Career, Health, Life, Uncategorized

A Type A Control Freak’s Path to Serenity

Before I begin, there are a few things you should probably know about me:

  1. I organize my underwear drawer. After removing my clothes from the dryer, each pair is carefully folded before being placed in the appropriate pile based on style, fabric, and color.  Yes. My underwear is organized by color.
  2. My bathroom trash can is for aesthetic purposes only. Should you choose to use it for actual garbage, it will be emptied almost immediately.
  3. I have five email addresses, each containing a minimum of 50 labels into which I organize the multitude of messages I receive throughout the day (for those of you who don’t use Gmail, think of labels as folders).

The reason I share these points is to attempt to illustrate the plethora of systems I have built in an effort to organize my everyday existence, systems that should be regarded as observable manifestations of my larger obsession with stability. Yes, it might sound a bit neurotic (because it is), but I have been operating this way since I was six years old and searching for the perfect way to display my stuffed animals.

Recently, I made the decision to venture out on my own – a choice that is riddled with instability. Bi-weekly paychecks? Health insurance? A 401k? With this one decision, they instantly became things of the past. Hours became varied and unpredictable (likely to fluctuate in tandem with my emotional state), and it’s no longer possible to define myself by my job title or salary range.

You would think that my Type A personality would be vehemently protesting, that every atom of my being would be screaming for me to create order out of the chaos – but it’s not. Yes, my aforementioned systems are still in place, but for the first time in a long time, I feel genuinely at peace. I’m enjoying the quiet that comes to my neighborhood after 9:30am. I’m reveling in the freedom to choose my own projects, to partner with innovative minds from other industries. In a strange twist, these seemingly inconsequential options have overrode my need for control – enough, at least, that I know how important it is for me to explore it further.

So here I am. I am bound to encounter a multitude of threats to this newfound independence, but I have made the decision to prioritize my own happiness, and through any means necessary, I will preserve this state of serenity.

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Friends, Nonprofit

16 Hours Tomorrow

In her 40s, Pauline Crowther scaled the Brooklyn Bridge… not once, but several times.

In her 30s, she held down a full-time job while raising three kids on her own, and she made sure they never missed a rehearsal, practice, or playdate.

She loved art, music, culture… and most importantly, she brought light and life to everyone she knew.

In 2008, at age 51, Paulette Crowther was diagnosed with Anal Cancer. This isn’t as attractive a topic to read about – I know – but that’s all the more reason why we should. In spite of her illness, and possibly partly because of it, Paulette went back to school for her master’s in landscape design at Columbia University. She traveled the world with her three children, and she greeted me with a smile and sincere interest in my life every day when she came in to work. We lost Pauline in April of 2010, but she lived on in everyone who knew her, and in July 2010, her three children started The HPV and Anal Cancer Foundation in her honor.

Over the next 48 hours, we have an opportunity to raise up to $100k in support of Pauline and others like her. Jonathan Feldman will swim 2.5 miles, bike 112 miles and run 26.2 miles (a full marathon) tomorrow in the the Ironman triathlon in Zurich, Switzerland to support the HPV and Anal Cancer Foundation. A generous donor will match every donated dollar, up to $50,000, and the money raised will go to The HPV and Anal Cancer Foundation for research on prevention methods and therapeutic treatments.

Every dollar you contribute will make all the difference.

If you’re unable to contribute at this time, all we ask is that join us in sharing this message with your friends and family members… for Pauline, for Jonathan’s friend, for their families, and for the 30,000 people who will be diagnosed with cancers caused by HPV this year.

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Friends, Nonprofit

On Changing the World: How Does One Person Make a Difference?

For several years, I have grappled with how to make each day of my life count, how to give back to the world, and how to ensure that I am proud of the person I am… I volunteer, donate, educate myself, and strive to be a positive force in the lives of others. But, it is when I come across someone like Shanley Knox, a recent college graduate working to help a village become self-sustaining, that I am truly reminded of how much each of us can do to make a difference in the lives of others.


Shanley Knox on Founding Nakate Project
:

“In 2010, we met a 7-year-old named Cossy Nakate. Suffering from AIDS, orphaned and living in a small African village called Kakooge, Cossy impacted us in a way we couldn’t stop thinking about. We shared our lunch with her. We started paying for her food every month. But it wasn’t enough. We knew we had to change not only her life, but the lives of the women in her village – and the lives of their daughters after them.

7-Year Old Cossy Nakate; Photo credit: Nakate Project

So, we brought home a sack of necklaces, and we started the Nakate Project. That was our piece of Africa, our way of beginning to carry Nakate with us into our every day lives – so we wouldn’t forget her, or the way we had pledged to make a change.
Here at Nakate, we’re looking to put a little bit of Africa – a little bit of Cossy Nakate – into every woman’s life that we meet. That way, when they take a little piece of Africa with them, they can help pass it along, until we all are aware, and we all are working to prevent stories like her’s. Whether you’re someone who wants to buy a necklace, or you’re a designer, a photographer, a woman with a dinner group, a book group, a blog or a fashion show, we’re asking – where will you take Africa with you today?”

Since its founding in late 2010, Nakate Project has grown to support over 20 women in Uganda. Each month, Shanley wires money to the women of Kakooge in payment for paper jewelry that they make by hand and ship to her. She receives no financial compensation. She’s just doing her part to better the world….. I find it (and her) to be pretty incredible.

So how can you make a difference?

Donate to raise funds for Shanley’s next trip to Uganda.
Take home a piece of Africa, available here.
Tweet about @NakateProject.
Blog
about Nakate Project.

“How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.” -Anne Frank

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Career, Friends, Health, Love

Life Choices: The Positive Rewards of Taking a Chance

The weekend after giving notice at my old job, my boyfriend, Ron, and I were enjoying a relaxing Sunday brunch with Ron’s old roommate and his roomate’s girlfriend. After finishing our Eggs Benedict, Bloody Marys, and a lively discussion about social media, both of them were kind enough to offer to pass my resume along to their employers…  I had grown accustomed to unanswered inquiries, companies not hiring, and the other usual job market evils that most of us have encountered in this economy. So, when I sent them my resume, I definitely did not expect to hear back; in fact, I didn’t even give it a second thought. Crazy enough, the following morning, there was an email in my inbox asking when I might be available to speak to Human Resources…

Fast forward one week (and throw in a few interviews with this amazing social media agency)? Hired!

It was unbelievable. I had quit my job, fully expecting to go back to school. I figured I would see where life took me, and I could waitress and pick up the odd job here-and-there in order to pay the bills. Instead, I had (almost overnight) landed my dream job.

Serendipity? Fate? Luck?

When you’re trying to decide whether to leave a job, people are very quick to tell you to stick it out, that it’s easier to find a job when you have a job, you shouldn’t be impulsive, keep your benefits, etc. etc. Now, I don’t discount the validity of any of this; in fact, I think it’s true. But, something changed for me when I resigned from my job: my energy for life. You see, I had fallen into a rut. I wasn’t feeling motivated and I was carrying a weight around with me. When I chose to follow my heart (and accept the inevitable financial consequences), I essentially freed myself of this weight and I truly think the subsequent positive energy helped me to land this job. The universe (and the social media agency) saw that I was EXCITED about life, EXCITED about social media, and EXCITED about what I could be doing.

What has been even more amazing is how many other people have told me of similar serendipitous events in their own lives following a decision to put their emotional needs first… I don’t think Americans are encouraged to do this enough; and for me, it has served as proof that sometimes the answer really is following your heart, believing in yourself, and allowing the chips to fall as they may.

As I prepare to start my new job by reading up on viral marketing, social media, and customer relationship management, I am also trying to prepare myself emotionally. It is essential that I carry this newfound positivity and confidence into the office on Monday, and ultimately, into every subsequent phase of my life.

6 Things I have found to be important for this:

Sleep

I definitely require at least 7 hours a night. Serious emphasis on the “at least.”

Friends

My friends are inspiring, supportive, and intelligent. I can count on them for anything and everything, but most of all, a ton of laughs and a listening ear.


Animals
My dog, Stella, is the love of my life. I can’t even describe my love and gratitude for her… If you have a pet who you feel that way about, you know what I mean. There are also other animals in my life who are pretty important; but for today, I just want to  focus on her: sheer perfection.



Nutrition
I’m bad at this one. I love bread, pasta, chocolate, and anything that is made with spices, butter, or cheese. However, I know that I feel better as a whole when vegetables, fruit, and protein are incorporated… Working on it.

Yoga
Exercise and I have had an on-again-off-again relationship for some time now… I would really like to make it work. We all have to start somewhere, so I’ve committed to Saturday mornings.

Downtime
Whether it’s eating at my favorite restaurants, escaping for the weekend, reading a book, shopping, blogging, or watching tv, this includes anything that is purely for my own enjoyment.

I’m interested in finding out what other people find to be helpful… What’s important to you in maintaining your positive energy and outlook?

P.S. Feel free to leave social media tips and/or info as well!

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Career, Life

Where do I belong?

How many responsible and driven young adults are out there, just looking for a place where they can work, receive some guidance, and enjoy life? What I mean is, in an ideal world, our parents and teachers are supposed to provide us with emotional support and guidance, help us realize our personal dreams, and ultimately become the adults we want to be; and yet, too often, they can’t fulfill these responsibilities. Sometimes they’re not invested enough. Sometimes they just don’t know what else is out there… And other times, their hearts are really in the right place, but out of fear or just plain unwillingness to look outside the box, they fail in this role. Isn’t there someone or something out there that can fill in for them when this happens? If there’s not, shouldn’t we put it in place? Guidance for young adults? An impartial network  of life coaches, career counselors, and psychologists throughout the nation, perhaps the world, who can talk us through our individual goals, the steps we might take to reach these goals, places we can live, jobs we can do, etc. etc. in the hopes that we can each build a life to be proud of and ultimately, carry these lessons on to equip the younger generations in building a collaborative and self-sustaining community?


Take me, for example. I’m creative, empathetic, hard-working, and I love a challenge. I’ve just left my job of two years and I’m looking for my place. Do I want a steady job or do I want freelance gigs to pay the bills and take each day as it comes? Do I want to stay in New York, or do I want to move? And if I want to move, is it to the West Coast, or is it internationally? Do I want to go back to school? I think I want to go back to school… And if so, do I want to study web design and technology or something that directly pertains to establishing and running a nonprofit? I’m going to have to make these decisions for myself, but what if there were a network – individuals to weigh in on the cost of living in Santa Barbara, alternative locations that might fit my geographical preferences, the best way to travel with a large dog AND a cat, the pros and cons of going back to school, ways to make freelancing work for me…

I guess I’m suggesting a collective of some sort, where we, as caring and invested individuals, take responsibility for guiding and exposing one another to things outside our norm.

  • People willing to share what they know
  • Community houses where one might try living before fully committing to moving somewhere
  • Apprenticeships where we can try our hand at a career before taking out tens of thousands of dollars in loans… only to find that it’s not quite what we thought

Yes, I sound idealistic.

But don’t you think your experiences might help someone else? Don’t you know incredible people from whom others might also be able to learn? Aren’t you eager to learn? Experience new things? Wouldn’t that be easier with a community of supporters and mentors at your fingertips?

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Career, Life, Uncategorized

Life’s Too Short For the Wrong Job

A friend of mine has this theory that most of the human population adheres to the 9 am – 5 pm daily grind out of a sense of necessary punishment. In other words, we are committed to spending time we don’t want to spend working in a place we don’t want to work doing something we don’t want to do because that’s how we pay our bills… That’s how we survive.

I, like many others, fell into this trap. I worked a job for two years because I was afraid that if I left, I would lose my rent money, my health insurance, my 401k and therefore, my peace of mind… My question to myself, and to so many others, is what kind of life are we living if the majority of our time is spent doing something we don’t want to do? Was my mind really at peace when I dreaded having to get out of bed in the morning, counted the hours of every workday, and dreamed of the vacation days that I somehow never ending up taking anyway? Pretty obvious answer… No.

So I finally did it, I quit my job.

This past Tuesday, somewhere between waking up and reporting to work, I made the resolute decision that it was time to leave. I walked into my boss’s office, gave notice, and sat down at my desk with elation and excitement electrocuting every inch of my body. And I came back to life.

So hi. My name is Alex, and over the next few months, maybe years, I anticipate a good deal of volatility, some really fabulous life experiences, and many moments of paralyzing fear. Most of all, I look forward to learning to live life on my own terms and with my eyes wide open… most of the time.

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