Communicating Happiness: 100 Happy Days

Tomorrow marks my 22nd birthday, a little horrifying to say this because 22 is that mark of reality–the year college ends and life as an “adult” begins. As much as I say I’m ready to start my post-grad life, this doesn’t mean I’m not a little weary of graduation, especially after this past year. It’s been hard to be happy and optimistic during my time in college just due to circumstances out of my control; however, I do want to be happy and optimistic. And I want to be happy and optimistic before the stresses of the “real world” begin to unfold. This is because I want to be prepared for whatever comes my way, strong enough to face whatever is next, and not obsess over how I have handled adversity in the past.

With this being said, tomorrow begins my “100 Happy Days.” You may have seen people do this on social media over the past couple years; however, my 100 Happy Days is a reaction to a birthday gift I received from one of my best friends. Called a “Happiness Planner,” this gift is a tool designed to help its owner (me) “reshape the way I think and to shift my focus to the positive.”

It’s funny how this idea of “happiness” has been popping up in so many facets of my life. In one of my communications courses, I contributed to a presentation on the book The Happiness Advantage, which shares principles that can guide a person to create happiness. The Happiness Planner that I was gifted just this week, is the perfect complementary tool for practicing the principles I just studied in my class. It’s as if now is the time I’m meant to reevaluate how I react to this life, and regain control of the single thing I do have control over: my attitude.

Returning to the concept of my own 100 Happy Days, I plan to document my next 100 days in my planner and also within this blog through what I’m calling “Communicating Happiness.” Don’t worry though, it’s a weekly blog series not daily! I’m going to take readers on the journey with me as I make my way through the next few months. A lot is about to happen in 100 days–birthdays, senior events, graduation, wedding fun (Maid of Honor duties!), a trip to Disney, moving in with my grandma for the summer, calling NYC my work home for a couple months, starting a career in PR and communications, and of course spending as much time as possible with my family.

I didn’t realize how much actually happens in 100 days until I looked at my calendar and wrote that list out. I know there are going to be plenty more bumps in the road, and plenty in those next 100 days; however, my focus in this blog series isn’t going to be on the bumps. Rather, it’s going to be how I can grow from any falls I may have and plan for the happiness that’s coming next.

Here’s to Day One of #CommunicatingHappiness.

-Rachel

 

World Poetry Day

On my final night of spring break before heading back to my last block of college, I couldn’t sleep. Instead of sleeping, I found myself putting words together in my head: a poem. I haven’t written a poem in years. This is why it’s so strange that the night I wrote a poem was just a couple days before today’s World Poetry Day.

I was a child who loved words. I even received a collection of poems one early Christmas because of my interest in poetry. I was one of the few students who adored the chapters in high school English when we analyzed poems; however, since attending college I have lost touch with my love of poetry. My mind has been so focused on research papers, social media writing, blogging, writing for professional communications. I forgot that I once admired creative writing, embracing imagery in my words, sharing emotion with a reader.

Now let me get one thing straight–I was no young Maya Angelou; however, I did enjoy the challenge that poetry brought with it. The vulnerability you must have to put emotions into words and find the right word that feels perfect for every line.

I wrote the following poem while sleepy, emotional, and desperate to put words to paper (or my phone, which I probably need to stop sleeping so close to). Again, I’m not saying I’m a poet, but that’s not going to stop me from writing. Just like being on the verge of tone deaf doesn’t stop my love of showtunes.

This is what those words became.

Titled: “We Overcome”

Children play
In fields of freedom.
With innocence
And superficial fears.

Time passes,
As it does too fast.
Play lessens,
Fears deepen.

Dark clouds,
Halt children at play.
Storm looms near,
Air thins.

Or so it seems.

Time passes,
As it does too fast.
Play lessens,
Fears Deepen.

Clouds part,
Light emerges.
Storm distances,
Air is plentiful.

We overcome
Our loss of innocence.
Freedom is near,
Angels at our sides.

-Rachel

A Few Deep Breaths

Breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth.

I can hear my dad’s voice now. In order to explain what this means I have a short, well semi-short, story to share.

I used to be a basketball player. Pretty amusing to think about as I am 5 foot 2 with zero capability of sprinting up and down a court at the moment. Basketball was never my favorite sport. Soccer held that role in my life; however, for a while prior to a few injuries, I played all the sports my friends played. Basketball happened to be included on that list. I was usually a point guard, shockingly not a post I know. Before almost every game I would get rather worked up with nerves. Who knows why I was so scared to go out and play a sport for my high school; nevertheless, it happened.

I recall when I would get this worked up, my dad would occasionally hit me with the “you need to relax, Rachie.” My parents were never competitive when it came to my sports, only supportive, so I never felt forced play them. This is why there was zero pushback on their end when I did choose to prematurely quit basketball and forgo my inevitable WNBA career.

As I mentioned, my dad would tell me on many pregame car rides, “you need to relax.” He always told me, “just breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth.” He would repeat it until I was actually back on track, breathing calmly.

This was one of my dad’s “phrases.” Whenever I would get anxious whether for my school assignments, sporting events or theatre performances, I could always hear him saying “breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth.” It never mattered if he was actually reciting it to me, I always heard it.

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Now, in February of 2017, I still hear it. When I feel myself getting overwhelmed, I hear my dad’s voice in my head: breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth. I may not be instantly relaxed, but I definitely get on my way to it.

It is something I know that I will hear forever. And forever in his voice.

Okay, so I occasionally overreact to situations. I over think far too much, and with that comes anxiety at times. When I reach these moments, Dad’s voice will always be there to calm me down: Rachie, breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth. And of course when I actually am overreacting to a minor situation I’ll hear the just chill out, you need to relax. It will remind me to breathe. Because what I am making into a big deal, is really no big deal at all. At least not something that cannot be fixed with a few deep breaths.

-Rachel

When Beyond Stressed, I Write.

The past few weeks have definitely taken a toll on me. Surprisingly not about my personal life, but all with college. When you are deep in group projects, applying to jobs, preparing for internships and traveling to a conference out of state, it gets a little hard to breathe. Let alone enjoy the final semester of college. 

This week was one where I saw the downfalls of being a perfectionist with my work; however, as I have recently told many people, it is because I truly pride myself on the work I produce. This can be difficult when it comes to working on so many group projects in our communication major. Everyone has different perspectives, different motivation levels, and different styles for producing their own work. None of this is necessarily bad, but it definitely is important to understand that work and leadership styles vary from person to person. This is why the past few weeks, and few days in particular, were a great learning experience because I was able to take away personal notes for improvement. I understand what my strengths are, but I realize what my weaknesses in group dynamics are as well, and how I can better cope under stress.

I’ve mentioned this to a few people jokingly, but recently I took a personality test. Yes, it was online, but it was quite a substantial test for something I found shared online. Anyway, the test showed me that I have a pretty high level of anxiousness; however, that level also matched my high level of orderliness. I joked about this finding in that I may get a little anxious, well a lot anxious, during times of stress; however, the project is going to get done, and it is going to get done with 100% of my effort.

Hence, the blessing and the curse of being a perfectionist, and why I have learned over the past few years to not overcommit, to say no, and to remove myself from situations which are not positively contributing to my life.

Mental, emotional, and physical health should always come first. When I have high expectations for myself and others I am working with, it is sometimes hard to distinguish when these three forms of health may be taking a toll because I am so focused on the end product.

What’s cool about understanding all this at my age is that I’ve been able to really narrow down where my passions lie, and what pieces of my life I choose to commit 100% to. Although I’m a little sleep deprived right now, I chose to commit everything to this project because it’s a project that will honestly benefit my passion in the long run. It was a creative project, based on branding and design and I had a leadership role. Although I was not a perfect leader, as I mentioned earlier, I learned a lot about myself during this short project which I can take with me as I move forward in my career. I know you may be wondering why I put so much thought into a silly group assignment in college. Well, this project is just a small glimpse of the type of content, style of project, and leadership situation I hope to see myself in for many years to come, on a larger scale of course.

It’s just another reminder that I’m entering a career field I’m supposed to work in, one that I’ll enjoy working in. 

-Rachel

My Next Move

Today marked the first day of my final semester of my undergraduate career. After eighteen years of education, I am down to my last four months. It is a little surreal to think about how structured my life has been up until now, and that my world is unknown in four months. No more summer vacations, week-long breaks, or winter recesses. Currently I have jumped right into the job application process, applying to agencies left and right, hoping that I will have some idea of my short-term future by May.

As I began my day this morning, returning from a five-week long hiatus from Ithaca College, my focus was not exclusively on classes. Last night I returned to Ithaca with bittersweet feelings. This winter break was filled with a lot of heartache and emotions, but I was able to experience the heartache around my family—my rock. Now I must revert to my routine, group projects, work, applications, gym sessions, and time with my good friends who I will be parting from in a just a few months.

Not only has my personal life been filled with emotions, but I also cannot seem to go on social media without a sense of stress and sadness over the divisive rhetoric of my newsfeed, nationwide. Although it is hard to remove myself from social media, I seem to close out of these applications feeling more agitated than I ever have before.

With this being said, I have found myself thinking a lot about my next moves in life—mentally, emotionally and physically—over the course of my final semester and post graduation.

The past six or so years have not been easy. I know what some of you may be thinking, I am 21 years old, how hard could my life have been? To a certain extent, you are correct. I have been surrounded by people who I love and who love me. My college experience has been difficult, but I had the opportunity to attend two amazing institutions to learn about communications and have only benefitted from the networking, education, and of course the friends I have gained at both of these schools. Additionally, I am a healthy individual. My mental and emotional health may have taken some hits with the events that have occurred over the past few years; however, I have been able to continue working, going to school, sharing my voice with you all, exercising, laughing with friends, and loving my family.

It is easy to get sucked into the negativity surrounding our lives right now, but my next move is this: I choose my path, and I choose positivity. Those who know me have seen all my sides, but recently my closest network of loved ones may have seen a lot more pessimism than optimism in the past few years. That changes now.

Life is by no means going to get easier. Negativity will continue to surround me; however I want to do my best to be positive in the moments I have left in college, in my job search and the start of my career, with my friends, and with passing strangers or followers on social media. We are so blessed with the ability to share our voices. What power that holds.

The voice you share may hold a different opinion than the person beside you. I know mine has at times, but I try my best to remain positive even when sharing a different opinion. We should never hold back our opinions, while making sure we do so respectively. How else will we bring positive change to the world and society without sharing these voices respectively.

At this particular moment in life my positive contributions may be small ones, but they still matter, such as listening to friends in need, successfully completing my part of a school project, complimenting or acknowledging someone, calling family members, reaching out, and facilitating open conversations with those around me.

My next move for 2017 is to practice positivity, what is yours?

-Rachel

And Then I Remember My Memories

I’m jealous of the girls whose fathers will walk them down the aisle.
I’m jealous of the girls whose dads will see them graduate college.
I’m jealous of the girls who got to crack open a beer with their dads when they turned 21.
I’m jealous of the girls who get to introduce the man of their dreams to their dads.
I’m jealous of the girls whose children will grow up with grandpas.
I’m jealous of the girls whose relationship with their dads didn’t change at age 16 after a disease stole that relationship from them.

And then I remember my memories. 

I remember looking over at the sidelines and seeing my dad at every single game after a long day of work.
I remember the ice skating trips, and my dad skating up behind me and lifting me in the air.
I remember the vacations—all the vacations with the five of us.
I remember the car rides and the hours stuck in traffic, testing every member of our family’s patience.
I remember my favorite movies being interrupted by a man on a mission with a vacuum cleaner.
I remember the bike rides around our hometown and being scared to ride down the big hills.
I remember the long, very long drives around that same hometown.
I remember going to church every Sunday and never missing breakfast right after.
I remember the Christmases where I was spoiled with gifts because my dad worked hard each and every day to give our family a comfortable life.
I remember the laugh.

And then I am no longer jealous.

I am sad, yes.
But I was blessed with a dad who placed his wife up on a pedestal and tucked his kids away in his heart with immense pride.

My dad was everything a girl could dream her dad to be.

Although he was taken from us far too soon, and the effects of an awful disease took pieces of him years earlier, he was and always will be the strongest, best man I will ever know.

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Father’s Day, 2014

-Rachel

Two Weeks Into Senior Year–Okay, What’s Next?

A little over two weeks into senior year and I’m already having the “what am I doing with my life next year” moment. It’s not as much from fear this time around, but rather I’m excited for the possibilities. For the first time in a while (well besides that whole transfer situation), I have absolutely no idea what I will be doing. Undergrad will be over. Eighteen years of structured education will be complete, which leads the next stage in my life wide open. What city will I be in? What state or country will I call home a year from now?

Yes, I said country. That’s because more than anything, I want to travel. I missed the opportunity to travel abroad in my college career, but that does not mean I missed my opportunity to travel. I have such a need to see the world. I am tired of reading about cultures–I want to experience them. There’s a strong part of me that wants to just get out of this state and go anywhere. Not that I don’t love New York. Of course I heart NY. But so many places around the world reside on my bucket list–both inside and outside of the United States–and it’s about time I start checking them off.

The wanderlust is real.

In addition to this travel fever, I also have the question of higher education. Do I get my Master’s degree? What do I get my Master’s in? Do I wait and apply to jobs first? Ahh the questions of an early senior.

Everyone says that I have to just enjoy the present, but as I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I can never stop planning. It’s in my communications-major blood to always be a fan of the details, always be prepared for what comes next.

My options for post-graduation may not be considered endless, but there sure are plenty to choose from. And we know my track record with life decisions–that two-year limit before I like to shake things up again. The place I choose to call home next May might not be my home two years after that. The best part is that I can do that at my age. I’ll be in my early twenties and get to fill my life with memories, experiences, mistakes, laughs…you get the picture.

So as I sit here contemplating life decisions on a Saturday afternoon when I should be doing homework, I’m not in fear of the future. I’m in anticipation, but not fear.

Updates on my decisions will continue, and changes to those decisions will surely come shortly after. For now though, I just have to decide where to travel to this afternoon, and an Ithaca hiking trail is definitely calling my name.

-Rachel