Wednesday, June 27, 2012

The Mindful Journey

"There is one small joy of today that will escape you if you are preoccupied with tomorrow."

I heard these words from Deb Sobeski a few years ago and they have stuck with me ever since.  This quote always comes back to me when I feel extremely overwhelmed and seem to be focused on how my life is NOT going well as opposed to how well my life actually is.  Like this post.  Yes, it's easy to get overwhelmed and you might think I'm just wallowing in sorrow and self-pity.  But that's not always the case. 

A few years ago, the upstate was taken with the story of Hannah Sobeski.  She was a local high school student with a rare form of cancer.  The amazing part about her story was how she was never down on life.  Through her journey and struggles, she continued to praise God, be a positive presence and influence.  Even as her life was drawing to a close, she was extremely selfless and positive.  Her mother spoke at various events about their journey and I was lucky enough to hear her uplifting words.  Though Hannah's life was cut short, the family lived in each moment they had with her.  Each moment you have is truly a gift.  Each breath you take is a blessing; one that someone else doesn't get.  To be preoccupied with the past or the future is to rob yourself of the glory in each moment.

Thinking back to Deb's words, I remembered what I learned at H3 about gratitude.  You can either cultivate positivity or negativity; not both.  The happiest and most successful people in life aren't that way because only good things happen to them.  They are that way because of their attitude toward what happens to them.  This brings to mind the saying "Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react."  The mind is a powerful asset and I truly believe that you have the power to change your life if you can change your thoughts and reaction to your circumstance.  Back to what I wrote about timing, each circumstance is an opportunity to learn.  If you are preoccupied with the negative aspects of your circumstance or where you'd like to be instead, you will miss something vital.

My local library branch offers yoga for free every Monday night.  It has been a HOT minute since I've practiced, but I was eager to get out of the house and give it a shot.  I was not sold on yoga the first (or second) time I tried it -- but I am a believer now that it is good for the soul.  Practicing yoga is an excellent way to get in tune with your body and breath and I love to feel the power in my muscles as my body fights to hold and flow through poses.  Afterwards, I sought out some thought-provoking reading material and now I am armed and dangerous to be more mindful and change my thinking, outlook, and ultimately -- my life.
The Power by Rhonda Byrne
Blink -- The Power of Thinking Without Thinking by Malcolm Gladwell
Emotional Equations -- Simple Truths for Creating Happiness + Success by Chip Conley
Outliers -- The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell
(not pictured) Life After College -- The Complete Guide to Getting What You Want by Jenny  Blake

Monday, June 25, 2012

"If you want to hear God laugh...

...tell him your plans."

Plans.  Expectations.  It's been said that these 2 things are our elusive attempts at control.  Control is subjective.  Do we ever really have it?  I believe in the cliches "Everything happens for a reason" and "What is meant to be will be."  But how does that agree with "taking control of the situation"?  While we can't just expect everything to fall into place while we look on, we aren't in total control of our fate, either.  I've been told that finding happiness in life requires maintaining a delicate balance between holding on and letting go; trying to understand that something greater than you is happening over which you have no control, but trying to make the best decisions in each situation with the knowledge you have.

Life doesn't always go according to our plan. But that doesn't mean it's not going along according to some bigger plan. We are right where we are supposed to be at any given time. It might not feel right & it definitely might not be where we want to be, but there are lessons to be learned & experiences to be undertaken. We have to step back, take it all in & make the best of it, knowing that everything will work out the way it should.

Over the past few months, I have talked a lot about my 2012 plan:  internship, graduate, get a job, move, get married, finally start my "adult life".  Well, I went from 60 to 0 in about 2.5 seconds.  How the heck did my life plan get derailed?  Fast forward a few months from when I made that plan for 2012 and here I am single, unemployed, and living at home.  Is this post from a few days ago making a little more sense now?

I have recently discovered that I am the type of person to whom you can talk until you're blue in the face.  I am stubborn and determined (possibly even deluded?) enough to not let it phase me.  If I have an idea in my mind (i.e. my 2012 plan), the words coming out of your mouth are falling on deaf ears.  I  am the type of person who must realize things for herself.  Yes, it makes things more difficult, and a lot of trouble could be saved if I'd just listen, but the outcomes are much more valuable to me because I realize them on my own.  A few months ago, someone shared this quote with me:

We must be willing to let go of the life we have planned so as to have the life that is waiting for us.
-Joseph Campbell.

So where is all this going?  My 2012 plan wasn't exactly logical.    But I want what I want when I want it, so I refused to face the music.  But the further we got into the year, I realized things weren't going exactly according to my timeline and that's one of the absolute WORST feelings:  Life is NOT moving forward how you want it and there is absolutely NOTHING you can do about it.  I can't even think of an emotion to describe what that feels like.  When you realize you are in no way, shape, or form in control.  When what is actually happening is so far from what you want and what you think you're ready for.

And that, dear friends, is where I let go.  I let go of my vision and my "plan" and chose to chart a new course.  I have always been a "less talk, more action" kind of girl, so when things started to veer from my set timeline, I chose to take action.  Whether that was the best thing to do at the time has yet to be determined...

If we get so wrapped up in what we think is supposed to happen, we miss a lot of what is actually happening.  I'm still not where I want to be, but for whatever reason, I'm where I need to be.  It isn't easy.  It's really hard.  And uncomfortable.  And I question just about everything.  I'm ready for things to stop feeling like they are falling apart and start feeling like they are falling into place.  I'm ready for things to make sense. 

In a few years time, we'll look back and everything will click. It may not make sense now, but this path is going to take me where I need to be and I'll be all the more wiser when I get there.  Until then, I must remember...

Saturday, June 23, 2012

The Art of Saying "No"

When is the last time you did something because you felt 'bad' for someone/about something?  Guilty?  Obligated?  Until recently, I had a lot on my plate, and my plate kept getting fuller (well I didn't plan on that pun, but yes, my plate got literally and figuratively fuller).  For someone as stubborn and set in their ways as I am, I was having a hard time saying "no".  To say my refusal skills needed some work would be an understatement.

The truth is, when you agree to do something out of guilt or fear of hurting someone, no one wins.  Sure, it might seem like you're pacifying someone and joy can come from that.  But ultimately, you're hurting yourself with unnecessary stress and by doing something half-assed (excuse my French) because you're not really into it, you're hurting the other party(ies) involved because they aren't receiving you 100%.  While everyone may receive some immediate gratification, you're deceiving yourself and everyone else, and in the long run, that just isn't fair.

You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make it drink.

I use these stupid cliches all the time -- but they exist for a reason! Someone can push and push and push you, but you can't let yourself give in if you don't want.  Whatever it is someone is trying to convince you of doing, it can't be forced.  You have to stand your ground.  The instant gratification and the feeling that you have appeased someone is usually not worth the regret, guilt, and maybe even confusion later on.  So for the sake of all parties involved, learn to say no.  Willpower is a muscle and it, too, is subject to fatigue.  It needs to be exercised every now & then in order to stay in tiptop shape.

Some tips for strengthening your refusal skills (and how to avoid being the pushy one!):

  • Don't respond to a request immediately.  Take some time to process what is being asked of you before you give an answer.  
  • Make decisions with a clear head.  Don't make decisions when you're mad, sad, or not 100% sure of what you want to do.  ESPECIALLY avoid committing to something or getting involved in a tricky situation when any alcohol has been consumed!  
  • Don't be afraid to back out.  If you do find yourself in a situation you wish you weren't, don't feel like your life depends on it (unless, of course, someone's life is actually on the line).  Your decision doesn't have to be permanent.  (Disclaimer:  Don't start being the person that no one can count on because you're constantly backing out.  No one likes to be described as "wishy-washy." Try working more on the first & second tips before you get to this point).
  • Don't feel guilty!  When your wellbeing is at stake, don't let anyone try to convince you of something.  You are your own best advocate and you know what your limits are.  Sure, someone is going to be upset when you deny them and it isn't going to be easy.  But in the end, it'll be worth it.
  • Know why you are refusing.  Try to get to the root of your response.  You will be stronger in your decision if you know why the red flag was raised:  "I will regret going out tonight when I have a headache tomorrow and need to be productive" instead of simply "I don't want to."
  • Be respectful.  If someone doesn't respond or react in the way you want, respect their decision.  Sure, sometimes people (including me at any given time) need a little prodding if you feel that they can be swayed and they will be pleased with the outcome.  However, if "no" seems to be a common response or theme, let it go.  You're not going to force them & you're only putting more stress on them.  If they change their mind, they will come to you.
  • Don't take it personally.  The reason why someone refuses you is rarely simply because they just don't like you.  Try to be understanding to the fact that their reasoning is more complex.  Approach people and their responses with the notion that everyone is waging some sort of inner battle.  

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Post-H3 Life

I really wanted to give up blogging.  But the past 2 months at home have been very trying and under the gentle guidance of Lauren -- who has decided to join the blog world herself with an aptly-named blog ( -- I'm back.  I'm not sure what route I should take here -- general musings & observations or a bitter "reality-is-a-smack-in-the-face" rant.  I'll try for a mix.  Here we go...

Where am I?  How did I get here?  What am I doing?  What am I supposed to be doing?  Where am I going next?  Can I get there already?  What is my purpose?  Can I just give up on today & get back in bed?  Is this feeling normal?  When will it subside?  What is going to make me happy?

Who am I?

These are the questions I have been asking myself essentially every day since I have been home.  I only thought I was sitting in the hallway of life before...I am truly in the hallway now and I. Hate. It. I know  my life isn't in complete shambles & I am much better off than so many other people in the world, but I'm struggling, y'all.  My time back at home has been an emotional, psychological, and physical (stress apparently carries around 10 pounds just in case you need it.) roller coaster.  Remember this post?  Yeah, not much has changed.  In re-reading that blog, I'm realizing that these feelings are cyclical in nature and I'm reminded of a quote I keep seeing on Pinterest:  "If you're tired of starting over, then stop giving up."  So this is me breaking the cycle.

At the end of my internship, I had a vision:  Get home, relax, keep applying for jobs, get a lead on a job, pass my presentation and officially graduate, get hired, move to a new city, start a new fun life, live happily ever after.  Yeah, I gotta say it ain't workin' out so far.  I can exhaust all options and resources, have the perfect resume and cover letter, scour websites and job boards all day long, but at the end of each and every day, the reality is I'm not in control.  I spend days wondering what my purpose is and just what it is I'm supposed to be doing to pass the time.  Get a part-time job. Work out. Volunteer.  Well, OK, I'm trying.  I just hate being in transition. Let's face the facts: I'm not happy & my life is not where I hoped it'd be at this point.  Are there many worse feelings than being ready for something and wanting something so badly, but there's nothing you can do to speed up the process?  I know there are some serious lessons to be learned from this experience, but have I mentioned that I'm really ready for what's next?  I understand that a job, a move, and a new apartment isn't the ultimate formula for happiness, but it would at least give me a sense of direction.

I just need something to do with my hands.  Besides drink, eat, and sleep because that cycle is obviously not working out thus far.  Unfortunately, it's hard to make the right decisions most of the time.  Keeping a positive outlook is exhausting.  It's less work allowing yourself to become overwhelmed by emotions you don't understand and let negativity take over, and when that happens, it's even easier to let the snowball keep rolling until you're drinking to pass the time, eating to cover up your frustrations, and then sleeping the afternoon away.  If you asked me what I'd be doing when I finished grad school, this is not exactly what I had in mind.  It's just such a hard reality to face when I was so happy before I left my island bubble.  But it was just that -- a bubble.  An experience.  Life doesn't exist in a vacuum.  You've got to learn how to bob & weave and maintain sanity while dodging the curveballs (Yes, I am aware that I just made references to boxing, bullets, and baseball in the same sentence.).  

**At this point, you could be very well thinking that I am mentally unstable & need serious help -- and that's OK because you're entitled to your own opinion.

When you feel like you're at a low point in life, things can only go up.  "It's always darkest before the dawn" is not only a fact but a commonly-used phrase for a reason:  Sometimes things have to get really bad before you put your life in perspective, see how far you've come, and where you want to go.    Only when we realize that the pain of staying the same outweighs the pain of change will we actually make some alterations to our way of thinking and living.  And then things get really good.  Because you remember that "this, too, shall pass" and that you don't get different results by continuing to do things in the same unsuccessful manner.  At some point, you've got to "buck up," "sack up", or "put your big girl panties on" and start behaving like the person you want to be.  Eventually, you'll stop wanting to be that person & actually become that person.  

Sunday, June 17, 2012

4 weddings & a funeral

Ok, not really. But the past few weeks have been a whirlwind of life events. And by few weeks, I kinda mean months.  This particular post has been in the works since 5/25/12, or so Blogger tells me.

First things first:

Masters, baby.
We did it!  I waited until the very last minute to prepare my practicum presentation (and by last minute, I mean I didn't start until the wee hours of the morning the night before my presentation and 30 minutes prior the my presentation I was printing off materials for my binder. #oops), passed my presentation with flying colors, and was hooded for all to see as a Master of Public Health.  The past 2 years were pretty brutal.  While I'm glad to see my school career come to an end, it's somewhat bittersweet that I will never again be a student.  Tear.

And just what did we do to celebrate this momentous occasion?  Hit up Myrtle Beach and act like we've never before been in public!  We were delirious enough and in such need of a break, that a trip to the "Dirty Myrtle" was the only logical solution.
When in Myrtle, act like a typical tourist.
It was such a fun trip and definitely the break we needed (and deserved!).  Fast forward a few days and add back the stress I successfully rid myself of at the beach, and you've got the whirlwind last-minute preparations for this girl's wedding:

Putting together programs...about an hour before the ceremony!

Kimber and I were freshman year roommates and I was so honored when she asked me to be her MOH.  Over the course of the few days before her wedding, we essentially lived in Wal-Mart, Hobby Lobby, and Michael's, and the stress probably took a few years of our lives (more likely mine -- somehow I was more worried and uptight about the details than the bride herself!).  Nonetheless, a wedding happened and it was beautiful.

AND THEN I got another much-needed break -- at home this time.  The wedding was the culminating event and afterwards, I was able to finally get home, get back to applying for jobs, and settle in with nothing substantial to do...which was both a blessing and a curse (more to come on that, don't worry).  More enjoyable photos below...and the next post is underway, stay tuned!


Proud parents -- no more tuition!

A comedic assortment of munchies while waiting for our suite to  be ready.

Group pic before our night out in Myrtle.

Token photo from the bachelorette party.  I think one is enough ;)
Beautiful bride!

The wedding programs we worked so hard on.

Time to party! DJ Kool Aid wasn't doin it for me, so I naturally took matters into my own hands!

The bride & I boogying down.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Finding quiet in the chaos

Even before I left Hilton Head two weeks ago (which unfortunately seems like a lifetime ago), I knew that leaving that safe little bubble would be like a slap in the face.  What I didn't realize was how hard it would hurt.

As I sit here attempting to prepare my final presentation for school (that takes place tomorrow at 10am -- yikes!), I can't help but think of the ways loneliness, despair, anxiety, and a mix of other emotions I can barely even decipher have manifested over the past few weeks:

  • I have no desire to exercise.
  • I get in bed late, postpone sleep by any means possible, and sleep half the morning away.
  • I binge eat like it's going out of style.
  • This:
Exhibit A:  Bare, scraggly nails and the beautiful purple polish that once inhabited them.
The last one is what drove me to write this blog and sit down and think about my emotions.  I once had a terrible habit of peeling my nail polish.  It drove everyone around me NUTS and made them a little on edge, but it never failed -- after about a week of having my nails painted, I would peel the polish off in a crazed hurry.  But as with so many other bad habits, you often don't realize when they cease.  About 2 months ago, Ashlee said to me at the dining room table, "You haven't been picking your nail polish lately." And it was true.  I didn't notice that I had stopped, but I was obviously less stressed and anxious and noticeably more happy.  Peeling off my nail polish (gel polish at that -- which is virtually impossible to remove) today in about 2 minutes is a HUGE red flag.  When old habits resurface, something serious is going on.  I finally had to just sit down and decompress.  Sit down and try to decipher what is going on that is wreaking havoc in my life.  Sit down address what  I've been trying to ignore.

Binge eating should have been the first red flag.  But it's a vicious cycle, and thinking about it makes me frustrated, and being frustrated makes me want to eat more.  So I chose to ignore it.  No matter how many times I repeat the mantra I learned at H3 -- there is not enough food in the world to cover up what you're feeling -- I didn't want to confront the underlying cause.  I'm nervous. I'm anxious.  Scared, mad, sad, lonely.  Up, down.  In, out.   So much is happening so fast at this point in my life and I just can't process it.  There are certainly better ways of handling what's going on besides eating like crazy, peeling off nail polish, and pushing people out of my life.  However, it's no secret that I have a very strange way of handling things sometimes.  Writing down the way I'm feeling is Step 1 of regaining control.  I am truly sitting in the hallway between one point of my life and the next and I hate every minute of it.  I am extremely uncomfortable, confused, and conflicted about many things.  But it's a learning process, and for that, I am incredibly appreciative.

As part of the process, I've learned that I have to make the decisions that are best for me, instead of further stressing myself and giving other people priority.  As terrible as that may sound, I just don't have the emotional capacity to do that right now.  I have been called many things for deciding to live my life this way, but the only thing I can do is be satisfied with knowing I am doing what's best for me.  I'm not cold.  I'm not heartless.  I'm human and I'm figuring out this crazy thing called life one experience at a time.  I absolutely make mistakes, but they're just lessons in disguise.

I'm a firm believer that there comes a point in every person's life where they should be Priority #1 and I'm definitely at that point in my life.  I'm learning to clear the clutter and excess noise in my brain and create space for myself.  In doing so, I'll come out a much happier person in the end.  Speaking of happy, I should be working on that little presentation so I can look forward to happily being hooded on Thursday as a Master of Public Health :)

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Who says you can't go home?


That's about the only way to describe heading back home & leaving behind 4 months of friends, memories, and an invaluable experience on Hilton Head Island.  I was proud of myself for not crying when I left work on Friday or even when I said goodbye to the girls.  I don't like goodbyes (I feel as if that's so cliche -- does anybody like goodbyes?) and it's no secret that I am not an outwardly emotional person, so I tried to keep things as light as possible.  Unfortunately, the second I hit I-95, I turned into a great big baby and more or less cried the entire way home.  When it's just you, the road, and the radio, you're more or less stuck with your thoughts & forced to face your feelings.  I think I felt just about every emotion possible in that 4 hour drive back to the upstate.

Sad and scared to leave my bubble.
Excited to see my family.
Terrified of what's to come.
Anxious over the uncertainty.
Grateful for the experience.

It was a very contemplative and melancholy drive, thinking about how drastically different my life is now compared to what it was the first time I made that 4 hour drive.  It's amazing how much can change in such a short period of time when you're open to the idea of change and willing to accept that you're not in control.  I returned home a different person, and for everyone who had a hand in that over the past few months, I am eternally grateful.

To be honest, going back home was the last thing I wanted to do.  I was bitter about it & not looking forward to it at all.  I have essentially burned every bridge here and feel as if I've completely outgrown the small town life.  The hardest part is coming home to something so familiar after everything has changed.  Home isn't the same as when I left it, but then again, neither am I.  Surprisingly, it's been a blessing in disguise.  I'm already more relaxed and less stressed.  Life is slower here.  I have time to catch up on things that got away from me.  Time to enjoy being with my family and watch my nephews play ball.  Time to enjoy the beauty of the foothills.  Yesterday, Roxy and I hiked some nature trails and enjoyed a nice ride around the lake and our farm.  It was so amazing.  I definitely took for granted how beautiful it is up here and how nice it is to just slow down and enjoy every minute of every day.  Roxy definitely enjoys the great outdoors -- take a look for yourself and tell me she doesn't look like she'd make a great farm dog!

Reunited! So glad my little lady remembered me.
Just another beautiful day on the farm.  I forgot how truly amazing life is here.
Roxy exploring the barn.
She definitely has a future in farm work.
Driving away from the island made me realize more than ever how truly happy I am at this point in my life, despite the overwhelming uncertainty of my next step.  I don't know where I'm going or what's coming my way, but I'm ready for whatever it is.  Now is my time.  I've been hearing a lot of "I hope you find whatever it is you're looking for."  What people don't understand is that I'm looking for me and I'm having a blast doing it so far.  What better time to continue to discover myself than at this pivotal point in my life?  Stay tuned -- when I find her, you'll know.

Friday, April 13, 2012

"Every new beginning..."

"...comes from some other beginning's end."  Closing Time, Semisonic

I thought it was pretty fitting to start off with my senior quote from my high school yearbook.  Six years ago, I would never have dreamed that I am where I am now, closing one chapter and ready to begin another.  As I sit in our humble little cottage at the beach preparing for my last day of work, I am thinking about all the great memories I have made over the past 16 weeks and what a wonderful, indescribable, eye-opening experience this has been.  I only think I've said it about 100 times, but I learned invaluable information about myself and the world and have had some of the best moments of my life here.  Life as I knew it is dead and gone and I'm leaving here is such a different state than when I left.

I think the hardest part about leaving here is facing reality.  I'm ready to leave the island, but I'm not ready for all the responsibilities that come along with an independent adult.  I'm not ready to leave my safe little bubble at H3.  The second hardest part about the end of this internship is leaving the 3 girls who have kept me sane over the past 4 months.  Without the other interns, I probably would have fallen apart long ago.  We quickly learned that we roll "4 deep" and I'm lucky to have had these girls around through this experience. We've not only had some great nights at the Triangle, but movies, wine and gossip at the cottage, inappropriate but hilarious conversations around the dinner table, and other unmentionable adventures along the way.  We joke that this situation was a little like the Real World -- girls from all over the country thrown together and hoping for the best.  We live together, work together, eat together, and go out together.  Spending so much time together could have been disastrous, but somehow it worked and I'm lucky to have found friends in these girls.  I've also learned a lot about myself and life through being around them and conversations we've had.  It's so hard to imagine waking up on Monday morning at my parent's house and not seeing Samantha curled up with Pandy or having our morning conversation over breakfast.  I will especially miss the mornings playing catch-up after a night of going out for "one drink".

We're going back to our respective parts of the U.S. over the next few weeks, but we've got big plans for yearly reunions.  Until then, here's to you girls ;)

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Panic mode

11 days. That's it. This time next week I'll be packing up, teaching my last few classes, & saying my goodbyes. I'm not gonna lie -- I'm freaking out. It's almost as if time is speeding up & everything is spiraling out of control. So much to do over the next few weeks & not nearly enough time to get it done. If only I could press pause or slow things down a bit just so I can catch up & keep my head above water. If my adult life is going to be spent playing catch-up from the get-go, then I'm content to never grow up.

But I'm ready. I'm ready for things to start falling into place. I think the most stressful thing at this point is the uncertainty of where I'll end up. My plan was to have sort of job lead by the end of this internship, but as of now, it looks like everything is still up in the air & I'm going back home for a while. I've been applying to jobs, but lately I haven't found any positions that I'm qualified for or that I'm really interested in. It's definitely not for lack of trying -- I'm wracking my brain & spending hours upon hours wading through the world wide web. I know the "economy is tough" and I need to "be patient" but it isn't helping ease my stress any. I'm so thankful for friends and fellow interns who send jobs & ideas my way. Every little bit helps, so if you've got ideas or connections, I'm all ears!

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Where did the time go?

I've known all along that my days here were numbered, but the past 14 weeks have FLOWN by! I think I've been in denial about leaving, but I have to face it now that I've only got 2 weeks here. In the next 2 weeks, I've got to accomplish A LOT: finish an evaluation of the employee wellness program here at H3, deal with everything school-related that I've been putting off (namely the presentation I have to make on what I've accomplished here), get ready for hooding, a beach trip & a friend's wedding, and figure out my next step on the job front.

"One can never consent to creep when one feels an impulse to soar."

I mentioned this quote in a previous post.  My mom emailed me this when I was having a really rough day and the words just spoke to me.  I don't think she realized it had such an effect on me, but these words continue to echo in my life.  I realized a few weeks ago that I don't want to go back to the upstate. I kept grinding at the job search, but neither Greenville or Spartanburg ever made it to the "location" box on any of my searches.  I think it all started with a conversation with one of the culinary interns about a possible job in New York City.  It sounded so amazing and I realized that I want that for myself -- a job that I love in a new, fun city.  Essentially, an offer I just can't refuse.  For those of you who know me well, you know this is so unlike me.  I have never been the type of person to just pick up & go.  Everything in my life requires methodical planning and change is not something I adapt to very well.  However, I've been writing about how much I've learned about life, myself, and the world as we know it, and I've come to the conclusion that it's time for me to do something new.  I'm ready for a big change.  I'm ready to see what life has to offer, where I will end up, and what kind of contribution I can make to society.  I'm ready to soar.

I've also learned a lot lately about the person I have been, the person I am, and the person I want to be.  While the idea of moving to a city where no one knows me is a bit intriguing, I've come to the conclusion that I have to know me.  I have to figure out who I am as an adult -- especially since I may not have people around who just "get me."  I don't want to be the kind of person people forget.  I want to live every day in hopes of making someone else's day.  I want to be a servant of the Lord and mankind and take happiness wherever I go.  Somehow, I've gotten so lucky lately to have people come into my life who make me want to be a better person.  Their attitude and outlook on life is so infectious.

The road ahead is quite scary, but I'm comforted by the fact that everything does happen for a reason. I've been looking for and applying to jobs in Nashville, Charlotte, and Atlanta, which is both nerve-wracking and exciting.  No bites yet, but I'm keeping and open mind and my fingers crossed.  Things may or may not work out the way I want, but I'll end up exactly where I need to be.  That's the beauty of this ride -- everything serves as a learning experience for what's to come and everything will fall into place just how it's meant to.

Having fun, while we're still young & beautiful

I know, I know -- it's been way too long since my last blog post. I've been extremely busy with my final project, searching for jobs, and a lot of soul searching. I joke that this internship basically turned my life upside down (mostly for the best), but I'll save that for a later post.

The other girls & I have been doing a lot of celebrating here lately. I thought I hung up my party hat, but I think we all got hit pretty hard with the realization that we're being pushed out into the real world sooner than we might like, and we need to live it up while we can. The past few weeks have been filled with bachelorette parties, a last-minute trip to Atlanta to see DJ Pauly D, St. Patrick's Day festivities in Savannah, my birthday, Ashlee's birthday, and now my 2 "moms" are here for the week to vacay with me.

We've had a blast & created some incredible memories along the way. I'm thankful for my time on this crazy island & the chance to just live before I have to do that whole responsible grown-up thing.

The bachelorette crew with the band
DJ Pauly D. 
Party crew in Savannah
My parents had cupcakes delivered to me! Vegan, of course.
Flowers for the birthday girl.
Starting off birthday celebrations at Frosty's.
Ashlee's birthday -- we needed another excuse to visit our friends at Frosty's.
The J Squad
Mama P & me

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Footprints on the Heart

Thank you. To everyone who I've crossed paths with over the past 11 weeks: Thank you. I'm a firm believer that everyone who comes into your life, no matter how long they stay, leaves footprints on your heart. I am so grateful to those of you who encouraged me to explore job opportunities in Nashville & Atlanta; those of you who have helped me realize my potential; those of you who spoke wisdom & kindness when I needed it most; those of you who inspired me to be a fitter person; and of course those of you who pressured me into going out dancing on a Monday night when I had a 6:30 wake up call on Tuesday -- it was so worth it. There are also people who have stepped into my life that I'm not entirely fond of -- but I'm thankful for them as well for showing me what not to do. Some people may never know the ways in which they've shaped my life & how I view the world. That's unfortunate, but I will always remember.

The other interns & I became pretty close with a younger guest who was here for an extended stay. She was such an inspiration & I'm so thankful for the opportunity to meet so many wonderful people here. She gave us these bracelets as a parting gift.

It serves as a reminder to remember who I am, why I am, where I am, how I got here, and how I'm going to grow in order to get where I'm going. For each of those things, and each of the people involved in every step of the way, I am grateful.

Friday, March 2, 2012

My Vision

This week, there was a lecture offered called "Re-inventing Yourself." Of course I planned to go -- I've been making a lot of realizations this week so what do I have to lose by doing a little more soul-searching?

We started by brainstorming how we want to feel about different aspects & relationships in our lives and then cut out pictures and words from magazines that capture those feelings. It's basically a media portrayal of my vision statement I made a few weeks ago. As if I haven't said it enough, I feel like 2012 is really my year to be the best me possible and it's also a year of big transitions, so my board definitely reflects that.
Are you on the right course? Don't ignore the signs. "I know it's hard to reconciled. Not everything is exactly the way it ought to be. But please turn around & step into the future. Leave memories behind & enter the land of hope." (Zbigniew Herbert) Sound mind, sound body. I realized today is the day I write my own story.  The movement ignites hearts and inspires emotion. Finding peace in a frantic world. An orchid in full bloom. Your fittest year.  The new me.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Becoming an adult in 6 weeks

Well, it's official:  6 weeks left to go!  It's hard to believe how fast the time has gone by.  I have learned and experienced so much over the past 2.5 months and in 1.5, I'll be forced out into that thing everyone calls the "real world."  With that said, I've been doing some job searching and, naturally, freaking out a bit with all that entails (Many thanks to those of you trying to keep me sane during this process!).  But more on that later ;)  In less stressful news, I have decided on a final project to work on over the next few weeks!  I'll be working with the Marketing Coordinator to evaluate & improve Operation Health, H3's employee health program.  I'm very excited about working on this since many of the jobs I'm looking into deal with corporate wellness.

The past few weeks have been jam packed:  Ginna, one of my best buds, came to visit, then I had a visit from my parents, we celebrated Fat Tuesday, had an awesome weekend with the lovely Lauren Spires in Charleston, and this week the other interns and I painted at a local studio and we are planning a bachelorette party for this weekend.  It was so awesome seeing my friends and family.  Mardi Gras was a much-needed event -- we decided to get off the plantation, let our hair down, and celebrate in Fat Tuesday style.  My trip to Charleston last weekend was a bit of a last-minute one, but so worth it.  Lauren and I had a long-overdue reunion and I was more than ready to get off the island and just let down.  I was so glad to just spend some time with her and enjoy good food and drinks.  How lucky I was to find Lauren all those years ago on Craigslist! Glad she didn't turn out to the be Craigslist killer ;)  We tried out a restaurant called Black Bean Co., which further ignited my dream of someday owning a vegan restaurant.  We also ate at Triangle, one of Lauren's favorites.  It's easy to see why -- check out my veggie burger and sweet potato fries (with apple butter!).  I also got to meet some of Lauren's Charleston friends, including the lucky man in her life-- shout out to Dana, my new favorite person!

The lovely Ginna Goode & me
Me with my parents atop the HHI lighthouse
Mardi Gras goodies
Reunited with my bestie!
Vegan cupcake from Black Bean Co.
Making veganism sexy -- one veggie burger at a time!
My finished mermaid from Artist Uncorked, a BYO painting studio

Monday, February 27, 2012

Discovering JP: Part 2

Finally getting around to Part 2 of what's been going on lately!  The fact that the 2 posts are so far apart should give you some kind of inclination as to how busy I've been and how I'm too exhausted to write at the end of the day.  I gave a heads up in Part 1 about The Art of Letting Go, but it's so much more than that.  This is gonna be a long we go.

It's amazing how we can just roll along in life thinking everything is dandy and then something comes along and creates ripples on the water.  The gears started really turning as I was sitting in a lecture called Surviving Life Transitions.  I in no way, shape, or form thought this lecture would be relevant to me (since our clientele is middle-aged, I just KNEW this lecture was going to be about mid-life crises and empty-nesting), but dang if I didn't come out with my mind really blown.  I guess I really didn't want to think about it, but I'm at a HUGE turning point in my life and this lecture really dredged up everything I have been repressing.  I've only got 8 weeks left here.  8 weeks before I am turned out into the real world.  School is really over this time.  It's time to start being a grown up.  And that honestly scares the crap out of me.  The lecture brought up this idea of "sitting in the hallway."  In order to truly move from one point in your life to the next, you have to sit in the darkness of the in-between.  And it sucks. Really bad.  But in order to grow, it's essential that you address the feelings that come up and just sit in the emotion.  I don't like it. Not one bit.  I liked my safe life before I started thinking about all the "what-ifs".  This phase is likened to the old saying about preferring the devil you do know to the devil you don't.

This is where The Art of Letting Go comes in.  Not only am I terrified of the next chapter when this one ends, I have a slight issue with being in control (maybe "slight" is an understatement for those of you who know me well...).     Unfortunately for me, true happiness comes from letting go -- the process of releasing what's holding you down. The first step?  Admission of powerlessness.  Ouch. Fortunately, when you let go, you allow more opportunities to happen.  Each person in class made a "let-go list".  Here's mine:

  • Resentment
  • Fear
  • Being in control 
  • Expectations
Expectations.  That's the one I just can't let go of. These lectures made me realize that I am not where I thought I would be at this point in my life and there's not one single thing I can do about it...except come to terms with reality and continue to surround myself with positivity.  I am forced to let go of the picture I had for my life and create a new one. For some, a chance to start over is ideal.  For me, I'd love to remain comfortable in the familiar.  Luckily for me, I am surrounded by wise and uplifting people and this came through just when I needed it:
I don't know where things are going from here and that's terrifying.  I have been blessed with this awesome experience and through my time here I have grown so much.  One of my fears is that I will outgrow some of those I love, then where does that leave me?  Last week, a friend of mine said something along the lines of, "I'm ready to press play on my life," and that's exactly how I feel.  Everyone else seems as if their life is on track and I'm just waiting for mine to start. My 2012 life plan was to hang out at the beach for 16 weeks, get a job, and get married and for now, it seems like only 1 of those things is a sure thing.  So for now, I'm left sitting in the hallway of the unknown.  Anyone want to keep me company?

Some quotes that are pretty relevant to me right now:
One can never consent to creep when one feels an impulse to soar.  --Helen Keller 
(My mom sent me this quote last week just when I needed it!)
People have a hard time letting go of their suffering.  Out of fear of the unknown, they prefer suffering that is familiar.  --Thich Nhat Hanh
Listen closely; there is so much to be heard in the silence.
When I let go of what I am, I can become what I might be. --Lao Tzu

Sunday, February 19, 2012


Today I have found myself needing to vent.  Which is unfortunate because that's not exactly the vision I had for this blog, but as it relates to being vegan and my life experience in general, here goes.

I'm tired of feeling like I'm being punished for being vegan.

It all started with salad bar day.  Last week, it was obvious that all of the guests with special dietary needs had gone home.  Usually when there is at least one other guest with a special diet, I have no problem finding something to eat (see my post about the brownies).  But last week, the pickings were slim.  Luckily, there were a few jewels hidden away in the kitchen and all hope was restored.  This week, not so much.  The dressings of choice were all cream based and there was hardly anything on the salad bar that was vegetarian, much less vegan.  On a Mexican-themed salad bar, that left me eating 1 corn tortilla filled with beans, corn, and salsa. No cheesy stuffed peppers for me! Talk about feeling low on the totem pole... (Yes, I do understand how hard it must be to prepare one separate meal or dish when you're preparing meals for 50+ and I'm lucky for the opportunity to enjoy these meals on a daily basis. But still -- frustrated.)

Today was probably the icing on the cake.  My parents were in town visiting, which was such a special treat!  Mom & I headed out for breakfast this morning.  Stopped by the hotel continental breakfast which was too much of a non-vegan overload for me and decided to head to a local cafe.  I had heard great things about the place -- and I'm sure it's delicious -- but I wasn't about to rack up a bill from the a la carte menu when the only things I could eat there were available at the hotel.  So, back to the hotel we went for a breakfast of a bagel, peanut butter, and a banana.  

For lunch, we ended up at Fuddrucker's because it was close, and that was OK with me because I knew they had veggie burgers.  Little did I know that I would end up with a veggie burger stuffed with bits of cheese and a bun slathered in butter and grilled. WHY?!  Sometimes I feel like such a diva complaining or making special requests or shutting down where someone wants to eat.  After all, I chose to have a "restricted" diet.  But I also chose a healthy lifestyle for me, and when I remember that statement, I remember that I have a right to be frustrated about this!  I heard someone here say once "I try to eat as close to the ground as possible and if I don't know what's in it, why eat it?". I have begun to adopt this way of thinking because it's good for me & it's good for the environment. (On a somewhat related tangent, I have discovered that Oreos are completely vegan and there is nothing creamy about that classic "cream" filling! Good for me in the event I ever have a craving, but terribly sad in the way of, "If it's not cream, what is it?". And more than once, I've heard "Well why would you be eating Oreos if you're vegan?". Being vegan doesn't mean I'm perfect, people! Yes, even I have flaws. I do love eating healthfully, but I do enjoy "junk food" every now & then, just like you -- don't judge.) Everyone else may think veganism is stupid, and that's ok, too.  But I deserve just as many food choices as the number of pattied options at Fuddrucker's.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Round 2

***See my update at the end!
Just finished planning out my Cardio Cross Train class for tonight and I'm ready. Ready to kick butt & take names.

Tonight, we will be doing a class similar to CrossFit: a set number of reps & intervals done over a certain length of time. Typically, the CrossFit WOD (workout of the day) includes cardio and some weight intervals, but we'll be doing simple cardio with body weight to keep things from getting too hectic. The schedule for tonight looks like this:

15 jacks
10 burpees
Run the length of the room 5 times

That's 1 round. We're going for as many rounds as possible in 10 minutes.

Jump rope 20 times
10 squat jumps
5 jacks

Again, as many rounds as possible in 10 minutes.

Depending on how I'm feeling & if the participants are still alive & kicking, I'll throw some power lunges in between the rounds.

For core, I'm doing 2 minute intervals.

10 plank walks
5 rope climbs

Push forward & backward in plank 8 times
4 full sit ups

Each interval for 2 minutes, as many rounds as possible.

What do think will be the reaction from tonight's workout. Stay tuned!
Try it out & let me know what you think!

I can't win -- they still complained!  Halfway through, they were saying how it was hard work & they wanted to stop. No!  After class, I all but forced them to tell me what they do like since they made it pretty clear what they don't. They like last week better!  So...back to square one next week.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Discovering JP: Part 1

And now, for the main event!  The blog I intended to write last week before I felt the need to vent.  But before I even start, let me take a quick timeout to say
The results are in and I am ecstatic to report that I passed that 6-hour monstrosity of an exam that determines whether I get that little thing called an MPH.  I can now rest easy and enjoy the final 8 weeks of my practicum!

I'd like to take another quick minute to extend this session of bragging on myself.  As I wrapped up my rotation in Lifestyle Management, I was asked to create materials for a new lecture topic:  Menopause.  Because the typical guest here is at least 45, menopause and the symptoms it brings affects many of our guests.  Weight gain. Moodiness. Hot flashes.  What can I expect and how do I begin to deal with it?  Those are some of the areas I attempted to broach and even made a handout for the men who find themselves dealing with menopause by default.  And I overhead our behavioral counselor saying the presentation I put together was "excellent."  So excellent, in fact, that it's on the schedule this week to be presented! Go me. :D

Now, onward!  Warning:  This post might get lengthy.  But it's all for a good cause.  I had no idea that so many lectures and life principles discussed here would be relevant to me, but I am on a journey of growth and self-discovery and am looking forward to the person who emerges from this experience.  

I'm thinking I'll split this post up and start with the shortest part first:  My vision.  In a class titled "Mastering Motivation", we created a vision statement.  We started by reviewing the 10 common mistakes when it comes to behavior change:
  1. Relying on willpower for long-term change
  2. Attempting big leaps instead of baby steps
  3. Ignoring how environment shapes behavior
  4. Trying to stop old behaviors instead of creating new ones
  5. Blaming failures on lack on motivation
  6. Underestimating the power of triggers
  7. Believing that information alone leads to action
  8. Focusing on abstract goals more than concrete behaviors
  9. Seeking to change behavior forever, not for a short time
  10. Assuming that behavior change is difficult
Then we created a vision statement for ourselves based on Simon Sinek's Golden Circle:  WHY you want to change, HOW you want to change, and WHAT it will mean.  We wrote these down on cards and had them laminated.  Here's mine:
I will become a practicing model of what I preach.  I will take every measure to become my fittest & best self -- able to complete any task or challenge.  I will be a model for others & live healthier longer.
It has been in my purse, but I have learned this week that it needs to stay in clearer view.  On the back is a mantra I came up with for when I am feeling weak:  Will I regret this later?  

Now I've shared my vision with the world, so there's no turning back now.  I have a vision in my mind of what I want JP to be, and now I have a vision on paper of what I'm going to be.  What is your vision of your best self?  

Oh yeah, and we watched the video below to give us a little kick in the rear ;)

Stay tuned for the next installment, The Art of Letting Go.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Sorry, Mrs. Roosevelt... were wrong.

If "no one can make you feel inferior without your consent" then why am I forgoing my original blog post because I'm feeling a little down in the dumps?

Not only do I feel like I've been thrown to the wolves, those wolves chewed me up and spit me out.  Needless to say, my first class at the new gym did not go so well.  I actually planned a pretty sweet circuit class, so the class itself was great.  But it was made apparent tonight that I have pretty big shoes to fill.  I didn't realize until I stepped into the arena also known as the aerobics studio that I was taking over an already-established class with a beloved instructor.  The fitness programming is undergoing some changes so the Wednesday night instructor moved to Thursday and I fell right into her old slot.  I'll never be her and my class style will never be the same as hers -- but try telling that to the wolves.  I felt like the outsider from the moment someone asked, "Are we not doing stations?" and the response to my "We are" was a glance at me, the clock, then back at me with pursed lips.  The energy was low and a few of the participants were giving each other "the eye" and I even lip-read "kinda boring"!  I'm sorry, I don't feel like I should be blamed if you're taking it easy.

Long story short, I'm going back next week and thoroughly kicking their butts.  At the end of every class, I always ask and welcome feedback and make it known that it does not hurt my feelings -- it only helps me to make the class better.  It never fails -- the eye-rollers and constant complainers never approach me.  With that being said, I'll adjust the class accordingly without their input.  Until then, I'm recovering by painting my nails, watching Glee, and enjoying a nice glass of vino.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

These Days

This weekend was UH-MAY-ZING.  Every day, I think about how blessed I am for this experience.  Thursday after work, we busted out of there and headed to the beach.  We spent most of our time there Saturday and Sunday, too -- I'm loving 70 degree weather in February!  Besides that, things around here have been pretty low-key.  Working my day away and going to bed early.  Typical intern life.
No beach day would be complete without views like this!

I'm in my Program Development rotation this week.  I really think this might be where I spend my last 6-8 weeks.  This week I'm researching some new recreation ideas and coming up with a vegan/vegetarian meal plan to be used in the meal planning class.

One of the part-time instructors here put me in touch with the coordinator at BreakThrough, a local gym looking to re-vamp their program.  She overheard me teaching a class and was quite impressed with me :)  I visited the gym last week & attended a class called "Cardio Cross-Train" that they want me to take over.  I'll start that tomorrow so there's an extra $25 in my pocket each week!

Nothing else too exciting going on around here, except planning for St. Patrick's Day in Savannah and eagerly awaiting the arrival of my girl Ginna Goode this weekend!

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Tough Day on the Job

Friday was probably the hardest day I have had here so far.  I was given a task that very emotionally exhausting.  This week, there was a guest facilitator for a workshop titled Overcoming Emotional Eating.  The guests who come here as part of the conference spend Monday-Wednesday doing typical activities, with a few lectures by the facilitator.  Thursday-Saturday, the participants are involved in more in-depth sessions and activities with the facilitator and meet as a group.  On Friday, we took a field trip.  I drove the group to Publix for a little shopping trip.  But not just any shopping trip.

Before we left, I was clued in that this was part of the workshop process to overcome emotional eating.  The group was going to have to pick out their "trigger" foods, talk about them, then put them back.  Just as we were walking out the door, the facilitator said to me, "Grab a pen and paper.  I'm going to need you to do a little spying."  Oh, crap, what am I getting myself into?!

Once the guests were partnered up & turned loose in the store, I was given a little more details about this experience.  My task was to keep track of some of the most important triggers mentioned by each person.  Then she dropped the bomb:  I was going to have to come back, buy all of the food, and the guests were going to be confronted with it the next day.

I felt sick.  What a cruel trick.  But, I was trusting of this process.  The facilitator knew what she was doing and I had actually seen this on a few episodes of A&E's Heavy.  The process of following the guests through the store was actually very interesting -- to listen to them talk about the moods and emotions they experienced and how they coped and tried to cover up their feelings with food.  It was a little jokey at first, as each guest talked about how picky they were -- there are specific brands, flavors, etc. that make the trigger.  Then things got a little more serious.  As each individual described not only what was in their cart, but how much they ate and the method to the madness, I felt even more sick.  Especially knowing they had such an addiction and I was coming back later to purchase their drugs.  It also made me angry, that as a society we have gotten to a point in which we are so emotionally over-stimulated and food has become so convenient and comforting that we over-indulge so easily.

The worst part?  I wanted to drive straight home & eat.  But I didn't. I couldn't let myself.  And I'm sure you're wondering just what became of this:

Whoppers, doritos, and pizza, OH MY!  

It wasn't so much of a cruel joke as an important step in the quitting process.  An addict admitting there is a problem and being confronted with it.  The guests were surprised with the food and then forced to face it.  In what I can only imagine was a very exhausting and emotional process, they then said goodbye to their trigger foods and buried them.  I wish all of those ladies the best in their struggle with food.

During the entire experience, I thought about a saying that I have heard here quite a bit:

There is not enough food in this world to cover up what you're feeling

If emotional eating is something you struggle with, remember this next time you head to the cabinet or grocery store:
What you're looking for is not in here.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Friday Gratitude

Today will be my last public post about gratitude, but I will do my best to continue journaling my gratitude each day and I encourage you to do the same.  It really has created a little stockpile of happiness for me!

I'm grateful for:

Human kind.  There is plenty of evil and hatred in the world, but today I was refreshed by the kindness of one of our guests.  The same guest who photographed me yesterday bid farewell to us today.  He said his goodbyes during lunch & left the interns a card and a little bag.  After he left, we opened the bag to find gift cards for each of us to cash in for a mani-pedi a local spa.  I still don't know what to say.

These guys.

And of course the mothers who birthed them!  Being in such close proximity to my niece and nephews when they were born was wonderful, but when I left for college, they just might be the ones I miss most!  They say and do the funniest things and it's hard missing out. But I'm so grateful they were brought into this world healthy & happy & spreading joy with their wonderful little personalities.

Gratitude: Day 3

Today I am grateful for:

The chance to meet amazing people.  I have met so many people with amazing stories.  Each person is truly unique and has given me much to think about.  Today especially, I am grateful for 1 guest who has been quite a treat to get to know.  He loves to take pictures and takes his camera on every outing. He somewhat hijacked our sunrise walk this morning and this is what I have to show for it.

Pretty sweet, huh?

South Carolina weather.  Y'all, not only did I not have to wear a jacket on the beach this morning, I went back to the beach in shorts after work!  In February! My life is pretty awesome.