From Chubby Kid to Fighting Adult: A Story of Beginning and Empowerment

(Note: The post below is not this post about beginning again…but if you read that too it will make me happy.)

To get where you want to go you have to begin. It’s that plain and it’s that simple. You don’t need some fancy formula or notable book to tell you that (although such things do serve as pretty little reminders).

You can begin anywhere at anytime and in anyplace but you just gotta do it. Start. Launch. Do. Initiate. Commence. Whatever synonym you want to pick from the bag, it’s there waiting for you to snatch it up and get going.

So what are you waiting for?

Oh yea, there’s that thing called fear…oh and there’s always “busyness” and some smattering of other options in-between. However, if we take the time to dig down into the trenches of our hearts we will find fear there, lying in wait like the fabled Boogie Man under the bed and covered up by all the other excuses we tell ourselves to make us feel just a tad better.

Just like so many folks around the globe, I too have struggled with beginning (and of course, fear as they often go hand-in-hand). My worst victim of not beginning is writing, which is why I finally said “f this shit, I’m starting this blog” so I did and here I am. But that’s not the story I want to tell today (since I kinda already did here).

I could tell many a story of all the things I began and kept on at, began and abandoned, and then those times in my life when I never began at all.

Today I want to share a story that encompasses all three of these, a story of my self-empowerment that has been propelled in large part by my physical training (and which still remains an anchor for me to this day).

Let’s dig in…

The Chubby Kid Who Doesn’t Run

I was the chubby kid. I was taller than most of my peers for the better part of my childhood (until everyone caught up and many surpassed me) and I weighed more than most. I wasn’t obese, not even fat, just a chubby little girl who didn’t like to run or do much physical activity aside from climbing on monkey bars (an area in which I somehow excelled on the playground).

My parents kindly enrolled me in various extracurricular physical activities (ballet, soccer, tennis, ice skating), many of which my older sister excelled in (since  I wanted to do what she was doing).

Yet to probably no surprise nothing seemed to fit me as well as it fit her. So I quit these activities, but at least I began them–I tried, that counts for something and at the very least I am now left with less regret.

The Chubby Kid 2.0 Who Runs

Fast forward to my later childhood years, the confusing times of middle school. I was still chubby, although I had grown more into my skin so perhaps “average” was a more accurate description? Who knows. Doesn’t really matter.

Anyways, I was still pretty eh about the whole running thing…about sports in general. My physical fitness tests were close to laughable. Most of the time I didn’t even try because I knew it was the same old story: I wasn’t meant to be good at these things so why make an attempt?

But the truth was that I just hadn’t found the right thing to begin. Hence the repeated tries and later, lack of tries. I had somehow decided to give up on myself. (As I write this my grownup self is thinking–WTF, KP?!).

I decided to resign myself to a life of carbs (mainly the all powerful glorious pasta god of mac and cheese) that helped mask a whole slew of unhappy thoughts about myself. I lacked self-confidence, self-compassion and the ability to self-empower.

(Disclaimer: While pursuing physical fitness does not necessarily mean you will be more confident, compassionate and empowered, it can be a factor in your personal growth–it certainly has been for me. I encourage you to begin things that will bring you the growth you seek.)

I was an emotional mess. But then something inspired me (I can’t remember what for the life of me…) to join the middle school track team. I made a decision to begin once more at something I was sure to fail at. And I did fail. Holy moly I failed and failed again.

I ran long distance and I was painfully slow. I was so far behind my teammates on our distance practice runs that they would lap me. And every time one particular eighth grade boy passed me, he threw out some rude remark about my slowness (or chubbiness…apparently both were synonymous). (Side note: please know that while I remember these comments, I don’t dwell on them as I once did. Today I remember him by the middle finger that is permanently glued on his head in my imagination…imagination is such a beautiful thing…)

Despite the rude comments and my slow times, I kept at this running thing that I was failing at because I saw that people could improve…and I saw that improvement in myself, however small. It was this realization–that you could begin something and actually get better (after much trial and error, of course)–that got me hooked on the power of physical fitness and it’s magical ways of breaking down my mental blocks.

(Another disclaimer: I’m no gym buff or expert. I’m just a person who found I liked fitness and kicking some butt.)

And so that takes us to…

The No-Longer-Chubby-Yet-Not-Super-Fit-Kid Who Runs, Lifts Weights and Throws

I continued with this running thing into high school where I really pushed myself to get better so that I could be good enough to run with the big kid distance team. I ran every day, lifted weights, did sit-ups and push-ups, and exercise cut-outs from Health magazine.

I never became super fit, but I was the most fit I had ever been in my life, and the hard work and perseverance paid off: I could run faster and do more sit-ups and push-ups than most of the freshmen boys on the team.

Beyond that, I felt empowered for the first time in a long time. I had shown myself that just by beginning and putting a little faith into myself that I could begin again the next day and push a little further until all the new-day-beginnings compounded and turned me into more of the person I needed to become (i.e. someone with increased self-confidence, compassion, etc.).

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Me getting ready to throw at a high school track meet
And while I never did end up running distance for the high school track team, I did join the field portion of the sport as a discus thrower who made varsity the first year and remained on the varsity team all four years.

But remember: I didn’t get to this sweet spot in my journey magically. I got there because I began and failed so many times I could no longer count and at some point my beginnings floated me in the right direction.

As Cheryl Strayed once wrote in her Dear Sugar column, “Let whatever mysterious starlight that guided you this far, guide you onward into whatever crazy beauty awaits.”

Which takes us to more recent times…

The Adult Who Runs and Kicks Butt

I still run today. Long-distance. I like 5Ks. I’m not super fast, but I’m not slow either. Occasionally I’ll practice sprinting but mainly to develop speed and agility, not because it’s my favorite.

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All painted up after a 5K Color Run (which we actually ran–never walked!)
I no longer throw, but I would LOVE to again some day (I’m a crazy technical throwing fanatic).

Nowadays, I train on punching bags and people. With my recent transition, I am at a MMA gym, polishing up my punching and kicking skills, getting into better shape, and learning entirely new techniques (woohoo!).

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Me all excited after my first MMA workout
But I’ve just begun there and so my progress is TBD at the moment so let’s go back a couple years…

The Adult Who Came Before the Adult Who Runs and Kicks Butt

Two years ago, I changed jobs from a highly sedentary telecommute position (literally did not have to move to work aside from tapping my fingers on a keyboard) to one with an hour long commute to an office (still somewhat sedentary but at least I left the house).

During this particular transition period, I realized how badly out of shape I had gotten and how my mind kept telling me how I wasn’t good enough (among ten million other things).

So I picked up on my pattern of little activity = lower self-confidence and decided it was time to change it. Naturally, I went on the all-holy Groupon. There I found a deal at a local Krav Maga gym. I had always wanted to learn how to defend myself so I thought–why not? (Note: A perfect phrase to jump start your beginning–why not?)

For my first class I was the only participant. No one else had showed. I ran slowly, did push-ups from my knees, did painful sit-ups, and tried my hand at some basic techniques. I was decidedly horrible at everything at that point. Weak. Out of breath. Afraid. Highly self-conscious. Exhausted.

I left that first class not feeling so hot about myself (since I wanted immediate perfection not progress apparently), but I also left with an excited glow I hadn’t had in awhile.

I decided to try again.

I went to a second class, which was very similar to class #1 (i.e. weak, out of breath, afraid, etc. etc. you get the picture). And then I went to a third and fourth and eventually signed up for a year membership after seeing that this was something that was going to get me back in shape and also make me feel good about myself.

And wow–over the two years I trained, I grew into myself, becoming who I always knew I was deep inside but who was always hiding from the spotlight.

Krav Maga–and the people I shared classes with, instructors included–helped bring me into my own. My self-confidence, self-compassion and self-empowerment skyrocketed to levels they had never been at before. I finally felt really, really good being me.

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Me and my Krav buddy having a fun little photo op. #fightlikeagirl #fighton

Today

This brings us to today–today I am not without faults, failures, hesitations or fears. But I am also not without dreams, inspirations, passion, values and dedication. I have all of these things in me, as do you.

And do you know what that means? It means that you can begin today what you keep putting off to pursue. It means you have the capacity to grow and learn and get better. YOU. Yep, you right here reading this.

So I’ll ask it again: what are you waiting for?

The world is waiting for you to begin so that you can guide yourself into becoming who you need yourself to be.

So begin, and begin again, and begin until it feels exhausting because at some point you’ll find a new beginning that will revitalize you in such a way that all your past failed beginnings won’t matter one bit.

I am raising my metaphoric glass to you and toasting to all your future beginnings. May they be glorious and meaningful, even if it will take you awhile to see them as the gifts they truly are. (And remember: you have to begin somewhere, somehow to gain access to these beautiful gifts.)

With love,

KP

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P.P.S. If you got through this entire long-form post, I send you a very big virtual hug. ❤

Finding My Anchors Amid Uncertainty

The Rock (yes that Rock–Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson) is the inspiration behind today’s post. Or one of them at least.

(Remember, I’m going to occasionally talk about my obsessions on this blog…The Rock is just one of many…and did you know he has an f’ing alarm clock you can download?! Mind blowing goodness, that’s what it is.)

In a recent video post on his Instagram page, The Rock spoke and wrote about his anchors in life–his family and his physical training–and how they drive him to keep pushing himself.

In The Rock’s own words, “Find your anchor and protect it.”

(Now that man should have his own f’ing daytime talk show. Oprah, can you smell what The Rock is cookin’?)

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And so, thanks in part to The Rock, I’ve been thinking a lot about this idea of anchors. 

Having recently transitioned out of one life chapter, I’ve been grappling with how to stay steady and strong as I begin a fresh, new chapter.

A lot has changed over the past few years.

  • I’ve grown older and wiser and tougher.
  • I’ve changed jobs and volunteer gigs.
  • I’ve had some dark days and I’ve had some great ones.
  • I’ve travelled and stayed still.
  • I’ve tried new things I never in a million years thought I would (pole fitness, skiing, Krav Maga, shooting a gun to name a few) and stubbornly refused to let other things go (mac and cheese addict forever).
  • I’ve read and not read.
  • I’ve written and not written.

All through these normal life fluctuations my anchors have largely remained the same and kept me sane–my family, my friends and my own training.

Anchor #1: Family

My family has given me the unconditional love only a family can. Despite our disagreements, annoyances, and frustrations we may share sometimes, I know that I can always count on them to be there for me no matter what. 

I am grateful to have such a family as I know not all do. They are there with a life float if I ever need it and they are always open to listening if I choose to share my thoughts.

I am grateful. I am grateful. I am grateful. Thank you.

Anchor #2: Friends

My friends have given me joy, adventure and a place among them to shine as myself. With them, I am safe to be exactly who I am while also being pushed and challenged so that I can grow ever more wiser. They make me smile, but more importantly they make me laugh.

This last sentence reminds me of a line in Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice when Elizabeth Bennett writes to her aunt and uncle about her relationship with Mr. Darcy: “I am happier even than Jane; she only smiles, I laugh.”

My friends aren’t quite like dreamy, steamy Mr. Darcy but the same sentiment applies as they give me pure joy.

Thank you. I am so grateful.

Anchor #3: Training

And then my training anchor comes in two parts: inner (self, soul, emotional, mental, whathaveyou) and outer (physical). I have found over the years that if I leave either part unattended my whole self suffers whether or not my family or friends are readily available.

My inner training has ranged from reading and writing to coloring and meditating and yoga. All of these practices bring me back to center even amid chaos.

My outer training has varied over time from steady distance running to high intensity fitness like Krav Maga and MMA. Whatever it is, I know I need it. Go a week without it and my mood and outlook already feels off. With it, I feel powerful and empowered.

Find Your Anchor(s)

If you’re like me and feel like you’ve lost your way during a life shift or anticipate some life changes happening down the road, I encourage you to think about who or what are your anchors and make sure you keep ‘em by your side.

You may not need them all the time (helicopter anchors are no good just like helicopter parents–eek!), but when you do need them they will be there waiting for you. Just remember to pay attention to them occasionally if they happen to be real people…real people don’t wait forever (real talk).

And if you feel like you don’t yet have anchors–don’t worry. Try some different tactics on for size that may make you feel calm, collected, safe and happy. No harm in trying and no harm in failing. Just keep going.

I wish you boundless seas of goodness in your anchor search. May you find what you need even amid uncertainty.

With love,

KP

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Feature photo credit: Opatija’s Sea Maiden / KP Original

The Art of Beginning Again

You know how people say something (career field, skill, craft, etc.) is both a science and an art? Well starting fresh, beginning again, starting new, or whatever you call it is more of the latter than the former.

There is no manual, no special sauce formula, no foolproof “ten steps to a better fresh start” (although the internet may beg to differ). You just kinda go, maybe make a plan, and then hope for the best all the while cowering with fear inside, your palms constantly slippery with the sweat of anxiety.

But let me back up a bit.

It has been over a month since I’ve written. There are so many things I want to write but don’t yet know how. During this gap, I left my job, a field of work I enjoy, and a strong support system, then moved across the state to enter a completely new field via graduate school.

To say the least I’ve been busy and tired and decided somewhere along this busy-tried highway that writing was again just something that could wait. And so I shelved it, like I often end up doing. It got put back on one of those dusty, dark places you might find in a garage, stuffed among the useless cords, old paint, and ratty shoes.

Being Afraid and Stuck

I give the cold shoulder to writing when I am busy, sure, but more so when I am afraid. And I still am. 100 f’ing percent.

In addition to being afraid I’ve been a cocktail of other emotions. Happy. Sad. Happy. Sad. Really sad. Really nervous. Happyish. Maybe excited? Relaxed. Frantic. Almost hysterical. Calm. Confused. And of course, afraid, afraid, afraid. (Not the “dark thing under your bed” afraid, but the “holy f, what am I doing?” afraid.)

Packing up your last successful life chapter and waiting at the station until you pull into the next one just, well, sucks. Plain and simple. Let’s just call it what it is.

Things are eerily calm yet unsettling at the same time. You feel like you’re on a wobbly dock trying to stay balanced so you don’t fall into the water below where it’s so gray and murky that you can’t even see your own reflection.

And you can’t see that darn reflection because your new chapter self hasn’t quite manifested yet. It’s partly there — since you’ve got all your past chapter selves hanging around like friendly, old ghosts  but none of these feel quite right to take on your next steps.

So you’re just kinda stuck for the time being and more vulnerable than usual. Which is where I’m at right now. (I also want to cry uncontrollably. Comes with the territory.)

Things I Know and Things I Don’t

I desperately want to get un-stuck but I know it’s not quite the time yet — it will happen though.

What I also know is that I wanted this change (i.e. leaving my job, moving away, going back to school); I planned for it in all humanly possible ways — lists, sound financial management, early packing.

Few details can escape my masterful planning (ask anyone who knows me, surely there will be nods as they read this), yet the planning didn’t make me feel any better. It reassured me that I can plan well and that I’m insanely organized. But I didn’t need this reassurance.

What I needed was someone to spill the beans, to tell me that fancy schmancy secret formula to coping with a new start — the “science.” But no one did because no one really knows.

The Terrifying Beauty of New Beginnings

Each new beginning is our own precious little terrifying experience. We can shape it however the hell we want it.

Even if someone is taking the same steps as you or has taken the same steps before you they are still not experiencing exactly what you are. 

Sure, you can gather some intel from Past New Beginners and seek advice from your dear family and friends but ultimately it’s your choice in how you proceed down the promising yet poorly lit New Beginning Road.

Whether it’s dancing like hell or running around bat-shit crazy, do your thing.

And I know, I know — you can’t see the entire path in front of you but that’s half the fun! And half the fear. (I know that too).

For me personally, I worked very, very hard professionally to get where I was in my last life chapter and so starting a new one makes me feel a bit like a splattered bug on a car windshield — dead on arrival.

I’ve felt disoriented and uncertain and questioned my own abilities, talent and experiences. In sum, I didn’t feel like much of anything and my head and heart were totally out of sync.

But these frightening feelings and thoughts pass as they now are for me.

I had to take some time to remember where I was and who I was and who I am today, reminding myself that I’m one badass mother f’er. (Self confidence is the shit, isn’t it? Makes you feel like you can fly — and you can, metaphorically speaking.)

It also helped to begin establishing a routine, meet new people and explore what the area has to offer to cultivate that feeling of excitement about the future. 

Perhaps this is the “science” part of the Beginning Again Equation — but we are all different and maybe this is not how you would handle a new start (and that’s fine).

So go ahead and take whatever new beginning that you have chosen or that you’re thrown into and make it fully your own, fear and all. 

Begin again as the person you’ve always admired (your true BA self) and I’ll be right there beside you, doing it too.

Cheers!

XOXO,

KP

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Confessions from a Recovering Perfectionist

“[You] don’t have to change your goal. Change your path, be willing to, and don’t see that as a failure. That’s just life.” -Diane Hendricks

“Have no fear of perfection. You’ll never reach it.” – Salvador Dali

It was not long ago that I was and very much considered myself a perfectionist. I wore this label proudly though my younger years and into adulthood as a badge of honor. Who wouldn’t want to be a perfectionist? I thought, without ever realizing what endless heartbreak it can bring into your life.

Childhood: A Budding Perfectionist

I grew up, like many of us, with the world around me continually telling me that if I wasn’t 100% all the time — 100% perfect in every way from head to heart to body — that I was simply not good enough, that I always needed to be something more than I already was.

For so long I believed this lie. I lived my life seeking perfection and pretending that I could really and truly be perfect.

I remember growing up thinking that even little things had to be perfect around me.

If a folder wasn’t quite positioned right among a stack of other folders, I felt compelled to immediately rectify this wrong and make it structurally perfect.

If I was painting and I didn’t recreate the colors just right from the photo I was going off of I would take many, many hours (often into the night) to painstakingly mix the right color combos.

The worst offender to my perfectionist self was always writing — it never wanted to behave but I always tried to bend it to my perfectionist will, nitpicking every word, sentence, paragraph, and grammatical error.

I became hampered by my quest for perfection — I slowed myself down and often stunted my own progress and growth. I would start something and then never pick it up again because I had already decided that it wasn’t good enough even before I really began.

If I continued on with a hobby or task, however, I would practice ad nauseum to try to push myself to the next level. But in reality, since I was always spinning in my own self-created perfectionist cycle, I never got much of anywhere — I was doing the same thing over and over again and hoping for different results.

Adulthood: The Perfectionist Saga Continues

As I entered my working life with my perfectionist ways still intact, I would sometimes struggle along quietly with projects and assignments — not letting go of an article, report, proposal, etc. until it was in tip-top shape. I didn’t understand what good meant and so good to me always felt wrong. It couldn’t just be good, it had to be perfect.

I was sensitive to criticism, much as I had been in my younger years. I took every comment personally, fretting over every little word I was told. I then took these words and weaved them into a thorny little negative self-talk quilt that I would revisit throughout the day and into the night, wrapping myself in self-hate until I finally fell asleep with a heavy, hurting heart.

I would wake up in the morning and look in the mirror, unhappy with what I saw.

  • This little part needed to be exercised away.
  • This little spot needed to be covered in creams until it disappeared.
  • This strand of hair was ugly.
  • My nose was ugly.
  • My arms were ugly.
  • My legs were ugly.

Everything was ugly and all sorts of bad and I didn’t know what to do with it all. I felt overwhelmed. And overwhelmed with a deep sadness that no matter how hard I tried, I would still look this way and be the way I was — imperfect.

What’s more, I thought others around me had to be perfect, too. I got agitated when someone didn’t write in the same style that I did or follow the same grammatical rules. I got a twitch when I watched someone clean the bathroom in a way that I wouldn’t.

I wanted to make everything around me perfect — or at least bring everyone into my little perfectionist bubble so that they too could see the light.

I continued on in this self-destructive manner until I decided: f this shit. Enough was enough.

Adulthood Part 2: Recovering from the Perfectionist Disease

Nowadays, I don’t consider myself a perfectionist. If anything, I am trying to distance myself as much as possible from this label because I found this state of being so extremely unhealthy. 

I was blindly barreling down a path that was actually significantly hindering my own self-growth and making me lose out on opportunities to live a fuller and more meaningful life.

Quite simply, I was driving myself (and others) crazy.

I now know there were never any benefits to perfectionism. And if anyone claims that there are, they are likely trapped in the same self-delusional perfectionist cycle that I was.

At a certain point in my life, as I’ve gone through various stages of growth and change, I dedicated myself to making a very concentrated effort to rid myself of my perfectionist ways.

Today, I am a recovering perfectionist. I try my best to let go and just be my imperfect (and perfectly fun) self. 

I may not be able to totally rid myself of all perfectionist tendencies, but so what? What matters is that I’m trying. I am trying to live my life just like you — I am trying to be free to be myself. This new focus in my life has brought great joy to my healing heart.

Now when I approach my tasks, hobbies, or work, I am open to failure, criticism and ultimately, growth. I have largely cleared the perfectionist disease from my system and can now have a more open heart and a clearer mind (and my body looks damn good too, if I do say so myself).

With writing especially I’ve seen much improvement. I just go and do it, even if I have nothing good or eloquent to say yet — I know that I will and that I just need to keep going. When I see a typo or some other kind of stylistic pothole now I think, “Great! I have a typo. I can fix it!”

There are some things in life we cannot fix and other things we shouldn’t try to fix. Yet we do have the power to revisit and revise parts of ourselves that are weighing us down and making us miss out on all the great, wonderful things life has to offer.

As they say, perfection is the enemy of the good — so why can’t we settle for good enough? Why must we keep striving for something more? Is that more really better and greater in the end? Or is it just driving us a little more insane and taking us away from something else that’s important?

Today, I am also more of an advocate against perfectionism. I’m not saying that you should let go of your search to be an expert or be very good at your field of work or hobby. All I’m saying to you is to let yourself off the f’ing hook. Because you’re not perfect.

You’re not going to be perfect. I’m not going to be perfect. We’re not f’ing perfect. And it’s okay.

We need to let other people off the hook too in addition to ourselves. We need to stop expecting utmost perfection from others because it’s just not going to happen. You’re just setting yourself and the other person up to fail. It is not constructive. It is destructive and demoralizing.

Growth is a positive thing. Change can also be a positive whether it’s for the better or the worst (since it is during the bad times that we build our character most). But we cannot grow and change in the ways we really want to until we let go of perfectionism.

There’s more to life than being perfect, and it is when we learn to live with our imperfections that we can start to become who we really are.

So let’s do that and be free to be our imperfect, wonderful selves.

Cheers,

KP

P.S. I’d love to hear your own personal story of overcoming perfectionism — email me anytime or comment below!

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Feature photo credit: Bathroom graffiti / KP Original

Living in a State of Transition

I sit here in my bed at midnight, with my now scentless essential oil diffuser quietly gurgling on as my sole companion, trying to write a blog post after a little over a two-week long hiatus, and I am struggling.

All those habit experts are right — you gotta keep doing something for quite a while (about 21 days, they say) to stay on the wagon. And if you fall off the wagon anywhere during this habit-forming time frame you’re gonna have a hard time coming back around.

But here I am, back again. I made a promise to myself and I am going to keep at it for as long as I need it.

I set out on this blogging journey to reawaken my creative side that has been dormant for far too long, pushed away in favor of other priorities.

Yet I needed the break — as I keep telling anyone who will listen it’s A-OKAY to take a break from anything you’re doing (we all seem to need this reminder more and more — perhaps a separate discussion, a different post).

At present, I am in a state of transition, moving out of one phase in my life and into another.

  • I am transitioning from one professional role and soon into a new one.
  • I am transitioning from a longtime home to a more temporary one.
  • I am transitioning out of a highly present and supportive friend group and hopefully into another (while still trying to figure out how to keep aforementioned supportive friend group forever).
  • I have already transitioned out of a couple volunteer roles and am still trying to figure out what to transition into next.
  • And I seem to be transitioning in and out of fitness goals on a daily basis.

As you can see, I am juggling a variety of transitions at once and because of all this juggling I determined that a break was in order. My mind was getting so cloudy and heavy, weighed down by the decision-making, next steps, and planning.

It has felt like someone took some mushy gray clouds out of the sky and stuffed them into my already filled head and plopped me back down, leaving me to flop over sideways like a stuffed animal whose head is too big for its body.

“It’s all too much!” I wanted to scream, but didn’t.

Instead I retreated, kept silent, vented, did some of my usual things, stopped (temporarily) doing other things, got angry, got sad, got happy, got excited, but mainly waited in a state of blahness — not completely unhappy but also not really all that happy.

On top of all that I felt guilty. Guilty for taking a break (how silly!). So then I felt more blah and whatever about everything, lacking motivation in some areas (why wake up? What is this alarm clock?) but not in others (gotta get to my 10K step Fitbit goal!).

So I’ve decided to surrender, quiet my “feeling guilty” thoughts and just accept that this is my life now — that I am living in a state of transition. It is a place I know I must travel along for a little while until I am redirected to my next steps.

This transitional area sure isn’t a fun place to be — but then again no one said it would be. There isn’t a manual for transitional life stages (would be nice though, wouldn’t it?!). And I have no solutions for you, if you too, who happen to be reading this, are traversing this same cloudy path.

But I don’t need solutions now — and neither do you.

This spot we’re in is not a place for solutions — it’s simply a path from A to B or B to C or C to Z (if you’re rocking those major life jumps).

It’s a place to keep moving, but also to stand still, to take time and to reflect or just to take a break and catch up on your favorite shows. You’ve been taking care of yourself for a while now and so you know what’s best for you — so do that.

Take your break. Live in your transition. Hang on through your transition.

Know that once you come out on the other side of where you’re going you’ll have changed — and you’ll be stronger.

Onward,

KP

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Feature photo credit: Lake Love / KP Original

How to Figure Out What You Want to Do with Your Life

Like many other twenty-somethings (and arguably folks of any age), I am on a journey trying to figure out what in the hell I want to do with my life.

It is a universal struggle — I know you have been there (and if not — that’s really great and I’m beyond envious). And in some cases, the struggle may be unending (*dread*) or put more positively, ever-changing.

We can also move in and out of this struggle over time — at one point in our lives we feel we have shit figured out and then at a later moment we are back to square one, wondering how in the hell we got back there. Shit happens. Challenges and change are inevitable, but how we choose to approach them is when the fun really begins.

And so what to do with this dilemma — this “figuring out what to do with your life” thing? Plenty of resources exist that you can consult — books, articles, webinars, courses, entire websites…all good stuff, all helpful in various ways.

But since we live in a world (‘Merica!) where we are always trying to one-up the next person and improve ourselves ad nauseum, I would like to take my place in this world and one-up all of these resources with my own helpful guide to show you how fun this dilemma can be.

And so I give you: “How to Figure Out What You Want to Do with Your Life.”

(Note: Please read on expecting humor and silliness and some nuggets of wisdom — enjoy and cheers!)

Ya ready? 

Let’s go:

  1. Make ten million and one lists of all the things you want to accomplish in your life and then lose them throughout the course of your lifetime to the pages of unfinished books, half-written journals and piles of old mail.
  2. Attempt to find that one list you wrote once upon a time ago that you stuffed into a National Geographic magazine from 2001 because you are sure now that it is the secret to your future all these years and experiences later.
  3. When finding said NatGeo magazine, you gasp in horror! Alas, the list is merely a shopping list from that one time you attempted to make homemade crème brûlée, which, like your life right now, also turned out to be a horrible mess.
  4. Cry.
  5. Cry some more.
  6. And pout and scream and pound your hands against your steering wheel because you are not only frustrated that your life continues to be in shambles because you cannot figure out what to do with said life but also because today’s morning commute is the biggest killer, with a complete stop traffic jam five miles long. The pain, the horror!
  7. Cry even more because all is terrible in the world and life is unfair.  
  8. Read an article about what genocide is going on in the world right now and realize that your life is not terrible nor unfair, sobering yourself up to the reality that surrounds you everyday — that there is more pain in the world than you can comprehend.
  9. Feel bad for thinking your struggles were anything more than trivial.
  10. Continue on with your day, which turns out less desirably than planned — your friend cancelled a long-standing coffee date after work, you catch an error you made on a major project and are repeatedly kicking yourself for it, your mother is nagging you, your father is nagging you, your boss is nagging you, your friends are nagging you. EVERYONE IS ON YOUR CASE AND YOU DON’T KNOW WHY.
  11. Break down. Your head explodes. Not literally, but you feel like it has. You want to cry again, curl up into a fetal position right on your office’s dirty reddish gray yet strangely muti-colored floor caked with months and months of dust you know is there and eye the ever-accumulating dust clusters under your colleague’s desk, collecting in her desktop’s fan, on her lower shelf drawers, on her forgotten pen.
  12. Keep it together because you’re at work and still have some thousand things to get done and your colleagues are counting on you.
  13. Collapse onto your couch at home, face first, like a tipped log, letting out a muffled welp as soon as you get back from work — which is not the work you would describe as your ideal “what I want to do with my life” since you must make this apparent to yourself every chance you get to remind yourself there is some higher goal you are grabbing at which is still unclear to you but you know it’s there.
  14. Know that it is not the worst day in the world. And it is not the worst struggle in the world. But it sure feels like shit nonetheless, all this aimlessness.
  15. Go back to list-making because this restores some sense of control in your life, which you haven’t yet gotten today.
  16. List, list, list, list and realize how brilliant you are or self-critique yourself ad nauseum because you are a self-proclaimed perfectionist and can’t let shit, or yourself, off the hook.
  17. Fall back on the couch, exhausted.
  18. Take a deep breath. And then take another ‘cause you really f’ing need it.
  19. Decide: enough is enough! And that you are enough (cue new age positivity philosophy doves).
  20. Start putting the pieces together to create a more workable vision of your future and realize that your future will not look like your parents’ necessarily or like the person’s next to you or even like your best friend’s.
  21. Ask yourself: What do I like doing? What do I dislike doing? When have I felt most alive, most excited? When I have felt dread? When have I felt most accomplished? Least accomplished? Does money really mean the world to me? What would I do if I lived with less, with more, and what kind of difference does it make in the end? What do I care most about, least? What do I remember doing growing up but have long since put on a dusty shelf thinking it was a silly endeavor but know that my lonely, creative heart hearkens for it day in and day out to take it up once again? And what would you want people to read about you in your obituary — will it be the fame you achieved, the children you helped grow, the world you helped save? What would YOU want someone to write about you after you’re gone?
  22. Answer these and other questions you pose to yourself and analyze the shit outta them. And then over-analyze because you can’t help yourself.
  23. Ground yourself, steady now, and realize that few really have this shit worked out. Realize that you are a part of a community of people trying to figure this all out — you are not alone.
  24. Realize you can find your relatively balanced place in this world once you become at peace with certain aspects of yourself and decide to work toward changing and challenging other aspects.
  25. Realize that you have it in you to take yourself to whatever next level you want to take yourself — whether that is stretching outside your comfort zone or seeing that you have really been happy all along with exactly where you are and with what you’re doing. You are the maker, creator, destroyer of whatever it is you want to make, create or destroy. It sure ain’t easy, but you got this. Because you’re a rock star.

See yourself in this list? Good — know that you are not alone. You’ll figure something out with whatever you’re struggling with in the “what to do with my life” battle.

And if no one else believes in you then I do even if I’ve never met you or know you that well (or if I know you super well then you know I got your back).

I gotta feeling that everything’s gonna be alright.

(Yes, Black Eyed Peas AND Bob Marley medley in that last line. What?! Mind explosion.)

Thanks for reading. Much appreciated, as always. ❤

Until next time!

Ciao ciao brown cow,

KP

P.S. Find more fun posts like this in Weekly Inspiration, a newsletter brought to you by me (KP) at Inspiration for Good. Subscribe right here, right now.

Feature photo credit: Work Pose / KP Original

How I Found Compassion for Myself

Compassion. Merriam-Webster defines compassion as the “sympathetic consciousness of others’ distress together with a desire to alleviate it.”

I want to talk about compassion today and compassion toward ourselves.

I can (and likely will) talk at some other point about compassion toward other animals too. This is another facet of compassion I enjoy discussing at length and hope to do so with you, dear reader, in another post.

But for today, I am inspired to talk about compassion toward ourselves. And I want to talk about it from a painful place, a vulnerable place.

I’ll tell you a story…

A Story for You

Once upon a time ago (have you noticed that this is a favorite phrase of mine?), I had very little compassion for myself, and did not receive much from anyone else (likely because I am a private person who chooses not to reveal too much to most people — not my style; don’t take it personally).

I call this “once upon a time ago” my “dark ages” because it was a long stretch of my younger life that I struggled through, never really knowing how to navigate, always stumbling along, failing frequently.

I was sad and unable to cope. Lonely. Exhausted. Anxious. Stressed. Depressed.

That’s a whole lotta bad vibes for a young person (and really, any person) to feel.

As you can see….I’m still not telling you the whole story. I don’t plan on divulging the intimate details of my life…as I’ve said: that’s not my style (and please know that I did not go through some highly traumatic event but I did, like so many of us, go through some damn shit).

Maybe I will express the parts I am leaving out here some other day, some other place, but not now.

And so, please bear with me.

Even just writing about these “dark ages” in this generic, overview fashion is difficult for me — because I know exactly what remembering them brings up emotionally, even if I am not taking you through my life story as the files pop out and into my mind’s projector, the slides replaying over and over again.

Writing even so vaguely about it all brings up times of sadness, and I am getting teary-eyed. I am not afraid to say that — that I may cry, that I am starting to cry. I am not embarrassed to be emotional, nor am I some sappy heart (although sometimes I am — aren’t we all?).

And so I had these “dark ages” in my life — times when I had such great difficulty giving myself the benefit of the doubt, giving myself love and compassion.

I did not love myself. I disliked myself, sometimes hated myself.

This is a horrible place to be — and I do not wish this type of struggle on anyone.

I know many reading this have been in such a place at some point in their lives. It is a very unhappy, difficult place, and I am sorry if you have had to go through it, and if you had to go through it alone. I would hug you now if I could.

Changing Tides

What I now realize is that during these times, since I couldn’t give myself the love I needed, that no one else could give it to me either. Sure, those around me could have helped me (some tried, some stuck around, others looked on, not wanting to dirty their hands — I get it).

I wanted compassion from others, naturally, but I know now that I couldn’t really expect this from people if (1) I didn’t tell them what was going on and (2) I couldn’t find a way to show even an ounce of compassion to my own self.

But I persevered (I am a killer whale, after all) because I knew — I knew, I knew, I knew — that these “dark ages” were not me — they would not define me forever, and they really weren’t the representation of who I truly, deeply was.

Even through these darkest of times, I felt the constant pull of my real self. I always knew who I was in many ways (and less so in other ways), and I always knew who I wanted to be — not some role model or idol — but my real, true self — because that’s the best it’s gonna get.

Eat, Pray, Love Moment

Reading Eat, Pray, Love finally (I’m a little slow getting to the game sometimes…), Elizabeth Gilbert expresses this pull of self in a way that made me say out loud in my head and heart, “Girl, you get me! THIS is it right here! THANK YOUUUUU.”

And so, please welcome Ms. Elizabeth Gilbert once again (and not the last time, folks):

“I was not rescued by a prince; I was the administrator of my own rescue . . . I read once, something the Zen Buddhists believe. They say that an oak tree is brought into creation by two forces at the same time. Obviously, there is the acorn from which it all begins, the seed which holds all the promise and potential, which grows into the tree. Everybody can see that. But only a few can recognize that there is another force operating here as well–the future tree itself, which wants so badly to exist that it pulls the acorn into being, drawing the seedling forth with longing out of the void, guiding the evolution from nothingness to maturity. In this respect, say the Zens, it is the oak tree that creates the very acorn from which it was born.

I think about the woman I have become lately, about the life I am now living, and about how much I always wanted to be this person and live this life, liberated from the farce of pretending to be anyone other than myself. I think of everything I endured before getting here and wonder if it was me–I mean, this happy and balanced me . . . who pulled the other, younger, more confused and more struggling me forward during all those hard years.”

This is so beautiful to me — this pull of self. I like to think about it also as compassion toward oneself. Without having the ability to show yourself compassion, you cannot answer this call, this pull to be who you have been all along, or who you will become.

Becoming Whole Again

It took me seemingly endless trial and error (and I’m still learning, never stop!) until I was finally able to show myself the compassion I deserved all along.

I have worked tirelessly (read: worked — this is an effort one must exert over and over again until the pieces of the puzzle start snapping together — and it ain’t f’ing easy, no cutting corners) in my mind and in my heart to say f off to the negative self-talk, to the damaging societal influences that ceaselessly linger in this day and age, to the constant comparisons to others, and to the general lack of respect and admiration I refused (for whatever reasons, for all the reasons…) to give myself.

I have battled and I have won (and you can, too!).

I am now at a point in my life where my good days far outnumber my bad days.

Although of course, since I am only human, I still have days or weeks where things just feel like shit and I need to take a little break (and that’s fine — it’s okay to break, America — calm the f up and sit the f down, RELAXXXXX).

I am at a point in my life where I feel my most alive and most like myself than I have ever felt before. And this to me is beautiful. It is beauty manifesting itself in my being.

(Thanks, universe! And thanks me! And special thanks to those around me who have helped me along the way! Big hug and kiss!)

This brings to mind the famous, cryptic lines from “Ode to a Grecian Urn” by John Keats: “Beauty is truth, truth beauty, — that is all / Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.”

These lines resonate with me differently now, and perhaps incorrectly by a literary standpoint (but I don’t really care — literary argument be damned).

What these stunning lines of Keats’ reveal to me is this: that what I have found is both truth and beauty and that they are indeed one of the same because I have found my own truth and my own beauty — I have found myself fully.

And this, to me, is the ultimate compassion.

XO,

KP

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Feature photo credit: KP and Fuzz / KP Original