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!


Hiatus and International Travel

I’m in the airport right now, about to head out of the country for my trip to Japan! I’m going with one of my close friends (and colleagues) to explore Japan before we take students next summer.

It also happens to be 10 years since I studied abroad in Japan in college. I never expected to go back so soon. I wanted to, of course, but I assumed I would travel to other places I had never been before first.

I wish I had kept up with my Japanese language skills. I remember thinking in college- when will I ever use this? So after my two required years (and partly because it was really hard and bringing down my GPA), I stopped taking Japanese in college. I went to some Japanese language meetups during junior year and fewer in senior year. I stopped altogether in grad school and beyond.

What I really learned from this is that you can make anything relevant to your career if you want it to be. If you are passionate enough about something, you can make it happen. I love Japan and tried to figure out how I could get there again. When Clare (my friend and colleague) was interested in Study Abroad too, it became a reality!

I tried studying Japanese, but as a non-student, it is much harder to learn. A lot of free sites and apps will teach you the basics- but I really need a more intermediate level, which is much harder. I wish I had spent more time on it, too, this past year. Next year, my goal will be to study Japanese before I go with students!

Either way, I am beyond excited to be going back! I can’t wait!

This blog will be on hiatus for about a month as I travel to Japan for two weeks and then to China for another two weeks for vacation with my family. You can follow my Japan trip on my travel blog (primarily for students going on the trip with us next year, which is why it isn’t hosted here).

I hope everyone has a wonderful month. Don’t give up on the things you love. You never know when they might be back in your life one day!

Happiness and Goal Updates

I’ve been meaning to post about some goal updates for about a week or so now, but I never get around to it. I’ve been frustrated at myself in general for posting less on this blog. At first I told myself it was because I had a crazy busy semester (which was true), but then when things settled down, I spent a lot of time thinking about what to say and not much at all writing it.

I’ve thought a lot about how mood affects creativity. When I was younger I was frustrated I hadn’t had any negative life events because I felt that that was why I wasn’t inspired to write. Now that I’ve had some, that’s really not what’s stopping me. What I’m trying to say is that I think that this year- and this semester in particular- I’m happier than I have been in a long time. And sometimes happiness can be distracting- I’d rather keep doing things that make me happy (finish that book or go boxing or play Magic) than pause to write a blog post.

But here we are, finally. So: the goal updates!

Despite occasional setbacks and snags, my weight loss/health goal has been progressing extremely well! I’ve gotten quite frustrated by a lot of these setbacks, but recently I’ve been reminded in several areas that I’m making great progress. One of the trainers at the boxing gym two weeks ago complimented me on how good I looked. My parents both commented on how it looked like I lost weight. My doctor reminded me that I’ve lost 16 pounds since this time last year. I even managed to complete my goal of a no dessert weekend last weekend (and let me tell you, passing up a free cake party was one of the hardest things I’ve done!) I box at least 4 times a week and I’m hoping to increase that number over the summer.

I’m a little concerned with how my upcoming trip to Asia is going to affect both of these goals. I won’t be able to box for a month and while food in Asia is relatively healthy, I’m worried I’ll go into “vacation mode” and pig out. My hope is to work out when I can (even if it’s just doing core or squats in my hotel room for 10 minutes every day!) I’m going to try to be reasonable with food as well. Last time I went to Japan, I lost a bunch of weight, so I’m hoping that will happen again, or at least that I won’t gain any!

Writing has been not going so well. I failed spectacularly on my short story goal- at least in terms of getting those out once a week. It was a really rough semester in terms of my workload and I often used this as an excuse not to write. On the bright side, I did get a couple of short stories written. None of them won the weekly award, but I am proud of them. Honestly, I think working really hard on this one story that I submitted to the weekly award and a local literary journal and having it be rejected in both places really sunk my motivation. I wish rejection of my writing didn’t affect me quite so much, but I’m not sure how to change that other than sheer willpower (which hasn’t been terribly effective so far).

I haven’t renewed my commitment to my year of spending less, but for the most part the habits continued. Last weekend was the first time in over a year that I had a sort of “shopping spree” where I went out and bought way too many clothes, some of which I really didn’t need. It was especially hard to resist because my mom was buying them and I had the excuse of “needing” some of them for an upcoming trip. I think I also felt that since I hadn’t done it in awhile, it was okay. Some of my wardrobe did need updating, but I did splurge on some pajamas I didn’t need, for example. I’d like to continue to minimize my spending in these areas and give away at least as many older clothes as I buy newer ones.

Unrelated to goals, but an exciting life update: I’m about to leave for my trip to Asia! I’m going to spend the first two weeks in Japan on an exploratory trip in preparation for the Study Abroad trip I’m co-leading with students next week. I imagine I won’t have too much time to post here in the next month, but if you’d like to follow my travel blog in Japan (it’s not hosted here, because it’s mostly for my students who are going on the trip), here’s the link!

I hope your lives are just as happy and, if not, it’s time to start doing something to change that!

Health and Support

A few weeks ago, I finally set some health goals for myself for the first time in months! I’ve been making very slow progress since around August or so, but I haven’t really been doing it very seriously. I’ve been making excuses like “I’m focusing on exercise now” or “I want to set realistic goals” or “I want to do something sustainable” and then I don’t feel bad when I don’t make much progress on them.

Recently, I’ve been inspired to be healthy again and support came from a somewhat surprising area. SeaMonkeys! Not the fish things, but the people on the JoCo cruise. To me, the community of SeaMonkeys has always been incredible. Going on the cruise each year is like being with my people. It’s being somewhere I really, truly belong. We share similar hobbies and interests and mostly a community of kindness and understanding.

I found a SeaMonkey Facebook group for health and fitness and it’s been great! I tried a paid app a few months ago that tried to set this up with random people and health coaches, but this is much better! Everyone is so supportive, asks you about your goals, follows up if they haven’t heard from you, and gives you the kindest encouragement. It’s been so refreshing to have this kind of support.

Last week, I got a surprise message from the group saying I won! Winning is always nice, but I got a $25 gift card to wherever I wanted! (Chipotle, of course!) It was a really great feeling to have a surprise gift like this. It made me extra motivated to keep going with my health and fitness goals.

I had a bit of a setback this weekend, when I discovered one of my biggest weaknesses- movie theater popcorn. It doesn’t help that I can just eat it mindlessly while I watch a movie either.

What I’m learning, though, is that the important thing isn’t to do amazing all the time, but to not give up when you have a setback. It’s so easy to say Darn, I failed! Let’s go eat some more popcorn! It’s a lot harder to say Well, that wasn’t the best decision, but let’s get back on track.

Nevertheless, that’s what I’m doing. I’m committed to being healthier in the long term, not just when it’s convenient. I want to make this a permanent change in my life.

I’m buying and eating more fruits and vegetables so I have healthy snacks instead of unhealthy ones. I’m buying desserts I like too, though. Surprisingly, this has actually helped. When I want dessert, it’s good to have something I want and feel like I get a treat. I used to scavenge around to eat any dessert I have because I desperately wanted something.

Most importantly, I’m learning what works for me, doing that, and not giving up!

Embrace the Pain

Today, the owner of the Title Boxing franchise I work out at came to teach our class, which was a real treat. He is especially motivational and intense.  He pushed us farther than we usual go in practice, in the best possible way, while shouting things like “Embrace the pain!” and “It’s either positive or negative; you work or you don’t” and telling us to focus on our minds.

It was an incredible workout, even though it was one of the hardest I’ve had in awhile. I feel like I did after my first few boxing workouts- great, but rather sore and tired.

I really appreciate the kind of motivation he gave us throughout the class. When I was in college, one of my friends remarked about me that I “relish a challenge.” It’s a phrase that has stuck with me for years, because it sounds cool but also because I think it describes me well. At the time, it rang true, but it wasn’t something I had thought of before. Since then, I always come back to it while I introspect.

I love being pushed to reach my goals. I’ve had some great mentors in life who have taken this approach with me too- my mom, my graduate advisor, and my boxing coaches stick out in particular. People who challenge me to work harder than I think I can. People who push me test my limits and see what I can do.

It feels incredible to succeed in these challenges. To do something you didn’t think you could. My boxing workout today reminded me of that feeling. Before today, I certainly wouldn’t have thought I could spend 3 minutes straight doing push ups (if this doesn’t sound impressive, try it, especially after 40 minutes of cardio!) One year ago, I never thought I could be boxing four days a week.

You may not always succeed. Some of the exercises tonight, for example, I couldn’t quite do. Holding a 10 pound ball 6 inches off the ground on your back while also holding your feet up 6 inches off the ground is something I have yet to master for more than about 5 seconds, while we were supposed to be doing it for 30 or so at a time. But I made progress. Two weeks ago I wasn’t even using the 10 pound ball.

Most importantly, if I never tried Title or avoided tonight’s workout or slacked off during it, I would never have felt the sense of accomplishment and empowerment that I get from these experiences. If you don’t try, you will never succeed. Nothing works unless you do.