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A form of control?

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Dear friends,

“The best way to guarantee a loss is to quit.” – Morgan Freeman

I once had an interesting conversation with a student who was struggling in my class.

She confessed that every time she sits down to do an assignment, she has a mental/emotional roadblock, because all of her life, she received “you can’t do it, you’ll never amount to anything” messages.  Therefore, she said, she’s not afraid of failure.  She’s used to it.  That’s the default.  It’s the risk of success that scares her.

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If she doesn’t do the assignment, the result is guaranteed.  Yes, she’ll get a failing grade, but at least it’s predictable.  If she does the assignment, she’s taking a gamble – what if her best work isn’t good enough?  What if she really IS a “loser?”

We talked about how taking a chance on success also means risking failure, and how the best way to honor the discouraged little girl inside her is to take that chance.

Sometimes we learn from our students.  It would be easy to label her as “lazy,” or incapable.  But fear can be stronger than ability.  For all of us.

Let’s develop the courage to succeed.

Blessings,

Annette

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(Don’t) top this!

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Dear friends,

Earlier today, I was listening to a young woman reflect on the feeling of turning 30 years old.  She spoke about the shock of reaching such a “milestone” birthday, and how it made her more aware of her limitations – how she wasn’t a young kid anymore, how her metabolism was slowing down, how she was starting to find wrinkles on her face.

I’ve heard 20 year olds say the same kinds of things.  And 50 year olds.  And those in their 90s.

When you hear these things, and you’re older than the person saying them, it’s so easy to think/say, “But you’re still just a kid!  You’re young!  You think it’s bad now, wait till you’re my age!”  I had those very thoughts this morning … but then I realized, that kind of response is not helpful at all.

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We all know people who try to “top” us when we complain.  Your toe hurts?  Their whole foot hurts.  You had surgery?  Theirs was bigger, and better, and worse.  You’re overtired?  They haven’t had a full night’s sleep since 1972 … etc.

We miss the point entirely.

The person who says “I’m turning 30, and feeling old” is reflecting on her mortality, and recognizing the ways in which her life is changing with time.  Surely that’s something we all can relate to.  Rather than saying “You just wait till you’re 50!” I can say, “These milestone birthdays can be hard, huh?  They really prompt us to reflect on the ways we are changing.”  We can find a place to relate, to come together.

When I’m in pain, you can tell me that your pain is “worse,” but that doesn’t accomplish anything.  These things aren’t a matter of degree, but of the common human experience.  Let’s recognize the humanity in one another, and acknowledge that life can be tough sometimes, for all of us.

May the rest of your life be the best of your life.

Blessings,

Annette

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When “success” is a lie

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Dear friends,

This photo showed up in my twitter feed today …

… and it occurred to me that there are different ways to interpret this message.

One way frames success as a social achievement, the attention of others.  If that is how we think of success, then this message isn’t necessarily true.  You could “do what you love” all your life, and never achieve success in the eyes of others.  (Reminds me of that old book, “Do What You Love, The Money Will Follow.”  Will it really, though?)

Another way to interpret the message is to think of success as the natural outcome of doing what you love.  You’ll be happy, your skills will increase, and your soul will feel fulfilled, whether or not anyone else notices.

The first part of the message holds true, in either case.  You can’t “aim for” success.  Success is not a goal, it’s the outcome of good work.  People get confused about this, saying they want to be a rock star or a best-selling author or a professional athlete.  They’re confusing the goal with the work.  If you want to be a rock star, work on becoming a great musician – if you want to be a best-selling author, work on your writing skills (and actually write a book) – if you want to be a professional athlete, master the game.  Master yourself.  Whatever success you attain will come from the work.  Success itself isn’t a goal, it’s a result.

Be a success in your own mind.  I believe in you.

Blessings,

Annette

Time and time again

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Dear friends,

Lately I’ve been thinking and reading a lot about time; how we save it, spend it, use it, budget it, waste it, manage it.  We all understand that time is a finite resource.

One article I read said that we treat time like a clown car, thinking that the best way to make use of it is to cram as many activities into our day as possible.  We overschedule and multitask, thinking that’s the way to make the most of our time.  And at the end of the day we fall into bed, exhausted.  We either feel good about ourselves for accomplishing so many things, or badly because we have to carry some duties over to tomorrow.

But life shouldn’t be about doing more, and yet more.  That’s a never-ending cycle, one that’s only going to keep us on the hamster wheel.

Yes, time is a finite resource, and it’s important to use it wisely.  Making the best use of my time isn’t about the number of things I can do, but also the quality of the things I do.  If I take this view, I can see the value in that shopping trip with a friend, or that time spent reading a book for pleasure.  Those things make important contributions to my well-being.

The to-do list will always be there, and it only gets longer – there’s that saying that nobody dies with an empty in-box.  My day should not be about checking things off a never-ending list.  My day should not be a clown car.

Let’s make good choices with our time today.

Blessings,

Annette

Life update 9-6-18

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Dear friends,

It’s been a crazy week, now that we’re “back to school.”  I’m still a bit overwhelmed, tired, and trying to find my groove – but I’ll get there!  A former student visited me before moving out of town to start his first career job, and I felt like a proud mama / older sister / mentor / friend.  I’m working with honors students and grad students on thesis projects.  And classes are underway!

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Book manuscript is not yet done, so that’s my main focus of stress right now.  I’ll get there.

I moved offices last week, so about half of my “stuff” is still in my old room, and I’m trying to get acclimated during a super busy time.  It’s crazy how my calendar went from blank to full practically overnight.  I’m exhausted, but it’s a good kind of exhausted.

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I love my work, my students, my colleagues, my university, and I’m so blessed to be here.  No matter how crazy things get, I never forget to be grateful.

I’m grateful for YOU.

Annette

Book Review: Woman Last Seen in Her Thirties

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Dear friends,

I recently finished this book on Kindle:

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Woman Last Seen in Her Thirties tells the story of Maggie, a woman in her fifties who finds her life in crisis.  Her husband suddenly walks out, and as she faces the world as a separated, soon-to-be divorced woman, she realizes that she has lost her sense of identity.  She has been a wife and mother for so long, she hasn’t really had a strong sense of who she is and what she wants since she was in her thirties (hence the title).  Maggie knows she must pull herself together and create a new life – but how?

As she casts about for new friends and a new vocation, she makes a lot of mistakes, but her confidence grows.  Her divorce is finalized, and she works on closing that chapter of her life by attending a support group for new divorcees and making future plans.  She befriends a man who could be a potential love interest, but is she ready?  And when her ex-husband makes contact again, will she long for her former life?

The book was just ok for me … this is not a reflection on the author or her work (the story was nicely written), but I didn’t identify with the subject matter very much.  Maggie and her husband/ex-husband were both having their own version of a mid-life identity crisis, which I haven’t dealt with.  I tried listening to the audio book first, and found that I didn’t care for the narrator – she read the story in a defensive, slightly snarky tone that I found at odds with Maggie’s uncertainty and sadness (it felt like the narrator was indignant on Maggie’s behalf).  But I thought the story was pretty good, so I read the Kindle version instead.

I would recommend this one if you identify with the subject matter.

Blessings,

Annette

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Pursue your course bravely

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“Rely upon your own judgment; be true to your own conscience; follow the light that is within you; all outward lights are so many will-o’-the-wisps. There will be those who tell you that you are foolish; that your judgment is faulty; that your conscience is all awry, and that the light within you is darkness; but heed them not. If what they say is true, the sooner you, as a searcher of wisdom, find it out the better, and you can only make that discovery by bringing your powers to the test. Therefore, pursue your course bravely.”

– James Allen

A sense of community

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“One of the sayings in our country is Ubuntu – the essence of being human. Ubuntu speaks particularly about the fact that you can’t exist as a human being in isolation. It speaks about our interconnectedness. You can’t be human all by yourself, and when you have this quality – Ubuntu – you are known for your generosity. We think of ourselves far too frequently as just individuals, separated from one another, whereas you are connected and what you do affects the whole world. When you do well, it spreads out; it is for the whole of humanity.”

-Desmond Tutu

It’s everyone’s loss

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Dear friends,

I’m fascinated by the public reaction to celebrity deaths.  While some people might not care, reasoning that these people did not touch their own lives in a meaningful way, many of us mourn the loss of a public figure – whether a performer like Aretha Franklin, or a politician like John McCain.

Why do we care?

First, I think it’s because “no man is an island.”  We live in community with others, and we consider these people a part of our human community.  We sense that our community has been diminished by the loss of their participation in it.

Secondly, I think we care because of what these people mean to us on a personal level.

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I never met Annette Funicello, but she was a part of my life from the day I was born.  I was named after her.  When I was growing up, she was a wholesome role model for teen girls (and the object of many boys’ crushes).  I was saddened when I learned she had developed multiple sclerosis, and I’ll never forget the day I learned that she died.

I was at work.  And I sat at my desk and cried, because I felt a personal loss.

My grief wasn’t really for a stranger, but rather, for the part of myself that I seemed to be losing.  I felt like I lost a connection to my childhood that day, an association that kept me innocent.  I wasn’t grieving for her, so much as for what she had meant to me.

Surely it’s the same for many of us.  When we feel bereft at the loss of a public figure, then ask ourselves why, perhaps this is the answer – it’s everyone’s loss, and we mourn what they meant to us.

And there’s nothing wrong with that.  It’s another way of acknowledging the connections between and among us.

Blessings,

Annette