Tuesday, February 12, 2019

1, 2, 3...1, 2, 3...

Your favorite blogger has a new hobby.
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I'm as surprised as you are.
As you may recall, one of my goals for 2019 is to do more things that fill my cup.  It turns out that ballroom dancing is one of those things.

I've never been a dancer--think stereotypical white guy moves and a few Fortnite dances I bust out when I start to lose my students' attention--but the idea of taking dance lessons has been rolling around in my brain for a while now. I've gone ballroom dancing once or twice before with friends, and I've always had fun. But it just seemed like one of those things that you need someone else to do with you.

But you know what? I'm not waiting on someone else.

My philosophy since my big Europe trip has been "Screw it, I'm doing what I want, even if it means I'm doing it alone," and it's worked out pretty well for me. I mean, if I waited on other people to do things with me, I wouldn't have gone to Italy, I wouldn't have gone skydiving...who knows what else I might miss out on if I'm waiting on someone else?

So I went and signed myself up for dance lessons.

And you know what? It's fun, dammit!

So far, I've learned the basic steps for about 10 different dances, as well as some turns. I've followed a lot of more complicated moves that my dance partners have led me through as well, which I'm rather proud of. [insert nonchalant hair flip here]

Everyone keeps asking me how long I've been dancing, and they don't believe that I never took lessons before last month. Which is a nice little ego boost for me, but it's also helped me figure out more about myself and how I learn. 

I've come to the conclusion that I'm not a formulaic learner; I don't learn very well when someone tries to explain the steps to me and count them out. I need to see them and just follow along until I get the hang of it. 

My brain seems to do better when it observes and figures out the rules and patterns for itself, rather than having the rules explained to me and then trying to fit things in to those patterns. (Which is probably why I struggled so much with math in school; they'd give me the theorems and say, "Now go use them.") 
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But actually.
When they start counting out the steps out in the group dance lessons, it tends to throw me off; I just need to see the step and how it fits into the music, then go. Ditto for the more complicated moves: as long as I know what it should look like, I can usually follow it.

I think that's probably how I learned how to write, too: I read a lot of books (good ones and not-so-good ones), subconsciously taking notes on what to do and what not to do as a writer, and then trying my hand at it. 

Come to think of it, that's how I learned how to do the brakes on my car, too. Couldn't learn that from a book...had to watch my dad and then do what he did. (Thanks, dad!) 

All that to say: it only took me 18 years as a student and 2 as a teacher to figure out the best way for me to learn. #betterlatethannever

Anywho, this dancing fool will be looking to take her skills out for a spin soon. 

All I'm missing is Patrick Swayze.
(May or may not have watched this movie before writing this post.)
Catch me on the dance floor, yo.

Friday, January 25, 2019

Things I Left in 2018

If you read my New Year's Not-Resolutions post, you know that one of my big goals for 2019 is to do more things that "fill my cup."
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My metaphorical cup is a cup of coffee, obvs.
In plain English, this means doing more things that make me feel fulfilled. Things like skydiving and reading and rock climbing and traveling, for example.

Something just as important as filling my cup is minimizing the "drains on my cup." This is different from "pouring from my cup," AKA giving (which I want to do more of). Things that drain my cup are my stressors, which empty my cup before I have a chance to pour from it.

In order for me to let in all the good stuff that 2019 has in store for me, I need to let go of some ish that has held me back in previous years.

So without further ado, here is a list of things that I'm leaving in 2018:
1. Beating myself up over things I can't change. I'm not the most socially adept individual, and I'm often haunted by things that I say or do that I realize were awkward/uncomfortable/wrong. They replay in my brain, a sort of low-lights reel of my real (and imagined) faux pas. Bigger things also haunt me, like times that I've hurt people (whether I meant to or not) and bad decisions that I've made, knowing even as I made them that I would regret it. Memories of these moments swirl around in my brain even years after the fact, and they'll consume me if I let them. I can't go back in time and change what I said or did. And even if I could, I wouldn't. Those moments helped shape me into who I am today. But I'm done being held hostage by them. When these thoughts begin to invade, I've begun taking a deep inhale and letting the thoughts sit for just a moment, and then as I exhale, I consciously think (or say aloud) one of two things. For the little things, it's "Let that shit go." And for the big ones: "I forgive me." And then I move on.  
2. Making excuses for myself. Self-love is so so important. I have to take care of me before I can take care of anybody else. Sometimes self-love for me is realizing that I'm so completely burned out by my workday that I just need to go home and relax with some Doritos and a book. Other times my self-love looks more like tough love, because yes, I'm tired at the end of my long hard school day, but this is the kind of tired that is best remedied by a good solid sweat sesh, so I'm going to make myself go to the gym anyway. I'm holding myself accountable for doing what I truly need to do, and a huge part of that is not letting myself make excuses to get out of it. I've realized that no one else is going to call me out on my bullshit; it's up to me to do that.  
3. Defeatist mentality. This world is an effed up place with a capital F. (I think we can all agree on that.) But when I let myself dwell on that reality, I get overwhelmed by a crippling feeling of "What's the point in trying? I can't make a difference with all that's wrong in the world." That's bullshit, and I'm calling myself on it. The small amount of difference that I am able to make will compound with all of the small differences that other people are making and create a big difference. I have to consciously try to see the positivity and the hope that exist in this world alongside and in spite of all the shit. 
4. People who don't value/respect me. People who don't respect me and my worth make me question my own value and doubt myself. Ain't nobody got time for that.
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If you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all.
5. People who bring out the worst in me. (This kind of goes with #4.) I'm on a quest to become a better version of myself, and being around certain people makes it too easy to slip into old habits (or new bad habits). It's not necessarily their fault, but--hard as it may be--I need to say goodbye to those people in order to continue growing. I need to surround myself with people who want to see me become my best self, and who encourage me to do so. 
None of this comes easily, but it's especially hard for me to cut ties with the people that I mentioned in #4 and #5 because most of the time, they are people whom I at one time wanted in my life; they have been important to me. Many of the people who are no longer "good for me" were once good friends, and since I'm not very good at making friends to begin with, I think that I probably held on to some of those people longer than I should have out of fear of being lonely.

But ya know what? It's time. I've got to make space for all the awesome people coming to me in 2019. (Including Jess 2.0!)

To each and every one of the people I'm saying goodbye to: thank you for coming into my life, and for the part you have played in making me the person who I am today. I wish you all the best--I truly mean that. If I see ya around, I'll still have a smile for ya. 😉

And hey, a sincere and heartfelt thank you to those of you in my life who do inspire and encourage me to be a better version of myself. You know who you are. (Or I'll tell ya soon enough. 😘)

I'm a work in progress...sometimes I find the things that I said "good riddance" to at the end of 2018 trying to creep into 2019. So I just keep reminding myself...

Let that shit go. 

($1.25 in the swear jar, if you're keeping track at home.) 

Saturday, January 5, 2019

New Year, New Words

In case you haven't noticed, I'm not the greatest at following through on things.

I never got around to writing about the last month or so of my Europe 2016 trip, nor did I ever post about the last few cities I visited on my Italian adventure over the summer. And just two months ago in November, I promised to post twice a month on this here blog.

Yeah...that didn't happen.

This is the part where I say that one of my 2019 New Year's Resolutions™ is to follow through on my promises, to finish what I start, and to fulfill each and every one of my commitments!
(At least not this year.)
For one thing, I've decided that New Year's Resolutions don't work for me. 

Part of the reason is that it's way too much pressure. Every time that I have resolved to do something starting January 1st--whether it's don't eat junk food, exercise 6 days a week, or journal every day--I've fallen off the wagon by Groundhog Day and then written off the rest of the year. ("Oh well. I tried. I'll try again next year.") With New Year's Resolutions, I tend to get into the mindset of "I have to get it perfect from the get-go." There's no room for making mistakes, for starting over, for growing and making progress. It's all or nothing, and that just isn't a sustainable way of thinking.

The other reason is that the whole big, grand "New Year's Resolution" title steals significance from all of the other goals that I've made and achieved in other parts of the year. I don't just make goals in January; I'm constantly striving to become the person that I want to be. 

So this year, I've rebranded, and am working on my Goals for 2019. AKA my 2019 Intentions. AKA, the things that I'm going to make happen this year. (They have many names.)

I'm being more intentional, and defining both the big, overarching themes of things that I want to work on, as well as the smaller things that I can change in order to make that happen. I'm expecting to make mistakes, and I'm also expecting to make growth. Each month, each week, each day is a chance to start working on a new small step that will bring me closer to my overall goals, or to start over, as needed. 

So without further ado, here are Jess's 2019 Intentions: 
  1. Fill my cup. As a teacher, one of the metaphors that you hear a lot is "You can't pour from an empty cup." It basically translates to "Make sure you take care of yourself, so you can take care of the kids." 
    • This year I will try to be more fearless about doing things that fill my cup. I will try not to be intimidated by putting myself out there in the course of trying new things. 
    • Examples of things that make me feel fulfilled: learning (just for the heck of it), climbing (I want to do some outdoor climbing this year), traveling (obviously. But this year, fewer cities and more nature), and reading (instead of mindlessly bingewatching). And more!
  2. Pour from my cup. The whole point of filling your cup is so that you can use what's in you to help fill others' cups. 
    • I'm a selfish person. I know this, and rather than getting defensive and denying it (as I have in the past), I'm accepting it and trying to work on it. 
    • Baby Step #1: Actively trying to think more of others. I tend to be fairly oblivious to anything outside of my own needs and desires. I am going to begin consciously trying to look beyond myself in order to see others' wants and needs. 
    • Baby Step #2: Once my eyes are opened to others and their needs, I can begin "inconveniencing" myself in order to help others. I say "inconvenience" because I need to help others with no expectation of getting anything myself (otherwise, it's still selfish). Instead of thinking "Why should I help them? They haven't done anything for me," I will think "Why should I help them? Because I can see that they could use some help, and because I am capable of offering help," or "Why should I do this for them? Because it will make them happy."
    • Added Bonus: doing things for other human beings will help keep me from getting wrapped up in and swallowed by my own shiznit.
  3. Get on top of my finances. This one is a little more concrete. I have been somewhat negligent with my finances; and while I'm not in a bad position financially, I am finding that I don't have the money to do some of the things that I want to do. This year, I will be more proactive and intentional with my money, which will give me greater freedom to do things that fill my cup, and will prevent my finances from becoming a stressor. 
    • I'd like to start working towards larger, longer-term financial goals, such as buying a new car (since my car's transmission is turning out to be a potentially very expensive and unpredictable hunk of junk). 
    • I've already started working on my financial goal. A high school track teammate recently shared her personal finance blog on social media, and I've found it very helpful. 
So there you have it, folks. New year, same me. And by "same me" I mean "constantly trying to be a better me."

Happy New Year.

(I would say "new post coming soon," but we all know how that'll go. 🤣)