AN OSTENTATIOUS TITLE FOR KEÁNU'S THOUGHTS
This one goes out to my pupperoni, the calvin canine, the big turkey. Over the past few years, he’s always been there when I needed a hug—or he needed a tummy rub. In that time, I’ve learned a few things about a doge’s wisdom:
Go for a walk. Although it's blistering outside, a little change of scenery helps add some color to your day, even if your colorblind.
You don't always get to go to the dog park, so make all the friends you can while you’re there.
To some, digging is a sport. Others search for a bone or root. Just because you dig deeper and deeper, doesn’t mean you’ll find what you seek.
Sometimes you'll be alone, and you’ll have to make your own fun until your hooman returns. But that’s okay because you’re your own best company.
The world is full of different sights, smells, sounds, and tastes. Go see, smell, hear, and lick everything you can.
Getting old is weird.
I thought the cliche that “time flies” was reserved only for people around my parents’ age, but now I’m saying it as often as them.
Looking back 6, 5, 4, 3, or 2 years ago, I don’t know if I would recognize myself. Hell, I could say the same about 6 months ago. Simultaneously, I’m the same, yet different.
I could not have imagined where I was heading, what I’d be doing, or how it all would fit together. Unlike others who knew exactly what they wanted, I drifted between possibilities that never felt like the right fit. I jumped in and out of law school, economics, teaching, psychology, and anywhere in between.
Then, I couldn’t pinpoint my identity—only what I wasn’t. Now, I have a clearer grasp on the things that used to bother me: career path, family, acceptance, and myself. I figured this much out only because of two things. First, I learned to listen to my inner thoughts and ask why. This includes what bothers me equally as much as what I want.
To what bothered me, I learned to listen not to the fear itself but the root of that fear. For example, I used to think that I was wasting time because I didn’t have a career that I was working toward. How then could I make enough money to have financial freedom? Would I ever be happy working at a place that I didn’t find fulfilling? What would my kids think? (I don’t even have kids for the record.) One fear leads to another. It’s easy for these thoughts to continue endlessly, and the way to combat them is to ask why:
Desires deserve as much scrutiny. Over the years, I’ve had a list of unchangeable wants that defined me. These have also changed. (Spoiler.)
Through questioning my desire to be an artist, I found that I wanted to impact and help others. This freed me to see that I can achieve this in more ways than being an artist. I can do this as a friend, supervisor, colleague, acquaintance—really in any role.
You know that kid that never stops asking why? This process of interrogating your worries and wants thrives when you have that attitude. The answers won’t be revealed from the first why alone. Keep asking until you get to the root of it. Often, it will force you into an uncomfortable space. And that’s okay. In fact, the only change that will come is because of entering into that uncomfortable space.
If listening to one’s inner thoughts is the first step to gain clarity, then the second is acting on those thoughts. Sometimes, there’s something that can be done (“I’ll listen to my partner better in the future”). Other times, one can only accept the situation as it is (“I didn’t get the job that I wanted”). In either case, each individual has control over how he or she responds.
Believe me, I rarely like that in the moment. Usually, I just wish that the situation would change by itself. And even though I know that I’m better off choosing to accept the situation, I still want to yell and scream when someone else is given credit for the work that I’ve done. Nonetheless, remembering that I can choose what is an appropriate amount of focus to give to any thought is liberating. I can then choose to redirect my focus to something more productive and meaningful.
I don’t know where life is going still. I have one corner of the puzzle figured out with many pieces waiting. Some still need to be found. And that’s okay. To be fair, I’m still in my mid-twenties. Laugh if you want—I bet I’ll laugh at this in 5 years. Nevertheless, I don’t worry like I used to. Not because life will work itself out, but because I am aware.
Work. Family. Social. Fitness. Sanity.
These are all things that we’re trying to balance on a daily basis, and it can be overwhelming -- especially when we fall into unhealthy routines. I remember every morning started out with a trip for coffee and a protein bar at Wawa (the best gas station around, period). Solid, right?
Moreover, the stories that we tell ourselves don’t help:
I’m not going to say anyone’s day is more stressful than another’s, but I can say that the root of all this kind of stress lies in what kind of stories we tell ourselves. With stories like those listed above, we deny ourselves any comforts because of time, obligations, and most pointedly a lack of respect for our well-being. While our responsibilities are important to varying degrees, they shouldn’t override self-care. In the fast paced times that we live in, this means not compromising on the little pleasures in life that make a big difference to our well-being over time. So how does that work when there’s so much to accomplish in a day? It starts with gratitude.
There are a ton of videos, articles, and people that will provide the “best” strategy for your most productive day and that’s how you’ll feel better. Many of them say that you need block off specific times of your day to make sure that you can get in all that you want. I don’t disagree that giving structure to your day won’t help. However, I have rarely been able to maintain a productive routine like I want: wake up early, gym, read, make a healthy breakfast, and shower all before work. To be fair, some effort toward time management will help, but what I have found that can fit into any schedule is gratitude, which only requires two steps:
What does this look like in action? It depends on what you like. For me, it means rather than making just pasta and tomato sauce, I add three kinds of vegetables, a protein source, and garlic bread. Or it means rather than relying on ceiling lights, I open my curtains to let in natural light and see my backyard. These little pleasures are easy to overlook and say there’s not enough time for, but they remind us of our value and what to appreciate. Going through the extra work to add vegetables, grilled chicken, and garlic bread reminds me that I can treat myself to a nice meal just like treating a guest. Opening the curtains reminds me to be thankful that I reached my goal to move out of an apartment. And it all starts with acknowledging what was giving me small joys.
That sounds easy, right? Well, it depends on how attentive you are to the present moment. With everything going on in life, it’s hard not to cycle through endless mental checklists and conversations. However, adding little check-ins with yourself into your day will help. Just like you would ask a partner, family member, or friend, ask yourself how are you feeling? Whatever the emotion, you can ask yourself this important question: what can I do about it?
If you’re feeling stressed, ask yourself what can I do to alleviate some stress? If that means going for a walk, calling a close friend, or having a cup of tea, then this should rise to the top three on your priority list for the day. When you take that time to invest a little joy into your day, it’s energizing and can give you the pick-me-up needed.
If you’re feeling happy in the moment, ask yourself what’s the root of this happiness? The answer will show you how to replicate it in the future. One of the smallest pleasure that I get when I feel groggy at work is going for a walk outside just to notice the breeze blowing through the trees. I only recognized this about myself when I consciously asked, “Really why am I feeling better in this moment?”
In the end, we all have tasks to do, goals to achieve, people to see. That’s a given. Another given is that we may not always have control over our schedule, especially if we’re on vacation or experiencing a shift in life events. What we can control is taking a few moments to be grateful. Go treat yo’self. You earn it every day.
Personality: Golden Retriever.