New Year and Old Friends

Almost every New Years Eve in the past 15 or so years, I’ve spent with my high school friends. I was a little disappointed at first to miss that party this year, but I’m happy to have spent the time in Chicago with my boyfriend and his friends.

Sometimes in my life, I’ve had these strong feelings of this is what my life would’ve been like had things turned out differently. Spending time with Michael’s friends was like that for me, because I knew them in college too.

The reason Michael (my boyfriend) and I met was that we were both part of a gaming club in college. I participated in it for two years, but got caught up in some nasty drama primarily between these two other members of the club that I was close with (for some reason). I don’t want to go into detail, but it was the darkest time in my life and I left the gaming group because of it.

My friend group in college ended up on the fringes of this gaming group. People like Michael and a few of our other close friends in college were still in the group and others had been or had friends in it. But for the most part, I didn’t ever see a vast majority of these people again.

Until last July when I went with Michael to a 4th of July party hosted by some of the people (not the nasty ones) from this group. And November when I attended one of the games that Michael is still a part of. And New Years Eve.

I cannot tell you how terrified I was to interact with them again after all of those years. I never really knew what they thought of me because of being caught up in all of that. I was afraid they would hate me or think poorly of me in some way.

I definitely wasn’t expecting the friendly, warm, welcome I have experienced every time I’ve hung out with them since. That’s what the gaming group was supposed to be like (if it weren’t for those two people who ruined it for me). That’s what it was like for Michael over all of these years.

I couldn’t help thinking that it could have been like that for me. It was disappointing to realize that I had missed out on all of that in college and even since then.

But I am grateful to have reconnected, for the time we do get together, and for friendly, welcoming gamers like them.

To old friends in the New Year!

Keep Going

This week I lost 3.2 pounds in 4 days on Weight Watchers! It brings me to a total of 17.2 pounds since I started in September!

At first when I was looking at my overall number I felt a little disappointed- surely this famous weight loss program could help me lose weight faster than any other, right? But it’s not about the number and it’s not about the speed. What WW has done for me, that so far no other diet/health/nutrition plan has is to be a lifestyle change.

There have been at least 3 times so far that I felt I really screwed up on WW. I had spent a week or longer not really caring what I ate, not really tracking my food, gaining weight. Sometimes I would stagnate for awhile and think why am I even doing this?

But the most important thing I did at those moments, the reason that WW has helped me be so successful, is that I kept going. I didn’t give up. I didn’t allow myself the easy path of saying I failed and quitting.

I once read this quote that has stuck with me for decades, “Perseverance isn’t one long race; it is many short races one after another.” (Walter Elliot). To me, this quote embodies the mindset of hard work and how I’ve had to approach the most difficult areas of change in my life.

It’s not just hard to decide to make a life change, or start a diet plan like WW. It’s hard every day. It’s hard when you wake up in the morning and decide what to eat for breakfast. It’s hard when you go to your work holiday luncheon and face the famous desert lineup. It’s hard when you face the scale after a difficult day or week. Every decision you make takes effort.

Sometimes you will fail. No one is perfect. No one can make the ideal decision every time. But the most important thing is to keep going. No matter how badly you think you’ve fucked up. You can always continue making progress. Making mistakes happens; they’re unavoidable. Quitting is a choice. You can always choose to keep going. Quitting isn’t something that happens to you, but it’s when you decide to take the easy way out.

You might occasionally need to take a break from your goals and that’s okay- I did this in November. For my mental health, I just couldn’t keep up the writing habit I wanted to last month. I was exhausted from traveling, overwhelmed from work, and facing my laptop everyday to write just made me anxious. But I haven’t given up on it for good. On my holiday list, I put money toward an online writing class. And I got it for Hannukah! I was pleasantly surprised when I opened that gift and once again, I started daydreaming about being a writer.

Failure is unavoidable, but quitting is not. Keep going- you can do it!

All the Goals!

Part of the reason I haven’t updated in awhile is that I’ve really been struggling with Weight Watchers. The first three or four weeks were awesome- I lost 10 pounds and was so proud of myself! The next three or four weeks were the opposite- I didn’t lose more than a half a pound and occasionally gained .5-1 pounds. I plateau’d. I wasn’t making much progress and I felt ready to quit.

I talked to my boyfriend about it, who was trying to be understanding, but said something along the lines of I’ll support you if you want to quit. It wasn’t what I wanted to hear. I was looking for someone to give me the motivation to keep going. To tell me the magic secret to how to lose weight but still eat whatever I wanted. Spoiler alert: there isn’t one.

However, he did join WW with me. I was surprised, but really happy that he joined me in making his own progress and in supporting my goals. I felt so loved and appreciated. I also thought, Shit, now I can’t quit.

I re-committed this week and used a self-control technique inspired by a TED Talk I saw by Dan Ariely. Though losing weight and being healthy should be a goal that is naturally rewarding, it just isn’t. Future me isn’t that powerful. So, I used my psychology knowledge of positive reinforcement. I told myself that the only way I get to play Magic the Gathering Arena each day is if I keep to my daily points in WW (blue dots for those who are familiar with it). I’ve been way too into playing Arena lately, so I figured this would either get me to play it less or get me to eat better. So far it’s been the latter, and I’ve been really pleased with the results! (I’m sure the social support probably played a role here as well, but the extra reinforcement definitely helps!) We’ll see how it goes and whether it pays off, but I’m at least feeling a lot more positively!

My writing goals have been basically nonexistent as of late. I skipped the once a month writing meeting that my colleague does, for no good reason. And I’ve done almost nothing otherwise. I did write a character backstory a few weeks ago that I felt really good about, but no writing for the sake of writing.

I’ve been feeling especially anxious about writing lately because it’s almost November. Every November (except one) since 2012, I have attempted NaNoWriMo (and was successful all but one time). This year though, I just don’t think it is right for me. I am nowhere near ready to attempt to write any novel based on the ideas I’ve been kicking around. I thought about just winging it from nothing, but that seems like a waste of time.

All of the novels I’ve written during NaNoWriMo have been bad. They could definitely be turned into something worthwhile, but as is they’re pretty horrific. It’s just not feasible for me to write a good novel in 30 days. I could probably do it if I devoted 4-5 hours each day to writing, but with my current schedule that is impossible and overwhelming to even think about.

But I don’t want to just give up on writing, especially in November, because I’m not prepared to write a novel. I still want to be a writer and what I’ve loved about NaNoWriMo in the past is how it encourages me to set a writing habit and makes me feel good about writing (I feel like I “get” to write instead of that I “have” to write).

My biggest problem as a writer is that I don’t practice enough. I just need to log those hours writing. So during the month of November, I’m making it my goal to write for at least 1 hour every day. I’m going to try to keep that as actually 1 hour a day rather than a few hours on one day and skip the next several, because I want to make writing a habit.

It may not be as intensive or sound as impressive as NaNoWriMo, but I think it’s the right goal for me. Please still send your support! And good luck with your own goals 🙂



Weight Watchers

I just joined Weight Watchers at work and what I did not expect to feel was a huge sense of relief.

When the semester started 5 weeks ago, work sent out an email about Weight Watchers, but I couldn’t make the meeting time. Two or three weeks later, I remember thinking to myself that I needed to re-commit to eating healthy and it was a shame that I couldn’t make Weight Watchers. Literally that same day, they sent an email saying they were changing the meeting time. I remember feeling terrified because I knew that meant I had to commit. There’s nothing I hate more than making myself a hypocrite, especially when it comes to dodging my goals.

I knew I had about two weeks of eating whatever and I somehow tried to fit in literally every unhealthy food that I enjoyed eating into the time before Weight Watchers started. The first week of this was exciting. By the second week, I wasn’t even enjoying the food and just felt bad. I was looking forward to Weight Watchers.

I’m still a little bit scared because this is going to mean some pretty extreme lifestyle changes. I have 23 points per day and what I usually eat for breakfast (a yogurt and Bellvita) that I thought was pretty healthy, is 11 points. That’s almost half of my daily calories and isn’t even that filling.

I expect that this will change the way I think about food and how I cook and eat. If I can stick to this, I think I will lose a lot of weight. More importantly, I will make healthier decisions and formulate healthy habits that should last a long time. I’ll also stop feeling guilty about my eating. It’ll free up a lot of mental space and help me feel better about myself and my body.

I think my biggest obstacle will be holding strong, even when other people aren’t keeping to the same healthy choices. So many of my friends and family love deserts and we love to share them. My parents bring or make me desert, my best friend takes me to all the different ice cream places when I visit her, and the first thing my boyfriend asked me today when I told him about SmartPoints was how much fries from Five Guys were (30 in case you’re wondering. Remember, your daily limit is 23).

I’m proud of joining and committing to this lifestyle change, but I’m definitely scared of how different and how hard it’s going to be. Please be understanding and supportive, especially as I start this journey. And I hope that you’re inspired to start your own- weight and health or otherwise!


Axes and Acceptance

Sometimes I think at heart, there’s still a big part of me that’s a lonely little girl terrified of rejection. But in this case, this is a happy reflection. Because partly, it means that I’m absolutely overjoyed at new friends.

I haven’t posted much (at all?) about the axe-throwing league I joined this summer, but it’s been AWESOME! First of all, it feels amazing to throw axes. There’s nothing more satisfying than the thunk of metal lodging itself into the wooden target. The atmosphere at axe-throwing is also amazing. This is a combination of a few things- amazing music in a warehouse that smells like woodchips (for some reason I strongly associate this with summer), lots of beer, and incredible people. Even though I started off REALLY sucking (and now I only kind of suck), everyone is super supportive. Some of the best people in the league cheer me on and share in my joy as well as my frustration when the axes clatter off the target to the floor. The best moment was definitely when I hit the special 10 spot that you can only get on the last throw. Literally the entire league burst into applause and congratulations.

There’s a lot of down time in the league as well, but I find this to be a perk. When you’re not throwing, you end up sitting around while drinking beer and chatting with the other axe-throwers. Everyone is friendly, supportive, and fun. We all have different hobbies and jobs during the day (from someone who works at NASA to teachers to hot tub sellers and more), but we all bond over axes and beer.

Now that I’ve finished the first league and am getting pumped to start the second in a few weeks, I feel like I really belong. One of the axe-throwers invited me to participate in a D&D campaign, which is amazing because I definitely can always use more gaming in my life. I also got invited to the special Facebook messenger group (for participation in 1+ leagues) and they invited me to come throw axes with them in Columbus this Saturday. I was disappointed that I’ll be at a baseball game and fan appreciation event, but really pleased to be invited.

Just these simple conversations put a big smile on my face today. I joined the league because I was interested in throwing axes- still am and it’s awesome! But I also found friendship, and that’s been a lovely surprise.

Sucker for Sales

I’ll admit it: I’m a sucker for sales. Any time I hear about a sale, especially a Big Sale with extremely low prices, I gravitate to it like a hungry person to a buffet. I can’t help being attracted to the great deals, even on items I would never have thought about buying before that sale.

So when I was at the mall, and saw the sale on used TV shows (buy one get for $1!) at FYE, I just HAD to stop and investigate. Pretty soon I found 12 (yes, actually 12) seasons that I needed to own. I called my parents (they love buying TV shows on DVD) and asked if there was anything they wanted. They didn’t have the shows my dad wanted though and I couldn’t get ahold of my mom. But I knew she would be extremely excited to find out. I assumed I’d be coming back to get her some more.

I walked out of the store feeling great about spending $100 on 12 seasons of TV shows I had already seen.

When I did finally get ahold of my mom, she was shocked, “That’s so much money for you!” and I tried to convince her that it was such a good deal! Besides, she was the one who I had inherited my love of sales from.She had certainly spent more on much worse purchases. I felt affronted that she would be the one to attack my great finds.

Her comment made me think about it some more. I talked to my boyfriend as well, who responded with these gems: “I don’t know if I own any DVDs since someone gave me the box set of Monty Python’s Flying Circus for my Bar Mitzvah” and “If you like having them on display by the TV then it could still be worth it.”

I didn’t think I wanted a $100 display of DVDs. I really could spend that $100 much better, even if it was just on a piece of artwork or one of my clay dragon obsessions.

I realized that despite owning quite a few TV shows on DVD, I hadn’t really watched them since before the days of Netflix. In fact, some of the shows I had purchased from FYE, I even had digital copies of on my external hard drive.

So why did I buy these?

It all came down to the sale. It sounded so good. I couldn’t pass up the deal. I thought I had better buy these now before someone else comes along and figures out what a great sale this is and gets all the stuff I want.

After some reflection, I decided I could really spend this $100 better. Lucky for me, I was still able to return the DVDs, which I did, thinking about how all I had really done was waste about an hour of my time.

It reminded me of my commitment about two years ago to buy less clothes and books. I know some have criticized minimalism as a fad, but I really get it. Honestly, sometimes owning so much stuff is overwhelming. I have to figure out where to put it and constantly re-organize my closets to fit everything. I don’t want to be the kind of person who buys all this stuff she doesn’t need. I especially don’t want to be a hoarder. But it’s so hard to give things up when you’ve already spent the money and can’t take it back.

I’d like to make a new goal to this effect, but I think I still need to process what would work best for me in terms of buying and in terms of getting rid of stuff. Either way, I’d like to definitely be committed to thinking carefully about my purchases and especially to be wary of sales!

Writing, Motivation, and Fear

Here I am, making a public commitment to writing again! I just caught up with a high school friend I hadn’t seen in months. One of the things we did together in the past is served as editing buddies for each other for our NaNoWriMo novels. It was actually extremely effective and motivating to get stuff written and get excited about our stories.

We just decided to be writing buddies again! I’m excited to get back into writing, but also apprehensive. I feel a bit like I have a fear of commitment in writing- not wanting to commit to a project in case it isn’t good or isn’t the “right” one. My friend has been working on editing the same novel I helped her edit two years ago. I wrote another one in the meantime, and now want to start fresh writing a third. To be fair, my novel idea is one I tried to novelize before (and failed miserably), have been thinking about for awhile, and just finished a Pathfinder campaign in this setting.

But still. It makes me think Is this the right project? Am I choosing the right thing to spend my time on? I’m going to outline this one before I just jump into the writing. I started some outlining work and have a LOT of questions still about the way this story is going to go. I know a lot of the characters, but there are already a lot and I will probably need more. I also don’t exactly know who the main characters will be and from those who the POV characters will be. As I’m thinking about the overarching plot for the story- there are three major plots and it’s kind of a complex story. It makes me wonder if it is too much for a single novel or if it should really be a trilogy or some other number of serial books.

That question terrified me enough to stop my outlining and write this blog post instead of finishing my outlining first like I had planned.

That question also makes me angry. I’m angry at myself for doubting myself. I’m frustrated that every time I start making progress on something I love, I doubt myself. I stop. I don’t trust myself. It’s hard to understand why. It’s even harder to combat it.

So I’m making a pledge here and now to work on this novel, this project. If it’s the “wrong” one, I won’t have wasted time. I will have learned a lot of things about outlining and about writing. I will enjoy working on this project, even if I don’t edit it and even if I never publish it. Even if it’s three books. Even if it should have been three books but I wrote it in one. I’m giving myself advance permission to fail. It’s okay if this book is terrible. It’s okay if nothing ever comes of it. It’s okay to write because I like writing. It’s okay for this book to not even be good enough to submit to be published.

I’m giving myself permission to write for myself. To not be perfect. To not succeed. To put in a lot of effort, even if it comes to nothing- or less than I expected.

Hopefully these permissions will be enough to finish this project- however long it takes. That’s what success will look like for me.

Dreams and Disappointment

I’ve been avoiding writing this post for awhile because of how strongly I feel about it, but I just really need to get it out there.

Ever since I was in high school, it was my dream to go to Japan. Once I studied abroad there, I kept thinking about how to get back. I wanted to do the JET program after I graduated (teaching English in Japan), but it didn’t work out with graduate school. Finally, when I found out I could take students to Japan for Study Abroad, I was ecstatic. I worked with a good friend to make the trip happen.

At work, I’ve defined myself strongly based on this goal. I told all my fellow faculty and students about it. I decorated my office with Japanese paraphernalia, I started making plans for going to Japan every other year and doing my sabbatical there on a faculty exchange program. Faculty see me and ask about the program, send me articles about Japan, send their students to interview for this program.

I cannot tell you how excited I was to go to Japan this past May on my Exploratory trip with my friend/colleague. I talked about it to everyone. I posted photos every day and kept a blog for students to follow.

My friend and I had some conflict on the trip- to me, this seemed a normal part of any friendship, especially while traveling so closely together for so long. But she didn’t feel the same way. Instead of handling it with me, she brought it to the attention to some key people on campus. As a result, both she and I were taken off the trip.

I didn’t know how to feel at first. Partly relieved, because it was amazingly stressful to have the conflict go on for months instead of having it handled between the two of us back in May. Partly pissed, because this didn’t need to be escalated to the extent it was. Partly hurt, because it felt like a really good friend had betrayed me- not just personally, but professionally as well.

Today, I got the email they are sending to students. I’m happy for the students that they will still get to go and the leaders who are replacing us are wonderful people- the students will have a great time with them. But until I read that email it was easy for me to pretend like I was still going. Like I still got to live my dream. But now it’s real. I can’t deny the fact that I’m not taking students to Japan next summer. That I lost a friend.

I have to figure out how to tell people in my professional life. How do I reconcile my enthusiasm and passion for this trip with my inability to go? How will they judge me for being involved with this? How do I make this a part of my narrative in a way that helps me grow and learn ? I honestly have no idea. I’m scared for school to start, scared to see faculty outside of my department on campus and have to talk about this.

I have to figure out where to re-direct my energy. What will I be involved with this year? What will I do with all of this energy and enthusiasm I had for the program? What will my professional narrative be now that Japan has been cut out of it?

Don’t get me wrong- I’m not giving up on my dream. This is a temporary setback- in three years, I’m aiming for it to be me going with the students. I still want to do this program. I still want to do my sabbatical in Japan. I won’t give up.

But I have to sit back for now and watch someone else live my dream. And as much as I know they’ll do a good job with what I built, I can’t help wishing it were me there instead.

Getting out of your comfort zone

Tonight I attended the “members only” birthday party for my local board game cafe. I almost didn’t go- I haven’t been in a while because I started drifting away from my friend who used to go with me. It’s hard for me as an introvert to go places by myself- especially places where it’s assumed you’ll be coming with others. But I went alone, though I did know another friend who was attending with his family.

I sort of awkwardly hung around and watched him play a game with his adorable toddler, wife, and friend for about an hour or so. Eventually, we started chatting about social deduction games. I shared how much I love these- how I teach a class involving them, played a bunch on the JoCo cruise (the nerd cruise where I got together with my boyfriend). I mentioned how I would just grab random people to play and my friend encouraged me to do that here.

I’m not going to lie- I was pretty nervous. Was this the venue for it? Would everyone hate me for interrupting their games? The first few groups I asked refused. Very politely, but I’m still pretty sensitive to rejection. I was really nervous when they started trickling slowly to the table and I had to count if we had enough and figure out who to wait for and when to start the rules explanation.

We ended up playing that game and I organized another, larger one just as my friends left. I was almost confused as to how everyone listened to me. I felt proud of my leadership abilities. I don’t think I would have had the courage to do something like this until just a few years ago. I can’t tell you how frustrating it was as a child to want to be the leader but to be absolutely terrified to take charge.

I had so much social anxiety in the past that I painstakingly worked toward overcoming. In college, I don’t know that I would have even made it in the door to a party like this.

The games tonight were awesome. I met a lot of new people- several of whom I exchanged numbers with and who invited me to future game nights of theirs. My most exciting moment was the invite to the Cleveland social deduction gaming group! I didn’t even know there was such a thing!

I’m left just feeling so happy that I had the courage to gather people for those games and to lead them in explaining the rules. To chat with them after the game was over. To make new friends.

Like so many times in my life where I get outside of my comfort zone (especially in social situations), I’m left feeling why didn’t I do this sooner?

Take the leap! Do the thing you’ve always wanted to do but haven’t had the courage to. You’ll be amazed at what might come out of it.

Becoming Unstuck

We’ve been doing a lot on our trip to China, but we’ve also had a lot of downtime- on the bus, in the evening- where I’ve been able to relax and do whatever I want. Mostly, that’s been re-playing Fire Emblem Awakening (my favorite video game ever!) But I was reflecting recently on why I haven’t been writing. I spend a lot of time reflecting on why I don’t write. Sadly, probably more time than I actually spend writing.

It makes me feel stuck. I think this happens to people a lot. I used to be stuck when it came to exercise (until I found boxing!) My brother is stuck in his job- he hates it, but he’s still working there. My best friend was stuck in her last relationship- she was looking for a reason to leave, but didn’t. My boyfriend is stuck in eating unhealthy- he keeps talking about trying to eat healthier and has made some progress, but hasn’t made any major changes. In all of these cases, it’s just easier to maintain the status quo. It’s easier to keep doing what we’ve been doing rather than put in the effort to make these changes.

What is beyond frustrating to me is that I know I will be happier if I become unstuck. I know it’s what I want to do. I know what I have to do to get there. But I don’t do it.

I don’t have an answer for this, but I want to know how to become unstuck. I want to become unstuck in my writing and I want to teach people how to become unstuck in their lives.

The biggest obstacle for me is that becoming unstuck isn’t something that you do once. Sometimes, I have small patches of being unstuck with writing. I’ll write several stories I’m proud of, I’ll participate in NaNoWriMo, I’ll write every day for a month. And then I’ll stop. Every time I start writing takes a lot of effort. Every time I edit takes even more.

For me, it’s the voices of doubt. It’s thinking that my writing is bad or isn’t good enough. It’s thinking that I’ll never make it as a writer. It’s submitting my piece somewhere and having it be rejected- being disheartened even though I know this is completely normal- even for the best and most successful writers. It’s choosing to do something other than write.

Writer’s block is an excuse. Just one of many that I and others use to allow ourselves to feel absolved from working toward our goals. As I write this post, I’m already thinking of my new excuses for not writing tonight or tomorrow or on the airplane. I’m already thinking of how I can feel better for not pursuing one of the goals I’ve had for the longest in my life.

I think I’m looking for an easy answer. A solution where all I have to do is press a magic button and all of a sudden writing is as easy as spending hours playing Fire Emblem. Where as long as I know what I need to do, it’s not hard to do it. And I’m pretty sure there isn’t one. The answer is that to achieve what you want most in the world, you need to work for it. You need to make the choice to do it. Again and again and again if that’s what it takes.

Relatedly, I would love to study this from a psychological perspective. What happens when people do become unstuck? When I started boxing, how was that different from me failing to write? When I have more answers, I’ll share. In the meantime, keep putting in the effort toward your goals- you’re worth it!