Skills

“Comparison is the thief of joy.” – Theodore Roosevelt

This has never rang more true than now. As a twenty-something, my current conversations and thought processes seem to always revolve around the “what am I doing with my life?” question. I am finding that within my circle of peers, someone is either landing a big-time job, traveling the world, attending graduate school, or questioning why they’re not doing any of these things. Social media newsfeeds can be an emerging adult’s biggest frenemy when it comes to keeping track of friends and colleagues. You want to know what someone is up to, but you secretly want to feel like you’re in a better spot than they are. (Oh I’m sorry, that must be my ego talking) That, or you want to justify your place in life by knowing that other people are in the same boat as you. Solidarity, anyone?

I have read countless blogs and articles on this comparison crisis rampant among college students and post-grads. Some have even called it the new OCD: over-comparison disorder. The problem with comparing is that other people’s situations are given a forefront to what progress and success should look like. This is a huge contentment sucker since we each have our own journey to fulfill that is constantly changing shape. Measuring where we are in life with another human being is like trying to shoot at a moving target. It’s frustrating and misaligned. There needs to be a way out of the “this is me” but “this is the world” limbo.

In fact, there is a way that is definitely worth trying. Here it is:

Live your life inside out.

That’s right. We’re about to get real soul-talky. Living life inside out? It means spending more time investing in your journey rather than living up to what others are doing in theirs. It means putting energy into nurturing what makes you unique, learning to not only identify but love your innate abilities and then having the willingness to improve the skills you choose to attain. Rather than absorbing the trends and timelines of your colleagues, observe what inspires you and take action at a pace that’s most beneficial to your own goals, whatever they may be. Identify insecurities and combat them by fostering positive thoughts about yourself and your future. Yes, living life inside out can be easier said than done, but it’s an approach that has a lot of support behind it. To establish some credibility here, Oprah (shout out to you, Oprah) mentioned this approach in a number of her interviews. Life coach and clinical psychologist Dr. Edward A. Dreyfus has even written a book about it with enough empirical research to calm any skeptics out there. Taking a note or two from these inspirers, I’ve learned that self-reflection can really be a gateway into self-acceptance.

So how does living inside out help us compare less and become happier? The first step is to acknowledge the comparisons you have with yourself and others. Say it with me: “Hi. My name is _______, and I am a comparer.” The next step is to shift your focus from the external, material, and visual to your unique personality, places and purpose. Ah, alliteration! Let’s call those the 3 P’s.

Personality: The collection of traits and tendencies that you exhibit to yourself and to the world.
Places: The non-geographical places of interest and value that your actions stem from. Maybe you come from a place of compassion or entrepreneurship or social justice or…
Purpose: Your calling. Your legend. Your reason. The string that threads through everything you do and what ties your beliefs and goals together. It’s your passion turned into action.

Every single person has a different combination of their 3 P’s. If you are able to focus on your 3 P’s you will learn to value them. You can cater your choices to a path that is tailored to who you are, rather than someone else. Don’t let someone else’s decision to join the Peace Corps or go to law school change your dream of launching your own startup. The next time you find yourself feeling uneasy about where you are in life because Person A is way ahead of you or Person B took a different route, realize that it’s because you come from different places, have different personalities, and each have your own special purpose.

A big chunk of this process is definitely learning to love and respect yourself fully so that you can in turn, emit that same positivity to those around you. There is something very freeing about allowing yourself to compare less and to appreciate more. So start within, share your abilities and dreams confidently, and embrace the abilities and dreams of your colleagues. It’s an ongoing process, this whole self-reflection thing, but let’s start at the core so that we can be so happy with ourselves that we are always happy for each other.

Image: David Goehring

CultureSkills

“Hey, how are you?”
“Alright! You?”
“Doing well, thanks.”
“Good to hear.”

And cue the curtain call. That’s it, that’s how we talk to each other. While the pressures of getting to class or work on time makes this sort of interaction necessary, let’s pause to think of what this does to our overall engagement with one another. Allow me to preface by saying I am an avid small talker and do see the value of passing conversation. It lightens the mood and provides much needed person-to-person acknowledgement. To surpass the surface, however, we need to recognize the times where we can switch the banter with deep dialogue.

Fig. 1 Everyone loves an iceberg metaphor

deep 1

The usual conversation involves skimming through topics I like to call “skimterests,” ideas that only scratch the surface of getting to know someone. The current climate, who wore what and when, or perhaps some car trouble you had on the way to a meeting, are all so very skimteresting. We sometimes avoid heavier topics in an effort to save the other person from discomfort. It has become a common courtesy to not engage in sensitive issues but as emerging adults, let’s realize that we should not always mask our discussions. What we lose by doing this are genuine moments with those around us. It’s okay to be vulnerable. Don’t just break the ice, melt it (and get to the bottom of the iceberg).

Fig. 2

deep 2

Finding common ground is a valuable place to start when having a conversation, but it should not be the sole subject. It is easy to talk about similarities because you feel secure and understood, but complexity begins when you shift your focus on what makes the other person unique. That is when you delve into the various life events and perspectives that have shaped them into the person they are.

 Fig. 3

deep 3

Digging deeper requires you to invest two things into the other person:

  1. Time spent asking open-ended questions
  2. Verbal and non-verbal marks of interest

Ask questions that don’t end with just a yes or no. Go for the “Why’s” and “How’s” when asking why a certain life path was chosen or how they feel about their relationships. Showing interest is key to conversation continuity and can be done with simple words of affirmation, attentive eye contact, and nods of recognition. People can gauge one another when speaking, intermittently checking if what they’re saying is actually being heard. Listen, process, and have specific follow-ups. The goal now is to widen your knowledge of the other person without feeling pressured to respond with a similar story in efforts to relate. Everyone has something intriguing about them and each conversation is a scavenger hunt to figure it out!

Open-Ended Questions:

  • Describe three things you could add to your life that would make you happier. What about three things you could do without?
  • How would you describe your personality? How is that different than how your family, partner, or friends would describe you?
  • If you had to make up a life motto right now, what would it be and why?

Don’t worry about the back-and-forth. There is no required word count or rule that says two people must talk equally to have an effective conversation. You don’t need to always say something to fill in the gaps. Appreciate silence as a significant facet of conversation. It allows people to ponder their responses, especially those who need more time to process thoughts before speaking comfortably.

Paraphrasing is powerful. Respond with what you have gathered from the other person. This not only shows that you listened but that you care about having an accurate idea of their point. Having positive remarks after someone shares something personal will also help create a safe space for dialogue. Validation is the pillow of conversation, it make things comfortable.

Water it with time. Really getting to know someone is an ongoing process. The best relationships form from a progression of conversations, keeping in touch with others, and remembering what they have to say. If you have time in your day, think about how you can make the “How are you?” turn into something a lot more meaningful.

Images: Sunshine and Marian Bagamaspad

Health

I can’t tell you how many people I’ve recently heard complain about the amount of storage units they own. For some reason they all have to go clean them, and move stuff around and let it sit some more in the dark collecting dust.

Our society is one that encourages us to buy, buy, buy. And then keep.

It’s a problem I had, and one that I work on daily. School binders from tenth grade? I had them. Boxes full of trinkets and souvenirs that meant almost nothing to me? Yep. Clothes I hadn’t touched in years? You betcha. And one day I felt disgusted by it all.

But some of us aren’t disgusted by our stuff, and may be wondering why we would want to de-clutter.

Clutter is tremendously limiting. It keeps us stuck and holding on, literally and figuratively, to baggage. Clutter prevents good energy from flowing through our surroundings. Plus, holding onto things “just in case” sends the message to the universe that we will need things to fall back on in the future. It’s called poverty consciousness.

Because of all these things, experts often say that people dealing with issues including obesity, anxiety, and financial issues almost always have some sort of clutter in their lives that needs clearing. It won’t “cure” everything, but it will certainly alleviate many difficulties.

Below are nine steps we can take to de-clutter our physical lives and live more freely:

1. Slim down the wardrobe.

The average woman wears the same 11 pieces of clothing the majority of the time. Many of us could probably look through our closets and find a few things with the tags on, and others of us likely can find at least 10 items (that’s conservative) that we never wear.

If we consistently have trouble determining what to wear, we have too much. When we limit ourselves only to things we like, it becomes easy and even fun to put together outfits every day.

We have to be honest here. If we haven’t worn an item in six months, we don’t need it. Throw those clothes into a trash bag and take them to a donation center or consignment shop.

2. The bathroom.

Stop buying new shampoo, conditioner, etc. Many of us have some half- or quarter-full toiletries laying around that are waiting to be used. Either use them or toss them. Same with old medicine bottles; I had about four bottles of Aleve, so I combined them into one.

3. De-clutter in small increments.

Trying to tackle everything all at once or in a short time is intimidating, and a great way to get defeated. I found success in breaking my cleaning up in time chunks, spending no more (but often less) than two hours cleaning each day.

Find what works for you; maybe you want to fill one large trash bag per day; maybe you want to clean one section of the room per day. Or maybe you want to make a short playlist and stop cleaning when it’s over.

4. Use your free time.

Do you have five minutes to wait for something to microwave? Clean a part of your kitchen. Every time you have a few minutes, tackle a tiny portion of a room. It adds up.

5. Don’t open it.

If you have boxes or bags that have sat untouched for over a year, don’t go through them. Just donate them. Or toss them. For me, going through old boxes = keeping things I don’t need.

6. The sentimentals.

Part of a true deep clean is eliminating items that may have some sort of sentimental value, but are collecting dust. I had trouble with this, yet I began realizing that stowing away meaningful items and allowing them to collect dust, rather than giving them to someone who may use and care for them was not a way to honor my memories. I held on to the deeply sentimental items I still used. I let go of my attachment to the rest.

To make the process easier, I gifted some of these items to people I care about; clothes I didn’t wear went to an old roommate, teddy bears went to my little cousin.

7. One in, one out.

When you receive an item, get rid of a similar item.

8. Remember that value doesn’t lie in things.

Our memories and love are not diminished when we let go of things we have collected from special people or during special times.

It is unfair to ourselves to base our memories and measure our value on material items. Once this is internalized, it is much easier to freely eliminate clutter.

9. Set an intention or vision.

This is fun for very visual people, or those who love to decorate. Imagine, or even draw out, the way you want to decorate your new space once you remove its clutter. Seeing or envisioning the beautiful change can give us the boost we need to keep going!

I hope these tips get you moving in the right direction toward clutter-free surroundings!

What de-cluttering tips do you have? Share below! You can also check out a couple great articles on organizing your bedroom here and here.

Image: Unsplash

Professional SpotlightSpotlight

If you love fashion, beauty, décor, photography, or just amazing blogging in general, don’t miss Kat Tanita’s stunning blog, With Love From Kat. Kat styles beautiful outfits and has a keen eye for what’s trending in the fashion and beauty industries, and she shares her insight through photos and round-ups on her site. Not only is Kat a successful blogger with a polished chic style, but she is also savvy business owner who has learned a lot from her experiences. But now, let’s hear from the blogger herself…

Name: Kat Tanita
Age: 25
Education: B.A. in Design Studies from Arizona State University
Follow: Twitter / Facebook / Instagram / PinterestWith Love From Kat

Carpe Juvenis: How do you define ‘Seizing Your Youth’?

Kat Tanita: Chasing your dreams and making them a reality.

CJ: What was your favorite class in college?

KT: I loved all of my design classes, but surprisingly my favorite class was Marketing senior year. It was neat to learn about the creative process and how important it is in an effective public relations and marketing campaign.

Kat Tanita 1

CJ: What are the greatest lessons you have learned from being a business owner and blogger?

KT: Ask questions, find mentors, have confidence but be humble, hire smart (get a good lawyer, accountant, intern, etc.) and learn from rejection.

CJ: What are your time management tips?

KT: Write everything down in a to-do list and take one thing at a time. Start the day and end the day with productive things, but give yourself a break in between. I always try to get out, take a walk and have a long lunch. It feels good to end the day with something productive – I can’t sleep if I don’t!

CJ: What does a day in your life look like?

KT: Every day is so different. Sometimes I’m at showroom appointments, press previews, meetings, and events. I’m always answering emails, exploring the city, looking for inspiration, shooting outfit pictures, and brainstorming for upcoming projects. I love to cook dinner and end the day with yoga, a run, or circuit training.

Kat Tanita 2

CJ: What advice do you have for youth who want to start their own blogs?

KT: Remember to be unique and original. Don’t try to copy others because what will set you a part is your individual voice and style. Do your research! I simply Googled “how to start a blog” 4 years ago and read so many articles/watched so many YouTube videos. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and find mentors. You should always be learning.

CJ: Which book has had a great impact on you?

KT: Grace was one of my favorite books this summer. I loved learning about her career path. She started from the bottom and worked her way up. She is incredibly talented.

CJ: What motivates you?

KT: My dad’s work ethic motivates me. He always said whatever you do, do it to the best of your ability even if it’s a small, menial task.

CJ: What advice would you give your 20-year-old self?

KT: Travel more, read more, and embrace your uniqueness!

Kat Tanita 6

Image: All photos by Kat Tanita from WithLoveFromKat.com

CollegeCultureInspiration

Anxiety. It’s not a pleasant word. It’s also a word that illustrates the feelings of me and my friends when we realize we’re knee deep in thesis projects, midterms, or final exams. Anxiety is a weird feeling because it’s not like a cold. People can’t necessarily see the worry or panic in you, so they treat you normally. But like depression, it’s still a very uncomfortable, and sometimes dangerous, thing to hold inside for a long time. People go through anxiety often, and in college, I’ve met many people who say that they’re suffering from it.

I was talking to a friend who used to suffer from anxiety and depression. She said that part of the reason was because she didn’t know what she wanted to do with herself and she didn’t know where she was going in life. In high school, she went to counseling, but it didn’t help. She said she got better because she found something she loved, in particular a television show and her passion for graphic design. Being lost is scary, so if that is causing some worry, remember that the best thing is to keep searching (not feverishly, but more considerately) for things that are interesting or passion-­worthy. It’s different for everyone.

Some people feel that anxiety stems from a fear of the future. Anxiety isn’t necessarily fearing the future; it’s fearing the inability to control it. I get anxiety from not being to control the outcomes of my future. I don’t know if I’ll get a perfect A this semester, and that freaks me out. I can control my work ethic, but not my professor’s mind. I tell myself that some things are out of my control, and to not blame myself for everything. If I was late because of a train delay, it’s not my fault. Sure, the professor will be irked I walked in during lecture, but I left my house on-time, I was not trying to be late and, well, sometimes things like that happen.

Anxiety is different for everyone, and the reasons are different for everyone. The ways to deal with it varies, from drinking tea in bed to ­exercising at the gym. In the end, the most important thing is to remember that there is always tomorrow, and to not sweat the small stuff. Ten, twenty, thirty years from now, today will just be a blimp in a timeline filled with great experiences. You can do it.

Image: Unsplash

Skills

“Be the change you wish to see in the world.” There is no proof that Mahatma Gandhi ever said these exact words, but either way, you are familiar with this quote. It was used in the valedictorian’s graduation speech, a few of your professors paraphrased it in their lectures, someone retweeted it on Twitter, it was printed across a cute shirt on the bargain rack at the mall, or maybe you’re just the kind of person who likes to collect inspirational quotes.

Whatever your story may be, there is no doubt that you’ve encountered this quote at some point in your life. However, your familiarization isn’t what’s important. This is solely because nine times out of ten people will look at that quote, think it’s inspirational enough to share on social networks, and go on about their day smiling at all of the likes and retweets and favorites they get from their friends and followers.

I’m not saying everyone is like that but how many people do you think will actually be the change that they wish to see? Now, that quote is obviously open to interpretation because we all want to see different things. We all have our own definitions of change and what we’d like to see change. But if there is one thing we all have in common, it’s this: we all live in an imperfect world. It seems like every time I go on the internet or turn on the TV, something horrible is happening. Even if I’m not aware of it, I still know that somewhere in the world someone is living in poverty or trying to survive in a war-torn country.

If you’re reading this article, that means you have access to the internet, which means you have a computer (or a smartphone), and that already makes you a little more privileged than a lot of people around the world. This is not to say that we don’t all have our own life struggles or that we’re all well-off, but I am saying that we have a duty to fulfill. Because while we all might not live in war torn countries or have to deal with poverty, it doesn’t mean that those issues will go away if we don’t think about it. The horrible things in this world aren’t fairies. They won’t disappear just because we say we don’t believe in them or because we aren’t forced to encounter struggles in our everyday lives.

So what is the point of all of this? Well, to put it simply, as young people (it doesn’t matter if you’re in high school or in college), we owe it to future generations to set a good example for them and to be the change. All change is change, so if you wish to see less animal abuse in the world, volunteer at an animal shelter, help fundraise for organizations whose missions are to end animal abuse. Whatever cause you’re interested in, find a way to become a part of it, because chances are there is a way that you can contribute. If you’re not really into joining any causes, you can still volunteer and make a difference in your community.

Look for local chapters of Habitat for Humanity. Put in time helping restore or build a home for a family in need. Pick up trash around the neighborhood, clock in some hours at the community center or an afterschool program or anything your heart desires! I’m not saying that doing any of these things will put an end to all wars or get rid of poverty forever, but as I said before, we live in a world that is imperfect and bad things happen everyday. Why not try to do something good to counteract the bad?

Volunteering is important because not only will it impact your life, but it will ultimately have a positive impact on the lives of others. No act of service is too small or too great. Poverty will not go away in one day and neither will famine or sickness. I don’t expect it to but I do expect to try to work at doing what I can, as a young person, as a college student, to make sure that I do things that honor the change that I not only wish to see but the change I want to see as well.

You have the power to influence others in a positive way. If you start to volunteer for a cause or an organization, one of your peers or family members might be inspired to get involved or to tell other people about it. That’s how movements are started. That’s how change happens.

If you’re like the queen from Alice in Wonderland and you don’t want white roses, paint them the color that you want them to be. In other words, if you don’t like the way things are, do something about it. Paint all of the things that you want to change red!

Also, the next time you come across the quote “be the change you wish to see in the world,” forget about liking it or sharing it or retweeting it; choose to live by it instead.

Image: morguefile

Travel

This is amazing! It’s your first summer in New York City. You’re here for pre­-college classes, checking out universities, taking summer courses, interning, working, or simply shopping, eating, and being a tourist. It’s the city that never sleeps, a place romanticized by movies and glorified by those who live here.

Well. Sort of. If you know anything about NYC, you know it has its rough patches. New Yorkers are known for their direct and fast paced attitudes, always rushing around stylishly but quickly. In the summer, the tempo of the city changes. Tourists flood in and some New Yorkers leave. But those who stay, like yours truly, are forced to weather through some of the not­-so-­pleasant things about being in NYC in the summer. These are a few things you should know before coming to New York City.

1. It is hot.

That explains everything. The grouchy taxi drivers. The simmering concrete. The wet sensation under your arms and the uncomfortable chill of the train if you’ve been sitting too long. NYC summers are hot. Commuting feels nasty. This year has been pretty tame, but usually the temperature hits triple digits. NYC summers are hit­-the­beach, break-­the-­fire­-hydrant, egg­-on-­the-­sidewalk hot. Advice: drink water, stay indoors or have indoor trips until 3pm­ish, and pack lightly. Mornings around 7-­9am and evenings around 6-­8pm are commuter hours and you don’t want to be stuck next to the sweaty businessman and a woman with her crying baby. I recommend that you do your summer intensives or other courses during a more relaxed time in case you have to lug supplies or textbooks around. If you insist on going outside, keep the heat in mind.

2. Watch out for mosquitoes.

Yes. Mosquitoes. Did you think that being in a city full of skyscrapers and asphalt would save you from those little monsters? You’re sadly mistaken. I sit here telling you to beware of the mosquitoes, but I have five bites on my legs just from walking to the grocery store. What’s so unique about NYC mosquitoes? They’re intense. My friend from the West coast says that they are nastier biters here than where she’s from, so be warned!

Even as a seasoned New Yorker, I haven’t overcome this itchy nightmare. It does not matter who you are or where you’re going. If you breathe and if you have blood, you’re going to be mosquito food. You can either simply accept that you’ll get bitten (as I have) or you can avoid going outside, especially at night. The crazy thing is they seem to be everywhere, even indoors and in the middle of the day. They cling to people’s clothing, and with all the moving around, it’s no wonder they are everywhere. There are bug sprays and lotions you can use to keep mosquitoes away, but there really isn’t an escape. Best of luck.

3. Avoid moving­-in nightmares.

If you’re a college student looking to live outside the dorms for the semester, you better find an apartment, and fast! Students who are coming back for fall are going to start moving, or moving back, and you want to make sure you find somewhere to stay during this rush. Start looking for places now and if you’re lucky, you’ll find something you like within your budget.

New York is a great place to spend the summer if you know your way around. Even if you don’t, you’ll get the hang of where you are and what trains to take quickly. There are a lot of things to do and see, and as long as you’re aware of how to take care of yourself, you will be just fine. Remember to stay hydrated and to take it easy. Enjoy the city, and make it a summer to remember!

Image: Unsplash

ExploreInspirationLeadershipLearnSkills

If you’re reading this, it’s not likely because you’re a slacker or a procrastinator. Most likely, you’re the type of person that is kept up at night worrying about the future. You’re the type of person that’s invested in self-improvement, always trying to find ways to better yourself.

These are all good traits, but may work against you…especially when the anxiety begins to weigh you down. You may work hard, have talent and be intelligent, but these aren’t the secrets to success; they’re merely tools. It’s handy to have them, but you have to know how to use them in order to reach your maximum potential.

Between training for tennis, managing my academics and securing an internship, I’ve been discovering new ways to uncover my own untapped potential. Here are some of the methods I’ve come up with:

1. Embrace Your Individuality

This is a hard thing to do when everyone around you is trying to get you to conform to a particular mold or stereotype. Especially in the crucial stages of adolescence, it’s important to understand what makes you you. Knowing your strengths, weaknesses, talents and interests are all part of embracing your individuality.

If you have a knack for arts and crafts, it’s easy to accept your talent as useless or listen to the critics that tell you it’s a hopeless line of work. But if it weren’t for the people that like to paper mache and refurbish wood, we wouldn’t have beautiful, handcrafted journals or uniquely refinished furniture. Places like Etsy wouldn’t even exist.

In the book Imagine, Jonah Lehrer discusses the secrets to creative success. He conveys how the interchange of ideas between professionals in varying fields helps stimulate creativity. Differing beliefs, interests and talents, as well as a healthy dose of the unfamiliar, are what produce some of the most successful innovations.

2. Take More Risks

It seems the initial reaction of young professionals is not to speak up, as if keeping quiet is the road to a promotion. While this may apply to some situations, you can’t dismiss the fact that your ideas may be as good as any of your coworkers, or that any question you may have is likely thoughtful and valid. The issue is that the fear of failure always seems to override the chance to succeed.

Nine out of ten times, your question won’t be stupid…your idea won’t be considered dumb. For the one time it is, don’t sweat it. Few people are fired over dumb questions; a lot more are promoted due to sharp ideas. And most importantly, you don’t want someone else to come up with that same idea later on and reap the rewards. The “what ifs”are always the worst.

3. Don’t Worry About Things Out of Your Control

This is a big one for me. There will always be that one teacher that is determined to give you a B no matter how much you deserved an A. Some days, the traffic may be so bad that it takes you two hours to get home from work, even though you live five miles away. You’ll be sick during finals week. You’ll be judged for how you look. People close to you will change.

The key is: Life happens. While it’s easy to fret and blame others or ourselves for the things that are inevitable, it doesn’t help get us anywhere. Most importantly, it doesn’t help us grow as a person. Why give yourself early gray hairs for something you couldn’t have helped?

As much as people tell you otherwise, you have control over your happiness. While you can’t always control the bad things that happen to you, such as being dumped by a boyfriend or a family member passing away, you can control how you respond. While you may grieve for a while, how you channel your emotions afterward is what’s important. You can lock yourself in a room for a week or you can go for a run; the choice is yours.

This idea also translates to the professional world. When you don’t get a promotion, you can mope around feeling sorry for yourself or you can work even harder. You can handle criticism with a heavy heart or you can use it to fuel your ambition. The people that make it to the top get there because they never gave up.

The most important thing is entering a new situation without too many expectations. Expectations are the surest route to disappointment. This doesn’t mean undervaluing yourself, but diving in with an open mind and open heart. Oftentimes, the things we have planned for ourselves don’t turn out to be as great as the paths we happen upon by circumstance.

Whether you’re graduating high school or starting a business, your potential is something that should always be ruminating in the back of your mind. Ask yourself what your goals are. They could be as simple as writing in your journal that night, or they could be as big as being hired by NASA. When you ask yourself, “Is it possible?” know that the answer is always “yes.”

Some people believed I would be a strong, high school tennis player. Others believed I would go pro. The only thing that ever mattered to me was what I thought. And when people asked, “What’s your goal?” I’d always answer: “To see how far I can get.”

Image: Unsplash

CultureSkills

My 22nd birthday was a straight up rollercoaster.

Halfway into the morning, my dream company cancelled the interview they’d scheduled with me. No more trip to NYC.

The same day, the person I’d been most recently involved with texted me the news that he’s seeing someone new. Kind of an ego bruiser.

This all came in the midst of a post-grad journey that has been anything but smooth and peaceful, about a week after the death of a wonderful high school friend.

In times of grief and confusion, minor letdowns can seem major. The camel’s back had officially broken, and I realized that I needed to make time to resolve these conflicts on top of a schedule packed with class, writing deadlines and a full-time job search.

Despite what you’ve heard, it isn’t “strong” to ignore your problems. Over time, failure to acknowledge and resolve internal conflicts can manifest in depression, anxiety, confusion, and an inability to emotionally connect with people. Practicing internal conflict resolution while you’re young and resilient will seriously pay off.

Resolving your conflicts also doesn’t have to get in the way of a busy life. Here are the steps that have helped me uphold my commitments and personal relationships as I overcome my challenges:

Internal Healing

  1. Be honest with yourself.

You don’t have to tell the world you’re hurting, but tell it to yourself straight. You can’t overcome any type of feeling if you don’t admit it’s there. By facing the nitty gritty details, you’re giving yourself permission to unearth and work through them.

  1. Be kind to yourself.

As you’re honest with yourself, be sure you’re doing it without judgment. Some of your truths may not be pretty or easy to accept; take your time with them. Don’t resent yourself for being sad, angry or confused.

Transform any self-deprecating thoughts to positives. For example, turn “I’m such an idiot for starting that fight,” to, “I engaged in that fight because I was frustrated. How can I better express those feelings next time?”

  1. Be conscious of unhealthy thoughts.

Resisting the changes your conflict has created, or obsessing over regrets and what-ifs, creates backward progress. Re-direct your thoughts when you sense they’re heading down what-if road.

I redirect mine by focusing on my five senses; what colors I see, how my breathing sounds and my skin feels, etc. It brings me back to reality and lets me change my train of thought.

External Adjustments

  1. De-clutter.

De-cluttering your physical environment helps a surprising amount in releasing emotional baggage. Put all your dust-collecting items and unworn clothes in a giant trash bag and donate them.

Having trouble blindly parting with your more sentimental dust collectors? Give them to a special person in your life.

  1. Physical health = sanity.

Carve out time to exercise, but be gentle with yourself. It’s ok if you’re too depleted or stressed for anything more than a five minute walk in the morning.

Remember, too, that over-indulgence is not self-care. A bottle of wine and a pint of ice cream will make you feel sluggish and skip the walk tomorrow. Moderation is your friend.

  1. Meditate, meditate, meditate.

I am not kidding. You don’t have to be the Buddha to do this. Sit and focus on your breathing and body for five to ten minutes. Continued meditation will give you calmness and clarity.

  1. Set a daily allowance.

Avoid spending precious time and energy in sad or angry lala land by allotting five to 10 minutes a day to journal, cry, scream into your pillow, whatever works for you. Once the timer is up, it’s time to get back to reality. Lessen the time by a minute each day. You’ll find you become more in control of your feelings while still acknowledging them.

  1. Don’t grieve alone.

As my best friend says, the phone can weigh 500 pounds. But even just telling a loved one you’re sad and need a listening ear or a shoulder to cry on will bring you comfort and release.

Teen and young adult years are already pretty confusing as is; life’s big and small obstacles during these times can throw us for some serious loops. The great thing is that conflicts can aid tremendously in self-discovery and personal growth if you address them in healthy ways.

What are your tips for overcoming personal conflict while staying focused and present?

Image: Picjumbo

EducationSkills

Debt. And debt. And then some more debt. We all know it’s waiting for us at the end of our four years in college, but that doesn’t mean we have to sacrifice a new college wardrobe, right? Though it may be hard to part with your over-flowing closet of endless outfit options, here’s what you really need for your college wardrobe to stay up-to-date without breaking the bank:

1. Leggings/Yoga Pants/Sweatpants

Every college student knows that life revolves around leggings, yoga pants, sweatpants, and the life of comfort that comes with them! There’s a simple way to break down these basics that you’ll likely be wearing 75% of the week:

  • Leggings: When you want to be comfortable but still want to look nice. When paired with the right shirt these can totally be dressed up!
  • Yoga Pants: More casual and perfect for when you’re on the run from class to class but still want to look somewhat put together.
  • Sweatpants: Typically worn on those roll-out-of-bed mornings, sweatpants are the ultimate comfort luxury for when all you want to do is curl up in your bed and sleep the day away.

2. Shorts

As much as leggings, yoga pants, and sweatpants are the staple of every college wardrobe, the long pants just aren’t going to cut it during the warm weather that comes around during the beginning and end of the year. Shorts, particularly jean shorts since they match virtually anything, are the go-to wardrobe fix for this problem.

3. Jeans

There will be days, most likely around once a month, wear you decide to break out the jeans and look a little nicer than usual. Jeans will also come in handy when you want to go out but don’t feel like getting completely decked-out in a skirt.

4. Plain Shirts

Another absolute staple, plain shirts – both long-sleeved and short-sleeved – are going to allow you to get the most out of your wardrobe and money. These can be paired with any variety of bottoms and layered with the right cardigan, scarf, or jewelry, and they can be worn on any occasion.

5. Crop Tops and Skirts

Whether or not the party scene is for you, there’s a good chance that you’ll experience at least one during your four years. Crop tops and skirts are items that are typically worn, so it can’t hurt to have one or two of these stolen away in your closet or dresser!

6. Scarves

In order to dress up those plain t-shirts and long-sleeved shirts and to keep warm, scarves are a necessity. They’ll allow you to get the most out of your basics by making an already worn outfit appear brand-new while also keeping you cozy as the weather cools down.

7. Cardigan/Jackets

Like scarves, these add-ons can be a life saver when it comes to getting the most out of your college wardrobe. They’ll also help big time with transitioning into fall and winter weather. You can get the most out of those summer tops without freezing and still look stylish.

8. Flip flops

Two words: flip flops. The ultimate necessity that every college student needs. There are three very important uses where flip flops come into play.

  • In the Shower: Whether you’re in a suite or in a communal bathroom, sharing a bathroom with any amount of people is tricky business. Do yourself a favor and get yourself a pair of cheap flip flops to solely wear in for your bathroom adventures.
  • At Parties/Social Gatherings: There will be drinks and there will be spilling of drinks. Do yourself a favor and wear a pair of (preferably black) flip flops so you don’t have to go through the heartbreak of having your favorite (or worse—brand new) shoes ruined.
  • Everyday Convenience: As mentioned earlier, you’ll definitely have your roll-out-of-bed mornings and those mornings require no-hassle shoes. Flip flops are the perfect solution!

9. Flat/Fall boots

As the weather gets colder, you’re no longer going to be able to wear your beloved flip flops going from class to class. The smart choice that every college student should make is to have at least one pair of flat boots for everyday use. No wedges, and definitely no heels, are needed when it comes to trudging your way across campus!

10. Undergarments

This may seem extremely obvious, but I felt like this was a necessity to put on the list either way. Pro tip: stock up. Being in college calls for a lot of hours to do the three S’s: study, socialize, and sleep. That leaves little time to do laundry and even when you do have the time, you’re really not going to want to do it. Also, don’t forget to have a surplus of socks (we all know we’re bound to have multiple lone socks in the drawer after a month or so)!

Overall, these 10 categories should save you a lot of hassle when it comes to deciding what you need for your college wardrobe! Happy shopping!

CultureEducationTravel

Backpacking through the Trinity Alps, kayaking down the Salmon River, conversing with local school children in rural Chile…these experiences are just the norm at the Alzar School.  And Elena Press, a sophomore at Upper Dublin High School, located outside of Philadelphia, was one of just ten participants in its Fall 2013 session.  From mid-August through the end of December, Elena attended the fully accredited semester school, partaking in the schools “Six Foundations:” leadership training, academics, outdoor adventure, service learning, cultural exchange, and environmental stewardship.  The school, based on a 100-acre campus in Cascade, Idaho, is for motivated sophomore and junior students.  Students participate in significant outdoor expeditions, learning to whitewater kayak, backpack, rock climb, surf, ski, snowshoe, and more. Its academics are challenging, all honors and Advanced Placement, and the leadership opportunities that are provided are what Elena describes as “once-in-a-lifetime.” But these high level courses are distinctly different from those familiar to a traditional high school. The Alzar School emphasizes critical analysis, creative thinking, and effective communication, while using its unique resources to provide a vast variety of hands-on experiences for its students.

Elena Press elaborates:

Before beginning the process, I was hesitant to depart my highly regarded high school, as well as the town I had lived in my whole life.  Leaving behind friends, family, school, clubs, and activities would be an immense sacrifice. Of most concern, since I was missing a semester of my customary education, was how this would impact my future?  A typical worry of many teenagers is college.  Many students, including me, wonder: What classes should I take?  How can I earn the best grades?  Should I get more involved in my community and service projects?  How many awards can I receive in my high school years?  Yet colleges love seeing students partake in unique activities and take risks, two items surely fulfilled by an experience at the Alzar School!

A frequent activity of the students at the Alzar School is kayaking. Students kayak in Idaho, Oregon, California and Chile, providing many opportunities for a first-time kayaker, like me, to increase their knowledge of this riveting sport. I vividly remember staring with wide eyes and quaking in fear as I gingerly paddled in my kayak, mortified at the prospect of going down Snow Hole, a Class IV rapid. My instructors insured me that I was capable and reviewed the line with me multiple times. Then, I went down. I did it! And I flipped over and swam out. Consequently, I discovered that kayaking is absolutely thrilling; you can choose to challenge yourself however much you desire. The uncertainty of being under the water’s influence taught me to push myself, but kayaking is all about community; my friends and I learned many lessons from each other, and constantly supported and cheered one another on, whether doing a flip in the air, or leading down a rapid for the first time.  This is one of the reasons why the Alzar School integrates a large amount of kayaking into the students’ time.  The school considers it a great medium for empowering young leaders.

Of the five months spent at the Alzar School, students spend two weeks traveling through the Northwest, six weeks in Chile, and the remainder of the time in Idaho.  When traveling to Chile, students fully immerse themselves in the culture, vastly improving their Spanish skills by participating in a homestay program, attending a Chilean school and conversing with locals. By traveling through Chile, I discovered that smiles and laughter can break even the strongest barriers of age, language, and culture. The traveling opportunities are not presented purely to allow the students to experience new places, but to open their hearts and minds to other parts of the world, and an unknown culture.  All these contribute to the ultimate goal…to empower and teach young individuals to become leaders in our world today.

Throughout the semester, I learned to plan and lead expeditions and service projects. Alumni continue to develop the leadership skills they acquired from their time at the Alzar School by creating a Culminating Leadership Project to make a difference in their home communities and the world.  The goal of my CLP, Girls Outdoor, is to foster an appreciation of the environment by exposing young girls to the outdoors.  I’m planning and taking 19 Girl Scouts on a three day camping trip. This will involve, among other things, teaching them Leave No Trace principles, risk management, and camping planning.

My semester at the Alzar School was the peak of my high school career and a highlight of my life. The greatest benefits that I acquired from the experience were figuring out who I am as a person and becoming confident in that person, while gaining a support group of the most incredible lifelong friends and mentors from all over the world. From chopping wood, to teaching Chilean kids how to kayak, I’ve never had more fun doing anything. I overcame limits, fell a lot and laughed even more, and found out quite a bit about myself in the process. I wish that every high school student could partake in an experience like the Alzar School offered me.

 Elena encourages anyone who is interested in the Alzar School to check it out.  For more information, visit www.alzarschool.org