Monday, February 1, 2016

Gradually seeking the wisdom.

Well. It was bound to happen sooner or later. There was just no avoiding it. Last week I had to make my first big decision as a part of my job.

Now, I haven't exactly been wandering around like a programmed robot up until this point. I have made the odd judgement call here and there - probably even on a daily basis, but this is the first time that I was charged with choosing a course of action that would invite potential scrutiny and impact a student's future.

Making any big decision is tough, but especially when you know that about fifty percent of those whose guidance is most important to you don't agree with your initial opinion. By the end of Thursday afternoon, I had spent so much time defending my ideas to my colleagues (whom I value and respect) that I was really beginning to question myself, and yet my convictions just would not go away. As I headed home that night, I was completely torn in two.

So, I did what any normal person would do. I brooded about it. I drank therapeutic teas and ate excessive amounts of chocolate. I cried. And of course, I talked about it some more.

By Friday I'd worked myself into such a ball of anxiety about it, and yet, deep down I knew what I had to do. I had to stick to my guns. I had to rely on what I know to be some of my best skills - my good judgement of character, my ability to set prejudice aside and consider multiple perspectives, and most of all, my consistent devotion to acting as an advocate for those who cannot always advocate for themselves - the one thing that has always been a part of any job that I have ever taken and one of my true passions in life.

So I fought the good fight. All of Friday, up until the very last minute of the very last lesson. I worked incredibly hard not only to make a decision that was informed and fair, but also to do so in a timely manner, so as to convey a sense of understanding and respect to the individual about whom the decision was being made.

Today I confirmed that decision - finalizing the details with student and parents. Reviewing conditions and reaffirming obligation. Whether the decision was the right one or not remains to be seen, and there is all the chance in the world that it was the wrong one.

Maybe you'd like this story to have an ending of happy success, but that's not what this is. This isn't a story about going against the grain and fighting all the odds and coming out the victor. Life's not really like that all of the time.

This is just a story of going into something, something new, something challenging, and coming out the other side. Something changed? Someone different? I'm not even sure yet. Sometimes change is rapid and surprising, but most of the time it is too slow to see, except that one day you lift your head and look around you and everything is different.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

For the body, for the mind, for the heart.

Feet not where they're supposed to be.

Hands doing whatever they please.


I have posted these as evidence of my weird-ass yoga experience yesterday, during which I had the most ridiculous energy ever possessed by someone who has been awake since 6am, done a full day's work, eaten a large, greasy dinner, and spent the majority of the evening lounging in a semicomatose state.

Although I love my yoga time, I am usually very conscious of the weight of my body and each and every muscle that I am using as I move through the vinyasas, but not yesterday. Yesterday I might as well have been a frog or monkey or, in an effort to remain human, some kind of gymnast the way I was hopping about from forward fold to plank, shooting my limbs out to warrior two, sending my energy up the sky. I am, by no means, an athlete. I do not normally feel that kind of explosive fire, which is why I tend to choose physical activities that involve a slow building of strength and skill, but yesterday I just could not stop moving. Even in the moments when I was supposed to be resting, my fingers were tapping, toes were scrunching, my nose drawing circles in the air.

As I recently shared, I am currently participating in the 30 Days of Yoga Camp challenge, which involves the completion of a daily yoga video. The mantra for yesterday's video was "I am in control" and I was absolutely, 100% not in control. The good thing about doing Yoga with Adriene, though, is that she always encourages you to "find what feels good." In other words, she encourages her fellow practitioners to follow the routine only so far as it works for them, to tailor the practice to their needs and abilities.

So, it was easy for me to let go of that mantra and to just let my body do what it naturally wanted to do. Perhaps you could say that I even owned that mantra, because I took control of my own needs for that day and relinquished any preconceived notions of what the practice should look like in order to make it what I needed. In the end, I'm glad that I did because allowing my energy bursts to explode in that way meant that by the end I had 1) had a really good workout and 2) put myself in a much better (read more relaxed) place that would eventually allow me to fall asleep.

This is one of my favorite things about doing yoga - that each day can be altered to attend to whatever it is that you are feeling or thinking or needing, whether you are conscious of these things or not. Tonight, for example, my yoga energy was totally different. In fact, I'll go so far as to admit that, although I'd had quite a nice day, by about 7pm my mindset had shifted entirely and I spent the rest of the evening in a strange and horrible mood. I don't really know why; the reason is not important (we all have these days), but I just found myself feeling that soul-crushing, all-encompassing, hopeless sense of despair that I am not naive enough to imagine has only ever belonged to me. My yoga, because of this, was much more slow and focused and serving of an entirely different purpose. Today I noticed each muscle again, and I thought harder about each pose. As a result, though I didn't intend it, I realized afterward that my yoga had been truly meditational. Very unusually I hardly thought about anything except for the yoga while I was doing it. In fact, I thought so little that I didn't even have the opportunity to think about what I was thinking about. A truly rare occurrence, indeed, and something I really needed in order to shake my mood.

For the first couple of weeks after starting my new job, I vowed to take it easy on myself in terms of exercise. I hate going too long without real, physical exertion, but I knew that I would need the extra time to relax and mentally debrief from each day. Now that things are feeling more stable, I am looking forward to getting back into my more intensive physical routines. I know, however, even if the frequency reduces, that I will still keep yoga as a part of my routine, just as it has been for over a year now, because even on the most dire and difficult of days, yoga is the one thing that I can rely on to successfully attend to my needs - no matter what they are.


Saturday, January 23, 2016

Technology is stealing our sooooouls.

Ok, so perhaps a bit dramatic on the title, but I had to draw you in so that you could read this insightful/hilarious quote:

"Technology is morally neutral, but our use of it isn’t. It is giving us a sense of entitlement, ruining films for other people, interrupting moments of contemplation, causing road traffic accidents, even affecting our sex lives. (A 2014 survey by Durex revealed that one in six Britons will answer the phone or read a text during sex; 60% said they actually preferred using technology to having sex.)" - Bridget Christie: the trouble with mobile phones (read more from her weekend column on annoying people in cinemas, Leonardo DiCaprio, and the lack of Oscar-worthy roles for women here)

Think on that people. Just think. on. that.


Tuesday, January 19, 2016

One philosophy to live by.

Yesterday was Martin Luther King Jr. Day - a national holiday in the states and a memorial for one of the most influential figures in American history. Nearly every major city in the United States has a street dedicated to him, and it is estimated that, as of 2014, there were over 900 streets bearing his name. If you're from Michigan, like me, you might be familiar with Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard in Detroit - often referred to simply as, "MLK". Head one hour north to Flint (where I was born) and you will find an Avenue with the same initials.

Perform a quick internet search and you will find hundreds of quotes from this great orator. Between his sermons (he was a minister) and his speeches during the Civil Rights Movement, Martin Luther King Jr. seems to have made an endless number of prolific statements - each one more timeless and socially relevant than the last. The man was a veritable quote machine.

This is just the one that I happened to be feeling the most today, maybe because it is something that has been on my mind a lot lately. The principles expressed in this statement can be applied to a wide variety of issues  - global issues of discrimination and social injustice, as well as smaller, individual experiences.

For some time now, this philosophy has been central to my own personal development and way of living. I keep it in my mind, like a constant mediation. I try to remember it during my work and my day-to-day interactions. I reflect upon it regularly; especially after difficult encounters, when I am feeling particularly frustrated or when I am hearing things that I don't like or disagree with.

To me this quote is not just about how to provoke change, but also a reminder to keep humanity at the forefront. Martin Luther King Jr. wanted to remind us that even the people that we find most challenging, most infuriating are still people, and only by maintaining respect for their humanity will we be able to find a way to reach them.

This is only one of the many lessons that Dr. King taught us - only one of the reasons that we celebrate his life every year. For me, it has been a pivotal one, and I'd like to think that, if taken seriously, it is a mantra that could change the world.


Friday, January 15, 2016

A moment of pride and confidence in a world of self-doubt.

Feeling triumphant outside of the Salt Hotel - Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia.

On top of the world at the Eduardo Avaroa Andean Fauna National Reserve - Bolivia.

Moment of the week:

I gave my first assembly on Wednesday!!!

To around 120 fifteen- and sixteen-year-olds. Didn't I mention that my new job was in a school? No? That sounds about right.

But, anyway, I did. Give my first assembly, that is. I stood up on a stage in front of a sleepy and slightly surly-looking group of Year 10s and 11s and delivered a full-blown, moral message embedded presentation (WITH powerpoint, thank you very much).

And on top of that I think...I THINK...some of them actually even listened to me.

The last two weeks have been challenging, to say the least, but Wednesday was a really, really good day and, for now, I'm just gonna ride that high.

So come at me world.

I'm ready.


Sunday, January 10, 2016

Week in review.

Let's start off 2016 with a bang, shall we? I don't know about you, but we are only one week in and I am exhausted! It is entirely possible that I have bitten off a little more than I can chew in terms of workload and goal setting for January, but after months of feeling a little bit aimless I just couldn't help myself.

Most of my ambitions revolve around the new job that I started on Monday (yeah, talk about going big in the new year). Aside from that, we have been doing some major organizational overhaul in our house - making space and simplifying our lives - so that we can save for the future, function more effectively as human beings, and also...find things. As it stands, the large suitcase and rolling carry-on that I brought with me to the UK are still serving as my dresser drawers, but we're getting there.

Finally, after the success of last year's 30 Days of Yoga challenge, I decided to up the ante and take on two personal growth challenges during this month: 1) Yoga With Adriene's newest 30-day foray, Yoga Camp and 2) The Huffington Post's Happiness Challenge. I played catch-up a bit this weekend with the yoga, as it would have been boring to start on time like everybody else. The Happiness Challenge is a bit difficult to maintain, as well, mostly because I don't usually receive the daily email until after noon (damn you 5-hour time difference) and that doesn't leave a lot of time to accomplish the day's task.

Perhaps it was a bit unnecessary for me to set myself challenges in addition to the challenges that come with things like moving across the world and starting a new job, but somehow I think it is actually helping to keep me on track. Filling my days up with a million little tasks has actually made getting them all done a lot easier because I don't have the time to get lost in a sedentary haze. Maybe this motivation won't last forever, but it seems to be working for now.

How was your week?


Thursday, December 31, 2015


Feeling a lot more forward motion-minded, as opposed to lookie backie these days, but in the spirit of the date and because my natural instinct to reminisce is a powerful one, here is photo documentation of the one day that made my whole year worth it.

At this time of year it's nice to do some letting go, but this is one thing I'll be taking with me into 2016.