On convictions, being judged, and making Big-Life-Choices

Monday, September 1, 2014

Or alternatively I'm going to grad school!

I don't remember exactly when I decided I was going to attend this particular school (California Institute of Integral Studies) for a program (Masters in Integral Counseling Psychology) I had absolutely no background in. It might have been about a year into working at a law firm and about 3 months after I had decided becoming a lawyer was not in the cards for me. I remember reading the course outline feeling intrigued by the types of classes that were being offered. I remember wondering what it would be like to combine academic study and self exploration. Then I forgot all about it. For two years I pushed the idea of grad school to the very furthest corner of my mind and did nothing about it.

Last fall the idea came up again and wouldn't go away. I tried to push it away for not being a good time. For not adventuring enough before hunkering down to complete a three year program. For not having saved enough money. For not having done enough research to see if this was really the life path I wanted to take. As much as I tired to engage with these ideas, a strong part of me knew there would never be a better time. That this path was, for lack of a better word, my destiny.

I went through a period of extreme self doubt. While writing my application I wondered if my story was compelling and convincing enough to let a non-Psychology major in. After the in person interview I was entirely convinced I had made a fool of myself and had no hope whatsoever. It came as a shock, the day before my birthday when I found out I got in. First shock, then relief, then the a brief burst of shame for not believing in myself all along.

I learned during this process that I shy away from my convictions when tested. Before applying I was 100% sure I would get in. After pressing submit on my application I was about 85% sure I wouldn't. I admit pure fear derailed me. I lost all confidence the moment the application was out of my hands. I was afraid of being judged and I was afraid of disappointing myself.

I know this is no way to live. I know shying away from my strongly held passions and beliefs is a cop out. It gives me the option to feel small and powerless. It's time to move past living with this option. I am ready to stand by my feelings even if that ultimately leads to disappointment. When I think back all of the biggest choices I've made have come from this place of passionate dedication. I have never second guessed myself out of something that started from that place, especially when someone else's opinion came into play. I am ashamed to admit that abandoned my self confidence during the process of getting into school. So, with this bit of self reflection I am looking forward to taking this lesson with me as I embark on my 3 year adventure of learning and growing.

July- A Recap

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

I made my July goal to savor the month. I wanted to slow down and soak it in. I had grand visions of lingering over meals and morning coffee. Of going on long daily walks and finishing several books I started at the beginning of the year. Most importantly to this space, I had planned to blog daily. This obviously didn't happen. None of it did. I still felt myself rushing from place to place and thing to thing. I found myself speeding through meals and phone calls with my mom. What started as easeful living in the beginning of the month turned into pure laziness by the end of it. I gave up on cooking wholesome meals, exercising and blogging daily on about day three and never got back on the bandwagon.

The point of savoring July was to teach myself to stop fretting about the future. To focus on the present and avoid getting caught up in worries about things that haven't happened yet. Instead I ended up with month of self indulgence and no more peace about things I can't control.

But experiments would be nothing without the lesson we learn from the end result. In the last few weeks I've started to crave discipline and routine. Not in the idealistic way, that I think I will feel better when I have one, but actually setting an alarm and waking up at the same time every day. I crave healthy foods and exercise. I look forward to going to bed around the same time each night. I finally have some blog posts spinning around in my head and I look forward to sitting down to write in the mornings.

I learned I must take a new approach to savoring. I want to appreciate the mundane and I need to celebrate the treats that make life special without regularly indulging to the point of excess. I am curious to see where my mind settles within the structure of self-imposed discipline. In the past I've been obsessed with the routine and angry with myself when I don't stick to it perfectly. But it's been a while since I've done anything with regularity so I'm looking forward to see how this will go and I'll continue to remind myself that it's an experiment, with no right or wrong outcome.

What are your thoughts on routine? Are you better with them or are you more of a the go with the flow type?

Listening To: First Aid Kit

Monday, August 4, 2014

About two years ago had this playlist I listened to every single day. I found the playlist again recently and noticed this song which I had rarely paid attention to before. Now I can't seem to get it out of my head, so I shall share.

Chicago: A Love Affair

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

In addition to my ode to Chicago in photos, I had to do a recap of all the places we ate and played while in town. Below is a by all means non-exhaustive list of things to do in ChiTown (the city and I are officially BFFs so I can say that now).


Pequod's - This pizza place came highly recommended by my coworker and a dude we met on the plane as the best deep dish in Chicago and it did not disappoint. The restaurant has a fun, laid back, bar atmosphere, with plenty of beers on tap and big screen tvs. The pizza was everything someone could want from a deep dish, well seasoned sauce, piled high with toppings and just burnt enough on the edges to make the crust perfectly crispy. Highly recommended.

Wildberry's Pancakes and Cafe- I believe I found this breakfast establishment on yelp and I can see why they have 5 stars. Even on a Thursday at 10am the large dinning room was packed. I ordered a scramble with a side of the wild berry pancakes which was way too much food and entirely delicious.

I'll let the restaurant's website introduce you: "Dining at moto is like actively engaging in a multi-sensory dining experience unlike any other around the world. The moto kitchen serves as a state of the art canvas for Chef Cantu and his gifted team to combine high-tech equipment and intricate techniques with exotic, sustainable and seasonally conscious ingredients from around the world. While our vision in gastronomy may at some times appear to be a note taken out of a far out science-fiction novel, the magnificent flavors and extreme attention to detail for each moto dish are indeed very real."

This was the fanciest meal I had ever eaten so I have to talk about it for a moment. The restaurant's website touts innovation and creativity but I found the entire thing quite gimmicky. Prime example- the dessert was a sorbet in an angel food cake shaped like a hotdog because "your brain thinks you're eating a hot dog but, wait, it is really dessert!" No my brain did not think I was eating a hotdog. I am wearing heels in a 5-star restaurant, my brain is thinking: Where's the chocolate?! 

I did have a "wow science!" moment with the onion course (let's not get stuck on the fact that there was an onion course). Before the course the waiter brought a glass of sherry, so I took a sip of it, as one does while waiting for food, and it was horrible. I was certain I would not be able to take another sip. Then the course arrived, which turned out to be an onion, garlic pudding of sorts and I took another sip of the sherry after a few bites of pudding. My mind was blown! The onions perfectly complimented the sherry which tasted sweeter and almost palatable. I didn't finish either the sherry or the pudding but I appriecated the experience. I'm not sure if I have a simple pallet or if the Midwest should really leave the gourmet cooking to the Best Coast but this was a meal I wouldn't have again. 

La Sirena Clandestina- We went just for cocktails after drinking too much wine at Moto. The bar was cozy and romantically lit. They have a wide variety of drinks and the bar tender was willing to be inventive when I couldn't decide what I wanted. I would go back to try the food next time. 

25 Degrees- After a day of sightseeing and bike riding all I wanted was a big fat veggie burger and this was one of the best I'd ever had. The black bean burger was zesty and flavorful and I ordered mine piled it high with cheese, onion rings and BBQ sauce. We topped it off by sharing a boozy chocolate milk shake and I was in heaven. There is nothing like good diner food with an upscale twist.

Smoke Daddy- On our last day we checked out of our hotel and toted our bags to the hipster district Wicker Park. After getting off the train and walking about half a mile we were sweaty, hungry and looking for some shade. This place fit the bill perfectly. We settled in at one of their patio tabled and happily killed time there for several hours. They have a brunch menu but I went with the veggie burger which was fine. The real seller for me was the Root Beer, listed on their beer menu. It tasted just like a soda but with a kick. I could have had 5 if we had been in for an afternoon of day drinking. Instead I enjoyed one while relaxing, people watching and basking in the gloriousness that is Chicago in June


Architecture River Cruise- This river boat tour, sponsored by the Chicago Archetiture Foundation, was surprisingly more interesting than I thought it would be. We cruised up and down the Chicago river, admiring all of the sky scrapers with a picturesque blue sky in the background. Our guide, an older woman who volunteers for the foundation, was whitty and funny on top of being incredibly knowledgeable. The information she shared included the history of each building and it's architect as well as a variety of fun pop culture references. I learned so much about Chicago I wouldn't have known without going on the tour. Definitely one of the highlights. 

Navy Pier- We walked through here one night and I was not impressed. No doubt this was once an attraction for local families, but it has since succumbed to a tourist trap and teenage hang out. Not only is the pier decorated in a cheap Disneyland style a good majority of the "attractions" are inside. This makes sense in the winter but it left us wandering through a parking lot wondering where we were going. Skip.

Divvy Bikes- As cyclists in San Francisco it was only natural we would take to the streets while in Chicago and we took full advantage of the city's bike share system. The city has done a wonderful job of placing the bikes at frequent intervals in many neighborhoods. The bikes are designed for short use trips so you can pay the flat fee for a day and use them at half hour increments for no additional cost. We would rent a bike, ride around for a half hour to a designated doc, repark the bikes and wait a few minutes before renting another one from the same doc. We rode all along Lake Michigan as well as through the Loop and Near West Side. I particularly loved riding south along the lake through the impeccably landscaped park. The only downside is the bikes are heavy and somewhat finicky so after a few hours of riding my butt was a little sore from the seats. Regardless I still highly recommend it.

The Field Museum- At one point in our ride we were approaching the 30 minute mark, looking for a place to park our bikes and the one outside the museum was near by. While waiting before we could rent new bikes we decided to wander around the museum lobby/gift shop. The lobby had an impressive display of fossils which I'm sure lead to a wonderful full exhibit. We were getting hungry and tired from riding so we didn't tour the museum but it is on the top of list for next time I go back.

The Signature Lounge in the John Hancock- a friend and current chicago resident suggested this #protip. Instead of paying $20 to stand on The Legde of the Willis Tower (which this acrophobe was not looking forward to in the slightest) head to the bar on the 96th floor of the John Hancock. The view is just as good, and at least you'll get a few drinks for your $20.

Do you have any recommendations to add to the list? I'd love to use this as a reference for next time I visit. 

Chicago: A Love Affair

Not everything needs to be a full time commitment.

Monday, July 21, 2014

The other day I went to a yoga class after work. I first went to this studio which is only a few blocks away from my office about 3 years ago and totally hated it. The class was packed, the room felt boiling hot and the teacher wasn't able to provide me with any direct guidence because the class was so big. 
But last week I decided it was time to end my exercise break and forced myself to class and I was surprised to find I enjoyed every aspect. The class was less full so it was less hot, and the teacher was funny and insightful. I walked out feeling tired, calm and happy. 

I was relishing in that post yoga class bliss and my mind immediately went to "ok, when can I fit in na other class?" I started mapping out my schedule in my head and thinking about how I could arrange my days to fit 5 classes in over the next week. I began plotting how I could maintain this for at least the next two or three weeks. Then in the midst of this planning a suprising thought popped into my head "not everything needs to be a full time commitment". (Or something along those lines.) For my obsessive-planning mind this was a little shocking. I was in the midst of a full blown fantasy- how wonderful I will feel and how great I will look after being disciplined enough to go to yoga 5 times a week- and this thought stopped me in my tracks. 

Based on past experience this sort of fantasizing/planning just leads me to feeling like a failure. I do something that makes me feel great so I want to keep doing it. Then I make an over zealous plan to do the thing as often as possible and I let myself down when life gets in the way and I can't keep it up. Part of this habit of immediately thinking ahead is my uncanny ability to live in a fantasy future rather than this moment. The reason this thought struck me so hard was that I had moved on from relishing in the post yoga bliss I had felt moments before to an imaginary life where I was a dedicated yogi. The thought helped me return to the joy and contentment I was feeling after class, instead of wrapping me up in my ideas do the future. 

I know committing to my health is important, and going to yoga 5 times a week is certainly attainable but at the moment my exercise regime is pretty sparce. I work out about twice a week, usually at home. Aiming to attend a yoga class 5 times a week is a pretty aggressive goal for me right now and most likely setting me up for failure. This idea of not immediately committing to a full blown routine is pretty ground breaking to me. Of course I'd like to attend more classes, but starting on a smaller scale seems more likely to set me up for success. Since my last class, I've added two yoga classes to my calendar and that seems perfectly do-able. In fact I'm actually looking forward to each class as a high point in my day, instead of something I have to do because I am forcing some goal on myself. 

This circles back to my idea of living with ease this month. By scaling back on the goal setting and scheduling I am able to have more balance between the activities I want to do and quieter unfolding of the day. I want to be the person who is fully committed to a yoga practice but I have decided to take the slower route to get there. I imagine this sounds pretty elementary for most but, man, this concept of starting smaller is doing wonders to my over-anxious, over-stressed self. 

What do you think of starting with smaller goals? Have you had any success with it or are you the go big or go home type?

101 in 1001 July Update Part 2

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Here is a run down on my 101 in 1001 progress thus far:

3. Run a(nother) half marathon
I recently said, I made the best choice for my body and gave up on my July half marathon trainning. I didn't give myself enough time to build a solid base at the shorter distances and could easily foresee regretting pushing myself the necessary distance. The most disappointing part was my mental willingness was there. Sure, I missed a few runs because I had other things I'd rather do but for the most part I stuck to the program pretty consistly. I have definitely let this slide since quitting trainning and I would like to get back into running the shorter distances immediately. I also may still sign up for another half in the near future after I build a solid base. This goal isn't marked off yet but for now, I'm considering it attempted. 

18. Meditate daily for two weeks
I am fully on board the meditation train. I feel better, more centered, more calm and overall more joy when I meditate regularly. If only I could get myself to do it daily. Enter, Lucent the new project by one of my favorite bloggers/entrepreneurs Jenny Blake. Lucent is simple. You start by choosing an icon that matches your overall mood, you set the timer for as long as you like, then after it prompts you to enter some short thoughts. The entire process takes me 6 minutes a day and I feel so much better after I do it. I have been going strong on the weekdays for over two weeks now and it has definitely become part of my daily routine. I consider this a total success. 

30. Long weekend in Chicago
I am a planner and am easily stressed but I love to travel. So as much as I look forward to taking trips I have a tendency to get caught up in the anticipation and excitement of the vacation for months before I leave. My trip to Chicago in June was not that. Jeff and I decided to go about a month in advance and we spent an hour one day finding a good hotel and I bought the plane tickets in about 15 minutes. It was all planned in less than a day. Not to mention the time there was incredible but that deserves a post in itself. This was the least stressful vacation I've ever taken and I am so motivated to take such trips more often. 

67. Stick to a good skin care routine 
I am currently trying too use up all of the old skin care products I have hoarded in drawers and boxes so this has led to a significantly more dedicated skin care routine. I have always used lotion on my body daily but I am horrible at remembering to wash my face at night and frequently forget sunscreen. I recently found a bottle of Neutrogena Make Up Remover Facial Wash so I have been using that at least three times a week at night. I also went on a quest for Burt's Bees Rose Water Tonic the moment I saw an add for it in a magazine a few months ago and have using that most nights. One of the most fun parts is the Queen Helene Mint Julep Masque face I've used about every other week. I like to use it in the late morning after a workout on my days off when my roommates aren't home  so I don't scare them. It hasn't done much for my complexion but I have noticed my skin is significantly more soft since I started using it. Most importantly I have made sunscreen a priority before I leave in the morning which has decreased my pink nose. 

70. Give away all clothes I haven't worn in a year
This has turned into one of the most successful accomplishments of this of this list. 

Due to a bit of recent weight gain (from the afore mentioned lack of running) and an overall dissatisfaction with my body I had been feeling significantly uninspired and frustrated with my wardrobe. One day while having a leisurely morning at Jeff's house he was reading a news article and I was online shopping again. He looked at my iPad and said "you're always window shopping." I realized then, that I spend so much time looking at and buying clothes. Window shopping had easily become one of my most frequent pastimes. I didn't even buy something every time I shopped but I was always thinking about which clothes to buy next. I knew I could be using my time to do more meaningful productive things if I could cut down on the window shopping habit. 

It was right around this time that I discovered the concept of a capsule wardrobe on the blog Un-Fancy Caroline complies a wardrobe of 47 pieces, including tops, bottoms, jackets, dresses and shoes, and wears only those for three months. I was drawn to the idea as soon as I read about it. I started by taking everything out of my closet until I only had 40 items I loved. I put everything else I own in a drawer or give away pile. Then I 
went shopping for a few more items until I felt like I had a good solid mix of pieces. I plan on sticking with this capsule from June until the end of September when I'll reevaluate and create a new fall capsule. 

This idea has given me a new way of looking at clothes and defining style. I am certain in September I will look at the clothes I put away and want to donate most of them. I am quite looking forward to that time. 

82. Hike Mt. Tam
Two weeks ago I had a Friday-Sunday off without requesting it. I hadn't had a free Saturday off since I started in February and made full use of the day. I knew I wanted to try to get out of the city and earlier in the week I received an email from my favorite car rental site Relay rides offering $20 off my next rental so I snapped that up and booked a car for the day. I found a 4.5 mile hike on the internet just went for it. There was no cell service so I got a little lost and took a detour in the beginning and I am guessing I did more like 7 miles in about 3 hours. At points I was a little too hot and I ended up with a bruised toenail but the time in nature, away from technology was exactly what I needed.

99. Create hanging planters
For a less wordy ending to this very wordy post I'll let this picture speak for itself. I based the design on this post and finished the project in one night. I'm very happy with the results.