Month: December 2009

5 Kind, Sensible Ways To Stop Psyching Yourself Out

Do you want to stop psyching yourself out? Stop procrastinating and freaking out over deadlines/projects/pitches/finals week? Click through for 5 tips that will help you right now!
How often do you psych yourself out? How often do you get panicky and procrastinate-y and do NOTHING instead of the huge to-do list you hate?

Friend, I have been there. There was a three-month period in 2007 in which I attended graduate school full time, held two part time jobs, attempted to go vegan and lived with three other people in a two bedroom cottage.

What? Yes. How ridiculous am I?

And when it came time to write my papers, my coping technique involved staring the computer into submission, crying and then eating several candy bars. However! That awful three-month foray into insanity taught me a bit about how to chill the eff out in the face of pressure and not completely psych myself out.

5 ways to stop psyching yourself out


I Secretly Enjoy Life

A True Story:Earlier this year I was at a bachelorette party, peopled largely by ladies that I didn’t know. We engaging in some ubiquitous small talk – what do you do? how do you know the bride? isn’t it great that Pam and Jim got together? – and I asked one of the ladies if she liked her job. The response was a snort and a head toss and “Not really, but who actually likes their job?!”Um, you guys? I do. I kind of love it.

And I made the (possibly) bad decision to announce that I, in fact, loved my job. And in an effort to engender even moooore eye rolls, I felt moved to say that nobody needs to hate their job and that I thought it was possible to actually pay the bills by doing something that we liked.

So I rapidly became the least popular girl at the party and had to win my way back into their hearts with my awesome dance stylings to ‘Billy Jean.’

Why does this happen? Why is it more socially acceptable to complain about our jobs/partners/thigh-size than to talk about how much we adore our girlfriends, how great the new career path is and how pumped we are that all that yoga is finally paying off?

Of course, there is a notable difference between telling your best friend that you just bought new jeans in a smaller size and asking all of your co-workers to feel your newly defined gluts. Modesty, people. And you probably shouldn’t tell your newly-single friend that your partner? Is awesome to the Nth degree.

Be that as it may, I sometimes feel pressured to down-play my accomplishments or excitement so as not to rock the boat. And I occasionally feel that I have to keep all that Lust for Life tucked away, only to be let out in appropriate circumstances. But the self-censoring, in an effort to placate the dis-affected? I’m going to curb it a bit. Because I *love* my job. I have great friends. I have big plans that I’m excited about.

I shouldn’t be keeping The Happy a secret.

Do you ever feel pressured to downplay your accomplishments or happiness? How do you deal with it?

How To Survive Holiday Travel

Wondering how to survive holiday travel this year? Or just looking for travel tips? Click through for travel advice that will make all your trips easier!
In addition to fruitcakes and crowded shopping malls, holiday travel is one of the low points of the holiday season, no? Unless you’re actually into standing in check-in lines behind a crying baby with a full diaper. If that’s your pleasure, you’re a stronger person than I.
How do you survive hours in the car, delayed flights and nights spent on pull-out couches without losing your mind? Be Prepared.

How to Survive Holiday Travel (and not go crazy)

Pack For Holiday Travel Inconveniences

I have a friend whose life motto is ‘always pack a snack.’ Like, she applies this to her personal and professional life! And chances are, your holiday travel will be exponentially more awesome if you’re sustained by some smoked almonds and dark chocolate.
And you know what else you should bring? A neck pillow (I swear by this one), ear plugs, slippers, moisturizer, hand sanitizer, gum, and the phone numbers of your host/hotel/airline.
Even if your flight gets delayed, you hit a traffic jam or you find yourself sleeping on a cot in the hall, you can (probably) emerge from the ordeal looking and smelling good.

Be Prepared to Entertain Yourself

Obviously, most of your traveling will consist of sitting – at the gate, on the plane, in the car. And sitting, not surprisingly, in not terribly fun. But good lord! Surely you’re clever enough to entertain yourself right?! You can always read something light and fun, do some Sudoku, listen to podcasts (I love This American Life) or play one of a million games on your iPhone.

But how about some old school people watching? Or a game of Would You Rather? If you’re in the car, play license plate bingo or annoy everybody by singing 100 bottles of beer on the wall.Or you could do always do kegels.

Channel Some Holiday Travel Zen

We all know that getting wound up by the snow-delayed flight or the heavy traffic is pointless. It’s also worth remembering:
In travel, and often in life, things will take twice as long and cost twice as much as you'd planned. Click To Tweet

So give your budget and your schedule a bit of wiggle room and you’ll be a lot happier.

It’s also worth remembering that the annoying guy in front of you who’s causing a scene at the baggage claim? He’s not trying to be salacious, he’s just stressed out and tired, like everybody else. And the baby that’s howling behind you?

She’s not on a personal mission to give you a migraine. Take a few deep breaths, imagine yourself tucking into some mashed potatoes alongside your favorite aunt and try to remember that getting there at 5:45 instead of 4:30 is not going to be the end of the world as we know it.

Use Your Holiday Travel Time Wisely

If you can’t stomach the idea of sitting idly on a plane for three hours, you can certainly use your time to read A Very Important Book you’ve been meaning to get to, plot your plans for the New Year, write your Christmas cards or work on your novel.

One of my favorite things to do on any return flight is compile a list of my 100 favorite memories from the trip while they’re all fresh in my mind. It’s sliiightly more rewarding than watching that screening of Old Dogs that the airline is showing.

Are you traveling far this holiday season?  How do you survive holiday travel?

P.S. How to live out of a suitcase – glamorously

Photo by STIL on Unsplash

A Christmas Miracle (or ‘Ready The Kleenex, Again’)

Would you promise not to hate me if I told you that I have The Best Job in The Land? Maybe The Best Job Ever? True, I earn approximately $2, work in a dicey neighborhood and occasionally open my desk drawer to find cockroaches. But you guys? The currency I get paid in is ‘Faith in Humanity.’


And that plus a dollar will buy you a bag of chips, but its exchange rate is even better than the pound.I teach ESL (English as a Second Language) to Southeast Asian refugees, most of whom are KaRen. The KaRen are the largest ethnic minority in Burma (Myanmar) who have unsuccessfully tried to lead insurgencies against Burma’s junta. You may remember the junta as those charmers who wouldn’t let the U.N. in to provide aide after the cyclone in 2008? The junta have been engaged in systematic genocide for the last 25 years, forcing the KaRen to flea to Thai refugee camps along the border.

The refugee camps are no-man’s-land shantytowns, now in their second decade of existence despite being designed to last six months. The KaRen who inhabit them aren’t considered citizens of any country – neither Burma nor Thailand will claim them.
So my students were understandably happy to put this life behind them and start over in St. Paul, Minnesota – even if it meant navigating five connecting flights while 7 months pregnant, with a toddler in tow, as one of my students did. The non-profit I work for found her an apartment, a pre-school and placed her in my class where we immediately bonded over a shared love of Pictionary and Want Want rice crackers.

Sometime this summer, my student announced (with a laugh and a shout) that she was sad and that she wanted to die. Her husband, it seems, was stuck in Thailand. Because people that aren’t citizens of any country? Their marriage liscences aren’t recognized by the American government. So while my student lived the life of a single mother in America, her husband was living out his life in a thatched hut, wondering about the daughter he’d never met.
So we introduced my student to an immigration lawyer and set to work building a case that this very amaturish-looking marriage certificate (which appeared to be from a MicroSoft Word certificate template) was, in fact, legit. Photos and letters were scanned, awkward questions answered and a few tears were shed.

She sent it off with a whisper and a prayer (literally) and proceeded to hear nothing. Followed by some more nothing. And then a phone call from the lawyer saying that they hadn’t heard anything.

But today, at 8 a.m. she burst into my office to joyfully shove in my face one very official document. There were exactly three sentences typed on it, the last one stating that her marriage certificate had been deemed legal and binding, and that her husband could begin the process of applying for an American visa.

I had to busy myself with my desk drawer so she couldn’t see me stifling the weepiness when she crowed “Maybe Christmas next year, my whole family will be together!”

P.S. If you’re looking for a charity to donate to this holiday season, may I be so bold as to suggest the non-profit I work for? We do some pretty cool stuff.