Invest in Yourself

Cleaning-Tub-2

Cleaning-Tub-2For the past several months, the bathroom in my apartment had been incredibly disgusting. Having two room mates with varying levels of both cleanliness – the bathroom seemed to be on the bottom of the list when it came to proper maintenance. Aside from the lights blowing out one weekend, not much attention was given to its overall functionality.

But as someone who has grown up with a junky parent, I’m very sensitive to dirt, grime and disorganization. Bathrooms already gross me out in general because they’re rarely kept clean by patrons as any college graduate can attest to. When there’s no cleaning staff over the weekend and your fellow classmates can’t be bothered to throw paper towels in the waste basket – I would typically went out of my way to avoid a filthy bathroom, and this was no different.

While I had mused about getting a new shower curtain and liner in the past, I regularly hesitated because it seemed unfair that I should financially obligate myself to something that my room mates should’ve been invested in. Shouldn’t my room mates also be grossed out by the shower liner being discolored and shriveled? Am I the only one bothered by the bath mat being slick with grime?

But something clicked over this past week, and it got to the point where I simply chose not to bathe if it meant having to enclose myself in what seemed like a ceramic filth trap. So after volunteering this weekend, I quickly headed to the dollar store and snatched up some inexpensive shower essentials, cleaner for the tiles and went to work. I switched on the boiling out water as I sprayed and scrubbed – my arms immediately beginning to ache from the sudden onslaught of manual labor.

Painfully I reached up in the corners of the shower, excited that the grime my room mate thought permanent easily wiped off. Although a bit grossed out from the stray hairs left sitting around, I reached all the corners, all the walls, and made sure I could get as much dirt as possible off of the tub floor. Finally, after thirty minutes, I had accomplished the task previously unimagined - I had cleaned the shower. 

For several hours afterward, I’d walk by the bathroom, deeply inhaling the intense scent of the vinyl from the shower curtain. Randomly, I’d pop in, admiring my handy work, pushing the curtain aside so I can gaze at newly white tile.

As soon as my room mate came home, I pointed her in the direction of the bathroom, hoping to get accolades for my work. She seemed amused, and commented on the color. Then went about her business.

But I can’t stop thinking about it. I did it. I CLEANED THE BATHROOM. 

At the core of it though, I invested in myself. There was something in my environment that wasn’t in alignment with how I viewed myself, with the big picture of how I saw my life. I didn’t want to have the type of life where I refused to bathe because the shower was so gross. And instead of being upset that my room mates didn’t seem as perturbed as me, I chose to take on that responsibility of having my inner world (one of cleanliness) reflected in my outer world (a clean bathroom).

To invest in yourself means that you take steps to create congruency – is there a disconnect between what you’re thinking, feeling and doing? What can you do (think or feel) to create an alignment between yourself and your environment?

Investing in yourself can be fun, but it requires that you get over certain blockages and internal narratives – like how I felt that it wasn’t fair to be the only one concerned about the bathroom. In the end, of course, I’m extremely happy I did it and am on the look-out for other ways to invest in myself.

What about you? How did you invest in yourself today? 

Being on the Outskirts

Almost everyday I’m reminded of not fitting in, not belonging.

dear one, what have you lost? by Arrianna Marie

“I am a wanderer. My life has been a sojourn. I do not feel that I belong in any of the places that I’ve seen, visited or called home.

Ducks

Ducks

Sometimes it feels like I’m enacting my childhood fantasies of running away. Other times, it feels like I’m chasing after something that I never had. Today, it feels like a loss.”

Even though I grew up with a parent in the military, I didn’t move a lot. I actually stayed in pretty much the same general area for much of my childhood though I lived in physically different addresses. Either way, constantly uprooting your life between a pair of divorced parents doesn’t exactly create feelings of stability or being rooted.

For ages – even now – I tried to find a spin on my constant upheaval. It seemed like I was never any place for more than three years. I attended the same elementary school, but went to two middle schools, two high schools and eventually two different colleges. After graduating I lived in 4 different cities in roughly 2-3 years. Sometimes, I feel as if I’m on the constant brink of change – everything is transient, nothing feels permanent, I’m always eager (and ready) to start over.

On one hand, I love traveling to various cities, meeting new people, gathering new experiences. Other times I look at people who’ve lived in one city, one house their whole lives. The type of people who go home and relive their childhood in its entirety because everything is just as they left it. The sort of person who can go back into their adolescent room, touch the walls and know exactly what poster they hung there, or what CDs laid tucked away in a drawer.

But to me… that’s unfamiliar territory.

As a teen, living with relatives, I endlessly fantasized about running away. I remember looking out my window, watching a city bus pass by and wishing that I had the courage to simply get on and take it to the last stop. Even now, I daydream about going to the airport, randomly picking a destination armed with nothing but my mind and my passport before jettisoning off to somewhere far and untouchable.

In many ways I enjoy enforcing solitude upon myself. It feels better to reject others before they can reject you. And rejection is something I’m all too familiar with – unable to create lasting bonds with college cohorts, struggling to feel connected to others in high school. Even now, I feel like I’m lost, drowning.

Where is my tribe? Do I have one? Do I even believe in them? 

For the most part, I can’t seem to get grounded, settled, secure. I’m always eager to leave, to be someplace new, even if for a few months. Sometimes I want to get rid of everything, catch a greyhound and just… start over. When I want to give myself completely over to the Universe, and trust that everything will be fine.

Belonging is an interesting concept – and one I simply don’t understand. I’ve never felt I belonged anywhere, although I felt that I would or should have. I guess that’s part of my problem – how can I feel settled if I don’t even know what settled is or what it looks like?

Instead, I’m going to make peace with being a wandering nomad.

Addiction to Failure

KeyThis post appeared in my inbox, and I just had to share it with you.

It’s (Not) Okay to Fail by Rebecca Thorman of Kontrary 

Part of the reason we are so obsessed with normalizing failure is that we want to feel good about ourselves. And that’s hard right now, no doubt. It’s hard to find a job, to get out of debt, to pursue meaningful work. It’s hard to make time for family, get away from our computers, and engage face-to-face. It’s hard not to compare our bottoms to everyone’s top on Facebook.

I wanted to save this last piece for the end of the week because I loved it the most. It reminded me of what I blogged about earlier this week about expecting good things. The very idea of courting failure, of encouraging others to do it reminds me of pessimism. Expecting bad things to happen.

But being addicted to failing is not just expecting bad things to happen, but to actively take steps to manifest worst case scenarios!

Why would anyone do that? 

Because many aspects of life are hard, and if you’re being honest, you probably don’t have much desire to put in more effort than you’re currently putting in. And many ways, life can feel overwhelming, or like they have no viable solutions. So if things don’t work out, then it’s okay because someone will always be there to pat you on the back and say that you tried.

Failure is boring. Failure usually means you didn’t try something; you didn’t follow through; you didn’t finish. Most people don’t really fail. They succeed at being lazy, and call it failure. But at least they tried. Er, right?

I know in my own life, the situations or choices that didn’t work out, failed because I wasn’t thinking clearly, I wasn’t doing what was necessary to get what I wanted. Basically, I wasn’t showing up for my own life and prepared to take full responsibility for what happened in it.

Purposefully failing, praising people for failing, is like saying it’s okay you didn’t show up for yourself. Not pushing people to want more out of themselves, out of others and life is disempowering. Expecting more and better for people is okay! It’s not a punishment to encourage people to want more, to do more, to push themselves in ways that’ll make them better, happier, and overall closer to their goals.

Persistence is important, because you learn not to give up when things get difficult. Encouraging yourself to think positively about your own success doesn’t mean that you’ll never run into roadblocks or issues. But, don’t expect yourself to fail. Don’t set yourself up to fail because you might be afraid of good things happening to you.

So expect good things, think about what you want and less about what you don’t want and be persistent in your goals. 

Review of 2012 & Preview of 2013

I’ve been reading Happy Black Woman for ages, and in general, I love to read her monthly reviews. Basically, she looks over the past month and discusses what went well, and what she’d like to improve. But seeing as how 2012 ends in two days, a yearly review is in order. Snagged from HBW:

Flickr Credit to: Joli Sourire (OFF)

Flickr Credit to: Joli Sourire (OFF)

What I Want to Remember About 2012:

What was the most valuable lesson you learned this year?

Taking chances on myself, most definitely. That’s definitely something I want to keep doing as the year progresses – investing in myself, and my own personal growth and goals. 

What was the biggest personal milestone you reached this year in your relationships, health, finances, education and/or lifestyle?

I think I’ve had a few milestones this year: I cut off the locs I’d been growing since December 2008, and reading about Oneika cutting her own acted as the final push for me to do it. And today I went to the barber to get it shaped up (since it was uneven) and mowed down since it was way too big. I don’t miss having locs at all, nor do I miss having long hair – which I’ve had my entire life. This was especially enlightening when I did some quick math, and found that when/if I spent $50 a month to get my locs re-twisted, I’d spend about $600 a year. (Wow). But if I just got my new fro cut down every few months, at about $15, that’s obviously a massive savings. 

And I moved to Philadelphia for a new, contract job, even though I didn’t have anywhere to stay when I got here. Everything worked out, and I landed two great room mates and an apartment in a really nice neighborhood. 

I’ve also made some investments in my spiritual growth, such as meditating and praying every day – when I wake up, and right before bed. And I’m on the look out for new material to supplement my growth and finding new ways to help me get the type of life I want. Before, I would spend a lot of time reading, but not practicing. Now – not so much! 

What professional accomplishments (at work or in your business) were you most proud of this year?

Starting to do web development on the side. I’ve only just begun, but I’m really dedicated to becoming proficient in programming and building my skill set. While the job I have now isn’t best suited to me, it’s really opened my eyes to what I’d love to do – working in technology and computer science. So, stumbling upon a new career goal is DEFINITELY an accomplishment!

What was your favorite family/friends moment from 2012?

Hm. I think my favorite moment was being able to chat with Constance, a friend I made off of Twitter, for like two hours (or something) as we chatted about social justice.

What was the best book/blog/song/movie/restaurant/city/country/etc. you discovered this year?

Another hard one! The best book I think is Summer Sisters by Judy Blume. It’s really, really good. I highly recommend it. I don’t know if I saw any tremendously good movies this year. But one of the best blogs I discovered is about menstruation activism – which I found inspiring and knowledgeable. 

What I Want to Leave Behind As I Enter 2013

Which personal development area(s) did you make the LEAST progress on this year: health, finances, education, relationships, family, work and/or lifestyle?

Finances. That’s definitely my Achilles’ Heel. Even though I make more in my current job than I did in my previous, part-time employment. It’s still really frustrating to have student loans, credit card debt and chronic obligations (ie: cell phone bills, food, internet, utilities, rent, etc). One of my goals is to simply make more money so I can [literally] afford to do the things that matter to me the most. 

I also didn’t make any progress on my health. While I acquired a free membership to a semi-close gym, I actually hate gyms and the idea of working out (or even having to attend a class) agitates me. I looked into taking an aikido class downtown, but it wasn’t exactly what I wanted. I’ve been searching on and off since October, but haven’t locked into anything yet. My eating habits are semi-better, but I really need to learn how to cook. Currently, I eat a lot of pasta. A LOT. 

What promises (to yourself or others) did you break in 2012?

I told myself that I’d take my credit card debt more seriously – since it’s not a lot – and actively work to pay down at least one of the credit cards. I haven’t tackled it at all, but I know why. I just need to DO it. 

What arguments/gossip/hurtful comments, if any, did you participate in or make this year that you wish you could take back and/or apologize for?

Hm… I do like to hear gossip because it makes me feel like I’m in the loop. I don’t hurl hurtful comments, not because of self-control, but because when I’m upset with someone I tend not to go that route.  

What opportunities, if any, did you miss out on in 2012 because of fear or procrastination?

I’m not sure! 

What did you do in 2012, if anything, that was out of alignment with your values?

I’m not sure – my values are changing all the time! Hah. But, I think a big one with my spirituality is that even though I know I should work on it, I haven’t. 

What I Want to Bring Into My Life in 2013

What do you deserve more of next year? What do you deserve less of next year?

More of: Commitment – to myself, mostly. I rarely prioritize myself, and my own goals. I normally spend a lot of time worrying about what other people may want from me (ie: family) or worried about how I’ll be perceived by doing x, y or z. So in 2013 I want to spend LESS time fretting over other people’s opinions – not just about my life, but about things in general. My goal for 2013 is to alter my mindset so that I can manifest the type of life I want. Being around people who doubt themselves, or allowing their negative perceptions of the world to get to me won’t help me. 

What personal milestone(s) do you most want to reach in your relationships, health, family, finances, education and/or lifestyle?

Relationships: Dating. Even if it doesn’t end up with a relationship, I want to explore that. 

Health: Taking up a sport or physical activity – preferably self-defense or martial arts. 

Finances: Make more money, pay down credit card debt. 

Education: Continue attending web development courses, so I can learn to program. Find a mentorship and a network of other women who program to nurture and support me. 

Lifestyle: Live in my own apartment (no room mates). 

What professional accomplishments (at work or in your business) do you want to see for yourself next year?

For my writing to become a bigger part of my life/work. To be able to program – and get paid to do it. 

What do you want to learn in 2013?

Love. Manifestation. God.

What do you want to cross off of your bucket list in 2013?

Moving abroad to work. 

What I Want My Life to Look Like in 2013

What part of your life do you want to pay more attention to in 2013?
My work life. I definitely want my resume and cover letter and networking skills to be top notch!

Who do you want to spend more time with in 2013? Who do you want to spend less time with in 2013?
Hm. I’m not sure. I want to be present for myself, and spend less time with people who I don’t like or connect with. 

Which activities, habits or behaviors, if any, do you want to stop doing in 2013 because they no longer serve you?
Procrastinating. Doubting myself. 

Which activities do you want to start and/or continue doing in 2013?
My spiritual habits: praying, meditating, reading books (both fiction and non-fiction). Writing. Learning to code. Photography. Practicing the spiritual lessons I’m learning. 

What will your ideal day look like next year?
My ideal day would start off with me waking up in my solo apartment, with my cat purring next to my face. She’d be fluffy and adorable. The day will start with prayer, meditation and yoga. Then a shower. I’d eat breakfast first: toast, eggs, orange juice (my favorites). My cat will be meowing for food. Later I’d pop open the laptop, checking my e-mail while my partner is singing and getting ready for the day. The cat is on the laptop, swishing its tail. So I pick her up and take her to the balcony, where our apartment overlooks the Mediterranean ocean. That day all I have is a meeting over Skype, some code to clean up and to put the finishing touches on my novel before sending it to the publisher. My lover is ready to head out – we’ll be spending the day in Paris, and I can easily work on the train, and then spend the rest of my day meeting up with friends, and going out to dinner in my favorite city. 

Day 6 & 7 || Getting Caught Up

Last night, in the US, were the presidential elections. I mostly kept updated with Twitter and the Huffington Post, and waited until 1am for Romney to do his concession speech before heading to bed (apparently he didn’t do it until after).
So I ended up not blogging. It’s not that I was wrapped up in the election; I could’ve taken 30 minutes out to unwind and churn out a blog post. But I stayed glued to it, because I tried to convince myself that following the election was more important than a commitment I had made to blog each day of November. And now I have to catch up, and get myself back on track.

Have you ever had to get yourself back on track?

There have been times when I wasn’t sure what I was doing with my life. I had this small epiphany when I was living in Seattle – not the best situation; a crap job, an awful room mate and no idea about what I wanted to do at all with myself. So I left, and wandered around in Orland for awhile trying to figure out who I was. Quickly I learned that I loved comics, after getting the chance to be part of a large anthology created by and for women. This one decision has led me to write for a comics site – and it’s been one of the best choices I’ve made.

This aimless wandering, and general fear of being dependent on others also led me into my current position: I’ve acquired a new job that I enjoy, with a company that’s really great and I get to live with two really awesome people in a brand new city.

Everything is still a work in progress as I discover that even now, with my situation bringing me more happiness than the last, there’s still something missing. I’m still wandering. Still trying to figure things out, to catch up.

Not to “catch up” as in a race, but to catch up to the image I have of myself, of my future. I want to be that person that writes every day, that wakes up early and eats breakfast, to follow through on the tasks she sets out for herself. So I’m writing my post for two days to catch up to that person.

A lot of the time, I find myself comparing my life to others not because I want their lives specifically, but because it seems like those people are already doing what they’ve set out to do. They’re living their lives, doing their dreams. Naturally, there’s always a filter when observing someone else’s life – so the picture is never complete, you never get the whole story, only what you choose to see and what others allow you to see.

Someone I follow online once suggested that you just stay in your own lane, focus on what you’re doing and don’t get too caught up in others.

I should try that, maybe that’ll help me get a lot closer to who I imagine myself to be.

I’m participating in National Blog Posting Month (NaBloPoMo).

30 Days of Blog Posting.

If you click the badge, you’ll be taken to the NaBloPoMo and you can join in yourself!

Day 1 || Do or Do Not. There is No Try.

Do or do not. There is no try. – Yoda

I discovered this quote when I was a teenager, most likely in 8th or 9th grade, tackling my first novel (a sum total of 50 pages – my record at that time). Before each chapter I would type in an inspirational quote that I liked, and stumbled upon this fantastic one by Yoda. I adored it; succinct and powerful. Almost every day I find myself thinking about this quote, or daydreaming about quoting it to others.

The biggest reason I love this quote is because I find it to be so poignant. When I first began to contemplate this quote, and what it meant for me, I realized that whenever I say that I’m “trying” what that typically translates into is that I either haven’t started yet or I’m mostly just thinking about doing it without actually doing it. “To try” ends up being a weak excuse – that many people readily accept – because “trying” is expected and encouraged. It’s very much in line with that whole “shoot for the moon and land among the stars” mentality for me. Even if you don’t get where you want to be, at least you tried.

In the end, I reject this concept. For me, I very much have a “go with Plan A all the way” mentality. Part of this is because having back-up plans for your back-up plans is exhausting – you waste a lot of time and energy formulating these plans, stressing about these plans, and then later executing them when earlier plans collapse. Recently, I had this problem myself and I existed in such a nebulous space for many weeks. Then, I received some guidance and in my heart, I felt secure with this – even though it lacked the same certainty as the other choice and would require more work from me.

I believe in finding one thing you want to do, and doing it full throttle. That’s why “do or do not, there is no try” is my favorite quote.

I’m participating in National Blog Posting Month (NaBloPoMo).

30 Days of Blog Posting.

If you click the badge, you’ll be taken to the NaBloPoMo and you can join in yourself!

 

Who Provides Customer Service ?

Who provides customer service?

Flickr Credit to: verticalpharmacy

My definition of customer service: if you’re interacting with other humans in any significant way, you’re providing customer service. If the way you treat your customers or guests influences their decision to come back or not, you’re providing customer service.
Even though I have experience in retail, I’m not one to say that the customer is always right, or without fault. BUT I’m well aware of the fact that many employees can be (and are) very rude, disrespectful or disinterested in your problems – no matter how sincere you may be. Recently I’ve had at least two experiences where the employees felt that because it wasn’t in their job description, providing compassionate and patient customer service wasn’t necessary. A woman told me it wasn’t in her job description to do a [simple] task, and another man criticized me over the phone while his manager co-signed his statements, saying that because they’re not customer service, the standards are different.

Perhaps they long to be mere flies on the wall, who just answer the phone or are only polite to people who don’t give them a hard time. Or more specifically, if your job security isn’t depended on how nice you are to someone, you’re more likely to take liberties with patrons. Additionally, if the management is more lax about your behavior toward guests, then you’re more likely to have an attitude problem. Or finally, you have people who really don’t care and feel justified in how they treat you. Or a combination of all three.

Part of the reason this really grinds my gears is because at its core, customer service is essentially an act of service; providing for another in a way that they can’t provide for themselves. In this way, we’re of service to one another via blogging, books, films, Twitter/Facebook, in the streets, working in businesses both big and small. The list goes on.

Did you hold the door open for someone today? Did you pay a friend a compliment or give them a hug? Were you polite and patient to the hurried barista as the line led out the door? Did you think twice before snapping at someone who irritated you today?

To be of service is to acknowledge another person.  For example: I often take the bus to get where I need to go, and will often say, “Thank you” to the bus driver on the way out. This created a chain of events in which everyone said “thank you”. He got us to where we needed to be safely and efficiently. To empower someone is to acknowledge them. To acknowledge someone is to empower them. 

When you criticize someone unnecessarily, or feel the need to put them down, or be cruel to another person – you’re dis-empowering them.

Customer service, at its core, is about giving another person the tools they need to go about the world. Sometimes that means being nice to someone, sometimes it means listening. At its core, it’s about helping people realize that there’s good in the world, that people care, and that they’re not alone.

This is why good customer service is so important!