The hardest part of the journey is taking the first step.

Happy New Year!

Wow. My first semester of grad school brought with it a ton of crazy adventures.  And by crazy, I mean exciting, frustrating, challenging, emotional, and educational…not the same kind of crazy you might be thinking.  I didn’t post very much, mostly because I didn’t have the energy and I was focusing so much attention on getting the most out of my job and searching for a new one for next year.

I just can’t hold it in: I have to announce that starting in August, I’ll be working at Baker University as an Area Coordinator/Graduate Assistant for Student Activities & Community Service!  Baker is a small, liberal arts school about 15 minutes south of KU. I am SO EXCITED about this opportunity.  Making the move to a small school now is going to be a great fit, and really get me the experiences I need to apply to similar institutions for after graduation.  That is such a strange thought…a year from now I’ll be looking into post-graduation jobs.  I know that Baker is the right place for me at this point in my career and schooling.  For now, I’ll keep throwing my energy into making the last semester of our freshman scholar program the best it can be, while looking forward to what’s to come.

I’m also in the process of applying for summer internships. No official news yet, but fingers crossed!

Now that (some of) my ducks are in a row as far as work is concerned, I’ve really decided to make 2013 a year to work on myself. This is the last full calendar year I’ll have being a student, and even when I go back for my PhD I’ll be working full time and balancing family. So I figure before I “grow up” once and for all and focus more energy on my loved ones, I’m going to try really hard to get myself in good mental, physical, and spiritual health.  Really, “working on myself” is a job that should never be finished, because I know I’ll be a different person each new day until my last. But I’m blessed to have the time, energy, and resources at this point in my life to make it my number one priority, and that’s my goal.

I talked about “mindfulness” in my holiday post.  That’s part one of my journey.  Part two of my journey is physical health.  I have joined myfitnesspal.com and started logging my meals and snacks (if you’re on there, add me! Username: lauraejacob). It’s amazing how little I knew before I started about the nutritional content (or lack thereof) of what I put in my body.  The site also includes a feature where you can input your exercise for the day, and it adjusts your calories so you can still lose weight, but fuel your body enough to work out.  Using the university rec center (I pay for it in my student fees, why wasn’t I using it before?) and my trusty Biggest Loser DVDs at home, I have been working out at least 5 days a week.  I have a great support system of fellow grad students and friends, and we all help to hold each other accountable.

It’s a choice to stay unhealthy, and it’s a choice to be healthy. Why wouldn’t I make the choice that has benefits for me?  When life is feeling out of control, the one thing I have complete control over is my health.  Along the lines of being mindful, I hope that proclaiming my goals for the world to hear is going to hold me more accountable.  I have a lot of good reasons to be healthy, and here are some of them:

  1. I’m young. I am energetic. But I don’t have a body that allows me to express that. I want to have a family and not only be able to keep up with my kids, but instill in them the values of health and fitness.  I can’t do that if I don’t make it a priority myself! Now is the best time to start, because I’ve got a lot of years ahead of me!  If I get healthy now, I might have even more years ahead of me.  My key word has been: lifestyle.  This is not a diet, phase, health kick, or resolution.  It’s a commitment to a lifestyle that I will maintain for life.
  2. Okay, call it superficial, but it’s motivation: I want to wear all of the cutest clothes!  For me, it’s all about confidence.  It’s rough waking up each morning and hating what I see in the mirror. Nothing seems to fit right, and I can’t shop online and just assume that I will fit into the clothes I like. If I can continue to reach the goals I set for myself through the end of this year: shopping spree for a new, size-appropriate wardrobe!
  3. 2013 is going to be a big year. Starting my second year of grad school, a new job, and–fingers crossed–getting engaged to the love of my life.  When I show my engagement (and later, wedding) pictures off 20, 30, 60 years from now, I want to look like the best version of myself. I want to be proud of how I look and the journey I started this year.  No more bad photos!
  4. Day to day health.  People in healthier bodies, with healthier habits, get sick less. Already, I’ve experienced some of the health benefits of working out and eating right: better sleep, a quicker recovery time from that cold I thought I was getting, not getting as winded walking up the massive hill upon which KU sits.  I feel like an ex-smoker…the health benefits will only keep coming, if I just work for them!

So there you have it.  Some of my goals for my journey!  Along with the many other things I’m working on this year, I’ll keep you updated on my progress.  Don’t be afraid to ream me out if I say I’m not going to the gym, or if I try and justify eating something unhealthy! I can take it. 🙂

Tell me: what are you going to do this year to put yourself first? Do you have something that’s motivating you to get healthy?  Remember: the hardest part of the journey is taking the first step.

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Reflecting and Renewing

Happy Holidays!  

After completing a November of appreciative “thankfuls” (once-a-day Facebook statuses detailing something you are thankful for that day), it seems December is the month for reflecting and refreshing, as we gauge how the year has gone and look forward to a new one.  This is certainly the case for me.  It’s been a big year!

This semester, I lost track for a short while.  Within one month of being in Kansas (still adjusting to the new apartment and city), I learned that two of my supervisors were leaving for new positions, and the program with which I hold my assistantship is ending in May 2013.  Cue the downward spiral and sad trombone sound effect.  For someone who invests a lot of energy in constant improvement, the news presented a unique challenge: once an event was over, there was no reason to reflect on what we could do better next year. I found myself feeling depressed and pointless some days.

Sometime during the semester, in the throes of challenging coursework, a centipede-ridden apartment, long-distance struggles, and pinching pennies for groceries, I decided that I needed to make the most of the disruption.  On one hand, I could seek out a new position that included as many elements of my current one as possible, thereby ensuring I had a full two-year experience of what I had signed on for.  But that wouldn’t really be my style.  So I started pursuing opportunities that are way out of my comfort zone, in the hope that cramming as much learning and growing into my graduate school experience as possible will make me a well-rounded practitioner.  In January, I will apply to new offices and ideally, one of them will offer me a position and I will finally have next year’s plans nailed down.  Who knows what I’ll end up doing?

But this whole semester has been a waiting game–and as a planner, I have struggled.  Some nights I go to sleep praying that just one thing could finally go the way it’s supposed to, finally work out the way it does in my head.  Looking around, it seems like everyone else’s lives are stable–they are keeping their jobs, their programs still exist, their bosses aren’t going anywhere.  But so much of my character has been formed by the challenges I’ve faced, so I’m not sure why graduate school would be any different.  I have my ups and downs, but generally, I’m thankful I wake up each day a stronger person because of what I faced yesterday.

At the NASPA Region IV-W conference in South Dakota this year, I attended a session all about “mindfulness” in student affairs practice.  This field is full of such dedicated people that we often put our students before ourselves.  The session emphasized that being “mindful” (constantly present and engaged in our surroundings) can help us to focus on our own health and well-being, making us better practitioners.

January is a big month: hearing back from assistantships and internships, applying for scholarships, making permanent plans for next year.  Regardless of how it all works out, I know I’ll breathe a sigh of relief knowing that I finally have some kind of plan.  Then, I’ll make it my goal for the new year to be more mindful: relaxing and engaging in each day in a new way, trusting that in the process the future will work out.  I promise to share all my news with you here.  Until then, I’ll be spending my time reflecting on where I’ve been this year, where I want to go, and how its all helped me grow as a person.

How about you? How have you grown in 2012?  What will you do to be more mindful in 2013?

Peace, joy, blessings, and love this wonderful season-

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Setting the world on fire.

I’ve now been hard at work for two full weeks…only to have my schedule change with classes starting tomorrow!  I love the office that I work in, my supervisor is fabulous and fun, and with students on campus everything feels more energized (or maybe that’s just the sense of reckless confusion mixed with the sweet smell of stressed out academic advisors).  Also, supervising a student staff feels great.  They are so excited and motivated to do their jobs, and I couldn’t ask for more reliable students to work with.

I am nervous for classes to begin.  Sure, I can handle my job when that’s all I have to focus on, but graduate level courses add whole new challenges to my time-management capabilities.  At least I’ll have some work to fill the more lonesome times!

Being away from Mr. Photographer is manageable…we are both very dedicated to the well-being of each other and our relationship.  But saying goodbye to him after a visit…that’s where I struggle.  The most difficult moment is walking back into my apartment after he’s driven away.  Things are quiet, his things are gone, there are dishes in the sink, and I am suddenly very aware of how alone I am.  But my independent spirit hasn’t failed me yet, and having a fulfilling job and work that demands my attention certainly helps.

I did read a quotation yesterday that has been on my mind:

“Absence is to love as wind is to fire; It extinguishes the small and kindles the great.”
          —  Roger de Bussy-Rabutin

I find this to be beautiful, absolutely true, and much more powerful than the usual ‘absence makes the heart grow fonder’ business.  When you’re apart from someone you love, you don’t want to waste precious time sweating the small stuff.  Time together or conversing is precious.  The meaning of “being a couple” comes to be defined by the big picture stuff, foregoing petty arguments and trivial attitudes (extinguishing the small).

The beautiful thing (the great that has been kindled) from this challenge we have taken on is that when it’s over, we will be fully prepared to take on the world together.  If we can cope, communicate, trust, problem-solve, grow, and display appreciation for one another because of and in spite of distance, we are maturing together and gaining skills we’ll use to work through any obstacle life throws our way.  Hanging onto these thoughts and feelings is how I make it from visit to visit.

Speaking of visits…the next will be our one-year anniversary!  Thank you to everyone who has loved and supported us so far in this journey.  We’re just getting started and it just keeps getting better!

“Not all those who wander are lost.” -J. R. R. Tolkien

Time to break in this new blog, don’t you think?

This is probably the last post I’ll make from Nebraska. I say probably, because while I’d like to think visits to Mr. Photographer will include endless hours of dinner dates, cuddling on the couch, and him showering me with attention, the reality is…the guy likes his video games.  But as of Monday, my permanent location will be Lawrence, Kansas. If I don’t already have your address, you should make sure I get it soon, so I can send you a “look at my new address and computer skills!” card in the snail mail!

Up until recently, most of my stresses concerned things like: What if I can’t talk to Mr. Photographer for a whole week?!What if I get lost on campus?!; and What is the dress code in my office?!  Now, I’ve focused my energy on more realistic concerns, like the general notion that I will soon be a graduate student and assistant, navigating the water on the other side of the desk, challenging myself academically, and being expected to advise undergraduates on major academic and life matters…um, what?!

“With great power comes great responsibility.”

No quoting of Spider-Man. Be mature.

I wonder when I’ll truly feel like an adult.  Part of my issue is that I’ll always be a child at heart. The other part is that I remember my first year of undergrad like it’s a bad dream I had just last night.  Since I’ll be working almost exclusively with first-year students, that will probably lend an ear of empathy to the issues I know they will encounter.  But it also makes it harder for me to make the transition, because I don’t feel very removed from that time in my own life.  Concerns like these are ones that will only be dispelled with time, education, and practice. I’ll get there.

Right now, I have a move to worry about.  This will be the first time in my life I’ve lived on my own, paid monthly bills, and gone to work and class every day on a consistent schedule. Luckily, I thrive on habits, patterns, and schedules, so I suspect I will enjoy it for a while.  The new scenery will be a distraction from some of the feelings of loneliness I know I will encounter.  I know I have the right people in my life to help me through it, but being geographically distant from all of them adds a new level of nerves to the change.  Having Mr. Photographer staying for the first week (thank you, Doane bosses) will be wonderful. Having my dad and him go at the same time, leaving me “all on my own” would have been a bit much for me!

Above all, I know that this next step is something I NEED to do.  For my personal and professional growth, securing a future for my family, and learning everything I can (either a compulsion or a necessity, or both).  On top of that, I WANT to do it.  I am ready for new places and faces, and to begin to grow into a capable adult who is knowledgeable about and potentially influential in my field.  I am an innately passionate person, but I have never felt so passionate about a life choice.  I am certain I am meant to do this with my life, and through all the stress and worry, I am comforted by that thought. (I’ll refer to this post when I’m toiling over my textbooks on a Friday night.)

One minute I’m a bundle of nerves and can’t stop worrying about it, the next I’m enjoying my last few days in Nebraska, drinking wine with my second family and not even thinking about it.  Then I get in my car and I can’t see out the back window, and the process starts over! I’ve learned a lot about myself and about others in the past few years of undergrad, and I am certainly ready for something bigger and better.  But no matter how you feel about a place, there are things that make any change bittersweet.  I’ll take a mental snapshot for my scrapbook.  Life is waiting.

Hello world!

I am a recent Doane College grad, about to navigate the waters of graduate school in Higher Education Administration at the University of Kansas, while maintaining a long-distance relationship with the love of my life (my favorite photographer!).

Here, a place for me to blog about my favorite things,what I’m learning and doing, the joys and struggles of living on my own for the first time, surviving in between visits with my boyfriend, and making an apartment a home!

I’m holding on to my independent spirit, my faith, and my passion so I can focus on the things that are most important to me:

My new home—(Lawrence, Kansas)

Strong Hall, KU

My work—(Click for more info about my assistantship)

My studies—(M.S. in Higher Education Administration)

Nate

My relationship—(Loving a photographer is easy, being away from one is not)

Point of focus? My future.

-L