Sunday, January 30

Sunshine on a January afternoon

Sometimes the weather in January surprises me.

Sunshine made me happy today:

 I sat at a café reading before the library opened and the sun came out really strong! We're supposed to get 8-12 inches of snow on Tuesday night, so I figured I'd soak it up while I still can.

Wednesday, January 26



I attended one meeting for the Public Relations club on my campus while earning my undergraduate degree. 
The only thing I remember about that meeting was noting how many hundreds of times the members talked about networking as a means to success. Since then, I have accepted how important networking is in the business world, and have also realized how important networking is in every aspect of life. Humans are social creatures after all, and everything we do and say makes an impression on the people around us.

Last year, while living in Paris I remember realizing how much the actions of others affected my lives. I wouldn't have been living in the apartment in which I lived if my roommate hadn't met her future husband while living across the hall from him while she studied abroad. She wouldn't have met her future husband if she hadn't moved into the apartment across the hall, which only happened because she had an awful host-stay experience. She only had an awful host-stay experience because of where she was placed (the action of whoever placed her).

So really, the entire basis of my experience in France was decided by people who I never met, and have no knowledge of my existence.

How my friends affect my every move
During brunch last weekend, my friend Julie and I discussed how much of an effect the people around us-- be they close friends, friends of friends, or even people we dislike but can't seem to break free from-- have on our lives. It's a quite sobering subject to consider, as it is impossible to isolate oneself from the influence of others. The subject of interconnectedness remained on my mind as I browsed books yesterday.

A bright orange book titled Connected: How your friends' friends' friends affect everything you feel, think, and do jumped out at me. I bought the book and have barely put it down since, reading 120 pages in one sitting (even interrupting my plans to watch Obama's State of the Union speech).

The book discusses the influence that our social networks have on our behavior. It turns out that my observation that people we will never meet influence our lives is true. Individuals separated three degrees from us (i.e. the friend of a friend of a friend) have an influence on our behavior.Their happiness and even their eating habits have a significant effect on yours.

Can you think of a time when someone two or three degrees separated from you had an effect on your life?

Tuesday, January 25

Lap Desk

My thighs sighed with relief when I bought this lap desk. No more hot computer on my lap! Could it encourage more frequent blogging? Stay tuned...
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Monday, January 17

Monday Reflections

In college I stumbled upon the Marc and Angel Hack Life blog and spent hours reading their numerous lists on ways to live a more productive life. One list, entitled "20 Questions You Should Ask Yourself Every Sunday" stuck out to me.

For a few months in 2010 I succeeded in writing down responses to all of these questions every week, though I can't say I always completed the exercise on Sunday. My weekly responses to the following questions helped me to realize where I prioritized my time, what I learned during the week, and how to make the upcoming week more successful. Consequentially, I highly recommend trying this out for a few weeks. You never know what you'll learn about yourself when you actually take some time to reflect.

Here is the list from
  1. What did I learn last week? – If you have trouble answering this question, it’s time for a change.  It doesn’t matter how old you are, you should learn something new every week.
  2. What was my greatest accomplishment over the past week? – Reflecting on your accomplishments is a healthy way to raise self confidence and contentment.  It’s also an effective way to track your progress.
  3. Which moment from last week was the most memorable and why? – It may open up your mind to new passions and goals, or simple pastimes worth revisiting.
  4. What’s the #1 thing I need to accomplish this week? – Everything else is secondary, and should be treated as such.  Nevertheless, this question will also shine light on other noteworthy tasks.
  5. What can I do right now to make the week less stressful? – Set reminders in your calendar, get your laundry done, fill the car with gas… organize yourself.
  6. What have I struggled with in the past that might also affect the upcoming week? – The idea here is to learn from your struggles and better equip yourself for future encounters.
  7. What was last week’s biggest time sink? – Steer clear of this in the future.  Setup physical barriers against distractions if you have to.
  8. Am I carrying any excess baggage into the week that can be dropped? – Physical clutter, mental clutter… eliminate the unnecessary so the necessary may shine bright.
  9. What have I been avoiding that needs to get done? – Pencil in a time to get these things done.  For any 2-minute or less tasks, consider scheduling them first thing Monday morning.
  10. What opportunities are still on the table? – If it’s still available and you want it, make a concrete plan to go after it this week.
  11. Is there anyone I’ve been meaning to talk to? – Regular communication can solve problems before they fester.  Always keep an open line of communication to those around you.
  12. Is there anyone that deserves a big ‘Thank You’? – Take time each week to thank the people who have helped you.  Your kind gesture will not go unnoticed.
  13. How can I help someone else this coming week? – The easiest way to get what you want is to help others get what they want.  If you help them, they will remember you when you need help.
  14. What are my top 3 goals for the next 3 years? – You’ll never make any progress in life if you don’t setup realistic goals for yourself.
  15. Have any of my recent actions moved me closer to my goals? – If the answer is no, something needs to change.
  16. What’s the next step for each goal? – Knowing the next step is the key to accomplishing the whole.
  17. What am I looking forward to during the upcoming week? – The answer can act as a great source of motivation.  If nothing exists, schedule something to look forward to.
  18. What are my fears? – Consciously address your fears each week and slowly work on resolving them.  It’s all about taking baby steps.
  19. What am I most grateful for? – It’s a smart way to keep things in perspective, and something you should never lose sight of.
  20. If I knew I only had one week to live, who would I spend my time with? – Another helpful reminder… Life is short.  Spend more time with the people you care about.

Saturday, January 15

Panera's Life Lessons

Writing My Memoir at Panera Bread Co.

I went to Panera today to grab some food and work on my memoir. In part due to having just finished "The Happiness Project" by Gretchen Ruben, I was in an extremely good mood during my time at Panera. I was also very aware of my surroundings.

Many writers believe that locking oneself in a windowless space for hours on end is the best way to force words onto a page. Marcel Proust, whose infinitely long A la récherche du temps perdu (In Search of Lost Time)  is considered by many as the best literary work of the twentieth century, spent much of his life writing "from midnight to dawn in a cork-lined room", completely isolated from the world.

While I admire Proust's work, having read it in both French and English several times, the man himself was a little cooky, and I'd like to maintain semi-normal social habits even if my passion does promote loneliness.

I was therefore thrilled to learn that many writers, including JK Rowling,  believe that working from cafés, where one can eat, drink coffee, and be in public, is the best place to write. This approach seems much more attractive to me, and has even lead me to discover at least one new café in my area (with help from the Yelp application on my iPhone, of course).

Learning About Negativity at Panera Bread Co.

The last chapter of Ruban's memoir discusses eliminating negative comments and criticisms when we talk with other people. Her book offers a substantial amount of research on how much these gossipy comments affect one's attitude.

Consequentially, I spent much of my time at Panera this morning observing others. I even opened a separate Word document to type my observations. This served to (a) help me to realize how often I become distracted, and (b) to become more aware of my surroundings.

My conclusion? The main conversation topic amongst lunch-goers and coffee-drinkers was gossip about other people. The second most popular subject-- how difficult of a week they had or how tired they were. I was stunned to see how much negativity existed around me.

After a couple of successful hours of writing, I packed up my things to go home. On my way out the door I followed a couple, both of which were probably around my age. The girl was wearing a sweatshirt, sweat pants, and Uggs. Her bottled blonde ironed straight hair was pulled into a messy ponytail and was decorated with a sparkly headband.

To put it diplomatically, this is one of my least favorite styles, but because of my good mood I actually succeeded in not labeling her or casting a judgment about her based on her look. In fact, other than taking note of her in my subconscious, I didn't really think twice about her.

The boy held the door open for me as he listened to his girlfriend complain about something on Facebook. I quietly thanked him, and his girlfriend proceeded with their conversation, making the following statement:

"I guess that's how ugly people find dates now, with Facebook."

I was shocked. Even without any context as to what she was talking about, I found her comment to be negative, rude, and highly inappropriate-- especially in public. 

I fought every cell in my body to not say something to her. As I climbed into my car, I thought of about a million comments I could have made, like "Excuse me, but would you take one look at your outfit before making that statement", or "So I'm guessing that's what you did, too"; but I ultimately decided to keep my comments to myself and write a blog about it when I got home.

My question to you: Have you ever stopped to think about your own negative comments? I'm definitely going to try to do so this coming week.

Article referenced: Where Are the Best Places to Write from

Wednesday, January 12


Here I have it, my very own copy of "The Happiness Project". It set me back about $27, but It was calling to me and my love of all things self-help-meets-adventure.

Now, more than ever, seems like the ideal time in my life to live vicariously through the adventures of others, be they real or fictional characters. I always planned on reading more books after graduating college, but never really got around to making it happen. I'm off to a great start having already finished a couple of books this year, and am always on the look out for recommendations! Please leave a comment if you've read a great book recently!

Tuesday, January 11

The Happiness Project

Two magazines came to our house yesterday: Cosmopolitan and Good Housekeeping. I bet you can't guess which one I was more geeked to peruse!

Happiness and java, anyone?

Ok, I'll be honest, I looked at both of them while on the treadmill today, but it's a pretty strange day when you switch from articles entitled "Rock Your Man's World" to things like "The natural way to lower blood pressure."

The opening editor's letter discusses a New York Time's Bestseller book, "The Happiness Project" by Gretchen Rubin,about one woman's year-long journey to finding happiness in everyday activities.

Given my natural inclination towards all things happiness related, I assume that I will read her column regularly and plan on buying her book as well. For now, though happiness searchers can visit The Happiness Project Blog.

Sunday, January 9

America is Still Strange!

Thank you to everyone who has made a comment to me in the past month or so about how they miss my updates. It's extremely encouraging to write knowing that someone may have benefited from reading my ramblings, especially at a time when I feel that my current life situation lacks dramatic intrigue.

Here I am, my fifth attempt at writing a new blog in the past week or so. It wasn't so much a spout of writer's block that stopped me, if anything I have been writing more than usual, even making it a habit to wake up early and write for thirty minutes before starting my day. It's more that I have been at a loss as to the direction in which I would like to take this blog. Fifth time's a charm!

I've been living at home in Michigan for over four months now, with a two week trip to France in November to keep me sane. It may or may not have worked. That's for you to judge. This four month mark has been the most difficult so far. The ants in my pants to get on with the next big thing life has to offer seem to be procreating at an ungodly rate, but at the same time I feel that I am starting to accept my circumstances more with each day. I did choose them, after all.

My passions are starting to make themselves clearer, and some recent purging of garbage bags full of my unused belongings has cleared up some much needed plots in my brain for creativity to build it's masterpieces... at least I hope so. If anything, I've spent a lot of time observing the people around me, listening to the things they have to say, and I've had several revelations while hearing the comments my friends have to make about their life situations.

While I understand that every generation has struggles, I can only speak for my own age group, and I notice a serious lack of conversation between gen-y-ers, twentysomethings, post-graduates or whatever you want to call us, about the struggles that we are going through and how to find what we're looking for. We are now facing a forest of unknowns instead of a well paved path, and from what I've gathered, we're all freaking out.

On my free time I have been writing about my experiences since graduating college, half of which occurred on foreign soil, and how they have helped to teach me many lessons that I believe I wouldn't have learned otherwise. I hope that by  putting these experiences into words they will serve to help overwhelmed and frightened counterparts of mine to realize that in life, there is actually nothing of which to be afraid, only discoveries to be made. (Didn't mean for that to rhyme, actually).

So voilà, there you have it. I am no better off than anyone else my age, I merely have a desire to help to motivate young people to find what they are looking for, and will use this blog as a tool.