Times are ‘a Changin’

Times of transition can be hard for everyone. Whether you’re going from primary school to secondary school, or from university to whatever comes next, it can be a time filled with feelings of self-doubt, uncertainty and subsequently fear.

I find myself currently entering another transition period in my life, and these emotions are exactly what I’ve been feeling lately.

Fear of the unknown is just an archetypal theme we experience all throughout life. It’s unavoidable, and I’m sure Darwin would explain it as a way to promote survival, as what we don’t know may in fact kill us. Fortunately (hopefully), outside of that “survival of the fittest” world, our periods of transition don’t always make us fearful of not surviving, but of something much worse: a fear of not succeeding.

*Cue Ronald Weasley telling me I need to sort out my priorities.*

Comfort is just a synonym for security and stability. Prior to times of change and upheaval we have gotten used to the routines that keep everything working in fine order, and whatever chaos that does ensue can usually be fixed by an equally comfortable plan of action. We know exactly what it takes and what to do in the bubble we’ve created around ourselves to ensure the version of success that this realm allows. However, what happens when you want more? When that success isn’t success to you anymore, what’s next? Rather, what if you just can’t stand that job, or major or whatever you have settled for any longer?

Transition.

If you are willing to take that plunge 20,000 leagues into the sea of uncertainty, discomfort and quite possibly instability, then you’ve already won a major battle in the war. If the transition isn’t much of a choice, such as going into high school or university, you still shouldn’t be discouraged as on any scale, the battle is fought the same way.

Let the need for certainty go. The truth is, there is no way of knowing what the outcome of this new chapter will be. Let the need for certainty in the situation go and grasp onto the certainty of who you are. Look back and see how far you’ve already come. Spoiler alert: you didn’t make it to where you are now without going through transitions! Remember that before you were in the place you’re in now, you once felt unsure, nervous, distressed, fearful and yet, here you are. Hold onto those moments because they are already done. You overcoming in the past is certain, and with that certainty and faith within your capabilities the situation no longer matters because if you could do it before, you can do it now—and even better.

God did not plant in us a spirit of fear.

In the midst of imminent struggle, keep going. This time of your life isn’t going to be easy. It’ll be rough, difficult, daunting and a variety of other negative synonyms, but despite all of that you should keep moving forward. If it’s something you truly want, if it’s something that you know you need to get through to make it to where you want to be, then just keep putting one foot in front of the other. We can learn a lot from watching babies develop. A baby learning to walk falls countless times, and every time they get back up and try again until eventually the falling becomes a little less and the walking becomes a little easier. Instead of stopping because of “failure,” fail your way to success as Megan McArdle outlines in her book, The Upside of Down: Why Failing Well is the Key to Success. Learn about yourself and how you work under different situations, and figure out the methods that work best for you. Grow because that’s exactly what periods of transition are meant to nurture: growth. My personal mantra: Growth stems from being uncomfortable. So be uncomfortable and discover parts of yourself and your mind you didn’t realize existed. We often surprise ourselves during these times. God did not plant in us a spirit of fear. Take this transition and embrace it, analyze it, grow from it, learn from it and even when it seems like absolutely nothing is right, step back and look at how you made it there—enjoy that highlight reel of yourself and use it to become inspired and empowered. You will come out on top every time.

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Half-Way Through 2015 Already?!

It’s almost half way through 2015. *cue the inevitable exclamation of disbelief that the year is half over when it feels like it just started* Yes, six months is right around the corner with just a week and half left of May.

Though it is never time that moves in pace, but our attention to time that alters with age, I find myself getting back to the days of childhood where all day felt like a year and a year felt like eternity. The idea is that if I pay more attention to my moments and how I fill them, then maybe I can begin to consistently fill my moments with actions that make for days that propel me toward where I want to be weeks, months and years from today. It’s still a struggle of course—creating or trying to create your own path—but life in general is a work in progress.

So, as the year begins to make the turn into its second half, what better way than to take this Super Mario-esque checkpoint and use it as a check-up on the goals you made for this year back in January!

After carefully examining the various goal lists I have made for this year, I recognize that there are a few places that I need to make some alterations—and that’s okay. Goals do not have to be set in stone because we’re a dynamic people that change with the tide of each day. It’s impossible to know the hand that we will be dealt tomorrow or even a couple of hours from now. Sure, we can predict that it’ll be the same routine we’ve become accustomed to, that no colors will drift outside the lines, but that tends to be the point where we need to be shaken up the most.

The main alteration I’ll be making to my goal lists is starting smaller with everyday habits I need to develop. These will be the foundation I need in order to return to the “original” plan, or even to create space for new ones. I am not ashamed that I waiver, and I do it a lot—trust me—but I am proud of my resiliency to recognize where I need to make change and to be willing to put forth the effort in order to do so.

The half-way mark is a great place for self-reflection and to really sit and think about where you are in relation to where you want to be, and if where you want to be has changed in the last six months, which is HIGHLY probable, then there’s no better time to start fresh.

Wishing everyone a multitude of peace, courage and abundance in the second half of 2015!

xoxo

Today’s Realization: I Have Been My Own Worst Enemy

By running away from my passion, I have been running away from God.

I’m afraid. I have always been afraid. It’s why I always dismissed my feeble attempts at fiction. It’s why any time I wrote prose or poetry I never gave it a chance. It’s the reason I blog inconsistently, or will run away from the voice inside my head that rings as loud and insufferable as the most annoying of ear worms: “Write today.”

I’m afraid that I will make a mockery of the art that I admire so greatly. That I will taint the platform that my favorites used to open up the hearts and minds of the world in their time and in mine.

I’m afraid that what I produce won’t be good enough. That I’ll create something that will have others look and say, “How dare she call herself a writer.” So, I don’t—call myself a writer that is.

I spent four years of my life studying the literary canon of authors that ranged from William Wordsworth to John Milton to Octavia Butler, and each piece of literature I studied, each literary analysis I wrote, the more inspired I became to create a work that would leave others just as open as I was. Open to seeing a world vastly different from the one prior to reading the first words on that first page. Open to being in touch with emotions and ideologies that were previously brushed away as insignificant and false.

I wanted to change and create perspectives.

But, self-doubt and a fear of failure constantly prevents me from doing the one thing that I’ve always wanted to do. 

It has called my name since before I can remember. From Junie B. Jones to Lois Lowry and Neil Gaiman in that trailer classroom, gathering around on the blue, carpeted floor to be frightened and enraptured by visions of button eyes in alternate realities that threaten the lives of children.

It continued on to Yann Martel and John Steinbeck, and even to Stephanie Meyer. I could go between Jodi Piccoult and Cicely von Ziegesar before switching to Jane Austen and Nathaniel Hawthorne. I fed myself with stories and clothed my back with diaries that logged what I was reading and how it made me feel.

I’ll never forget not being able to close my eyes until I finished the final installment of the beloved and undisputed champion of all book series (in my eyes), Harry Potter.

Fast forward to University, where I majored in English solely because it was a part of me. What else would I do? Aren’t you supposed to major in the subject you liked? All I know is reading and writing, so English major it is! I explored other subjects that might’ve peaked my interest, and I believed that I could reconcile that major along with a more “job-oriented” study—and I did—for three years. But nothing ever made me feel the way I did when I was reading, and nothing ever made me more happier than to release all that I had gained by spilling words to paper.

I’ve never felt more sure that something was made for me, and yet, simultaneously I run in the opposite direction afraid to attempt because of the risk of failing. If I couldn’t do it as good as the greats, then I shouldn’t make a mockery of it by trying at all.

So, the time has come for me to be honest with myself. I am orchestrating my own demise. My descent into my deepest fear speeds up every day, and I am the one and only pilot in the cockpit. Psychology calls it a self-fulfilling prophecy. It’s ironic, that I am afraid of failing and so I lead myself to failure by not doing what has been placed on my heart to do my entire life.

Writing is hard, but it is apart of me. Writing takes constant work and rework and remastering, but it is what I am meant to do. The more I try to push it away, the louder the ear worm screams as consistent as a church knell on Sunday morning. By running away from my passion, I have been running away from God.

I used to tell myself, and others, that I never allowed fear to dictate my actions. It’s what brought me to where I am now after all. If I allowed my fear of traveling across the world to live without my family and friends straight out of college for an entire year, I would not be living in a reality that had only existed in my mind. Though I made the leap with this secondary passion, my primary remained caged in fear. The time has finally come to let that bird sing freely.

Shoot Your Shot in 2015

My feature image pretty much explains how I’m currently feeling: I’m the guy in the front, while the guy in the back “shoots his shot.”

I caught myself wandering away from my goals today. It’s easy to hide behind your goals sometimes without actually implementing the action that will make those goals come into fruition. I know I have faith that what is meant for me will be mine, and if I keep working I’ll get it, but doubt always seeps through the cracks.

I do love traveling, and teaching english has given me the opportunity to do that. However, I also know that I want to make a career out of writing. Whether or not I write for a publication (though I would love to) is not necessary when wanting to write and publish my own work, but I must say it does make a girl feel like she has some real experience under her belt—and that’s all I am after at the moment.

So as I  was reading some “job requirements” and “strongly recommended”  I began to think:

“I’m not qualified for that.”

“They aren’t going to hire me I don’t have enough experience.”

Those thoughts quickly traveled to:

“I’m never going to find an opportunity.”

“No one is going to hire me.”

The reality is, no one said it would be easy and you can’t make the shot if you don’t shoot it. I never let fear hold me back until it comes to my writing, and it’s a real hindrance. The time for fearless action and shameless promoting is now. How can you expect to reach your goals if you don’t hone your craft daily? Force yourself to do whatever it is you want to make a living doing everyday, and shoot.your.shot. Out of sheer statistics you’re bound to make at least one, and that one is all you need.

-Goalful Chels

SPOILER ALERT: Why I Want to be like Claire Underwood

The world of avid Netflix watchers was made whole again on February 27, 2015 at the return of its famous award-winning political drama House of Cards. While I’m sure many people are taking its third season in strides watching only one or two episodes a day or in their free-time, I was among the people who indulged in full-blown, all-day, binge-watching, and watched the entire 13-hour season in one sitting, only briefly taking a break for food…twice.

Much like its prior seasons, this season presented its viewers with all of the phantasmal, yet probably accurate portrayal of corruption that takes place in the American government through both Underwoods’ pursuit and will to obtain power by any means necessary, and while the show seemed to make clear that for both of them their greatest power lied within their relationship and loyalty to each other, we see throughout the season how their struggle for individual power challenged the root of their relationship.

I always found Claire to be an interesting character. She is unreadable, unlike her male counterpart and husband Frank. Whereas Frank’s reaction or attitude is predictable at this point, you are never completely sure how Claire will react. One moment she can be laying off an entire workforce who have spent their entire lives putting everything into the company, and the next moment she will sacrifice Russian-American foreign relations because one man committed suicide due to a law in Russia. It is this part of her characterization that makes her the stronger character. Claire’s “ruthless pragmatism” in combination with her willingness to show and feel is a strength rather than a weakness because it’s easy to be stripped of your humanity by each inhumane action, but to hold on to it is to hold on to the empathy and subsequently the pain that not only hurts the recipient but its doer. She refuses to forget herself or who she is no matter what may be at stake. With all that she sacrifices along with Frank to secure their future in power, she will still stand steadfast in not sacrificing her wont for power for his, so much so that she would rather leave, possibly ruining her chance at power, than to do so—and she does.

Claire’s strength and power lies in her ability to be selfish, and selfishness is not a trait that is often presented in women. Women are the ones who sacrifice. They sacrifice for love, or for their children, or for their families. We are shown to always put ourselves last after everyone else’s needs, and when we are able to obtain our desires it is through others allowing us to do so by THEM telling US it is okay to do something for ourselves. Prior to Frank’s ascension to presidency, Claire never had to sacrifice where Frank did not. She played the role of supportive wife in public, but she and Frank were always equals behind the facade. She benefitted from her role as his supporter because that is how American politics is played: she is the wife to the politician, she has some control, yes, in her organizations and as an organizer, but the husband runs the bigger show. Not pushing those traditional values she creates a space for herself in politics that could not otherwise be there. They were a true partnership. However, once the scales began to tip, their relationship immediately began to falter. The imbalance causes Claire to have an allergic-like reaction, manifesting itself both physically and mentally. She gets physically ill vomiting after having to go through Frank before acquiring a position she desperately wants. Her descent into an animalistic, id-driven sexual experience with Frank as she demands him to “Fuck her” and be “rough with her” is her trying to make sense of the change in power within their dynamics between each other. If Frank were truly more powerful he would have been able to look her in the eye and take control of her, sexually overpowering her, but he couldn’t—to which she responds: “I thought so.” It is in that moment where she knows she is more powerful and therefore cannot fathom yielding to someone who she sees as weaker than herself. What is most telling is that despite the stakes of her position as First Lady, she leaves Frank right before he is to visit another state in his fight for the Democratic presidential nominee for the 2016 Presidential campaign. She was willing to give up her thirty years of marriage, and the position she had, not out of spite to punish Frank, but because proximity to power was not good enough, and the “power” that she was in proximity to, Frank, was no longer good enough either. Claire has so much conviction in her belief in herself that literally no one and nothing can make her go against it. It is that trait alone that makes Claire one of the most powerful, woman characters ever presented on television–and is why I would strive to be more like Claire.

I can recognize that Claire is a flawed character. Most interesting characters have a tragic flaw that motorizes the conflicts they face; however it is important to recognize the strong traits she represents as well. I think it most resonates with me the fact that at the end of this season we see her walk away. The most difficult part of being in a situation of this nature, where you find yourself at a crossroads that forces you to choose to  either stick to what and who you believe yourself to be or to compromise, is that when you walk away that means you’re okay with losing or missing out on something. We often want to hope that things will change so we hold on, but the truth is the only thing we are holding on to is hope that almost always tends to turn out to be false. Claire could have stayed. She could have played her role as First Lady like Frank said. She could have done all that and hoped that in the end she would still reach her power goals, but in staying true to being able to look and actually see ahead, she knew that that would not be the case. Staying creates precedence. It means the person you are choosing to stay with over your own convictions will then expect you to stay. They then believe that they know what to do to make you stay, and they begin to lose respect. Once someone knows they can have you regardless of what they do they’ll keep pushing the envelope. Claire shows the most strength when she leaves Francis, despite stakes being high, despite her possibly losing her chance at power. She does not sacrifice herself, and that is to be revered. I would like to be more like Claire: so sure of myself and what I want that when all of that is under fire, I would be willing to sacrifice everything to remain true to myself.

Ongoing goals: Loving yourself

[Feature image from JennAugust.com]

In Malaysia, Valentine’s Day has begun.

I haven’t seen much V-day propaganda, but I assume it’s because I don’t live in a city, so I actually had forgotten about the “holiday” until it snuck up on me!

A year ago, when I was posting on this blog, I had made a goal for 2014 to continue my focus on having healthy relationships—both platonic and romantic–and goals like this are always a work in progress. 

I’ve never had any issues with my friendships. The amount of people I’m  close with isn’t many, but it’s a good amount, and they accept me for the smart-mouthed, sometimes vain, talkative yet kind soul I am, so I appreciate them for that. As far as romantic relationships go, my views on how to handle them, what they should consist of and how they should make you feel have been in a constant state of change and limbo since probably around 2012 when I first experienced a major change in my viewpoint surrounding them. However, one aspect has remained consistent—the importance of self-assured love.

The bottom line is, you can’t be happy with someone if you aren’t happy with yourself, and all the good aspects of relationships stem from that. If you aren’t sure about what you want, if you don’t know what you need, you shouldn’t expect to find out those things about yourself in someone else. At the same time, when you are enamored with yourself, it is 1000x times easier to recognize when someone isn’t loving you and treating you the way you should be treated. As cliche as it may be, relationships need to be between people who are whole on their own. The danger in looking for happiness or fulfillment outside yourself is that everything extrinsic is fleeting. Happiness and fulfillment shouldn’t be. 

So whether you are enjoying a romantic date with a significant other, spending the day with your friends, or if you are spending it with yourself, who is amazing, remember that on this day meant to celebrate love, not loneliness, that you are the shit. You have to love yourself wholeheartedly to spread that love to others in a healthy, non-dependent, non-abusive way. 

Happy Valentine’s Day!

P.S. Head over to my travel blog blackgirlwander.wordpress.com  to read about my experiences teaching English in Malaysia and traveling throughout Southeast Asia!

Living in the Moment?

How can you “live in the moment,” and still focus so much on your future goals? Is it possible to do both?

I think it is.

Since being in Malaysia, I have found that there are moments where I am fiercely in the moment. When time, I imagine, does not slow, but moves at its regular pace, while I am just more aware. Then, there are times when I find myself focused on and constantly worrying about what I am going to do or what I want to do when my contract here ends.

At one point, it seemed as if I was counting down until I return back home to the states. Being here and traveling has been a life goal of mine, so why am I rushing? Why am I not breathing in any and every moment of my time here?

It’s important to not necessarily have a plan, but to know or have some idea of the things you would like to accomplish or do. In other words, to be constantly searching for or living in a way that will carry out what you believe is your purpose in life. That type of thinking often leads one to focus on the future, but it is possible to simultaneously live in the present fully aware. I myself have been working on this:

One way I keep myself in the present is through my writing. To write, to be inspired to write, I need to always be hyperaware and cognizant of what is going on around me and how it effects how I feel and what I think. When I pay attention to what is happening to me and around me right now I am automatically shaping and being shaped for what lies ahead. Example:

In the moment–> write about my thoughts and experiences–> Future goal: eventually have my writing published

Instead of putting all your thoughts in what may come to pass, place all your energy in the now. In doing so, you are already preparing yourself for the goals you wish to reach later. Don’t let the experiences you are going through now be grazed over because at one point where you are now is where you were hoping to be. The future is a result of the present, so you might as well sow all you can because the reap is inevitable. Living in the moment is what sets you up for what’s to come.