Sometimes you have to stay behind to get ahead.
Sometimes you have to stay behind to get ahead.
Needing to be productive when everything and everyone around you is beckoning you towards fun is tricky.
But there’s good news.
I’ve found that it’s actually possible.
1. Make a list.
Check it twice. It doesn’t matter if you’ve been naughty or nice—but you get the point. Write down everything you need to get done. Even put it in order of importance. What needs to get done first? What can truly wait? It definitely helps to have it down on paper (or phone notes—I’m a fan) in front of you rather than floating around in your head where tasks can easily slip between the cracks.
2. Fight the urge to pick up your phone.
(Which I just did. And wasted a focused five minutes that I could have been typing. Help.)
3. Give yourself a (reasonable) allotted time to accomplish task, depending on how quickly you get things done.
Be honest with yourself about how long it might take you. But don’t give yourself more time than you need. You’re just setting yourself up for more of an opportunity to fiddle around and waste time because you know you have more time to get it done.
4. Balance is the key.
You can’t always be working. You can’t always be playing. But you can alternate between the two. Even better… you can find ways to combine the two. Listen to your daily podcast or devotional or make that important phone call while you wash the dishes or do laundry or (in my case) unpack. Read or do your homework while you’re chilling out, maxing, relaxing all cool (by the pool), or while you’re hitting up the exercise bike. Maximize your time.
It’s easier said and done. But between balancing grocery trips, needing to unpack, finishing my reading assignments for next week, and prepping for my internship, with bonding and meeting my fellow study “abroad” mates, answering people’s “best wishes” on social media, and going on spontaneously fun outings my first week in LA—I’m doing it.
But I’m learning.
it’s actually starting to work.
Tonight my wise friend, Michael, told me these words:
“Mia. You will meet a lot of people in your life. You will do a lot of things when you go out to LA. And you will know. You will just know.”
Michael was also drunk.
But drunken lessons are among some of the truest lessons in this world.
And knowing Michael, I know exactly what he meant.
People tell us constantly to trust our instincts and gut. But what exactly does that mean? Between deciphering what we’re feeling and questioning if it’s actually our gut or just our head, we often get caught up in the complexity of it all. We don’t know if what we feel is real. We don’t know how to tell. We forget how to do it. We forget what it means.
But the simplicity of “just knowing” applies to most everything in life.
When you know, you know.
And even if it isn’t too clear at first,
from the very first moments,
Follow it. Go with it. Trust it.
The questions that keep us up at night are often different from the ones we consider during the day. When the sun goes down and we’re left to the solitary moments in our mind, the things that have been in the back of our head push their way to the front like a superfan in line for the newest Avengers movie.
It’s often easy to make fun of these superfans, or dismiss them as unimportant or irrelevant, but as is often the case with extended metaphors, these superfans are of the utmost importance. The superfan-like questions in our minds represent our passions and values. They represent our hopes and fears of the future. They’re difficult to grapple with and hard to dismiss because they are just that: hard questions.
During the day when we’re around our friends, in class, or at work, they’re usually the last thing we want to be thinking about. What will we do after we graduate, where will we live, will I make new friends, can this relationship work out, what the actual f*ck am I doing with my life? It can be overwhelming.
During my last year at JMU, I realized that I had been suppressing those superfan questions in the back of my head, so about halfway through first semester, I sat down and tried to answer some of them as best as I could. I felt that if I could write it down, I could make it happen.
Flash-forward to right now. As I’m wrapping up my senior year, I feel much more confident about the future than I did at the beginning of the school year. Planning out what I wanted to do helped me a great deal, but acting upon my goals taught me even more. Through all of my experiences, I realized several things on a personal level that have helped me in every aspect of my life. So here they are:
Treat everyone with respect.
It can be tempting to get the last word in or tell someone off, but in the end, it’s almost never worth it. Being respectful towards others will open your life to opportunities and friendships that you may have never thought were possible. Be mindful of history and culture, and know that we’re all products of our past.
Realize that everything is connected.
People, places, communities—they’re all intertwined. The way you treat other people is something that will naturally be reciprocated. Positivity will create more positivity just as much as negativity will breed negativity. Your neighbors, whether they’re in a different city, state, or country, are your brothers and sisters. When things look grim for people far away from you, stick up for what’s right, because you never know when something similar could happen to you.
Do your best for you.
If you’re committed to something, don’t do the bare minimum just to get by. Put in that extra effort to do your very best and you’ll get a feeling of self-satisfaction that trumps any sluggish effort. Even if what you end up with is not the best there’s ever been, know that by looking with a critical eye at your greatest efforts, you will continue to learn and grow as a person or creator.
You are not a brand.
Don’t feel trapped by the expectations that you’ve set up for yourself. Never take yourself too seriously or be afraid to look stupid and admit you’re wrong. Once you get into a good groove, it’s easy to do things out of habit, but it’s important to get out of your element and constantly challenge your beliefs in order to keep growing.
Work hard at working smart.
Sometimes getting an “A” on a test isn’t all that necessary. In college, there is delicate balance between work, school, and social life. As the saying goes, “Pick two.” Knowing when to sacrifice one for the other is key, because all three are equally important. That’s not to say you should blow off studying for an exam to go to a party, but rather, you should prioritize the things that you value and think of the effects both short and longterm.
If there has been one thing that has shaped my life for the better, it has been this. Talk to the person sitting next to you on the first day of class, pursue a hobby or passion, tell somebody that you love them. Don’t let the fear of failure paralyze you. Life goes by faster every day and the people in your life won’t be around forever.
Trust in yourself.
Go with your gut feeling and think about the kind of person you want to be when you’re making decisions. No one can ever fully understand your actions except for you, but if you stay true to who you are, people will grasp what you want to accomplish and become invested in your ideas themselves. If you think you can do something; you can. So why not do what you want to?
-Guest Lesson by Joey Cathey-
A few days ago my dad texted me this:
“Good afternoon my BEAUTIFULLLLLL Princess. What are u going to do today to make it a wonderful day? I love you.”
Isn’t he the cutest?
I know it happened a couple of days ago, and I promised to write a lesson each and every day about something that inspired me or encouraged me or made me think that very day—but this is different.
I haven’t stopped thinking about it since.
How wonderful is this?
We wish people a good day, or a better day. We say good morning, or good afternoon, or good night.
But how often is it that we are actively encouraging? Not just wishing greatness upon people, but encouraging them to create greatness for themselves? Saying to them—”You can do this, and I’m right here beside you”?
I just have to take a moment to acknowledge how absolutely lucky I am to have such an incredible father in my life. He doesn’t just love me, but encourages me and believes in me too.
Can you be that for someone today?
Can you be that for yourself?
As my dad would say:
“What are you doing to make today wonderful?”
1. Check the weather
2. Note the rain
3. Actually listen
4. Wear the appropriate shoes
5. Avoid regret
Today my poetry professor walked into class and said,
“Remember how we talked about catcalling last class? On accident?”
We all nodded. Often times, we have a discussion in class that we didn’t plan on having and it’s really interesting. It stems out of what we write, or what we read.
“Well I said what I thought I had to say. But then I got in the car to go on a trip this weekend, and I was thinking about it the whole way, and I couldn’t stop talking to myself. I was just thinking: Why didn’t I say this then?”
We all laughed and clapped in agreement. She told us the rest of her thoughts, and we all marveled at what she said.
This happens more times than not. The conversation ends and we move on, thinking of all the things we could have said and would have said and should have said. We think it’s over, so we silence our voices.
But today, my professor taught me a valuable lesson.
It’s not over until you say it’s over.
If you have more to add, add it. If you didn’t mean it, take it back. If you have something to say, speak up. If you think something is wrong, say it. If you think something is right, praise it.
It doesn’t matter how much time has passed. Sooner is better than later—but it’s never too late.
All it takes is saying: “Hey. Remember that one time? Well I was thinking about it, and this is what I really have to say.”
Silencing what we mean and how we feel happens in everyday conversations, in every setting. In the classroom, in our workplace, at home, with friends. We often don’t think about what we really want to say until afterwards; we’re only human. We need time to process. And as individuals, we have to take the time that we need.
Here’s the catch.
Even when we feel like it’s too late, it never is.
It’s only too late if you never say it.
Whether we’re sorry, whether we’re not sorry, whether we’re mad or angry or happy or baffled or insightful.
It’s not over until nothing comes out.