Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Realizations of a Reformed Non-Morning Person

At my worst, the summer of freshman year of High School I was known for not rising out of bed until 2 in the afternoon. Countless times I would stay up into the wee hours of the night (or morning, I shall say--sometimes 5 a.m.). I remember being shaken and woken up once by a friend, saying "Come on! Get out of bed! Let's go to the beach! It's 2:30!" Living in Michigan, where you're lucky to have 3 months of the year in sunshine-y, blue sky weather...this was not the best life choice. Yet...I was a teenager.

I'm told this has always been my way, though. My mom has always teased me for my resistance to being a "Morning Person" with constant reminders to the story of my birth. "You cried for the minute when you came out--and then directly fell right to sleep!" I'm told that I spent most of the first year of my life sleeping, leaving my mom to miss my smiley face for a good portion of the day.

Since that summer in High School, my adherence to a schedule and acceptance of a proper bedtime progressed. I have always put my all into the things I do--whether it be school or work--so I never let the night owl in me keep me from my personal goals and success. However, I do remember one too many nights in my early years of college, staying up till 3 a.m., before an 8:00 a.m. Psychology class. I always figured, "Live now! I can always sleep later." I wouldn't allow the monotony of a strict schedule get in the way of my spontaneity and fun. I skipped breakfast almost every morning to make up for the lack of sleep I was alotting myself. I tipped the scales as far as I could sometimes, to the point where I was a barely-functioning, coffee-without-breakfast, wobbly shell of an Alison. Sitting in class, helping customers at work, doing my homework...some days I was functioning at about 60%.

Nearing the end of my college years, my habits began to mature. Yogurt or a protein shake became my go-to breakfast. I wasn't going to give into this whole 'early riser' lifestyle, but I would utilize a few tricks to improve the art.

Stephen, being the Early Bird that he is, sometimes found fault with my ways. He is most at ease when he has consistency in his daily routine: meals, sleep, errands, etc. In Thailand, when we first experienced living and working together, we learned how to work with one another's routines. There was compromise from both ends (to be honest, mainly mine--but I think the push was necessary) and I think we collaborated well. Having an influence like Stephen to hold myself accountable to really helped me learn the benefits and joys of having a steady routine.

Everyone functions differently and I think that although I've spent most of my years fighting consistency and strict guidelines, I do believe there is room for change and growth. However...I would not say that I am now a member of the Morning People's Club. Still. Thought you could change me, huh?!

I still delight in the spontaneous pleasures of a late-night, unplanned, uninhibited, forget-about-tomorrow-live-now kind of experience. I like lazily laying in bed on a Sunday morning, reading (nowadays, sleeping in is more like 10 a.m.). I like not knowing what I'm going to have for dinner. I sometimes make last-minute decisions. I like getting lost in the moment and losing all sense of time. I like to allow myself to be immature sometimes. I like having options.

But working 8:30-5:30 everyday and going to bed between 10 and 11 each night, I've found myself feeling refreshed and on top of my game. Consistently. After growing accustomed to daily variances for so long, it's actually kind of weird. I'm sure that finally having a work schedule has benefited this, but I really do feel much more clear-headed and content. I like waking up and feeling rested. Breathing in the fresh, misty morning air when walking out to my car. Having a whole day ahead of me, full of opportunities! Having limited time in a day actually makes you make the time for the things you love.

Although my "go with the flow" attitude and tendency to ignore the concept of time can be disorienting for Stephen, I think he still loves me. It's good to have different types of personalities and Stephen and I can learn more from one another, this way. I get back on track and enjoy feeling refreshed, while he learns to loosen up from time to time.

It's funny the things that become important as you grow older. Before, it was video games at 2 a.m., now, it's "How do my partner and I harmoniously blend our schedules to be most rested, productive and happy?" There is still more to perfect in this venture, given our differing work hours, but we're definitely onto something.

{i.e. Purchase reading lamp to assist in bedtime reading so as to not keep Stephen awake. Noted.}

Life has silently slipped into a domestic picture, but we are still the adventurers who traversed the wild, untamed spaces of Thailand, long-tail boating and tuk tuk-ing with a farang's grace. The daily grind has the tendency to wear on both Stephen and I...

Wake up. Go to work. Come home. Do errands. Check bills. Make phone calls to friends/family. Maybe time for one activity. Go to sleep. Rinse. Repeat.

"Why can't there be more time in a day?"

It can feel like a constant momentum is propeling you forward each day (sometimes the mind not catching up with the body entirely), leading you somewhere you aren't exactly sure of, but it all has a purpose. I believe there are some incredible things to come in our future. And there are always opportunities for adventure just around the corner, when we feel we need to cash in. Although I miss the freedom and unexpected occurences of traveling the world, I am grateful to have a place to call home. Bedtimes, working hours, grocery shopping and all.

Don't worry, we haven't forgotten how to have fun.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

The Search: for a Job...or Contentedness?

It's no mystery that life can be--indeed--a mystery. One minute you think that you have all your ducks in a row and are as happy as a clam (getting all of the clich├ęs out of the way) and the next you feel lost, unfocused and suddenly your life doesn't make so much sense anymore.

The life of an unemployed person goes through cycles of these conflicting emotions. Before graduating, aside from the occasional summers through High School and college where I enjoyed unencumbered, sun-splashed freedom, I have been kept busy by at least some sort of job. It wasn't until I graduated from college that my life has taken a turn into what can sometimes feel like a vague, ambiguous chasm of "the unknown". I spent a few months directly after graduation, floating around...trying to find a destination outside of Michigan where Stephen and I could make our new home. Philly, Charleston, San Diego. Desired locations dotted themselves across a map of the U.S.. But when this out-of-state job search turned us sour, we decided to set our sights on something we knew we could make happen. Now. We traveled to Asia, where we taught English to Thai children. Then, we kept up our world traveler's momentum and continued to travel for about 2 months on a budget. And man...did we make the most of it. When we left for Thailand at the end of April of last year, I looked ahead to the point in time in the future when I would be flying back home to the U.S. I didn't feel quite like I thought I would. I didn't have all the answers. On the flight from Prague to Chicago, Stephen and I still found ourselves at a loss for a clear, concrete answer to the question: "What is our plan now?" We didn't want to return to the same fruitless job search we had left behind. But I was determined to take my newfound confidence from being away and turn it into something amazing. I coaxed Stephen's worries with "We'll figure it out!" "One thing leads to another." and "We deserve a great opportunity." All the while, a small--but still present--part of me needed to be told those words. But karma had finally come around (or as I look at it, God had answered our prayers), only when Stephen and I were feeling all too "at home" (literally, living with our parents) and at our limit, about a month into being back in Michigan...Stephen got a call from a recruiter for an interview with BMW down in Greer, South Carolina. The rest is history. A little over a month from that phone call, I was joining Stephen down in beautiful Greenville, SC.

Before I finished my degree in Psychology, my mindset about life "after" was much simpler and positive: "It's about the journey, not the destination." But now that I've been back in the position of unemployment for about 4 months, since returning to America (2, since rerouting my job search)...that "light at the end of the tunnel" isn't always as easy to see shining in the distance.

I haven't been blessed with this special gene that some of you posess where one day, you say to yourself "I want to be a lawyer." or "I want to be a marine biologist." and you throw yourself into your studies, hell-bent on that dream and when reaching it, feel accomplished and satisfied. This sounds pretty unrealistic, now that I write it down. I can't say I know many people whose lives have panned out like that. So, why am I making myself feel like a failure?

The truth is, I have a lot of passions, but still have yet to figure out how to turn one (or a few) of them into a money-making endeavor. Heard this one before? I'm not the only person who has found themselves in this dilemma. I went into Psychology because I found it interesting to learn about the way the mind works. I like figuring out how to better understand people, communicate effectively and help others. Also, both my mom and my sister majored in Psychology so it kind of runs in the family. However, even through my studies I started to hear negative connotations attached to Psych. majors. How everyone who doesn't know what they want to do, gets a Bachelor's in Psychology. Well, it's not entirely far from the truth. Also, when I pictured some of the key "Psych. jobs", I couldn't really see myself in those positions. All of this started to make me rethink my major. If not Psych., then what?

I have always been overly cautious and pensive in my decision-making. My mom once told me that even as a child, I would carefully walk from one piece of furniture to the next, using my hands for support. While my older sister went straight from crawling to running--skipping the walking process entirely. No wonder it took me 2 months of being here to finally sign up for yoga and volunteer work for the Greenville Humane Society. Just like with everything else in my life (relationships, friendships, a new job, a new place), it takes me some time to warm up to something new before I feel comfortable enough to extend my roots.

I think I'm beginning to realize a few things. First, I need to stop dwelling on the things that I don't have in my life, but instead celebrate those things that I do. Second, I need to stop second-guessing myself. Third, I need to stop being so hard on myself. I have set up standards for myself which are unrealistic to reach and will only leave me feeling as though I fall short. Life is about the journey and not the destination.

Focusing on the things we don't have versus the things we do is an existential crisis which plagues more than just myself. It is obviously such a futile aim and if it weren't so characteristic of our human nature, I would question myself why it is so natural and almost instinctual to do. Regardless of its pestering persistence, I want to learn how to become more content in my life. I truly do appreciate the things I have and know that I am blessed. How about focusing on the fact that I have always had an affinity for the mountains and now, finally, am living near the foothills of the Blue Ridge mountains? How about the fact that I tire from the all-too-familiar gray skies and snow of Michigan and now live in sunny South Carolina? How about the fact that I have an amazing boyfriend who loves and supports me in all that I do? How about the new friends I've made? Or the sweetest (and littlest) friend I've made in my beautiful puppy, Neela? Or the new places to explore all around me? But yet it seems all too easy to forget those things when there is that one little (or big) thing we haven't acquired in our lives!

I am not a materialistic person. I don't need a lot of things in my life to be happy. I find pleasure in some of the simplest things, in fact: sunshine on my nose and shoulders, a warm cup of tea on a rainy day, laughter, Stephen's silly dance moves, a good book, the smell of a campfire, children's imagination, being outdoors, the way Neela greets Stephen and I when we come home (whether it be for the day or for 5 minutes). But with this one thing {a job}... I tend to get distracted from my happiness because I feel as though people will not see me as successful without it. I just want my family and friends to be proud of me. I want to reach my potential. And let's be honest...without a consistent schedule, it can be really hard to stay productive. Sometimes I wish I just lived somewhere far from society's grasp so I could much more easily relish those things that really matter.

But right now, as you can see...good things can come from less than "ideal" (hence the theme of "idealism") circumstances. I just started a temp. job yesterday with a marketing company as a receptionist. It's not what I want to do with my life (I'm staring at a computer screen for 8 hours a day), but it's a start. Hey, it's getting me to write. So that's something. :) I also got a call today to come in for an interview with a elderly caregiving company which I'm looking forward to.

I really shouldn't let the fact that I don't have all the answers make me feel less than. I know that I'm smart, capable, passionate and driven. It's just hard to feel that way when you get these kind of questions: "What do you plan on doing with your Psych. major?" "What kind of job are you looking for?" "Have you found any positions you're interested in?" "What do you see yourself doing in the next 5 years?"

Can't it be acceptable to just say "I am eager to see what God has in store for me."?

For me, yes it is. As long as I can block out all of the expectations and worrying about what others may think of me and treasure the life that I have and make the most of it...then yes.

Oh, growing up.

"Good friends, good books, and a sleepy conscience: this is the ideal life." - Mark Twain
"We need much less than we think we need." - Maya Angelou
"He who is not contented with what he has, would not be contented with what he would like to have." - Socrates
"It isn't what you have or who you are or where you are or what you are doing that makes you happy or unhappy. It is what you think about it." - Dale Carnegie