Sort of Summer Break

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I hit the submit button and the electronic gradebook registers the final grades. There is a great sense of relief. I still have to print and sign hard copies of my reports, but I have met my deadline and my students can move on with their academic careers. Tomorrow, I will wake up early and go to the beach.

I still have a lot to do over the next three weeks. I need to revise my academic article, do research for my tutor conference presentation, prepare for fall classes, and participate in an online course through the Editorial Freelancers Association. It won’t be all work though, my daughter and I have scheduled four days in Orlando, and we can’t wait to go on an adventure.

I also look forward to catching up on some reading within the blogosphere. I haven’t really been able to write much this week, much less read what everyone else has been up to. That makes me sad. I love being immersed in the world of writing, especially inspirational or personal journal writing. Over the next three weeks, I will wake up, read, and write while enjoying my morning coffee. Perhaps, I will even unwind in the evening with a glass of wine and more reading and writing. Time will go by too fast, I know, but I hope to spend some quality time with some nonacademic words for a change. Basically, the next three weeks will be my opportunity to recharge and regroup before heading into the busy fall semester.

I pull out my Rituals for Living Dreambook and add a couple goals to my long-term plans: book agent and $40,000 a year with Crafting the Message. This evening, I will start breaking those goals down into small, reasonable action steps. I light some incense and let the smoke waft up past my vision board.  Each time I walk in the room, the smell will remind me to stay focused and to stay relaxed. That’s the key.

When I studied Tai Chi in college, I fell in love with the concentric circles and the energy flow. The idea behind Tai Chi is to use your opponent’s energy to neutralize the attack. It’s the physical embodiment of the ying/yang concept. Each gentle movement guides energy into a new direction. Pursuing your dreams is a lot like that. Life is a constant onslaught of incoming challenges. The most efficient way to achieve your dreams is to use that energy; neutralize the obstacles by redirecting the force to your advantage.

I never stop. Even when I am relaxing or going on a “sort of” summer break. That doesn’t mean I am pushing myself, or exhausting myself. I am just redirecting energy.

Evolution is Exhausting

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I try to increase my energy level with a sheer force of will. I want to focus, be productive, but my brain is drained tonight. Not even an afternoon coffee could stimulate my intellectual faculties. It’s not just my mind that is worn out; my muscles ache from yesterday’s workout. My triceps, my biceps, my quads, each movement stretches a tight pain out of my body. I’m emotionally drained, too. Implementation of a new element into one of my course threw everything out of balance and I have been concerned about how it will affect my students.

This is the cost of evolution. When you push yourself to keep improving, eventually it takes its toll. That doesn’t mean it’s time to quit. It’s just time to rest. Since I can’t get any work done now, I decided to develop another plan. Instead of working tonight, I will set my alarm for early tomorrow and go to bed early tonight.

I grab a bottle of Diet Coke from the fridge and the Captain Morgan from the cupboard. I mix a drink and settle in. What will my writing reveal tonight? It has already revealed that I am not Wonder Woman, no matter how much I want to be. I have my limitation, but I am happy to have the opportunity to reach them.

We often forget to be grateful for our difficulties. Many of my students are first and second-generation college students who struggle to work and go to school. When they are stuck in the struggle, they forget it’s the very thing they came to America for, the opportunity to evolve. We forget that evolution isn’t easy. The evolution of a caterpillar into a butterfly is not painless. It is stressful.

We should each keep that in mind. Ease is not evolution. To wish for ease is to wish that things stay the same . . . forever. If you want more, to become better, stronger, wiser, richer, happier—whatever you want more of—you will need to struggle. You will need to evolve, and evolving is stressful. Evolution is not for the weak.

How we define the stress is the important part. If we view stress as a noun it is “a state of mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or very demanding circumstances,” but if we use it as a verb it means “give particular emphasis or importance to (a point, statement, or idea).” So, stress could be a difficulty we must endure, or serve as an emphasis highlighting where we need to grow. Pointing out what we must overcome to evolve.

You’re not Superman or Wonder Woman. There will come a point when you might start to feel overwhelmed. When that time comes, rest, but don’t quit. Evolution is exhausting, but it’s worth it.

Even in Sleep, My Priorities are Straight

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I don’t remember the whole dream, but I remember the vacant house. It was a little bigger than I have been looking for, but that didn’t seem to bother me in my dream. It was an open floor plan with a lot of light. I walked through the house, evaluating the space: “This room would be perfect for an office! I could even fit a few book shelves.” Then I walked into an adjoining room. “oh my god! This would be perfect for a library, passing through the door on the other side I entered the large kitchen dining area. A large ceiling light fixture indicated a space for the table next to a large window.

That’s all I remember of the house. An office. A library. And a kitchen. That sounds about right: writing, books, and food. I don’t remember looking at any bedrooms, but sleep is over rated anyway. Even when I’m sleeping, my brain has my priorities straight. It’s nice to know my subconscious mind has got my back like that. I don’t have to worry about sabotaging myself if my conscious and subconscious mind are on the same page.

It’s been a struggle to get here. When it came to work, I used to chase the money instead of my vision. In the end, those jobs never worked out well, as I felt frustrated or stifled. Keeping my mission statement clear in my mind helps.

I’ve also learned not to jump at the first opportunity if that opportunity is not going to get me closer to my goal. I currently rent a room instead of an apartment, so I can save money for a down payment on a condo. I can save up a lot faster paying $500 a month instead $1500. (Yes, folks. Those are the prices in Miami.) I will wait until I can buy, resulting in lower monthly housing costs and the building of equity.

Right now, my life is the perfect combination of career goals and financial goals. Sometimes I still get a little impatient. I want things to move faster. I wanted to have more time to work to work on academic articles, more time to market my own business, I want to take on more paid work so I can build my cash reserves faster, but I know I have to pace myself.

How about you? Do you feel like your actions are aligned with your goals or do you still have some work to do? Do you have a mission to keep you focused? Are you willing to make the sacrifices now that will get you were you want to be in the future? I’d love to hear about it.

Popcorn, Netflix, and Zillow.com

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I wipe the artificial butter off my fingers before I lay down with my tablet. I use my tongue to absently poke at popcorn kernels stuck between my teeth. The modern detective series Elementary, streams through my Fire Stick via Netflix. I’ve made it through another day.

I take a minute to consider what I accomplished. The morning class went well. My students did a great job workshopping the latest writing assignment. I had a number of productive consultations at the writing center, and graded some research assignments. I also made healthy food choices and stayed below my calorie count. I even went swimming for 30 minutes.

Reviewing the days accomplishments is one way that I keep myself on track when long term goals seem to be creeping along. I like speed, getting things done fast, immediate results, but life doesn’t always accommodate. Somethings are slow, like healthy weight loss.

I open a google tab and type Zillow.com into the URL bar. I’ll browse condos for sale in my zip code and surrounding areas. I’m not in the market today, but this is another one of my motivation tricks. I’m trying to save up a down payment and browsing real estate listings keeps the goal fresh in my mind.

Sound like an exciting evening? I know. Please, contain your jealousy. It’s 9:15 pm, and I’m amazed I’m even awake. After all, I woke up at 4:30 am.

This is the dull life of a medicated Bipolar. Somedays, I do miss the manic ups, the endless energy that enabled my dancing until dawn before a full day of work. Fortunately, I also avoid the debilitating lows.

Relationships are like that, too. Stable relationships don’t measure love with fevered mania. They recount accomplishments and focus on dreams. Strong relationships give up the volatile ups and downs of manufactured drama for the slow comfort of a night in with popcorn, Netflix, and Zillow.com.