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San Francisco & Winter Hope

Things have been a bit busy lately. (Take a look at my Status Update post for more info.)

But since I’ve switched lots of my back-related stuff to Constant Compression, I want to use this space to talk about other things.

Last weekend, Dan and I spent a few days out in the Bay Area. It was…emotional, inspiring, and fresh.

The original plan was to visit my cousin who moved out to the suburb of Fremont back in July. I’m fairly close to my cousin and I knew he’d been missing friends/family, so I wanted to visit and hang out. As the dates of our trip grew closer, Dan and I began discussing the possibility of relocating as a part of our career and life goals.

When it came to career, we both wanted to have more job opportunities available to us in our respective fields (him: Electrical Engineering, and me: mainly Organizational Psychology which has meant a combination of consulting, market research/data analytics, HR; though I’m also looking to continue building my photography acumen). In order to broaden the available avenues, we really needed to consider relocating. While we enjoy Austin and have lots of friends and fond memories here, the job market in this area is limited in some ways. As a result, both of us were finding more available jobs (and a wider variety) on the East and West Coasts.

When it came to life goals, we’d talked about wanting to live in a more metropolitan location. Having traveled to larger cities (and in my case, having lived in a couple), we missed the broader access to an array of restaurants and cultural venues urban areas often provide. Plus, we were both a bit intellectually bored – we wanted access to lectures, conferences, and other professional and personal development opportunities generally found in larger cities. Also, Dan’s interest in competitive partner dancing has led him to visit denser cities (re: generally Dallas and Houston given that we are in Texas), and it seemed to be the case that urban areas also offered more dance opportunities too.

So, San Francisco and the Bay Area became a possible contender for relocation. And thus on our recent trip, we tried to get a sense if we felt like “San Franciscans” or not.

We spent a fair amount of time catching up with my cousin and a dear high school friend, and Dan even had a lunch interview with a company, but we also talked about things like locations with BART access, city neighborhood impressions, restaurants we enjoyed, and topics like climate preferences (for the record: I like it mild; not too hot, not too cold – Dan is a bit more adaptable in this area).

The trip felt emotional because we had heartfelt conversations with both my high school friend and my cousin. Past and present definitely intersected in a poignant and self-reflective way.

Likewise, it was inspiring because of how bustling and active the area seemed. Dan’s interview especially showed him a little of what a startup’s culture can be like – full of hope, optimism, and spirit. Walking around the city, I noticed class discrepancies, urban gentrification, and progress. San Francisco doesn’t embody “ambition” the way NYC does, but it definitely had an air of potential.

And the trip was fresh in many ways. Dan hadn’t been to the area since he was a kid, and I’d spent a few hours running through Chinatown a couple of years ago on a business trip – so we were able to basically take in the area without lots of preconceptions or prior experience. Additionally, I definitely felt the sense that were we to move there, we’d be starting anew in many ways – shedding our post-college/grad school years and really coming into our own as adults, in a sense.

Of course, things are still very much undecided at this point. We’re both applying/searching for work, and discussing various cities we might move to on both coasts. Plus there are factors like our physical health, finances, and friendships/connections to consider.

But for the first time in a long time I feel…hopeful.

While a tad anxiety provoking, not knowing exactly what’s to come but knowing that it will be something very different from the present, is surprisingly rather pleasant (I say surprisingly, because as you might have guessed from some prior posts, I am not always one to go gracefully through change).

I’m ripe for new adventures and for us to start making our own opportunity.

As the holiday season switches into full blown twinkling lights, sweet treats, cold nights, human connection, and reflection/resolution, I’m finally holding onto a tiny bit of that magical/optimistic glow for us, and our future.

As always, I’ll keep you posted as things develop.

Wishing you all the very best this holiday season.  And thank you. Thank you very much for reading.

Always, S

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Power Posing

I came across this recent TED Talk (for more info on TED Talks, click here), where social psychologist Amy Cuddy discusses her findings on what she calls “power poses.”

Power poses, according to Cuddy, are essentially non-verbal behaviors that communicate a sense of confidence/assertiveness/power, or the lack thereof.

Cuddy mentions the power poses used across various species, including primates, birds and reptiles, and humans. She describes poses demonstrating power as ones were the individual “takes up [physical] space” or “[becomes] big.” Examples of this are the Wonder Woman pose:

wonder woman, pose, power pose, female, cartoon, super hero

(Credit: http://www.amazonarchives.com/Images/wwnew.gif)

Where, as you can see from the above graphic, the person takes a confident stance and takes up space with their feet and elbow positioning. There were other examples as well, such as sitting with one’s feet up on a table, hands behind one’s head with elbows out in a triangular fashion, and more.

Conversely, Cuddy demonstrated the physical positions one can take that exhibit a lack of power – crouching, hunched posture, etc. She described these positions as “making oneself smaller” or “taking up less [physical] space.”

To investigate how power poses impact the individual, Cuddy and her colleagues took saliva samples of research participants before and after having them assume either a powerful or powerless pose. The levels of cortisol (stress hormone) and testosterone (assertive/confidence boosting hormone), were impacted by whether the subject assumed a power position or not. As one might think, those who assumed power poses showed elevated testosterone and decreased cortisol, whereas those who assumed powerless poses showed decreased testosterone and elevated cortisol  (please watch the TED Talk for the actual numeric outcomes). With one caveat being that related research has shown that ideal leaders tend to exhibit elevated testosterone and decreased cortisol (assertion without stress), though some leaders can show elevated testosterone and cortisol (assertion and chaotic behavior).

However, what was most interesting about Cuddy’s research and her presentation, was not the definition of a power pose or it’s impact on hormones. Rather, it was how the use of power poses not only communicates assertiveness/confidence/power (or the lack thereof) through body language, but can also actively shape how powerful one feels internally.

Cuddy took her research findings to the classroom and observed that students who felt more powerful also frequently employed power poses, and students who felt less powerful tended towards using less power poses. This led her to posit the idea of “faking it ’til you become it.” In other words, in a situation where many of us often feel less powerful (her example was in a job interview), we should enact power poses for as little as 2 minutes, in order to feel more powerful (and thereby, act more confident/assertive). Once we do this repeatedly (not necessarily for multiple job interviews, moreso on a semi-regular basis in our daily lives), we’ll actually start to feel more confident/assertive, which in turn will cause us to enact more power poses, and thus the cycle reinforces itself.

This linkage between internal thoughts/beliefs and behaviors, has been well documented throughout social science literature (e.g., self-fulfilling prophecy, cognition and behavior research and therapeutic strategies, etc.), but rarely have I come across something as easy to implement or explain, as Cuddy’s suggestion.

At a time in my life when I am going through lots of disenfranchising experiences and needing to rebuild internally, perhaps Cuddy’s findings can help in those moments when I feel the least empowered, and maybe even nudge my self-perception a bit towards the positive. 2 minutes of Wonder Woman’s stance a day seems very doable, and possibly, life changing. For if I start to feel more powerful, if we all felt more powerful, who knows what we could accomplish.

Have you ever tried power poses? Will you try them?

To listen to Cuddy’s talk, click here.

A Love Like That.

As some of you know, I struggle with letting go and allowing love to grow (both in terms of what I share with others and in what I feel inside as self-love). I’ve recently been experimenting with giving in to love and thereby permitting myself to experience things like inner peace (similar to that moment on the train in Thailand), and seeing myself through the eyes of the ones that love me.

It’s really something – to feel the kind of warmth and acceptance of inner peace or of the love of another.

For these reasons, blogger Kendall Goodwin’s post with the above quote/poem, resonated with me.

Enjoy and thanks for reading,
S

Photobucket

Even
After
All this time
The Sun never says
To the Earth,
“You owe me.”
Look
What happens
With a love like that.
It lights the
Whole
Sky.

– Hafiz, Sufi poet

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Adventures of a Cardboard Box

Hi Everyone,

I came across this short video and just had to share it.

The Adventures of a Cardboard Box (Credit: Studiocanoe)

Hugs,

Sarah

Sarah’s Thailand – Fall 2012

I’m in a writing state of mind today, no doubt thanks to a bit of a positive boost from this morning’s rain (read about it here).

And I promised you a piece on our Thailand trip. So here it is – Northern Thailand, through my eyes…

When I lost my job in June and I decided to take a few months to regroup and experiment, one of my goals was to travel abroad. Nowhere in particular, but somewhere far away from my day to day.

I thought about going back to Europe/UK, since my lovely friend Y and I had only been to London and some surrounding cities, back in 2010. But Europe/UK was expensive (the unfortunate result of the exchange rate between the USD vs. the Euro or GBP), and to be honest, seemed a bit too similar to home. I wanted something really exotic and different. So I turned to Asia, as many countries in this region (China, Cambodia, Indonesia, Japan, Laos, Tibet, Thailand, Vietnam) are high on my travel list. Plus, many of my closest relationships are to Asian Americans and I’ve always been very interested in Asian culture past and present.

Y and I had talked about going to China, and I thought Dan might want to visit Vietnam one day, so I settled my sights on Thailand.

Originally I planned to travel on my own but not alone, so I researched various small group tour companies. After consulting a variety of travel blogs and news articles, I ended up selecting Imaginative Traveller and their partner, Intrepid Travel. I knew I wanted to travel for about 10 days (I would miss Dan too much if I was gone for more than a couple weeks), and I wanted to keep costs to a minimum, so I settled on their Explore Northern Thailand tours, which were listed at 8 days.

While in the final planning stages of this adventure (literally, within the week or so I planned to book everything), I happened to connect with my friend S from grad school. We were catching up over email and when I revealed my plans to go to Thailand and asked if she’d like to come, she said yes!

And from there on, our adventure began.

We met in NYC and flew to Bangkok (by way of Shanghai) in mid-September. We stayed in the cities of Bangkok, Sukohthai, Lampang, and Chiang Mai, over the course of the 8 days. You can view the trip itinerary on either Imaginative’s or Intrepid’s websites (Explore Northern Thailand trip option), but basically we:

– Bangkok: Rode on a longtail boat, visited an open air market, saw the Giant Standing Buddha, visited the Grand Palace and the Emerald Buddha, and walked along Khao San Road

– Sukothai: Visited temples, bicycled around ancient monuments, picnicked with locals, stayed at a guesthouse and almost got caught in a flood

– Lampang: Went to an elephant conservatory were we rode an elephant, watched elephants bathing, and fed injured elephants (with prosthetic limbs!)

– Rural Chiang Mai: Made an offering to a monk, bicycled through valleys visiting a rice farm, mushroom farm, local sewing shop, taught English to Kindergartners, stayed with a host family, ate traditional Northern Thai food and experienced some of the music and dances customary to that part of the country, and visited a hot springs

– Urban Chiang Mai: Learned a few facts at the Cultural Museum, took a Thai cooking class and learned how to buy produce at a local market, experienced a Fish Spa and a foot massage, shopped the Night Bazzar, saw a lady boy (transvestite) cabaret, and bought some custom made clothing at a tailor

And throughout it all we experienced: long distance train and bus travel (even an overnight sleeping car on a train!), Rickshaws, Songteaus, Tuk Tuks, taxis, pit toilets, sleeping under mosquito netting, Buddhist culture, new foods, and the company of a few Australians, a couple from Belgium, a couple from Ireland, and a lady from England, as well as our phenomenal tour guide, Boom (a native of Thailand who grew up on a Chili farm on the West coast).

We even picked up a little bit of Thai, for instance: Sawadee ka – Hello/Goodbye; Ka poon ka – Thank you (both as said by a female and spelled phonetically).

I’m still in the midst of editing the photos I took (of which there were hundreds), so I’ll add in a couple of them to this post, later on.

It was an incredible trip and one that I will carry fond memories of.

“Sarah, wait!”

Okay, I’m here.

“Is that it? You went across the world and did a whole bunch of stuff, and that’s it?”

Well, I mean, that’s what we did in Thailand.

“Yeah but, anyone can go to Thailand and do those things. What did Thailand mean to you?”

Oh you mean, why did I go and what did I learn about myself from the experience?

“Yes, yes. Of course. You always reflect on things.”

Well, you are right. 🙂

Per the usual, one of my intentions of going on this trip was to reconnect with myself.

These last few years have been pretty transient and tumultuous for me due to a variety of reasons (e.g., grad school applications, back injury aftermath including the lawsuit, family relationships, loss of employment, etc.), and well, for me – the best way to get in touch with my inner self is to remove me from my surroundings and force me to be present in the moment, and to learn.

Perhaps serendipitously, I had Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat, Pray, Love (EPL) with me (phenomenal book by the way, if you haven’t read it), and even though S was by my side and shared many a conversation and beautiful moment with me, Gilbert’s writing in some ways could’ve been the codified version of the narration in my head.

For those who haven’t read the book, Gilbert experiences a heart wrenching divorce and travels to Italy, India and Indonesia in search of a sense of self and wholeness. So the section of her book on reconnecting with pleasure and desire in Italy, the one on devotion and spiritual renewal in India, and the one on finding balance in Bali, all rang true to me in that:

In these last few years I’ve had to really learn how to let pleasure in to my life. For years I had worked very hard with the idea that, like the proverbial ant, work came first and play came second. Suddenly life decided to take me off that rat race in both the form of a back injury and being laid off and I was forced to come to terms with my human yearnings for fun, adventure, and joy. Not that I hadn’t had these before, it was just that I didn’t appreciate them – I simply viewed them as weigh points in between times of intense work/diligence. So I’ve been learning how to allow myself languid pleasures, and pure fun.

Furthermore, even though I have wonderful people and relationships which bring me countless joy, I had to realize that I’m the primary caretaker of me and if I need more fun, more happiness, more elation, I can’t look to others in my life to make it happen. Sometimes self care means loving yourself and creating your own fun. My recently renewed passion for photography has really helped in that regard – it’s something deeply creative and technical, but also so incredibly fun and satisfying! Plus, I love being able to capture moments for myself and for others.

This also coincides with a bit of a romantic rebirth for me. Prior to dating Dan, romance lured me but relationships rang a death knell. Previously, I’d  been in some pretty disastrous involvements which had negatively impacted my self-esteem, body image, and sense of self. I won’t say all these personality aspects are 100% rosy now, but being with Dan has really allowed me to love both myself and others again. It’s also allowed me to come to terms with my human (and sexual) self as a adult, in ways I really can’t put into words. Suffice it to say, Dan has really helped me recognize what self and other love can be, and certainly our relationship, as well as the ones I share with my closest friends, have all really helped me to be more open to the love and joy that can be found in human connectedness. I am deeply grateful for these experiences and deeply committed to these individuals I love.

Furthermore, I am coming to understand the value in balance. I can’t have it all (or truly, as close to “it all” as I can get), without recognizing my needs across all the valid areas. I have physical needs (e.g., hunger), mental needs (e.g., to learn), spiritual needs (e.g., to feel at peace), emotional needs (e.g., to feel love) – and while I might be able to foist off or ignore a need for some amount of time, eventually they all cry for attention, and I must tend to them. In fact, it’s preferable if I try to tend to all of them a little bit at a time and keep the scales even, vs. drastically flip flopping from one to another.

And in acknowledging balance, I also have to allow myself to let go. It is incredibly hard for someone like me who relishes the structure and stability of plans, diligence, and ambition, to accept that the world is largely out of my control. It’s great that I feel empowered; it’s great that I want to play an active role in the world and in my life; but I’m still me – an individual who is subject to all the systems and processes of the world at large (e.g., political structures, organizational hierarchies, governments, etc.) and just things beyond my purview entirely (e.g., illness, catastrophe, weather, inconveniences, etc.). And though I still wrestle with the idea that my life is a much larger story greater than my most dedicated efforts at crossing off to do lists, I am starting to understand that: 1) my best is good enough, 2) there is always (except in rare cases, re: catastrophe) a tomorrow, and 3) I am the best advocate for myself (re: self-care).

And I’m sure there were more nuggets of awareness, but as you can see, EPL really provided a springboard for me. While we were flying across the Pacific, traversing the railways across rice paddies, riding the roads to Chiang Mai, and I was reading Gilbert’s thoughts, I was deep in a state of murky self-reflection.

In fact, perhaps the largest take away was a sense of inner peace.

After all the up and down and side to side of the last few years, my ego finally sat still and rested. The moment I remember it best was when I woke up to a beautiful sunrise somewhere about 2 hours outside of Bangkok on the sleeper train. I was one of the first folks in our group to wake up and I just laid there feeling very much still.

I rolled over to one side and gently drew the bright blue curtains to quietly reveal the soft glow of a pink and purple sunrise. I found my camera and snapped a photo, and in that moment I just knew that it was finally okay to let go of everything I’d experienced in the last few years and move forward. I’m not sure why there, why that moment, and why Thailand, but for whatever reason, internally I took a breath and made the first movement forward. I thought of Dan and felt very warm and comfortable and that’s when I knew that even though the future is a bit amorphous, things were going to be okay.

And so, if I hadn’t had the opportunity for so much dedicated self-time, I might not have been able pull all the pieces together and reach said conclusions.

Furthermore, being in a place like Thailand, once you’ve lived in a place like the U.S., just reminds you of the things you take for granted. For example:

– Western-style plumbing (you might laugh at this, but I seriously did not enjoy pit toilets, the lack of free toilet paper in public bathrooms, or outdoor showers – though the showers were significantly less offensive to me than the toilet situation)

– Emergency response (we sat in Bangkok traffic on the way to the train station and an ambulance had moved approximately 1/8 of a mile in 30 minutes – I sure hope the person who called in was okay)

– Education (while Thai’s can attend public schools housed in monasteries, they are certainly less able to educate kids with the aid of technology and cutting edge resources)

– Climate (while I’m not a fan of Texas’ hot summers, it sure beats having to constantly apply sunscreen and mosquito repellent on threat of Malaria or Dengue fever)

– Safety (I can walk my neighborhood for hours without fear of pick pocketing, mugging, or unwanted attention; I can also drive without having to wonder whether a Tuk Tuk or Moped will pop out of nowhere)

– Freedom (Thai’s deeply revere their monarchy, and while I respect that, I also appreciate my ability to speak freely about our government without fear)

– Food/Hygiene (while I LOVED the Thai food we ate on our trip, I was sad not to be able to eat raw produce or have cold drinks with ice)

Anyway…so that was Thailand through my eyes.

Have you ever been to Southeast Asia? If so, I’d love to hear your stories. And if you’ve never visited, I highly, highly recommend it.

Thanks for reading.

Always, S

September Reflections

I feel like I sky rocketed into fall this year; a bit of a jarring transition which came on rather quickly.

In August, the heat of summer continued. And to be fair, the month seemed to pass by in a blur with my birthday/ car accident at the start, followed up by two major dance competitions for Dan, and my decision to visit Thailand with my friend Stacey, and the resultant pre-travel arrangements (e.g., shots, gear, packing, purchases, etc.). (Speaking of, I’ll write a separate post on Thailand soon – as it definitely deserves its own mention.)

Fall hit me suddenly – when Stacey’s father picked us up at JFK Airport in NYC and drove  us along Long Island’s winding highways to her parents’ house for Rosh Hashanah dinner (my first RH dinner, by the way. I’d been to a Seder years ago, but discovered that the holidays are a bit different).

The trees were still green in Long Island, though starting to show a tinge of autumn color, but the air was brisk and mild. The temperature was probably around 65 F. It literally shocked my senses (after spending 8 days in the lush, humid climate in Thailand), but also reminded me of that familiar transition into the colder months. Fall is undoubtedly my favorite time of year.

And now it’s practically October, and I feel like I want to stop time and hold onto this season just a little bit longer.

I can’t believe it’s almost been a year since Dan and I were in Chicago for Swing City. I thoroughly enjoyed that trip. The dancing was fun, but the time spent with him and his friends, and the moments when it was just us, were really wonderful. And to top it off we were surrounded by the trappings of autumn with colder temperatures, multicolor foliage, and that warm glow of mutual love.

Sigh…

Per the usual, my recent travels and the start of fall, have put me in reflection mode.

Firstly, it’s amazing to think of what’s happened in just this last year.

In fact, we started this blog in September 2011! Happy First Anniversary to RegularDaze. 🙂

But also, there have been so many events: my parents moving from Nevada to Texas, Dan and I venturing out to various dance events and exploring more genres of dance (his decision to focus more on West Coast Swing, and our journey into the Blues dancing community), our pre-holiday getaway to San Antonio, my travels across the U.S., celebrating our one year anniversary around Valentine’s Day, the end of my NYC lawsuit just before my more recent car accident, a couple of weddings (his co-worker, my college friend), his company experimenting with new projects and the beginnings of his search for next steps, my application process for PhD programs that didn’t pan out,  losing my job and delving deeper into photography, Dan’s efforts at improving his rock climbing, his trip to Dallas with dance friends and my trip to Thailand with Stacey… and more. It’s been an eventful 12 months.

Secondly, since I’ve been traveling quite a bit recently, and Dan and I have had conversations about relocating in the near future, I’ve been thinking a lot about what kind of a life we might have or want to have. For instance…

Were we to live in Thailand, our life would be filled with lots of cross-cultural exchange, and relaxed. We’d certainly have to learn a new language, figure out how to drive on the left-side of the road, get used to different standards of hygiene, and be vigilant about sun and mosquito protection. We’d also be able to eat fresh and spicy cuisine constantly, and centrally located to travel across Asia, able to live very well on little (due to the current exchange rate between the Thai Baht and USD), and far from everything and everyone that we’re familiar with.

Were we to live in New York City, our life would be fast-paced and diverse. We’d likely give up our cars and use public transportation, we’d shop more often at local retailers and attend more cultural events (plays, exhibits, talks, etc.), we’d need warm gear for the winters, and we’d be able to eat food from almost any part of the world at any given time of day. We’d need to find jobs where the salary increased significantly to maintain our current standard of living, or we’d need to decide to live simply (and probably in close quarters). We’d be closer to other Northeastern states and cities and the Atlantic, and able to stay in touch with friends and family.

Were we to live in San Diego, our life would be mild-mannered. We’d  be able to eat delicious seafood or visit the beach whenever we wanted, and keep our cars as we’d likely commute back and forth to work. We’d probably live in a place not too cramped or too sprawled. We’d be able to take advantage of outdoor activities year-round, and within a few hours drive could visit other Western/Southwestern states, or other parts of California. We’d likely find lots of Mexican cuisine, though slightly different than what we now have in Austin, and would stay abreast of developments with friends and family.

Those three locales are just examples of the Rubik’s Cube assortment of permutations my brain has been pondering of late.

I have no idea where we’ll end up together, but in keeping with the spirit of fall (and thereby the beginnings of change and transition), I enjoy considering various options and starting to align the mechanisms to move us forward.

Life really is a journey, and I think I’m finally starting to see it as more of an inclusive set of experiences, vs. a litany of items on a check list to achieve. I’m still goal-oriented mind you, but I’ve been trying to sit back and acknowledge the view from above a bit more.

Hope autumn is treating you well, wherever you may be.

Thanks for reading,

S

Birthday Bash

Writing codifies things – puts an indelible mark on a once blank page (or screen), and makes them real.

And I desperately didn’t want to accept this as real – but I can’t deny it, and I can’t run from it.

So here goes…

I’m embarking on another personal injury lawsuit, this time in Texas.

On my birthday, a couple of weeks ago, I was rear-ended, and the impact caused injury. My car suffered some damage. Fortunately, Dan wasn’t in the car with me, but unfortunately, I am the one hurt.

As you might remember, I am on the heels of celebrating the settlement of my longtime NYC personal injury lawsuit (which lasted from September 2009 – June 2012). And now it’s back to the fray of legalities, insurance companies, medical providers, and physical and emotional upheaval.

Things have been difficult lately (re: physical and emotional upheaval), but I know I (we) have been through this before, and I know I (we) will get through it again (somehow). Dan, my parents, and close friends have been encouraging and supportive – and I know without a doubt that they will be indispensable to maintaining my fortitude during this experience, as I will be to them.

I can not recommend these circumstances to anyone – surely, there must be other means for learning about the legal system, the state of U.S. healthcare, the insurance industry, and one’s strength of character – but I can not deny reality either. The situation exists and I (we) must face it head on, again.

I haven’t found the silver lining in all this yet, and I definitely don’t know why it’s happening. I recognize the laws of probability/chance and being caught in a string of random, unrelated events, but I also acknowledge that I am the type who seeks meaning in everything. I value fitting the puzzle pieces of life into some sort of comprehensible whole. And in a puzzle each piece has its role; its purpose. I like taking experiences and thoughts, sorting them into digestible boxes, tying each box with a ribbon, and storing them in the categorized shelves of my mind.

Lately, my efforts at categorization are being continually thwarted by life events, and to be honest, it’s frustrating.

As I said above, I know I (we) have been through this before, and will get through it again. I (we) just don’t know quite what to expect, or what will become of it.

And yet, I (we) don another parachute and jump headfirst back into the land of the medically litigious.

Wish me (us) luck. It’s time for another journey.

Thanks for reading,

S

Personal Cliff Climbing

My apologies – I know it’s been awhile (about a month actually) since my last post.

I wish I could say that the month was replete with cathartic moments, mental clarity, and those “I always wanted to do this” experiences, but mostly it was a time of rest.

For the most part, Dan and I continued about life as normal.We worked, we loved, we did the day-to-day things that keep our lives afloat.

But a few key things happened:

– I injured my right pinky toe in mid-May; since then, I’ve been slowly regaining full use of my right foot. While a fairly minor injury, it hasn’t allowed me to dance which has been a serious bummer.

– Dan and I attended a West Coast Swing competition in Dallas. Although he may not have done as well as he’d hoped, I was very proud. I think the car rides up and back also gave us some valuable time to reconnect and discuss more about our relationship.

– I found out that due to financial circumstances, my position would be changed from a full-time salaried arrangement to a contractor/per-project basis at the end of June.

As you might imagine, that last bullet has been pretty jarring, though not wholly unexpected. While I can’t provide much detail, our company had been experiencing some challenges earlier in the year, and once I’d received all the decision letters from schools, I knew it was time to reevaluate things and make another plan for my professional development.

But it’s never comforting to feel like you’re suddenly pushed off a cliff you were hoping to climb gradually (and at your own pace).

Sometimes when you’ve spent so much time and energy progressing towards a certain goal or point in time, reaching it can feel a bit strange or surreal. That moment when you’re able to look out over both where you’ve come and what lies ahead.

There’s something comforting in the routine of the “working towards” space –  being in between “start” and “transition.” With your nose to the ground, you can just continue in the day to day,  knowing that tomorrow will be relatively similar to today with intermittent progress forward.

So once that machine of one foot in front of the other comes to a close, “what’s next” can be a welcome deviation, a scary unknown, or some combination of the two.

Lately, I’ve felt perched atop a mountain. I’ve spent quite some time working towards this point in my life on multiple levels (personal, professional, physical, etc.), and now I’m sitting atop a peak representing hours of work, self-reflection, milestones, tears, long nights, short days, and smiles. A collection of memories and experiences compiled into my own little self-pinnacle, a personal precipice.

For the moment, I’m arrested between the after effects of my own “machine” – that downgrading of  perpetual motion (like the noodle legs effect of adjusting to walking on a flat surface, after running on a treadmill)- and a desire to sit back and take in the view of past, present and potential future, and the uncertainty that comes with the next adventure.

Fortunately, I have some financial cushion so I’m not thrust back into the rat race just to try to find a source of income. And you know, I want this time to be different. I want this next major shift to really stick, to really fit.

And, while I’ve been thinking about all the usual suspects:

– what I’m passionate about

– what I value

– what kind of life I want

I also know that going forward, I will need to pursue a professional endeavor that better taps into my creative side and is more people-centric.

But of course, I worry that I won’t find the best option(s), or worse, maybe I’ll find the wrong option(s) and divert down a path that leads to self-sabotage. And I was going back and forth, back and forth – a mental tennis match of “what ifs” and “could possibly” – and then I stumbled on this excerpt from one of Seth Godin’s more recent blog posts:

In addition to wasting time, the frequent reconsideration sabotages the effort your subconscious is trying to make in finding ways to make the current plan work. Spending that creative energy wondering about the plan merely subtracts from the passion you could put into making it succeed.

And then something hit me…

Maybe “finding” has worked before, but if I want a truly new tomorrow, a changed life going forward, I might have to – “create.”

So a week or so ago, I did what I’d been thinking about doing for a long time (months, actually). I contacted two local photographers and asked them if they needed assistants, if they could share some insight on their experiences, and if they would provide the one thing I really need: help.

Could they help me improve my work and skill set? Could they help me be brave enough to take something I love and experiment with it in a totally new way?

To my surprise (and delight), both of them said they would try. And that’s really all I can ask for, because they can’t solve this puzzle for me (or rather, create the solution?) – that’s all on me. But, then can offer some assistance, some guidance, and maybe, just maybe, that will give me the skills, knowledge and courage to put myself out there in a totally new way.

Here’s to trying new things and hoping for the best. I’ll keep you posted, as this is just the start of an entirely new journey.

Thanks for reading,

S

 

Freedom!

The lawsuit reached a settlement!

 

More to come soon.

My Story

My story.

To add to the life transition/ moments of clarity, of late, I was talking with my photography teacher (Mr. K) after class last night.

For a little background, since January I’ve been taking a Digital Photography class through the local community college. We meet for 4 hours on Tuesday nights. I’m an avid photographer documenting nearly everything from what I eat, to life events, to a particularly interesting road sign or flower bed. And I’d been wanting to upgrade my point and shoot Samsung to a more formalized DSLR (as my old SLR used 35mm film). So I made the switch and signed up for the class for a refresher, and to get the most out of my new camera.

The class has been excellent – we spent time reviewing the mechanics of photography (focus, aperture, lighting, exposure, etc.), and learning how to manipulate and use the functions on our DSLRs. The best part of the class (I think), has been our photo journals – each week we have a homework assignment (portraits, still life, etc.) that helps us apply what we’re learning. We take specific photos, print them, and record the settings used to create the photo as well as any notes on time of day, weather, location, or any random thoughts. I’ve really enjoyed looking back through my journal and seeing how my skills have progressed, as well as remembering each photo – where I took it, why I took it, how I composed it, etc.

Yesterday, it was class as usual. We’d gone to City Hall (which is a great location for portraits in the late afternoon, by the way) for a class trip, and once the sun went down, Mr. K spoke a bit about lighting for outdoor portraits and then we all packed up and got ready to head home around 9pm.

I stayed behind to ask a couple of questions about group portraits (here’s what I learned in a nutshell: use a smaller aperture for greater depth of field to try and get more folks in view, and try to position the subjects on the same plane as well as create warmth/connection between them by having them lean in/sit or stand close, etc.). And Mr. K gave me some tips, and then offered to drive me to my car (since I parked a couple blocks away; parking in Downtown Austin can be a pain).

While he was driving me back to my car, he remembered a series (collection of photos) I’d discussed with him. My series was going to be focused on chairs (why chairs? well, with a back injury, I have a love/hate relationship with chairs of all kinds; I’ve never felt such emotion toward a physical object before).

I explained that I hadn’t done much with it lately. I tried, but the chairs I’d been using were cumbersome and difficult to lug around to photograph. I’d taken some photos of “found chairs” (i.e., NYC subway seats, benches in parks), but it wasn’t quite the same idea I’d been going for. And plus, with my recent level of stress and schedule craziness, I’d honestly been doing all I could just to complete the homework assignments – chairs had mostly faded from the forefront of my mind.

Mr. K encouraged me not to give up on the chair idea, to keep trying. He actually suggested I search for an older chair, one made of of lightweight material (e.g., wicker, or hollow wood, etc.), and one that “spoke to me” in some way.

But then he asked me the most meaningful question:

“Sarah, what’s your story?”

He explained that he was working on a series of wet plate (yes, photography circa the 1800s – Google it, it’s really neat) photos that were telling a story of two men who made decisions to become either good or evil through physical items (for instance, pitchforks). But then he said that in general, there’s always an undercurrent to one’s photography (of any kind, wet plate, digital, etc.). He said one photographer might choose to make a comment on society with his/her photos – they feel that the world is consumed with materialism, for instance, and so they focus their photography on showing society engorged with money and things. And so again he said:

“What’s your story?”

As you might have guessed, this rang true on many levels (see an earlier related post on Personal Mission Statement). With the recent news from grad schools, sitting in pre-trial limbo from the lawsuit, and realizing that the me of today is not the me of just a few years ago, “my story” is on the forefront of my mind these days.

What do I want to share with the world? What do I find most important? What moves me?

I thought I had those questions all figured out; crossed the t’s and dotted the i’s.

Now, not so much. Or maybe, I did have it all figured out, but only relative to what I knew at the time. Now I have more information, and as I said, I’m not the same me. Well, I’m still Sarah, but I’m a different Sarah. the quest for self-identity and self-expression has been reframed, redirected.

So I’ll be thinking about my story for awhile. But I’ll figure it out again.

What’s your story? And how did you determine it?

Thanks for reading, S