Purple Hood is Growing, Betty White is Still Living, and the Cleveland Browns Won an Actual Football Game; An Optimist’s View of 2016
Woah! I just realized we only have one day left of the year 2016! Is anyone else besides me just now finding out about this? Yes, it’s true. My blog posts have been on a bit of a hiatus these past few months, as things have been changing…well..a lot! This week’s social media news feeds and TV broadcasts have been blowing up with plenty of negativity about this past year. I can’t say that I completely disagree with most of it either given the exponential numbers of celebrity deaths, worldly strife, and this year’s birth of Pokémon Go. But I’m not here to talk about any of that today! Today, we are going to talk about all the positives of 2016 and how we can convert new year’s “resolutions” into new year’s commitments. I sound like an 80’s aerobics instructor! Oh, and for the record, I am not a Browns fan. I actually very much dislike them, as I’m from the rivalry city of Cincinnati and I love my Bengals. But even a mutt should be thrown a bone once in awhile, right?
So what ARE your goals? Do you want to travel more? Get a new job? Start your own business? Start eating (*shutter*) kale?! I am willing to bet most of you, like me, tend to have slightly varying versions of the same new year’s resolutions year after year. But, why? Well, perhaps, at least on the unfeasible kale goal, your stomach just rejected the green rubber the first time, in which case you just need to coat it in a little chocolate. Duh!
The problem is not just about what we do or don’t do. It’s about the way we think about things. We deem these resolutions to be insurmountable (usually by January 3rd) and the next thing we know, we are hearing ads for “Christmas in July” and think “?!$%*?” Where did half of the year go? “Next year!”, you adamantly proclaim, as if the goal was a sudden innovative idea. The truth is, we often ONLY think about our goals in late December. Upon returning to work, we become involved in the usual daily routine and the aspirations we once had grow more and more estranged.
This year, my husband and I had a throw back NYE from my childhood. We made fondue on the living room floor.
So now what? Have you ever heard that annoying cliché that you shouldn’t keep engaging in the same behaviors and expecting different results? Don’t worry. I won’t say that…*wink *wink. The truth is I have been struggling with the same repetitive cycle every year myself. But this year, something different happened. I have gained some insight through some of my experiences over the last 12 months, so I thought I would share. Lucky you! I picked a few defining learning lessons from 2016 to write about to help you change the way you think and actually remember what happened between January and July. It was tough selecting the best lessons to share. I will spare you from this year’s stories of being attacked by wild turkey, having a meltdown at a toll plaza while driving across the country, and my encounter with a janitor named “Julio” in Cusco, Peru. Sorry to disappoint you, but we’ll save those 2016 mishaps for another post!
1. Talking to Strangers Gets You a Long Way (Usually).
How does this help your new year’s resolutions, you might ask. Great questions! It might not, but chances are, speaking up for yourself and making your needs known couldn’t hurt! I personally have tried to become more outspoken about things I need, meet new people, and spread cheerfulness to those around me for years. Mind you, depending on which part of the country or the world you are in, social norms for this may differ a bit! Where I live is certainly not the worst place for striking up friendly conversation with your neighbors, but it certainly is not the best, and you may not always get the reaction you had in mind! Don’t worry, I was only yelled at once this year for rolling an audible shopping cart along the sidewalk in front of someone’s house (oops).
This past May, I went on a road trip across the country with my dad. We visited The Badlands, Mount Rushmore, Crazy Horse, Deadwood, Devil’s Tower, Yellowstone National Park, and many other spots between Ohio and Idaho. Now, mind you, my dad has a history of not always selecting QUITE the most ideal times to insert his commentaries (*cough* joking about bombs in an airport to the security personnel!). Naturally, at the beginning of the road trip, I hid behind the massive amounts of pillows and luggage in my arms at each hotel check in. This was usually as my dad went on to tell each hotel staff member about his pizza preferences, his senior discount from the Badlands, his time in the military, and stories from my childhood! You know, the usual chatter with a complete stranger!
But then, something surprising happened. The farther west we went, the less awkward the banter became. People became friendlier and we were suddenly making friends with waitresses, other tourists, and hotel and attraction staff members from all over the country. I remember texting my husband about this getting the reaction of “Oh God! Your dad would!” But, there was something to this communicative initiation. I was learning about the world and spreading friendliness to everyone around me and receiving the same friendliness back. I will never see any of those people again, but I came back home feeling fulfilled with experiences and stories. You truly never know who you are going to meet and what will come of it. Maybe your next best friend or significant other is a complete stranger right now!
Now, I’m not suggesting you should spill your life stories to everyone you encounter (stay away from airports, you talkers!), but being openly communicative with others can get you things you never imagined, so just try it!
2. Anything You Have Been Talking About Doing All These Years- Just Do It.
Although I run this travel business I call Purple Hood Adventures, as many of you may remember, I am also a speech-language pathologist. For years, I have been talking about taking a remote speech therapy job (teletherapy) instead of working at the nursing home I had been at for quite some time. I was afraid of change and leaving my friends. Well, guess what I did this year! I took the teletherapy job and have never been happier. I can now travel and work remotely running both this business and working with patients all the way in Alaska! I even started the job the day after I returned from Peru in September, and I started it from a Chicago hotel room! Talk about diving right into change!
The point is that you’ll never know if something will work out until you just try it. It might be worse, but it could be better than you ever imagined. Trust things will work out, because they always will some way or another, even if it isn’t what you had initially planned. If you live your life afraid to make a change, you’ll just keep wishing it every December 31st. Do it while you have the chance, because you never know where life will take you. Make this the year you finally take that big trip, change jobs, move to a new state, give hard boiled eggs another fair shot, or build that homemade roller coaster in your backyard that you keep talking about (I didn’t make that one up!).
A view from our Chicago hotel room just one day after returning from Peru; the day I started my new teletherapy job
3. I Learned That the Only Way to Accomplish Anything is to Take One Step at a Time.
This summer, my husband and I hiked the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu in Peru. It was one of the most rewarding irreplaceable experiences in my lifetime and I will never forget it. “Yesterday is gone and tomorrow doesn’t exist. Today is today. Live in the moment.” That was the repetitious quote spoken multiple times a day by “Ever”, our tour guide. That was his response to any talk about the upcoming physically demanding trail ahead. Why he felt we needed reminding to “live in the moment” during a vertical climb to the 14,000ft “Dead Woman’s Pass” summit, is beyond me! There were portions of that trail I believed I’d never make, but I had to focus on putting one foot in front of the other, focusing on one slippery mossy rock or chunk of “Peruvian flat” (booby trap) at a time. When I took my first tumble (I was distracted by a group of Australians behind me singing every song from the 20th century known to man for hours), I had no choice but to get up and keep going, taking only the occasional stop every half mile to reattach my mattress pad banging against my butt or to eat a bite of my melted crushed soggy chocolate energy bar.
We made lifelong friends from Brazil on that trek. We were all in the same boat together just trying to finish. I have never been more proud to shake my head “no” to the sight of the emergency oxygen canister offered by Ever at the end of day two! We were in the middle of the mountains with no cell phones, no sounds of traffic, no wheelchair alarms going off (I worked in a nursing home, remember?), no access to Walking Dead spoilers on social media…nothing. Just views of the complete Milky Way Galaxy, new friends, four course meals in a warm tent, a 25 pound backpack with my entire life in it, and my barely working camera (typical)! That was the life! And guess what? We all made it to Machu Picchu with all of our limbs and digits intact! “Are those people over night?”, I heard a very-well dressed freshly-showered woman ask about us as we approached the gates of the hidden ruins. “WERE we overnight”, I thought to myself. How did she think we got this dirty? I had never been more enthusiastic about pavement, above ground toilets, and water bottles!
The point is when we take small steps instead of becoming overwhelmed with an entire task, we are less likely to give up and we are more likely to take the time to get things done right. When I hopped off the plane from Peru and hopped on the new plane to Chicago the same night, instead of being overwhelmed by the fact I was about to start a new job the next day, I felt a sense of serenity. Before I left, I had been so anxious about the amount on my plate. When I returned, I thought “oh well, it will be OK eventually.” I was able to realize it was normal that I didn’t feel completely ready. I knew that if I took it one day at a time, I would quickly learn what was expected of me. Turns out I was right. In the words of Albert Einstein, “It’s all good!”
These are our lifelong Brazilian friends: Karê, Daniela, Liana, Paula, and Kadu.
4. Don’t Eat Yogurt in a Foreign Country …Especially not in a Rain Forest. Just don’t.
Being sick can distract you from your new year’s goals. Try to avoid it.
5. If You Think You Need to Lose Weight, Travel.
OK, travel is not the only solution to this one, but it opened up my eyes to just how much our thoughts control everything from our actions, to our behaviors, to even our weight! Now before you go rolling your eyes thinking ” this girl thinks the solution to everything is to travel” (well, it sort of is!), it’s not really about traveling itself. It’s about your mindset during travel. How many people do you know who have vowed to lose weight every year or become healthier or “finally start exercising?” Maybe that’s you even. Heck, I thought that I needed to lose weight and eat healthier myself the past few years. This year? I’ll tell you what I WON’T be doing and that is dieting.
You see, it is that mindset that got us in this position in the first place. When we stop and take a minute to enjoy life instead of living it in autopilot and living like a robot, our natural instincts kick in. Sometimes we focus on a strict dietary or exercise regiment and how often does that fail? What are you usually thinking about while you’re sitting at your desk at work? Are you thinking about that doughnut you’re trying to avoid in the conference room or about that dreaded 5:30 hot date you have with the smelly gym? Trust me, I workout more than anyone I know, but it’s not because I feel like I have to. I think just knowing you can take a day off if you feel like it helps a lot.
Now think about being on vacation. Think about exploring a new city. You are going to eat the local cuisine, but you probably aren’t going to have it on your mind the entire day (unless it’s chocolate and you’re in Switzerland-then in which case, ignore this entire paragraph). Usually, when we travel, we are taking the time to enjoy our surroundings and the company we have around us. We are enjoying food, the sites, the local beers on tap, the new coffee shops, or whatever else you’re into! Maybe you have to walk a mile to the next museum or to the beach. Maybe you have ruins to hike up. Do you think of this exercise as a chore? If you do, I’m sure you can handle it! When our bodies and brains are happy and we live life fulfilling ourselves and giving ourselves what we desire, we aren’t going to feel as stressed. Guess what happens when we are not stressed? Health!
So this January, when you find yourself adamantly saying “January 1st and I’m pitching the cookies and I’m cutting out soda!”, just remember where that has landed you in the past. Your house is not going to crumble onto you if you eat a macaroon on January 2nd (the cookie might though). Has going on a strict diet really truly worked before? Maybe for some, but it’s not sustaining. Travel has taught me a lot about taking care of myself mentally and physically at times when I’m responsible for myself and my own actions in a foreign place. Maybe you don’t have to travel to get to that place too.
One of my best friends and I hanging out on a rooftop patio in Charleston, SC in the 104 degree heat! Talk about weight loss!
6. Give Back to Yourself.
Now before you run off to the local mall in a terror to buy yourself another Christmas morning because of point number six, just hear me out on this one. I spent the past several years spreading myself thinner than the material of an Abercrombie shirt trying to please everyone around me…everyone except myself, of course. My business was put on hold, I had no time for anything enjoyable, and I gave up some of my greatest travel aspirations. I said “yes” every time I was asked to work additional hours at other nursing facilities just because I didn’t know how to say “no”. Right now, as we speak, I am on a “Christmas break” from my teletherapy job and devoting 110% of myself to Purple Hood Adventures. For once in my life, I’ve said “no” to additional work. I’m taking the time to travel, visit family, play and win at Mario Party against my husband (no more chump charity for me!), and finally catch up on things that are important to me.
We are taught from a young age that we are expected to be productive every second of everyday and sometimes, we just forget how to relax, or in my case, devote time to something I started. Now maybe I should find that old Lego time machine I started back in the first grade while I’m at it! Realize that if you have a goal, that goal is not going to achieve itself. If you’re like most of us, you spend 40 hours a week devoted to making someone else’s dream come true. That’s great, but you will burn out faster than that seventh grade chemistry experiment that went horribly awry (Boy, I have a lot of grade school experiences!)! If you need a mental health day, take it. If you need to go on a walk by yourself, do it. If you have a side project you’ve been meaning to finish, devote some time to it daily. If you have a horrible soup recipe you concocted in your mind on a run last week, try it out (but keep a bottle of Tums and a lime near by…yet another story for another time)!
Ok, fine, if you must see it, here is my Christmas soup. Maybe I will refrain from mixing corn starch, milk, cumin powder, cinnamon, and Christmas beer next time. Just a thought!
7. Grow Lizard Skin!
Just kidding! Don’t actually do that! You’ll have to moisturize too often. Actually, what I mean is grow thick skin (and not the kind formed by scar tissue from perpetual clumsiness)! If you really want to accomplish a goal, you can’t be afraid to get messy and face criticism. You are always going to have people in your life who disagree with your ambitions or who are going to tell you that they aren’t realistic. If you turn into a lizard, you can scare them off! Ok, I promise I’m done with the lizard remarks! In all seriousness, let other people’s pessimism be your optimism. Use others’ doubts as fuel to prove them wrong. Remember that there is a reason you’ve set the same goals year after year. Clearly, it isn’t easy, but the more worthwhile it is, the more difficult it is going to be to achieve. Just maybe not Christmas soup. Sometimes things are only meant to be attempted once. Again, avoiding getting sick this year is key for your goal accomplishing.
8. Be honest with yourself and others
OK, this one may seem obvious, but for some of us, “white lies” become almost an automatic response to anything we don’t want to do these days. Don’t be afraid to tell someone you are too tired to go out or you would rather work on your project for which you’re setting aside that time each day! You don’t have to tell your coworkers you got jumped by a jaguar, smuggled into the back of a stolen furniture truck, narrowly escaped into a desolate tundra and had to battle mutant penguins to return home. Chances are, your coworkers are exchanging propositions as to the real reason you didn’t come out as you read this (although with a story as plausible as that one, how could they NOT believe you?). Just be honest with yourself and with others. If you need something, just ask for it. If you don’t, the answer will always be “no.”
This Christmas, my husband surprised me with a new home office for Purple Hood Adventures and my teletherapy job to show support. This is the beginning of a lot more to come and I couldn’t have made it to this stage without all of the learning opportunities and experiences while traveling this year.
So there you have it, folks! The year 2016 is what we make of it. If we determine that every year is a dud and aspire to “do better” next year, we will never be happy. Learn from your mistakes, learn from others, and most importantly, learn from yourself. Change your thinking and you change your actions! But really, don’t eat kale with chocolate. Actually don’t even think about doing that. I was just kidding about that one…a little. Remember that life is like a movie and if you don’t learn to laugh at your mistakes, your audience is going to throw popcorn at the screen. So pick up where you ended your 2016 and set sail into the cold bitter January wind. You got this. “It’s all good!”