A Fresh Start

Welcome (back) to my blog.

After a long hiatus, I’m back to blogging! In the past, I’ve come up with a million reasons that I couldn’t keep up with a blog: I was too busy with school, worked too much, needed to spend my free times not staring at a computer screen, that probably no one cared about reading it anyway, and that all I would do was ramble about my life.

Well, those are all true (except sort of the last one!), but I’m tired of making excuses. There’s a reason I’m always drawn to the idea of blogging: I really love writing, especially in a venue that’s free from a specific style, subject, and my editor’s red pen (jk I love you editors and you make my writing better). But being in the business of media and just loving to write for the sake of figuring yourself and your shit out are two totally different things, and I’m ready to embrace both. 

Before I get totally lost in the topic I’m planning on blogging about (for now), I thought it was a good time for some updates at first, in case anyone cares about what I’m doing with my life. So here are three things you’ll need to know if the last time you talked to me was graduation (or before) and you want to know what’s going on here:

1. I am not going to grad school at Columbia. While I am so thankful for the opportunity, I decided (after moving to New York City, signing a lease, and not looking for any more jobs) it wasn’t for me, at least not right now. I don’t feel obligated to explain any further, but I’m going to anyway, because I don't want to seem like that obnoxious, privileged, snobby person who takes great opportunities for granted. 

It didn’t make sense financially. I’m not going to beat around the bush here: Columbia is insanely expensive, as was Northwestern. My family isn’t wealthy by any means and I feel incredibly lucky to have made it out of undergrad with minimal loans (great financial aid + the help of my wonderful aunts and uncles). At first, I thought the amount I would have to take out in loans for Columbia (yes, I got need-based aid again, sorry not sorry) would be worth it. But after dealing with my finances (or lack of) after college and realizing that I needed to be independent and responsible asap, I decided it wasn't.

My mental health > another diploma. After actually moving to the city, remembering how expensive it is, and starting my summer internship that made me excited to go to work every day, I realized that I’d be losing more than I would be gaining. Not only would the stress of working multiple part-time jobs to make ends meet drive me crazy (I did this in undergrad and it made me an unpleasant person to be around and an anxious mess of a person), I’d be adding to my debt rather than making a decent salary to start chipping away at it. To be honest, for the sake of my ego, I wanted that diploma. But letting go of it and accepting that my own health and happiness are more important than looking impressive to others for getting into an Ivy (for grad school) has made me totally at peace with this decision.

Controversial: more school is not always better. I feel like I need to write a disclaimer that I’m NOT dissing higher education because obviously it’s important. But for anyone who isn’t familiar with the field of journalism, you DO NOT need a Master’s degree to be a good reporter or to get a great job. I’m not saying it wouldn’t help—I’m sure it would and I’m positive that Columbia’s J-school teaches its students a lot—but that because I’ve worked my ass of networking, meeting people, and working at publications for the last two to three years, for me, I don’t think it's make or break. At all. I talked to a lot of people and thoroughly researched this, but in the end, what really got me was the fact that it just didn’t feel right. I’m way too neurotic to make decisions based on feelings 99 percent of the time, but in this case, I think a lot of that feeling was just realizing that I was confident I’d be okay. No, the job search is not fun, especially when you’ve already moved to NYC and started your life. But I’m prepared to try as hard as humanly possible to make it work and get a full-time position by the end of this year (and hopefully one I’m really excited about!).

TLDR: I’m not going to Columbia, but I’m living in NYC for the foreseeable future.

2. I’m staying at Greatist as an editorial intern until the end of December! This is something I’m super excited about. I love my job, I love the culture and environment, my coworkers are amazing and kind and hilarious, and the brand absolutely aligns with my own values. Honestly, what more could you ask for in a first job? We also have a nitro cold brew keg and people often bring their dogs, so if you think I am actually working in heaven on Earth, you’re not exactly wrong. A million thanks to @Derek for the opportunity. I’m so excited to see where the company goes and to work my ass off to do my part to get it there.

3.   I still don’t really have a plan. These first two bullets might give you the impression I have my shit together, and I sort of do, but I also have no idea what I’m doing. I’ve had approximately one million panic attacks already about not having a full-time offer locked down starting in 2017. But as my grandfather wisely reminded me, no one actually has a foolproof guarantee they’ll be employed in the future, no matter where they work or what their position is. Thanks for that, Papa. I change my mind about 5 times a day about what, in a perfect world, I would do with my life (the current struggle is between pursuing long-form, crazy well-researched written journalism OR creating the most accessible and inclusive content in media history, comment below with your vote or like send me a check if you want to fund either goal. That would most likely be the deciding factor). I also think I could handle my relationships and personal life a lot better than I do. None of this is to say that I’m unhappy because I’m not, at all. I’m extremely happy, excited, and constantly amazed by the life that doesn’t feel like it could be mine (my NYC apartment has a balcony and I didn’t sell my soul to pay for it, is this real life?!). But I’ve also been thinking a lot about what happiness really means and how to approach it in a more active and intentional way rather than just sitting around hoping that happiness finds me. I want to make myself a better person, and more thoughtful individual, and a better friend/girlfriend/daughter/sister/etc, not just someone who has a good job or a lot of money (lol as if). And this brings me to the actual purpose of this post…

Happiness is a state of mind, a choice, a way of living; it is not something to be achieved, it is something to be experienced.
— Steve Maraboli

I’m starting a blog to chronicle my happiness project. Yes, I got this idea from Gretchen Rubin’s book, but full disclosure, I haven’t finished it yet, so maybe this is ill advised. BUT I really like the idea as a concept because happiness should be something you create on purpose and, ideally, extend to others and not just yourself. It can seem like kind of a selfish premise, to devote a bunch of time and effort into becoming a happier person, but here's the bottom line: if I'm unhappy, I'm unpleasant to be around, worse at my job, spread negative energy, and don't give the people around me the love and attention they deserve. The only way to be a better person is to work on bettering yourself. The only way to help others is to help yourself first. It's not selfish, it's realistic. And I also need a project to work on so that I don't spend every waking second either writing cover letters or feeling guilty that I'm not writing more cover letters.

You yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection.
— Gautama Buddha

Part of the point, I think, is not knowing entirely where this is headed and figuring it out as I go along. *~*Going with the flow~*~* is something I need a lot of practice with anyway, so this seemed like as good a place as any. I have a few general goals that I want to incorporate throughout the entirety of my project. I’ve also taken the last four months of this year and divided some of the goals I brainstormed between them (grouped my their focus, obvs, because I’m neurotic as hell).

I’m hoping that this spills over into 2017, but as for continuing the exact format and content? That’s tbd, I was pretty proud of myself for locking it down until the end of the year. I clearly have commitment issues when it comes to writing platforms (RIP to my study abroad blog, health and fitness Instagram account, and my vlogging/blogging about lifting, though that one might be resurrected). The idea, here, is to get me started, not to devote the rest of my life to blabbering about my happiness and goals on the Internet. I think we all have better things to do. But if this won't get me in the habit of writing more often, I'm not really sure what will. So without further ado, here it goes:

September 2016: slow down

  • Complete Whole30 (with friends from work for support! Hi guys!)
    • Starting the Tuesday after Labor Day, I am doing Whole30. For real. No joke. This might seem like something that would be better suited for a physical goal, but for me, the way that I eat is entirely mental. In case anyone anywhere on the Internet has missed it, I struggled with seriously disordered eating for a while and, combined with my general OCD tendencies, it created some very ingrained bad habits. Don’t worry, I’m totally okay now, I eat plenty. But I still have some foods that I avoid eating for whatever emotional reason and some that I stuff my face with until I feel sick because I spent so many years restricting them. There’s no need for a novel here about my eating behaviors, but the bottom line is: I want to take a step back, break some bad habits, and learn to think about how my food actually makes my body feel.
  • Go back to therapy
    • If you’re reading this thinking “omg this girl is crazy” or “ehhhh that’s a weird thing to share on the Internet,” just close the browser. Go ahead, you are not needed here. I have no patience for the weird stigma around therapy because mental health is really, really important and we shouldn’t take for granted that we’re okay. There’s always room for improvements and space to explore your feelings and get to know yourself better. I have a ton of respect for people who take initiative and responsibility as far as their mental health goes and I want to be one of them. You don’t need to be seriously mentally ill to see a therapist. I didn’t stop going because I didn’t like it or didn’t think it was important, but because I was busy and didn’t prioritize it during college. And then I moved, and got lazy and didn’t want to find a new therapist. But that is all about to end this month.
  • Meditate for at least 5 minutes a day.
    • There is nothing in life that I have failed at more consistently than meditation. Seriously, I suck. I have no patience, can’t stop my endless thoughts, and prioritize anything and everything else above it. My mom’s been suggesting meditation to me for years (she meditates for literally hours a day… okay I see you mom) but I’ve put it off. And I’m not going to lie, doing things I’m bad at frustrates me beyond belief. But I know intellectually that it’s super important, so this September, I’m going to make time, finally.

And here’s a peek at some future months:

 October 2016: get stronger

  • Get more serious about powerlifting/strength training
  • Stretch every day

November 2016: think better

  • Incorporate more types of media into this blog (vlogging, podcasting... we'll see where it goes) + integrate it with social media
  • Write/journal for at least 10 minutes a day
  • Finally commit to reading all the articles I save literally all the time
  • Figure out what career step makes the most sense for me in the future (balancing my own needs and stress about my income, or lack of one, with the kind of work I'm really passionate about that I hope helps other people)

December 2016: give back

  • (Yes I know it's cliché to put this in the holiday season)
  • Stop judging people. Ever. At all. And stop making assumptions
  • Don’t spend a dollar on myself (aside from food and scheduled expenses)
  • Make a more conscious effort to maintain friendships, especially with those that aren’t physically near me (hi ily all)
  • Think about interactions as what I can do for others and how I can make their days better.


General Blog Guidelines:

  • Post a written recap update every Sunday
  • Post video, audio, or photo updates 4+ times a week
  • Not everything I post needs to be directly related to that month’s goals, but could just be something that I like that I couldn’t do a happiness project without incorporating in some way.
  • Obviously this blog < work. So I’m not even incorporating work and career goals anywhere on here because those have their own separate place in my crazy to do lists. But I’ve got to draw the line somewhere, and if blogging ever gets in the way of work, it’s time to take a step back, because being fully present and productive when doing my job is part of my happiness, too. 


Thoughts? Feelings?

Want to give me some suggestions for incorporating multimedia into this blog? (Please help). Want to yell at me because I should be doing something to help people rather than blogging about my happiness? (Trust me, I'm working on it). Want to chat about lifting? (You're welcome 24/7 plz be my friend).

Comment below! Or shoot me an email at mckenziemmaxson at gmail dot com.