Life Lessons

9. Oh, The Places You Must Go!

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In the words of Dr. Seuss, “You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose. You’re on your own. And you know what you know. And YOU are the one who’ll decide where to go…So be sure when you step, Step with care and great tact. And remember that life’s A Great Balancing Act. And will you succeed? Yes! You will, indeed! (98 and ¾ percent guaranteed) Kid, you’ll move mountains.”

It is always a delight to read about the struggles of The Greats, you know the kind of people we remind ourselves about whenever we try to convince ourselves that our lives can still turn out well if we decide to quit school, quit our job, take a leap of faith on a business idea, or sleep-in instead of going to your 8am lecture on a Friday morning. I mean Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Racheal Ray, Kevin Rose, Ellen DeGeneres and other successful people, yeah, those people. I think we need to spend a little more time on those stories to truly understand the full picture. Myself included; I enjoy happy endings but not the persevering and long-suffering part of the journey that leads to the happy endings, which if you ask me, that’s the real substance in the stories. My brain likes to omit the heart-breaking parts of the journey and I remember more of the good stuff.
As a college student, you are somewhat aware of the reality of the real world depending on your background and circumstances. I do not think college students get the full picture of the “real world” until after graduation. While some people are able to beat the odds with their college degrees, sadly, not everyone has the opportunity and circumstances to do so. Gladly, in college, we were pumped up with enough encouragements and phrases such as “go change the world!” “it’s your time to shine!” “carpe diem!” “shine on!” and so on to maintain our momentum in our realities as we work hard to pursue and earn our degrees.
After college, the “real world” hits us all and it does so differently depending on your social economic status, race, culture, backgrounds, and circumstances. Most graduates are resuming graduate school in the fall, getting married, moving to a different state to pursue a job opportunity while others are faced with unemployment, inability to get into grad schools, seas of debts, and other realities. Almost every day becomes a pep-talk needing one for those who fall into the latter category and the ability to keep moving, the need to keep your head high and the need of grabbing tighter at hope becomes much more necessary. Most of us are unable to secure a job with the major we signed our destinies onto for four years. With shame and judgment, most people isolate themselves from their peers, some maintain a façade to keep up with “the lucky ones” while others seek supports from close friends and family members.

Few months after college graduation, I was reconnecting with some of my college friends and we were all sharing our turns of excitements and woes of post-college lives. A friend asked about our upcoming college reunion and if we were planning on attending. I remember stating that I was not going to be attending, my post-college plans had worked out as I had planned and I was just not ready to go back and visit my home of 4 years that did all it’s best to prepare me to carve the future and shine on. I was not ready to explain my current plan and why I had changed my mind from the plan I chose four years ago or why that plan did not succeed. My wise friend replied to my self-beat up statement and said “you have to take pride in your journey, life is hard for all of us right now and you do not owe anyone an explanation for where you are in your life. You can choose to whom to tell about what your current decisions are and to whom not to tell about your detour. We are all going through something, even if we all do not look it.” #reallifeencouragement. She said more than that but the part that resonated with me most was the taking pride in your journey phrase. I had forgotten to take pride in myself, like one change of mind, change of plans or failure should define me. As a matter of fact, most of The Greats have multiple failure stories and what defined them was not their failed attempts at many projects and or plans but their perseverance and resiliency.

So, I don’t know where you are or what you are going through. Maybe you are a student, a college graduate still seeking admission into the graduate school of your dream, an entrepreneur, an innovator, a dreamer, a nomad, a post-baccalaureate student, or a traditional student. Like my friend said, take pride in your journey! Whatever stage of development your butterfly is in, take pride in it. The rough parts of your stories, they are the character building tools chiseling out your weaknesses and molding you into the masterpiece you were born to become. Do not be ashamed or apologetic for where you are right now and where you are not. Take pride in your own unique suffering and perseverance so that one day; should you choose to do so, you can share your substance and shape lives with your story of empowerment that would help other individuals find strength to climb up the mountains of their lives. As John Lennon has famously being quoted “Life is what happens to you while you are making other plans.”

“Things may happen and often do to people as brainy and footsy as you…Oh, the places you’ll go! There is fun to be done! There are points to be scored. There are games to be won. And the magical things you can do with that ball will make you the winning-est winner of all.”

― Dr. Seuss, Oh, The Places You’ll Go!

 

8. “Grown Up”: Sour Pouch or Encyclopedia of Wisdom?

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 What does it mean to grow up?  I have pondered upon this question for a while now and I cannot seem to find the right answer. I was talking to one of my students few weeks ago, a 8th grader going to high school next year. We were debating on the topic of ‘Why Humans Cry’ and as the “grown up” I told him that crying is a way we cope with stress and the human life woes. Everyone cries, I began with what I thought was an epic speech waiting to happen. Everyone cries and should cry because there is so much relief and therapy in the release of pain and frustrations through tears. He of course, did not accept my epic statement.

In fact, he objected and said “I don’t cry.”  Crying is unnecessary. You can imagine my reaction as I tried to pack up my drools and control my jaw to the dismissal of my experience-giving insight. So, I asked why? is it because you are a boy, you do not think it is okay to cry?  He responded, “No, because I just hand over stuff to God.”  I responded, Do you think you see it this way because you haven’t had something important to you get taken away from you yet beyond your control? He said “No, It just doesn’t do you any good to cry, crying doesn’t fix things, that’s why you hand it over to God.”

I was beginning to feel like the Grinch and that if I said anymore to this precious soul, I might “grow him up “ too quickly. I think there is enough of that already in society, so I smiled and explained further that like laughter, hugs, kisses and giggling, crying is just another expression. Laughter and giggling are the expressions and emotional response used in positive and joyful circumstances while crying is one of the expressions we use in our sad states. It doesn’t make you weak to cry, it doesn’t mean that you haven’t given or handed over your problems to God either. It means that you are human and you are overwhelmed and just like how you laugh, giggle and kiss in times of joy and gladness, you cry in times of sadness. It is an emotion that demands to be let out every ones in a while and the failure to do so will make one a grouchy gal or lad. Of course, he did not agree with me. He concluded that crying wasn’t necessary if one chooses to hand over the problem to God, case close.

So in the fear of not growing him up too quickly, I dropped the conversation but encouraged him to keep researching and reading about the psychological and need for crying. Why did God give us this ability if it was unnecessary?

For me, I began to ponder what it means to grow up? Was this about being a grown up at all or just the need to preserve the wide-eyed innocence of being a child or teen with little to no history of disappointments, failures and regrets? Is growing up synonymous to graduation into realizing that the world is not fair? I know that sounds like a teenager’s declaration of injustice in rants to her parents. But seriously, Is growing up realizing that the world is an interesting sphere and not a bed of roses and it becomes what you make of it? That dreams can come true and dreams die and or are killed. That you have to fight for what you believe it or you will live fruitless. Is growing up throwing your fist into heaven every once in a while and asking But God, why? Is growing up justifying to whom Good and bad occurrences in life should get ditched out to? I hear myself debate sometimes, but I am a good person, why should I not get all my heart desires… is growing up playing God? Heck, is growing up thinking we have the ability to blame, question or even judge our unfathomable father?

So What does it mean to Grow up?

To see things for what they really are? To know when to choose when not to see and hear? To summon up your own perspective of life if life has not dealt you a good one? To lose the wide-eyed innocence lens of our childhood? To struggle? Pay Bills? To make a decision to thrive and not strive for an entire existence? to take ownership of the world and give kindness to a broken world? To stump our neighbors further down so that we succeed? To blame our parents for all the “wrong” shots they called in our developments and why we are not basking in the fairy tale land we dreamt for ourselves growing up? Is growing up having endless questions that you may never get answers to?

So, what does it mean to grow up and when do we “grow up?” The day we found out that Santa Claus was not real and the almighty decision of whether we should forgive our parents for the epic deception or to adore them for all the struggles they had to undergo to pull off giving us all sorts of presents and years of stories about chimneys and the darling fat grey-bearded guy.

May be growing up is about realizing that our perception of life, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder and it is our choice to find beauty in the life, skin, situations, and circumstances that we have been dealt no matter what. We still cry of course but we let kids figure it out too at their own time…

7. Meditate, Mantras, Mindfulness

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      January is one of my favorite months of the year for so many reasons, in the context of this writing, it is because it is the time of the year that commands newness and new beginnings. We are lit up with merry, glowing from the excitements of christmas and the holidays, hopeful that our lists of new year resolutions would survive past mid-January. We are wide-eyed and childlike, staring at the world with renewed beauty and wonders. We make mental lists or notes of things to avoid in the new year that will make us better people, individuals and citizens as we walk into the year with pride and expectancy.

     As the month progresses, sometime during the middle of it, all of our enthusiasm and optimism begins to dwindle. All the plans and resolutions begin to fade and we get caught up in our worlds again, somehow we allow our planned design of a better self slip away. We bid adieu to our dream of self-improvement, see you again next December.

     Towards the end of 2015, my Bishop began to share with us the theme for the new year, the theme is ‘Thrive.’ Our mantra for the new year would be to inspire everyday people to thrive daily in christ, win souls and make disciples. Few Sundays before the end of 2015, we began learning how to thrive in our world today and understanding the fundamental principles of our being that we are created to thrive.  With wide eyes and enthusiasm, I prepared my mind to be expanded beyond its current state. I picked up my pen & pad and I started learning that in other to thrive, one must know how to manage time, money and relationships. The three most important factor to be fruitful and multiply in today’s world.

      In other to grow professionally or personally, an individual must prepare to meet new people and network, hence relationships.  How the person interact and handle those relationships has a lot to do with the possibility of growing professionally, making new connections, landing a job etc. If the individual then progress further and gets the job or makes the professional and/or personal connections, time management becomes an important factor in long-term growth, gaining trust, demonstrating reliability, dependability and responsibility. To maintain success and lead a fruitful life, one must be able to manage money and cultivate a positive relationship with money.

    My Bishop introduced us into the new year with the statement that “the only person that can stop God’s will for your life is you.” The statement reminded me of all the numerous new years resolutions that never came to past. Were the resolutions to ambiguous or was the planning/execution inadequate? Were they not practical enough or too ambitious? I pondered. All of this knowledge and questions got me fired up for 2016 and I decided that 2016 is the year that my resolution for a better self-will not die in mid-January. I will set attainable goals and channel my willpower muscles. So I Prayed about it.

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     I decided not to make a long list but to make a realistic expectation of myself. My new year resolution was simple, to seize each day and live it to the fullest with all that comes with it. How was I going to achieve this? that’s a standardized test question. All I knew on December 31st 2015 was that I was going to implore more mindfulness into my daily life. I will start each day with meditation and or yoga with a mantra that goes in the line of “Love, peace, kindness, goodness, self-control and gentleness. To these I commit my day. If I succeed, I will give thanks. If I fail, I will seek His Grace. And then, when my day is done, I will place my head on my pillow and rest.”

      Few days into the new year,  a friend sent me a YouTube Talk by Psychologist Kelly McGonical, author of The Willpower Instinct. The Talk was an answer to my prayer. In the talk, she spoke about her book and about willpower and the important of it. She defined Willpower as the ability to do what matter most and things that are in line with our goals; the ability to regulate  our thoughts and emotions. She divided Willpower into three components: I Wont Power, the ability to resist temptation. I Will Power, the ability to do what one something regardless of its complexity and the I Want Power, the ability to keep one’s goal and values in mind so that when temptation arrives, one can remember the long-term goal and overcome temptation.  She explained the role of the prefrontal cortex (region of the brain responsible for our personality, planning, decision-making, self-control and cognitive behavior) plays in willpower and how getting more sleep, reducing stress, physical exercise and meditation can help build up our willpower. “Willpower is like a muscle that can be “beefed up”with more breathe-focused meditation, yoga and exercise. Meditating for as little as 5 minutes a day is effective and can help increase the size and efficiency of our prefrontal cortex over time. 

      For 27 days of January, I have started each day with eucharisteo, 5 minutes meditation, 20 – 30 minutes yoga, prayer and an optimism to seize every part of my day. This meant that I have had to wake up earlier which has helped me managed time well. Optimism that has helped me maintain my relationships and as for the money thing, I decided to continue working hard in my  Pre-Med studies. Meditating everyday has helped me process information from the prior day and has aid me in planning my day ahead and setting my mind for the day. I have survived the mid-January resolution crash and hope is restored!

       I implore you today to add a little meditation to your daily routine and start your day well and I look forward to hearing how meditation has been doing your day a solid!

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xo,

Fowes

6. This Christmas: Give a flash of your 32!

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       Christmas is my favorite holiday and I love Christmas for so many reasons. For one, it is for the spirit of joy and community it commands. For the love, peace and hope it ordains and for the ray of smiles that lights up the days. As a race of people, our hearts are softer, we are more keen to forgive, more understanding, more loving, giving and more human… People are generally more joyous, no matter what they are going through in their personal or professional lives during this season and most people are more willing to share their hearts with others. 
      Despite our differences and prejudices, Christmas is the time that we all come together and it is the time of the year that we have the most in common. We are all wishing for more peace on earth, more love, more opportunities, more miracles and we are all more expectant and hopeful that the new year brings with it more newness and fresh air.
     This Christmas, the most inexpensive gift you could give a fellow human is a ‘flash of your 32.’ Remember that while most of us will be with out loved ones and families, under a shelter and with a varieties of food on the dinner table, there will be our brothers and sisters experiencing homelessness, loneliness, hunger and in need of a miracle. Help as much as it is in your power to do so, but most freely, flash your 32 and lift up their hearts with your ray of smiles.
     As some of us are wanting or needing more, while others are giving or accepting more this season; whichever more it may be for you, this Christmas, be more and do more.
Yours,
Fowes

5. Universally, a Deal Breaker…

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“Oh God! Arrrghh! I am doing my best!” I grunted/breathed the words as I felt the frustration burning from the depth of my intestines and finding its way to the tip of my tongue, and before anything else could escape my lips that would later land me on my knees in prayer for forgiveness, I slowly took a deep breath and burst into a song. It made absolutely no sense at the time but it worked. A distraction was what I needed after the day I was having. I had 7 more things on my list before the day was over and the meetings were less than 30 minutes apart. I was now going to be 10 minutes late for appointment number 4 (at which my presence was highly needed for the meeting to commence). It was the third time that week and my enthusiasm level was suffering. Either I liked it or not, Stress was slowly creeping into my state of being and my anxiety level was shooting through the roof. I hate being late to any of my meetings (either personal or professional) but with the way I had been planning my schedule that month, it was inevitable.

In College, I picked up the bad habit of scheduling meetings back to back and over-flooding my schedule. I was a student leader and the type of over-achiever who was the president of at least two organizations, executive board member of another three or more and a member of about four or more. I was one of those students whose signature was longer than that of the Dean of Students and four professors combined. While College prepared me for the opportunity to “lead, carpe diem and carpe whatever project” I was involved in, my leadership qualities, exposures and abilities also came with minor (or major, depending on how you choose to look at it) side effects. It was the side effect of having multiple appointments per day, back to back meetings and the excitement to assist others in anything that I could be of help even if I was realistically unable to help. This meant always saying “Yes!” and jumping at the opportunity to champion different projects. In College, most, if not all of my fellow student leaders were very forgiving, conducive and understanding of lateness. It was minorly frowned upon because we were all in the same boat. We were all hurrying from class to class, from meeting to meetings and from assignments to projects. After College, these side effects became selectively beneficial.

“I do a lot and my heart is good so they will understand and pardon my lateness today”, I thought to myself on this particular day. “Absolutely not! EVERYONE  does a lot and that is no excuse, it is highly unprofessional, and you should know that you can only do so much in one day!” A voice in my heard replied. The voice of reason? I began pondering to myself on whether I needed to learn more on planning better or whether I was just simply over-committing myself? It is good to want to assist other people but if my commitment to the project was also preventing it from moving forward as quickly as it could be because of my other multiple commitments, was I actually helping?

In today’s world and assumably in all other worlds that has the understanding and recognition of time, lateness is an atrocity. It is a deal breaker, a trust robber, an unusual addiction, unprofessional and dare I say it, an adrenaline activator. One could loose the trust of dear friends, acquaintances and professional colleagues if one is deemed as “always late” or “unpredictable.”

Lateness is one of the side effects of the inability to say No and a lot of people suffer from “lateness”. There are different kinds of lateness: the poor judgement lateness, habitual lateness due to lack of discipline, habitual lateness due to over booking oneself, fashion lateness, traffic/miscellaneous lateness, emergency lateness, and self- inflicted inability to say No lateness. A lot of people are suffering from the latter which goes hand-in-hand with the habitual lateness due to over booking oneself.

The crazy thing about this type of lateness is that, it is both rewarding and embarrassing. It is rewarding in the sense that your “YES” responses will make someone or a group of people happier and you will be able to contribute to something that can positively impact someone else. It can be embarrassing in the sense that no matter how nice, noble, hardworking and dependable you are and your intentions might be, when an habit of lateness comes on board, it conceals the goodness of your actions.

I concluded that it had almost became an habit for me because of how I was overly committing myself to multiple works at once and my then slow learning process of the word “No.” As I was meeting new people daily in my post-baccalaureate dwelling, making new professional and personal contacts and dreaming big with wonderful people. I came to the realization that punctuality was an important part of any relationship (especially the professional ones) and if I wanted to maintain honor, trust and respect in all my relationships, I would have to understand the universal deal breaker and abstain from all sorts of lateness.

Lateness depicts an individual as being untrustworthy, unreliable, undependable, rude and irresponsible. No matter how kind a person is and pure the person’s intentions might be, it is a behavior that travels ahead of the individual and closes more door than the person can open. It is a behavior that robs one of glory and opportunities.

Lateness is universally unacceptable and a deal breaker…

 

4. A Different Kind of Eucharisteo

DSC_0515          A typical thanksgiving morning in my house starts with the chaos of happiness, loud phone conversations with distant relatives, visitation from friends and relatives around, orchestrated eruption of laughter from various angles of my house and my coordination of pots and pans in the kitchen in order to prepare the feast of the day. More or less, this became the tradition during thanksgiving weekend, not necessarily thanksgiving day as school and other duties crept into my house…In the years when I spent my thanksgiving break in school, I would usually wake up to the tranquil morning of beautiful autumn leaves and a deserted campus. For me , the thanksgiving holiday is either overbearingly exciting or gravely quiet. The more I grow in my relationship with Christ and the more exposure academia allows me, the more aware I am about my role as a creation amongst other creations and the majesty of my creator is exposed and uncovered.
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             These days, I find myself being more expressive to God and the people in my life, making sure that they have the knowledge that they are loved, cherished and appreciated by me with the practice of cultivating a more Eucharistic lifestyle. For Thanksgiving day this year, I wanted a different kind of Eucharisteo experience, I wanted to engage with my creator who commissioned the reason why we are even able to give thanks and unto whom we give thanks to. So instead of starting my day in the chaos of happiness or in the hollow of desertion, I chose to start the day on a mountain top among other creations awing and captivated by the creator’s handiwork. The stillness in the air arrested my thoughts and commanded a calmness in my soul and the richness in the clouds warmed my heart.

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          I hiked around the hanging rock mountains alongside my newly-sworn best friend, Shades ( a half Dalmatian, half Labrador beauty) whom somehow understood that we are on the journey to enjoying a presence that is greater than the both of us. We are going aware from distractions unto a place where our spirits will be ushered in stillness and exaltation.
      After few miles, we found a rock and we took our sit upon it. With my eyes closed and my friend tightly secured, I heard distant footsteps and cheerful chattering of fellows whom were also sightfully giving thanks and enjoying the company of family & friends.
     
         As moments passed, I could hear the wind blowing melodic hallelujahs, the sky took different shapes and forms, the colors of the day changed its accents and liveliness and the earth cooled underneath me in welcome, my spirit marveled and the song of praise poured out of my heart…
         Like King David, I sang my heart out in true humility of how fortunate I am to be alive and not on a sick bed somewhere. Like Helen, I rocked back and forth in my criss-cross meditation position and I dwelled in that moment. I dwelled in awareness and understanding of God’s grace and mercy, in the opportunity and ability to be alive, well, healthy and aware. In the chance to be a contributing member of a human community and to be able to give thanks. When I opened my eyes, I noticed Shades panting gently beside me and looking out to the mountain with her eyes full of Grace….
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          The euphoria and peace of that moment was unbelievable and unimaginable. No disappointments or headaches from the days prior could quench it. With the increasing demands to be more daily and with various problems, shattered dreams and deferred hopes that we experience as humans, an habit of giving thanks regularly becomes one that is challenging and not easily cultivated. Sometimes, I am forced to reckon with the conclusion that life is hard, no matter what occupation or dream one chooses to follow. Sometimes I wonder if I had chosen “being human” or “just living” as a dream or profession, maybe life would be a little bit easier and my daily living will be filled with more eucharisteo and less stress and I will be as joyful and as free as a butterfly. The truth is, “just living” is not a profession and “being human” does not pay the bills or contribute to making the world a better place. Hard work, determination and scary dreams that forces remembrance and frequent recitation of God’s promises such as in Jeremiah 29:11 does.
 
         As I drove back to my place, I started some soul searching about what makes living a life of thanksgiving harder for me as a person and for most individuals. I concluded that it is just the ease of it, it is easier to complain about the things we do not have than the things we have. With interpersonal comparison as a virus that draws the solid  line between what we have and what others have, a daily practice of eucharisteo would be very challenging. It also does not help one of the noteworthy challenges we already face as humans, we feel entitled to very good things and many more things that the big things we have are easily missed.
Good things such as having working legs, enjoying free ventilation of our lungs, enjoying deoxygenated blood flowing from our right atrium to our right ventricle, then through our pulmonary arteries, the blood gets oxygenated and oxygen rich blood travels back to our left atrium from our lungs, then into the left ventricle and blood is then carried to the rest of our body from our heart. Like how our kidney filters about 180 liters of fluid per day and the inability to do so would mean serious trouble. Like how our brain can control so many complex things simultaneously. Is this not enough reason to give thanks daily and be full? But why isn’t it then? No matter how bad it is, we are not where we used to be, we are just on our way to where we are going. Although, some are more closer than others.
 
        So I gave thanks for all the little things that I have, for all the big things like breath and blood flow in my body that keeps me alive and strong, and for all the important things that keeps butterflies in my belly that we call family, friendship, love, purpose, passions and dreams….
 
      Afterwards, I went home and I hugged my father for a while and I gave thanks some more as I coordinated the pots and pans and sweet feastly aromas took a hold of my home. The chaos of happiness, the eruption of laughter and the conversations with distant relatives gripped the rest of my day.
 
        In that moment, my heart remained full of thanks and out of my heart poured songs of eucharisteo….
 
All Photos taken by Yours Truly 🙂  ……………………………………………………………………………………….

3. “Making Peace with our lives: Can we really?”dsc_07081       As a human physiology student, I am learning more about how our bodies work daily and I am fascinated by the depth and complexity of our creation as humans. The different molecular mechanisms and regulations that makes us who we are astounds me. Learning about various hormones and neurotransmitters that controls the simple and vital components of our lives such as sleep, appetite, mood, and coping with stress is just awe-inspiring to me. It is only in my generation that I think that the saying “knowledge is power” does not always apply. My human physiology professor jokingly commented about preaching to the choir when she advised that we all should get “enough sleep” every night because sleep has a significant impact on our appetite regulation, performances as students and stress level. There is an hormone called Ghrelin that is secreted by the endocrine cells of our stomach and ghrelin secretion is associated with gastric stretch.  Increase concentration of grehlin in our blood decreases gastric stretch and this binds with receptors in our hypothalamus and we experience an increase in appetite. Unsurprisingly, decreased concentration of ghrelin in our blood increases gastric stretch and that binds with a different receptor in the hypothalamus and we experience a decrease in appetite and whoola, We are not hungry!

   When you are hungry and your stomach becomes a lead growler, you are secreting ghrelin! When we do not get enough sleep, we have high concentration of ghrelin in our blood and we eat more. It makes me wonder if there is a connection between being dissatisfied with ones life and an increase in secretion of this hormone and overeating. If we add acute stress to the mix, it makes for a bigger party of confusion in our body. Stress increases cortisol level in our blood and epinephrine, which depresses our immune system. When epinephrine is secreted, our heart rate increase, blood pressure increases and as well as blood glucose. Imagine being in a long term state of chronic stress, It would not be surprising that a person could be scared to death literally with all of these predisposing factors. Sleep relates to stress which relates to appetite regulation and that relates to mood and a whole lots of other things.

    Going back to the famous saying, even though most of us know that we ought to get enough sleep at night so that we can get up the next day and seize each day, we all often find ourselves doing the opposite. So Knowledge goes from being power to judgment. So what is it that makes this simple idea of getting enough sleep at night impossible? It has become an incurable disease of the 21st century, it is something that is now a norm and getting enough sleep at night is now looked down upon. When I talk to the few people in my life who tells me that they are able to get 8 hours of sleep or more every night, I find myself saying a little prayer of forgiveness afterwards because of my first response to their honest response is judgment. I feel like they just don’t do enough, they are either just more opportuned than the “mass” or they are just  “lucky” or they are just not as ambitious or hardworking as most people. I mean, how can you do it? How can you handle all the demands of life and get consistently good 8 hours of sleep or more every night? With an increasing demand to be the best in all that we do in our culture today, something has got to give and in most times, it is usually sleep. To my surprise, when I engaged a step further and asked these people what they do differently that enables them to be able to fulfill this much needed requirement in our lives, the answers I received were all along the line of “I have made peace with my life, I live a very disciplined life, I live in the moment, I am not afraid to say NO to anyone for as much as I need to and I know my limit!” The answers sounds so simple, yet unattainable.

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       Truth be told, these are things that if implemented consistently, it would only change our lives for the better but someone somewhere would not be getting the help they need from us. One of the answers that pricked me the most was the response of “Making Peace with ourselves.” I think this is an idea that could be challenged and discussed more, it demands a revolution of people standing up to encourage the culture of making peace with life and defining what that means. Making peace does not mean being complacent, in fact it means working hard but accepting your life for what it is right now. It means pushing forward the culture of living in the moment and smelling more roses while striving for the better! It is progressive thinking that encourages us to develop new ways to balance our increasingly daily demands (life, work, school) with our human need for wellness! It means proper regulation of our appetite, mood and stress. It means taking care of ourselves to the best of our abilities, loving ourselves as well as others and just being! It is accepting that we are enough as we are and not falling into the pit of comparison (yea, don’t we all do that? ;)). It means working towards the most dreadful word nowadays, “balance!”

   Most importantly, it means Living!

                                                            and making peace with our lives…:)….

 

 

2. Personality or Knowledge: Do Former College RAs Make Good Roommates after College?

Residents Assistants (RAs) are student leaders or (pre-) professionals and members of the Residence Life Staff who ensure that the residence halls are in order. They enforce school regulations and policies as well as make sure that residents who are caught in violation of school rules and regulations are reported to the appropriate council (Judicial Council, Honor Council, the Dean of Students, Resident Coordinators for Administrative Hearings etc. ) to be held responsible for his/her action(s) if necessary. The responsibility of a Resident Assistant includes building and fostering a community among residents in his/her residence halls, being a good communicator that has  updated knowledge about campus/ community resources that can be of help to residents, enforcing college policies and regulations, planning and implementing social and educational programs for residents, as well as the administration side of the job which involves duty nights, submitting work orders to the maintenance staff about damages and repairs needed In the dorms and all other paperwork aspect of the job. All of the RAs I knew during my three years as an RA in college performed their jobs effortlessly while maintaining other leadership position(s) on campus, some even doubled majored alongside a minor. This made me wonder more about these group of superhuman college students, the Resident Assistants.  What is it about a student that makes him / her suitable for the Resident Assistant Position? Personality or Knowledge?  More of which and less of which? I say both!

I was an RA for 2 years before I was promoted to the position of a Head- RA my senior year of College. I had my own share of duty nights, monthly programs planning, bulletin board due dates, being there for my residents whenever they needed me and having a crystal understanding that I am never “off duty” as long as I am on campus or in my college town. My formal RC (Residents Coordinator) compared being an RA to the life of a “fish in a fish bowl.” A vital part of the RA position is assisting residents with roommate conflicts. At the end of a roommate-conflict settlement meeting(s), the RA(s) would encourage the roommates to come up with a compromise and or an agreeable plan, upon which all parties could agree on, with the hope that they can now continue to live together with less friction and courtesy. Eight to nine times out of ten, it works!

The interesting part of this case is that RAs do not have roommates, yet we are the go-to people for solving roommate problems. And as helpful and resourceful as we are, I do not think that we would ever be able to completely “put ourselves in our residents shoes.” This does not mean that we do not know what we are doing or  undermines our qualifications in anyway, it only means that we are not directly experiencing one of the problems that we are reputable for being good at solving.  If so, do you think former RAs (who have both the experience and brains as student leaders) make good roommates after college when they might no longer have as much space and privacy to themselves as they did in college? Which leads to the question of, what makes one a good roommate? Personality or Knowledge? Does knowing how to read people, reading about or having some sort of experience about what people like to see in a roommate gives some people a better advantage to be good roommates or living companions than others? Or Is it purely about being even-tempered, party-proof, clean, organized, courteous and caring about the people around you that makes one a good person to live with?

It sounds silly to ask what makes one a good roommate when it seems obvious that attributes such as discipline, organization skills, and selflessness are good qualities that makes one a good roommate. What about former RAs? Does possessing some or all these qualities and the experiences they had as RAs set them up for a future of awesomeness and a superhuman power of knowing how to live amicably with different kinds of people? I say yes!

Our experiences/ exposures as former RAs makes us the best kind of people to live with (maybe I am biased :D)! We are well-informed about conflict resolution and are well- experienced on what roommate etiquette worked and did not worked for our residents…

And when conflicts arise in our futures as most of them are inevitable, we would know how to handle them and keep them from escalating, thanks to the professional development opportunities that comes with being an RA!

Reference:

Duties of an RA. 2015. Retrieved from http://www.salem.edu/residence-life.

 

 

1. Stopping by Nervous Boulevard, So God may be Exalted?!

Ba-dum! Ba-dum! Ba-dum!

I could feel and hear my heart beat as I sat in the sitting area of the DMV office two weeks ago. My heart was almost beating out of chest (literally) and the more I tried to distract myself from my nervousness by focusing on something else, the more impossible it seemed.  My mind was ‘tabula rasa’ and all I could focus on in that moment was the possibility that I might (more like would not) not pass the written test component of my driver’s license test, and this thought was followed by the “you will never drive or be able to get your driver’s license alarm!” And my thinking got worse from thereon, I had open the door to fear…

Every time the bell rang to announce the next person in line that would be attended to by a DMV officer, I would flinch a little and I could feel my heart nearly coming to a pause. This happened over and over again and all I could do was to start reciting Psalm 23 because I was out of options as to how to maintain sanity and I was only moments away from a heart attack. I think what made this entire experience ridiculous in that moment and in hindsight was that the feeling was not strange and I was no novice to experiencing nervousness in every milestone on this journey I call “Life.” Every time something significant was about to happen, I would take my rest at the nervous boulevard and sip few cups of anxiety attack before proceeding to the house of ‘praise and thanksgiving’ or the house of ‘better luck next time’… A lot of people are also familiar with this routine and it made me begin to wonder why do we get nervous? Why do we offsprings of an Omnipotent being whom are fully aware that we have a father who is always there for us get nervous?  We know that he is the maker of heaven and the earth; the I am that I am, the teacher and greatest demonstrator of love and sacrifice. Yet, we incapacitate him with nervousness, doubt and anxiety? Or are these emotional states part of us? Have they been woven into the fiber of our being and no matter how confident and rest-assured we are in our maker, we must pay ‘Adieu’ and be humbled every time we are about to overcome a mountain. Are these emotional states the part of us that keeps us in check and in line? The part of us that reminds us that no matter how awesome and superfabulously fantastic we get, we are still only humans and there I say it, mortals?

Thirty five minutes after my arrival at the DMV office, the bell dinged again as it had times before and my number was announced. The moment was finally here, one critical part of my adulthood that I have put off throughout my teenage years even through college was now here. It was my turn to step in front of an examiner and ace my driver’s license sign test and written test! In reality, passing the test is not impossible because thousands of people have done it before me, but the hardest part of the whole deal was ‘not passing’ the test and having to walk out of the office in shame and in the self-loathing judgement of ‘failure’. I do not think that anxiety is purely caused by our mountains but by the fear of the possibility of not overcoming those mountains.

God was with me as usual as he is always with me and all who identify as his children and I passed my test!!! I was so elated that I hugged and nearly kissed the officer who attended to me. The part 1 of my driver’s license examination was now done and the following day, I was to come back for the part 2 of my exam, the very famous driver’s license road test. I would be driving beside an officer whom at the end of our drive, would either say “I am sorry, come back another day” or “outta girl!” The truth of the matter is that it is not the end of the world if “I am sorry…” was the result, it’s just a test that I can retake over and over again until I get it right, but failure was not an option that anyone choice fully selects. I felt so victorious passing the first part of the exam that I could not picture myself not dancing out of the office again the following day.

The following day, I went for my road test and I waited for an hour before it was my turn. During this one hour, I resumed duty as I took rest at the ‘nervous boulevard and took a cupful or two or three of anxiety attack while waiting my turn to be announced to take my driver’s license road test. Even though I had danced out the same office a day earlier during which I had proclaimed to God of how AWESOME I KNOW he is, that I BELIEVED HE IS ALWAYS with me and that I am untouchable with him as my father, I was now basically demonstrating to him that I could no longer feel his watchful presence only a day later. That alone is a message for another day. The whole nervousness and anxiety routine was in effect and every time the bell ranged, my heart took on a different rhythm and I nearly passed out.

In hopes to distract myself, I started reflecting back on my life on all the major things I had done and all the pivotal points in my life. I remembered starting each and every single one of those journeys very nervous and anxious. Going to college, first time singing in front of an audience, first time I gave a lecture/presentation in front of an audience, first time I shared my cooking with family, and then the first time I did so with friend(s), first time I walked into my classical guitar class, every time I am taking an examination, and so many firsts and mountains. I also remembered that at the end of every one of these occasions, I always end up singing my heart out to God in appreciation for his faithfulness or I go home and work harder, and then do the singing later. None of my failures have become the end of my world or the end of grace and growth.

So what is it about nervousness? It happens so often over and over again and I am yet to meet an individual who is immune to this emotional state. It is both an emotional state and response, a way our body deals with an uncomfortable situation and it is an emotion that reminds us that after all, we are still humans. I think God wired this important state in our being as a constant reminder that he is our father and we are his children and no matter what, he has our backs. We grow in character, in faith and in humility each time we stop by nervous boulevard because at the end of its street, we would be dancing our way through hope lane after conquering our Mount Sinai or Everest.  Nervousness keeps life interesting and keeps our head down. We are able to be grateful for things and feel sincere excitement for things prayed for, hoped for and mountains conquered. God is able to remind us of his faithfulness consistently and we are able to be humbled by our creator. So why do we get nervous over and over every time we are about to cross over a milestone, conquer a mountain in our lives or fight a battle, It is so that God would be exalted at the end. It is so that his promises may be reinforced, because in him and through him alone, we can do all things through him who strengthens us….

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