Love this! Coincides so well with my post earlier today, thanks Cristian!
In trying to establish myself as a writer, personally and professionally, I find myself conflicted between what and how I want to write vs. what people want to hear or read. And I know sometimes I’m too concerned about the latter and that distraction and worry destroys what I write altogether.
With that in mind, I loved this article about finding your writing voice and staying true to it! I hope you will too.
Coming from someone who was influenced by family, recruiters, peers and so on that prestige came with a price, and a hefty one at that; guess where I went to college? A very prestigious private school in the Midwest. And although I couldn’t have gone if not for scholarships and grants I was awarded (having ‘no money’ actually “paid off” there!), I’m still the ‘proud owner’ of some large tuition debt. Now don’t get me wrong, I loved my college! I grew as both a student, an athlete and an individual while attending, and after attending some classes at a few other state colleges and universities, I must admit I saw a difference in work load and ethic. But my growth wasn’t because of a hefty tuition. Our life is what we make it; how we apply ourselves. Perhaps harder classes were easier to come by in my college or a norm, but I don’t believe that, would I have graduated from a different school, I would be ” Looking back, I wonder what it would have been like and sometimes wish I would have completed my associates (generals) at a community or junior college and transferred to a 4-year school to complete my bachelors. My only hesitation in wishing this is wondering if I would have missed out on the “college experience.”
But we can’t change the past, so why dwell? And if I wouldn’t have attended the college I did, I would have missed out on all the great friendships, opportunities and activities I was lucky enough to experience. All we have is now. So now (that I’m no longer judged, graded or even expected to), I’m obsessed with continuing my education! Ironic, isn’t it? But I realize it doesn’t always have to come with a fee other than time, commitment and effort.
There is no end to education. It is not that you read a book, pass an examination, and finish with education. The whole of life, from the moment you are born to the moment you die, is a process of learning.
– Jiddu Krishnamurti
Learning for free! Why focus on (or pay for) the piece of paper when it’s really the knowledge that is so valuable?! And that’s why I want to share with you some of these awesome (and FREE) websites that I’ve found to grow and expand our knowledge and intelligence.
- UDACITY – Their “Free courseware” is the first part of their 4 part course experience. It allows you to get course material to learn and review on your own, but omits the other 3 parts including “coaches, projects with feedback, and verified certificates. From their website concerning Free Courseware: “Explore our course textbook. Take the Udacity journey with industry experts and Udacity instructors on your timeline. Create your own experience through videos and interactive quizzes.”
- edX – A collaborative site of various colleges and universities, some of the best in our nation with over 150 courses in multiple areas of study. “How it Works” according to their page: “Find your new course: Search the courses page and explore topics and professors. We’re always adding more. Review and Choose: Read through the course prerequisites and time commitment so you know what to expect. Become an edX student: Just click ‘Register Now,’ both edX and the classes are free (yes, really). Start studying and have fun: Crack the virtual books, start studying and connect with others online – and have fun!”
- Coursera – Another collaborative site of multiple colleges and universities, with over 400 courses offered from the some of the ‘world’s top educational institutions.’ Their mission: “Coursera is an education platform that partners with top universities and organizations worldwide, to offer courses online for anyone to take, for free. We envision a future where everyone has access to a world-class education. We aim to empower people with education that will improve their lives, the lives of their families, and the communities they live in.”
- endoRIOT – endoRIOT, a blog providing “inspiration and information in attempt to trigger your imagination” lists and gives links to 40 websites that offer free education!
This post was inspired while sitting in church this morning (and no, this will not be a Bible pushing, Jesus praising post. I promise, just bear with me). A few verses from Romans were highlighted of which I’ll summarize as: “I do not understand what I do; for I don’t do what I would like to do, but instead I do what I hate… For even though the desire to do good is in me, I am not able to do it. I don’t do the good that I want to do; instead, I do the evil that I do not want to do.”
And as the Pastor continued the sermon, I dazed off (as I frequently do in my day-to-day life), contemplating those words of conflict. An internal conflict I know all too well. The verse actually reminded me of another quote I stumbled upon on the internet and liked enough to take note, which reads: “I’m a paradox. I want to be happy, but I think of things that make me sad. I’m lazy, yet I’m ambitious. I don’t like myself, but I also love who I am. I say I don’t care, but I really do. I crave attention, but reject it when it comes my way. I’m a conflicted contradiction. If I can’t figure myself out, there’s no way anyone else has.”
Are we all made up of such oxymorons? My wheels continued to turn as the Pastor sputtered on about how sweet baby Jesus is our only hope. But I had no time for Jesus at the moment, I was having an epiphany! (Please God, don’t smite me because of my sarcastic sense of humor. Remember, You made me this way)… We long for love, yet protect our hearts. We wish for others to be happy, but our misery enjoys company. In our society, competitive edge is key with a constant struggle of ends vs. means; at times values appear to move fluidly, coming and going as deemed to fit a profile or fill a role. I began to feel my thoughts snowball. Eventually, I was able to regain control and halt my mind at the ultimate topic of happiness and the question, or level, of it’s fluidity; right in time to stand and praise the Lord whilst singing “Amazing Grace” with my heavenly voice (again, with the sarcasm). I decided it would be best to continue this conversation at a more appropriate time, and oh so intimately with you (as well as world wide web).
So here we are, just you and me… And the NSA I suppose. And the predetermined matter at hand: happiness, and the dilemma I find when it comes to “being happy.”
We’ve all heard or seen the quotes influencing us how to live a happy life: “Happiness is a choice!” “Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it” and other motivational, poster sayings concerning mind over matter, choosing happiness over sadness, so on and so forth.
At times, I’m inspired and motivated by these words; while other times I scoff at their generalized and empty psychology. Paradox much? After thinking more critically, I do personally believe that in order to be truly and consistently happy, it’s necessary to develop habits. We have to work to train our brains away from the gloom and doom, negativity and short sighted-ness, to try and focus on the blessings and small fortunes that we so easily overlook. However, I do not believe that if I am depressed, or just in a crappy mood, I can tell myself “suck it up Ashley, be happy.” And voila! The magical cloud of unicorns and sunshine raineth down upon me, and my cloud of despair is whisked away to some other schmuck who was too weak to “decide” to be happy today. Because that’s what I feel like our society has come to believe. A more extreme application of the mindset being how we acknowledge that depression, mental and behavioral disorders involve chemical imbalances and accept them as science; yet the symptoms and/or affects of them are looked down upon as weakness or defect.
Now whether you believe that “happiness is a choice” whole-heartedly or not, I don’t really care. I’m obviously not even concrete in my thoughts about the cliche; life is not black and white. And you should never believe anyone who uses absolutes to describe anything, ever. But I do believe it to be a quite productive cliche to live by. I believe it to be something worth while even if just for the sole fact that our actions are truly the only thing we can habitually control. Who cares about if it’s actually “true” or not, it’s working and serves its purpose as long as it’s helping me take steps in the right direction. Outside factors affect us, of course, but why worry about things that we literally can’t control? To distribute who or where we are in life, solely to such circumstances is not only stressful, but a bit cowardly in my opinion. It’s accepting the fact that we aren’t where we want to be, but passing on the accountability of it, of ourselves. On the other hand, to disregard that things outside of ourselves and our control do in fact impact us, would also be silly. People do not choose to be laid off (usually), and I don’t believe anyone wakes up and says, “Today, I want to be miserable.” But if we focus on what’s ultimately important to us, in our control, and stay consistent, we can choose how to react to the things that are indeed out of our hands and align them to create our own “happy life.”
So, my response to the paradox quote cited earlier is this:
“I am me. I am happy, but there are still things that make me sad. I am ambitious, yet at times get distracted. I love who I am, but don’t always like what I do. I care deeply, even though sometimes I will get hurt. I crave love, but shouldn’t depend on anyone else in order to feel it. I’m an oxymoron, but a moron who has direction. There’s nothing to figure out.”
To strip my mindset to it’s most simplest form: Happiness can’t be summarized to a single decision. So happiness is not “a choice.” It’s many choices. And although circumstances and situations do indeed affect our lives, we decide to what extent.
And I leave you with one last quote: “Life is supposed to be a series of peaks and valleys. The secret is to keep the valleys from becoming grand canyons.” – Bern Williams
To me, getting lost isn’t about being unhappy, needing to change your current situation or state deriving from a separation of contentment, or feeling alone. The truth is we all get lost, or we should. Without getting lost, how can we ever be found? Think about it; I’ll use the predictable comparison you all saw coming of physically not knowing where you’re going. Before smart phones, GPS, map quest, etc. knowing directions was an actual skill (one that I never mastered so I’m more than thankful for my maps and apps). Someone who knew the area was a resource to others, could be proud of it and useful. But if you didn’t have the knack for navigation (like me) you’d get lost often (and made fun or ridiculed of because of it). Eventually I became used to it, and if there wasn’t a deadline for my arrival, I almost looked forward to it! I saw places I would have never found had I “known where I was going.” And when I did get “back on track,” I was proud of myself for figuring it out on my own and growing.
Happy, sad, young or old – you don’t need to fit a profile, state of mind or age to find yourself. Some are fortunate enough to do so early in life and live their life aligned with their purpose, their passion. Others come across it later, and possibly wish they had found it earlier but maybe if they had, they wouldn’t have seen it staring at them in the face because they weren’t ready. The important thing is to find “it,” find yourself, your passion, your reason for existence, your reason for breathing. And you’re more likely to find it sooner if you seek it! Romantic isn’t it? But the path to finding yourself isn’t always filled with romance.
If you never get uncomfortable, you’ll never be forced to push yourself. And I don’t directly associate discomfort with unhappiness; there is a whirlwind of emotions and situations that can push us to seek something more. I find discomfort, aka outside of a comfort zone or what we know to be true, more of a realization that there may be something more out there. In accordance with, if I had always known where I was going, I would have never discovered my favorite reading nook tucked away near a creek on the other side of my friend’s neighborhood (whose house I got lost trying to find). Maybe you’re sitting there thinking to yourself, “I’m a self-starter, I don’t need to be forced to do anything. I’m determined enough to push myself on my own!” I have no doubt that you are, and that’s probably what I’d be thinking if I were reading this post by some mid 20-year old schmuck who can’t know a thing about life. But I’m not talking about pushing yourself for success, I’m referring to pushing yourself for purpose. And perhaps you’re lucky enough to be clear in your purpose; and if you are, didn’t you have to go through at least a little heartache before feeling that comfort, that purpose, the sense of “home.” If you didn’t, how do you know? How can you be unshakenly sure that this is where you are meant to be? If you never feel wrong, do you know how absolutely amazing right can feel?
Many do it through travel. By expanding their comfort zones physically to push themselves and discover a person and passions they didn’t even know was hidden inside them. And I envy those people and yearn to see things that they have seen! Lately I have an itch, a wanderlust, to travel. I indulge in my affair through reading travel blogs and following travel gurus on Instagram and Facebook. But I’ve also realized I don’t need to travel the world or break the bank to uncover that potential. I find bits and pieces of it almost everyday when I’m conscious of it, even in my own living room or just talking to a friend.
If you’ve looked at the headliner for my blog: “A Millenial documenting the art of losing herself in order to find purpose and passion” it’s clear that I’m not home yet, so to speak. So how can I write about something I haven’t found yet? My answer is because I’ve seen glimpses of it. And when I see those glimpses I feel a sense of oneness that at other times I yearn for, or get so distracted I forget it’s even there, even possible. I have yet to harness it so that I can live off of it everyday, and that’s what my journey consists of. I’m not sure it will ever end… I’m not sure if I want it to.
If you have any tips, suggestions, stories or anything to help me on my journey, I’m eager to hear them! Whether you’ve found your purpose or not, I’ve realized that others, both lost and found, are the best maps to seeking my own glimpses of purpose! I’d love to hear about your journeys as well as follow blogs regarding them!
I will not die an unlived life.
I will not live in fear of falling or catching fire.
I choose to inhabit my days,
to allow my living to open me,
to make me less afraid, more accessible,
to loosen my hear until it becomes
a wing, a torch, a promise.
I choose to risk my significance;
To live so that which comes to me as seed
Goes to the next as blossom
and that which comes to me as blossom,
Goes on as fruit.
– Dawn Markova