Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Juggling Life

This GIF usually comes as a meme, where someone says, "Me trying to pay my bills, eat healthy, exercise, maintain a social life, text people back, excel and my career, be happy and stay sane." 

That's some real shit right there.

I come to you all, not from a place of exasperation or frustration. I'm not defeated, nor do I feel any sort of negativity in my bones. What I do feel is exhaustion and the realization that trying to do all of these things I listed above at the same time is really really hard. 

So far in 2018, I've been pretty faithful with my water drinking. I've managed to sip at least 64 oz. of water almost every day. Some days it is a bit less, but I'm definitely drinking far more water than I ever have before. I've also established a very concrete skincare routine. At night I'm using charcoal cleanser, toner and eye cream. In the morning I use the toner. I'm brushing my teeth with charcoal teeth whitening powder twice a week. I finally bought a new brush and am trying to do more stuff with my hair or at least brush it often.

These little achievements may sound like common sense or basic hygiene, but I'm telling you, these are things I really haven't invested much time and effort in before. I barely drank water. I would just shower and not do anything special with my face. I'd brush my teeth twice a day and that was that. Also, if I was really stressed, my hair would thank me by forming thick and unwelcome dreadlocks. 

The other goals are slowly progressing as well. I've been faithful to the SELF Magazine New Years Challenge. I've had to switch around some rest days and double up workouts based on my schedule, but I have faithfully stuck to the program and have not skipped any exercises. I've also been successfully going to kickboxing at least twice a week. I'm watching what I eat, being mindful of what I put into my mouth, knowing it will go into my body. But I haven't been depriving myself of things like an occasional doughnut, cookie or pizza. 

I was supposed to write every single day but I'm slipping on that goal. Probably because the results aren't that visual. It is more of a mental thing. I have a notebook by my bed, where I'm supposed to jot down a few thoughts before going to sleep. What I started doing was rushing through one to two sentences and then turning the lights out, ready to pass out for the night. I also wanted to read one book per month, but I've found I don't have a lot of time for reading with all these other goals going on. 

I've managed to keep my apartment relatively clean and my refreshed kitchen space remains immaculate. I'm using my Food Saver to keep fresh veggies throughout the week which means I eat more veggies. All good things. 

While I feel like I have a decent balance between work and life...I know there are some elements are are lacking. My social life has been dismal because of weather, priorities and lack of energy. The other night I was going to go to a bar to do my work for my other job, but once I showered, I couldn't justify putting real pants on and makeup to go out into the world. I did go to a concert this weekend with my best friend and celebrated the Eagles win and journey to the Super Bowl, but that was as social as I've been since the year started. 

Part of me is worried that if I focus to much on one thing, say...exercise and eating right...I'll lose sight of the other things that need my attention like my Story Slam schedule or writing my book. I still haven't mastered waking up early to maximize my waking hours. 

All of this is just to say, being the perfect human is impossible and striving to be your best self is really hard work. Sometimes you just need to spend your entire Saturday sleeping and listening to relaxing music. Every minute of every day does not need to be planned. Progress comes with your heart is into it. 

Until next time...

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

The Art of Storytelling

One moment I'm gently eyeing my peers success, reminding myself of my own mediocrity. The next moment, I'm on stage in front of a packed theater doing what I love best: being the center of attention. I mean...telling stories. 

Last night I competed in my second First Person Arts Story Slam. The theme, "Once More With Feeling" inspired me to tell the audience about a time I tried Pound Fitness, failed miserably and went back the next week to prove myself and try again. It was peppered with funny lines and moments and only went about 20 seconds over the 5 minute cut off mark. Judging was fierce and I received consistent 8's on Performance and an 8, 7 and 6 on content. 

I'll be honest, the 6 stung a bit. Granted, the judges were really strict and people were getting dealt average and below average scores all night for various things. What it did, though, was remind me that storytelling is an art. It doesn't matter how many times you make someone laugh...if you're at a storm slam...you need to tell a story. Which I did. But I analyzed my story and realized it lacked a story arc. It had a strong beginning and engaging middle but fell flat at the end. There was no suspense. So I'm going to take that lesson to heart the next time I perform in one of these things. 

Self-critic aside, I had a blast. I really enjoy listening to the other storytellers and being a part of the First Person Arts scene. It feels so good to be a part of something. It also feels good to do something I'm so passionate about. I was so wired last night I couldn't really sleep. I also had the absolute best Uber ride on my way home. My driver, Jean was playing Puff Daddy's "I'll Be Missing You," which I happen to know ALL of the words to. I treated him to some white girl rapping and he was laughing so hard. He loved it. I was the best customer of the night. I bet my rating jumps from a 4.90 to a 4.91. (I take pride in my Uber passenger rating).

What's next? Well..working on that damn book of mine...taking my new found storytelling lessons to the Podcast because that REALLY needs some work AND quite possibly, throwing my hat in the stand up comedy ring. I found a show/contest thingy at the end of the month and I'm considering trying to put a bid in for a 4 minute set. We'll see what happens. Telling stories. Making people laugh. Being 100% me. These are a few of my favorite things. 

And yes...also being the center of attention for five minutes. That too.

Until next time...

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

The Inspiration Around You

Thou shall not covet your neighbor's success. That should be one of the Ten Commandments. Seriously. I'm on Week #3 of my water drinking, mindful writing, exercise often adventure. So far so good. I'm making tiny little successes each day. The scale isn't moving too much but my skin is clearing up and I swear my pants are getting baggier. I'm still absolutely in love with my part-time job as a writer and writing coach. My clients are incredible people and I feel honored to be helping them on their book writing journeys. I'm staying as focused as I can.

In the corner of my eye I see what others are doing. This past weekend was a majorly successful weekend for people from the Eastern Shore of Virginia. One person married the love of his life in a celebration people will be talking about from years to come. Another person won a major award for her children's book on women in black history. She was on the Tonight Show last night with Trevor Noah. Both of these two had dreams in high school and both of them are fulfilling those dreams.

I'm proud to know them. I'm incredibly happy for them. I'm also painfully aware of my own mediocrity. I have big plans and big dreams too, but I'm not as close as I'd like to be in terms of fulfilling them. My book? Still working on it. I have until August to submit it to the agents who expressed interest. I'm working on building my platform on social and boosting the listeners of my podcast. However, those two have shown me that I can grab life by the balls and get what I want: a fulfilling career telling stories and making people laugh AND true love. 

So I'm not jealous but I am aware that these things I hope for are possible. It is just going to take a lot of sacrifice and a lot of work. I'm heading in the right direction, just taking a very slow and cautious train to get there. 

In other news, I'm trying to compete in another First Person Arts Story Slam tonight. I almost backed out because I didn't think my story was that good, but in the last minute...decided to sharpen it and bought tickets for me and my best friend. Today is also the 8th anniversary of my Mom Mom's death. Maybe she'll be with me tonight as I share my story. I'm glad I decided to stick with it. I made a resolution to compete in as many story slams as I can. I'm using them as the baby steps to work my way up to open mic stand up. 

I've got big dreams and I'm gonna chase them. I've seen people beat me there. I applaud them and use their success as my inspiration. I'll get there too. In my own time.

Until next time...

Friday, January 12, 2018

Honor Your Reality

For my DIY MFA Book Club, Writing Prompt #2 is: Write about a time you had to honor your reality. So here we go.

My reality is a reality of significant student loan debt, substantial but manageable-ish credit card debt, a car payment, utilities, life insurance, car insurance, renter's insurance, and rent. This reality is the reality of almost all people. I know. I also won't make excuses. I'm lucky that I only have two mouths to feed...my own and my dog's. However, this reality means that there is one resource I need to make sure is ever flowing and reliable: cold hard cash. 

We need money to survive and I (like many people) really need my health insurance. I have an array of health problems that require daily medications (including asthma so I need inhalers to you know, breathe). Because of these needs, money and medical, I have to work a job that pays a living wage. Guess what? Being a writer is not that job. 

As a full-time marketer finding great joy and fulfillment in my freelance side hustles, I also have to expand my capacity for time management. That means, mornings and evenings are fair game and free space to complete side hustle work. That's a lot of work. I don't mind the hard work, but I can't magically cram more hours into the day. I'm willing to make sacrifices to write more, believe me I am. However, I need at least a few hours of sleep to function properly, right? Can I give up sleep too? 

So my writing reality is living a sustainable life to pay to live while trying to eek out time to do what I love...writing. If I could just get that book proposal done and build my platform empire I might be able to transfer to the life of a writer full-time. Until then!

Until next time...

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

How did I become a writer?

In my last post I shared with you a few things I'm doing every day or often this New Year. One of them is write every day. I joined DIY MFA's book club which includes being a part of a dynamic and supportive group of writers AND writing prompts! I needed a home for my prompts to live, so why not this blog? 

How did I become a writer? (That is the prompt)

Once upon a time there was an inquisitive little girl who loved a good story. She was also very obsessed with unicorns. In the second grade, she took on the task of writing her very first chapter book. Each page was a new chapter and the book was about unicorns living on another planet..of course. Her teacher noticed her dedication to her manuscript and asked the young girl, "Do you enjoy writing? It seems like you do."

The girl replied, "Well, I don't really enjoy moving the pencil back and forth but I like telling stories." 

You see, the young girl thought the teacher meant penmanship, a practice the young girl would never fully master. However the teacher meant writing. 

The young girl grew up loving her English classes, welcoming the opportunity to write themes or journal in class. She filled the intro pages of many notebooks with ideas and settings and stories. She would love storytelling so much that she decided she wanted to tell stories about real people. 

At the ripe age of 16, she wrote a story about her work at a local nursing home. She borrowed her mother's car and drove to the headquarters of the local paper. Story in hand, she walked in and asked to speak to the editor in chief. She wanted to learn, she wanted to write and she was willing to do it for free. Impressed by her gumption, the editor took her back to his office. The two talked about her goals and he offered her the opportunity to write for the paper to learn the craft of journalism. Her first assignment was a profile on one of the residents of the nursing home where she worked part-time.

The girl spent weeks working on the profile. Her subject, a woman in her 90's who didn't think anyone would want to read about herself, was a dedicated church organist who received a ride to her hometown church every Sunday. She would wear a rose colored coat while playing hymns, a pastime she really enjoyed. The young journalist, however, got caught up in high school drama, extracurricular activities and the stress of being a teenager. She was never given a firm deadline so she toyed with the story off and on.

One day, the subject of her story fell ill. She was hospitalized. This was a swift kick in the ass the young journalist needed to get the story completed. She carefully but quickly wrapped up the article and submitted it to her editor. The next day, she received devastating news. Her subject had passed away. 

It was the day before the story was set to go to print. Present tense was changed to past and the profile became a tribute piece. The young journalist learned a harsh lesson about deadlines that day. She would go on to write many stories and eventually earn a spot as the youngest paid freelance journalist for the local paper. 

As you've figured, that young journalist was me. At 30, I'm a corporate communications manager for a health system but my true love and passion rests with writing. I'm currently working on my first non-fiction humor book. I am a contributor to on-line platform, MOGUL and like an affair I can't shake...I am constantly looking for ways to be a journalist in today's less than certain financial times. 

I'm also a staff writer and writing coach for a phenomenal storytelling company called Round Table Companies. The work I do for them brings me great joy. 

So, how did I become a writer? Well, by writing about unicorns. Then about people. Journaling often and of course trying desperately to appease my insatiable appetite for reading. If I could spend the rest of my life writing stories about people, places and things, making people laugh and spreading a little bit of joy in places where it is needed most...I'd say I've fulfilled my destiny. 

Until next time...

Monday, January 8, 2018

7 Days Into a Better Life

The first week of 2018 proved to be a good one. I drank at least 64 oz of water each and every day. I faithfully completed week one of the SELF Magazine New Year's Challenge. I wrote every night. I did my nightly skin care routine. I attempted to get up early each day but that is going to be a struggle. I caught up with all of my work and even had time to watch a few movies. I was focused and determined. 

Now it is week two. Still focused, still determined and still struggling with waking up early. When my alarm blared at 6:15am this morning I was sure it was a mistake. What is that noise? I thought. I wondered if it was my on-call phone or something outside, but alas no...it was my alarm..waking me up for a chilly Monday. 

Being present and mindful all of the time is hard work. I've mentioned this before when I've embarked on such challenges and vowed to get my life in order. Drinking so much water a difficult (first world problems, I know). Making sure the workout happens no matter what. Pushing myself to do what needs to be done when I'd rather just nap. I did accomplish what needed to be done this weekend, though! My apartment is damn near immaculate. I worked tirelessly to renovate some of my spaces, adding lights or moving things around to breathe life into my apartment that I've been living in for almost three years. 

The only snag in my epic plans, was my kitchen sink decided it wanted to leak. The drain basin needs plumber's putty or something because if the sink is on, it now leaks into the cabinet below. I called my landlord about it, but I had to wash my dishes in my bathtub...a skill I learned from watching Hoarder's, actually. Hoping for a fix today because I use a lot of pots/pans/dishes with my healthy recipes. Last night I made shrimp "fried" rice, which was shrimp cauliflower rice. 

So, let's go week two! Bring it on! (Gently)

Until next time...

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

2018 Here We Go!

New Year. New Me. 

Totally kidding. There is something refreshing about a New Year. Ironically, January 1st is not the only day of the year when you can make a fresh start. You have 365 opportunities to make a fresh start or a positive life change. I guess the hype and support in early January pressures people into making changes. Of course many of those changes and good intentions fall to the wayside by mid February and early March. Gym memberships begin to go unused. Food prepping takes a back seat. The stress of everyday life takes over. 

Not. This. Time. 

I don't have any resolutions such as "lose weight" or "be a better person." But I sure as hell have some goals I'm working on. 

  • Become a morning person - I hate mornings. I'd rather sleep in until 10:30am every day. When I wake up for work, I usually get up at the next to last second, throw my clothes on, grab my dog and take him for a quick walk, come home and feed him while slapping some make-up on my face and then rush to my car while muttering obscenities. I'm trying to appreciate mornings. One morning in late 2017, I had to get up early to move my car because it was parked in a construction area and had to be relocated by 7am. I was amazed how much free time I had before work. I spent it laying in bed playing on my phone but I realized it was time I could be using to work on my goals and things. So, trying to wake up early each day and be awake before I take on the world. 
  • Drink more water - Why is drinking water so damn hard? I don't hate it. I don't mind it. I'm kind of indifferent when it comes to water. Sure, I prefer liquids with flavor like coffee or tea or sparkling water. Just plain old H20? Eh, why? However, so many studies out there have linked drinking water to a bazillion health benefits including: clearer skin, weight loss, increased mental function, increased organ function, increased immune system and increased energy. A good friend of mine got me a water bottle for Christmas. I have so many water bottles but this one is nice. It is robust and is 32 oz. I literally just have to drink TWO of those bottles a day. That is it. TWO. I can do it. So I start the day off with lemon water and then my second bottle will be plain water. 
  • Read one book a month - I love to read, but I feel I never have the time to do so. Why? Well, besides my commute averaging two hours a day (hour back and forth), I like to spend my evenings vegging out on my couch watching shows. I screw around on my phone, watch a few shows and go to bed. There is plenty of time to write, do work for my part-time job, or read a book. Instead I choose the most passive activity I can find. The best way to be a good writer (besides write a lot) is to read a lot. I've committed myself to read one book per month. 
  • Write Often - One of my most favorite things to do is write. I never want that craft to dull in shine so I've set up a notebook on my night table. I plan to write in it every day. Doesn't have to be a journal entry or a long story. I just want to write something. Last night I wrote a poem before going to bed. Off to a great start. Can't wait to read the year in review of writing come December. 
  • Get out there - Compete in more story slams, try stand-up open mic nights, visit art museums, hang out with friends on work nights, travel. I need to get out in the world more. Set up shop in a cafe and write. Hang out with a friend for a few hours even though I'm tired. Compete every damn month (or try to) in the First Person Arts Story Slam. Revamp the podcast, write more, put myself out there. 
  • Take care of thyself - One theme that was pretty consistent in 2017 is that I get sick...A Lot. I had the flu in February, some respiratory stuff in the summer. I got sick in September and that lasted a few months. Then right before Christmas I got sick again and wound up in the ER. So, let's stop that shit. In addition to drinking more water and taking vitamins, I'm really trying to keep my health up to snuff. This includes taking more vitamins, eating cleaner, adopting (already started this) a nightly skin care routine, putting make up on with purpose, moisturizing. Adulting is hard, I mean you have to drink enough water, exercise, take care of your skin, eat healthy, get plenty of sleep, be social, look pretty, take care of your kids/dog, succeed at work and do that each and every day. I'm going to do it though. 
  • Mental Health - I have anxiety (who doesn't), but recently my "time anxiety" has been kicked up a notch. I am anxious about getting to places on time. I'm anxious about having enough time to do things. I'm anxious about not having enough time in the day. I'm anxious about wasting time. I'm anxious about how much time I have on earth. I'm anxious about where my life plan is now compared to others. I'm anxious all the time. To combat that, I'm going to explore meditation. I feel like my brain is a never-ending rotating hamster wheel but I'm going to try it out and see if it helps. Also, I plan on continuing to use my bullet journal as my lifeline. 
Sounds like a lot, but I find if I really focus on each goal, I can accomplish great things. I did it in 2016. I did a lot of great things in 2017. Let's make the magic happen in 2018. This is the year. 

Until next time...

What if I'm not a Writer?

I've mentioned this before. My first book I ever wrote was a few chapters long. Each page was a new chapter. I was in second or third ...