Milestones

It’s funny how fast time really flies despite the fact that it often seems that it is just creeping by. With all the graduations that go on in the month of May, I must admit that I felt a bit nostalgic as I thought about the few times that I’ve graduated from some program. However, today is semi-different as it marks four years since I graduated from college. The funny thing is that May 28th wasn’t the original date that was supposed to happen. Living in Alabama, severe weather usually occurred during tornado season. That year, there was a tornado that came through parts of North Alabama with some disastrous results. I remember my last class in undergrad (didn’t know it at the time) and how somehow it just felt so final. Around the time of finals a huge storm came through and left thousands (including me) without power. I must admit that living without electricity isn’t something that I particularly enjoy doing. A phone call made with my rapidly dying cell phone to my parents confirmed that they were enjoying 21st century living with hot water and electricity as the storm had missed them. Gas pumps weren’t working but thankfully I had a full tank of gas and slowly made my way to my parents house around downed power lines and hundreds of non-working stoplights. But I digress. Needless to say graduation was canceled (postponed) for two weeks. I remember the anticipation that led up to the day. It was the culmination of a LOT of hours of hard work, sweat, and tears. One thing that was reassuring was that I had a plan of what I was doing afterwards. I remember how hot the robe was and trying to concentrate as I marched so that I didn’t trip and fall. It was a very very long day that started around 6 in the morning and ended at 3am the next morning, but I wouldn’t change it for anything. I saw so many family members and celebrated with them. I had my name announced all over the arena and got the diploma holder that represented almost $100,000 in money spent for education and the hope that this degree would ensure that I didn’t live in poverty for the next 5 decades. Reminiscing is great, but the real question is what has been accomplished since then? That’s a sobering thought.

Real Time and NASA

A while back I had a conversation with someone that I’ve known for a while and we were discussing their previous career aspirations. They spoke at length about the work that they had done in engineering with NASA.  During the course of the conversation they mentioned how in this context, engineers and other relevant personnel knew the difference between “regular” time and real time. Regular time involved the somewhat present and the future. It wasn’t a critical matter and there was time to evaluation and make changes based on results and tests. Real time was totally different and focused on the here and now. Everything had to be squared away and had to run smoothly because it was mission-critical. A mistake at this point would have disastrous results and there wasn’t a chance to change or adjust because everything was happening in real time. It reminded me of life. We aren’t offered a dress rehearsal and there are no do-overs. Everything happens in real time. While we make mistakes, most of us try to make as few as possible because there can be lifelong repercussions from brief moments of stupidity. People die with regrets and so many people would make different choices if they only knew what the future consisted of. One of my new (lifelong) goals is to make more decisions in real time. Like a lot of people I know, I’m notorious for thinking and re-thinking even the smallest decision because I want to successfully separate the pros and the cons before I come to a conclusion. I’m not advocating for being really impulsive but I am saying that one thing I’ve learned (through life and also my job) is that your gut instinct is usually right. Sometimes you just know things and while there’s no way to articulate why or how, you just know. It’s in those situations I think we benefit and grow from going with our gut and not always succumbing to the urge to second guess, become anxious, or worry about something that was already decided. It’s then that we can make the decision to be ok with it and let the chips fall where they may because after all, life is lived on real time.

Starter Pack

I saw this picture and initially laughed but then got annoyed almost immediately afterward. When I finished college I had a decision to make. I could go the safer route and look for a job right out of college or I could pursue a graduate degree. I knew that I had a better chance of getting married if I just had a bachelor’s degree. But I didn’t want to put my life on hold for something that I wasn’t sure would happen. I was 21 years young and without any hint of a significant other in sight. So I moved across the country, and started and completed a masters degree. But let me back up a bit. From a young age I was taught that good men looked for women who went to church and were active in some capacity. So during my masters program I found a church and started being active by singing quite often and taking on small responsibilities. Religion or maybe I should say church going, isn’t usually a man’s favorite pastime. It’s usually overrun with women with emphasis on emotions. We can’t forget that there’s a double standard for women. They are taught that if a man truly loves them he will respect them by respecting their vow of abstinence or celibacy until marriage. I have a theory that this kind of thinking lends itself to unrealistic expectations and very very bitter women. Needless to say, my “experiment” on getting a significant other was not successful and seemed to alienate myself even further from any serious prospects. I’ve never been one of those “I don’t need a man” women, but I can certainly understand some of the emotions behind it. An education can make women more critical as they will only pay attention to men that are on the same education level as them. I don’t think there are many women who want to feel like they are marrying down. Strike one. A very strong traditional religious mindset where you believe that you only need God and that’s it. Couple this with a belief that good men are only found in church and will be happily celibate until marriage. Strike two. Let’s not forget about having a career and trying to move upward. Women in this position are usually planning to put child bearing off for a while because they want to be at a good place in their career. They put in long hours, they don’t date, they buy houses and drive nice cars. While they may be lonely, that feeling is remedied by more work and by girlfriends in a similar position. No man required. Strike three. There’s a hard truth to the picture and it’s not pretty. Perhaps it’s time to rethink some priorities and some expectations. Myself included.   

Support vs. Sabotage

Lately I’ve been lacking motivation to work out consistently because sleep has been competing with work for my time. But that’s no excuse to not be active (or so I’m telling myself). For motivational (and curiosity) purposes I’ve been watching some of the show, “My 600lb Life.” It’s been very effective so far as a source of motivation for a healthy lifestyle.  There’s something about watching someone be lifted by a crane-like device that will have you making a conscious decision to  put down the junk food and go to the gym. One thing that I’m always looking at when I watch the show is the role of friends and family. Almost 100% they serve as enablers because they have to prepare the food to give to their family member who is bedridden because of their weight. There was one lady whose husband married her because she was bigger and he refused to support her weight loss despite the fact that she was unable to do anything due to her size. He still bought junk food and tried to make her eat it because he didn’t want her to lose weight. However, it was literally killing her and she wanted to be an active mother with their little girl instead of parenting from her bed. This caused an unbelievable amount of strain on the relationship as he continued to make snarky comments that were very hurtful about how she needed to gain more weight. The documentary ended with her deciding that she would take the verbal abuse for as long as she could before she would leave him. I doubt the marriage lasted long after filming because her husband had a very hard time adjusting to the new and more healthier her. I’ve actually seem this happen in couples where one partner decides to live a healthier lifestyle and it’s the straw that breaks the camel’s back and the relationship disintegrates. The other partner isn’t happy and finds themselves with a different person than who they thought they married and they can’t reconcile the two. So more often than not they start an affair. That’s why it’s so great if both partners can be on the same page and change together. It rarely happens that way but it’s nice when it does because they can support each other. 

Nap Time

When I was a little kid, the time of day that I absolutely hated was nap time. It was between the hours of 11 and 12noon. I quickly realized that nap time was more for my mother’s benefit than anything else because she was trying to get us all on a schedule and she was the primary caregiver for 4 kids under the age of 6 with the youngest being a newborn. I remember complaining bitterly about why I should be allowed to stay up to no avail. I was admonished time after time that one day I would wish I could take a nap but wouldn’t be able to. I adamantly insisted that would never be my story. Naps were for people who didn’t have a good book to read or were tired all the time and I had no use for them. Fast forward a few years later to the rigors of high school–the homeschooled version. I quickly discovered the power of a quick nap due to being a night owl. Also, it was a break from the self paced work which was mind numbingly boring most of the time. The practice of afternoon naps continued through college where I took ten minute power naps in between classes. This was especially helpful to my sanity the year I took 19 credit hours, worked two jobs, and went to bed at 2am or later 5 nights per week. Fast forward to last year where I was working in a job from hell. Well, not LITERALLY hell but pretty close to what I would imagine it to be with traditional work hours. While it was meaningful and in my field I missed having flexibility. A typical job where you worked 8 hours straight without a lunch break was not my cup of tea. I didn’t have the luxury of afternoon naps and I missed it. I’ve come to have a very healthy appreciation for naps due to my newfound inability to sleep more than five hours at a time. There’s nothing like the mental clarity that occurs after you’ve gotten a quick moment to sleep and recharge.  I admit I think that people would be a lot happier if they were allowed to take a quick nap during the workday. We already know that most people don’t get nearly the amount of sleep that’s typically recommended. How nice would it be to have a mandatory nap time built into the work day? I for one would be all for it. 

Becoming Successful 

Not too long ago I ran across this intriguing article . You can read it for yourself here. Maybe it’s my background in therapy and couples counseling that made this article really grab my attention. The basic premise of this article is that the person you marry can determine whether or not you’re successful in life. I’ve seen this happen firsthand in my work with couples. You have the ambitious partner and then the one who wants their partner to spend more time with them. While they deserve to have the attention of their partner, they totally miss the concept of how to make their needs known without nagging or appearing needy. Meanwhile the ambitious partner doesn’t understand why this is an issue. They are working hard for the benefit of the family and in many cases also happen to be the partner who is either the primary breadwinner or the one who makes substantially more than their partner. There is a breakdown in communication because of the priorities of both partners and the lack of understanding on both sides. The article discusses a study done that showed that people who have conscientious partners tend to be happier, make more money, and are more satisfied in their careers. Makes sense to me. The key to all this is getting conscientious partner and more importantly, BEING a conscientious partner. This is something that a lot of people fail to think about when deciding to have a future with someone. There’s not usually a conversation between partners regarding expectations of the relationship and what each person prefers in terms of support. Two can definitely better than one but not when they aren’t on the same page.

My $100 mistake 

I’ll be the first to admit that my spending habits are not always as disciplined the way that they should be. This story happened about two years ago so it’s not super recent but it was a very valuable learning experience. Anyway, one of the things that I’ve come to enjoy are comedy shows because I like humor. Anyway, I was at a comedy show and I got an SOS message from a somewhat close acquaintance asking me to call them as soon as possible. Now, because it wasn’t from a member of my immediate family or close circle I decided to wait until after the show to call the person back. So I did. Thinking that it was some big emergency I called as soon the show was over somewhat concerned. The emergency was the fact that this person wanted to borrow some money from me. Now, when that happens the answer is usually a straight “no.” I hate mixing money with friends and acquaintances and usually will just give it away and not worry about it instead of wrecking a relationship. I don’t think that it’s worth the hassle of lending it out. Now, it wasn’t an obscene amount of money—about a hundred and a half (ish). It was for a good cause and they promised to pay me back the next week. However intuition, common sense, and intelligence were screaming “don’t do it!!!” But, to be honest I was at a point in my life where I was still searching for reasons to have faith in humanity. I guess it was a personal thing. I wanted to trust that this person had good intentions despite the fact that I had known them for a few short months. So, I said yes. Against my better judgment and trying to have faith in humanity and taking a risk. Second mistake in this fiasco was that I let this person use my debit card for the transaction that they so desperately needed. Well, not my actual card but I gave them all the appropriate numbers deciding to trust that they were trustworthy. So the next day I awoke to a text message that informed me that this person had “accidentally” charged $100 more than I had authorized on my card. Being that it was a debit card, the money was already gone from my account. It was then that I found out that the money was actually for this person’s friend who (ironically) I actually knew personally. It was then that my feelings toward the situation gravitated towards significant irritation and annoyance. Mostly at the fact that there was a more noticeable lack of funds in my bank account due to my own stupidity and not making a smart decision. Needless to say, I was only reimbursed the original amount which left me $100 poorer and it was a bad situation all around. Lesson learned. I guess the icing on the cake was a few unauthorized charges that appeared a few months later on my account totaling about $200 that required the freezing of my account and the issuing of a difference card with the accompanying stress. Faith in humanity substantially shaken. They say an ounce of experience is more than a pint of advice and I certainly learned a lesson.