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ICYMI – My Annual “Lesson” Countdown on Twitter

4 Jan

I’ve had a tradition every Christmas for the last four years. This is the day I start my annual “life lesson” countdown on Twitter. I started this tradition after a particularly difficult year, determined to learn from my mistakes and start new. Call me crazy, but I truly believed if I put these lessons out into the universe by New Year’s Day, I’d given myself permission for a fresh start. It worked. As I conclude each year, I feel refreshed, purged, and determined to do and be better.

As years past, my “lesson countdown” acquired a following of friends, family, students, and strangers attracted to my “no fluff” approach to self-betterment. I’ve actually been asked why the advice is so raw. My answer is always the same: You can’t change anything about yourself until you are completely honest with yourself. The more you continue to ignore the tough stuff, the more things will stay the same. Do yourself a favor: Dig deep.

This year was my best list yet for a number of reasons, but mainly, it’s because I turned 30 in September. Yes, this makes me old, but it also makes me realize I don’t care about the same stuff I cared about in my 20s. Sure, I still want to be pretty, skinny, smart, funny, and the life of the party (who doesn’t?), but I also want to be the best teacher, employee, bridesmaid, best friend, and best potential wife possible. This means looking at life through a different lens and realizing sometimes I have to cut people out of my life to be all the things I want to be. It also means focusing on that work/life balance I never had. It means opening my heart to someone new, even if if it terrifies me (Or, I could be a cat lady. Is that so bad?).

So, in short, I’m taking this blog out of hiatus because 2013 made me stronger, wiser, and (of course) prettier, skinnier, smarter, funnier…

Your thoughts and comments are welcome! I love responding. You can also tweet me @OGradyKL.

Happy New Year!

Lesson List 2013:

#1: Tomorrow isn’t promised. Live each day like it will be your last. Have no regrets. Learn from everything you do

#2: Don’t overuse the term “bestie.” It can easily lose meaning. Save for those who you know will be in/at your wedding

#3: Embrace who you are – every positive & negative. The sooner you can, the sooner you can be truly loved by someone else

#4: Drama, pettiness, and immaturity ruin friendships. Understanding, kindness, and effort strengthen them

#5: If you aren’t a doctor, your daily job is not that stressful & the things you’re worrying about aren’t that important

#6: You can’t always accept people for who they are. This doesn’t make you a bad person. It makes you a person w/ limits

#7: Don’t underestimate the power of laughter. Its healing qualities are astounding and celebratory effects infectious

#8: Time does not heal all wounds. Some things will always feel like a punch in the gut, no matter how much time passes

#9: Dating is fun, said no one ever. Instead, dating is a chore until you meet someone who doesn’t make it feel like one

#10: A job is something that pays the bills. A career is something you can’t wait to do, even if it doesn’t pay the bills

Change

16 Jul

I don’t have a tangible connection to the Granite Mountain HotShot firefighters out of Prescott, Arizona. I didn’t know them. I didn’t know their families. I didn’t even have a sixth degree of separation. Even when I lived in Arizona, I wasn’t near Prescott. I resided 80 miles outside, in Tempe. When I heard about the out of control wildfire on Yarnell Hill that took their lives, I was distraught in a personal sense. A sense that alarmed me.

It’s normal to feel sad for your “home” state when a tragedy strikes, but what I felt wasn’t normal. As soon as I heard of the 19 fallen, I became obsessed with their individual stories: A stunningly handsome father of four…a newly married father-to-be…a 21-year-old rookie. Last Tuesday, I tuned into the memorial service online, where it was live-streamed to the nation. By the end of the service, I was in tears. This was slightly problematic, since I work in an open office. My tears were only protected by three cube walls.

What was wrong with me? Sure, I should feel empathy. That’s normal. What wasn’t normal was how personally affected I was. I hadn’t felt anything like this since 9/11. There had to be something more.

The answer came to me last Saturday morning. I was teaching a PR writing class at NYU and I had my students take turns reading an article about one of the fallen firefighters aloud (the lesson was on persuasive writing). By the end of it, one of my students said it was one of the best pieces of writing she’d ever read. Why was that, I asked. She replied it was because it made you think; to live every moment to the fullest. Not wanting to put words in her mouth, I asked if she meant one of the key takeaways was appreciation. She nodded emphatically.

It was at that moment my strange connection to this tragedy became clear: I was sad because of the situation, sure. More so, I was subconsciously telling myself that life is incredibly precious and I wasn’t doing enough to live it to the fullest. Truth be told, half of my tears were for me.

By nature, I’m a fearful individual. I hate change. I seek comfort. I don’t particularly take chances. I’m also the queen of “what ifs” or “maybe laters,” hoping that if it’s meant to be, it will somehow work itself out.

The problem is, my somehows always turn into somedays. My somedays turn to nevers. I’ve had chances to love Mr. Right. A few times. I’ve missed them. I’ve had chances to change my professional path. I’ve passed. I’ve had chances to stop and smell the roses. I’ve run on by.

Before you think I’m an epic failure at living, there are areas where I excel. For example, when I’m teaching, nothing else in the world matters. My heart is full, I’m working at capacity, and I’m taking in every single moment. When I’m with my friends, I’m an active listener, an avid hugger, and a “I love you” advocate. I’m also a loving sister and daughter. Family first, always.

Reading about the lives of 19 fallen firefighters gone in the blink of an eye, it made me realize I need to do better than part-time life-liver. I need to make it my full-time job. Everything else is just details.

Starting today, I’m going to say “yes” more often. I’m going to love more freely. I’m going to change it if it doesn’t make me happy. I’m going to stop giving my friends advice I don’t follow.

You should too.

My New “New Year’s” Resolutions

23 Jan

I know what you’re thinking: It’s three weeks after January 1st. Why is this chick writing about resolutions?

I’m writing about them because I suck at them, both making and keeping.

Like many of you, I make resolutions right before Christmas, then break them by week three. As a perfectionist, I don’t get back on the horse well. I simply forget about them and say I’ll do better next year. The reality is, I never do.

There are many reasons we – as humans – break our New Year’s resolutions. We are weak. We lack support. We hate change. Yup, I’ll say it: changing yourself – and your behavior – sucks. It doesn’t just suck because it takes effort to change. It sucks because you first have to admit what you’ve been doing all these years isn’t working. Once you realize this, I’m convinced people throw their realizations out the window (because no one ever wants to think they REALLY have a problem) and go back to making “typical” resolutions they know they won’t stick to, thus setting themselves up for failure.

IMAGINE BIG NEON LIGHTS: If you don’t make realistic resolutions from the start – ones that you KNOW will force you to change annoying patters or behaviors about yourself – then you are setting yourself up for failure from the onset.

What exactly constitutes a “typical” resolution from a realistic one? Here’s a real-world example from yours truly:

2012 was the year of party girl Kerry. You see, I never got to be 21 (I got very sick my junior year of college and missed out on a lot), nor had I been single in almost 15 years (three back-to-back serious relationships). Thus, 2012 seemed like the perfect time to try this whole night scene out. Too many cringe-worthy moments later (including a few crushes thinking I was a tool and realizing shots were never a good idea), 2013 seemed like a great year to put this lifestyle on perma-pause.

That being said, my New Year’s resolution was a two-drink minimum on any night. I made this resolution on December 27th.

I broke this resolution by December 28th. Epic. Fail.

Here’s why I failed: I realized putting rules on myself wasn’t the answer. It made me feel grounded…and since I’m not a parent yet, my own parents still own the right to ground me (wait, do they? I may write about this later). This self-grounding also doesn’t get to the problem at hand. I’m super social. I love to go out. I’m single. I work two jobs and have some street cred as a writer before the age of 30. Hell, I deserve to go out. I just need to approach it differently and I’ll be good to go.

Sounds easy enough, right? Wrong.

When you’re in your teens and early 20s, making resolutions and trying to follow through is pretty easy. If you haven’t been doing your homework, you commit to doing your homework. If you’ve been disrespectful to your parents, you commit to straightening up your act. If you really want that cute boy to ask you to prom, you make out with him a little during cross-country practice (…busted. That last one was all me. By the way, he still didn’t ask me to prom).

As you get older, making resolutions gets a lot harder. You are forced to take a deep look inside yourself and understand what’s making you unhappy or unfulfilled. Once you do that, you have two choices: Make resolutions that matter or go back to making resolutions like when you were a kid (and let’s be honest – did you ever REALLY end up doing all your homework? I didn’t think so).

So I ask you this: How many of you made resolutions this year? Now how many of you made resolutions that matter? Do you see the difference? If we all stop making the same resolutions we won’t keep – and instead start making resolutions we know we CAN keep (and will) – we will forever be improving honest, transparent communication with…ourselves. Is there a better relationship out there?

I’m committed to making resolutions that matter in 2013. To hold myself accountable, I’m putting them out to my readers. You guys won’t go easy on me, right?

Did I mention I hate change?

1. Date the guy I usually don’t (this means a non-asshole-from-the-start no call/no show bartender, musician, or Abercrombie & Fitch model clone. Who knows? By following this little number, I may get a SECOND date. Whoa. Heavy)

2. Drink a glass of water in-between every cocktail and for God sakes, eat before I leave (did I mention I never really got to be 21? This includes not learning alcohol rules of engagement until eight years later)

3. Say “take a hike” more (me = overly nice and can’t say no. Me = feelings hurt often. Grow some balls and stop getting walked on)

4. Teach as much as possible, wherever you can and with whoever will have you (my heart and mind come alive in a classroom. I was born to teach. The more practice I have, the better teacher I will be)

5. Stop cutting my bangs and coloring my own hair (bangs = I never wear them and I don’t even really like them. Honest Abe? I make my hairdresser cut them because I secretly hope they will make me look like Jessica Alba in Honey. No matter how many times I cut them, they don’t. Instead, I look 13. Stop the madness. Get adult-only haircuts. Hair color = I don’t ever want to relive the Elmo color-fiasco of spring 2012. Enough said)

6. Be in the best shape ever by enjoying workouts (More dance classes, less Pilates {which I hate}. More running, less yoga {which I laugh throughout})

Your turn.

2nd Annual Countdown: Lessons of 2012 (via Twitter @OGradyKL)

2 Jan

For the second year, I’m counting down the top ten lessons learned in 2012. Lessons were originally published on Twitter (@OGradyKL). One lesson per day was revealed from December 22nd – January 1st. Lessons are non-scientific (at best) and based on nothing more than my meandering (yes, and comical) experience as a later-ish twenty-something.

Enjoy and Happy New Year! 🙂

Lesson #10: If you want something, you need to ask for it. If you don’t ask, you can’t be upset when you don’t receive.

Lesson #9: There is a delicate balance between being labeled the life of a party or the party girl. The latter isn’t cute.

Lesson #8: My Prince Charming is out there somewhere, but that somewhere isn’t anywhere alcohol is involved.

Lesson #7: A broken heart can heal, but it’s not just about time and patience. It’s about forgiveness, empathy, and letting go.

Lesson #6: Mean girls don’t go away. Instead, they get worse (and more bitter) with age.

Lesson #5: Overcommitting yourself is just as bad as always saying no. Find a happy medium.

Lesson #4: Dating advice for the awkward: when in doubt, make out. It’s fun and you totally avoid uncomfy pauses or dumb convos.

Lesson #3: Don’t let your career define you. Remember, your life outside work hours is way more interesting.

Lesson #2: You can’t be best friends with everyone, but you can be the best friend possible to everyone. Life is richer with kindness.

Lesson #1: Live every single second like it was your last. Life is too short and unpredictable to waste a moment over-thinking.