Life After Undergrad: A very Happy Birthday

In a post that strays a little from my theme this semester, I would like to wish my daughter Ava a very Happy 9th Birthday!!!! On this day nine years ago I was in labor with Ava, I was 18 and freshly out of high school. Today on Ava’s ninth birthday I am a college grad, who is pursuing her Masters Degree. On the day Ava was born I had no idea what the future held because the picture I’d painted had dissolved into a whole new reality as a teenage mother. On Ava’s second birthday  I was failing out of John Jay College and was giving up slowly on myself and my future. On Ava’s third Birthday I used my whole tax return to throw her an elaborate themed party to mask how much I felt like a failure. I figured if all looked well then nobody would notice that I was working a crappy retail job and couldn’t figure out what I was going to do about college.

When Ava was four I went back to school and I had a firm sight on where I wanted to be– and nothing would get in my way. This June I will walk in my graduation ceremony and it will be the second time that Ava will have seen me receive a degree. I do this not only to provide from her but to show her that you can fall as many times as you want so long as you GET BACK UP!

My college career is Ava’s as much as it is mine because I’ve never been in college without Ava. Even when she was just a baby bump, she came to college with me. She’s sat through lectures with me, said goodnight to be over the phone, sat and watched me type essays and annotate article after article. While some nights she did complain, she always tells me I’m doing a good job and that makes it worth it– even on the days she is driving me insane. This year as Ava turns nine I see more of myself in her than ever, and I want better from her. I know she can be better, do better and reach higher than I ever have– and it frustrates me when she doesn’t. Nonetheless I know she is bound to be great and make a name for herself– after all, a queen only raises a queen!

Life After Undergrad: People don’t always grow up, they just get better jobs

When I was younger my mom told me that sometimes adults can be more childish than actual children. I didn’t quite get this idea until I started working full-time– more so in a leadership role. At first it baffled me how people who were in positions of such esteem and regard could be so immature and petty. I witnessed grown adults holding grudges, gossiping and being cliquey– worse than middle school girls. My first thought was “well I’ll just avoid all of that and mind my business” but unfortunately gossip culture will find you; and it will test you.

I figured that by being nice to everyone, not overstepping the work/ socializing boundary that I could avoid that whole whirlwind of picking sides– I was wrong. In being nice to everyone and chit chatting over the water cooler, I opened myself up to other employees prodding for information about their coworkers because I seemed to get along with everyone. When I didn’t play into the game I became a scapegoat and a goody-two-shoes. While I don’t often let idle gossip bother me, dealing with such petulant behavior from adults was tiring. I ended up putting my foot down and just making it clear to all that if something was amiss or there was confusion I should be asked directly– and not relayed messages through the grapevine.

In my middle school days, gossip and ally making was rattling to me and I wanted to badly to be on the right side. I found however, that the “right” side often meant compromising my character or my morality and I just couldn’t do it. In elementary school I was an outcast for making friends with a girl who had an accident and in middle school I was made fun of by proxy because one of my best friends was a little overweight. Once I reached high school I was over it entirely and I built myself a network of girlfriends who didn’t give a damn what people thought of them and although not all of us keep in touch anymore the lesson they taught resonated.  

I don’t need to be liked or loved by everyone to do my job, or to be good at it and I certainly don’t owe anyone anything. The most important thing that I can say is to be firm in your footing; stand up for what you believe in and who you are. Most of all, do your job, do it well and don’t tread anywhere the ice may be too thin.

Life After Undergrad: How I managed to check my anxiety at work

With more knowledge comes more power, right? Well in my case more knowledge and more ability came with a larger office, more employees and more targets to hit. Naturally I was flattered my boss thought highly enough of me to promote me, but deep down I was panicked. Part of me even secretly hoped I wouldn’t have to do it and I could sit quietly in the shadows. When I looked at myself in the mirror though, I realized that I needed to look at myself in a better light. I needed to believe in myself and view myself with confidence and not doubt of what mistakes I may make.

When the season started I was jittery, but I tried to sound as confident and positive as I possibly could when I met my new team of employees. I found that they were a really great group of people who were relieved to get a new leader at the helm; this made easing into a new role easier. I’d heard once in a psychology class that there are two types of leaders; transactional and transitional. Transaction leaders are a hands off type of leader that only handles things that go wrong or need attention, but a transitional leader will lead by example– and that’s the kind of leader I wanted to be.

I started by making a list of exactly what I needed to do that day, down to the most minuscule of tasks because it made the whole day seem like less of a challenge. I checked off the must do stuff first– things that had time deadlines or needed to be done the same time every day. After those tasks I worked on the bigger projects and tasks that took more of my time and effort. Breaking up my tasks made my time seem like less of a long-winded spiral. I found that managing my time made me less anxious because it eased the feeling that I wouldn’t get to everything I needed to do. As I started to develop a routine I started to worry less about the day-to-day and just organize my days in a way that made the most sense– and I haven’t looked back since.

 

Tell me readers, how do you stay organized?

Life After Undergrad: What now?

Have you ever finished a book or a TV series and then looked up and thought “what do I do now?”. That was the exact thought I had the first day I was able to go right home after work. What do I do with all this free time? Should I start knitting? What is life without college like? I’d been in school for 80% of my 20’s and I got so accustomed to being in that student state of mind that this whole commute and “call it a day” lifestyle was new to me. I decided (like I mentioned in my first post) to start taking better care of me. Cooking at home, getting back into the gym and trying to focus on the plus and not the minus.

Meal prepping for me was a whole new world. I’d never been super into cooking or baking so I decided to start simple; chicken, veggies and some brown rice or quinoa. Well, I ended up eating this for about 3 weeks straight for lunch until a co-worker said “Sam, are you on some special diet?” Well, I kind of was the “I have no idea how to cook” diet, but that was a wake up call for me; it was time to try new dishes. So with the help of my best friend, Mariah, I ventured into simple step meal making.

My first creation was chicken tortellini, Alfredo, which, if I do say so myself was delish. Now If you don’t believe me, I also fed this to my mom and co-workers and nobody died–so there’s that. I’m sort of lazy when it comes to cleaning pots and pans but making that was shockingly easy, so the next adventure is going to be pasta salad or penne-vodka– we will see. But this endeavor into cooking is just a sign of the change in times because a year ago instead of wrangling tortellini I’d have been in lecture, or running from work to class. Now I have some time to explore skills and other things that I just never had the time for– and it’s exciting. I look forward to seeing what else comes with this new phase of life and I can’t wait to share it with my readers too!

Life After Undergrad: Finding my new groove

Hey everyone, if you’re just catching up I’ve changed my blog from “Virtues from Motherhood” to “Life After Undergrad” as I chronicle my transition from college student to full-time working adult. First let me say that I am considering grad school and getting my Masters Degree but I’m still on the fence. Transitioning from a college student routine into one without any school is surprisingly challenging. I thought that I’d be relieved and carefree now that I didn’t have to worry about papers, midterms and passing grades, but truth be told I feel a little lost without it. I got so used to planning my day out and rushing off to class after work while making sure that everything was done and organized.

Now, I wake up and get ready for work but I feel light, there is no bag full of books and notes, there is no folder filled with a syllabus and assignments. It’s just me and my now downsized bag headed off for a brisk 9-5 shift. Last week the spring semester began and I felt a little sad, some of my friends are still there and my siblings are back in class, and then there’s me, headed home at 530. It’s not all bad though, I’ve started meal prepping and trying not to eat out. I also started going back to the gym and trying to take better care of myself. While I was in school I was on the go for 15 hours a day so eating right and exercising took a back seat.

Now as I try to get into the groove of things I try to keep a positive mindset. I’ve made a habit of pointing out the positives to myself and dealing with and discarding the negative. I’ve learned throughout my college career that attitude is everything and will affect anything you do. I’m not sure what the future holds for me right now but I am excited to find out. Now that I’ve achieved what I thought was impossible I am more confident than ever; I believe in who I am and what I can do. That ability is invaluable, you need to value everything about yourself, no matter where you are.

Virtues from Motherhood: Life after undergrad

Happy New Year OpenLab! I’m writing my first blog as an official City Tech alumna! If you’ve followed my blog for a while you know my long journey to this point in my life, and how significant this milestone is for me. So, I’m thinking from here on out you’ll know my blog as “Life after Undergrad”.

That being said, I have to be perfectly honest and admit that being a graduate doesn’t feel super different but it does look different. For the first time in nearly ten years I’m not rushing off to class after work and I’m not spending hours on a Sunday afternoon writing papers and studying. It feels like I have all this time I’ve never had before and I’m not always sure what to do with it, but I decided this year I was going to get organized, make a plan and stick to it!

I started by chucking my old planner, as much as I loved it, it was time to start fresh. I ordered a brand new planner with daily goals and to do lists and I set myself some goals and aspirations. First I started with simple stuff, drink more water, do one fun thing for myself a week. Then I tackled my bigger goals, like getting back in shape, and finding a full-time job with my degree. I won’t lie, looking for a job is terrifying because although I know I have the skills and ability I’m jumping into a whole new pond with much bigger fish. I plan to approach job hunting with an open mind and an optimistic spirit and start networking and building my professional contacts.

But enough about me, City Tech! How was your New Year? What are some of your goals and aspirations in 2018, what habits are you trying to break and which ones are you trying to start? Let me know in the comments below!

Virtues from Motherhood: A promise for 2018

With 2018 just two weeks away I want to devote my last blog of the semester to a promise. A promise to smile more and laugh louder, a promise to stop and breathe life in a little longer and a promise to be a little kinder to ourselves in 2018. The last two years have been ones of great change and endurance and reshaping who I want to be as a woman. I have learned that the relationship I have with myself is by far the most important one there is and I need to protect and preserve that before I can do for others. Here are the promises I am making to myself for 2018….

  • Learn your limits: Sometimes you just need to say no and put yourself first, and that’s okay. You can’t please everyone all the time and you can’t neglect your own well-being for the benefit of others. Take a minute to take stock of your limits and don’t be afraid to put your foot down and protect them, people who can’t respect your limits, don’t respect you.
  • Be kinder to yourself: Everyone fails sometimes, everyone has a bad day and everyone is going to make a mistake. Don’t beat yourself up over this, own up to it, clean up the mess and keep going with your head held high. Your mistakes don’t define you, how you handle it does. Be kinder to yourself when you have a bad day, take a breather and do better tomorrow.
  • Aim high: Don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t do something. Set goals for yourself and go for them, anyone who tries to stop you is threatened by your ambitions. If you want to go back to school, go, if you want to double major, go for it, if you want to change careers and start over, do it. Remember this is your life and you hold the reins.
  • Ask for help: Nobody likes to admit they can’t do something but every now and then we need a helping hand. It might be with a work project or it might just be a shoulder to cry on, either way know when to ask. Asking for help doesn’t make you weak or inferior it means you knew yourself well enough to know you were starting to sink.

As I look back on 2017 I think of all the goals I set last year. While some of them have collected dust this year other ones have blossomed. I think the goal I most achieved this year is self-care. I was finally able to admit I needed help and I got it; and I’m on the mend, yesterday, today and going forward. I still have so much time to grow and meet my goals but my main one right now, is making sure I live my best life, every single day.

I wish all my readers a happy and health holiday season, I’ll see you in the New Year!

Virtues from Motherhood: The road ahead

‘Where you’ve been is nothing compared to where you’re going.”

I repeat this to myself on those days I feel the weight of my past slowing me down. Some days, it’s hard not to count up the times things didn’t go your way, or the times you wish you could’ve done things different. On occasion, I find myself lost in thought, or missing priceless moments with people who are no longer a part of my journey. I miss the “good ole’ days” and the simplicity of those moments where the short comings didn’t matter; but then I remember what’s to come.

I still have so many memories to make and so many laughs to be had that those lost moments seem less heavy. I used to think the future would never come, and like many kids I couldn’t wait to grow up and live life. Now that it’s here I wonder why on earth I rushed this phenomenon we call life and why I didn’t look at the bigger picture sooner. Too often we get lost in the little things, the small stuff and don’t remember that we still have a great big world out in front of us. Someone once told me that what matters for 5 minutes today won’t even be remembered 5 years from now, and they were right. Things that I lost sleep over even three years ago are totally irrelevant to me today, and I’m sure the things that I toss and turn over tonight will be a distant memory in a years’ time.

I guess what I’m trying to say is take today with a grain of salt, dust yourself and keep moving. Try not to stress over the things that are out of your hands and accept what was, and look forward to what will be. Forgive yourself when you fail and applaud yourself when you succeed, you are your biggest fan. The love you have for yourself will radiate to others and only you can set the tone for tomorrow and beyond, make that tone as positive as it can be.

Virtues from Motherhood: What I’ve learned from a decade in college

If you’ve followed my blog for a while you know I’ve been in college for a bit, ten years to be exact. In 2008, I began my college journey and in June 2018 I will walk across that stage to complete it. In that time, my life has gone through several transformations and seen some trying moments, as well as triumphant ones. I have learned so much about myself as well, what I’m good at, and what I’m not, and most of all how to love myself. I started college as a naive 18-year-old with little to no humility but I will finish it as a woman with grace and self-assurance.

For the earlier part of my college career I had no idea who I was or where I was going; I didn’t believe in myself or my dreams. I had been told “no” so many times and been shot down for things I thought I was good at that I stopped caring. I slowly learned however, that all things happen in due time and some things can only come with age. You can’t rush the process and you can’t skip steps and sometimes, you’ll even have to repeat them. Repeating a step was something I was venomously against for years, often dodging things I needed to do or complete out of fear or immaturity, avoiding taking responsibility for my short comings.

It’s not all bad, though; I have these experiences to share with my readers, my friends and most importantly my daughter. I have the wisdom and the personal experience to guide others and hopefully make a difference in their lives. This ample time spent in college has helped shape who I am and what I want to do with my life and it has reaffirmed my love of writing.

  • I have learned that I am destined to help others, if not by any other means than with my words.
  • I have learned to be patient and trust that everything happens for a reason.
  • I have learned not to take on the burdens of others and that it’s okay to say no sometimes.
  • I have learned to be selfish, with my time and energy because other people’s negativity can poison my peace of mind.
  • I have learned that not everyone has the same mentality I do and that’s okay.
  • I have learned to be sure of myself and stand for what I believe in.
  • I have learned that there isn’t always a right answer, sometimes there are shades of grey.
  • I have learned that it’s okay to not be okay and to ask for help when you need it.
  • Most of all, I have learned that life goes on.

In the past decade, I have endured things I never thought I’d have to. I had to navigate life roles that usually happen consecutively; all at the same time. I juggled being a mother, being a student and holding a full-time job. I had to raise a little girl as a single mother and make choices for her education when I was still making choices for myself. Some days I felt like quitting, like giving up and just walking away, but I kept pressing forward. If I had to sum up my journey in just one word I would say, invaluable. This journey has been invaluable in more ways than one, but the main one is experience and that is something I could never trade or replace, and I am glad that I have that experience to shape my future.

Virtues from Motherhood: Everyone makes mistakes

Have you ever said or done something and then a second later wished you could take it back? I have, and I’m sure everyone can share my dislike of “putting your foot in your mouth” and the embarrassment that follows. The reality is everyone is going to make mistakes, have a lapse in judgment or just do something innocently foolish without meaning any harm. It’s human nature to mess up, to break things or to say something you didn’t really mean in the heat of the moment. It’s how you handle these moments though, that really define them. Do you make the mess worse? Or do you clean it up with dignity and own up to your shortfall and move on?

When you slip up or make a mistake the first thing you need to do is own up to it, don’t pass the blame, don’t make excuses, just own up and admit you’re wrongs. People see responsibility, humility and responsibility as signs of maturity. Additionally, why complicate an already uncomfortable situation by skirting the truth or omitting things? Even when you don’t understand how you messed up or why you’re in the wrong, ask for help rather than get defensive or hostile. Learning from your mistakes will help you avoid them in the future and it shows the other person, or people, you’re willing to learn and grow.

Why do we do these silly things? Well, psychology would give you some deep-rooted meaning into our mind and patterns of behavior, but in the short I believe that we’re all just trying to be the best versions of ourselves. In that quest though, we sometimes ignore better judgement to keep the thing we’re focused on at the moment afloat. For example, say you’re really behind on your homework and your friend keeps asking you to help her find an outfit for a date. In the heat of the moment while you’re stressed out with this work, you snap at her and tell her the date probably won’t go well anyway. Now your friend is upset with you, your work isn’t getting done because you’re trying to apologize to her, and you’re just in an overall bad mood. You didn’t really mean it– you were just under a lot of pressure. So, what are you to do? Well, apologize, admit you were wrong, and then explain to her what you’re dealing with at school.

These silly little mishaps can be avoided most of the time, with honesty. Instead of one wording your friend or getting frustrated, she’d probably have understood if you’d just said “hey, look I’m really swamped with work, anything you wear looks great” and got back to work. Similarly, instead of just calling in sick at work, be honest with your boss when you have an outside commitment or need to come in later, rather than just blowing off an entire day. At the end of the day we’re all human and when we’re sympathetic with ourselves we can better empathize when it comes to other people.