Young Professional… Lost.

There is a part of this crazy journey that I haven’t acknowledged here yet.

Well, actually, that isn’t quite true.

There is a part of this journey that I’ve been too embarrassed to write about. Yes, embarrassed. Hard to believe coming from someone who has poured her heart into writing about anything and everything, no matter how humiliating, on a very public forum for the past two years, right? Well, this “thing” that I’m referring to is something that has always be a part of my self-concept, a key ingredient to my own perception of my self-worth. It has been a source of pride, of motivation, of identity. And now, in the last few months, that piece of me has vanished. So for the sake of the giant empty space in this Floridian room where an elephant should be, here it is…

My career.

Or current lack thereof.

I’m going to have a moment of self-pity. A giant, dramatic, cry-me-a-river-and-build-a-bridge, world’s-smallest-violin MOMENT and let it out: I’ve been struggling, I’ve been lost, and I’m not entirely sure what to do with myself.

I could say that I’ve made a lot of sacrifices for Bill and the unbelievable career move that brought us to Florida. I left my friends, my family, my beloved San Luis Obispo, my job that I loved and that loved me back. Not to mention my heart-of-hearts home state, for whom I cry grizzly bear-sized tears from the NorCal stars in my eyes and for whom I bleed In-N-Out special sauce through the map of my “5 to the 505 to the 80 to the 680 to the 101” veins. Oh yeah, and about whom no one in Florida really cares too much. I swear, I find myself wanting to go so SNL on everyone I meet that they know without a doubt I’m a “Californian”. 

I could say that I sacrificed all of that, but that wouldn’t be fair. Bill and I made the decision together, and this adventure is the bed we made. So I can either lie in it, tossing and turning all night, or I can put on my big girl pajamas and sleep well knowing there is nothing in this world I am lacking. I still have my family, I still have my friends. San Luis Obispo hasn’t moved, and neither has California.

However, there is still that pesky gnawing in my brain that just won’t quit. The unfortunate fact is that I cannot pick up the phone and call my career to tell it how much I miss it. It’s has been eating me alive.

So what’s been happening? First, a little back story. During undergrad, I had the privilege of studying what I loved. For me, that was Psychology and Theatre Arts, which in the real world is also known as Volunteering and Bartending. I’ve never known exactly what I wanted to do, per say, but I always knew that I would find it at the end of my passions. As a college student, I worked part-time at a local pet store, then Petsmart, followed by a brief stint at Victoria’s Secret, and lastly at the Children’s Center on my university’s campus while interning in the Gender Equity Center. Fast forward to right after graduation, and you’ll find me teaching kindergarten with some respite work on the side. The teaching job was on a 1000-hour contract, and when that ran out, well, I found myself right back to the drawing board. A random encounter with a former supervisor led me to a grad program, to which I applied. At the same time wanting to make a bit of money and explore my second major, I looked into jobs at our local news station and promptly landed a job in advertising sales. Right after starting, I found out that I got into grad school. In the scheme of things, I made a swift exit from sales and cracked the books again for my MA in Counseling and Guidance for Higher Education. During those two ragged, exhausting years, I interned with the sexual assault resource, the orientation program, the study abroad office, and Career Services, all on campus. Upon graduation, luck would have it that a counselor position opened up at the site of newfound passion, and I started my position as the Career Counselor for the College of Liberal Arts a few months after being hooded.

Best. Job. Ever. 

I had found a calling. I loved my job, I loved my students, I loved my coworkers, I loved my office, I loved my WORK. It was the first time this had ever really happened to me, this whole “do what you love, love what you do” thing. It felt great.

Now, I know you know how that story goes. A little over one year from my official full-time start date, I am now unemployed and in Florida – two of the very last things I ever expected to be. 

Making the decision to move was a very tough one, especially for me but also for Bill too. A lot was going to change so drastically, and although he had a new and exciting job, he had to live with watching his wife leave many things behind. Now, I haven’t experienced that myself, but I can see it in his eyes when I mention missing my friends or work through not contributing financially out loud or fighting being the one responsible for all the cleaning and maintenance and cooking and stocking of the fridge. But here we are, and I am missing my friends and working through a lack of contribution and fighting being responsible for our everyday lives, all while applying for jobs and networking like crazy.

You see, things are not quite going according to plan. At least for me.IMG_6403

When we first started dating, we had talked about the day that would come when we had to choose between San Luis Obispo (and all that it represents for me) and Bill’s career. At that time three years ago, in the car on the way to catch a flight at the Minneapolis airport, I stated that once I graduated from grad school, I wouldn’t be tied down to a job, and I would have my master’s degree in hand. I could get a job, easy, and this all sounded like an adventure that I couldn’t wait to go on. So Bill renewed his contract for two more years while I finished up. We got married a month after graduation.

But then he didn’t get a job right away, and opportunities in California opened up right before my eyes. Opportunities that I wanted to grab but didn’t know if I should since we might be leaving, but that I grabbed anyway because we might be leaving and couldn’t know for sure. So I applied for that dream job and ultimately got it. Once I did, I worried about accepting it. What if I accept and Bill gets a call next month? It was stressing me out. I did accept, and I had an amazing, amazing year there. A year of experience added to my resume that, with that same master’s degree, meant that I was set. 

Or so I thought.

I resigned from that position on June 30th. It is now a week into September, and I’ve been job hunting since May. No job. It’s all been a mystery, really. I have been targeting all the higher education institutions in the area with major emphasis on two in particular. Of course, there weren’t any career counselor positions, knowing that of course I wouldn’t be lucky enough to continue with my passion after 26 years of searching, but there are some great schools around here. As long as I’m working with students, I’m happy. The jobs I first started applying for were the ones that I read the job descriptions and the minimum requirements and thought, “I just might be able to get this.” In other words, they were at the top of my reach with the qualifications I was bringing with me, and testing out the job market, I thought that Florida couldn’t be any harder to break into than Cal Poly. But then I kept getting emails stating that I didn’t make it through HR – the first step in the application process in the higher education. They look at your degrees and your experience, and everyone who meets those minimum requirements gets through to the selection committee, regardless of how good your materials are. You meet it, you make it. I could have written my experience out in crayon, and as long as I meet the basic criteria, I make it through the first round. So back to getting the rejection email, nobody read all that work I put into my many custom resumes, my cover letters, my awesome letters of recommendation… In fact, nobody even looked at them.

Well, I took those first couple hits as a reality check, and maybe the market is more competitive than I thought. Time to step up my game even more. So I didn’t get a director position? At least I tried. As other jobs started popping up, I began climbing down the ladder. Surely I’ll get this assistant director position. Or that one. Or this job at this obscure school over there. Or maybe at that one? What is going on here? Can I please have a job?!?!

Now, I don’t want to sound pompous here, but I’m a career counselor. My area of expertise is to help people clarify their life purpose, define their career goals, work through the job search, and much more – the very basic of which is composing a compelling resume and cover letter. I know how to do these things, and do them well. I spend hours crafting targeted resumes, rearranging my experiences in terms of relevance and scouring the job description for ways to substitute their language for mine. I have countless files on my computer labeled by institution/department/job title, each containing a separate document for every piece of the application. My cover letters are the stuff of which dreams are made. So with all of these pulled up, I’ve called HR many times for feedback. “Hello, I recently applied for ______ position and didn’t make it through HR. I was under the impression that I met the minimum requirements. Do you have any feedback for me?” Then we nitpick each part of my application and why I didn’t meet the easy-peasy minimum requirements, and then there is nothing left I can do so I hang up the phone and sulk for a minute before throwing hellfire and brimstone into the next application, practically burning a hole through my computer with fury as I compose that next magnificent cover letter. 

IMG_6404The last straw came a few weeks ago. I applied for a job at one of the aforementioned university that required a bachelor’s and two years of experience. Well, I have two bachelor’s degrees, a master’s degree, and four years of related experience. Sounds promising, right? Despite the meticulousness I put in to yet another set of materials, I got that dreaded rejection letter AGAIN, and this time I’d had it. I emailed the head of the hiring committee, who I had just shaken hands with the week before, and got no response. I called HR yet again, and I tried everything I could think of before the sweet, sweet lady on the other end of the phone lowered her voice and said, “Well, we actually don’t count master’s degrees or graduate internships as experience here.” I’m sorry… WHAT?!?!? 

I just about blew a gasket. Had an aneurysm. Broke out in hives. Exploded into a million tiny little pieces due to internal pressure.

You have GOT to be kidding me. She basically had just told me that instead of spending two years running in a goddamn hamster wheel of stress, exhaustion, and mental Iron Man competitions – you know, those two years where I gave up my social life and cried more than I didn’t cry and forgot what sleeping was and yelled at Bill for no reason and missed out on amazing things so I could sit at home in sweats and write endless research papers on waitforit HIGHER EDUCATION – and instead of busting my ass working 40 hours a week at the university where they can only pay you close to minimum wage for only half those hours and INSTEAD OF SPENDING THOUSANDS OF DOLLARS ON A PIECE OF PAPER THAT WOULD ENSURE ME PROFESSIONAL SECURITY… Well, I should have just gone to work. Welcome to the last few years of my life, invalidated. 

And then to make matters worse, she added, “You should start applying for positions that require less experience.” Wait, less than those positions that according to your website I should technically be overqualified for? I’m confused. 

Look, it’s not that I should have gotten those jobs. It’s not that I think I’m entitled and some sort of super-professional. A lot of them are now filled, and probably with people who could be a much better fit than me. I know this. But at least give me a chance to show you why I think I could be a great asset. At least read those PDFs that I poured my occupational heart and soul into. But no, I am being held at the gate while I watch everyone else walk proudly through to their new positions, paychecks, and health benefits.

So what now? Well, I’m at a crossroads, but not really, because none of those paths seem to be going anywhere. I did a phone interview that went well, and I’m waiting to hear back. I’m working on my real estate license again, which I’ve wanted to do for years. I’ve been hunting for the perfect fixer house to throw myself into, which proves difficult when you don’t know your area. I’ve been hanging out with some new friends, and I just went to brunch on a Monday. I’ve been reading all the books that have been piling up, decorating and redecorating, cooking (affordable) gourmet meals, and laying on the floor face-up staring at the ceiling.

IMG_6411Doesn’t that all sound great?

Well, it should. However, it seems I haven’t been able smack myself into accepting it. I’ve had this time to distress and relax and catch up, but instead I’ve been digging my heels into the ground and resisting what is. I’ve been worried about the gap on my resume and concerned for the leaps we aren’t making in our savings and buying into all the outsider comments of how this may be the perfect opportunity to start a family when we are not quite there yet. If I could just let go of all it – the anxiety, the guilt, the confusion, the embarrassment – this could actually be a very productive time. The most productive, even. I could get healthy again and accomplish cool things. I could keep educating myself and become a Pinterest rockstar. (Fishtail braids and gallery wall domination have already taken place.) And I could just keep trying and do the best that I can and enjoy life as it is.

But it’s just so hard.

If I’m being honest, though, the hardest part hasn’t been everything I’ve been ranting about for the last five pages. The hardest part has been looking in the mirror this morning and having to face who I really am. It’s been figuring out how to deal with the thoughts in my head and the feelings in my heart without having a deadline to throw myself into or a button-up and heels to hide behind. It’s been about defining myself by my personality, my intellect, and my spirit instead of my profession. Nowadays we really do identify our worth through what it is that we do instead of who it is that we are. I’m mean, think about it. The first question we ask when introducing ourselves or making small talk is “What do you do?” Shouldn’t it be “Who are you?”

So who am I, if not my job? Well, I suppose I am a wife, a daughter, a sister, a friend, a lover, a giver, a caretaker, an artist, a storyteller, an athlete, a big heart, a listening ear, and a kind smile. I am me.

So I guess in the meantime, while waiting for this whole job thing to work itself out, maybe it’s time to shift my focus. Maybe this is a great time to concern myself instead with all those things that I am, instead of all of those things I am currently not. That, it seems, may just be the real secret to getting ahead – and the best kept one, indeed.

Weekending: Run or Dye!

I am a child at heart. And not just a child, but an awestruck puppy-hugging, rainbow-chasing, bubble-blowing, anything-with-sprinkles-loving small child. So imagine the squealing that was going on inside the composed grown-up shell we call my outward appearance when THIS happened:

Are you kidding me?! A giant party with dancing and loud music and everyone throwing COLORS at each other??? And these people are SOBER?! (Well, for the most part anyway.)

Basically, what I’m trying to say – but my giddiness won’t let me – is that last weekend, Run or Dye came to San Luis Obispo. This is a huge deal. Years ago, I stumbled across the Holi Festival, a Hindu religious festival of color and love, and since then I haven’t been able to get the gorgeous images out of mind. Witnessing this in person was bucket-listed immediately. So as you can imagine, while I am dying to attend the actual Holi Festival in India, the rising popularity of color runs in our culture is definitely something I’ve gotten on board with. However, for some incredibly frustrating reason, I have missed any and all of the sort that have come remotely near my current location, which has resulted in fairly intense depressive episodes any time color run pictures bombard me through Instagram or Facebook. To make sure that this never happened to me again, I took matters into my own hand by Google searching any and all organizations that travel with these events, even sending in my own request to the Color Run to set up shop at the Madonna Inn at some point (no such luck). But I put my name on every list that would give me alerts on when one was coming around, and lo and behold, earlier this year I got my first announcement from Run or Dye. They got my name, they got my number, and they got my money – all in less than two minutes. I’ve never been faster, cheaper, or easier in my entire life.

After so many painful years of waiting, wanting, and anticipating, my dream finally came true.

20140509-114744.jpg

Of course, no color run could be complete without asking yourself, “Which of my amazing friends would be most likely to lose her shit to the same extreme that I will?” and then recruiting said friend to experience wonderland with you. Meet the fabulous Katie, who is by far the closest thing to a small-child-at-heart as I am.

20140509-114733.jpg

Here we are, temporarily clean. Please note the sweetness that is my leggings, courtesy of Forever 21.

20140509-114758.jpg

Oh, the anticipation.

20140509-114806.jpg

The funniest thing about this race is that we were so preoccupied by the “color” part that we almost forgot about the “we-are-running” part. Check out the beautiful El Chorro Regional Park, right off Highway 1 between here and Morro Bay. I will be back here, mutt in tow.

20140509-114822.jpg

In all honesty, I wanted to punch some people because 1) they were walking, and 2) I WANT TO RUN THROUGH THAT. (I didn’t punch anyone.)

Check out this quick video, and be sure to listen for Katie revealing her real age at the end.

BEYOND ADORABLE.

20140509-114831.jpg

Can’t wait for the blue!

20140509-114902.jpg

3.1 mile domination.

20140509-114913.jpg

As it turns out, the run itself was not the greatest deliverer of color, but it was sure as hell so fun to run through it all. The after party, however…

20140509-114937.jpg

…was delightfully out of control, even at 9 a.m. We finally joined up with some of my favorite people – Courtney, Emily, and Ryan – and I’m definitely winning in the “Must Have Rubbed My Face In It” category at this point.

In fact, it got laid on so thick at one point that…

Yes, that was necessary.

20140509-114854.jpg

So there you have it. It has been a LONG time since I have had that much fun or that much permission to let loose. We all agreed afterward that we are all hoping to find one in a bigger city and do it all over again. I mean, who wouldn’t want to relive that?

Now, what is the obvious thing to do after a morning like this? Well, go to brunch of course. In public. At a place that serve mimosas (i.e. classy).

Looking. Like. This.

20140509-114928.jpg

Peace.

 

Small Steps, Big Dreams!

Today is a big day.

Want to know why?

Of course you do.

I’m happy to announce that…

It’s official! I pulled the trigger, and my blog is now

http://www.dohotmessticated.com

Because I have often heard that…

Dream A Little Bigger Darling{Image from mycrazy-beautifulife.tumblr.com via Pinterest}

And I tend to listen to very good advice.

Celebrate with me, please!

xo

2014 Inspirations: I Might Implode

With the end of the year fast approaching, I’m finding a familiar feeling creeping back in. Now, I’ve been known to frequent bouts of inspiration over the tiniest and most mundane of daily occurrences. (Just ask Bill how I feel about Thursdays.) However, the prospects of a brand new year always seem to elevate that to an unbearable excitement that must either be released immediately in a frenzy of creativity and fevered passion… or the alternative – namely, imminent implosion.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t like imploding.

That leaves me with a problem. How do I completely reorganize the house/workout like a maniac/dominate my finances/cook gourmet meals daily/redecorate/overhaul my life/Pinterest the shit out of everything RIGHT NOW IMMEDIATELY?!?!

You might tell me I can’t, but I won’t hear it. Save your breath, you downer.

So what is inspiring me this second? (I better not take too long to write this or the list will fall off the bottom of your screen and into your lap.)

1. Queen Bey, Mrs. Carter, Beyoncé Knowles Herself

Can we just talk about this woman for a second? She is just beyond. JUST. BEYOND. Dropping a completely new art form with her visual album with absolutely zero promotion ahead of time, only for it to be one of the most stunning works to ever have existed. It’s such a beautiful portrait of feminism, love, art, and life. And then this shows up on my newsfeed.

I am floored by this woman. And Taylon.

2. The December Issue of Glamour Magazine

This issue is my favorite every year, as it includes the Glamour Women of the Year Awards. This year, they had the honorees and the presenters write down their life mottos, so here’s a little sneak peek of the compilation, which can be found at http://www.glamour.com/inspired/blogs/the-conversation/2013/11/women-of-the-year-life-mottos.html.

Image

I especially like Seth Meyers’ little gem in there. How’s that for inspiration?

3. The Likes of Women Bloggers

There is a new club on the internet, consisting of family women who have taken their previously unrecognized talents of beautifying their domestic worlds and just living, and creating their own careers by writing, photographing, and inspiring us about it all. And when I say all, I mean ALL. There is some backlash that these women are furthering the anxiety and need for perfection in our already susceptible female population, and that is true in some cases, speaking from experience. But following the lives of these women has given me, a newlywed domestic disaster, a sense of camaraderie and that ever-elusive permission to be myself. For instance, my personal home-life idol, Jordan Reid of Ramshackle Glam, who readily owns up to “the occasional mini-disasters that come along with… the idea that true personal style is all about constant experimentation”. Then there is Jen of IHeart Organizing, a mother of three boys who constantly dominates the chaos that is life at home with affordable and innovative solutions that put Martha Stewart to shame. And, of course, Sherry and John (okay, okay, I threw a husband in there because husbands are great too) of Young House Love, who turned their love of both home renovation and the documentation of it into a full-fledged online following. All of these women are extraordinary for the very reason that they are ordinary. Yes, they are beautiful and talented, but they are also smart and hilarious and educated and RELATABLE. They have children and families – do not miss the inspiring story of how John and Sherry’s daughter Clara came into the world here: http://www.younghouselove.com/2011/04/claras-birth-story/ – and they have made their own careers out of celebrating much scrutinized path of mother and homemaker. But the best part is that they see your ideals and raise you REALITY, thereby making it okay to mess up, to take risks, and hell, to be a hot mess if you so please, damnit.

4. The Lorna Jane Philosophy

Love LJ

That’s me, loving life and LJ.

I used to describe this activewear company as the Australian Lululemon, but now that they are here in California(!), I don’t have to! The philosophy behind this company, started by Lorna Jane Clarkson, is all about active living. Their logo is three symbols next to each other, and they stand for Move. Nourish. Believe. I let Lorna explain in her own words:

Active Living

Not only is the message behind LJ incredible, but their marketing and their blog MoveNourishBelieve are amazingly motivating. I am so inspired by this company and their founder Lorna Jane Clarkson, and my life, my happiness, and my health are benefitting. This New Year, go ahead and start with their Self-Love Contract, and just be better for it already, okay?

Self-Love Contract

5. And lastly, THIS.

Sunshine and Laughter

And maybe tomorrow too.

(Image found via Pinterest via iheartinpiration.com)

Happy New Year! You can find me loving like Beyoncé; dominating like the Glamour Women of the Year; celebrating like Jordan, Jen and Sherry; and living my most active life. Wanna join? ❤

A Well-Read Woman

I have a problem. I love books.

A Well Read Woman

Or maybe it’s the world that has a problem.

(Couldn’t help myself… Image found via Pinterest via la femme d’à côté)

Okay, I hear you saying that that isn’t so much of a problem, but you might be wrong. Case in point:

  • My bedside is completely unnavigable due to the stacks and piles and mounds of books, constantly teetering to the point of impending avalanche.
  • I spend an obscene amount of time and money at Barnes & Noble, and I was born hardly capable of walking past the entrance to one without going in.
  • When I start reading a book (although starting just one is unlikely… I’m usually reading four), I think about it ALL THE TIME. Like, completely engrossed. Like, I wonder what this character is going to do next. Like, I can’t wait to get home/on my lunch break/wait for that meeting so I can devour a few more pages.
  • I had eye surgery in August, which put me stuck inside in the dark for a week. One of my top concerns was not my health, not my tan, not my social relationships, but more along the lines of I CAN’T READ FINE PRINT.
  • The single.most.annoying.thing.ever is when you are reading the last 10 pages of any and every book you’ve ever invested yourself in and any interruption that can occur most definitely will. EVERY. SINGLE. TIME.

Life and Reading

Now I won’t go into how overloaded my Amazon wishlist is, or the fact that my upstairs hallway has built-in cabinetry that is overflowing with paperbacks and hardcovers that I can’t bear to let go of, or that when anyone asks me what I collect the answer is quite obviously “books”. And shoes. But books.

So imagine my amazement when I realized that I had not even vaguely heard of GoodReads.com. The purpose of the site is well-explained by their tagline: “Meet your new favorite book.” Yes, please. You can connect with your friends through your social networks, which (don’t you roll your eyes at me) I was surprised to find that apparently no one wants to willingly own up to their nerdiness because a full 59 of my Facebook friends have GoodReads profiles. FIFTY-NINE. And I was utterly incredulous about a few of them, but I won’t name names. My favorite part, though, is that you can pick your favorite genres, scroll through lists and lists (if you so choose) of books in those genres, and rate the ones you’ve read. The site will then generate recommendations for you based on your ratings for your personalized to-read list, with the option of saving those that look the most interesting to you with the click of a “Want to Read” button.

I’m beyond excited for this. If reading is not your jam, then I’ve exposed a part of myself that may make you feel slightly less cool when in my presence. If this IS your jam, you haven’t even thought about how your social status will plummet when we hang out and probably stopped reading half a blog post ago to sign up for your own account. (Ahem, Mom.)

Happy Friday, all! I’ll be spending the holidays with my nose stuck in a book. But in the meantime, leave me your favorite reads in the comments! I’m always looking for recommendations.

Obviously.

Midweek Muse: Your Inner Voice

Yesterday, a life-changing moment occurred. I had the incredible opportunity to present to students a workshop that I had created from the ground up. It was something a little different from what had been done before, something that I thought our students might need, and something that was undoubtedly, unabashedly, from start-to-finish ME. From the moment the idea sparked to the second I finished speaking, “How to Get to Where You Don’t Know You Are Going” felt like my baby. I was so invested that I realized I have been metaphorically holding my breath, unsure of how everyone would respond. I put my entire self on the line with this thing, not too mention my sanity, working ten to eleven hour days with no lunch break (plus over the weekend) for a week straight just trying to get it done. I was completely and utterly vulnerable.

But when I saw my extremely hard-working coworkers had cleared their schedules to attend and students were sighing in relief as I told them that they will, in fact, survive all this life business, I started to feel like I was doing something great. I was making an impact. I was in MY ELEMENT. And to be honest, as students came up afterward just to thank me for the  hour, I realized I had used my voice and stayed true to who I was while creating this project. I smiled for the rest of the day, knowing I have found a workplace place that values my voice and supports me in my creativity, even when that voice and that creativity are a little off the path of what has traditionally been done.

I’ve never felt like this before, and it is really something. So as a little Wednesday inspiration, I wanted to use one of the messages from my presentation to pass on some of that feeling and support to YOU.

Don't Let the Noise

(From foryouyouyou.tumblr.com via Pinterest)

If you ever need some support in staying true to your inner voice, I’ve got your back.

Get Your Cute Butt Out the Door: A Working Girl’s Musings on Exercise

There is a question that I get asked often, and that is how I manage to motivate myself to go to the gym after a long day at work. It’s a topic that comes up frequently in the following forms:

  • Friend: I was going to go to the gym tonight, and then I decided not to… Now you’re making me feel bad.
  • Coworker: You’re so good.
  • Husband: I can’t imagine having to go to the gym after work. I don’t know how you can do that.
  • Friend: YOU’RE GOING TO THE GYM TONIGHT?!?!
  • Another friend: I’m going home to sit on my couch and watch TV. I’m exhausted, and I don’t know how you do it.

It’s true. I go to the gym a lot, and it’s often after a full(+) workday. But don’t get me wrong: this is not something that has come easy. I used to go months without working out. In fact, if you had conducted a close study of my health and self-care habits in college, you might be utterly disgusted. After class and work and meetings and rehearsal and dates and friend time and on and on and on, the last thing that I wanted to do was stand up, change and exercise. No thanks. But now that I’m older and much more educated, I just wish I hadn’t wasted so much time.

Now there are definitely some life circumstances that contribute to making it to the gym so often, but I want to make a huge disclaimer. This is not your out. Yes, I do have a husband who works most nights, leaving me at home to do as I please. Yes, I don’t have to cook a dinner for a family of four. I am able to put off chores until the weekend if I so choose. If you have those things, I genuinely congratulate you, but they are not to be used as excuses. Dictionary.com offers the definition of an excuse as “a plea offered in extenuation of a fault or forrelease from an obligation, promise, etc.”, and in this case, that obligation or promise is to take care of yourself. Excuses are for someone else. Working out is for yourself. If you are legitimately too busy, or have a family, or can’t physically get there today, fine. But take a minute to think about how taking care of yourself actually benefits your mind, your family, and your relationships, and I think you’ll realize that excuses are not accepted here. Sorry.

I used to be captive to my excuses. I would tell whoever would listen and hope that it would make me feel better, that this little feeling in my stomach that felt like I was doing something wrong would go away. Want to know how I made it go away? I started doing what I was supposed to, but all the reasons I was telling myself were bullshit. True, honest-to-God bullshit. I was the only thing holding myself back, and it turns out that the real trick to exercising on the regular was to change my MINDSET, not my circumstances, This took a lot of initiative and a swift kick in the proverbial pants to start educating myself and becoming aware of my body, my thoughts, and my self-talk. And then on top of that, I had to change it. Like I said, not an easy task.

But here I am today, hoping to make it a little easier for you to get your cute butt out the door and in shape by giving you some of the tips that have helped me get to the amazing place where I have (shockingly) found myself, Getting out the door is no longer as hard as it used to be, and the payoff is incredible. Here is what personally changed my mind, my body, and my life.

1) I’ve fallen in love with my gym.

Notice I didn’t write “I’ve fallen in love with THE gym”. That’s because I have tried a few in my area, and they never quite fit. All throughout college, I had access to a huge recreation center right on campus, and I hardly ever went (except for hip-hop class – that was great) because despite strict dress code rules of no tank tops or super short shorts, it was an absolute meat market. I went to a huge state-of the art gym in the community for two years, but I had to wait in line for cardio machines, for weight machines, for classes, for everything. I spent $50 a month to stand around. Oh, and it was a meat market. After all that, I finally settled on the one that was right for ME. I go to Equilibrium Fitness for Women, an all-women’s gym less than a mile from my house. Everyone here is supportive, welcoming, stoked on life, and okay – yes, female. I never wait in line, the girls at the front desk no my name, and I’m surrounded by badass empowered women every time I walk through the door. I found where I wanted to work out, and now it feels like my other home.

20131027-204546.jpg

2) I turn my excuses to skip my workouts into reasons to exercise.

It is so easy to make excuses to skip workouts, and one of the best things I’ve done is commit to getting honest with myself. For example, I HATE getting ready (i.e. showering, blow drying my hair, doing my makeup) more than once in a day OR any time other than in the morning. Lunchtime workouts just do not work for me. I can’t do it. Therefore, since I’m going to get a workout in, I know I have to plan my them as either my first or last public outing of the day. That way I can make myself presentable for the rest of the day after getting sweaty, or I can shower right before I hibernate for the night. I also hate washing my hair every day, and the truth is, I don’t need to so I tend to go the every other day route. But when I work out, I SWEAT. So how do you get to the gym a majority of your days when it would just be so easy to say, “I don’t want to have to do my hair” tomorrow? Well, I do my hardcore workouts on hair-washing days and then plan a yoga class and light cardio on the others. Easy-peasy. Maybe this sounds ridiculous to you, but we all have those excuses we are secretly ashamed of. You know, those ones we rationalize in our heads, but know that if we said out loud we’d get an eye roll to put us in our place from the nearest person, no matter stranger or closest friend. But who cares?!?! OWN YOUR EXCUSES. Once you do, you can turn them into reasons. Now I always try to workout on hair-washing days, because that to me is a reason to get a weight lifting session in, not skip it.

3) Do what you FEEL like doing.

The key here is not to ask yourself whether you feel like going to the gym. By then you’ve already given yourself “NO” as an option. But if you ask yourself instead, “What kind of workout do I feel like doing?” then you’ve eliminated the possibility before you even realize it. Too tired for cardio? Yoga or Pilates. Want to get outside? Go for a run, or if that sounds like it sucks, walk your dog. Have a bad day? Take a combat class, and get out your anger. Feeling like turning your brain off? Find a magazine and park yourself on an elliptical. Hate even the thought of working out? Go dance your ass off, for God’s sake. The truth is that ANY workout is a workout, not just the hardcore ones. If you don’t feel like leaving your house, give yourself permission to do push-ups on the stairs or pop in a Jillian Michaels DVD. It doesn’t matter how long or short your workout is. It doesn’t matter what anyone else is doing right now. Comparison will do nothing for you. Check in with your bad self and do what you feel like, because as long as you’re moving, I’ll count it. So move!

4) Find what gets you pumped.

ONE new song on my iPod = Instant change in my mood about working out. The new issue of Women’s Health magazine in my mailbox = Four to seven days of inspiration, depending on how fast I devour it. But the thing that really gets me excited? (And disclaimer, I am totally unashamed for what I am about to reveal.) NEW WORKOUT CLOTHES!!!! I love the way I feel in brand new exercise gear. And yes, I am that girl rocking neon in the worst way in the corner of the gym. I don’t care if it’s obnoxious! I LOVE it. My highlighter yellow Nikes got me through my first half marathon. I feel like a boss in the purple UnderArmor tee my sister-in-law got my for Christmas. I kick ass when I wear all black in my combat class. Once I figured this out, I started to spread out my purchases. New yoga pants here, new sports bra there. It keeps me excited, no matter how weird it sounds. My newest obsession? THESE BABIES.

20131027-205224.jpg

I can’t wait to put them on! So find your song, your subscription, your hot pink leopard print kicks, and rock them. Whatever gets YOU out the door.

5) Most importantly, make your working out about getting, being, and staying HEALTHY, and nothing else.

This one takes work, and the effort is two-fold. First, you have to start educating yourself on health and wellness. For instance, you know that the sticky stuff you lick on an envelope to seal it? Well, that’s called gum arabic, and they put it in M&M’s and marshmallows. Gross right? I don’t want to put stuff like that in my body, but I would have kept doing it had I not just chosen to read about it. There is so much information out there, and it’s just waiting for you. Whether you prefer blogs and websites or magazines and good old-fashioned books, it’s there, and it will change your life. The second part of this is you need to decide what being healthy means to you. To me, it’s not just a state of being, it’s a lifestyle. It means exercising and eating right, yes. But to me, it also means getting 8 hours of sleep, reducing my stress level as much as possible, having supportive relationships in my life, maintaining a healthy weight, going to all of my doctors regularly, and generally living clean. So why do we each have to define “healthy” when we could just look up the definition the easy way? Because once you take the initiative and define it yourself, you’ve just found your ultimate motivation. You will not get off the couch unless you feel compelled to, and once you attach real meaning behind your action, you will do just that. Promise.

There is a quote from Dr. Wayne W. Dyer that goes as follows: “Don’t die with your music still inside you.” Well, there is a whole lot of potential living inside your kick-butt self right now, just waiting to be set free. Don’t just let it sit there! Go out there and release your energy into the world. I’ll meet you at the finish line.

20131028-113321.jpg

P.S. Check out my sick new Lorna Jane jacket. That puppy has already gone on a run, on a hike, AND to yoga class since I got it with my step-sister a week ago. No shame.