The Year of Self-Improvement and Self-Investment

Photo courtesy of Mateus Lunardi Dutra
Photo courtesy of Mateus Lunardi Dutra

A few months into 2014, I decided to dub the year the Year of Unabashed Nerdy-ness and endeavored to fully embrace my inner geek in a more noticeable way. And despite my extensive lapse in blogging, I had an extremely successful year in general nerdery. I bought and wore a lot of geek-inspired clothes and jewelry that I wear regularly, and I made connections with fellow nerds because of my Pokemon earrings and goofy shirts.

My gorgeous typewriter bag continues to be a source of happiness and pride, and the most-complimented item I have owned in my life. It’s more stylish than I am. But I digress.

Despite it being a little later in the year, I’ve decided to dub 2015 the Year of Self-Investment and Self-Improvement. My goals for this year involve learning new skills, making myself more marketable, figuring out my personal sense of style, and editing down my possessions. Read more

27 Reasons Getting Older is Awesome (But Actually it’s 17 Reasons, whatevs)

Photo courtesy of Aih
Photo courtesy of Aih

So a bit over a week ago, I turned 27. I decided to compile a list of 27 reasons why getting older is kind of awesome, but then I got distracted with simultaneous birthday celebrations and celebrations for my boyfriend, who passed his nurse licensing exam.

It’s been a very exciting time for both of us.

Despite a lot of brainstorming, I couldn’t actually come up with 27 reasons why I’m glad to be on the so-called “wrong” side of 25. It’s not that I couldn’t come up with 27 if I REALLY tried–it’s just that I have other things to do that are more important. . (Please see # 10 if you have an issue with that.)

Also, a lot of these reasons are all-encompassing, Big Picture-type reasons, and lots of smaller reasons would fit into each category.

I hope you’ll enjoy my reasoning here. And if you don’t, it’s no skin off my nose. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have mature 27-year-old things to do…

Cheers!

1.  Mo’ Age = Mo’ Wisdom

This is kind of a no-brainer, sure, but it’s also totally true. The older I get, the more I feel I have the knowledge I need to tackle life in general. Or just find my way around the city. Or answer difficult emails in a concise and professional manner. Or write silly blog posts about ageing.

2. Better sense of self

I’ve had 27 years to get to know myself. I have a better sense of what I like and dislike, what I’m truly capable of, and what I struggle with. And I’ve also had the time to go on adventures and push myself to the limit. (Like that time I moved to Costa Rica on a whim?)

I feel like a complete person, even if I’m still learning and growing. I feel like I know a lot more about who I am these days, and that alone makes getting older worth it. Read more

A Personal Manifesto, or Why Kindness is Key

I’ve been dealing with a lot of difficult social stuff in the last several months. Interpersonal communications have been a real struggle in both personal and professional realms, and it has been very hard to keep my spirits high.

Lost or phased-out friendships, friends moving far away, difficult work situations, jealousy, pettiness, bullying; I’ve been trying to handle it all at some point lately. And for someone like me (ie. highly sensitive, introverted, anxious, conflict-averse), it’s been so hard not to carry the hurts around with me as I go about just trying to figure out my daily life.

I’ve always wanted to write a personal manifesto. I’ve even mentioned it on this blog, ages ago, but never really did anything with the idea. Until now.

I think the idea of a manifesto is a wonderful thing, but I also think it has to be fluid and changeable. As you grow older, your manifesto should grow and mature with you. I think part of the reason I shied away from writing one a year or so ago was that I felt that it needed to be permanent.

Nothing makes you less likely to put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) than the idea that THIS THING THAT I AM WRITING IS PERMANENT AND MY IDEAS WILL HAVE TO STAY THE SAME FOR ALL OF TIME OR I HAVE FAILED IN MY MANIFESTO-LINESS.

Yeah, I just made up the word “manifesto-liness”. I’m awesome like that.

SO. Anyway. Here are the current contents of my personal manifesto:

1. Kindness is key

Kindness will never NOT be awesome, and I’ve found that in 99.9% of personal dealings with human beings, a little bit of kindness goes a long way. Even when people are mean, shitty, and otherwise disagreeable, I try very hard to be kind. Kill them with kindness is so much more effective, in my opinion, than Wait until they’re not looking and STAB THEM IN THE BACK! 

I’m definitely a fallible human with lots of problematic traits, but I do think my overwhelming urge to be kind and give a shit is one of my better qualities. And I definitely think it’s one worth nurturing and paying better attention to in the future.

2. Try to leave the people, places, and things you come into contact with in better condition than when you found them

I’m borrowing this one from one of my favorite bloggers, Alexandra Franzen, but I don’t think she’ll mind–she’s a huge advocate of love and kindness in all things. I think we’ve all heard some version of this phrase in the past, probably as kids when you were supposed to be cleaning something, like your cubby or locker. Leave it in better condition than you found it. 

However, I think this is a great idea to apply to all things in life. For example, your treatment of the Earth, the condition in which you keep your apartment, your interactions with most people, and whether or not you’re littering can all be improved upon. It’s an admirable goal to try to leave things–and especially people–in better condition than you found them. I know I want to positively impact people’s live and just make them happier in general. I think that’s a worthy goal.

3. Take time to play & create something everyday

I’m a highly imaginative day-dreamer, and that part of my personality tends to get bogged down and neglected when I get overworked and anxious and busy in my professional and personal life. But here’s the thing: I always feel so much happier and less stressed when I’m doing creative things. I need an outlet. And neglecting my creative urges creates a cycle where I feel down because I’m not creating/playing, and because I feel down, I don’t create. Or play.

It’s weird to be learning at 26 that taking care of your personal needs makes you a better person overall. The idea is sort of counterintuitive and feels selfish to me, but when I when I take care of my needs and make myself happy, I have a much better version of myself to offer the world.

Besides, what’s the point of life if you’re not creating or playing, anyway?

4. Exercise will ALWAYS make you feel better. Even if you feel shitty and tired when you’re exercising.

I’d say about 80% of the work outs I do are done begrudgingly. I have gone on many a run with gritted teeth and had to repeat to myself “I love running. This is totally fun. I don’t hate this AT ALL.”

But at the end of the exercise, I ALWAYS feel better. Every. Damn. Time.

So I just have to keep reminding myself that if I put in 30 minutes of physical work, I WILL feel better afterwards. Exercise can make a world of a difference to your mood.

5. Always wash your hands thoroughly after feeding wild monkeys

This one time I spent several hours feeding plantains to wild monkeys and I guess I didn’t wash my hands well enough afterwards, because I wound up with salmonella and it was HORRIBLE. I literally had to stop eating so I could survive the flight from Costa Rica to Chicago without running to the bathroom every 5 minutes.

NEVER AGAIN. Wash your hands, people.

6. Be free with your praise for others (as long as its genuine)

compliments

Giving someone mad props is never a bad thing. I’m a HUGE advocate of praising people if they do good stuff, are awesome, have a great haircut, etc. However, you do need to be mindful of your praise. Praising someone for sycophantic reasons is not the goal. Neither is telling your female coworker how “smokin’ hot” she is. I’m talking about real, honest compliments of a non-sexual and non-creepy nature.

Pile on the praise! It almost never hurts, and it can really make someone’s day.

7. Be present & try to worry less

Guys. I struggle SO HARD with this one. Like, Magikarp hard.

When I’m freaked out and anxious, I tend to get a kind of “What’s next?” tunnel vision. I think it’s the curse of an event planner, to always be thinking two weeks or two months or two steps ahead. And because of this, I have a difficult time enjoying the now. It drives my boyfriend nuts.

But when I do have the wherewithal to let the stress go for a minute and have fun in the present, it’s like a giant weight has been lifted off my shoulders. So mostly, I’m putting this in my manifesto as an attempt to remind myself how much better I feel when I calm down and focus on the now.

8. This song is the BEST and is my favorite dance anthem of all time.

Duh.

 9. Don’t be afraid to be enthusiastic about the shit you love

The main goal of my ongoing Year of Unabashed Nerdy-ness is to be unapologetic about my super-geeky interests. I think, as kids, we sort of learn to keep our interests under wraps if they aren’t mainstream, well-known, or well-understood. I can remember my elementary school self keeping mum on her love of video games and other things that weren’t popular, in order to avoid being mercilessly teased. (Although that really didn’t stop the teasing, anyway.)

If you go through the majority of your life keeping quiet about your interests, it can feel really REALLY strange to start being publicly enthusiastic about the things you love. But don’t let that strangeness stop you!

In my quest to be more outwardly nerdy, I’ve discovered that sporting your nerd gear in public will help you meet people and possibly make new friends. I can’t tell you how many people have used my Pokeball earrings as an icebreaker just to jump into a Pokemon conversation. Being geeky publicly is a great way to meet other geeks–whether they’re hiding or not.

Plus, being a nerd is awesome.

Suck it, bullies!

10. You can’t win everyone’s appreciation, support, or love. Try to be satisfied with doing the absolute  best you can do.

I’ve never mastered this one. It’s my constant, ongoing goal to eventually come to grips with the fact that I will never be everyone’s friend. (Yeah, I’m that girl. The really eager to please one. It’s just a 26-year-long phase, I swear.)

I struggle in social situations because I want people to like me, I want people to appreciate my work, and I want people to return my kindness with kindness. But life doesn’t work like that. Trying to get people to be my friend has led me into a lot of fair weather friendships where I am the provider of rides, the comforting shoulder, or the listening ear, and the other person can’t be bothered to return the favor.

You can never please everyone. So I’m trying to focus less on what other people appreciate and more one whether or not I’m satisfied with doing my best. Feels pretty good.

***

So, there you have it. My (current, potentially subject-to-change) manifesto. So what do you think? Have you ever written a manifest of your own? Would you ever want to?

Let me know in the comments.

 

(Photo Credit: William Shannon)

 

5 Things I Learned in the Disney College Program – Featured Blogger

Welcome to my newest monthly feature, everyone! Guest posts! On great topics! 

And I’m proud to introduce my little sister Erin as my first guest poster. Take it away, Erin!

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It’s hard to believe it’s been almost a year since I decided to apply for the Disney College Program. During my four years at Indiana University I constantly noticed, and took home, flyers about DCP information sessions, but I never made the time to go. Then last January, as graduation was quickly approaching, I started applying for jobs. Discouraged by this tiring process, I finally picked up a flyer and did some research.

I flew through each stage of the interview process, and after two weeks, I received an email telling me I had been accepted. Having no other current prospects, I decided, why not.

So after eight months of working as a Merchandise Hostess at the Happiest Place on Earth, what have I learned? Actually, a whole heck of a lot, but here are the five most important things I learned on my Disney College Program. Read more

Budgeting Like a Badass

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If you’ve read my blog a few times, you might know that I work as a secretary. Not a corporate secretary or an executive assistant–nothing fancy like that. I’m just a plain, vanilla secretary (with an incendiary dash of peanutbutter cup tossed in, but that comes from my winning personality!).

As you might suspect, secretaries are not, on the whole, highly paid. I am fortunate in that I get an awesome, incredible benefits package from my job, and I also receive overtime pay. In any event, I thought I would put a breakdown on how I currently manage my finances, in case people were interested.

Things that are important in my personal budgeting manifesto:

  • I pay my credit card off in full EVERY MONTH. I have 0 credit card debt.
  • All of my monthly expenses (except rent) are paid automatically from my checking account
  • The small amount of money I put in savings each month is also taken out automatically
  • I actually pay $60 extra on my car loan each month, so I can have it paid down in 3 years, as opposed to 4
  • If you’re not 100% certain of an expense, always round UP
  • If you’re not 100% certain how much money you have, always round DOWN

Budget Breakdown

If I include my overtime pay, I make just shy of $2000 a month. However, for the sake of this budget plan (and any buget plan you might want to make) it’s best not to include overtime pay. I’m using my lowest pay stub from 2013, rounded down slightly. Just concentrate on the bare bones, and anything you have leftover at the end is yours to play with in whatever way you see fit.

My monthly take home pay (not including OT): 1750

Whenever you’re budgeting for anything, look first at your fixed expenses. These are the things that will be the same month after month, and will under no circumstances change in cost. I’ve rounded up on a few of them to make it simpler. Here are my fixed expenses:

budget_fixedincome

Read more

On Job Shame, Failure, and Not Having It All Together Yet

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Since I currently live in my hometown, I run the risk of encountering people I went to high school with on a near-daily basis (if I bother to venture out of my apartment). Even though my graduating class was pretty big, I’m not chummy with many of my peers that chose to stick around town. Still, inevitably, I will run into someone who wants to chat, and they ask that dreaded question: “So, what do you do now?”

And my insides curdle every time I have to answer: “I’m a secretary.”

Now, I’m aware that I’ve accomplished a lot in the last two years. Living in Costa Rica, working as a writer, moving back home, and becoming financially independent again in just a few months–those are all big accomplishments. And I’m also not trying to diss the secretaries of the world. I’m one of them, and we do a pretty thankless job for a pretty small payout.

But–BUT–the people from high school all knew me back before the economy shit on all of our hopes and dreams and bank accounts. They remember me rocking all of the Honors English tests and talking about writing the Next Great American Novel. But I’m not writing a novel. I’m not even sure that I want to anymore. And I also don’t have a yacht, nor do I live in the city like I always planned. I never wanted to stay in my hometown, but right now I’m kind of stuck here. It blows, and most of my fellow townies are probably in similar situations, feeling the same feelings.

We don’t talk about that though. I never see aquaintances from school and ask “How has the economy screwed you over?” or “What soul-sucking job are you working while you fruitlessly pursue your passion on the side?”

On the exterior, it’s all pleasantries and smiles and “How are you”s, but underneath, we all know this is what’s happening:

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High School Girl: Kaitlin! Hi! How have you been?

Me: Oh, you know…just working, life. Are you living here in town?

High School Girl: No, I’m just visiting my parents. I live in [Awesome Place] now, working as a [Really Cool Professional Thing]. What are you doing? Read more

Begin at the beginning and go on till you come to the end; then stop

start-here-signThis is truly the beginning of something…interesting. Zombies for Breakfast (and Other Curiosities) is my bloggy little brainchild and I’m happy to be smashing the proverbial champagne bottle on this post.

Really, I’m looking forward to dumping all my silliness and day to day strangeness into one outlet, where I can sort it out via categories. If you’re actually considering following my blog (and I dare say you should. I’m awesome), there are some things you can expect to read about:

~My day to day life in Costa Rica

~Zombies

~My random obsessions

~Correct grammar (when it suits my needs), but more often than not, made up words

~My cat (Be Warned: I am a cat lady)

~Awesome nerdy stuff that I lovevaporeon-pokemon-card-rare

~Fun girly stuff

~Cthulhu

~Books and literature (The post title is a quote from Alice in Wonderland, by the way)

~Occasional health and yoga stuff

So if that sounds like something you can really get on board with, then come join me at the uncool kids’ table and maybe we can swap Pokemon cards (do you have any rare Vaporeons?).