Why I Quit Everything

Why I Quit Everything

This year I quit everything.

Okay, maybe not everything, but most things.

I came into college wanting to do things. Every single thing in fact. I spent much of my college career actively involved in every student organization, every event, every opportunity that I could be. I was checking off boxes. Boxes on a checklist called the ‘perfect college experience.’ My Google calendar looked like a checkerboard, every hour accounted for, color coded, segmented into perfection. My life was made up of little boxes. Suddenly, everything felt like an obligation. Things that I used to love, I dreaded. I wandered from box to box, waiting for it to be over. I was thinking 8 boxes ahead at all times, I was never existing now.  My life was a to-do list and as soon as I checked one thing off, I added three more. I was losing at my own life. And I was choosing it.

 

Why?????

 

For a long time, I didn’t ask that question. I accepted that this is what I had to do to succeed. I slept less, I was sick more, coffee ran through my veins at the speed of light. I was buzzing, electrified and miserable. Ambition had turned into obsession. I had almost completed the checklist, I was ‘succeeding.’ And I realized after 3 years, this was not my checklist anymore, it was someone else’s.

I think that we often confuse busy-ness for success. I thought a colorful GCal meant I was doing something right. I had places to be, meetings to attend, projects to finish. But at the end of the day, I was not sparkling, I was exhausted. I had accomplished almost nothing in this frenzied chaos to succeed. My mind was messy, not meaningful. I had no clear direction, I was spiraling in a million directions and to be quite honest, not doing particularly well at any of them. Productivity doesn’t mean much if you don’t really care about what you’re producing.

What I want to tell you is: STOP. Stop, breathe, calibrate. Look at your day, divided into pretty colors and think about whether any of that actually added any value to your life or to the world.

If you cannot talk for more than 15 minutes about why you are doing something, stop doing it.

Here are some quick reasons that are not a valid why:

  1. everyone else is doing it
  2. you think that you ‘should’
  3. it will look good on a resume
  4. you are able to do it
  5. someone told you that you need to
  6. you want to look good to other people

If any of those things are your why: quit it. Drop it. Gone.

Rest itself is an action, not a lack thereof. There is nothing glamorous or impressive about burnout. Trust me. Free time is so, so important. It’s when I create, connect, rest. Free time shouldn’t be a rigid obligation, penciled in between everything else where you finally remember to eat a meal. Free time doesn’t count if it’s you eating a meal of pretzels while multi-tasking on your laptop.

My senior year I quit everything that was not adding value to my own life or to the world. And I have never been happier. The world did not end, no one hated me, most people probably didn’t even notice I was gone and I was finally, finally free.

I’m still busy. But with things I love. None of it feels like an obligations. I stopped “should-ing” and started choosing. I have time to read books, to write, to sleep, to think, process, plan. All of the things I had forgotten that I needed to do. I am better at everything I do now. I’m moving in a steady and consistent direction towards a career I’m really, really excited about. I feel balanced and at peace for the first time in maybe my entire life. Cool things keep happening because I’ve decided to attract cool things. I’m happy, healthy and for the most part, I’m pretty sane! Do more by doing way, way less.

Our time is so finite. Our energy is so precious. Stop handing it all out like cheap candy. Be picky. Hang on to your magic and disperse it effectively on things that make you happy to be alive. There is nothing lazy about laying on the couch and regaining your sanity. It’s brave. And so necessary if we are going to keep fighting the good fight.

I have finally chosen my life and it’s a beautiful, liberating feeling. Please, please choose yours.

 

5 Books You Should Read Instead of Thinking about Brett Kavanaugh

Some of my favorite recents reads, coincidentally all by female authors. Let’s read more and do better.

 

1. The PowerIMG_7407-2 Written by a mentee of Margaret Atwood, this book is a feminist prose for the new age. It switches the script gendered power and forces you to rethink what it actually means to be in control.

 

2. PreistdaddyIMG_7409-2.jpg Hilarious, beautifully written art. Poetry in memoir form.

3. Fates and FuriesIMG_7412-2.jpgOne of my favorite books of all time, the perfect combination of narrative and artful writing. You will need to read at least twice.

 

4. Heart TalkIMG_7405-2.jpgCleo Wade is my hero. You’ve probably seen her work on Instagram and this book is a perfect collection of poems and life wisdom. I read this right before I go to sleep or first thing in the morning to get my shit together.

 

5. Dear Madam PresidentIMG_7411-2I cry like every time I read this book. Written shortly after the 2016 presidential election this is an ode to leadership and womanhood that has never been more timely. I use it as an instruction book for daily living as well as aspirational goal setting. Important, important, important.

Weakness

Weakness

I’m 5 foot 2. 107 pounds. Probably can’t do a pull up. Not that I would be one to try. One thing I’ve never been described as in my life is strong.

I can’t count the number of times I’ve been told to speak louder, be more authoritarian, stop being so nice. I’ve been told to lean in, stand up, take up more space, take charge, say no.

The older I get and in the more competitive environments I find myself and at the higher level I succeed; the more frequent the comments have become. I am told to be a good leader, I need to stop being “weak”. While much of that advice was well-meaning, it is disempowering. And it is false.

When they say weak, they’re talking about the moments that I listen instead of speak, think instead of raise my hand, process instead of stand up, acknowledge instead of interrupt. Again and again and again.

And for once, my introverted and introspective character breaks and I actually just want to scream at all of them: they are wrong.

My interest in hearing others out is absolutely not a lack of confidence in my own ability. My tolerance is not passiveness. Do not confuse my kindness for submission.

Do not confuse my true strengths for “weakness”.

It takes strength to shut up. To observe. To forgive. To trust. To choose the war over the battle. To serve.

For so long, power has looked like man. Loud, big, competitive. A man painted by men. Just because it’s our history, that does not mean it should be our future.

We need to speak and we need to listen. Stand up and lean down to lift other. Join in in harmony and stay silent for someone else’s solo. Give opinions and receive feedback. There is a time for speaking up and standing out and taking up all of the space and interrupting when you haven’t had the chance to be heard. But let’s not confuse all of these things for inherent strength just because they’re loud.

Stop telling leaders who don’t look or sound exactly like the ones that you’ve always been used to, that they are doing it wrong. Stop telling boys to stop crying and girls to speak louder. Maybe we wouldn’t need to speak so damn loud if anyone else stopped talking long enough to listen.

There is so much strength in listening, understanding, silence, crying, feeling, apologizing. These are not female or male characteristics, these are human.

Stop calling all of my strength, weakness.

What Surprised Me Most

What Surprised Me Most

what surprised me most is how not different we are. i pictured far away places where everything was crazy and odd and strange. but when i got there it wasn’t that crazy or odd or strange. people were still laughing and going to school and wanting to be around more people. buses still roared and kids still threw tantrums and two old ladies still sat in the cafes gossiping. businessmen still strutted in navy suits and babies still waved behind embarrassed moms and middle school boys still made a scene on the metro. everyone was still running towards a thing or studying for a test or looking really hard for something somewhere. there are different food and buildings and sounds and pants and all kind of things i thought there would be but underneath there are still busy, scared, searching humans that might not understand what i mean when i say excuse me but know exactly what i’m saying when i point at gelato.

They Eat Cake

They Eat Cake

The Czechs know problems. Regime takeover after regime takeover, they have suffered. It’s a country in the middle of countries, caught in the power plays of history, often collateral damage in the combustion. A country traded to the Nazis by world powers for just a little more time. A country freed from a totalitarian regime only to be taken captive by another. Freedom, fracture, freedom. There are bullet holes in building walls and places where bombs landed that were never built upon again. Rows and rows of Soviet building blocks painted light pink, baby blue, seafood green in rebellion against their utilitarian silhouettes. Bronze faces are memorialized on street corners, matyrs of a nation that has always been itself a martyr. Golden plaques are hidden between the cobblestones marking the homes of the murdered Jews of Prague.

Ledice was an entire town destroyed, wiped off the map by men with big guns and hate. A death mask on my school memorializes a student who set himself on fire in protest of the regime. A plaque marks the square where young girl was shot in the grass by Soviet police because she was carrying a poster that they thought it was a gun. 27 crosses mark the cobbles in Old Town Square where 27 Czech noblemen lost their heads. Fifty feet away stands a  20 foot statue of a brave man, burned at stake for speaking his mind. Hidden in a crypt under a church lies a memorial where 7 Czech heroes took their own lives rather than be taken by Nazis.

Sad story, sad story, sad story.

In the blueprint, this place is covered in death.

But they eat cake. Mid-morning, afternoon, late evening. Somewhere someone eats cake. In colors, flavors, shapes like you’ve never seen. 50 crowns. Cafe Louvre Cheesecake with an apricot inside. 45 crowns. Sacher cake covered in chocolate. 120 crowns. A  bright yellow cubist cake shaped like a square. 60 crowns. Tiramisu. 40 crowns.

That’s what all of this death, this suffering, this fighting teaches you. Eat your cake. While you can, as often as you can, all that you can. The blueprint of Prague says death, the people say life. I have never seen so much of it. So many people living on purpose. A slap in the face to all this dying. They will not be the victims. Eating cake at 10:30 am in spite of it all.

That’s what I’m taking with me back home. An optimism that defies gravity. The courage to live fully, impeccably, relentlessly. To enjoy more, so much more, it’s a precious thing; this life; all this time to eat cake.

In A Cafe in Copenhagen

In A Cafe in Copenhagen

We were sitting in a cafe in Copenhagen, eating traditional Danish pastries that we couldn’t pronounce. There was some loud talking in the background, something unusual for the quiet, happy peace of Denmark. At the counter there was a man arguing loudly with one of the employees. I rolled my eyes. People who create messes for service industry workers are my biggest pet peeve so I turned back to my pastry. Eventually the yelling got louder and my ears pricked up again. We couldn’t hear much, just snippets of anger and arguing but eventually pieced together that the cafe manager did not want him to stand at the counter, rather sit down and wait.

“I’m asking you to leave sir.”

“But why, what did I do wrong?”

“I’m asking you to leave.”

Escalating, escalating.

“I need you to leave.”

“But why? What did I do?”

Another boy at the counter tried to reason with him but still couldn’t tell the man why he was being asked to leave.

The man slams his fist on the counter. He’s bleeding.

Copenhagen is white. Almost all of Europe is white. The kind of whiteness you notice because you haven’t seen this kind of homogeneous pool since you lived in a small town in rural Ohio. The angry man was the first person of color I’d seen in days.

“Not all white people are racist! But you are being racist!”

Screaming now.

People pick up their croissants and move away. No one says anything.

We sat waiting. Waiting for someone to pull out their smartphone to record what was happening. Waiting for police to come and calm everyone down. Waiting for the manager to explain what he’d done wrong. Waiting for someone to speak up.

We’d almost finished our pastries.

The man demanded to pay for his coffee, he would not take it for free he insisted. Finally, the manager complied and the customer stormed out the door. Police cars arrive and they run into the metro to find him. We wait still. Hoping there would be no handcuffs. Feeling guilty, uncomfortable, awestruck, angry, we should have said something, we should go home, why didn’t we say anything? One of the girls I’m traveling with is crying.

I’ve lived my whole life in a country with racial tensions, escalating in the past year or so. I’d always pictured Scandinavia as a utopia of socialism, equality and progressive values. But here in the 3rd happiest country in the world, I witnessed the most outwardly racist interaction I’d ever seen in my life.

It happens everywhere. Nowhere is safe from intolerance and injustice. I needed to see that.

Every society could improve. Every society has good things happening. It’s important to be aware of all this good and all this bad. We cheat ourselves when we act like everything is good. We cheat ourselves when we act like nothing is.

We can’t become apathetic but we can’t become so paralyzed by negativity that we stop pushing to improve.

And a lack of discussion of problems does not mean there are no problems and talking about our problems openly does not mean that’s all we have.

This incident was a wake up call to me on both fronts. It is easy to point fingers at the US and all of our protests, conflicts and debates on the news and call it bad. That’s what happens when you’re standing on stage. And it’s easy to live in the US and get caught up in all the “fixing” that we stop trying to fix things anymore because it’s just too overwhelming. I dreamed of a place like Denmark, the promised land of tolerance. And while it was overwhelmingly kind and beautiful and wonderful, there are still dark corners. Just like anywhere.

We saw the man later outside talking to the police officers. Everything seemed okay. They were not arguing, the officers seemed to be taking his side. I looked at the smiling Danes all around me, working on a better future, counting on a better future. And I breathed out and knew that’s exactly what it could be.

How To: Blog

How To: Blog

So lately, I’ve gotten a few questions from other people interested in starting their own little thing on the internet. I’m not an expert in anything, ever but these are a few of the things I’ve learned in my three years of writing down stuff and putting it online for fun:

Why?

So figuring out the why is crucial when beginning any new endeavor. A valid why allows you to create authentic and meaningful content. For me, I do this whole thing for myself more than anything else. It’s fun to me, it’s a hobby I truly enjoy and it’s what I do when I don’t want to do anything else. It’s also a place for me to keep track of my life so I can look back and remember what the heck was happening when I was twenty. It’s a grasp at permanence in a very impermanent world and a chance to put all the things I think down on a white background. There’s at least 7 billion different reasons to do this. Figure out your own because defining the why sets a template for your vision.

How?

I use WordPress as the content management system for my blog. There are lots of different options available like SquareSpace, Winx, etc. but I’ve found WordPress to be intuitive, inexpensive, flexible and simplistic enough to get what I want done without a lot of coding knowledge. WordPress allows you to customize your domain and site design for minimal fees and it’s also easy to learn for beginners. There are plenty of tutorials on Youtube about WordPress to teach you about things like tagging, best practices for online sharing and site design tips. I’ve basically learned how to be alive from Youtube tutorials so I 10/10 recommend.

Who?

We live in a day and age where internet safety and responsibility has been pounded into our heads since middle school. The same rules that apply for social media obviously apply here too. Create content that you would want your grandma or future employer to see. Because they probably will. Your digital brand can make or break you and this is an opportunity to create your own narrative. Sharing online is a fine balance between authenticity and personal privacy and it’s also different for everyone. Share responsibly kids.

When?

Consistency is important. I know a lot of people who start these things and then get bored and don’t post for months or years. Like anything, you get better the more you practice. Posting schedules work well for some people, not so well for others. There’s a feature on WordPress (and most other platforms) that allows you to pre-schedule a post for a set time and date. This is useful during crazy times like finals or holidays but also not completely necessary. How often you post is up to you but I recommend maintaining a certain level of consistency for yourself, as well as everyone else.

What?

Write what you write. This is the most wonderful part of being alive in the 21st century aside from probably modern medicine, increased personal hygiene and Netflix. There has never been less of a barrier to entry in the world of publishing. This is a platform to speak truths or jokes or make stuff up. Share your lens and translate it to pixels on a webpage. People might love it or hate it or think you’re wasting a lot of time. Welcome to being alive. Create your own stuff, take inspiration from others and do your own thing.


This is a very brief overview on a very beautiful and intricate thing. My best advice is to just go for it, even if you have no idea what you’re doing. Especially, if you have no idea what you’re doing. Get brave. It’s definitely an intimidating thing, sharing your thoughts publicly for critique, putting words in different orders to be read by who knows who. But it changes you. There are marketable skills to gain, fascinating people to meet and a whole world of 1s and 0s for the taking.