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Let’s figure out how we can be good people.

On Sunday, I received an email with the subject, “Can you believe it’s been 1 year, LAURA.”

It was an email from the company that took my photographs at graduation.

A few things:

  1. Enough with the aggressive caps.
  2. Kudos on the marketing strategy.
  3. No, I can’t believe it’s been 1 year.

As of Sunday, May 14, 2017, I have been done with graduate school for one year, which means I graduated from St. Norbert College three years ago. Wild.

I won’t belabor every detail of the last year (you’ve probably heard it enough), but here is the 10-second version. Graduate. Move to Madison. Start job. Quit job. Start freelance writing during interim. Become full-time independent writer. Move to Syracuse. Adapt to New York.

This is probably the most emotionally vulnerable post I’ve written, so buckle up. It’s a roller-coaster.

Here are a few things I’ve learned over the past year.

(1) Dealing with long-term sadness is scary. I had a really tough time transitioning to Syracuse, even though I’m doing what I love and living with my best friend. The absence of Vitamin D, normalcy (think: college or a traditional job), family, and friends can severely impact your emotions. It’s okay to repeatedly Google, “Why am I sad?” and not find a suitable answer or solution. As a self-proclaimed serial problem-solver, this was a frustrating experience for me. Thankfully, time, conversation, and (most importantly) sunshine have the power to make things better. PSA: sadness and depression are not the same things. If you find yourself struggling to discern which one you’re experiencing, talk to someone.

(2) It’s possible (and okay!) to leap out of bed because you’re so excited to work. When I was little, I woke up early to go fishing–regularly (and by myself). FYI I grew up on a lake–I wasn’t taking a solo trek to the local fishing hole. Anyway, over time, I stayed up later, woke up later, and figured I was a night person for life. Not so fast. Now, I wake up at 7 and struggle (or refuse) to go back to sleep, because I’m so excited to build my business. Two things. (1) Not everyone who is passionate about their work is a workaholic. (2) I wish it was easier for people to do work they’re truly passionate about. Amazing things happen when we get to do what we love.

(3) Spiritual empowerment goes beyond religion. I grew up in a small, rural, Christian, farming town. I went to church and appreciate what religion can do for some people. At the same time, I’m politically and culturally involved and despise what religion does for/to others. It’s rewarding to recognize what we individually need–physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually, and/or religiously–to live an intentional life. And it’s refreshing to realize that spirituality looks different for every single person. Bottom line: people have the power to be good. It’s important to figure out how we can be good people. If that involves religion, sweet. If it doesn’t, cool beans.

(4) Sibling relationships evolve. My sister and I have said mean things to each other. Like super bratty–how dare you say that, I’m going to pull your hair–mean things. But at this seemingly magical age, our mid-twenties, we’ve hit this sisterly stride that’s so beautiful (I might cry just thinking about it). The tears are welling. We have this no bullshit, I-get-you, you-get-me relationship that I’m so incredibly grateful for. And we’re heading to Vegas this weekend to hang out like the BFFs we are.

(5) Planning can hold us back. I’m a recovering plan-aholic. Before I studied abroad, I planned (to a fault). While logistics are incredibly important–I still track flight prices for months–learning to enjoy life without a plan (at times) is critical. I would never be where I am today had I stuck to my preconceived post-graduation plan. I regularly talk to people about their plans and dreams for the future–whether they want to start a business, travel, or change careers. And I’ve recognized a theme. So many people get tripped up by this self-imposed and externally-mandated idea that we need to plan every detail. It actually prevents people from making real progress.

(6) We need to leverage the strengths of other people. Growing up, it’s safe to say I was uptight and controlling. I didn’t trust my group partners (who does?) and preferred to do everything myself. Kids are weird. But as a business owner, I realize how powerful it is to recognize the talents and strengths of other people. In the past two months, I’ve referred clients to two different writers. I knew these other writers (my sister and friend, Nichole) could each do a better job than I could at crafting exactly what the client was looking for. By letting other people do what they’re good at, we can focus on what we’re good at.

Moral of the story, sadness comes and goes, passion is powerful, spiritual empowerment is diverse, siblings are beautiful, plans can be restrictive, and strengths are significant.

A lot can happen in a year.

Cheers. Treat people well.

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