things in which you enjoy the attempt. 

While insignificance can lead to feelings of disassociation and loss of identity — it also can make us feel more connected. Our own awareness of our place in the world has the ability to shift our focus from our self to the greater good. In fact, feeling insignificant has actually been shown to increase altruism. When I realize I’m not the absolute in anything, I can spend more time using my abilities to strengthen others. I mean, there’s no I in team right? 

So the next time you start to doubt your significance in the world please remember that yes, you are insignificant. In a big and beautiful world. On a scale we cannot comprehend. And that’s a good thing. It gives you room for the significance that matters — in personal relationships and the smaller scale, but ultimately more important parts of life. 

Your purpose in life isn’t rated on a scale of absolutes. It’s all relative. You aren’t the best at anything — but is anyone really? 

So just be you.
 

The Waiting

“Everyone can perform magic, everyone can reach his goals, if
he is able to think, if he is able to wait...” 

― Hermann Hesse

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If you ever went to a church youth group, undoubtedly you’ve heard a lot about “seasons”  in life. Season of waiting, season of singleness, season of scarcity, season of abundance, season of blah blah buzzword blah blah whatever. I've always hated this phrase -- specifically the waiting part. Let me explain. 

A season of waiting implies the world is happening to you. That God, fate, the universe, whatever, controls you in some kind of Westworld VR simulation. And that’s just not true. Obviously. We have free will. We make our own choices. Things may come to us from up above, sure, but we have the power to respond to it. So what are we waiting for?

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When I’m sharing online — a blog post, Facebook share, or an Instagram photo — I always post after the fact — not in the moment. For safety reasons, mindfulness, but mostly just to let it sink in. To react to it fully. To better understand what the experience means to me and why I think it’s worthy of sharing. Like everything in life (online and off), the learning comes later and through the experience. In the in betweens. 

In the waiting. 

Waiting. It’s important. But the big question of life, and something I think about constantly is — when do we stop waiting and start doing?

So like every high schooler who doesn’t know how to begin their essay, let’s start with some definitions. Waiting is defined as “the action of staying where one is or delaying action until a particular time or until something else happens.” 

Uh, no. This is not what I want to be known for. I don't want to stay in the same spot or delay anything. 

Waiting seems to be all passive — but I’m realizing that sometimes not only is it not passive, but it’s necessary. The important part is understanding that I make the choice either way. It's the ACTION of delaying action. Trippy. If I choose to wait, and be still — great. But I know that I made the active choice for a greater purpose. I trusted myself enough.

But what if I’m just scared of the unknown? What if I'm waiting around out of fear? When should I wait? When should I act? And how do I know the difference?

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When to wait

Guess what? Some things DO only happen over time. They can’t be rushed. They take not only time, but great effort, skill, and patience that -- guess what -- can only be accumulated through time. And yeah, this is one of those things that seem really obvious, but I think we need to remind ourselves of it.

I often feel like I’m forcing things. The ol' square peg in a round hole problem. In work, relationships, money — I sometimes try to force things. I’m very controlling. I rush. I want to be active, and doing all of the time. It makes waiting hard. I feel like the things I want are passing me by.

As I'm sure you've noticed (and been annoyed by), I start at least one sentence in all my blog posts with “The older I get,” which sounds kind of (a lot) obnoxious as a 31 year old, but it’s true. I know so much more now than I did 5 years ago. Even one year ago, yesterday, or even this morning. It’s the natural cycle of life. Even when I rush things, I look back over time and learn from that experience. It’s in the waiting that the learning and growing occurs. In the quiet. When I'm not rushing and striving and doing. 

It's the reason you get the best ideas in the shower -- your brain is freed up from it's normal focus. It can free associate and wander through the stillness. And come up with something great. 

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When to act

Your life is NOW — be active. Hustle. Sleep when you're dead.

We’ve all read a version of this on some fitspo instagram girls feed — but it’s not just an empty #motivationalmonday sentiment.

Don’t wait around for some possible future date. It’s not coming. There is never a perfect time for anything (except ordering a pizza — it is always the perfect time).

We miss out on so much by constantly waiting for something more, better, etc. If something isn’t working — you have power. You can change your circumstances. Quit playing the victim. We have agency — and how cool is that? 

A lot of the road trips I go on are last minute. Which prompts a lot of questions. “Why did you go to ______” “You mean you just casually drove ____ hours?” “But why?” etc. To any of these questions, my answer is always the same: I just wanted to go. There’s no perfect time, so that was as good of a time as any. It’s that simple. Really. 

So often we think in terms of, when _____, _____, or _____ happens I will _______. No! You can do it now. And let’s be honest, if you're waiting for x, y, or z to happen, you probably won’t do The Thing when they do anyways. Instead you’ll just come up with another list of if’s and when’s. Shoulda coulda woulda.

“The Thing” — whatever that may be for you in this moment — may not be easy (hey, nothing worth having is), but you can do it. Waiting around begets more waiting around which — lets be honest — leads to inaction.  

If you're making excuses, or putting something off until some future boxes are checked -- you're doing it wrong. Don't wait. 

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How to know the difference

So I've told you to be still and wait. But also to stop waiting around. To realize learning and growth happens in time, but also that there's never a perfect time — yeah I'm confused too. How do I know when to wait and when to act? 

I used to work with a new teacher who was always complaining. Everyone complains sometimes, I know. But this was different (and way more annoying) because it was always about things in her control. At every meeting, when anyone would give her a new suggestion she had “already tried it”, and “it didn’t work” — not realizing that doing things once, especially with 12 year olds, isn’t enough (let's be real, 50 times is not enough but I digress).

Did she do her due diligence? Execute the suggestions correctly? Over time? With buy in? Probably (definitely) not. And not only was she frustrated, but we all were listening to it. 

In this situation, she would have benefited from the waiting. Giving the situation time. Not jumping to conclusions about what works, what doesn’t, or making spurious connections between her abilities as a teacher and the problems in her classroom. Be still. Learn in the in between's. Understand that that's where growth happens. 

So as I constantly tell the kids in my class, “just chill out for a second”. Seriously. Just chill. Then put in your due diligence. But after that, don’t be afraid to stop waiting for change and make it yourself. 

And most importantly: trust yourself and your intuition to know the difference. 

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Fear of making the wrong choice 

If you're constantly afraid of doing the wrong thing, or making the wrong choice then you don't trust yourself. But this isn't something you can just start doing. Again, it's a process that happens, you guessed it -- over time. 

I tell the kids in my class a lot — there are a lot of ways to get to the same answer. It might take longer, slower, more work, or less — but we all get there. So maybe you will make the wrong choice. Maybe you wait for something that's never coming. Maybe you rush into something you shouldn’t. But, ultimately, the awareness of this dichotomy puts you in a better place than most people. 

Self-awareness. Mindfulness. The examined life yada yada whatever you want to call it — just think about what you think about. Think about what you do. Ideally before you do it. Then trust yourself. 

 

Taking a Side

"The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy." -Martin Luther King, Jr.

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If you know me (or read this blog much) you know I’m into motivational quotes. Quotes in general. I know the trope of quote posting Instagram girl, but whatever I don’t care (and could find you a quote to back me up). One of the quotes I’ve been thinking a lot about lately is from Elie Wiesel, when he says that: 

“We must take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented. Sometimes we must interfere. When human lives are endangered, when human dignity is in jeopardy, national borders and sensitivities become irrelevant. Wherever men and women are persecuted because of their race, religion, or political views, that place must - at that moment - become the center of the universe.”

Could. Not. Agree. More. Taking sides is important. Essential, even. I have had a blog draft titled “Taking Sides” sitting in my queue for probably a year now, but I’ve been hesitant to take a side and finish it. It’s scary. But, I’ve come to realize, it’s scarier not to. I don’t want to be on the side of the oppressor just because, I, like, didn’t have time or whatever. Didn’t want to ruffle feathers. Wanted to be well liked. Friends with everyone. A beige piece of carpet that everyone walks on without another thought. Because that’s really what I was doing. Letting people make assumptions on what I believe — whatever suits their fancy — so that they would still like me/follow me on Instagram/want to hang out with me. 

I write a lot about inclusion — grey areas, how all viewpoints are valid and that two or more things can be true at the same time. But guess what -- you can believe everyone has a right to their own viewpoints while still holding firmly to your own. You can respect someones right to their opinion without agreeing with them or even actually respecting their opinion. It’s okay to not be okay with things. I don’t respect the views (or the person) of anyone with a racist viewpoint, but I respect the fact that in America (and within humanity in general) there are views that exist other than my own. These are two different things. 

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Opinions are like you know whats — and everybody has one. And that’s good right? That’s what makes life interesting. And in many situations you can have a respectful conversation about differences while still remaining respectful of each other. But sometimes you can’t. Sometimes you have to be black and white. You’re with me or you’re against me — and while it’s your right to be against me, it’s my right not to be with you. 

For example: I have alluded to some “batshit insane twilight zone level cray” in my life over the past year. The tl;dr version of it is: this time last year I had a boyfriend here and a best friend across the country — both the longest chosen relationships of my adult life — and this time this year they are engaged to each other. So, as to be expected, since then I have had some problems with trust. But, as crappy as that all was, my real problem is with our mutual friends. Let me explain. 

When this totally unforeseen situation came at me with no warning, my friends immediately gathered around. Agreed with me that this was completely against all girl code/human code and cut ties with the person after they showed their true character and completely ghosted out of my life with no warning. They took a side. Stopped talking to this girl who, despite being a part of my daily life for 8 years, was not a true friend. They unfollowed her on social media. Didn’t text her for her side of the story knowing that she never responded to my attempts to reach out. They took a side. 

And then there were a lot of people who didn’t. For most people it makes sense. They don’t really know the whole story — I get it. But, there are a few people who knew it all. And wouldn’t take a side. They had extremely shallow relationships with this person, and yet they continued the friendship. Told me that she didn’t do anything to them personally. Ummmm.. what? 

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You’ve heard the phrase, “actions speak louder than words”, but what I think about more is how loud inaction speaks. The things that are unsaid. Undone. When someone I believe to be a close friend refuses to take a side in something that, to me, is so obviously wrong, I have a hard time with it. I have a hard time believing that my friendship with that person is based on anything real. If you care about me, how can you care about someone who hurts me with no regard? And why would I want to continue a relationship with someone that is so cavalier with my feelings?

Obviously, in many situations there are two valid sides, but in some -- see above -- there aren’t. One is right. One is wrong. As humans we have the power to make the choice between the two — just like we have the choice to support one or the other. The in between in these cases is just cowardice. 

I’m tired of the wishy washy, lets all get along, play both sides stuff. It’s inauthentic. When I was researching for this post, I found plenty of articles on how to remain neutral, but a sadly small amount on how not to. But that’s what I want! I don’t want to be neutral and I don’t want to surround myself with people who do. 

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I dated a guy through college (oh what a surprise another story that comes back to some random guy yikes) who differed with me politically in some important ways. I remember talking to my mom about it and she told me that I had to “have an open mind” and “not be so black and white”. But, I’m a smart person, very politically informed — especially then in the thick of a political science major — and I wasn’t okay with it. What he believed went against my core values. And not only that, but his inability in my mind to be intelligent enough to understand (and accept) my point of view was a deal breaker. So I broke up with him. And I’m so glad I did. I cannot imagine spending life with someone who I am so diametrically opposed to on anything — even just one thing. If it’s important enough you have to take a side. Stand up for what you know to be true. 

I’m a teacher, so I’m always in a weird power position. Obviously, I can’t take sides on any political or religious front in the classroom. But, in everything else — that’s basically what my job boils down to. I tell kids (I mean, um, model for kids :)) how to be decent humans. It’s literally my job to tell them what is appropriate behavior. What is right. What is wrong. But, again, politically I must remain neutral in the classroom. 

So when another teacher recently posted something online with the preface that “Now that I’m a teacher I don’t want to be too political” I couldn’t help but be disheartened. I mean, I get it. As a new teacher I felt that way too. But what I realize now is that, outside of the classroom, teachers are on the frontlines. We are forming the next generation so God help us I hope we are informed ourselves. I hope we are passionate in our beliefs. I hope we take sides. 

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I’ve always had strong opinions. And I haven’t always had the greatest reactions to them. Despite that, I can easily point to parts of my life when I felt free to express opinions and those when I didn’t. And the correlation between those times of free expression and my happiness are super strong and direct. I feel a constant need to speak out. Constantly. And I — more often than not — repress it to keep up the status quo. 

The sweet girl who teaches math. The pretty girl who likes to hike. The smart girl who reads books. Not the opinionated, liberal, kind of aggressive and happy to debate girl that I am. It’s scary. Taking a side alienates you from, like, an entire side haha. That’s a lot of people. Remaining neutral seems to be a good idea. Smooth things over. Peacemaker. Low maintenance. Easier to get a date. But, in reality, to anyone who is interesting, educated, or matters — neutral people are just boring people. You are the beige carpet. 

I don’t have to get into politics for anyone to see the similarities between what I’m thinking and what is happening in America. In a time where the President of the United States calls white supremacists “very fine people” and black athletes who are exercising their right to peaceful protest “sons of bitches” — it is time to take a side. When that same man insists that “many sides” are to blame for racially motivated violence — it is time to take a side. It is time to take a knee, write a Facebook post, or resist in any way you resonate with. But it is not a time to remain silent. Silence is neutrality and neutrality = complicity. 

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You can’t have it both ways. It’s hypocrisy wrapped in some kind of peacekeeping lie. Brene Brown talks about this in her new book. She says that: 

“Here’s what I believe:

1. If you are offended or hurt when you hear Hillary Clinton or Maxine Waters called bitch, whore, or the c-word, you should be equally offended and hurt when you hear those same words used to describe Ivanka Trump, Kellyanne Conway, or Theresa May.

2. If you felt belittled when Hillary Clinton called Trump supporters “a basket of deplorables” then you should have felt equally concerned when Eric Trump said “Democrats aren’t even human.”

3. When the president of the United States calls women dogs or talks about grabbing pussy, we should get chills down our spine and resistance flowing through our veins. When people call the president of the United States a pig, we should reject that language regardless of our politics and demand discourse that doesn’t make people subhuman.

4. When we hear people referred to as animals or aliens, we should immediately wonder, “Is this an attempt to reduce someone’s humanity so we can get away with hurting them or denying them basic human rights?”

5. If you’re offended by a meme of Trump Photoshopped to look like Hitler, then you shouldn’t have Obama Photoshopped to look like the Joker on your Facebook feed.

There is a line. It’s etched from dignity. And raging, fearful people from the right and left are crossing it at unprecedented rates every single day. We must never tolerate dehumanization—the primary instrument of violence that has been used in every genocide recorded throughout history.” 

You can’t have it both ways. You can’t be upset at one injustice and not another. You can’t take a side on one thing and remain neutral on another. You have to go all in. You have to take a side. That’s how change happens. In politics, and relationships, and in ourselves. 

When we are neutral — even in small things — this is how it reads: “this affects people I care about, but it doesn’t effect me, so I will remain neutral” —> “I only care about me” 

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Neutrality seems like an easy way out. You’re not hurting either side. But you’re actually hurting both — and yourself (your self respect anyways). It’s the bystander effect — people are less likely to offer a victim help when others are present. We feel like there are other people to take up this cause (I mean, your old college roommate posts enough on fb for us all) but that just exacerbates the problem. Everything starts with care. If I cared enough about _______ I would ________. And if you don’t you won’t. It’s that simple. 

Well, I don’t want to be someone who stands on the sidelines. I don’t want to surround myself with sideline people. I don’t want to be so afraid of possible personal consequences that I desert those who are hurting and need people on their side. Injustices continue when good people do nothing. I’m a good person. Who refuses to do nothing. 

I care. And I will take a side. 

Choosing Ignorance

“I don't know." That was typical Sajaki; like all the genuinely clever people Sylveste had met he knew better than to feign understanding where none existed.” 
― Alastair Reynolds, Revelation Space

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¨Ignorance is bliss¨

We hear it all the time. But often in a way that's lighthearted or directed towards anyone BUT us. Ignorance may be bliss -- for the people who are ignorant. But that's not me. I am smart. I would never choose to be ignorant of anything. Right?

One of my core values is intelligence. It’s the one thing I’ve defined myself by more than anything else. I was always the smart kid in school, graduating high school when I was just 15. I used to annoyingly tell everyone that yes, I was a teacher, but I didn’t like, major in education or anything. I majored in a real subject, where students had high ACT scores, and didn't get easy A’s (how anyone could stand me, I don’t know). But, as college moves further into the past (10 years since graduation — yikes), I can’t define myself by the same metrics. And the older I get, the less I care about those metrics. In fact, the older I get, the less I want to know. Let me explain.

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I used to "care" about everything. I’d read about everything, whether it interested me or not — so that I could have something interesting to say. And I still do that — but with really selective things. For example, I have a friend working on a film about Hunter S. Thompson. We went to brunch and I had nothing interesting to add — so I read two of his books this week. Extreme? Obsessive? Yes, all of the above of course. But I was interested in him! I still am. (and I’m scouting book three now)

It’s who I am. I am obsessive with knowledge. I naturally want to know everything. But like any obsession, it can take me to extremes. Unhealthy ones. Which is why I’ve decided to actively keep myself from “knowing it all”. 

Selective ignorance.

It’s something I think about a lot. Ignorance to the things that I don’t need or want to know. The things that fill up my brain unnecessarily. Mental clutter. TMI. Whatever you want to call it -- the information that really isn't necessary for happiness unless you're a professional bar trivia player. 

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So what do I mean exactly? Well, of course, like most things in the zeitgeist, it comes back to Facebook (ha -- I wish I was joking). I read that something like 90% of people on Facebook “stalk” their ex or their ex’s ex or future ex — whatever. We don’t need data (although there is plenty), to tell us that this isn’t going to help anyone get over anything — and yet it’s become a normal part of the relationship cycle. Something that, allegedly, “we all do”. Well, I don’t. I used to, sure, but I haven’t in years. 

I unfollow anyone I’ve dated (sometimes even when we are still dating) on Facebook so I don’t see all their updates, tagged photos, events they’re interested in, and pretty girls they become friends with. I don’t want to know. And I actually don’t. So I don’t look. Selective ignorance. I don’t have the mental bandwidth to make assumptions (that are probably wrong) about anyone. Seek and you will find — and I don’t have the energy to find. I am too old, and too busy (reading HST books, apparently) for that. 

I also don’t look at the following page on Instagram. I haven’t seen it in — literally — years. I don’t want to know what pictures the guy who hasn’t text me back is liking. Not only does knowing not change anything, but it takes up precious mental energy that I don't have to give. 

I don’t look at most people’s Instagram stories (even though I constantly post them myself whoops), I don’t have Snapchat, and I don’t check Facebook messages. Ever. 

People always tell me, I just HAVE to get Snapchat, or I HAVE to check my messages or whatever and I just tell them the truth — I already have too many internet things. I don’t have the time, or the desire to fill my brain up with any more. I am ignorant to a lot of it — and that is fine. 

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And it’s not just social media (there’s more to life, did you know? :)) I don’t check my work email outside of work. I don’t read all of the group texts. I don’t finish books that I don’t love. I don’t watch anything but the local news. I don't read trashy magazines (except on a plane duh). I just don’t care. I don’t have the time. I’m fine with not knowing about the new I-can’t-even-think-of-a-pop-star-because-I’m-that-out-of-touches album. I’m fine with not knowing that any of the summer blockbusters are even movies much less care that I haven't seen them. I’d rather spend my time on the things I truly love. And no one can do it all. 

We all have those friends that have an opinion on everything. Or, at least, are fast Googlers to make it appear in the group text that they do. My natural tendency is to be this way ("this way" = annoying know it all). Ask me what I think about ______ thing I don't know and I immediately feel a little (a lot) ashamed. I should know everything, damnit!

I have a lot of interests. A lot of hobbies. I read a lot of books. A lot of articles. Blogs. I watch documentaries. I listen to podcasts. It’s a lot. But it’s still a minuscule amount of the information that is out there. We live in a world of constant media. You could stay up all night every night following every link that’s posted on Facebook or Twitter and still not have enough information to intelligently discuss all of them.

But what I've come to realize is: why would you want to? To make it clear that you are a smart person? Because it sort of indicates the opposite, in my opinion. 

I had this friend once who would always use semicolons in text messages. Like, every message. In a way that was not natural or made sense at all. I am (obviously) not one to criticize anyones grammar, but I remember wondering what they thought they had to prove. Do you want me, your friend for years, to know that you understand that punctuation exists? Oh okay. It’s like a Napoleon Complex — what are you trying to overcompensate for? I mean, obviously she can use whatever punctuation she wants if that's something she values, but I could care less about any kind of punctuation, capitalization etc in a text. I have better things to do, and no one to impress with a weird semicolon. 

That’s the key to selective ignorance — I’m not actually ignorant. I am just choosing the information that I care about. I’m giving my mind the space to read a bunch of gonzo journalism for a few weeks for no reason other than I’m interested in it if I choose to. That’s reason enough. 

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So how do you decide what to remain ignorant to? And how do you actually do it? 

Like everything else in life, it comes down to your values. I value intelligence, but I also value my time, my hobbies, and rest. And what don’t you value? I don’t value being the know it all, the jack of all trades (but master of none), or the Facebook creeper. 

Maybe you value semicolons in text messages -- that´s fine. You do you, boo. Just make sure what you are doing is for the right reasons. (i.e. reasons other than feeling better or smarter or one upping others)

Think about the small things you do and the information you absorb in the same way you might track your health in a food journal. After I read/see/talk to/etc _________ I feel _______. If it´s not a good feeling, or it causes you to spiral into unhealthy time wasting -- cut it out of your life. 

If something isn't enriching you it's depleting you. Get it out. 

But how do you remain selectively ignorant in a world of constant information overload?

Just don’t do stuff. I mean, really. I put restrictions on myself. When I realized I was getting upset over what I was seeing on someones Instagram story, I stopped watching their story. And as stupid (and immature and tweenish yikes I hope you still respect me) as that sounds, I think there are a lot of small things like that that really affect our days. Things that we think “everyone does” or are just a reflex, but really have a power to change our mood. So just don’t do them. Easier said than done, sure. But we are adults here. We are powerful and capable and in control. The more you do the more you can do, remember. 

I think it´s natural to care less about the noise as we get older. When you start working you are forced to continually narrow your focus and become an expert in one field. But realize that it´s okay to be the beginner in most of the others. To not know. To not be the weird semicolon girl. To say you don't know something. To ask for help -- or not. It's okay to be okay with not knowing. 

 

Learning to Share... on the Internet

“It’s very hard to have ideas. It’s very hard to put yourself out there, it’s very hard to be vulnerable, but those people who do that are the dreamers, the thinkers and the creators. They are the magic people of the world.” 
― Amy Poehler

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I share a lot on the internet. I’m sure, in some people’s minds, too much. I post an Instagram photo just about every day, I post Facebook statuses, share articles, and then — of course — this blog. And I have mixed feelings about it. 

There are thousands of people who look at my blog and Instagram posts. The great majority who I don’t know. And it’s weird. And wonderful. But weird for sure that a blog I wrote after three glasses of rosé from some notes I scrawled down on a napkin is seen by anyone. 

That weirdness has got me thinking lately about why I do any of this. What’s the purpose? Am I just a narcissist? Out of touch? Did I believe my parents when they told me I was the most special, beautiful, and unique girl in the world? I mean, yeah maybe to some of those (haha yikes) but, I think there’s more to it. A lot more. 

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So I recently somehow have acquired over 1,000 followers on Instagram. This is extremely small potatoes in the Instagram world, I know. The interesting part, to me, is that I don’t know at least 75% of these people, who are indeed real people, and not people who I even follow back. The thought that over 1,000 people want to see anything that I do is kind of a shocking thought. And again, while this isn’t a lot compared to pretty much every other person on the internet, it struck me as an opportunity. 

Social media, to me, is a way to connect. Connect with the people you don’t see often, or with the people you have never or would ever meet irl. And the fact that anyone wants to connect with me is kind of incredible. 

The fact that anyone wants to read my blog posts is also kind of incredible. Shocking, really. I mean, even if it’s just out of curiosity or to make fun of my grammar errors, there are hundreds, usually thousands, of people who are interested in what I have to say. Who take time out of their day to read it. You guys, that’s crazy.

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I read a blog post a few weeks ago about blog reach. The author said something about the importance of continuing on even if you only have one reader — because that’s one persons life you have the opportunity to influence — and that’s enough. As a teacher that really resonated with me. After a bad day, someone inevitably will mention that “if you helped even just one kid it was worth it” — and it is! It’s an amazing privilege. 

Creativity, and life, I think, work the same way. If I can have a positive affect on even just one person’s day, that’s a privilege. 

So back to social media. It may seem really frivolous, mindless, or even self-centered, but social media is how a lot of us have that influence. It’s what we share. What people see. The way we put ourselves out and show up in the world. 

It may seem ridiculous to post a picture of a mountain and a motivational quote on Instagram, but it’s not so ridiculous when you realize that 1,000 or more people could see it. That it could give them the sort of hope and joy that it gives me. Even if it’s just a relief and respite from the normal daily grind, it's something. There's a reason people follow and like and scroll through constantly — and it’s not because they all think the quote you paired with that sunset is #basic. 

sunrise

But I don’t just want to share pictures and quotes, I want to share real, #authentic parts of my life. Without feeling like an oversharer or a freak. I want to show the vulnerability that allows us to connect. The flawless Brene Brown wrote in Daring Greatly that, “Vulnerability sounds like truth and feels like courage. Truth and courage aren't always comfortable, but they're never weakness.” And she’s right. It’s not comfortable to put anything out into the world. To open yourself up to criticism and grammar nazis, but what’s the alternative?

I listened to an Oprah podcast on a road trip recently, and Glennon Doyle Melton was the guest. I’m not a big Oprah podcast listener (shocking, I’m sure) but their conversation was so illuminating. Glennon spoke a lot about truth. About how her success has been a direct result of saying the things that she had always been afraid to before. The things that resonate with others, but that they keep a secret. The truth. 

She said that, “Every time you tell the truth it clears the field for other people to tell the truth.” and that, “Truth telling unlocks people”. I love that. I love the idea of clearing the field for others. The power of your story. 

But what about all the studies/anecdotes of people who feel more jealous/lonely/unhappy because of social media? Well, I feel that too sometimes, I get it. But that’s where the authenticity piece comes in. If I’m sharing my truths and being vulnerable in my life, it creates a bridge, not a wall. Those people who still feel left out, jealous, or unhappy due to authentic stories and moments on social media are either just haters (and who’s got time for that), or have deeper problems that they need to work out. Instagram cannot save us all, after all.

mt audubon

So why do I share? Well, I want to connect. I want to be vulnerable, to show authenticity, yadda yadda. But, let’s be real, I’m not good at that. I’m good at standing in front of mountains and taking a picture with my camera timer. But I’m trying. And that picture of my back looking at something is better than not sharing at all. I think. 

I do almost everything alone. But not necessarily by choice. I want to share my experiences. That’s where joy and meaning comes from — connection. And in 2017, a lot of connection comes from the internet — for better or worse. So I’m choosing to embrace it. This isn’t to say I’m forgoing real life connection and experiences — I want more of that too! But my reach is limited in real life. I connect with a bunch of kids every day, and that’s powerful, but it’s different. 

I don’t think I’m special or unique. No one is actually special or unique. That’s the real story of social media. We all share the same struggles, stories, and hashtags. I can find thousands of girls who do all the same things as I do, but with better quality photos, thousands more likes, and captions that read like the great American novel. But that’s a good thing! There’s room for us all. I share to connect with all those people who are like me — from the superficial solo mountain girl side to the math dress wearing side to the writing about well, who knows what I write about really. But I’m telling my truth. I’m clearing the field.

My Morning Routine

"Smile in the mirror. Do that every morning and you'll start to see a big difference in your life." Yoko Ono

desk

It's somehow already September (whaaat) and even if you aren't going back to school/work, fall is a time of new beginnings. And anxieties. I read an article recently about adults experiencing back to school anxiety. Psychologist Dr. Josh Klapow said that, “Summer is about nostalgia and represents for so many of us a time when things were much more carefree,” he explained. The start of school “signals a time to go back to work. It signals that time is passing us. Kids are getting older, life picks back up.” -- and these feelings create stress!

Something that I make sure to do every fall is check in with my habits and routines. I see what's working, what's not, and make changes where necessary. Deliberately and consciously streamlining my life through habits and routines has been one of the most life changing "hacks" of my adult life. Mornings especially. 

mancos sunrise

The early morning is my favorite time of day. But it wasn't always that way.

When I first started teaching -- like the first 4-5 years -- I was always rushing. I woke up tired and frazzled every day, rushed to get ready and out the door -- still feeling unprepared and still always tired. And the worst part: I didn't make an effort to change it -- I thought that's just what happened when you had to be at work before 7am. A part of the job.

When I started working at a new school I decided to change my habits. I had been reading about morning routines a lot (Ben Franklin's especially) and knew that I needed a change. Those rare days when I got up extra early were always the best, and I wanted more like that. 

So I made small changes. I started getting the coffee in the coffeemaker at night. I picked out my outfits in advance. I got up a little earlier. And immediately my days were better. Immediately. I had more energy, felt happier, less stressed, and more productive. 

And It's Science!

There is a lot of science behind the "larks" vs "owls" binary, but they can -- and do -- shift. I'm sure we've all heard of chronotypes -- basically, it's the time that your body is set up to sleep. Your circadian rhythms. A lark is someone who enjoys the mornings and an owl is someone who works better at night. Most studies show that, despite nearly everyone you meet claiming to be one or the other, most people lie in between. 

While chronotypes are genetically based, they are still on a spectrum and can shift. The data shows that chronotypes are likely to evolve with age in the way that you would expect -- people generally need less sleep as they get older, and their sleep patterns shift more towards a lark. 

But you can also make the change yourself. And although a lot of people talk about having the goal of "being a morning person", it doesn't seem like a lot of those same people actually do much to change their habits. 

I mean, I don't think I'm a natural morning person, but I've made myself be one for so many reasons: it fits with my career, I like sunrises, I get more done in the mornings, feel more accomplished, and happier (and I'm not the only one). I forced myself. 

There are articles outlining the morning routines of successful people all over (here, here, and here), and I don't claim to do anything different or better than anyone else (or be a successful person worth emulating for that matter). But, I am surprised when I hear coworkers and friends consistently talk about their rushed mornings. The mornings I used to have. So here are a few super simple and no duh things that I do to help get my day off on a good start. 

sunrise airstream

Get Up Earlier (duh)

I wake up about 30 minutes earlier than the time I "need" to be up. At least. I generally wake up before my alarm, but it's set to give me that extra time. Of course, to do this successfully, you also have to go to sleep earlier :) I get at least 7-8 hours of sleep on a normal night, and the feeling of being well rested (and the way my skin looks haha) is way better than almost anything I would have stayed up for in the past. 

When I wake up I immediately make my bed. This is SO IMPORTANT. I wrote about it before, but it truly does start your day off on a positive, productive note. I've already made my bed -- I can handle anything. Just try it if you're not convinced.

bedroom

Routinize Daily Tasks

After my bed is made and I'm already feeling productive, I start the coffee, feed the cats, put on some makeup and curl my hair. Always in that order. This is important. While novelty is important in life -- it's not important for daily tasks. In fact, the less decisions you have to make on these things the better (remember decision fatigue?)

avocado toast

Eat!

After my boring but necessary tasks are done, I start making breakfast. I eat the most in the morning because I know I always have a big day ahead. I generally eat avocado toast or a bagel with berries. The research on breakfast actually being "the most important meal of the day" is mixed -- but I know it's important for me. If you aren't a big breakfast person, try it for a week. See how you feel. When I started making breakfast (beyond a granola bar) a priority, I felt more energized, less hungry throughout the day, was less likely to snack, and actually lost weight. 

morning routine

Create Margin

I've written about margin before -- the time you intentionally schedule with no specific task. For the overflow. The things you don't have to do -- but want to do. I've scheduled this into my morning. Sometimes I will sit down to read a few articles or do some work for this site -- but no work emails until I am at work. I repeat -- do not use this time for work if you are not currently at work. 

I also use this time to look over my planner, to do lists, and gratitude journal. 

morning routine

Catch up and prepare

When the coffee and breakfast is ready I will sit down to watch the news and browse the blogs that I follow with my breakfast. I make sure I have at least 20 minutes in the morning for this. At least. If I don't have this time I feel very off balance. Reading random fashion blogs is mindless, but makes me feel like I am doing something just for myself, while watching the news makes me feel prepared for the day. I have time to wake up, to enjoy my breakfast, and to mentally get in the right head-space for the rest of my day. 

Then I get dressed (in the outfit I picked out the night before), get my bag and lunch (packed the night before) and head out the door. I usually stop at Starbucks because I like the human interaction and feeling of normalcy that comes from spending time with adults that aren't coworkers (and the baristas always compliment my outfits haha). I always get to work at least 30 minutes earlier than necessary in case anything comes up at the last minute and I don't check any work email until I am actually at work. Then I start my long day. Feeling prepared, refreshed, and accomplished -- all before 8 am. 


Beyond the nuts and bolts, a morning routine is important for mindset. Mindfulness. Goal setting. All those words we hear a lot but can't quite pin down. When I take time for myself in the mornings, to really enjoy my time, and be present -- the rest of the day just feels better.

I'm less anxious. Less tired. Less rushed. 

Of course, this isn't important for everyone. If you don't need to be at work at 7am (lucky), or are super productive between 8pm and 12am then go for it. But, many of us are not. Many of us want to be the early bird. And routines help. They may seem boring, but they actually give us back more time to be less boring. The better and more consistently my day starts, the more creative and exciting it can be later. So give it a try (if you don't already). What would you add to my routine?

Work Life Balancing Act

“Your hand opens and closes, opens and closes. If it were always a fist or always stretched open, you would be paralysed. Your deepest presence is in every small contracting and expanding, the two as beautifully balanced and coordinated as birds' wings.” 
― Jalaluddin Rumi

taos dome

A week or so before I was due to report back to work, a couple teacher friends asked me if I wanted to get together to lesson plan. My answer was an incredulous laugh and an absolutely not. I am not paid to work in the summer, I thought (and probably actually said). But, it’s true. And it doesn’t make me a bad teacher. In fact, it makes me a much better one. Let me explain. 

Work life balance is important in all careers. Teaching especially. We, on average, spend 59 hours a week working — and even then it’s never done. There is always more you can do. Always a better lesson, more to grade, a different seating chart, parents to contact, committee meetings to attend, clubs to sponsor, sports games to go to, the list goes on. (and on and on and on). 

Another layer of guilt — all of this is helping children. To succeed, to learn, to grow — and if you could do something more, you should. Right? 

Nope. I can’t. And I’m done feeling guilty. 

Teacher or not, here’s why you shouldn’t either. 

dome

When I started teaching I remember staying up until the wee hours of the night trying to get my lessons together, stressing over all that I had left undone, and feeling like a bad teacher every time I missed a basketball game. I was exhausted, took naps every day, got sick all the time, and felt generally ugh constantly. And still wasn’t a great teacher! 

While there is always a learning curve, and more time will be spent in the beginning of any new venture, this was extreme. And unnecessary. 

Luckily, within a few months of feeling like the walking dead, I had a discussion with a mentor teacher. She told me she never takes work home. If it couldn’t be done at work, it didn’t need to be done. And while I was pretty good at that, the emotional baggage took a while longer. 

I’m proud to say that now my work life balance is something I am really proud of. I don’t take work home, I don’t take the stress home, and most importantly, I don’t feel bad about it. 

I’ve set boundaries and those boundaries have enabled me to actually be more productive and need way less time to do the same work. I mean, I’m not just mindlessly punching a clock to get a paycheck and summers off — I work hard! When I’m at work. Then I can leave guilt free. 

plaza blanca

Are you headed for burnout?

I don’t need to give you a checklist for what it might look like or feel like to be headed towards burnout. But pay attention to the signs. Are you taking on too much? What can you let go of? Why do you feel like you can’t?

One of my favorite people and inspirations is Bob Goff. He is an incredibly accomplished man — a lawyer, author, non-profit founder, US diplomat -- among many other things -- and is known for his love, care, and availability to others (he printed his cell phone number in the back of his New York Times Bestselling book and only rejects calls if he’s on a plane). And yet he quits something every Thursday. Big or small. He says that he quits for his own well-being, to open up his life and time to new opportunities, and to get out of a rut. 

In other words, you don’t have to do it all. It’s okay. Quitting isn’t going to change anyone’s opinions of you or your life trajectory. Make room for the things that are adding value to your life. Not the things you are doing because you think you should. 

And if you’re not convinced, consider this. According to a Stanford study, there is a "productivity cliff" after 50 hours of work per week. The relationship between hours worked and productivity is linear (math woo!) up until 49 hours but then falls after 50. Productivity dramatically falls after 55 hours per week (the cliff) so much that someone who works 70 hours a week produces no more than someone working 55. Whoa. 

Working more and taking on everything doesn’t make you more productive or successful. It becomes a situation of diminishing returns, while also taking a toll on your well being. 

santa fe hammock


What can you do?

Most of us don’t have the luxury of quitting our jobs or dictating much of what we do when we are there. But we can control what we do when we are not. If you want to prevent burnout and cultivate equilibrium in your work life balance, try some of these things:

1. (Try to) Let go of control

Many times we work overtime and stress out over the things that we are desperately trying to control. Realize that you can’t control it all. You can do your best, you can work hard, but then let it go. 

Worry comes from the desire for control, and worry ruins your off time. If you’re thinking about work as you go to sleep, on your weekends, or when you are with friends — you have a problem. A problem we all have, sure — but it’s still a problem that needs to be addressed and mitigated as much as possible. Realizing that the whole company/school/whatever doesn’t live or die based on how many emails you sent on the weekend is a good start. 

2. No work email on your phone

Now, this doesn’t work for all professions, sure. But for me at least, a huge life changer was taking my work email off my phone. Whatever it is — if it’s after hours — it can wait. If it cant, someone will call you. Chill out. 

And if you can’t help but check your emails outside of work hours, at least do all you can not to respond until work hours resume again. When you set the precedent of responding at all hours — people expect you to do it and will continue to contact you in this way. If you set the boundary that you are available during certain times -- and stick with it -- people won’t expect to hear from you outside of that time frame. 

3. Friends outside of work (way outside) 

This one is hard for me. Teachers tend to flock together. And I love them! I love spending time with my teacher friends BUT I need a larger circle. We all do. When you spend all your time with people in your field, your life narrows until work is literally your whole world. Which inevitably will lead to more stress and quicker burnout. 

The life of a teacher is way different than the life of a doctor. Or a fundraiser. Or an entrepreneur. Or an artist. A dogwalker. It's all different. Hanging out with a lot of people reminds you that not only are you a normal person who is not defined by their job, but that every profession has it’s problems. 

4. Get some hobbies! 

This goes along with a wider circle of friends, but seriously — get a hobby. I always think it’s crazy when people just go to work and… not much else. When you don’t have passions outside of work that drive you, even a job you love will inevitably become something that you dread. 

I wrote about the importance of a quest, and I believe it more than ever. If you don’t have something fully for yourself, you will artificially conflate your work with your purpose and value in a way that is not healthy. 

5. Check in with yourself

Schedule check in’s. Are you happy in your work? How much of your time outside of work is spent thinking about work? Do you feel like you are making a difference? Is the time you’re spending giving you joy? 

Sometimes in my class we do the beginning of the year activity "Making a pie chart of your summer". How much time did you spend sleeping? Eating? Swimming? Watching TV? We assign each hour in our day and create a pie chart to visually see how our time is spent. Even for kids it is shocking. 

What does your pie chart look like? What area is lacking? How can you enlarge it? What part of the pie can you get rid of/shrink? 

santa fe house

Caveats

Now, obviously there are situations where you just have to go full force. If you’re new to a profession, if you’re an entrepreneur or a freelancer, if you are in a new role or prepping for a short term goal/project that is audacious. 

But, unpopular opinion: if things aren’t ever getting easier, or year after year you still feel the need to put in tons of extra (uncompensated) time in order to do your job well… maybe this job isn’t the right fit for you. Maybe this company or field isn’t right. But something isn’t right. 

Ultimately, we work to live, not the other way around. Our work should give us meaning, but it shouldn't be the only source. Give yourself permission to make the shift. 

Benefits

They’re obvious, right? More time for family, friends, and your own passions. Less stress, worry, and overwhelm. When your life is in balance, everything is better. You are a better, more productive, and efficient worker. A better friend. And you have the energy to put into the things that you feel are important (and those might even be at work!) 

So get your priorities straight. While it is important and valuable to be a hard worker, remember that your work has it’s place in your life. It is not your entire life. There is so shame in leaving it where it belongs.

To Venture

“So we shall let the reader answer this question for himself: who is the happier man, he who has braved the storm of life and lived or he who has stayed securely on shore and merely existed?” 
― Hunter S. Thompson

IMG_2278.jpg

School is back in session, so unfortunately my summer of near constant travel is over. I spent my last few free days camping in Aspen — one of my absolute favorite places. Before I left town I visited a hot springs right off the road on a river outside town. I love hot springs of all kinds, but natural and primitive are the best. Usually.

Some couples came and went and then others came. We had great conversation and it was a beautiful day. When one couple was about to leave a man I had seen earlier in the bushes came out of nowhere. He sat right behind me, with a big jug of something and just a creepy vibe. I've been trying lately not to think someone is "creepy" just because they're alone — I'm always alone. Or "creepy" if they seem to live in their car/a tent — I'm sleeping in a car too after all. 

But I've also been making an effort to listen to my body. When something doesn't feel right. Trusting my infamous women's intuition. So I got out of that hot spring, no goodbye to my new Polish friends, ran up to my car shaking in my bikini, and headed straight home. I was seriously scared. Literally shaking.

I do a lot of things alone and generally feel very safe and capable and all of those things, but I’ve realized there's a difference between doing things you're afraid of and doing things you should be afraid of.

But my problem is how do I know the difference? And how can I keep a situation like that from scaring me away from future awesome riverside hot springs? I don't have any answers, but I have some ideas.

aspen ghost town

I've been lucky. I travel alone way more than the average person and yet I haven’t had too many scary experiences on the road (thankfully), but there have been a few similar to the hot springs. And they all have one thing in common — they are not in National Parks. Or State Parks. Or hiking trails. 

I have a theory for why this is true -- and it starts with Donald Duck (doesn't everything though?)

You know those adults who are obsessed with Disney? They go to the parks for every vacation, without a care to the haters who wonder why. But I think I get it — National Parks/public lands are just Disneyworld for outdoorsy people. Hear me out. 

Disney is a bubble. It’s an escape from reality, where everything is spotless, commercialized, immersive, and characters will never break. It’s all carefully curated to take you to another place. Where all you have to worry about is wait times and where you’re getting your next overpriced meal. Everyone is there for the same reason.

National Parks/Public Lands are really similar in some important ways -- everyone who is there wants to be there. They’ve all spent considerable time and effort to trek to some huge swath of land because they love nature. They are my people. No need to be scared. 

Even though I’m alone in a park, I want to share my experience. Be alone together. That's why one of the things I always make time for in a park visit (even if I've been there multiple times) is to visit the lodges and visitors centers -- to be alone together. To get the high that comes from being surrounded by likeminded people. 

IMG_2305 (1).jpg

I was talking to a friend the other day about my persona of solo female adventurer yada yada. He pointed out that visiting National Parks solo isn’t actually that adventurous — and he’s right! 

That’s kinda the point — it’s Disneyworld. It's an escape. I don't have to worry about being followed downtown and forced to literally run away in broad daylight trying to look at some street art (looking at you Rapid City, SD) or being terrified and pushed out of a roadside hot spring by an aggressive guy. And that's important to me. 

But I'm sure you're all wondering, what's the instagram connection (ha yikes). I’ve recently changed my Instagram handle (big news I know) and am in the process of changing my website over to a new moniker — emilyventures. I’ve ruminated for an embarrassingly long time over this — but words are important, remember. 

Venture is defined as “a risky or daring journey or undertaking” — and I feel like that ties my ambitions together in a way that my clumsy words never could. I want to lean in to uncertainty and I want to take risks. I want to do things that are daring — just not blindly dangerous. 

National Parks — and the outdoors in general — are a great way to do that. 

If you need more proof than Donald Duck can provide, well, there isn’t a lot. Information on crime in the outdoors or National Parks in particular is sparse— because there really isn’t much. Backpacker magazine says that despite 46% of men and 56% of women agreeing that its riskier for women to hike or backpack alone, “Your risk of being a victim of a violent crime (murder, rape, or aggravated assault) is thousands of times lower in a national park than in the country as a whole.”

That’s right — thousands of times lower. I’ve always felt safer, but even I was totally shocked by that statistic. Seriously, look at this graph.

aspen mirror

People ask me all the time how to hike alone, or how to visit a park alone — but you guys, it’s really not that brave. You're way safer there than you are almost anywhere else. That’s why the outdoors are so freeing — it’s an escape from a world full of real and perceived danger. 

So venture. Be smart, but trust yourself. If something doesn't feel right -- leave. But don't let it stop you from going in the first place. 

The Privilege of Sleeping in My Car

"The better you look, the more you see.” ― Bret Easton Ellis

suv modification 1

If you follow me on Instagram , you know I recently converted my Nissan Rogue SUV into a camper with a sleeping platform (post with more info coming soon). I spent most of the summer traveling around the United States and Canada, camping in my car and having the most amazing time.

Well, mostly. 

teton view suv mod

There was a night or two when I was too excited to get to my days destination to plan in advance where I would stay that night. Now, even though I’m camping in the car, I still stay at campgrounds and have reserved them whenever possible. I’m alone and so I value the security even more that comes with knowing where I’ll be overnight. But on those few nights — one in particular — I didn’t have a plan and ended up sort of frantic unable to figure out where I should go, and if anything would be available when I got there. I also had no cell service, I mean this is the Wild West after all, compounding my anxiety.

There was a moment when I almost started to cry in my overwhelm, and actually thought to myself some form of “I understand how people feel when they don’t have a secure place to stay at night”. Umm… luckily, in about two seconds I had to stop myself from taking both my hands off the wheel to slap myself across the face because, no, I have no idea how that feels. 

I am so privileged. I have a car (that I can sleep in comfortably!), I have enough money to get a hotel if I needed to, I have family I can call, I am white, I am decent looking, educated, I have no history of legal trouble, and if I was broken down on the side of the road I am fairly certain every decent person who saw me would have no qualms about stopping to help me.

But that’s not true for everyone. Or even for most people. 

suv mod

According to the National Alliance to End Homelessness, in January of 2015 there were 564,708 homeless individuals on one single night — but we know the “homeless count” is famously difficult to track so it’s estimated between 2 and 3 million people a year actually spend time homeless. That’s insane. That’s the same as (or more than) the entire population of Chicago. 

That many people actually don’t know where they are going to sleep at night. They can’t just make a reservation online, or use a different credit card, or call their parents, cry to a park ranger, keep driving a few extra hours for an open camp site -- whatever many of us could do. 

So how does this affect me?

suv mod

“Checking your privilege” has become an almost annoying and overused popculture-y phrase that seems to have lost a little of it’s meaning. So let’s go backwards a little. Privilege is just an advantage that you have — earned or unearned — because of some aspect of your life. It doesn’t mean you don’t have struggles, it just means that you have some advantages other people don’t have. Two things can be true at the same time, remember. 

So how do I “check my privilege”? Should I stop doing what I’m doing? Should I spend the money I’m using on converting my car and reserving campgrounds to donate to homeless charities? Should I take a vow of poverty and give all my belongings away? For some people, yes, but I don’t feel led to that. Action that comes from guilt isn’t helping anyone. 

For me, checking my privilege is just a way to reflect. Not so much on my own unearned privilege — because privilege awareness in itself is a privileged position to be in, but I digress — but on the unearned disadvantages that others face. Realizing how bad I felt that night without a campsite then realizing this is literally just a shred of what a truly homeless person would feel is an invitation to more compassion and empathy. 

“Awareness” has become a dirty word of sorts — “but what does your awareness bracelet do to actually help ______?” But awareness is still an important step in the process of becoming a more equalized society. If we don’t know something is off balance, how do we equalize it? We don’t. We continue to live our lives in the secure and safe bubbles we’ve set up for ourselves, and turn a blind eye to those who experience life differently than we do. 

Well I refuse to do that.

I want to know the things that I don’t know. And not confuse empathy with experience. 

11 Lessons My Yoga Teacher Taught Me

"Yoga is not about touching your toes, it's about what you learn on the way down."

- Judith Hanson Lasater

dancers pose

I’ve been practicing yoga for a few years now, but only seriously for about a year. I go to four or five classes per week, and it’s amazing how much my body has changed, my mind has changed, and yada yada all that hippie dippie stuff you’ve heard before. One of the things I love most about my yoga practice is the teachers. The wisdom they are able to impart during a 60 or 90 minute sweat session is impressive. Here are 11 of the life lessons (in no particular order) that I frequently come back to outside of class. What yogi wisdom resonates most with you?

1. “Every day is different”

Yoga teachers often say during poses that one side may feel different than the other, or that one position may feel different than the day before — or even just 10 minutes prior in class — and that's okay. Our bodies change, and they feel different sometimes. My toe stand on the left is way better than the one on the right, and that's okay. 

Like everyone, I relate to this on so many levels. Sometimes I crush a 90 minute hot yoga class and the next day have to lay down and take a break in a beginners class. Every day is different. At work, one day I’ll teach my best lessons, feel on top of the world, and have no behavior problems, then the next will be an absolute disaster. Every day is different. One day I can be super positive, productive, and happy with myself, then the next I just want to eat Nutella from the jar and watch episodes of Lockup.

Every day is different. And that's okay. 

wheel pose

2. “Thank yourself for showing up”

I’ve always kind of hated the phrase, “90% of success is showing up”. Showing up to work is cool and all, but, um, then you have to actually work. Showing up to yoga class is great and all, but then I actually have to work my tail off and sweat my brains out. But in my cynicism I think I missed the beauty of this phrase for a long time. 

It's more than just showing up. “Thank yourself for showing up on your mat today”, “thank yourself for giving yourself this hour”, “thank yourself for taking the time to care for your mind and body” — basically, give yourself some credit. Self-care is so important, but so many people don’t prioritize it. It feels selfish to spend time doing something fully for yourself. 

Taking care of yourself, through yoga or anything else, is essential. It’s self-preservation. Capacity building. If you don’t take care of yourself, how can you bring your best self to anyone else?

Show up for yourself. 

yoga joshua tree

3. “There's no prize for straight legs”

One of my hot yoga teachers always says this during padahastasana (hands to feet pose). To just grab onto whatever is available to you, and don’t be afraid to bend your legs as much as you need. Of course, later she will mention that you may want to work on straightening your legs, but it’s okay if they never are. There’s no prize. It’s you against you. 

I think about this a lot in life. There is no prize for ______. I can be as driven as I want to be, but if I want to accomplish something, it’s just me against me. It doesn't matter if the person next to me has amazing form, it's me against me. There is no prize

Everyone has their strengths. The poses in life they execute (seemingly) perfectly. But this doesn't make anything I do better or worse. It just is. My prizes in life are won by me in the battle only against me. When I meet the goals I've set. For myself and no one else.

There's no prize. 

dog yoga

4. “Fully surrender”

Savasana (corpse pose) is often said to be the “hardest pose in yoga” — because you must fully surrender. If you’re not a yoga enthusiast, the pose is literally just laying on your back, arms by your sides, with all muscles relaxed. Legs splay to the sides, tongue relaxes from the roof of your mouth — you are consciously doing absolutely nothing. 

It’s no surprise that this is a difficult pose. Letting go of control is, for many people — myself included — the hardest thing to do. It means being vulnerable, and who the heck wants to do that?? But it’s so important. I have made a conscious effort to surrender in some areas of my life in the last few years and it is excruciatingly hard. To just let things be. To stop fighting. Stop trying to force things. To let things happen rather than make them happen. 

Yoga has helped me with this, in class, and in life. Feeling vulnerability is scary, but think of how much better you feel when you allow things to happen. When you aren’t so attached to one outcome that you pass by others that are more suited for you. 

Let it be. Surrender. 

yoga boat dock boat pose

5. "Take up space”

One of the things I resonated with the most when I started practicing yoga was the idea of “taking up space”. This is something often said during savasana (see above) as a way to fully let go. 

As a woman especially, we may feel the need to take up less space. To make ourselves small. To go about our lives in a way that doesn’t “rock the boat”. I read something recently that said that it’s not even so much that women are afraid of being seen, but that we are afraid of being seen doing the wrong thing. 

I can only speak for me, but I’m sure this is true for all genders — we’d sometimes rather make ourselves small than stand out and open up ourselves to the possibility of ridicule. Of criticism. Of “doing the wrong thing”

But y’all, if you aren’t ruffling a few feathers, you’re not doing anything important.

Don’t be afraid to take up some space. 

joshua tree dancers pose

6. “Go to your edge”

When we get into a difficult pose in yoga, the teachers will sometimes say to “go to your edge” or “find your edge and sit one inch lower”. The idea is to find the spot where you are challenged (without strain) and breathe into it. Sink into the challenge or discomfort. 

The edge between easy and strain is challenge. I’ve written about this before, but I really believe that the only way to go through life is to experience challenge. Lots of challenges. By choice. To make yourself stronger and more resilient. 

We all see those people who say they go to the gym all the time but never seem to have any results. They half-ass everything, skip what they don’t like, take breaks, never sweat, whatever. They “go to the gym” but are they actually working out? I don't want to judge anyone, but it doesn’t seem like it.

In life this works the same way. There are people who are in the exact same place they were in ten years ago. Who complain about their situation, but don’t do anything to change it. In an effort to stay in a position of safety, they aren’t going to their edge. 

Go to your edge. Then sit a little lower.

yoga red rocks

7. “Look in the mirror - make adjustments”

If you haven’t spent a lot of time in yoga classes, it may seem like each class is just the same poses over and over. And, well, in a lot of classes they are -- but once you practice for a while you realize the intricacies of each pose. The way that micro movements change the entire posture. The teacher will encourage you to use the mirror to square your shoulders, move your knee an extra inch, or straighten your leg in a way that is almost invisible. But once you make the adjustment, you see a huge difference!

Life is the same way, right? We've all heard, "small things make a big difference" -- and it's true. You might remember my bed making obsession? It's a small thing, but it has definitely changed my life. Don't think that you have to do something grand to change your life. To give it purpose or joy. Small adjustments make a big difference. 

Look in the mirror at your life. Make small adjustments. 

yoga brainard

8. “Find a point of focus”

During balancing postures, yoga teachers will tell you to “find a point of focus” that will help you to balance. Drishdi is the official yogi term for this focused gaze. It’s a way to develop concentrated attention, and is the key to balancing. 

In life, this is obvious. You have to have a point of focus. If you are scattered and overwhelmed, your life is not in balance and you will fall. Finding concentrated attention on a point enables you to follow through, be successful, and find balance.

Now, that’s not to say you can only have one thing to focus on in life -- just only have one at a time. Multitasking is a lie. Our brains can only deeply focus on one thing at a time. Flow occurs when we are deeply focused on this ONE thing. If I look over at my neighbor in yoga during a balancing posture, I’m likely to fall out of it. In the same way, if we lose our singular focus on another task or another person, we are likely to lose the momentum and motivation to complete it in the best way.

Find your drishdi.

goat yoga


9. “Feel the sensation”

During uncomfortable poses, my yoga instructor will often say to “feel the sensation, and breathe into it” or “feel the sensation, but don’t come out early”“sink into it”. When I first heard it, I was a little cynical — sensation as just another word for discomfort. Through more practice, the more I gave in to it, and the more I have realized — discomfort is just a sensation. A sensation isn't necessarily good or bad. It just is. 

Often, when we feel something different, we immediately recoil. We think this is a feeling unlike what I’ve felt in the past, so it must be bad. It takes a lot of courage to just feel it. To sink in to the sensation and not try to come out. 

Feel the sensation. Sink in.

red rocks yoga 2

10. “Set an intention”

I go to a studio that is part of a nationwide chain and probably a little less traditional than most, but many teachers still take time in the beginning of class to encourage the setting of an intention. Something that you can come back to during class. A purpose

I spend a lot of time thinking about purpose and intent. (Intention was actually my word of the year last year). It's so important and yet so easily pushed aside. You can go through a day, month, or even years on autopilot — looking back later and wondering where the time went. If you live intentionally you are creating the map -- of where you want to be, how you want to feel, and the way you want your life to play out. 

While you can’t control your world (and shouldn’t, umm read 4), you can use your core values to create an intentional map. I can do things to move myself in the direction I want to be. I can set an intention and work towards it. 

Be intentional.

11. “Breathe”

Duh. 

Yoga, at it’s core, is about breathing. Always come back to your breath. Flow with your breath. Use your breath to cool off, to warm up, to relax, to focus — to do everything. I mean, it is what keeps us alive. 

In life, don’t forget to breathe. To calm down. To practice mindfulness. To, you know, live. To quote the tattoo of every 20-something girl you know: just breathe. Really. 

Just breathe.