Birthday Gratitude

“If the only prayer you said was thank you, that would be enough.” -Meister Eckhart

I planned on not posting anything until I get settled in to Nashville, but I wrote this for myself this morning and decided that it would be nice to share some simple gratitude on my birthday:

To the Universe – A Thank You

Thank you for all that you are.

Thank you for teaching me who I am and what I believe and value.

Thank you for showing me how to love.

Thank you for always growing and evolving, and inspiring me to grow and evolve along with you.

Thank you for helping me to believe I am a small but irreplaceable piece of something wonderful.

For My Dad

One father is more than a hundred schoolmasters. – George Herbert
photo (1)

I grew up believing that life was like a PG movie and that the worst thing that ever happened to anyone was when Josh tried to get rid of Buddy in Air Bud:

I grew up thinking that all adults, and especially parents, were perfect.  One day, when I became an adult, I would magically become perfect, just like my parents; that is how the world worked.  Everything in the world fit in a tidy little box.  We went to Catholic church every Sunday and I was always surrounded by “well-to-do” people with “respectable” marriages and “respectable” households and “respectable” jobs.  Anything that wasn’t “respectable” was hidden from my sight; bad things were explained to me, but I never actually saw them for myself.  Of course I was aware that bad things happened in life (I got a brief glimpse of homelessness when we did service hours for my Catholic school), but those things seemed so far away.  They almost seemed as if they were in another world entirely.

Of course, I eventually started seeing the world for what it is: messy.  Beautiful, but incredibly messy.  Quite near the polar opposite of all the PG movies that had painted my world.

I eventually learned that some parents have kids they never really wanted in the first place and so they don’t invest much time or love in their kids’ development.  Some parents care a ton, but have to work three jobs to provide food and clothing and shelter for their children.  Some parents are addicted to substances or even emotions, like anger, and no matter how hard they try can’t seem to break free of their habits.  Some parents can’t make their marriages work and have to embark on the complicated lifestyle of joint custody.  Some parents get cancer and don’t get to see their kids grow up.  

When I finally figured all of this out, my world shattered.  Nothing fit in the box that I thought it did.  Where did that leave these kids who suffered disadvantages?  What did I do to deserve my charmed life?  Nothing, it would seem.  I wanted everything to go back in the box.  At this point (and I admit I still suffer from this some), I would have preferred to reverse time back to the beginning and just float as energy, with all of the other energy, content in our little blob where everything was the same.  Where there was no race or sex or religion to separate us – no bodies that would eventually fail and no limited resources to fight over.  Before The Big Bang catapulted us forward in time to struggle with problems like war and famine and disease.

This deep-rooted tendency to believe that perfection was the way of the world seeped through into my development as an adult.  At some point, I started realizing I was very different from my parents.  Worse, I realized neither I nor my parents was perfect.  I felt wrought with guilt on a regular basis and hated that I viewed the world differently than they did.  My senior year of high school, I willingly admitted to my parents that I drank alcohol (seriously, who does that?) because I felt so guilty that I was lying to them.

Yesterday was Fathers’ Day, and so I want to tell my dad that I know I’m not perfect, he’s not perfect, and we have a boatload of differences.  But that’s the point.  I get to learn from him, he gets to learn from me, and we get to experience each others’  love while we are learning.

Dear Dad,

You were born second of eight children in a house that is probably smaller than my apartment now.  I was born an only child in a four bedroom home situated in a wealthy area of town.

You had to show up to the dinner table early to make sure you got enough food when you were growing up.  I grew up in a home where you and mom saved enough money for her to quit her job when I was seven and thus make us incredible home-cooked meals every night.

You got D’s and F’s in elementary school (which you always told me stood for “Dandy” and Fantastic”).  I wasn’t satisfied if I got anything less than an A.

You worked every summer growing up (from corralling turkeys on a turkey farm to cleaning pig sties).  I played travel softball during summers.

You joined the Navy when you graduated to put yourself through college; You got to see the world on your ship, but you worked hard while you were doing it.  You and mom helped pay for me to go to South Africa my sophomore year of college so that I could see the world.

It’s funny how you raised me, yet we come from completely different places.  My deeply liberal mind gets incredibly frustrated with your rather conservative thought process, and this frustration tends to manifest itself in dinner conversation.  I can’t even begin to fathom how you don’t really enjoy drinking alcohol.  I curse once every five sentences and you and mom enjoy entertainment from The Hallmark Channel.  I know you don’t love it when I tell you I am sleeping at my boyfriend’s apartment.  Sometimes I get frustrated when you get anxious driving in the car, because I know that I reflect those anxious tendencies and I hate that part of myself.  But I’m slowly figuring out that none of that matters.

What matters is that I know that at the end of the day, we would do anything for each other.  You would spend half of your Fathers’ Day helping me load a moving truck and later put up a Facebook post about how you “Had a great day (really did) helping load the truck to begin Erin’s move to Nashville.”  What matters is that you are a great man who loves me and you taught me to be a good woman.

I’ve been searching for something for a long time that allows me to really, truly relate to you (other than the love a father and daughter share).  I finally found it.  You are a beautiful writer – the family historian and my own personal poet when I was younger.  I have finally found a passion in writing and I am so excited to share that with you.  Thank you for always loving me, and thank you for passing along that passion.  You always told me silly stories and wrote silly poems when I was younger, but you finished your Facebook post yesterday with the silliest sentence you have ever written: “I just hope I can remain as relevant on future Father Days.”  HA.  You bet your [expletive] you will, and I would never have it any other way.


This Week’s Highs 

1. Having a close friend who  I can talk to about anything (thank you CL)

2. Frolicking all afternoon on Saturday at the Atlanta Summer Beer Festival

photo-4

3. Getting my furniture all packed up and sent off to Nashville (with the help of my parents and a wonderful friend)

4. The fact that this guy was born 24 years agophoto-2

5. Of course, spending Fathers’ Day with my parents

This Week’s Lows

1. Can’t find my passport.  I leave for Europe in ten days.  This is one of my all-time, “I’m an idiot”, lows.

2. My room looking like this:

photo-3

It is a poor choice to move your furniture before you move the things that were contained in your furniture.

“Forever Friends”

“The purpose of a relationship is to decide what part of yourself you’d like to see “show up,” not what part of another you can capture and hold.” –Conversations with God by Neale Donald Walsch


 

IMG_6319

She won’t even know what she did until she reads this, but my best friend made all the difference in my weekend.  She didn’t even really know how down I was feeling and she inadvertently picked me up with a simple sentence.  So simple, in fact, that even as she reads this she won’t know what exactly it was that she said to make me feel better.  That’s the power a best friend has – he or she is someone you are so comfortable with and who’s opinion you value so much that even the slightest interaction with them can lighten your mood and make the world around you seem brighter.  I have a few friends that I am certain will be “forever friends”, in that no matter how far apart life takes us, the sense of closeness I feel towards them will never diminish.  A forever friend takes on many roles in your life, from support system to stand-up comedian to cheerleader to reality checker.  The most important role, however, is that a forever friend shapes who you are.

I always enjoy reading blogs and articles that are set up as lists because they accommodate my short attention span, so here are ten defining characteristics of a forever friend, exemplified by the lovely lady pictured above:

1. We try new things together.  Some of those things (like McCormicks Vodka) suck really really suck.  Together, we experience them, learn that they suck, and they become part of our past.  Some of these things (like spending time with our friends at the lake) are wonderful.  Together, we experience them, learn that we enjoy them, and work to keep these experiences as part of our present and future.

2. We go on adventures:  Big ones that take us thousands of miles from our home to places like California and Nicaragua, and little ones around Atlanta that start with drinking beer at noon and end God-knows-where.  No matter what we’re doing, we have fun, and we always look good doing it (see photographic evidence from my family trip to San Francisco below): photo (18)

3. Her family is my family and my family is her family.  We have both experienced each other’s family vacations.  I couldn’t replace the closeness I feel to her mom, grandma, and sister.  While I think my dad’s jokes are lame, she thinks they are funny.  One of my favorite examples of my relationship with her family is from my birthday last year.  Her dad is from Mexico and was having a World Cup viewing party for the Mexico game the day of my birthday.  Somehow, this party evolved into a birthday party for me, where I got to celebrate with both of our families and experience Mexican traditions such as having my face smashed into my birthday cake (thankfully I got my revenge)…
photo (16)

4. I respect her more than just about anyone and I strive to be more like her.  I have never witnessed anyone act as selflessly as her.  I’m not using that statement as hyperbole to make a point, I mean I have literally never seen anyone I know act as selflessly on a regular basis as she does.  A small example: she didn’t have a car for months because her uncle needed hers, and I didn’t hear her complain once.  She was perfectly fine giving up the freedom her car provided her because it made her family better off.  When I start to feel like I am being a less than ideal daughter, I think to myself, “WWCD?” and try to act accordingly.

5. I never feel jealous of her.  How many times have you heard “If I have to see one more set of engagement photos on my news-feed, I swear I’m deleting Facebook”?  It’s hard to avoid those feelings when you are bombarded with other people’s extravagant flowers from their boyfriends on a regular basis (“Omg, isn’t he the BEST?  Feeling #blessed to have the most adoring boyfriend in the world”), when maybe you just got in a dumb argument with your own significant other.   With her, it’s completely different.  If she was President of the United States and married to Brad Pitt and I only had cats for friends, I wouldn’t be jealous in the slightest.  I would believe with every ounce of my being that she deserved her happiness, and that would be all that mattered.

6. She gives me purpose.  I’m excited when I experience struggles that she can learn from.  I went through a major breakup a month before she did and I got to share all of my tips for staying sane during those first few months.  Much of this advice consisted of “Here are the things I did that made my life worse – don’t follow suit” tips.  It made me feel like my suffering had a purpose and I found peace with the situation by sharing my quasi-wisdom with her.

7. We understand each other’s darkest moments.  She knows when I’m going through hard times and she loves me anyways, and vice-versa.  I’ve never struggled with something and not shared it with her.

8. We have the same taste in people.  She has introduced me to so many people that I love and respect and one of my best friends is someone I met through her.  I know I can introduce her to any of my friends and they will get along great.

9. We are equally weird and not embarrassed about it in the slightest.  There are not many people I can sprint down Peachtree Street in the rain with (while wearing a dress and carrying a bouquet of roses) because we are late to our friend’s play and not feel an ounce of embarrassment in regards to what the people in the cars passing by are thinking.

10. We grow together.  This one is my favorite.

It has always weirded me out that one day, most or all of my close friends will get married.  And when that happens, I won’t see them as much.  At some point, if I can ever get my emotions under control, I will get married too.  We will have kids and careers that will take over our lives.  Our paths will diverge.  Hopefully, I will stay in touch with the important ones.  Hopefully, instead of pointing out my old friends in my high school yearbook and saying, “That’s Alisa, she was one of my closest friends and now she and her brother run a nationally acclaimed brewery together” to my children, I will be able to say, “Oh there’s a picture of your Auntie Alisa, the one who’s brother makes the beer Mommy likes so much.  Remember how much fun you had playing with her kids?”.  That’s the dream, but I know that isn’t what will happen with all of my friends.  With that in mind, it feels a bit uncomfortable to me to invest so many emotions and so much time in friends that will eventually fade from my life.  Having this thought in the back of my mind adds a heightened level of stress when I am in a serious relationship:  How much time am I supposed to devote to my boyfriend?  How much time am I supposed to devote to my friends?  How much time am I supposed to devote to myself?

That’s where the quote I kicked off this post with comes in.  The point of becoming close with friends isn’t to keep them in your lives forever.  The point of becoming close with the people around you is that you shape each other.  You share experiences and memories and catapult each other towards the future in the best possible way.  Claudia has been a huge part of me becoming me.  She has set the bar high for my relationship with my future husband and helped me figure out what parts of me I want to “show up” in my relationship now.  I’ll never be able to thank her enough, but hopefully this post has given her a good idea of what she means to me.    photo (1)

Who are your forever friends?  How have they shaped you?


This Week’s Highs

1. Another weekend at Benj’s lakehouse with some long-time friends

2015061395143549

This Week’s Lows

1. Moving: it’s still hanging over my head and I’m still freaking out about it.

2. Becoming ridiculously repetitive about how freaked out I am about moving

 

“Oh S#!$” Moments, or, Learning Through Experience

“Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.” -Winston Churchill

Sometimes, life just feels like a huge mess.

There may be times when you don’t feel “good enough” and you feel as though you’re 10 steps behind everyone else.

There may be times when you are suffering through health problems, relationship mishaps, or financial struggles and you won’t know which way is up.

There may be times when you are dealing with a death or a breakup or some other kind of loss and you won’t be sure how to pick up the pieces.

I have been navigating a messy state of being over the course of the past two weeks, and it’s come in the form of, “Oh S#!$, I’m right back where I started and I am drowning in negativity, someone get me out of this mess (or at least throw me a lifeline please?)”.  Habits don’t break quickly, much to my dismay.

I haven’t taken much time to myself in the past few weeks.  I’m trying to get my life in order before I go back to school while simultaneously trying to maximize the time I spend with the people I care about before I leave.  I’ve been spending almost all of my time attending to these two goals, and apparently the auto-pilot function I hoped would control my normal life activities is broken (see This Week’s Lows).

I’ve been reading a book called “Conversations with God”.  I won’t dive too deep into it, but my main take away so far has been centered around the idea of relativity, which I’ve mentioned before in one of my posts: you can’t understand “good” without understanding “bad”.  And to really understand “good” and “bad”, you have to experience “good” and “bad” for yourself.  Further, everything we experience in life is rooted in two polar opposites: love and fear.  Fear exists so that we can completely understand love.

Over the past few weeks, feelings rooted in fear have been cropping up in every aspect of my life.  Fear that I’m not a good enough friend, a good enough daughter, a good enough girlfriend, a good enough co-worker, a good enough me.  So what can I do?

First, I can appreciate my experiences and know that they are the only way to get from Point A (insecure and dependent) to Point B (confident and independent).  People can tell me “It does not serve you to let your insecurities control you” a million times over, but until I experience the negative feelings and consequences of allowing my insecurities to control me, I won’t really understand that it’s a bad thing or have the motivation to change.  This applies to any aspect of your mindset, habits, or personality that does not serve you: in order to instigate change, it takes both knowing intellectually that you want to change and experiencing the negative consequences related to what you want to change.  When is it easier to give up fried food?  When you are simply told time and time again that it is bad for you, or after you’ve had a heart attack?

Second, I can instigate change based on what I am learning.  So what have I learned this week?  I need to take more time for myself to decompress.  This week’s post is shorter than my previous posts (and also unedited – please forgive typos) for a reason.

I’m learning to act out of love instead of fear.  The going is slower than I would prefer, but I trust that I will get there eventually.  That faith will be the source of my enthusiasm and lightheartedness, failure after failure.


This Week’s Highs

1. Enjoying two girls’ nights and a best friend date

photo (15)

photo (14)

2. Enjoying two family dinners

3. Spending some time with one of my cousins cousblings (cousins for only children who wish they had siblings)

4. Sunday brunch

5. Meditating

 This Week’s Lows

1. Friday, aka the day that I lost my house key, was late to a doctor’s appointment, left my water bottle at the doctor, said a number of really stupid things, experienced a lot of hip pain, was asked multiple times by my boyfriend if I was miserable at his family dinner (not sure what was wrong with the way I was holding my face but I was actually having a lovely time), and to top it all off, almost accidentally completely blew off my best friend

 

The Right Fit, or, Why I Didn’t Choose Stanford

“Being the richest man in the cemetery doesn’t matter to me.  Going to bed at night saying we’ve done something wonderful… that’s what matters to me.” -Steve Jobs

I would like to preface this post by stating that I was rejected from 10 of the 13 economics PhD programs I applied to, including my “safety school”.  I feel that fun fact is necessary to offset that “humble brag” feel that comes along with this topic.  Yes, I was accepted to Stanford Law.  But, I also have enough rejection letters with my name typed across the top to cover my entire refrigerator.

Stanford is tied with Harvard for 2nd place among law schools based on the US World and News Report.  I was also accepted to the #6, #7, #8, and #12 ranked schools on this list.  Vanderbilt, where I will be going, is ranked 17th, the lowest of all the schools I applied to.  Based on this fact alone, it might seem odd that I chose Vanderbilt.  So why did I choose it?  Because it’s what I believe is right for me.  Why?  A laundry list of reasons (the curriculum matches well with my interests, I mesh very well with the people there, and I want to be debt free, etc), but that is not the purpose of this post.  What is important is that I chose the option I believe will allow me to thrive.

There are two issues that I encountered in making this decision:

1.  It’s impossible to predict the future and account for all of the factors that might make one school a better option than another.  I have no way of knowing how the next few years of my life will unfold.  I can make educated guesses as to what I want in a program, but since I have never experienced being in law school or a PhD program, I cannot definitively say what would be best from a number of options.  When I’m purchasing ice cream, I know my favorite is Graeter’s Black Raspberry Chocolate Chip because I have had many different kinds of ice cream and through my own experiences, I know that I think it’s the tastiest.  Buying ice cream is something I can do multiple times and get immediate feedback: either I think it’s delicious or it’s kind of yucky (anything with coconut or peanuts falls into this category IMO).  In situations like these, I am able to quickly and easily learn through multiple trials what is a good decision and what is a bad decision*.  In contrast, choosing a graduate program is something I (hopefully) will only do once and I won’t ever know what might have happened if I had chosen an alternative.  I have no experience to rely on and I will get no definitive feedback.  Due to the characteristics of this decision, I have to boil my decision making down into simpler terms.  Things like rankings act as a heuristic to help make difficult decisions such as these.

2. There’s no simple quantitative measure for your level of life satisfaction.  There are, however, quantitative measures for other things: salary (a $100,000 salary is better than a $50,000 salary), rankings (2nd is higher than 17th), job titles on the corporate ladder (CEO > Head of the Americas Division > Head of the Atlanta Office > Consultant > Analyst).  We get awards for being the best at something, but there’s no tangible award for feeling the most fulfilled, and there’s no way to know how we are measuring up in terms of our happiness.   My LinkedIn profile says “Terry College Student of the Year Finalist”, not “Really enjoyed college and did her best to be a great friend”.  It’s difficult to make logical decisions about trade offs when one option comes with a tangible measure of your success and the other comes with the fluffy, non-quantifiable idea that it might make you happier or less stressed or generally, a better version of yourself.

I spent a lot of time stressing about what other people would think if I passed up higher ranked schools.  I eventually realized that it is my decision alone and that I need to own it.  Maybe I’ve made the “wrong” decision, but my intuition tells me that I haven’t.  To be honest, I was incredibly fortunate and didn’t really have a bad option, so I’m not going to spend a single second wondering what might have been had I chosen Stanford.  I went with my gut and I believe I chose the option that will help me become the best version of myself.

Next time you are making a big decision, remember the two points I mentioned above.  We are not robots and therefore are not wired to take hundreds of factors into account and output the best decision; you can’t predict the future, so it is a waste of energy to stress about making the ideal decision.  More importantly, sometimes you have to toss aside society’s measures of success.  It’s more valuable to society and to your own well-being if you are able to identify what is important to you and make decisions that align with those values.

*I derived this example from one of my favorite books, Nudge, by Cass Sunstein and Richard Thaler.


This Week’s Highs 

1. Spending all day Saturday enjoying music and drinking beer with these fun friends: 11393326_2631556824222_3854372443042749946_o

2. Signing up for ClassPass and absolutely loving it

3. Eating enough for the entire weekend at the Atlanta Food and Wine Festival on Sunday (Thank you for the tickets BB!)

4. Enjoying dinner and game night with my parents and Benj – As you can imagine, I’m ecstatic that they get along well.

5. Finalizing all the plans for my Europe trip in July (I feel like I should have earned the title of travel agent in the last three weeks)

This Week’s Lows

1. Being absolutely exhausted all week and therefore still struggling with feeling anxious (sigh)

2. Getting in the world’s dumbest drunk argument (via the worst possible medium for drunk arguments – text message)

Who am I? Who are You?

“He who knows others is wise; he who knows himself is enlightened.” -Laozi

My therapist says I am a pleaser. I have come to understand this as a negative thing and definitely a piece of my personality that I am happy to leave in the past.  For me, it means that I lack assertiveness and I tend to morph my personality into what the people around me want.  For example, I once paid $300 for a ticket to go to the SEC championship football game with an ex-boyfriend.  At the time, I honestly believed I was willing to pay this absurd amount of money (especially absurd as I was still in college at the time) because I just loved UGA football so much.  As it turns out, I was lying to myself.  The football season after we broke up, I didn’t buy a ticket to a single game and was ecstatic to instead enjoy mimosas at a bar (the air-conditioning was heavenly compared to the heat of the stadium), where I would pay attention to approximately 25% of the game*.  I now understand that, to an extent, I enjoyed the things that he enjoyed simply because it was easy and comfortable to take on someone else’s interests.  I wanted to be in a stable relationship more than I wanted to express my own personality.  This has been a central theme my whole life; I want to please the people around me rather than proclaim certain things about my views and interests that might make someone not like me (gasp – the horror!).  I was just your friendly, lovable mirror; my subconscious screamed to anyone I met, “What do you enjoy?  I’ll reflect it all back for you as long as you promise to like me.”

*Disclaimer: I still love the Dawgs, I just love the Dawgs at a much lower price point and with a much lower attention span than I once believed.

Knowing my struggles, my therapist suggested that I write down what I believe defines me so that I can grow in self-love and generally gain a sense of self.  I’ve broken it down into three aspects: Who am I?  What do I believe?  What do I love?  While this is very personal and very much something that will benefit me, I am writing it here rather than in my journal for two groups of people.  For anyone reading this, I hope it prompts you to develop an understanding of what defines you.  Beyond that, this is selfishly for anyone who knows me well and cares for me – If you sense a hint of me reverting back to my old ways and not owning my personality, you have permission to yell at me.

I am, I believe, I love

baby pictureFirst and foremost, I am an intellectual to my core (see right) and I question everything.  While this wasn’t considered cool when I was in middle school, I like to think it’s pretty cool now.  Reading or studying with an alcoholic or caffeinated beverage in hand is my personal heaven.  I can vividly picture my future self sipping a (large) glass of red wine on my porch grading my students’ papers while the sun sets.

am a perfectionist turned overachiever turned achiever.  I used to consider 98th percentile in anything academic “not good enough”.  Now I am happy with anything if I am using my talents to add value to society (maybe while earning a little bit of praise along the way – I suppose you can’t change everything).

I am a paradox in that I am extremely empathetic and extremely competitive.

I am an only child, for better or worse.

I am transparent and an extrovert.  This means that I will be happy to disclose any and all of my life story to a stranger on the street if I think it will benefit them.  This also means that I would make the world’s worst CIA employee.

I am a manager of risks, viewing the world through a lens of risks, rewards, and statistics – I will shamelessly morph into a mother and make you put your seat belt on if we are in the car together.

I am a health enthusiast – eating healthy and exercising are two of my greatest passions.

am fun to be around.  I enjoy social events and love relating to and connecting with other people.


I believe that life is a positive feedback loop; positivity breeds positivity and negativity breeds negativity.

I believe in simplicity and efficiency; I don’t ever want to make anything more difficult than necessary and I am happiest when my life is void of clutter.

I believe in creating value and that value exists in everyone.

I believe we are all connected.

I believe in a higher power, but I believe the odds are very low that any religion created by man has come close to understanding the true nature of that higher power.

I believe that I will find the purest form of joy by giving to the world everything that I have to offer.


I love deep conversations.  If my life could just be one long deep conversation, I’d be pretty content.

I love music – taking in live music is my favorite activity and driving with the windows down and music loud is one of the best ways for me to relax.

love giving advice/cheering people up/making people laugh.

love reading about economics and psychology and sociology and philosophy and mathematics.  I have also recently discovered that I love writing.

I love being outdoors and staying active.

I love being warm, regardless of the source (baths, fuzzy blankets, sunshine, and cuddling are some of my personal favorites).

love wine and beer and coffee.

Most of all, I love people, but I especially love those people who understand me and help me grow.

I used to always really relate to the line “Think of me what you will, I’ve got a little space to fill” from Tom Petty’s You Don’t Know How It Feels.  I tended to feel that I wasn’t fulfilled, and I looked to the people around me to fill me up.  The song came on when I was driving back from the lake yesterday and, for the first time, I don’t feel like I have any space to fill – I feel filled up all on my own.

Who are you?  What do you believe?  What do you love?  


This Week’s Highs 

photo (5)1. Sitting in the Suntrust Club at Turner Field with one of my most adventurous friends (aka the fanciest I have ever felt while wearing jean shorts)

2. Celebrating the birthday of the best roommate I could ask for

3.Reuniting with some great friends on Friday for some pizza, beer, and basketball

photo (4)

 

4. Learning that one of my close friends from high school got engaged this weekend (Congrats MK!)

5. Enjoying a three day weekend filled with hiking, wine tasting, live music, relaxing at the lake, and great people

 

This Week’s Lows

1. Erin and Benj v. Cockroach**:

In summary, a giant cockroach fell on me in the shower.  My boyfriend attempted to kill it and managed to drop it on my leg when he was trying to transfer if to the toilet.  He then heroically stuck his head under the running water, while fully clothed, to capture the cockroach again.

2. Giving into some anxiety on Friday for a few painful hours

3. Accidentally walking away from the cashier without paying for my lunch today (chalk it up to sleep deprivation – the four cups of coffee I drank yesterday did not serve me well at 2 am last night when I was trying to sleep)

 **This is actually the third installment of this adventure, after Erin and Sarah v. Cockroach and Erin and Melissa v. Cockroach.  The next chapter of this adventure will be My Apartment Complex’s Pest Control v. Cockroach.

Practical Perspective

“A human being is part of the whole called by us universe, a part limited in time and space. We experience ourselves, our thoughts and feelings as something separate from the rest. A kind of optical delusion of consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from the prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.” -Albert Einstein

I toyed with the idea of titling this post “I’m Paying $155 per hour for Therapy* so that you don’t have to”.  Besides the fact that it would have been entirely too long of a title, it also does not match the tone of my post today.  I had to share it anyways, because I suppose it takes a certain level of carefree humor to find the courage to announce to anyone who stumbles across this blog that I am seeing a therapist.

I have to begin with last Tuesday, when I cried for approximately 80% of my therapy session (don’t worry – I’m a-ok, just prone to tears).  We talked about everything from religion to my perfectionist tendencies to my drinking.  I suppose it wasn’t too different from most of the sessions I’ve gone to, but nonetheless, a never-before-seen amount of tears cropped up.  I think it’s because I have reached a point where I have realized that I have to actually let go of a lot of who I was in the past to achieve the emotional stability and independence I am striving for.  Chipping away pieces of your personality, while completely beneficial in my situation, is terrifying and causes you to lose a sense of your own reality.  I’m in the process of figuring out what parts I can hold on to and what parts I need to send on their way with a wave and a good cry.  This brings me to where I landed this week regarding how I experience the ups and downs in my life.

There are things in this life that are going to make my soul sing with joy.  There are other things in this life that are going to make me feel frustrated, exhaust me, and toss me into a state of suffering.

My reality is based entirely on my perception of the world around me.  I have felt everything deeply my whole life, and for that reason I have been reluctant to give up feeling pain so deeply.  It would make sense to believe that one who feels deeply in one extreme must therefore also feel deeply in the other extreme, and I do not want to give up feeling the joy or the empathy or the sense of meaning in order to forgo the pain.

It has been suggested to me that I might benefit from anxiety medication, but I have avoided it for that exact reason.  I am scared that it would flat-line my emotions and I would permanently give up a part of who I am.  I am a lover of logic, and must have a reasoned explanation of anything I undertake in my life.  And this week, amidst my timidity and confusion, I finally got to the point where I can reason my way into an acceptable (much needed) solution for my feelings of pain, insecurity, and anxiety.

I have been halfway to this point for a while.  Within the past few years, I came to a strong belief that pain has the purpose in life of providing a contrast to the joy, just as our mistakes have the purpose of helping us grow.  We understand things through contrast: we wouldn’t really understand what “hot” feels like without understanding “cold”, just as feeling connected wouldn’t have any meaning without feeling loneliness.  We conceptualize our happiness through our understanding and experience of our own unhappiness; your perception of what a 10 feels like on the happiness scale depends completely on what you have experienced as a 1.

Still, understanding this did not make feeling pain much easier.  It helped bring me away from the feeling of being fully consumed by any unhappiness I stumbled upon each week, but it did not provide me with the ability to live very effectively through any unhappiness I experienced.  But here I am, finally with a a strategy (an “Aha!” moment, if you will):

When experiencing joys and pleasures in my life, I will view them in the light that they have a deep meaning and I will let them encompass my entire soul in the moment.  I will feel significant and present in these moments.

When I am confronted with pain, I will begin by viewing my suffering as existing in order to help me more fully appreciate the moments of my joy.  But, I will take it a step further and I will take my moments of pain and view them through the lens of my insignificance in the overall realm of time and space.  Carl Haub estimated in 2011 that 107 billion humans have lived on the earth.  I constitute a total of 1 human.  The earth has existed for approximately 4.5 billion years.  Hopefully I will live 100 (or 86, according to a palm reader in New Orleans).  The universe might be infinite, as far as anyone can prove.  These are perception altering facts, for better or for worse.  I am going to choose to take these concepts and embrace them in the best manner possible, by latching on to them when I am suffering.  If in reality, my pain is the smallest blip imaginable in relation to overall existence, certainly I can train myself to experience it as minimal and simply an unavoidable part of my existence.

There is a small part of me that feels as if adopting this strategy is akin to tricking myself; I’m using two completely different lenses to view certain things in the way that I want to view them, simply because it will benefit me.  But if my reality is really all about my perception of the world around me, I see no reason not to adopt this strategy.  I guess at the end of the day, all this realization boils down to is a more thorough explanation of the saying “put things in perspective”.  But my brain is like one really complicated math problem, so any further available clarity on what I already know is very helpful.  I hope this reasoning strikes a chord with and provides some guidance for someone reading this.

*Can I call it life coaching so that it sounds less taboo?


 

 This Week’s Highs

1. Stumbling across $1 Skyline Seats with some long-time friends at the Braves game on Wednesday. Also, having my first BBQ sandwich in a year (I told the woman at the checkout that I was going to enjoy the sandwich infinitely more than any of her customers).

photo (1)

2. Taking risks (nothing ventured, nothing gained) and allowing myself to be vulnerable; This one is paying off tenfold.

3. Listening to music, reading, and sipping on a glass of red wine

4. Enjoying some flowers on my night stand

5. Sunshine and good company in the form of a trip to the lake and an afternoon at the pool

 This Week’s Lows

 1.  There were plenty, but I am running late to a comedy show at the Sweetwater Brewery* so I will not list them (but trust me, there were plenty)

*My therapist who reads this will be glad to know I’m doing great with the drinking thing… just kidding, I’m only having one beer so that I can drive 🙂

Nothing Ventured, Nothing Gained

“If you dare nothing, then when the day is over, nothing is all you will have gained.” -Neil Gaiman

On Wednesday, a few hours before I started writing this, I was on the verge of what could have been a panic attack.  I’ve only had a few mild panic attacks in my life and, for a reference point and comedy’s sake, I will tell the story of my most recent.

My junior year in college, I was an economics tutor at a company where I taught exam reviews to UGA students taking introductory economics courses.  We had our sorority’s formal the Friday night before one of my reviews and I stayed out until the bars closed (blame my non-fully developed brain).  I still had some work to do on my review packet the next morning before my review in the afternoon, so I woke up and took an energy shot to help me finish my prep work.  When I got to the office, I told my boss I was still tired and she suggested that I take another energy drink while I finished up my preparation.  As one might imagine, this was not a good idea.  I was probably 115 lbs at the time, hungover and dehydrated as all get out, and not used to drinking much caffeine.  I have a vivid memory of staring at my review packet ten minutes later and thinking, “Wait, is the demand curve supposed to slope down?  Did I draw the demand curve wrong?  I think it slopes up!  No… it slopes down.  I don’t know which way the demand curve slopes.  I am SO SCREWED.”  For those who didn’t take or don’t remember introductory econ, it slopes down and this is one of the most basic facts of economics.  And then my mind went completely blank.  And then I started bawling and breathing erratically.  Thank goodness I had the two nicest bosses in the world, one of whom sent me home and handled my review for me and another who called me an hour later to tell me she had googled caffeine-induced anxiety and that I shouldn’t worry at all.

So, back to Wednesday.  I was kind of starting to feel the same way.  I’m moving in late July and I had plans to see a house and sign a lease in Nashville over the weekend (cue the champagne!).  It just so happens that I had to miss out on a number of fun activities with friends in Atlanta to go do this.  And this was the tipping point for it to finally hit me: in three short months, I am leaving my home.  I am leaving the 90% of my friends who still live here.  I am leaving my parents.  I am leaving my career.  Everything is going to change.  And all of a sudden, I felt like I didn’t know anything at all.  It was so much worse than not knowing which way the demand curve sloped; it was a feeling of disconnect between my past and future selves and not knowing how to bridge the gap between the two.

How I worked my way out of this almost panic attack is a story for another blog post (it involved some Hot Yoga and reading).  But, these feelings made me certain that this week is the week to write about loss aversion and the endowment effect– equally as much for my own sake as for anyone else who is reading this.

I came across these two concepts about a year ago in Daniel Kahneman’s book Thinking, Fast and Slow.  They struck me as so important that I actually have them written on a post-it note stuck to the bottom of my work computer, so that I can remember the effect that they might have on my decisions every day if I do not take them into account.

photo (9)

 

Loss Aversion – the tendency to overvalue losses and undervalue gains

Endowment Effect – the tendency to assign a higher value to something we possess, simply because we own it

In the book, Kahneman offers an example of the endowment effect that many of us can relate to:  Suppose you were very proactive and bought a ticket to your favorite sports team’s playoff game or your favorite band’s concert right when the event went on sale.  You were willing to pay up to around $100 for this ticket, but it was selling for $80 and you got the ticket just before the event sold out.  A week later, you find out that tickets are selling for up to $300 on Stubhub for this event.  Do you sell your ticket?  Most people wouldn’t, which contradicts traditional economic theory.  From the vantage point of losing the ticket, the ticket is worth at least $300 to you.  From the vantage point of gaining the ticket, you perceived the ticket as only worth about $100.  Once you own the ticket, your reference point has changed and you value it more simply because it’s yours.  

While the research in the book is presented in terms of economic decisions, I believe that both of these concepts also apply to invaluable decisions that we make in our lives.  We do not maximize our utility (or as I think of it, our happiness), when are are acting in a loss averse manner.  We want to avoid losing anything that makes us comfortable, even if it is not what is best for us.  How painful is it to accept that a friendship you once considered important has faded because you have both grown in different directions?  How many times have you seen a friend unwilling to walk away from a relationship even though both parties appear unhappy the majority of the time?  Anytime we decide that we want to try something new, we give something up.  That is the nature of constraint, whether it is due to time, money, distance, or something more intangible.  And unfortunately, we are wired to focus on what we are giving up.  I’m about to pursue the first goal I have ever truly been passionate about, and I am still getting very caught up in worrying about what I am leaving behind.  It is vital to value our potential gains honestly and not let the corresponding losses overpower us.

So, it’s with that nugget of logic that I can hopefully overcome the fear I am experiencing.  I don’t know what my life will look like in Nashville, but I will trust that I can stumble my way through growing into myself when I get there; the opportunity that awaits me is worth what I am giving up.*

My grandma lives with my parents in Atlanta for about eight months out of the year.  She recently left to spend the summer in Minnesota, so unless she decides to change things up and make Nashville her home, we will probably never live in the same city again.  We had a farewell brunch for her, and as she was leaving her to me goodbye ended with, “Have all of the adventures”.  Any advice from her seems pretty well founded, given her 92 years of life experience.  So I promise, Grandma Ethel, I will have all of the adventures and I will do my absolute best to approach them with a sense of excitement and lightheartedness.

*As long as everyone I care about in Atlanta visits me once a month  every few months


This Week’s Highs

photo1. Gallivanting around Nasvhille as a 3rd, 5th, and 7th wheel and being 100% fine with it

2. Signing a lease and starting a new adventure with a great friend (cue the champagne, turned into cue the bottomless mimosas)

3. Officially ending my year as a pescetarian (vegetarian who also eats fish) with the most delicious grilled chicken salad from True Foods last night

4. A Tuesday night deep talk over wine and a Thursday night deep talk over dinner with best friends

5. Wise friends who are already in graduate school and are willing to provide long pep talks/advice

This Week’s Lows

1. Losing my car in the parking deck at work… two days in a row

2. As would follow from this post, almost having a panic attack

3. Forgetting my laptop at home this morning, for approximately the 20th time in two years (no wonder there is a running joke between my coworkers that anyone who is having an inconvenient day is having “an Erin day”)

A Five Minute Case Against Road Rage

“Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one getting burned.” -Buddha

There are so many problems in the world that I cannot even begin fathoming how to solve.  Systematic discrimination?  Global warming?  Human trafficking?  These issues, and many others, are far beyond the scope of my comprehension.

That’s because conflicting interests and scarce resources force us to make difficult decisions from time to time: who’s it going to be, me or you?  Temptation and short shortsightedness cause us to screw our future selves over: people procrastinate, avoid exercising as if it were equivalent to torture, and cheat in relationships.  These are complicated issues that have no easy answer.

But, I do have a fool-proof solution to one problem, and it comes with no negative consequences whatsoever: your mood during your commute.  Road rage (n. anger and aggressive behavior by a driver who is upset by how another person is driving*) is pointless.  It only negatively impacts you.  Don’t have it.

Impossible, you say?  There are so many idiot drivers on the road who deserve my anger and frustration, you say?  Traffic is the absolute worst, you say?

Let me lay out a scenario for you.  Someone zooms by you and cuts off the long line of traffic you are sitting in.  Either:

A. This person feels justified in what he or she did

B. This person made a mistake (perhaps didn’t realize the lane he or she was in was a turn only lane)

Let’s start with scenario A.  This person is being an [expletive] and justifiably so, you react with anger.  You honk your horn, flip him the bird, and go on a tirade to yourself (take note: to yourself) about how terrible this person is.  First of all, unless you take this to the extreme and tail this person until you get to a red light so that you can hop out of your car and berate him, this person is never going to hear or see your reaction to his action.  Knowing that, now ponder how your angry reaction affects you and anyone else in the car with you (hint – it’s not good).  Even if this driver does catch a glimpse of your angry, red-faced rant in his rear-view mirror, he is going to assume it is because you are an irrational [expletive], not him.  That is the nature of humanity; we are only capable of judging situations from our own perspective.    By definition, this driver feels justified in what he did.  Your anger will not cause him to change his evil, line-cutting ways.  Some people drive like [expletives], and from their point of view, they are driving efficiently.  Unless you miraculously get the opportunity to sit down with him and logically explain why his driving is the worst (which probably wouldn’t even make a difference anyways), there is nothing you can do to change his driving habits.

Now, scenario B.  The person made a mistake.  Have you ever made a mistake while driving?  Case closed.  And a side note – if you happened to yell at/flip off/do anything beyond a light tap on your horn towards someone like me who has a full on fear of making anyone angry, you probably just made this person cry.  Congratulations.

Now that we have established that this is not a productive behavior while driving, how can we improve?  I know it’s not easy to break this habit.  So, I made a list of things that you can do instead to cope with one of the most poorly designed city in the US’s Atlanta’s traffic; all are far more productive than allowing yourself to descend into a blind rage at the cars around you:

1. Avoid driving during rush hour whenever possible (which, unfortunately, can mind-blowingly sometimes include 3 pm on a Sunday on the downtown connector)

In situations where that is unavoidable, try the following…

2. Listen to music (extra points if you belt out the words).  I made a “Windows Down” playlist that always makes me smile:

spotify:user:erinelizabethmeyers:playlist:2UPFPMowzAhcPVzPhufF9h

3. Listen to stand up comedy

4. Call someone you haven’t talked to in a while to catch up

5. Laugh at the people around you who are driving terribly and assume that karma will catch up to them

Most importantly, try this experiment:

6. The next time someone cuts you off in traffic, honk and then take a deep breath.  Let them know you think they were in the wrong, but don’t get worked up about it.  This person is not the spawn of Satan. They did not just murder your children.  They’re just another human being, trying to cope with the same traffic as you.

And for god’s sake, do not be the person who feels so entitled that you think you deserve to cut off an entire line of traffic.  If you are, don’t be surprised when you accidentally cut off your boss one day.

*Credit to Merriam-Webster online edition


 This Week’s Highs

1. Two nights of stand-up comedyphoto (3)

2. Lake days (which are, without doubt, the best days)

3. Marble slab ice-cream (cake batter ice-cream with brownies, twix, and chocate syrup in a waffle cone) – PSA: the invention of Froyo may have caused you to forgot how amazing real ice-cream is

4. Dinner with a close friend who I haven’t seen in a while (and somehow getting lucky with two glasses of wine on the house)

5. Picnics and walks in the park

This Week’s Lows

1. Learning that I have sciatica

2.  Having a friend ask, “Oh my gosh, Erin, do you have a drinking problem?  Is everything ok?” after she read last week’s blog, which immediately made me think “[Expletive].  Everyone who read that may think I’m an alcoholic.”  So, I would like to clarify – I do not have a drinking problem (although I suppose that depends on the eye of the beholder), but am trying to drink less due to high blood pressure and generally wanting to be healthier.

3. Finding out that what I have thought was “full proof” my entire life is actually “fool proof”, thanks to my friend who edited this post for me

“Woe is Me”: A Waste of Energy

“You don’t get any points in life for doing things the hard way.” -Tim Fargo

I went to the dentist on Thursday for my six month teeth cleaning (which, for the record, I go to every six months).  Other than running late, as per usual when it comes to appointments, I was in a pretty good, stress-free mood.  Dental appointments don’t bother me as much as they do some people.  This time was different.  This time my dentist took away all of the nice feelings I ever had about dentists and told me I needed nine fillings (karma for all the late appointment arrivals? perhaps).

In good news, this is a memorable shock to help me towards self-improvement.  I am at least confident that the next time I run out of floss, my solution will not be stop flossing, it will be buy more floss.  The bad news?  Even with dental insurance, this was going to run me $1,200 (that $2.99 floss is looking like an absolute steal right about now).   

One of the things I’ve been working on recently is to not let my emotions rule me so much.  I wavered pretty badly with this goal the moment I walked out with that quote in hand.  I immediately called my mom, fully prepared to whine about what terrible news this was.  She didn’t answer, so three minutes later I called again because in my mind I really needed to [expletive] about my misfortunes in that moment.  Again, she didn’t answer.  Thank God she didn’t answer; it gave me the ten minutes I needed to calm down on my own, without any outside influence.*

While I was driving down 400, the more I thought about it, the more I realized I could frame the situation in a not-so-negative light.  It’s not like I don’t have the money to get the dental work done.  In fact, this was a good opportunity to be grateful for the fact that I am one of the fortunate ones in this world who (barring some expensive medical catastrophe) can pay for any health issue that comes along without having to take out loans or worry about my financial well being.  I am a big proponent of the idea that you only get one body (at least to my knowledge), so any cost to maintain and keep it healthy is well worth the investment.  So, I decided to suck it up and let it be a lesson to take good care of my teeth in the future.  When my mom eventually called back and I filled her in on the morning’s events, it was something to the effect of “Unfortunate morning, but ehh, whatever.  Could be worse.”

Later that day, I went to lunch with a friend and told him about my impending fillings.  To which he said, “$1,200?  That’s like… two nice vacations.”  This instantaneously reframed yet again how I was approaching the situation.  All I needed was for someone to put the money in perspective of losing something that is undoubtedly my favorite thing in the world to give me a little motivation to look for a better solution.  So I resolved to come up with some way in which I could get this dental work done without spending the insane amount of money that I was quoted.

A coworker came up with the idea that I could wait until I go back to school in the fall and have the work done at the dental school on campus.  Awesome idea, but I didn’t particularly want to wait that long.  Later that day, my mom suggested that I look for a dentist who is in my insurance network (I have been going to the same dentist since I was teeny, so I had been fine with sucking up the extra money for out-of-network teeth cleanings).  So I did a little investigating on Aetna’s website, found an in-network dentist with great reviews who is located right by my apartment, and gave him a call.  Long story short, he was able to schedule me for 9 am the next morning (arrival time – 9:01… not too shabby), told me he thinks I only need seven fillings, and gave me a quote for $200 out-of-pocket cost!  With some suggestions from others, a little bit of research, and an open-minded approach, I was able to save myself $1,000.

Challenges and bad news make up a significant portion of life.  It takes some time and conscious effort to get to the point where it’s possible, but it was so freeing to be able to take the energy I would have used in the past on feeling bad for myself and divert it to seeking out a better situation.  So here’s a step-by-step guide for the next time you encounter a challenge or problem that seems overwhelming:

1. Ask yourself “Is this going to significantly alter the course of my life for the worse?“.  As in, are you going to remember this day as an important life change 15 years from now?  If the answer is yes, ignore 2-4 and find someone who is wiser than I am to advise you.

2. Assuming the answer is no, breathe.  Let it really sink in that in the grand scheme of things, this problem is not going to make or break you.

3. Decide that you want the best for yourself and take some time to figure out what an optimal outcome would be.  Note the word “an” here instead of “the”.  Don’t waste too much time obsessing over finding the perfect solution; Just focus on seeking out something that will make you better off.  (Disclaimer: Without screwing anyone else over).

4.  Figure out how to achieve that outcome.  Seek out other people who have experienced the same challenge and ask their advice.  Utilize all of your resources.  Keep an open mind.

You don’t get any points for eliciting pity or dwelling in negativity.  You get points for solving the problem.

*I swear I have friends besides my mom, but this was at 10 am so they were all at work.


What I’m Grateful for this Week

blog

1. Pho** (if you haven’t tried it, do yourself a favor and go this week)

2. Tacos and Sangria**

3. A long Tuesday night phone call and a weekend trip to Athens to catch up with two lovely friends (five year throwback featured to the right)

4. Barre class

5. Sweetwater**

**And some awesome friends to drink and dine with.

Stupid Things I Did This Week

1. Scratched the bumper of my recently purchased car while parking, thus disproving my theory that my inability to park on the right was due to my old car’s turning radius.  I will now admit to everyone, I am not an ambi-parker.  Or a great parker in general.  Also, I would like to formally apologize to Terrence the Taurus for blaming him for my bad driving since I was 16.