Failure Is Fine (But Let's Talk About Context)

It's only been 16 days, and I'm back with another post! ... I swear I'm working on it. Despite my goals, including keeping up with this blog, life continued to happen and September became probably the busiest month I've had in a very long time. Between working my real job, working my many part-time jobs (mostly writing + research), trying to blog and ramp up a social media presence for myself (YouTube anyone?), visiting my fam and boyfriend, and whatever other random life things you can think of, this month has been a lot and I basically alternate between *I'm so excited about life and the work I'm doing I can't sit still* and *I could pass out standing up on the subway* many times a day. No complaints, though. Things are going well. 

 Reasons why life is awesome, pt 1

Reasons why life is awesome, pt 1

 Reasons life is awesome, pt 2 (not pictured: Leah, Delaney, & Mugsy)

Reasons life is awesome, pt 2 (not pictured: Leah, Delaney, & Mugsy)

 

Before I launch into my latest thoughts on life, let's do an update about my goals for the month of September:

Complete Whole30? 9/10

Yep, I'm giving myself a solid 9/10 for this one. Let me explain. Here's what I HAVE been doing:

  • sticking mostly to the rules I set myself
  • teaching myself to be more thoughtful about what I put in my body
  • finding out that some things (dairy, alcohol) really have been messing with my stomach all along, and it's probably best that I keep those to a minimum as indulgences here and there but keep them out of my regular dit 
  • avoiding eating just because I feel like it or I'm stressed
  • sticking to this diet plan at least 90% of the time
  • getting a little bit better at cooking 

And here's what I HAVE NOT been doing:

  • being obsessive to a point where this becomes annoying to myself or others 
  • sticking exactly to this diet every second of my life (I have totally eaten protein bars with added sugar, some stove-popped popcorn, milk chocolate, and probably something else that I've forgotten and I AM NOT SORRY)
  • binge-eating food
  • being hungry or not satisfied with what I'm eating 
  • imposing my diet or choices on others 

The bottom line: the whole point of diet challenges like this is to learn how to treat your body with respect and kindness and figure out what works for you in a long term, sustainable way. It is NOT to follow every aspect of an arbitrary diet plan to a T until you cry because all the food you have in your apartment is non-compliant and you don't want to go out and buy more at that very moment. If you don't agree, that's fine. But if there's one thing I've learned from working in health & fitness journalism (and being personally obsessed with fitness & nutrition) it's this: health is not a one size fits all solution. It's totally different for everyone, and it would be way easier if you could just say "okay, this is the way to be #healthy so I'm going to do it," but it's not. You have to try things out for yourself and it's a lifelong learning process. So all in all, Whole30 has been what I wanted it to be, meaning a chance for me to explore what works for me and what doesn't, and to change my general eating habits just a little bit.

Note: Yes I am going to keep going until the end of the month, mostly. But maybe with like an 80-85% followthrough rather than 90 or 100% because I have a life and I live in NYC and I'm going to make the most of fucking awesome food sometimes.

Go back to therapy? 10/10!!

Yes! This one I can report that I have 100% accomplished my goal, so that's cool. And it's maybe okay that I waited this long to update my progress on these, since I just saw a new therapist for the first time yesterday (but I'm going to continue going, obviously, so it's all good). I really do not think the Internet needs a full rundown on my therapy sessions (gotta draw the line somewhere), but it's definitely a good thing for me. And for everyone! I have zero tolerance for therapy stigma because you gotta take care of yourselves mentally and emotionally. You can be totally okay and go to therapy because why stop at okay when you could feel even better and understand yourself a little bit more? 

Meditate for at least 5 minutes a day. 2/10 :( 

Lol. This was a total failure, and a great example of how I overreach and stretch myself too thin a lot of the time. I work a ton. (Ask my roommates. The typical McKenzie thing to do at home is hide in my bed with my computer while working on freelance work.) And with all that work, and being a normal human who gets tired and grumpy, comes wanting to SLEEP when I finally turn in a story at 10pm and have to get up at 6am for work the next day. So yeah, instead of pulling myself together for five minutes most nights to mentally focus (because for me, meditation is still hard AF), I lay in my bed like a beached whale, unable to move, and talk to my boyfriend on the phone or listen to podcasts until I fall asleep. I feel kinda bad about it, because I'd estimate that I've only actually been getting the meditation in once or twice a week, but also it was inevitable that I slipped up somewhere. And I'm glad it was on my own self-inflicted goals than, say, a project that I was getting paid to complete. Failure is fine, it's fine, guys.

On the bright side: with inspiration from one of my coworkers, who is super into guided meditation which is great for me, and as always, my mom, I'm going to keep going on this! For now, I'm just going to do it when I can and when I remember, and in the future, maybe I'll set it as a full goal again. But in the meantime, I'm at least getting somewhere by doing it sometimes rather than never! 

 

Conclusions (on goals & life):

Writing a few sentences about this small, tiny failure got me thinking about something a lot bigger. Why am I so obsessed with setting goals for myself in the first place? Partially, it is out of a genuine determination and drive to be a better, smarter, kinder, more thoughtful human. But another part of it that isn't super fun to talk about is that it feels good. I thrive on successes, so the more goals I set, the more chances for that feeling of succeeding. I never thought about it this way in the moment, when setting a goal, but it's totally true. I've trained myself to value praise (both internally and from others) over all else and to fear failing like crazy. I've basically trained myself like you train your dog to sit or roll over, except I don't even get a tasty treat when I do it.

So this all got me thinking. Failure has a weird place in our culture. It's simultaneously glamorized and demonized, especially in the world of business, entrepreneurship, and fitness (all places where I expend a lot of my mental energy). So let's break this down a little.

On a personal level:

Failure IS FINE.

Really, it is. Failure is fine, if you're really, really trying. Failure is fine if it's the alternative to expecting yourself to be superhuman. Failure is fine if you acknowledge it, get back up, and try again. Failure is not fine if you let it define your life or you as a person. Failure is not fine if it's your expectation. Failure is not fine if you accept it at face value. 

If you're afraid of failing at something (even something small, like not reaching a small goal you set yourself), you're never going to accomplish anything. And if you're afraid of talking about failing, then you're probably not totally confident in your abilities.

For me, a person who's always seen failure not only as an incomprehensible thing I was afraid to even think about or define, but as an outcome that would immediately overshadow everything I've ever accomplished, accepting and coming to terms with failure (in a larger sense) is something that I really needed to learn to do. I have failed more in the past year (I've touched on this before). But this year has also been the biggest for me in terms of growth, self-acceptance, and self-love. I don't think that's any sort of coincidence because I finally faced the thing that paralyzed me (failing) and learned to deal with it. I'm not going to pretend that failing feels good, because it doesn't. It's never exactly fun, but it's also not paralyzing anymore. For someone who's dealt with anxiety and perfectionism for a very long time, it's also kind of a relief, as long as you bounce back from it. It's a small reminder that you're human, that the world isn't always fun or fair, that life doesn't get you down, but that in fact, you yourself do, and it's up to you to pull yourself back up, too. 

On a larger level:

And this got me thinking a bit more. What kind of person am I, how self-centered and unaware, that I get down on myself for failing to accomplish small, arbitrary goals that no one but I even care about? Part of it makes sense. My obsessions with not failing come from a deep insecurity (financially, mostly, and I'm now terrified of failing if it means not being able to provide for myself and those I love) and an innate need to succeed and be praised. That's fine, we all have our problems, and those were built into me by my environment as a kid. But if we're going to talk about failure, I'm not going to trivialize it. My personal failures are inconsequential to literally everyone who isn't me and the only reason I even talk about it is because, maybe, someone else can relate and be a little bit happier and more at peace with their own life.

But the way we culturally talk about failure is something a bit different. 

There are a lot of bullshit stories out there about how failure is great. It's kind of in fashion, at this moment, to talk about your past failures. But only in the context that you, now a successful but not pretentious and relatable person, are willing to reflect on your past failures that inevitably end in successes. After all, no one would be reading or caring about your failings if you hadn't succeeded in the end. I get that. The way we think about failure in a larger sense is weird and disingenuous. It's all well and good for some fancy startup founder or businessman (or, say, JK Rowling, who I love but this is still true for) to stand up on a TED stage and talk about failure. But the context is what's framing their failure as something that is okay. It's bookending a string of failures with the shining successes that define their careers.

So let's not get ahead of ourselves. In any way I fail, at least for my small, personal goals, I will be okay. If I don't get the job I want, I will still be able to pay my rent (as long as I have some sort of job at all and work a lot). If I don't meditate daily, I may be more stressed and anxious, but I will still be a functional person. If I do something stupid and reckless (spoiler: I probably won't because I'm boring and safe that way), I don't have a criminal record, I'm a small, white woman (sad but true that this matters), and I will probably be able to bounce back without ruining my life. At least at the moment, I'm in a position with a tiny bit of a cushion that makes this possible. I'm privileged, in this sense (even though I worked my ass off to get here).

If a black man fails to get home at the normal time and is out on the streets at night, in the wrong place, his tiny failure might result in his death (this is more of our society failing him than him failing himself, but you see my point, just a simple, tiny coincidence. If you need some more context for how awful things COULD be, go read this and this and this). If someone living in true poverty fails to make it to work exactly on time, they could lose their job and not have food on the table. If someone who wasn't given the education or support system that I was as a kid fails to graduate high school, they may never get into college or get a job. If a single mother (like mine) had failed to keep it together in difficult circumstances, we all could have lost a house or our futures.

(I'm trying to keep this blog critical and make myself hyper-aware of all the ways in which I'm privileged. It's a really good exercise, really. Not only do you feel more empathetic and compassionate towards others, but you also don't get down on yourself for stupid shit and instead recognize all the ways you're lucky. Well, most of the time.)

So this is all to say that failure is fine - if you're in a position to still be okay, if you have a safety net. I wish I didn't have to write this entire section, that everyone in the world had the chance to try something hard, fail, and get back up again because someone else had their back. But they don't. And I did. So if we're going to talk about failure, let's keep it in context. Really, this is all the more reason not to (as young, educated, fairly privileged people) let our small failures define ourselves because in so many ways, we've got a hell of a lot going for us. That was a long digression, but I'm constantly infuriated by the way people (mostly white people) dismiss the ways in which they are lucky to talk about the ways in which they are not. I am NOT belittling anyone's problems, even my own, because the ways in which we struggle are all different. But I have to recognize that when I look at myself in the mirror and see the ways in which I've failed, other people would look at where I am and think about nothing than how lucky I am to be, living, surviving. 

So, here's to failing some more this year, but only as a result of trying REALLY FREAKIN HARD to accomplish some shit, too. And being aware, if I feel the inclination to get down on myself, of all the ways my life is awesome.

Life Update: Thoughts on Whole30, Epiphanies, and NYC

It's September 6 and here I am, blogging just like I said I would! After a truly great but tiring weekend, I'm back in the office, back at work, and back to staying on top of all of my goals.

It's embarrassingly taken me 22 years to learn this, but people come first over whatever crazy plans and goals I have for myself. This weekend, the opportunity came up to take a trip to Long Island, hang out at the beach, and drink a lil with my roommates, friends, and boyfriend. Instead of strictly sticking to my goals for the month of September, I let them go until after Labor Day weekend (honestly I was never planning on starting Whole30 until today, but the other goals took a backseat to a fun weekend). Past McKenzie would have panicked. She would have either backed out of the trip or snuck away during it to get in meditation and not ordered meals out because they weren't Whole30 approved. Present McKenzie? She knows that's stupid. The people in my life are more important than any arbitrary set of guidelines that I make up for myself. The goal of becoming happier and healthier does not always result from the most constricting actions. It can come from letting go, too.

So that's what I did this weekend. We laughed. We climbed over rocks, tipsy from drinks, to get to the beach. We napped multiple times a day because we could and we squeezed six people into my roommate's tiny convertible as we sped down winding Long Island roads, laughing as I screamed when he hit the accelerator. We ordered ice cream and bought candy and drank rum (which I hate). There's a time and place for goals and strict rules for yourself, but if try to stretch that into all the time, something else has gotta give, and I'm not okay with that. Personally, I'm trying to make that more of a 85 percent stick to things and 15 percent let it all go approach (I'd currently rate myself at like a 95/5, so we've got a way to go). But this weekend was great. And now, here I am, easily back to my regular life.

 

Whole30 Update

So after my weekend of fun, this is where I'm going to pick up for today. This was easily the hardest goal that I set myself for the month of September. I have a history of disordered eating issues that, among other things, has made me pretty bad at recognizing or following my hunger cues. I'm also notorious for eating healthy all day only to devour a whole bag of chocolate chips or pretzels (or both) at night. Snacking is not inherently bad, but I wanted to re-teach myself how to eat when I'm hungry and to only put things in my body that make it feel good. I've also had a lot of stomach issues since I was a kid (I was lactose intolerant, than I wasn't, then I was again; I *probably* had IBS, but no one really seemed sure; I had negative reactions and felt sick to my stomach from everything from alcohol to coffee to citrus; you get the idea). So I've always had weird habits when it comes to eating, which is fine. But passing up on healthy carbs like rice or sweet potatoes with meals so I could later binge eat pretzels? Not so good. Meticulously tracking my macronutrients in my phone, inevitably going over at night when my sweet tooth kicked in, and feeling guilty so I'd start over again the next day? Yeah, not my best habit. 

So this is where Whole30 comes in. I want to learn what foods trigger stomach issues and make me feel sick so, at the very least, I can know that going in if I choose to eat them. I want to cut out alcohol for a month since tbh I don't really like it that much anyway (more on that later). I want to pay more attention to when I'm hungry and what will give me energy rather than when I'm craving a random food because I'm stressed or emotional. 

But Whole30 is a very specific program. And for someone who's had disordered eating issues, my boyfriend rightly pointed out, that might not be the best idea. Also, I know plenty about nutrition and what my body actually needs to fuel my almost-daily workouts, so honestly, I think I know better what to tweak for myself than the people over at Whole30 do. If you're a strict adherent to the program, well, sorry not sorry. This is my body, my mind, and this is going by my rules. So here's the Whole30 that I'm going to adhere to for this month. (If you're unfamiliar with Whole30, you can check the program out here, but it's basically like paleo on steroids. Fun, I know).

  • no grains (if you're wondering "is this a grain?" the answer is probably yes)
  • no dairy (probably good for me anyway since I'm lactose intolerant but for some reason still love yogurt and whey protein)
  • no alcohol 
  • no added sugar, real or artificial 
    • HERE is where I'm making a tweak. During high school, I went literally 1.5+ years without tasting a dessert. Nothing, not even a bite. And while yes, it did cure me of my sweet tooth and I didn't crave chocolate anymore, when I eventually started eating it in moderation again, I totally caved. I ate all of it, everything in sight. I couldn't go a day without chocolate (and I still sort of can't). So instead of potentially restarting that cycle, I'm going to leave myself the OPTION of having dairy-free, grain-free, unsweetened chocolate (like this) if I so please. No, I will not be allowed to binge eat it, that isn't cool. But if this solves the stomach ache problem I often have after eating chocolate, I'll know it was the dairy that got me.
  • 2-3 servings of fruit a day
    • Another tweak. I would OD on fruit if possible. I've always loved it and been able to eat endless amounts. So since the goal of my version of Whole30 is to help my relationship with food and learn to eat when I'm hungry, replacing cravings for sweets with a million servings of fruit will not actually serve me well. So I'm definitely going to be limiting that.

If you don't like these rules... then don't follow this diet. You should never hop on board to a diet trend of any type just because it's cool and popular or sounds like a good idea. Do your research, figure out what works for your body, and don't be afraid to challenge yourself. That's about all I have to say on the subject of Whole30 right now because, well, I'm less than 24 hours in. But so far so good! It's going well, I'm excited, and I've never been more thankful for almond butter + sweet potatoes (if you've never combined those, do it).

And now, onto the more rambling part of the blog. If you don't want to hear me talk about my thoughts, maybe skip this next section.

 

Life Epiphanies and Living in NYC

Whenever I make a major life change, I have a series of emotional reactions that go about like this: thinking everything is fine and it's nbd (you might call this "ignoring the problem"), intense stress and anxiety, panic, excitement, disillusionment, acceptance. This fun rollercoaster of feelings then ends in coming to touch with reality and chilling the f out. This happened when I moved away to college, when I decided to fly across the world and study abroad, and now, when I moved to NYC a week post-graduation.

This time, though, the rollercoaster was a bit different. Instead of panic and anxiety, I built up my move with months (and if we're being honest, years) of anticipation. I was so excited. New York City was the perfect place for me. I would follow my dreams here and live the most exciting life possible. I was also, of course, a little nervous about leaving college and less than thrilled about embarking on a long-distance relationship with my boyfriend, who was moving to DC. But in general, I was over the moon about the idea. The uphill phase of the roller coaster, the anticipation and planning, just kept going up. And up and up. I moved, and the smaller anxieties start to set in. (How was I ever going to make enough money to live here in the long run? How does one move a mattress across NYC? How exactly am I supposed to live here when the word "cockroach" brings on a full-on freakout?) I landed my first NYC apartment (hats off to Max because this is all thanks to you), moved in, slowly watched my stuff arrive in boxes from my mom in Ohio, and waited for the excitement to set in. Where was the culmination of all of the months and years of buildup?

Well, I'm 2+ months in, and I'm still waiting. The excitement I thought I would find in NYC, the fun life that I was sure would be waiting for me, perfectly curated like a still-life painting just missing its subject? Turns out it isn't here. There have been moments of excitement like I imagined. Staring in awe at the millions of twinkling lights from my balcony and realizing that an actual person, or many people, existed behind each one of those tiny bright specks, all living their own lives in the same space as me. That breath-taking and somewhat jarring moment, a little like getting punched in the chest, when I emerge from the subway and see Central Park or Columbus Circle or an entirely different part of the city I've never seen before waiting to greet me. The quiet moments late at night when I'm alone in my room, trying to fall asleep, but can't because the city is bright and loud and chaotic and I can't believe I actually got to move here, that I'm not stuck in the suburbs like most of my little town and that I'm doing what I set out to with my life for no other reason than that I can.

But those are just that, they're moments. A few seconds strung together to make a fleeting memory, not a feeling that lasts. Not the reality of my day-to-day life. What's much more common are the reoccurring panics because despite working multiple jobs, I'm not sure how I'm going to pay my rent or replace a broken computer or fly home to see my family. The tears when I'm alone and feeling lost and unsure and wondering why the person I care most about is hours away, why I let it happen this way. The annoyances of a late train, a broken air conditioner I don't want to spend the cash to fix, a street so crowded I have to stop and wait when all I want to do is lie in bed after an awful day. New York is a unique and amazing place, but it's not magical. And living here as a 22-year-old, in all the ways it makes my life incredible and I feel lucky, there are many more in which it makes it worse. I have opportunities that many people in my field would kill for, but I still don't have a full-time job. I'm surrounded by amazing restaurants and thrilling nightlife, but I don't want to and can't spend money on anything outside of the budget I keep in an Excel spreadsheet and update daily. I live in the city that never sleeps, the place with a million possibilities to offer, and yet I can't sleep either because I wake abruptly in the night, my head so full of possibilities and choices that don't have right answers that I can't even be still. 

If I could go back and old McKenzie not to move here, I wouldn't. In many ways it has been so, so worth it, and I am happy and feel lucky to have the life that I do. But what I would go back and tell her is to stop acting like any place is the dream. To stop believing that New York is the magical city where you find everything you've ever wanted. To let go of the idea that she would be happier here and to stop building up a place with so much anticipation that the actual city could never live up to what existed inside her head. If you idealize anything too much, the reality will never measure up, no matter how wonderful it is. Coming to realize that this city is just that, a city, with its own unique advantages and drawbacks has taught me to be more considerate of other things in my life. It's made me take a step back and think harder about what my expectations are and if they're realistic. Turns out a lot of the time, they aren't. 

NYC is not what will make my life awesome. I'm going to have to do that myself. NYC is just the place that I live now that I will have to learn how to fit into the life I wanted to have. I know I will be happy here, but I can also be happy somewhere else. And someday, sooner or later, I will be.

 

At the end of the weekend, as we were about to leave to walk Hal to his bus back to DC, I found myself in tears for reasons I couldn't fully explain. He's used to this (something I'm thankful for) because I have a lot of emotions and opinions about, well, almost everything. I told him I was sad because he was leaving, but that wasn't the only reason why. After a few minutes of confused rambling, I blurted out, "I feel like a failure that I don't like New York as much as I thought I would." He said some smart and insightful things, as usual, wiped my tears, and we were off to the bus. But as I walked back, empty-handed and especially aware of what it felt like to be alone, I realized that the only person I'd failed was myself. Not by not falling in love with NYC in the way I thought I would, but by continuing to expect more (of myself, of others, of places, of jobs, of choices) than they could ever give me. New York is just a city. And I am just a person. We both kind of suck sometimes and I'm not sure why I expected anything else. 

For now, NYC and I have come to an understanding. Right now, this is my home. I love it, but most of the time I kind of hate it. I feel lucky to have gotten here, to where I'm (barely) paying my own rent in Manhattan and going to work and sometimes doing really fun, cool things. But I  also don't feel obligated to be head over heels for NYC, to assimilate to the nightlife and drinking culture I've never really been about, to sign another lease here next year, to live here a moment longer than I actually want to or that makes sense for my career and future. I will soon visit the DMV because, well, New York > Ohio for my driver's license. In general, for now, NYC and I are going to keep each other at arm's length and continue our truce. I'll let you know how it goes.

I'm writing all of this and publishing it on the Internet because I've also become acutely aware that I'm part of the problem. I'm a part of the system that's perpetuating the whole "living the dream my life is so fun" image of living in NYC. I Instagram perfectly curated moments. I put things on my Snapchat story that are fun or interesting. I do this because it's fun, it's what social media is for, but I also think it gives the wrong idea. Just because I post pretty pictures on Instagram doesn't mean that I'm trying to make others believe that this is an accurate representation of my life. I do it because you can find beauty in small moments and I do it as much as a reminder to myself as to others that there is beauty in my life. But this is something else: This is my opportunity to be transparent, so I'm going to take it. 

 

I hope you've enjoyed my ramblings about life, NYC, and realizing things I should've probably figured out before age 22. The next post will return to your usually-scheduled programming, but feel free to leave me a comment or contact me in any other way. 

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
  • BE CONSISTENT.
  • 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.