The end is…

My favorite writing teacher of all time used to say “The beginning is important and the end is important, but the end is more important than the beginning.”

But guys… I am really terrible at endings.

Let’s talk about for a minute about the beautiful 10 mile race I ran last weekend.  It started out winding alongside the Merrimack River, 60 degrees, no bugs, feeling strong.  I loved those first 3 miles… and then came these terrifying, muddy, slippery hills where no joke, the leaders of the race passed me at mile 3.5 (because it was an out and back type of race.)

That’s okay, I can handle being slow – I’m used to it.

At mile 5, the manned water break at some DPW kinda outbuilding, an hour had passed and I was feeling… okay, but sort of not that great. A tiny voice in my head was saying “Just get a ride back now with the empty water jugs.”  But I quashed it and started jogging beside this great lady with a killer sense of humor, and we covered a couple of those terrible hills from mile 5 to 6.  At this point, I was struggling hard, so I fell back.

At mile 8, if there had been any way to magically transport myself to the finish line, I would have taken it.  I probably would have paid money to get there (and I’m pretty stingy with my cash).  I was calling down curses on the day I signed up for this race and every freezing day in March that had prevented me from training outdoors. (I’m kind of a wuss about freezing weather and running outdoors).  Unfortunately, I had to walk run stumble my way to the end. And then cram dry cookies in my mouth.  While popping my blood blisters.

Gross, Beth. Just gross.

Why that disgusting story?

Well, I’m coming really close to the end of grad school, really close, but not close enough. There are 5 more weeks of classes left and a few papers, and then that’s… not quite it. There’s this tiny lil’ 300 hour internship I need to find and complete.

In general, in my quiet moments, I sit down and think, why did I sign up to do this again? The more I studied this field, the more I liked it (different than the first go-round of higher ed).   However, I picked one of those degrees that doesn’t guarantee you a job and a title at the end.  If you study education, people know you’re going to be a Teacher.  But if you study Industrial Organizational Psychology, you don’t get to call yourself a Psychologist at the end of the MS. Unfortunately.

I feel like I’m at mile 8.  The end isn’t quite here yet, and even if I had the internship all sorted out, there’s the matter of all the things I’m interested in knowing more about, and finding ways to incorporate them into life.

And getting a job.  There’s that too.

If there was a way to magically transport my way to the end, where I can see the finish line (ie: the next steps in a career) I’d take it.  I’d even pay some money for it.  But as far as I can tell, I’ve got to stay on the course before me, and run the last couple miles, and trust that will get me there.

Getting through the last couple miles is hard.

 

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30 Before 30 List

Birthday Cake!

Birthday Cake!

Here is my 30 before 30 list.

Tackling Nagging “Adult” things.

  1. Finish Master’s Degree.
  2. Join a Professional Association.
  3. Buy a suit.
  4. Go to a conference.
  5. Get a job.
  6. Save 2 months of living expenses.
  7. Floss daily.

Go on (local) Adventures.

  1. Go on a weekend Road Trip.
  2. Run 75% of the North Shore Trail Series.
  3. Try yoga paddleboarding.
  4. Go to the Boston Harbor Islands .
  5. Eat at the Top of the Hub.

Continue to be a Navel Gazer.

  1. Go on a retreat to L’Abri.
  2. Make a wedding photo album.
  3. Update the 5 Year plan for our family.
  4. Send thank-you letters to three people who have had a big influence in my life.
  5. Start a new Blog.
  6. Write my 20’s in a long form essay.

Keep Learning.

  1. Take a cooking (or art) class.
  2. Go to a wine tasting.
  3. Try a new fitness style (adult gymnastics? TRX?).
  4. Take an Economics 101 MOOC.
  5. Take a skillshare class in photo-editing.
  6. Write a book proposal – or – Submit a story to Relevant/ Her.meneutics.
  7. Learn how to do 4 new functions on my camera (eg: white balance).

Get (even more) Social.

  1. Learn how to make 5 drink recipes from memory.
  2. Reconnect with a few high school friends.
  3. Become a Mentor.
  4. Host a story-telling party.
  5. Organize a group camping trip.

Some thoughts on the process -

It was both easier and harder to make this list than I thought.

Easier because…On the one hand, I feel as though the last five years taught me a lot of the types of lessons people vow to fix when they turn 30 (for example to get more organized or have better time management skills.  Not that I’m perfect, obviously).  And… I don’t feel my biological clock ticking because having an unplanned kid means at least I got that accomplished early.  I didn’t struggle with trying to pick which bad habit to fix – it was easy.  I do need to floss every day, and I’m currently terrible at it.

On the other hand… I wish I had the money to put international travel on the list, or take a lot more costly classes and experiences (sky diving – yeah, I would have tried that).  I don’t need more money to be happy, I am happy, but… it would have made for a more adventuresome list and I’m very envious of those that are travelling a lot more than I am.

And now… I plan to print the list off and stick it in my study space so I can work on it over the next year.

 

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Nonfiction Books I think you should read

Sometimes I scare myself with how much I love contributing in almost meaningless ways to the abyss that is the internet.

Take my Awesome Quiz!

50 popular Nonfiction books

I took 25 minutes of book quizzes on the listchallenges website.  Then I signed up for an account which took another 2 minutes. 50 minutes to create a list.  Then 12 minutes to photoshop a super awesome clickable photo.  Then another 10 minutes of hitting the refresh  button to see how many people were taking the quiz.

5 minutes to share on all my social media channels (Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Google+) and finally, another 6 minutes to write an embarrassing time analysis of how I use the internet. 3 minutes to add the links and upload images.

Total: 113 minutes (1 hour and 53 minutes.  Holy crap.)

This is why I don’t want to be a stay-at-home-mom.  I’m afraid I’d do things like this all. day. long.

And convince myself it is productive and meaningful.

 

Single People, I hear you!

Several weeks ago a very brave woman in her mid-thirties stood up in my church and shared her testimony as a single person who wishes she were married.  The audience, as you might expect from a moderately conservative Baptist church, was married couples attempting to keep their offspring from crawling in the rows, with limited success.  (At least one skittered past me that day).  There were few other singles in the church, but those that were, were mainly in the pews filled with college students.

But her words hit me deeply as she talked about the longing to get married, the frustration with the time it was taking to find the right person with which to settle down.

I’m almost as far from single as one could get, barring those few who met in high school or before.  I met my husband when I was 19 and he was 17, and though it most certainly wasn’t love at first sight, by the time I turned 24 there really wasn’t much question that we would be getting married.  This year, though only our 4th anniversary, marks our 10th year of friendship.

How then can I, who’s never made an online dating profile, never been on a blind date relate to anyone who’s single?

Because I, friends, have been unlucky – not in love – but in careers.

I like to say of my resume – great life, terrible paper trail.  I stand by each of my experiences as necessary to growth – but, like a string of exes, they’ve each taught me what I didn’t want.

Like many others who I’ve talked to, both in love and careers, early on I received little advice beyond admonitions to lighten up and it would happen, or to follow what basically amounted to ‘common sense’ in both the job search or in the quest of relationships.

“Get good grades!”
“Only date Christians!”
“College is for everyone”
“You’re still young, you’ll find some[one/thing].”
“Network”
“Just get out and meet a lot of people.”

But these cliches aren’t really that helpful when you’re home at night and start wondering -

What’s wrong with me?
Why haven’t I found my passion yet?
Or – worse – why hasn’t my passion amounted to a job that supports me/ creates wealth?
Am I smart?
What am I doing wrong?
What is wrong with me!?

And you attempt to answer that last sentence with any amount of gleaned wisdom from thoughtful well written blog posts by your peers – who are successful – and have managed to secure positions that they deserve and earned.

Am I just unlucky? Should I have just tried harder?  Did I end up on the wrong path so long ago that there’s no finding my way now?

In those bleak hours, that happen, not every night, but unfortunately every now and again, I must review advice and comfort from what I’ve learned.

1. There is no one right path/ Mr. Right. It’s hard when you’ve tried a string of actions that hasn’t repaid your investment, or when you are surrounded by stories that champion the people who knew when they were 17 what they wanted to be. A culture that celebrates child geniuses and profiles CEOs under 40.   That shows success can be had anywhere and success means money, fame, and power.

Hunt out the other stories, and don’t believe lies that tell you there is only one right way to do things and you’ll know it when you see it. You might not.

2. It is not now or never. If you do not find the perfect job (or date) today that does not mean that you will be forever stuck in your parent’s house, or in a basement for the rest of your life.  It only feels like it.  Any psychologist worth their salt will tell you to banish dichotomous thinking whenever you can – it isn’t all or nothing!

3. You are loved. Really. And as someone who is loved, you should continue to be purposeful.  Vision is important – but, vision, I think, can be continually shifting – constantly being refined by life experience and wisdom from respected others.  If your vision looks different than it did when you were in high school.  That’s fine.  Sure, you may be no Donald Miller, but then, who is? As the late great Kurt Vonnegut said – You wouldn’t have written Beethoven’s  9th Symphony anyway.

HOWEVER – it is possible to live purposefully without a clear, well-defined end vision.  I wrote a little bit about what to do when you feel “in between times” and I stand by my suggestions. Make friends, invest in community, volunteer, support causes, learn.  If you can’t see where you will be in 40 years, that is okay – why don’t we just try for 1 okay?

4.  There is more advice and help out there than cliches.  There are plenty of ways to glean self knowledge and to continue to search for and find ways to express your passion while waiting for vision to blossom. Don’t assume that it will come to you in a dream – and – forgive your parents or guidance counselors who gave you bad/no advice.  You’re a grown up now.

However, sometimes cliches make the best endingsSo get out there and Try Try again.

Or at least eat some discount chocolate.

//

If you liked this post about my career woes you might also like: Career Advice for my Younger Self.

And you should probably share this post with your friends ;)

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New Years Resolutions 2014 – 6 weeks In

You know that question people always ask you – and it’s awful because the standard response conveys nothing?

How’s it going?!

And you reply “Good.”

And things are, in fact, going “good.”  Because, generally, most of us have pretty good lives most of the time (except for those 2 or 3 nagging problems everyone hits once in a while that seem to linger around for months: unemployment, 5 pounds to lose, and depression.)

So, for the most part – answering “Good” feels pretty accurate.  Because no one asks you “How’s it Going” when someone in the family dies, or they know you’re having a hard time – they only ask you when their confident you’ll reply good or great.

But, well, good doesn’t really happen to express how you’re mind was blown recently by reading a cool book, or how you’re puzzling over whether or not to apply for consulting internships.

And frankly, you, like me, are sure that you’re spiel of “how its going” is uninteresting to anyone but you. After all, by and large my inner monologue these days is “How can I explain to potential employers what Industrial Organizational Psychology is and why that makes me a good fit for their job.  And how can I explain this in under 5 minutes?”  Which, I know is boring, because I can see eyes glazing over and really can’t seem to cut down the explanation to under 5 minutes despite rehearsing in most of my free time. (Which is also why you don’t see more interesting blog posts around here).

Anyway – aside from that inner monologue, I realized it had been 6 weeks since New Years Resolutions so I thought I’d poke around at them and see what progress I’ve made.

New Years Resolution Review:

Better family communication: I figured the best way to tackle this was to start the year out by focusing on quantity.  I’ve been calling one sister every 10 or so days, and fbook chatting the other every week or so.  I’ve been commenting on sister-in-laws fbook page every week.  I still should call my mom more, at least 2x a month. Which, I can hear gasps out there because you realize, if twice a month is improving quantity, things are pretty dismal. I usually email my dad about topics rather than newsy personal information – which from what I gather by reading women’s magazines aimed at people my age, is pretty standard.

To work on in the next 6 weeks: Emailing my dad every 10 days. Sharing more pictures with family.  Setting up a family dinner.

Networking – In order to get a job: I was pretty busy over the last couple weeks. I only attended one event,but reached out to 3 people I respect for regarding common interests and asking for advice about internships and career.  I also applied to 2 internships, and have plans to apply to another 3-4 this week.  Currently I’m balancing how much effort I devote to “stretch” internships (which are highly competitive and recruit from bigger name schools) and to those I think I have a more reasonable chance.  I have been considering offering my 2c on LinkedIn groups more frequently, in an attempt to enter the public forum… but haven’t quite worked a good strategy for this yet.

To work on in the next 6 weeks: Join a professional association/ Attend a professional event.  Identify and apply to the rest of my “stretch” internships, then devote more time to achievable ones.  Reach out to 2 industry leaders I respect with targeting questions. Continue to work on cutting back that 5 minute speech to 3 minutes or less.

North Shore Trail Series - Dates are up for this year!  The first race is both earlier than I thought and longer than I expected – 10 Miler on April 12 – so about 8 weeks away.  Right now I’ve been at “maintenance” physical levels – which I consider exercising 3x per week for 40 minutes. I can easily run 3-4 miles, but much beyond 5 would by physically exhausting.  I downloaded Hal Higdon’s 15 Intermediate training plan and intend to follow it for the next 9 weeks as much as possible.

30 before 30 list: It’s shaping up – I’ve got about 26 items on the list.  You might recall I’m trying to make most free/cheap – because money’s an issue – otherwise visiting my sister in France would be on the list. Some are silly, most involve learning something new.  I’m excited to check off a bunch of stuff – serious shot of serotonin coming up.

By the way – What would you put on a list of things to do before you turned 30? Links appreciated.

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Tackling To Do Lists

Understanding (your) Self:

In my social psychology class one week we studied the concept of The Self.  Roy Baumeister, author of the popular book Willpower, and editor of the text my class used, proposes that there are three basic roots, or areas of study, when considering selfhood: Self Awareness, Interpersonal Relations (how others perceive us), and Self- Control (how we make and achieve goals).

Since Self-Control is fascinating to me as a person trying to navigate this ‘growing up’ thing, I paid particular attention to that section of the text. I grinned when Baumeister cited some research that confirmed my personal experience that “self awareness is essentially for the sake of self-regulation.” Self regulation is therefore necessary to achieve goals.  My initial impressions of adulthood are that most of it is an exercise in self-control.

Self Control and Adulthood:

Well, in order to achieve anything long term (and in direct contrast to childhood – almost everything necessary to function in adulthood is long term – owning and caring for property, paying bills, contributing meaningfully to society, raising children…etc) you need to have a certain level of knowledge and mastery – which is mostly achieved through self-controlled study or experience.

Which leads to another personal conclusion that to-do lists are a necessary tool of adulthood in a modern world where we’ve got dozens of competing goals we need to decide between prioritizing.  BUT… even though tackling to-do lists will help you get many things done – depending on your level of energy, time, and motivation you might find it impossible to check things off.

This is why I think it is equally important to categorize things to do and then use the right strategy for tackling the To-Do list. I don’t think you can always accomplish tasks in the same way each time, mainly because you become accustomed to that particular approach and then start slacking off.  There’s a similar phenomenon in dieting – people get bored of eating cottage cheese, salads, and chicken every day so they start seeking novelty – and fall off the bandwagon.

Here are 3 of my strategies for tackling to-do lists and achieving focus.

Note: These strategies are particularly for tackling mental work.

3 Things Method

The Three Things Method:

Every 2 weeks I make a list of mental tasks that need to get done – generally things I can’t accomplish with my son around. This allows me to identify what times are useable (nap time, bed time) and what times aren’t (the witching hour 5-7pm). Then depending on the day and amount of time available, I pick 3 things (the most important on the list!) and focus on ONLY those 3 things – nothing else on the master list.  Clearing my mind of the other items makes it easier for me to focus.

Checkbox Method

The Checkbox Method:

I have a weak prospective memory – or in other words – I’m easily distractable. (Doesn’t the first one sound so much better?!).  I might sit down to read a book, then remember I need to answer an email, and find myself reading a newspaper article which prompts me to check my bank account.  It’s easy (for me) to lose an hour of productivity that way. Which is why, when I often start work I take a scrap piece of paper and make a series of boxes.  Each box represents 15 minutes of focus on a task.  If I complete 15 minutes of focus, I check it off.  If I don’t, I X it.  I feel a certain level of shame if I look at more than 2 boxes with an X in them, which prompts me to try harder to focus.  In my experience – focus begets more focus… and I can usually con myself into just fifteen more minutes of work.

Categorize Method

The Balanced Modes Method:

On my master mental tasks lists there are generally three types of tasks: thinking, reading, and writing. Although I sometimes have the energy to tackle 3 reading items… I often don’t. Who can read 100 pages of psychology textbook at once?  Answer: Not me.  So, I try and balance the tasks that I accomplish by switching between two modes.  First I’ll read for a set amount of time or length – then I’ll write for set amount of time or length.

Additionally…

I also like Gretchin Rubin’s 15 Minute “Tackle a  Nagging task” method which I read about in “The Happiness Project” (highly recommend!).  Sometimes tasks are so tedious, or difficult, or simply abhorrent that you can’t do it,  So, you break the task down into 15 minute pieces and you commit to doing 15 minutes (and ONLY 15 minutes) on the task every day until it’s complete.  This works for mental tasks AND other household tasks.

Could you see yourself using any of these strategies?  Do you have other strategies to get yourself through your to-do lists?

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