The 4 Main Things I Have Been Doing To Embrace My Self-Discovery

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I have been absent from writing here for a while now. It is not because I have forgotten about this space, it’s because I have been out and about doing things. I realized that I had to keep myself busy with things I wanted to do and try in order to embrace the process of self discovery. I thought I would be able to do all the things I wanted to do and write about them. It turns out that something that I still need to work on. I decided that now that I’m on vacation it would be a good time to start the habit of continuing to do all the things I have been doing and adding writing to those things.

Because I have been so bad at keeping this updated, I wanted to start my reentry into blogging with the 4 main things I have been doing to embrace my self discovery, so here it goes:

1-Volunteer at an animal shelter:

Once a week for the last 3 months I have been going to an animal shelter to walk the dogs. They have an orientation day for volunteers interested in dog walking and after you attend that you can go any time you want to walk the dogs. I’m usually there for about 2 hours and walk about 5-6 dogs. It has quickly become time that I cherish for a few reasons; I’m alone with my thoughts and the dogs, I get to exercise while doing something I enjoy, and I get to meet and play with many dogs.

Reason this has helped my journey to self discovery: This has confirmed that I enjoy working with animals and in a cause I believe in. This has been a way to help animals in need without feeling like I have to bring them all home. I have been thinking that I want to transition from teaching to a field that involves animal handling and care, this is helping me get hands on experience and has helped me realize that it’s something I should explore more.

2- Taking dance lessons:

1 to 2 times a week I have been meeting with a dance instructor. I have been learning ball room dancing (specifically rumba and salsa), but I have also started to take pole dancing classes. This has been an eye opening experience for me, because the older I get the more comfortable I get with my body and the less I care about what people may think. I have always had a hard time following dances with steps, I love to dance, I’m just not coordinated enough to think about counting while I dance, and taking private lessons has really helped me understand the dances more. Pole dancing has been a self discovery experience all on it’s own, because I think it comes with so many stigmas about it, that just admitting to people that I’m doing it is an empowering experience, but I would say it is a super fun way to exercise and learn to embrace your body.

Reason this has helped my journey to self discovery: This has taught me that I can learn and be good at things that weren’t previously my strong suite. It has also helped me feel more confident about my body and be thankful for the body I do have. I think we get so caught up on if we are fat or skinny that we forget we have capable bodies regardless of what they look like, bodies that can move, that can take you places, and that is something we shouldn’t take for granted.

3- Reading and finding a community of readers:

I have been reading a lot. My Goodreads reading challenge for this year is 75 books and I have already read about 43 books this year. I have been embracing my reading, finding little times to read in between task, but also letting go of books that are not catching my attention. Which means I get to read things I really want to read. Not only have I been reading, but I made it a point to find a community of people that also like to read. I joined a reading circle at a local bookstore, we meet once a month and go over what we are reading. I joined Litsy, an online community of readers, I have heard it marketed as if Goodreads and Instagram had a baby. Litsy is great, I joined an online book club and have done a few book exchanges with people through it. It’s a great way to meet people reading the same book as you, but also people that have similar interest in books. I will also be attending BookCon in NYC, which is a huge book convention with panels, lots of book sellers and just people that love books.

Reason this has helped my journey to self discovery: For a long time now I have found it difficult to find other people that enjoy reading and just talking about books, partly because we are mostly introverts and aren’t crazy about meeting new people to begin with, but also because we are hard to find. This has helped me in my journey because I have had to push myself to go to events alone and interact with the people there. It has also helped me meet new friends with similar interest.

4- Baking:

Baking for me is an exercise in mindfulness. I’m focused on the steps and what I’m doing in the moment and everything else fades away. For this reason I have wanted to start challenging myself to try different bakes, different recipes that involve practicing new skills. It has become a way of getting stronger at a skill I enjoy and also embrace the meditative properties of it. I have baked many breads, macaroons, sweet breads and tiramisu. There is so many other pastries and skills I want to practice, it’s something to look forward to.

Reason this has helped me in my journey to self discovery: Baking has helped me stay centered and provides a treat to look forward to. I can plan what I want to bake and when I want to bake it. By dedicating a specific time and centering myself to follow the steps and embrace the wait, I create a practice where I’m forgetting about any trivial issues I may have and only exist in the moment. I also end with a product that regardless of it meets my expectations can be shared and provides an excuse to interact with neighbors, family and friends.

Overall, I want to keep adding things to my journey of self discovery, but I think these 4 are great simple examples that other people can also follow. This summer I want to continue to embrace doing things to learn more about myself and I want to make a real effort in recording my progress. Hopefully I will be able to at least update this once a week with all the things I’m doing.

Sorry for the break.

You are here

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It’s never too late  to change change directions in the path of life. However, that doesn’t mean it will be easy. As I have discovered, any step I take towards a new route means a whole process with research having to be made, applications filled out and potential investing of my not so large savings. It becomes a matter of how do I want to invest my future. This has really put into perspective my priorities and what I’m passionate about. When I think about my priorities, a few things become clear; I don’t have a desire to move, I’m happy with my relationship status, I need to cut down my spending, and I want to be in a career path that makes happy and fulfilled. When I think about what I’m passionate about, more things start to come together; I love reading and writing, I’m passionate about the health of the environment and animals, I enjoy learning new things, and I love to cook. When I state the things I value and what is important in my life, I get a better idea of what I should be focusing on and what I have to let go of.

I have to focus on being grateful for the things and people I have that make me happy and support me. I have to focus on separating the time to practice self care. I have to prioritize my writing. I have to focus on creating and joining circles of people that share my interest. I have to become aware of my spending habits and learn to stop releasing my frustrations into retail therapy. I have to let go of other peoples expectations of me. I ultimately know what I want and what I don’t want. I alone am responsible for my happiness.

When I put all these things into perspective, I understand that there are things I can do while I’m figuring out what path I’m taking my future self into. While I wait for people to reply to emails, while I add and subtract what certificates make the most sense for me, while I apply for jobs, I can start to do little thing for myself. I found a reading circle to join, I signed up for some grant writing classes, I try to keep physically active, and I practice mindfulness while cooking.

Having written all these things, I also realize that I can do all these things because I’m privileged enough to have a job (regardless of my like or dislike of it) and have the time and access to do these things. What I realize is that because I can do these things, I owe it not only to myself, but to other people who might be in a similar mental or emotional state. I cannot just say it is too hard and give up. I have to dream, I have to hope and I have to at least try and accomplish self fulfillment.

  • Life is very short and what we have to do must be done in the now. -Audre Lorde

Walking

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I feel so tiny walking among the trees. Tiny in a good way, when I think of my life, my problems, surrounded by the vast space and tall trees, everything feels trivial. There is just me and the nature surrounding me, cleaning my lungs, and cleaning my spirit. It is my version of church.

I grew up catholic, and in a lot of ways I guess I still am, but overtime I have found a spirituality that works for me. I guess I would be considered a Pantheist. I remember reading a book a while back were the author identified as Pantheist. Pantheism being the view that you can find divinity in nature or that natural universe is divine. I haven’t research that much about Pantheism, I’m sure you will find all extremes of people. I guess for me it means that I see and communicate with God (whatever that may mean) through nature.

Whenever I feel lost or need to clear my head, I find a trail, take my dog, and go on a hike. Just listening to the wind, the leaves falling, and looking at the path before me, helps me feel better about whatever my circumstance may be.  Even if the problem is too big, I still get some clearness after my encounter with nature. I think it’s important to have something in your life that gives you positive energy and makes you have a positive outcome in life. For some people that is belonging to a church community, family, exercise, or just meditation. For me, the important thing is wherever you are getting it from, you are giving some of that positivism back to the universe.

I did it!

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On Sunday October 9, I completed my first Tough Mudder Half. With the help of my friends I completed 5 miles of muddy terrain and 13 obstacles. It was so much fun. We each had obstacles that pushed our boundaries, but we were there for each other. After it ended we were so cold and we have so many bruises, but it was such a rewarding experience. What I liked about Tough Mudder as a whole is the camaraderie, people would help you if you didn’t know what you were doing and then you would stay and help other people. Nothing was timed and you were totally free to skip any obstacle you didn’t feel comfortable doing. Because of this, we at least tried to do every obstacle. I say try, because I wasn’t able to complete Everest; which is like the Ninja Warrior Ramp, but I did try to do it 3 times to be exact. Each time I would come far enough to touch my teammates hand, but it would slip and I would bruise my left hip area a little more, so after the third time I decided to walk across the obstacle. At that moment I felt so proud of myself, because I had completed everything else and even that obstacle I gave it my best, which is all they ask for.

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Here’s my bruised hip area, it’s looking a lot more black and blue these days

Afterwards we were starving and had a huge brunch at our nearest IHOP. That Sunday was a rainy , windy Sunday. It would have been easy to be all sucky about it and not have a good time, but that’s not the kind of attitude that we had. I’m sure it wasn’t anybodies attitude that day, everybody was ready to give it their all, to go out and try. You get pushed out o your comfort zone and it really does motivate you to go out and try new things.

Will I be doing a full Tough Mudder any time soon? Probably not. However, I can see how you would get motivated enough to start doing these things every two to three months and just keep going further and further. It’s a pretty cool community. Would I consider doing another Half? Yes, of course.

I think the thing that surprised me the most, is how I felt the days afterward. I felt like I had finished the thing that had motivated me for so long. What do I do now? I guess that’s another reason why I can understand people doing this as a hobby, traveling all over to try the different courses. Still, What do I do now? That’s been the question bugging me and I don’t have an answer.

This weekend

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This weekend I’m going to Comic Con in New York and I’m doing the Tough Mudder Half. I have to confess that this week I haven’t been feeling 100%. I stopped training for the Mudder and have been feeling without energy to do anything work related and I have a lot to do  at work. I was accepted into a faculty development seminar that meets on Mondays, which I will get paid for, but that also includes doing a lot of readings, participating and coming up with a project. I know I’m making a bigger deal of my issues, knowing I had a full weekend I already submitted the homework for Monday. I’m on top of it. Still I can shake the feeling of dread. I feel like something is getting left behind and I don’t know if it is work related or life related. I even feel like my dog is getting a crappy deal. He totally needs more attention and exercise than he is getting. I also know that I have a work project that I should be working on, but don’t want to and I know that I want to push myself to do more things that will benefit my personal growth outside from work, but can’t bring myself to do it.

I have started writing again. I have started two stories, I can’t bring myself to continue them. I can feel them in my head and I want to do it. Why can’t I? I keep going back to this book I read, This year I will…: How to Finally Change a Habit, Keep a Resolution, or Make a Dream Come True by M.J. Ryan, one of the things she stresses is the fact that you need to be clear about the reason or purpose for doing the thing you want to do. It has to be something that motivates you, so that everything you question your quest you can go back to that reason. I think I need to find this. I don’t know how, but clearly I don’t have that yet.

Book by MJ Ryan

Book by MJ Ryan

 

 

Unhappy

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I have a good job. I have a job that I enjoy, at least I enjoy many parts of it. However, I’ve been thinking a lot about changing this job. As much as I like parts of it, there is as a whole many other parts of it that I want nothing to do. I teach at a community college, my position is tenured track, which means that if every year for the next five years I keep improving myself and proving that I’m doing such, at the end I could end up with tenure. I could have job security. Which is something few and far from a little thing. I don’t take this for granted, I’m not planning on quitting tomorrow, but I do want to explore my options.  I understand that a job like this is hard to fine, but I don’t want to be in a job just because of it’s benefits. Plus there is always the possibility that at the end of the five years you don’t get tenure, so I want to make sure that I’m in a job I want to be in. Not just in a job because it has the possibility of permanency.

I understand this might be a privileged way of thinking. I understand I have no extra mouths to feed or people that count on my salary for food and shelter. That is my reality, if it were to change, maybe my opinion might, but as it stands, I can think about changing careers without affecting to much.

Having said that, this doesn’t mean that it’s an easy process. I question a lot of things. Should I stay in the same field and just change locations? Which would probably mean nothing much changes, just my commute. Should I stay teaching and change age groups? Which would mean getting a teaching certificate or PhD. Should I start volunteering in non-profits and network my way to a position? Which means I would have to stay teaching for a while until I build my resume with the non-profit. Which means a slower process. Should I switch careers, start anew? Super scary, but still a possibility. I’m smart, quick learner and have many interest, so not out of the realm of possibilities.

Add to all those questions the fact that I have been living with my boyfriend for two months, we are trying to plan our futures together and you have a recipe for a stressful person, that person being me.

It’s not that I need my boyfriends feedback or for him to tell me what to do, but I want to know our goals can be combined towards a better future. Which honestly, probably scares men a lot more than it does women. I want to know that I’m not switching careers for us to all of the sudden move or call it quits. Which gets to me, because in our relationship, I’m the one that brings the big issues up. I’m the one that has to start the tricky conversations. It’s not that he avoids it, he is pretty receptive about the issues once I bring them up, but he just doesn’t think about them, so it’s up to me to tell him.

I combine it all in my head and end up feeling resentful, feeling unhappy. Which is not good, and affects everything including my sleep. I keep things from him, because I want him to be the one who ask the tough questions, but I just end up treating him poorly for a couple of days and then telling him what is bothering me, which is a crappy way of solving problems. Specially when the problem is the unknown.

The reality of it is that there is not much I can do, I have to ride the wave. This doesn’t mean I have to ride the wave unprepared, I can ride the wave with the best tools available to me.

Fear

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As I have adjusted to the move and started training for the Tough Mudder Half, I would say one of the things that I have been more hesitant to do is get back into running. Before I moved in with my boyfriend, I lived with my aunt. They have two hound dogs that I would take on walks/slash runs when I wanted to train. I felt comfortable being on a trail by myself because I was never really by myself, not only that but I felt pretty confident that if anyone had the slightest desire  to harm me, this huge coonhound walking next to me would make them think twice. Having moved with my boyfriend and having a puppy, I assumed two things: 1) That me and my boyfriend would decide to make running a couples thing. 2) That I could teach the puppy to run. These are two really big assumptions. First, my boyfriend may like the outdoors and the idea of recreation, but his idea of exercising is going once a week to play volleyball.  Second, the puppy is just six months old, he does have a lot of energy and enjoys running around, but he also gets bored quickly and doesn’t want to run as a task. It will take me a while to condition him to running as an activity.

What do I do in the mean time? Well, I still don’t feel comfortable running by myself. Because a couple of us are training, I have a friend that I can go running every once in a while, but there are still days that I have to do it by myself. It takes a lot of motivation for me to get up and decide to run alone. I either do it straight away once I wake up or wait till the end of the day when I have accomplished a few task. I have designated a perimeter where I feel safe enough to run by myself and push myself to do it. I don’t always succeed. There are days when I’m too tired from work and just want to lay down or days when I don’t feel like running alone.

I think it’s sad that as a woman, these are things that I think about. The whole idea of safety. Granted I live in a rural area, where black bears do use the same trails as I do, so there is the possibility that I also have to think about my safety in those terms, but as an environmental scientist I know that black bears have poor eyesight and are pretty skittish creatures. I would be pretty stoke to see a black bear from afar, I would not be pretty stoke to see a serial killer or a rapist or a misogynist no matter how afar they were. That is our reality, this is what we think about when we go out into the world by ourselves.