How to Repair Your Academic Mistakes

How to Repair Academic Mistakes - Cue to Cue MamaI just graduated with my BA in English (don’t even ask me what I’m going to use it for…) And it’s exactly 13 years after I graduated high school. Needless to say, my road to my degree was one marked with a lot of missteps, wrong turns, u-turns, and chaos.

In high school, I was often the student that was, “bright and engaged in class, but never does her homework.” Or “extremely bright, but doesn’t apply herself.” I heard some form of those two comments my entire high school career. And I knew that I wasn’t reaching my potential, but honestly, that’s never meant much to me. I value knowledge and education. So much, honestly. If I could be a lifelong student, I would be. Not for any other reason, but I love to learn. I am inspired when I’m engaged in learning. And I am a research nut. I have a question — I can guarantee you I will find an answer or resources to help me reach the answer. That being said, the idea of some sort of potential others saw in me, never really had an impact on me. It’s nice to feel like people believe in you, but I was always more interested in pursuing things that mattered to me — homework was often not that.

Out of high school, I went straight to college. I loved the new found freedom. I felt inspired by the new friendships I was creating. And most of all, I was enthralled in learning. I loved every moment of it. However, for the classes I didn’t like (College Algebra…) I just wouldn’t go. This was partly born out of anxiety and frustration–math has always been a struggle for me, the large lecture environment for math was not conducive to learning (at least not for me), and I can always find something that’s more important than going to classes I don’t like.  After that first school year – I failed out, moved back home, and started taking gen ed requirements at a local community college.

Then I got married.

Then I joined the military.

Then I got pregnant.

Then I got out of the military.

Then I got divorced

Then I had Z.

And started taking classes again. After a ton of life experience, I was determined to finish my degree. First, I tried an online program (one that really failed for me — non-engaging, not a very helpful admissions or financial aid department), then I went back to the community college (which was fantastic, led me to E, and plenty more), then tried a Graphic Design program online – another for-profit school that wasn’t very helpful or strong academically. I felt like I was paying a ton of money for an education I could teach myself. Then I applied for a school that I was over the moon about. I was packed, ready to move Z and I, only to find out 2 days before the move, the school hadn’t received one of my transcripts. And once they did, my GPA did not meet their minimum requirements.

I was absolutely devastated. This was the first program I couldn’t do something to get myself in. So, I went back to community college again…obviously over my credit hour limit, got my associates, then finally decided to go to a local university to finish my BA in English. I could go into a lot more detail about the journey it took to get me here, but I won’t bore you with the details.

So, how did I finally do it?

  • Write a ton of letters
    I wrote a ton of letters to admissions departments, financial aid departments, and even academic departments. I think the thing that saved me was just being honest. I was honest about how my time management skills were lacking, how I probably wasn’t ready for college at certain points in my life, how I had extenuating circumstances such as a divorce (and before that a marriage filled with turmoil), joining the military, losing a pregnancy 20 weeks in (and mourning for a long time after), and then having a child of my own. Even though some of the programs I attempted weren’t very inspiring, it was still no reason to do poorly in the classes. And I owned that. You will have so much more success if you own your experience — good and bad. After revealing your mistakes (and don’t feel like you have to go into great detail — you don’t…and probably shouldn’t), talk about goals you have, how you plan to repair your past mistakes, what’s inspired you to kick it into gear, and in particular what your end goal is and when you want to have it completed by. They want to know that you have a clear vision.
  • Identify your weak spots
    My weaknesses: time management, afternoon/evening classes, and focus. It is so important to identify your weaknesses, not to beat yourself up about them, but to give you some clarity on what you need to do to reach success. If you’re a person that tends to dwell (hello!) and harp on yourself, write down a strength for every weakness you have. And if you can’t do that. Take a break and come back to it the following day. Self-reflection and actualization does not have to lead to a depressing outlook. If anything, it should empower you because now you are aware and can plan accordingly. I figured out (after a few attempts -ahem-) that late afternoon/evening classes were just not my cup of tea. I’m a morning person, so I start to hit a wall around 3pm, and it’s incredibly hard for me to focus on anything time consuming or thought-intensive. So, if I was able, I tried to enroll in classes before 3pm or online. If I absolutely had  to take a late afternoon/evening class, I tried to schedule it for days that I didn’t have as much going on, so I wouldn’t feel so drained. Plus, one of my favorite classes was an evening class, so be flexible.
  • Make sure your lifestyle is ready.
    I’m a firm believer that sometimes you just have to take a leap and figure things out on the way down. But you really need to have your life on board for school. If you have kids, a job, or other responsibilities, research and find out all your options. Talk to your employer, they may even pay for part of your schooling, or they might tell you that it just won’t work with their business. I had to leave a job that I really liked because the hours they needed me for just couldn’t work with my school schedule. You have to make those choices and sacrifices and weigh whether or not they’re worth it.
  • Be fair to yourself.
    I am the queen of biting off more than I can chew. I’m a dreamer and can often be overly-ambitious. This is a reason I’m kind of glad that I hunkered down with school a little later. I knew that I sometimes get myself into situations where I agree to much more than I can actually handle. I finally had to be realistic. Taking 18 credit hours, balancing life with a fiancee and 6 year old, and a job, it led to total and complete burnout. And the semester after, I struggled to even read a page or write a sentence. I’m an introvert, so a constantly spinning schedule and interacting with tons of people on a daily basis is extremely draining for me. Know your limits and honor them. The more you do that, the more successful and sustainable you will be!

If you’ve really screwed academically or changed your mind on majors a billion times, it’s okay. There are plenty of us who have done the same. But you can bounce back! If you’ve ever made a misstep academically, what did you do to repair it?

A Year of Mindfulness

I’m not one for New Year’s resolutions, but I am goal-oriented. I’m a dreamer, which means my goals can get wrapped up in grandiose visions of waking up peacefully, in my perfectly (naturally) lit home, grabbing some green tea and overnight oats for breakfast, and sitting down at my computer to write–and words flowing from brain through my fingers.

My life is more a crash course of waking up at 3am, falling back asleep by 6am, only to wake up to an alarm at 7am, fumbling to get coffee with vanilla creamer, and talking at myself about all the things I want to write, but never actually do.

Yeah, I forgot breakfast.

2015 was an insane year. From January on, I was in constant “go” mode. For those new to the blog, I’m a full-time student, and during the spring semester I took 15 credit hours. Not too shabby, pretty average. And then, for the fall semester, I took 18 credit hours. Only one In fact, if you’re reading this blog, you’ve probably heard me talk about it. Every person in a 5 mile radius has probably heard it.

I talked about it a lot.

I meet someone new? Talk about 18 credit hours.

Getting coffee? Tell the barista about being a mom to a 6 year old while taking 18 credit hours (Yes, I know I could’ve written “whilst taking 18 credit hours,” but no one actually says whilst. So, stop writing it. I hate the word whilst. Hate. It).

And I loved the, “I don’t know how you do it,” comments. I loved being busy. Or people believing I was busy. I mean, if you’re busy, you’re productive.

If you’re busy, you’re successful.

If you’re busy, you’ve got your shit together.

I was addicted to busy. I still am. And I think it’s an area that needs some tending to.

BusyAddict

For the last 2 years or so, this whole idea of mindfulness has started to work it’s way into my brain. About 2 years ago, I was going weekly to a fantastic therapist who quickly saw how overwhelmed and high strung I was. What’s interesting  is most people wouldn’t classify me as high strung. Ever. In a million years. I’m low key. Laid-back. Slower energy. And I stumbled on why that is. The hamster inside my head is going so astronomically fast that my outward energy has to be slow to compensate for how overwhelmed the poor guy is. Does that make sense? Eh, I don’t know. It’s 6am and I’ve been up for 2 hours, make sense of it yourself.

Anyway, I’m seeing this therapist. And after our first session she mentions the word, “mindfulness.” And she starts giving me these exercises. Some of them I’d learned in theatre (ie. Focusing on your breath to bring you to the present moment).

And then I start researching mindfulness. And I find stuff about meditating and yoga. Oooh, I love yoga. And meditating sounds great in theory, but lord knows, I will never get my mind quiet enough to meditate. Right?

But I try it anyway. I find Headspace and not only is the dude British with a great accent, but I actually like meditating. Let me just say, on a side note, that I still can’t really meditate for longer than 10 minutes. My to-do list starts overtaking my thoughts and I have to quit. But hey, I’m trying.

So, I see this therapist for a little over a year, and I really start to take control of my anxiety. I’m able to settle myself down much quicker. Less panic. Less worry.

And the exercises I did with her way back when are still useful and working today.

But now I’m in conflict.

Because I love being busy, remember? And being busy often takes you out of the present moment. Even just now, I went away from working on this post, to looking for a graphic for this post so I could pin it and share it, and then decided I’d design my own on PicMonkey because I’m working on that whole “find your blog aesthetic,” only to come back to this post and realize that I’m really failing at this mindfulness thing.

What I learned from 2015? Busy didn’t make me productive. Sure, I got schoolwork done (which is good, and I’m proud of), but I didn’t grow the things I really wanted to grow. My blog, my business. Those all took a backseat to school. Even Z and E took a backseat at times. And while I’m sure school needed to be the front runner at points, it didn’t need to be the only runner, and sometimes it was.

So, 2016 will be the year I tackle this wonderful idea of staying present. Where I’ll talk less about being busy. I don’t know what I’ll replace that with yet, but I know that it’s necessary.

Like I said in the beginning, I’m not big on resolutions, but I am big on goals. And this is certainly my goal.

Building a Thankful Tree

How to Create a Thankful Tree

I’m a festive person.

Alright, that’s an understatement.

I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE, LOVE the holiday season. From Halloween to Thanksgiving to Christmas to the New Year, I’m a maniac. I constantly scour Pinterest for new ideas, and I’ve found a balance between having a Pinterest holiday and a practical one. I’ve found in my few years on Pinterest that I will never attain the perfection that can be found, but that I can reinterpret ideas I see to fit my life and skills.

A few years back, I found several ideas for a Thankful tree. Thanksgiving often gets shafted between Halloween and Christmas. And a lot of it stems from many of us realizing the origins of the holiday aren’t exactly the rosy circumstances we were taught as kids. However, I’ve chosen to make the holiday about being mindful and thankful for my life and the various people and things that make it what it is. You can’t change the past, but you can embrace the now and choose to make traditions that are meaningful. And yes, I know you should be thankful every day (and I try to be), it’s sometimes nice to have a season really dedicated to reminding you of that.image4 (1)

So, this year…I decided to bring down the Christmas tree extra early and decorate it as a thankful tree. I bought some fall garland on clearance from the local craft store, some fake leaves, pumpkins, gourds and such, and then some leaf shaped cards to write a thing to be thankful for every day.

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It’s pretty humble, but also convenient. Once Thanksgiving is done, we’ll be able to take the fall decor down, and already have our Christmas tree up! Every morning, we each write a thing we’re thankful for and place it on the tree. Super simple, super cheap, and a nice sentiment! Do you have any Thanksgiving traditions?

Taking Care of Your Mental Health as a Student

With the end of fall comes finals, winter blues, and darker mornings and nights. While this is part of the routine, it can cause a lot of undue stress, anxiety, and even depression. People mention having the “winter blues” which is also known as Seasonal Affective Disorder. It can be easy to scoff at that, but as someone that has dealt with anxiety and depression on and off for majority of my life, seasons definitely affect my mood, energy, and overall motivation. And of course that affects how I deal with schoolwork and class load. And if there’s anything I’ve learned since going back to school full-time, mental health is just as important as physical health.

This semester, I’m taking 18 credit hours. And being a mom while doing it can make me feel stretched extremely thin, most of the time. On top of that, I’m an extreme introvert, which means I need a lot of down time and alone time to recharge, and that’s near impossible with my circumstances. I don’t say any of this to wallow or have a pity-party. It’s exactly the opposite, really. I’ve found a few things that help me maintain focus and keep energy positive during the winter months (or any time when I’m struggling). I have to mention that I am no health professional, this all just comes from my own personal experience.

Taking Care of Your Mental Health as a Student

1. Find time to breathe – Whether it’s taking a hot shower, staying up late to watch a show or read a book you really love, or taking a quick walk. Find at least 10 minutes in your day to breathe, cry, scream, or relax.

2. Know thyself. Be aware of your rhythms. I know that I focus much better earlier in the morning and that my focus is total crap in mid-afternoon. I know that I’m super motivated on Sundays, but Fridays are a struggle. I know that late-night cram sessions NEVER work for me, but then if I get to bed early and wake up early, I focus and remember a lot easier. And while I know that I won’t always get my ideal circumstance, the more I know about myself, the easier it will be to set myself up for success.

3. Know when to take a break. It can be really difficult to break away from the work when you have a lot stacked up against you, but you have to be kind to yourself. Whether it’s a 30 sec, 30 minute, or 3 hour break, know when it’s necessary. Sometimes, it will mean skipping a class…if you need to, do it.

4. A good laugh and a hot shower cure a whole lot of stress. Self-explanatory!

5. Know when to buckle down. At some point, you just have to buckle down and get it done. No excuses, no bitching, no complaining.

6. Remember that school is not the end-all, be-all. Life is bigger than a degree. Believe me, I know that it feels like everything hangs in the balance and is crucial to every move you make. Your career, your future, everything can seem extremely overwhelming around this time of year. Just try to remind yourself (even if you have to repeat it out-loud to yourself..) This degree does not define me. And life is happening and is much bigger than any of this.

Learning to Feel Good in Your Skin

FeelGood

 

So, I’m about 75% through my P90X3 journey. I’ve done P90X a few times before, but could never wrap my life around the long workouts from it. P90X3 offers great 30 minute workouts, which is perfect. It still can be a challenge to fit it in some days, but it’s become such a routine that I willingly find the time. But here’s my biggest discovery through this process.

I started off tracking my weight, tracking my inches. And I was seeing great improvements, but about halfway through, I had an epiphany. I felt good and I just didn’t care about the numbers anymore. I know, I know…this is a big no-no in the realm of weight loss and working out, but it just wasn’t my motivator anymore. And I don’t really know why it happened. I wasn’t trying to make some grand statement or be a rebel. I didn’t even really make a decision, I just really didn’t care about the numbers. If my numbers were higher than the week before, it didn’t phase me because I just felt good and healthy.

I know there’s a lot of shaming going around these days. Fat shaming, skinny shaming, real food shaming, processed food shaming…shaming, shaming, shaming. And I’m just kind of sick of that shit. So, here’s my response to all of it: Do what feels good. Being comfortable with my body has been a fight I’ve fought for majority of my life. I’ve had two pregnancies, one full-term and a lot of emotional ups and downs throughout the last decade. And within the past year, I learned something huge…you become what you put your energy into. And instead of putting my energy into being angry at my body or constantly comparing myself to someone else…I put my energy into feeling good. Doing things that made my life positive and peaceful. The better the energy I put out, the better I felt.

And I know I’m making it sound like it’s such an easy fix. It’s not. It takes a lot of baby steps, with some missteps and some falling down. I’m certainly not an expert on this, but I think sometimes, especially in fitness, we’re so focused on the results that we forget the journey. I haven’t lost many more pounds since the first 30 days of this process, but the amount of things I can do with my body now that I couldn’t do in the beginning is pretty incredible. At the end of my 90 days, I’ll post my before and after pics, but the contentment I’ve found with myself and body far outweigh the physical progress.

Surviving a Quarter-Life Crisis from Someone Who Has

As I was wasting time perusing Facebook yesterday, one of my close friends posted a status that said “I think a woman’s midlife crisis happens when she’s 25.” And I couldn’t agree more. In fact, from 2 years ago, I have a blog post in my drafts titled, “Quarter…er…life crisis,” and the only thing typed is, “Confusion, confusion, confusion.”

QuarterLifeCrisis

In recent years, I’ve noticed a rise in this quarter-life crisis phenomenon. I think it happens for a lot of reasons. We think we should have everything together, we’re not where we thought we’d be when we were 18, some people have faded from our lives. There’s a lot that happens in our twenties–a lot of mistakes, a lot of wandering around, a lot of “what the hell am I gonna do?” And most of the time. we just feel stuck. Or at least I did. I felt like I was capable of doing something great, but always felt like I was a victim to my circumstances (money being the most common inhibitor). These are all still struggles I have, so I’m certainly not going to tell you that once you turn 30 you’ll suddenly feel like you have your shit together. You won’t. I titled this “Surviving a Quarter-life Crisis” because that’s what it feels like most of the time–survival. And it still lingers in the air for me, but it doesn’t feel so close or real anymore.

There comes a point–for me it was around 28 or so–that you just realize what will be will be. And this doesn’t mean you just let life do what it will without any choice or consequence. You make your choices, some good, some bad, but you do what you can with what you have, and suddenly you find more peace.

This is why I adopted a mindfulness practice into my every day life. It helps make life not feel so big and overwhelming. Don’t get me wrong, I still struggle with anxiety and worry and depression. I still have major fears for seemingly simple tasks (Talking on the phone being one of them…) but these small mindfulness techniques that I’ve been learning, I use at those moments when I’m feeling most anxious or upset. Whether it’s a breathing technique, visualization, any of those things. It doesn’t take all of my problems away, but it reminds that the only thing I have is the current moment and that no amount of worry or regret will change that.

Looking back 5 years ago, when I was 25…I’m different, but very much the same. The best I can say is stop living where you’ve been or where you want to be, and just live now. It’s easy to believe that the grass will always be greener, but it won’t be. There will be hang-ups and mishaps anyway you turn, but you have a choice. You can choose how you react. You can choose your own destiny. I truly believe that.

All too often we try to carry the burden of where we’ve been. We hold on to questions like, “Why didn’t I just say something?” or “Why didn’t I shut the f up?” or “If I would’ve done this differently, I wouldn’t be in pain/confusion right now.” That burden is useless. You cannot hold yourself accountable now for what you didn’t know then. Your energy can be so much more productive somewhere else.

More than anything though…remind yourself that it’s really f’ing hard to do that sometimes, so be kind to yourself. More than anything, just be kind to yourself–you’re doing the best you can.

Do not go gentle, friends.

P.S. As a side note: If you’re looking for something that helps build a more mindful life, check out this book: Get Some Headspace: How Mindfulness Can Change Your Life in Ten Minutes a Day. Or this FREE app: Headspace.com – meditation & mindfulness. I plan on writing a review on Headspace soon, so keep a look out for that one.

*This post may contain affiliate links.

Mindfulness…from a chaotic mind.

mindful

I was going to write about my journey in seeking a more mindful lifestyle today. I was going to talk about how this past year I’ve really adopted a sense of mindfulness into my every day life. Being present in the moment. Relinquishing control of the things I can’t change. I was going to sound brilliant and interesting and show off my expertise. I was going to create a series “Mindful Mondays,” (and then I struggle with the thought of that…mindful mondays? That sounds ridiculous…)

And then I woke up to dog shit. Literal diarrhea. And I cleaned up…nothing like the nauseating smell of poop from a dog that will eat just about anything at 7am to really start your day off right. But I had my coffee and all was right in my world.

Well, except for the fact that my head was pounding so hard, it felt like my brain was trying to escape my skull. But then I made an early trip to the store, by myself, which are always so nice. I get home and Z and I shuck some corn (it’s called shucking, right? I live in Kansas…I should know this by now). And it’s refreshing and sweet and I’m grateful for this life.

And then I workout, and I feel crappy about my body, and I’m struggling through it. And then I start getting bombarded with a million texts from a million different people, and I don’t have a chance to take a shower before I have to run an errand, and the house is hot, and I’m feeling gross. And then Z (politely) refuses to get dressed and I lose it. I turn into a complete and utter lunatic who is screaming and crying and throwing things. And all of a sudden, I find myself outside sobbing.

So much for Mindful Mondays.

Or maybe that’s the point. Because adopting mindful living is about finding gratitude in the chaos. A mindful living does not equal a a simple, clean, fresh life…Sure, it can get you there. But the whole purpose of mindfulness, at least in my experience is about letting go of the control, and trusting that life will happen. It will not happen in the way we always want or at the time we always want, but it will happen. And in these moments, when life all of sudden gets overwhelming, whether for silly reasons or not, it’s time to get back to basics. To focus on your breath. To approach this moment with gratitude. To stop trying to control the uncontrollable ebb and flow of life.

So, I take a breath, gain some composure and face the two people I love most in the world…and say sorry. And with how embarrassed I am with my behavior, it’s hard to face it. But the thing about life…and living a mindful life…it will repeatedly humble you, when you least expect it. My mantra that gets me through the day: It’s a bad day, not a bad life. It’s a bad day, not a bad life. It’s a bad day, not a bad life…

Needless to say, I’ll take you through my mindfulness journey, but it certainly won’t always be a pretty sight….