A Day of Learning

When you’re in school, you get spoon-fed knowledge while you are just sitting here. Study, take a test, repeat. Day in and day out.

But when you’re an adult you have to work for it. Look up a Wikipedia article, read, and fall down a rabbit hole of information that you have to yank yourself out of. And that’s only a couple of hours of learning.

And that’s if what you’re doing has a Wikipedia article for it. Otherwise, it’s the old tried and true method of making a mistake and learning from it next time.

I made a lot of mistakes today. I was busy, and I wasn’t slowing down. But instead of being down on it and beating myself up over it, I’ve realized that when you’re busy, and you make a mistake, it means you’re having a day of learning. Just like when you were in school. And for me, I’d do anything to feel like I was back in school.

So, don’t forget to take some time to learn while you’re busy. Because if you’re doing nothing at all, you’re not making mistakes, and you’re not learning.

Love,

Bailey

If Life Was Like Wood Shop Class

Remember in high school when you had math class, and English class, and chemistry? Okay, now that I’ve brought up those painful memories, I’m going to bring up some more. Remember art class? Home Ec (which is now referred to as something more politically correct)? And finally, wood shop? Bring up anything in the way of fuzzy feelings?

I didn’t think so.

Wood shop was especially torturous for me. Creating things with my hands was just beyond my physical and mental faculties. I was all, how am I supposed to shape this amorphous block into a fine, handcrafted clock? And really, what high school student could? It wasn’t like anyone was sitting with their father or mother, or even legal guardian, on the weekends in the garage, carving a totem pole while they listened to the oldies on the radio. And even if some people were, could that really translate into an acute skill that would allow you to make a wood craft after six weeks of being in the class? Heck, we learned how to sand things for two weeks!

But the fact that I was unable to do many of the things I was asked to do was completely lost on my wood shop teacher. Sure, there were some young ladies in my class who simply were afraid of the great big scary machines, which meant that my teacher had to step in and do the work for them. Drill the holes and sand it down, while they watched.

And then, there were people like me who simply wanted the final product to look good, so I allowed my teacher to think I was afraid of the big scary machines, and he would do it for me. And whatever I (he) made, came out looking great.

Right now, I wish life was like wood shop class.

I wish there was someone to step in when things seem scary. I wish there was someone I could call on when I’m not quite sure how to proceed. And especially, I wish there was someone to take over to make things look perfect and good. (Instead of the crazy mess I sometimes leave when trying to figure out my life.)

But no matter how much I still have painful flashbacks about the class, life isn’t like wood shop. There’s no one to help you to get it right and even less people when you get it wrong.

And besides, life has never been about creating something perfect. You just have to trust yourself to create something beautiful and hope that you don’t cut your finger off in the process. And you gotta do it all by yourself. Because in the end, you’ll be prouder of the things you tried to do than the things you actually accomplished with someone else’s help.

Held Back

I’m not sure if anyone gets held back in school anymore. I feel like nowadays students can go to summer school or do some extra credit to boost their scores and keep themselves from becoming little Ferris Buellers. But once upon a time, if you failed a couple classes in a grade, then you would have to stay back until you were taught a thing or two.

Sometimes, I think life is holding me back a grade.

Why? Because I can’t seem to move forward. And I’m sure at one point, everyone has felt this way. But if you haven’t, it sort of feels like you should have accomplished so much more at this time in your life. It’s a crippling sense of your own personal failure, and it is coupled with the aromatic scent of ramen noodles and spilled beer.

I mean, I am constantly hearing how one decision someone made in their twenties completely changed everything for them. Yes, the moment I decided to live in the wilderness of Alaska is when I realized that I was meant to be a tuba player. 

So, I ask myself: Shouldn’t I be doing something…I don’t know…important? Before I get too numb to the world and start having sleep-deprivating children?

And the troubling part is every other 20-something I know (EXCEPT ME) seems like they’re moving right along in the current called life. They’ve already figured it out. They land a job, move out, and find their soulmate in about a month. And a month later, they’re pregnant. Not that I’m totally envious of all that. (I like sleep way more than I’d like a child right now. But you can eat whatever you want…)

But really, what gives?

And sure, everyone tells you that you shouldn’t rush it. You’ll get there. You’re a late bloomer. You’ll figure it all out. But I can’t help but think that I’ve been waiting my whole life to grow up. And at the same time, I’m still waiting for it to hit me that I already am.

Which is why I’ve come to the very sound hypothesis that I’m being held back a grade in life. For some reason, the universe is confident that I am not ready. And if I think about it, I think whoever is making that decision is right. I’m not ready. I need time to puzzle things out about the rest of my life, even though the calendar says that it’s time that I had everything together.

But more than that, I also feel that I have more to learn. I honestly think that life has been trying to show me, trying to help me understand, what I need to do to pass this grade level, and I’ve been ignoring it. It’s like I have a blindfold on, and I’m lifting my foot up to step over an obstacle, but when my foot hits brick, I realize that I can’t step over the obstacle because it is an entire wall that I need to scale. So, I reach out and feel along the wall and realize that I don’t have the tools for climbing the wall, either. I’m not equipped yet, and I think life knows it. But I’m also not sure when that will happen for me. So, I grow impatient, and I bloody my knuckles from hitting the wall out of frustration.

The point is, I don’t know where I’m going or what I’m doing or even when I’ll get there. That’s for life to decide. But I also need to trust in the process. Because I’ve always been exactly where I’ve needed to be before. And I will get there again, someday. And so, assuredly, will you.

Ma’am, Put the Cookie Down and Step Away

Authority. We all know that it likes to wear shiny black boots. We may call it the po-po or the fuzz, but it also comes in the form of our first-grade teacher, our doctor, and our dear, sweet mother.

From the moment life begins, we encounter this over-arching presence that works in the name of our safety and tells us that we need to follow orders, for our health and the health of others. And like I said, this presence comes in many forms.

Except, one day you’re an adult. Somewhere between losing a bunch of baby teeth and earning your first dollar that isn’t allowance, you become the authority. That’s right. You start to realize that you are the captain of your soul.  You are driving this bus, and you, only you, can turn the steering wheel left or right.

So, why do you still feel like you need to do certain things to live a satisfying life? Or even have a good day at all? Why do you feel like there’s a Twister board, and you need to step on green and put a hand on yellow to feel fulfilled? Why do you feel like you have to follow the directions in the box instead of creating your own?

A succinct but sad example. Today, I had some tasks to do after work. But I couldn’t do them until I exercised. But, as is usually the case, I didn’t feel much like going to the gym, which inevitably halted my progress. (I know. This story seems as painful in the retelling as it was when I was experiencing it.) So, I finally decided that I would take a walk. And upon that decision, I asked aloud:

“But is that enough?”

Is that enough!? What do you mean by that? I had to ask myself. According to what? To whom? Who is measuring my daily progress? Who is pinching my fat rolls and telling me that I should have gone to the gym? Who says that I need to complete so many things a day in order to be allowed to exist?

The answer is I don’t.

This may be difficult to understand, but there isn’t going to be anyone leaning over your shoulder, making sure you fill any kind of quota once you have left work for the day or school for life. No one is going to berate you for not working out. No one is going to scream at you for not attending that party you said you’d go to. And no one is going to leap out of your cupboard and smack the cookie out of your hand that you snuck in the wee hours of the morning.

Now, you’ll have to live with whatever decision you make. And that’s an entirely different kind of punishment. But that also means that you can let yourself off the hook indefinitely.

When you’re the authority of your own life, not only can you decide the consequences but you can define the rules.

Whatever Helps You to Sleep at Night

At first, the title of this blog post seems really dismissive. Like, that sounds great. You do you. Whatever you need to make your eyes close and fall asleep when you have to. (Basically, whatever you need to shut up is totally yours.)

Except, if you look closer and harder, you will realize that, quite simply, that this is the key to life.

You see, I’m sure you’ll be able to recognize the following situation: you slip into some comfortable clothes at the end of the day. Then you jump into bed, get out again to turn off the light that you have forgotten to flick off, and then jump back in. You sort of rub your face on the pillows and pull the sheets just under your chin. Depending on your sleeping persuasion, you then curl into a ball, lie on your back to align your organs, or hike one knee over your shoulder and spread out as far as possible with your tongue hanging out. You count sheep, or fall directly asleep. Riding a wave of your own breathing, no matter how frenzied or smooth.

Until.

You think of something that you could have done during the day. You realize that there was something you could have finished, something you could have started. Something that you could have spent more time on, but you didn’t.

And for whatever reason that is, you didn’t. You were too tired. You had too many things to do. You ran late for some things, were too early for others. You had to put even more others above your own needs and wants.

Yet, here you are, sleepless and incomplete. Hoping beyond hope that you will get a “tomorrow” so that you can finish more things. But of course, not everything. There’s no way to finish everything.

So, my point is that you have to pick and choose. You will always have to do that. But in order to feel complete, you have to stop looking at your priorities as a deadline-driven list. Instead, you need to decide what will help you to sleep at night. Whether that means skipping the gym and going shopping or practicing yoga when you’d rather just fall asleep. At the literal end of the day, you will have to realize that whatever helps you to roll over and dream is better than torturing yourself with a living nightmare.

And at the end of your life, there is nothing more satisfying than a job well done for a long night’s sleep.

Do It For The Story

This was both the slogan and the excuse during college.

Wait, you have a test tomorrow? No, no, no, dude. DUDE. We need to rob a bank, grab some corn dogs, jump the fence to the community center, and draw mustaches on all of the “Rent-a-Cop” posters. 

And any sensible person would at least ask why. But your friends already knew the answer: It’s so that you can be the coolest person at the party, strangers gathered around, beer in one hand and the other hand slightly raised in the air, describing how you scaled the fence to the community center only to find that your best friend was hanging from his underwear at the top. Like your friend, all of the people at the party are also hanging: on your every word.

And really, this isn’t news. Humans have a long oral history. We love stories. It’s how we communicate dangers, humor, and understanding. We are completely fascinated with telling others what has happened to us in order to warn them or simply make them laugh.

But that’s the key. To tell a story, you need an audience.

Which brings me directly to my point. You can have all the money in the world. You can jet-set to Japan to see the sunrise only to race back to New York to see it again. You can wear bikinis in Hawaii and parkas in Alaska in the same weekend. You can rub elbows, and maybe even noses, with celebrities. You can buy a mansion and have a wing just for your dog. You can invest that money, donate it to charity, and make it all back again.

And that would be great, truly. But it wouldn’t mean anything without someone to talk to about all of your adventures, all of your experiences, all of your fears. It would mean nothing if you couldn’t share it with at least one other person (romantically or platonically).

You see, as a young person who is not entirely sure what she wants to do with this box of chocolates we call life, I’ve always figured that if I had enough money, all of my problems would be solved. I could travel the world, like I want to. I could buy a house and rescue all of the homeless dogs, like I want to. I could feed the hungry and make a difference, like I want to. Yes, I could eat lots of corn dogs, like I want to.

But in the end, what would it amount to if I couldn’t tell my story to someone? Is a sunrise seen alone as sweet as one shared? For that matter, is a corn dog?

That’s a lesson this social media generation can relate to: “pictures or it didn’t happen.” Well, your life is one snapshot in a billion. If there is no one to appreciate its beauty, does it really matter that it happened?

And I know, it’s sort of like a “if a tree fell in a forest” argument, but I wonder if I didn’t have life already figured out in college, when I did everything for the story. I wonder if I’m not trying to complicate everything now that I’ve graduated.

The point is, you can rob a bank, eat corn dogs, and draw mustaches on unsuspecting Rent-A-Cops. But if you have no one to talk to, no one to laugh or cry with, no one to enjoy the stories of your life with, you have nothing.

In the end, it isn’t what we leave behind. It’s who we leave behind, and what we shared with them that truly matters. Write your story and make it a good one so that others will want to share it, too.

What Do We Watch on Tuesday?

If you were a kid in the 90s,  your parents would order a pizza for dinner every Friday night. I don’t know why this was an unspoken rule of weekly take-out, but if it was Friday, you knew that you were going to eat cheesy goodness while watching Sabrina The Teenage Witch, in that order.

Little did you know that your parents were also giving you a taste of adult living at a very young age, while simultaneously setting you up for heart disease. What was a fun way to spend the end of the week suddenly became a rut that you were trudging in by the time you were nearing puberty. Your mouth would start watering on Thursday night in anticipation of the next day: pizza day.

And so it was born: your ambition to work for/treat yourself with the weekend. (To be fair, 5 days of schooling also contributed to this, but hey, positive reinforcement doesn’t help it, either.)

And it is now that I invoke this sort of, blogger’s license, and say that you should break the routine you live in whenever possible (and at the same time, I freely admit that this is a struggle for me as well. I, too, looked forward to pizza at one time.)

But like pizza, routines are unhealthy. (I know, sad truth.)

Now, I’m not going to tell you that life exists outside of your comfort zone. Because you already know that. Yes, if I tell you what you should be doing, it doesn’t change the fact that you aren’t doing it. You’re scared and that’s obvious. We all are, and that’s why we adopt routines in the first place. That’s not a crime, it’s a fact.

No, I want to tell you it is possible to break your routine. It is possible to start something new. It is possible to stop asking, “What’s on television on Tuesday?” Not because you already know, but because you have broken the habit of doing the same thing every Tuesday. Just start small. Watch your normal shows on a Wednesday night instead of a Tuesday. I know, I know, that’s really starting small. But when you convince yourself that change isn’t life-altering, and that it won’t kill you, then you can move up. Try a new restaurant. Read an author you’ve never read.

Then, when you’re comfortable in your new uncomfortableness, keep going. And you’ll realize that the life you were living before wasn’t really living at all.

Routines can be good because they help us to remember what we need to remember in our lives: the car keys, this huge project, that night out with your friends. This is because nothing ever changes. But routines aren’t memorable for the long-term, as days merge into one another as one gray blur. That’s why we need a break from routines from time to time, to feel new things and try new things. To live the life we want to live instead of the life we feel we must.

So, we’ll do it together. We’ll both make small changes in our life so that they add up to something big. Because life is simply that: small moments that add up over the years.

(But don’t worry. This blog will always remain routine without being ordinary.)

Life Sucks, and Then You Get a Hot Tub

No, not a hot tub machine. Just a regular one. But it’s still great.

You see, if you’re anything like me, you don’t even know you are stressed out. You’re moving day to day at lightning speed, trying to fit in everything before you put your head on the pillow. And then suddenly, you are crying in a fetal position, wiping your eyes and feeling a giggle rise up in your throat as you realize that you need to take a break. (And you need to do more than eat a kitkat.)

So, what do you do? Read a book? Listen to music? Take a walk?

Perhaps. But in essence, you need to submerge yourself in something other than your daily life. For me, it is more literal. Because there is nothing lovelier than submerging myself in a hot tub. The wind and the water are enough to bring me back to where I need to be.

But a hot tub, I’ve realized, is only a giant metaphor for how you are actually feeling. When you get in, you don’t realize how hot it is after you’ve been swimming around. This is the same with your stress: you don’t realize how anxious you have been feeling because it is your norm. Then, as you sink in, the water starts to evaporate into the air, and so do your worries. And of course, you have stripped down to your bathing suit or shorts. This is also a metaphor: when you are at your most vulnerable, you can start to heal.

But getting into the hot tub is not enough. You need to let yourself relax. Convince yourself that you actually deserve to put your feet up. Without that, you will literally feel like you are drowning in the very hot tub. The heat will feel too close instead of melting into you like a second skin.

So, do you need a physical hot tub to have a good time? Of course not. But if you don’t let yourself into the mental one from time to time, if you don’t let yourself let go, you will become clogged and full of stress. Open up your jets, and let the relaxation flow.

To All The Teachers In My Life (And In The World)

It’s September 1st.

It’s that time again. You’ve double-checked your supplies, your outfit, your class schedule. You take deep breaths, but you still feel some anxiety pressing in that keeps sleep far behind a high fence that you can’t seem to reach.

And I’m not even talking about how your students are feeling. This is you. The elementary, high school, even college teachers/professors who must once again return to the classroom for another year. This is you.

But what I am about to say is for you.

I loved school. It was the only thing that I was truly good at. I liked obediently reading and working on homework assignments. I liked the relationships I forged with teachers who saw that I truly liked to learn. I loved filling my head with new things and applying them to new scenarios.

So, thank you, teachers/professors. Thank you for spending a little more time each night creating your lesson plans and perfecting them. Thank you for getting up early to be in the classroom before homeroom. Thank you for pushing back and caring when you did not think that you could give another drop of yourself. Thank you for going beyond the roles of teacher/professor and delving into the realms of friend, parent, disciplinarian, role model, but most of all, supporter of dreams. No one asks you to do what you do or to make it stand up to your personal standards. Worst of all, you are rarely thanked besides a week where you can get a few dollars off what you need to buy for your classroom.

And truly, my thanks cannot be enough. But I hope you keep going. In the face of angry parents. In the face of misunderstood students. In the face of adversity.

 

I hope you remember that you are appreciated and loved. Have a great year. You’re going to be terrific.