Set the World on Fire

This was originally published over at  the JASPA – Jesuit Association of Student Personnel Administrators blog! Thanks for having me write, JASPA!

It was the night before graduation. We decided to have one last barbecue at our friend’s apartment, in the courtyard attached to her building. We all were grappling with the impossible truth that college was over the next day. I didn’t know what to expect from my future, as I had not even secured a job yet. But that night wasn’t about the future; it was about celebrating the past four years at our beloved Fordham University.

We cleaned up and trickled inside, well after dark, to end the night doing nothing much. Half asleep next to my friend, who was writing notes to all the people who made an impact on him during college, I heard a knock at the door.

When our friends came back to the main room, they exclaimed that it was the fire department who had knocked. Someone had decided to dump the burning embers of the barbecue into a garbage pail. Naturally, the pail started smoking, almost setting the courtyard on fire. Doh! Yes, we were about to get our degrees. Yes, we clearly skipped our “Common Sense” classes.

I share this anecdote because it is certainly NOT what St. Ignatius Loyola meant by, Go forth, and set the world on fire.

But it is a funny story.go-forth

Go forth, and set the world on fire.

What beautiful, powerful, inspiring words those are. Among many things, my Jesuit education taught me that I have something earth-shattering to give to the world. Not only that, but I have something I MUST give to the world. ‘Go forth!’ because there’s no time like the present. You must get on with making a deep impact, right now!

At Fordham, I learned the following lessons in becoming purely myself.

  • I never had to settle into being a “follower” – Each person has leadership potential and I found mine on the board of a cultural club and as an orientation leader.
  • My greatest gift from God is my inclination to joy.  – I learned to be immensely grateful for each moment I spent on that campus, and to leave each person happier than they were before we met. (Well, within the limits of human nature – nobody is perfect.)
  • Faith and critical reasoning go hand in hand. ‘Faith and Critical Reasoning’ was actually the name of my freshman core theology class. I learned to be confident in my faith – that I am both an intelligent science (psychology) major and a devoted Catholic. I learned to speak eloquently, respectfully, and thoughtfully about my beliefs.
  • Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam. – (All things) for the greater glory of God. Everything I do should proclaim God’s goodness. My actions will always reflect my faith, and that is something I cannot forget. I should put my whole heart and all my love into even the most mundane of tasks – because it all matters.

These four lessons allowed me to find myself as a young woman.  I understand that I have the potential for greatness because of my mission from the Big Guy Upstairs, even if I don’t know what that is yet.

It also means that every single other person is right there with me, as important as I am, in the same human family.

Therefore, I challenge you, Go forth, and set the world on fire!

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Which of my Favorite Books Should You Read Next? – Quiz

What do outer space, dystopian societies, Jane Austen, and Native American culture have in common?

Welcome to my bookshelf. Actually this barely representative of my incredibly packed book collection, which is begging to be given double the space. But, I digress.

I was struck recently by how so many of my favorite books have an orange cover, which is conveniently my favorite color. These books, with the exception of my Italian copy of Pride and Prejudice, stay displayed at the front of my bookshelf at all times. They make me happy.

I’d like to walk you through why each of these books hold a space in my heart.

Walk Two Moons, by Sharon Creech

I found this book randomly in my middle school library. Since then, I have read it more than once. I never read books more than once. But I loved this book, because it was mine. I had found it. Sharon Creech is a wonderful author. Pieces of this story, images from it, will always stay with me.

Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen

I picked up this book sophomore year of high school, as my choice for a reading project. I hated it the whole way through. And then I finished it and it was the best book I had ever read. The characters are fantastic, the time period is to live for, and Elizabeth Bennett is a #bosslady. I then read this novel again in college for a class. The outcome was a paper outlining why Lydia Bennett, an annoying and wayward little sister, actually moves the story forward entirely. I am sure I got an A on it.

Ready Player One, by Ernest Cline

I downloaded an ebook version of this book on a whim, and was thrown into an adventure I had never expected. It was a pretty dark time in my life, and this novel was exactly the enthralling escapism I needed for my commutes. Seriously, I may have spent my train rides crying if I didn’t have Ready Player One. It reminded me of books I had read as a middle schooler. The kind that immerse you in a story- the kind you rush through homework to get back to. I became immediately obsessed with the fact that there are people who write for adults that actually know how to weave a story.

The Martian, by Andy Weir

Unlike most bookworms, I don’t really get too emotionally invested in fiction. I rarely am “wrecked” by a novel, or desperate over characters. This book, this fantastic, spell-binding read, had me literally on the edge of my seat during my commute. I was barely holding myself together as I read the last few pages, begging Andy Weir not to hurt this main character that I felt I knew. Seriously, few books have gotten me like that since then. Even the fact that it had a lot of scientific jargon didn’t hinder my emotional response. You go, Mr. Weir. You go.

So that’s why I am passionate about these four titles. Now, it’s your turn to pick one of them up. Use this quiz to help you decide.

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Getting Engaged Made me Brave

DSC_1641In case you don’t know me, because if you did, you’d be sick of hearing about it by now, I recently got engaged. Kieran and I have known for a long time that this is what we wanted so it’s no surprise at all. That doesn’t mean that I didn’t go through a million and one emotions, though. I waited for it to hit me, at first. I waited to really feel like a woman with a fiance. I waited for the anxiety I know so well to kick in – to try tell me that something HAD to be wrong, or that I was all wrong. Happily, I felt that a lot less than I expected to. Don’t get me wrong, I have my moments of panic. But they don’t last because I love a good project – and what better project than planning the most important day of my life thus far?
I never expected, however, to become brave after just a few weeks. I am not, as far as I have ever felt, a “brave” person. I am confident and comfortable around strangers to a fault, yes. I don’t think that makes me brave; it just makes me easy to get along with. I can’t help that I am extroverted. Yet for one of the few times in my life, I feel sure. I am sure that my relationship with Kieran is the right thing; I am sure I want to marry him. Even my anxiety can’t lie to me about that for too long, before I fall deeper in love with him all over again and tell my brain to shut up and be happy already. This sureness helps me work towards my 2016 goals of GRACE and RENEWAL. It is this sureness that makes me brave. 

Brave about the future

I am usually someone who procrastinates the big, scary logistics. Yet the other day, on my own accord, I picked up the phone and called my church to ask about the availability for a wedding. I started on the hard stuff, and for once the “this is real” feeling wasn’t bad. When Kieran and I started looking at future apartment options, I thought I would start to freak out. Instead, I am more excited than ever. This is real! This is real and I am so pleased that it is.

Brave about my decisions

There will always be many people with many opinions. Some will tell me I should have gotten married already. Some will tell me I am way too young and we are making a mistake. But I know, I know, that things are happening at the right time. Instead of shrinking back, I feel a need to talk to people about how serious I am about this. I am not afraid to stand up for my decisions. I want the important people to know that this isn’t a silly, spontaneous, or immature decision.

Brave with Kieran

As soon as we got engaged, I instantly felt something switch in our relationship. I felt closer to him, like I didn’t need to worry about whether something was only my business, and not his. I feel more comfortable than ever telling him what is going on in my life, because I know we are going to be “one” not too long from now. I feel more than ever that I can run into his arms and he won’t judge me, because we share everything.
And so, I am brave. At least for now.

Adults Pack Everything But the Sunshine

I sit at a window seat on the MetroNorth train to Grand Central, attempting to read Bradbury’s The Martian while small children in the 6 seater across from me giggle, laugh, and say complex words I’m surprised they know at their age.

They are having the time of their lives. Was I like that? Singing songs in unison with my friends, and laughing hysterically at nothing in particular. They are not even at their destination and I think if they turned around right now,  they’d go home excited about their fun adventure on the train. 

In my fight with anxiety and the malady of getting older, I realize where I went wrong. It’s sad because I think I was the last to fall- I’d been optimistic and excited way longer than many. But now, instead of having the time of my life during my commutes and travels, I’ve picked up the occasional hobby of starting my days hoping and praying that it won’t disappoint my expectations.  I wonder if my time with my boyfriend will be awesome or leave me wishing we had talked more, been more spontaneous, did more.

Meanwhile,  these children are SURE they are headed for adventure. That’s why they are so excited and happy. I bet they will go home tonight after their day in the city and decide it was the best day ever.  Because they started it off right. They are making their own happiness, I’m watching it.

image

I have noticed lately that Kieran and I have the most fun on days when I don’t plan, and don’t worry if the day will be as exciting as I need. When I’m in a good mood, I have a good time. When I’m riding shotgun being silly and laughing, we have already had a blast no matter our destination.  And we will probably continue to do so as the hours tick on.

So this is my reminder to you: Bring your own happy. Shine a light on every moment so that you and everyone else has a blast. If you’re too busy analyzing each day for the good, you won’t find it.  Because you’ve actually looking for the mishaps the whole time.

“Wherever you go, no matter the weather, bring your own sunshine. ”

-Anthony D’Angelo

How My Need for Constant Progress Got Me Stuck

  • Come up with a list of personal to-dos outside of work tasks on my daily planner sheet, based on my monthly personal goals [mapped out on a dry erase board in my room]
  • Get 10K steps on my Fitbit, even if it means pacing quickly around my room at 11:50pm
  • Complete my “brain training” for the day using the Elevate and Peak apps
  • Keep working toward my 30 book goal for the year
  • Spend time with my boyfriend or my friends
  • Plan what activity or conversation my boyfriend and I will do
  • Daily gratitude journal
  • Pick tomorrow’s outfit
  • Sleep???

Are you exhausted yet? I am. No really, I am so tired because that last bullet point often doesn’t happen till 1am, so that I can start the cycle again at 7am the next day.

Turn down for what-I realized this week that I feel stuck. In my desperate attempt to get more productive and happier outside of my job, all those things that should feel awesome start to feel like have-tos. I’ll admit, I am very goal oriented, and slightly addicted to checking off task lists. And I am pretty darn good at doing all these things. So why do I feel stuck?

Maybe it was a recent post on The Student Affairs Collective that sparked this realization, or maybe it’s my lack of sleep. Actually, it’s probably both. As that post clearly states, balance has nothing to do with the “pie pieces” that your life breaks into. Trust me, I am great at not thinking about work once I leave the office. Balance means you have time to decompress. 

There are SO many projects I want to do, ideas I want to follow up on, things I want to experience. My need to constantly make progress has hit an almost-dangerous high after I recovered from mono over a year ago. I overcompensated for my slump by rarely staying still, until being so desperate for leisure time, I choose to do a crossword at midnight instead of going to bed.

Yesterday, after being in tears over some unrelated things, both present and future, I realized I need to unstuck myself. I need to find balance in how I balance my life. I need to find that sweet spot where I am productive for myself, without planning every detail of my life. I need to remember that my “me time” should include “because I want to, right now” activities. 

Maybe it’s okay if I don’t hit 10K steps.

Maybe it’s okay if I skip those games sometimes so they don’t feel like a chore.

Maybe it’s okay if I let my time with my boyfriend happen naturally, and continue to work with him to find the balance between comfort and becoming closer.

Maybe it’s okay if I collapse into bed and pick my outfit in the morning.

Maybe it’s okay if I don’t outline my personal goals in the same way I outline my work goals.

Maybe it’s okay if I don’t build a personal brand on my blog, and I just figure it out as I go.

Maybe it’s okay to just start somewhere, because I want to choose that project, without trying to balance out all the other things I planned that month.

Maybe those to do lists are great when I have a busy off day, not every single day.

The truth is, I am not sure exactly where that balance is. I am not sure how to accomplish goals without getting stuck in my own plans again.

I am only sure that I need some time to just breathe and to choose to do something for the sake of doing it, not because it leads to a greater outcome.

-exhales-

Thanks for reading that. My point to you is that the things you do to live a fulfilling life shouldn’t exhaust you in a bad way. You shouldn’t be so tired from your constantly whirring brain that you lack sleep. You should fall into bed satisfied and happy each night, knowing you did great things and had some fun, and tomorrow is a chance to have another awesome day. 

In the words of rapper Audiopush,

Turn down for what? Turn down cause you tired.