Year of Kindness

Two days ago, I sat on the curb in my former office’s parking lot and cried. I was just laid off. My head spun with frantic thoughts of what I could have done better- I should have done this. I should have done that. Why didn’t I do that? But I wasn’t laid off for performance issues. The company is going under and I was “the last one hired, first one fired.” During my exit interview, I was given stellar reviews. My bosses told me that I was rehire-able (if they ever decided to venture into advertising again) and they promised to give golden recommendations as I apply for a new job. Despite knowing all this, I sat in the parking lot, beating myself up, thinking about everything single, little thing that I did wrong.

I’m hard on myself. I know that I am I. Just a couple of weeks ago, my supervisor reminded me: “You’re too hard on yourself.” Every boyfriend I’ve had told me that I am. Most of my friends have. My parents. Even this sweet woman I broke down to at Burning Man last year said that I needed to ease up. I know that I’m hard on myself- I ignore the fact that I am human and I demand absolute perfection from myself. Thus, I dig myself deeper and deeper into the pit of despair and feeling never go enough.

I believe that kindness plays a big role in happiness. I also believe that kindness starts with the way you. I was telling a friend about my drama at work, “I could have done that better.” She turned to me and said, “If you had a friend saying what you’re saying to yourself, would you still be friends with them?” I thought about- “No, I wouldn’t.” “Then why do you treat yourself that way?” she asked.

I’ve been trying to change that mind set around. It hasn’t been easy. I’m used to waking up every morning with the first thought in my head leaning towards the negative. I feel fat. I’m not going to do well at work. I am a crappy girlfriend. My cat, Hova, follows me around until I serve her breakfast. She looks at me with her big green eyes and winds her lanky body around my legs after eating, thanking me for feeding her. She thinks I’m the best. I once read that you need to treat yourself how your pets treat you. Animals know what’s up- they know good, kind people vs. bad ones. All the animals I’ve encountered in my life have given me love and sweetness. I need to give myself some love, too.

Friends, like pets, are a good resource. I replay all the negative conversations I’ve had in my head daily- from arguments I had with my parents in high school to the one I had on Monday with my boss when I was let go. I let myself wallow and sink until I’m mentally drowning. My boyfriend reminds me every day of how great I am. He does a really great job of doing it- there was one day he complimented me 19 times in the span of a couple hours. I usually let each compliment slide in one ear and out the other but now, I’m trying to let his words resonate and find a permanent home in my brain. I canceled plans with friends this week (because honestly, I feel like shit) but they refuse to take my “no” for answer and insisted on coming over with goodies and sappy movies. They reminded me that I’m awesome and this crappy situation will soon pass (if that isn’t kindness, I don’t know what is…).

I’m off to a slow start with my Year of Kindness and am feeling like an emotional Sisyphus. But I know that baby steps are key even if the mean boulder is pushed back to its original spot the next day. I need to eventually stop buying into the myth of perfection (especially with my appearance and where I’m “supposed to be” in this moment of my life) and focus on the things that make me happy, like being proactive- get out of bed every morning with a purpose, even if it’s only to clean the bathroom. And showing kindness to others; that helps, too- I’m teaching an art class this weekend at the Boys and Girls Club. Treating yourself well when you’re not used to it is not easy but it is totally worth it.

Treat yourself how your pet treats you... (Yay for kitty cuddles!)

Treat yourself how your pet treats you… (Yay for kitty cuddles!)

(And dear reader, if you know of any full-time positions in advertising, editorial or non-profit within the Reno city limits, pass the information my way. Thanks!)

Love, Millennial Style* 

*Today post was inspired by this article, from Mens XP.

I don’t like most of the articles that I read about millennials. Writers pen about us being lazy and indecisive, with our heads buried in our phones, being obsessed with material wealth. All the people I know who are my age are incredibly hard working. We have jobs that we’re passionate about and spend our free time creating and contributing to our communities in a positive way. We are smart and self-aware. We may enjoy and rely more on technology than our parents but we are smart enough to know when certain moments really matter. Moments like being in love.

We millennials love failing in love. We’re always thinking about love- how to achieve it and how being in it improves our lives. And we are determine to make that love last. We work hard. We pour ourselves into everything we do. Our careers. Our friendships. Our hobbies. We know that love takes hard work and we put in the effort. We noticed our parents’ mistakes and avoid them by making rational, timely decisions. We choose our partners carefully. We’re hungry for that romance and want the best for ourselves. Sometimes, it may take years to find the perfect person. We just don’t want to walk into a store and purchase the first pair of shoes we see without trying them on. Sure, we hook up. This generation is more comfortable with our bodies and sexuality, and we know that we need to explore that physicality without limitations. Hooking up is now how we learn about each other- hooking up is how we date.

Marriage, though, is still on our minds and in our hearts. We are still secretly traditionalists. We take our time getting to know the ins and outs of our partners before making that final commitment. Millennials talk openly about divorce and the negativity that lead up to it. We have figured out the desire for children earlier in our lives and plan for them properly. We still want that American dream- coming home to a loving partner and family at the end of day, watching the sun go down as we play Scrabble on our front porch or our fire escape.

Technology has brought us closer together. We meet our partners online now, people would have never met in the outside world (hi, Steve!) and fall in love over the wires. Technology inspires us and moves us. We’re able to display massive tokens of affections over the internet (often times, for free- millennials are thrifty); filming engagements on YouTube and posting happy couple photos on Instagram. We are able to tell our partners how much we adore each other in so many different ways, sending loving texts and Facebook messages. We’re excited to show off our amazing partners on these platforms (we’re proud of them!) and document our love- our parents did the same with Polaroids and other processed films.

Millennials are not the decline of dating nor the relapse of romance. We are ready for true, real love with our arms wide open. We are ready to take love seriously and most of us do. We know how to love- it’s our kind of love. We want our happily ever afters and will stop at nothing to get them, iPhones, Twitter and all.

Year of Happiness

What does it mean to be happy? Like, absolutely happy- your face hurts so much from smiling, there’s fluffy golden retriever puppies everywhere, your heart is about to burst like you’re in middle school with a huge crush on the adorable guy from geography class kind of happy? Truly happy?

Is this the face of a happiness skeptic (or of a dog-napper)?

Is this the face of a happiness skeptic (or of a dog-napper)

For the last month, I’ve been examining the things that make me happy. Almost like Scully of “The X Files” (which, by the way, season 10 is fantastic), I’ve been a big skeptic. For a long time, I didn’t believe that true happiness existed. I know that you can’t be happy all the time (or maybe you can- who knows?) but for some people, happiness just came easy to them. I think about my best friend, Melissa who is undoubtedly the happiest person I know. She is always smiling and radiating energy. Yes, I know that she has her moments but she always manages to bounce back into Happyland quickly. That’s who I want to emulate.

I used to think that my life would be happier if something would happen- I’d be happier if I had a boyfriend; I’d be happier if lost weight, if I had a good job, etc. Even when I had a great boyfriend or was feeling fit, I didn’t feel happy. Perhaps grateful, especially for that paycheck but at the end of the day, I want to cry into the wee hours of the morning.

 I started researching happiness. What is happiness? True happiness? What does it feel like? What does it look like? Does it taste differently? How do you achieve it? Surely, a person can’t just think about being happy and then be happy. Actually, you can.

Studies show that when you smile, endorphins are released causing you to feel relaxed and well, happy. Your brain essentially tricks you into being happy. Each morning during my shower, I smile as wide as I can and think about good thoughts. I envision having a great day- what that would feel like, what would happen- and I let the happy feelings rain over me. I finish getting ready listening to positive music or a funny podcast that pumps me up.

Throughout the day, I check in on myself, asking myself how I’m doing. With my job, I find myself frustrated and stressed throughout most of the day. I try to funnel that energy into completing my work but I’m not especially good at transferring that negativity. Instead, I write. I received a beautiful journal from a friend as graduation gift; and in moments of pressure, I write one thing I’m thankful for, one nice thing I did for myself and one nice thing I’ve done for someone else. If I haven’t done anything kind for anyone that particular day, I think of a way to make myself or a loved one happy and put that thought into action. Just thinking about making someone else happy makes me happy- and I thrive on that anticipation. I write in my journal every day and I am seeing a small boost.

One of the books I’m currently reading suggests to write down what your ideal happy life looks like, what it feels like. My happy life feels rewarding (in my professional life and with my relationships and community service endeavors), and is filled with devotion and a little too much laughter. I reread this list every morning and when I need a happiness boost. The visual of this list’s words help steer me in the direction towards absolute bliss.

Happiness is more like a muscle that feeling. I know if you work on your happiness, strengthen it every day, that emotion grows stronger. It is a difficult emotion to hold on to but it is achievable. And I am determine to live every day basking in its warmth, snuggling with a fluffy animal.

Happy 2016, dear reader!