Monday, February 21, 2011

The Transfer Transformation

I transferred from community college to a university I dyed my hair blonde.

This wasn't the best look for me, but I was compelled to try. Why? Because I was going through an identity crisis/transformation when I transferred. 

Have you ever noticed that celebrities, or maybe even your friends, tend to alter their physical appearance after a breakup or after they get married? Ashley Simpson just got a divorce and chopped off all her hair and dyed it blonde. Vanessa Ann Hudgens and Zack Efron recently split and she just got a tattoo. Simple and shallow, maybe,but it is also deeply psychological. 

When I transferred from community college to a private school I had a hard time getting adjusted. Everyone at this new school had been living together for 2 years by the time I arrived. They also still lived together while I commuted 30 minutes there and back every day. And most of all, most of them were rich.

I'll never forget sitting down in my first class and trying to strike up a conversation with this sweet blonde girl in my class. We started talking about our majors and what we wanted to do, and her dream was to work for Chanel Makeup. At the time I didn't even know Chanel had makeup, and it seemed absurd that such a fancy purse brand would be able to hike the price of makeup just to slap two opposite C's on it (okay so last week I bought Chanel nail polish but it was the only nail polish in the department store and it was an emergency).

But I'll never forget how simply out of touch and out of place I felt in that moment. Once she mentioned Chanel I had nowhere else to go with the conversation. Me, who started up countless conversations in every community college class I had. Now all of a sudden here I was with these kids whose parents were doctors and pilots, who had designer purses and internships already lined up. And I couldn't relate. 

So unconsciously I dyed my hair blonde in order to fit in. This was all I did. I didn't join a sorority or stay out late or do things I shouldn't. I just dyed my hair. And then dyed it back a semester later because it just wasn't me. But as I've hoped you've figured out now this isn't about hair color. It's about adjusting to new life situations and managing and maintaining your identity so that you grow and not wither. 

I almost withered when I transferred but I soon found my place, re-established my identity, and made the most of my experience. 

When I graduated and moved on to my first real job, however, I actually did wither. Like Ashley Simpson I chopped off all my long hair that I loved so much and started wearing suits. The over-achiever that I was I read books about how to be and dress professional and I followed the rules exactly. The rules said you needed to not be so girly and be more masculine. So I put away my flowered blouses and started wearing loafers and pants and cut off all my hair. And I was bored and I missed myself. 

I can't remember exactly when or how it happened, but one day I realized that pants suits just weren't me. I realized I could still express myself and reach my professional goals. I didn't have to compromise that much; and if I wasn't feeling happy or confident, how could I be expected to bring my best ideas and creativity to my work?

So while I couldn't go back to the bright sun dresses and eclectic gladiator sandals that I wore in college, I started growing my hair out. And wearing flowered blouses. And dresses. Skirts. And heels. And I felt like myself again. 

The inspiration came for this post after browsing Facebook (I call it browsing...not stalking) and seeing a few of my favorite transfer students from both my tutoring days and my community college work who had altered their looks. One of my favorite old smartie-pants tutoring students started wearing these big glasses. Another started dressing a bit more urban. And the other chopped off all her hair. 

I think it's fun to explore new looks and reconsider your identity now and again. In fact, it is crucial for growth and development. However, especially as you transfer to different colleges, move, change jobs, or start or end new relationships, you want to make sure that the identities you create are yours and yours alone. Deep down you will know when the change is for someone or something else. And you will know when you look in the mirror when you really feel like yourself. 

So my challenge for you today is simple: wear something nice that makes you feel like you to school or work today. Though it may seem shallow, how you look can often reflect how you feel, and how you feel can reflect how you interact and perform. Try dressing nice to school every day - especially during test days - and notice how you feel and act. And also, don't do anything too drastic when you transfer. 

And finally for my greatest pearl of wisdom that you will ever receive in this blog --> Wait at least a semester before dying your hair blonde :)

Monday, February 14, 2011

Prioritizing Heart, Mind, & Life

I started writing this mornings post 3 times on 3 different topics and realized I couldn’t quite get in the zone because I am so overwhelmingly busy. So now I am deciding to just write very genuinely what is on my mind.

Lately my life has been incredibly exciting, but also insanely busy. I can honestly say this month has been the busiest of my life, and so far there is no end in sight.

My apartment is a mess, I still haven’t unpacked from the past 2 weekend’s trips, and I’m weirdly tired a lot. However, a lot of great things have been happening and so I have to remind myself that this is just a phase and I will eventually have time to clean my house and read some of the books that are sitting on my nightstand. Until then, I sometimes feel like I am in this survival mode, and I really want to break out.

I started last night by running, which I hadn’t done in a while. And I took Sunday to simply relax. Now it’s way too early on Monday morning and I made a list of everything I have to do this morning before work. #1 Blog. #2 Vlog. #3 Grad school HW, #4 Review presentations for work today.

Cleaning still hasn’t made it on the list yet.

And while I absolutely hate having a messy apartment, I have let the house go at the expense of things that are much more important to me, such as speaking at the Dream Gala, writing my book, and spending time with my husband.

It’s all about priorities, and while sometimes prioritizing means some things simply get left behind, that is when prioritizing is most important

Because when you get into those super-crazy-life-is-so-busy modes, you are in danger of leaving the important things behind.

So how do you make sure you do not leave what is important behind? How do you decide what is important? Often, I work with students who say they put school first, but often the way they spend their time proves otherwise. And what I see worst of all, is that many students prioritize grades and studying above sleep and health. Not good. Not necessary.

While a good study habit is to carve out a few hours in the library to study and prioritize all of the HW you have to do that day, another important life habit is to have a list of priorities so you know how to act and how to spend your time when things get hectic.

Every one’s priority lists are going to be very different and uniquely personal. However, a few things to consider:
  • If you don’t sleep well you will get sick and your mental capacities will be weakened.
  • When you are sick nothing else matters, and you don’t have the full energy to get things done.
  • If you get the best grades and achieve monetary success, will it matter if you alienate the people you care about?
  • If you have tons of friends but end up with poor grades and working in a mediocre boring job, will it be worth the time spent 8 hours/day in misery?
  • If your house is a disaster but it means you had a wonderful weekend with your husband after not seeing him for 2 weekends in a row, is it worth it?  For me, the answer is a resounding Yes.

These are not easy decisions to make. Especially when you are in the eye of the “busy” storm, it is hard to prioritize, as we seem to think whatever is the most imminent is the priority. But living like that will never help you reach your goals.

Take a step back today and think about your true-life priorities. Now think about how you are spending your time today. Do they coincide? If they don’t, start thinking about how to change your routine and refocus your life so that you are putting your energy towards the things that matter most, and learning to let go of the things that just aren’t as important.

And on this Valentine’s Day, especially if you are feeling sad and single, remember that college is such an exciting and formative time in your life, and too often students let the drama of relationships impede their experience and future success.  Look at all the relationships in your life and be thankful for the ones that lift you up and make you better every day. If they don’t, you should seriously consider why you let them in your life.

The heart especially must be guided with priorities. Because sometimes it can mess you up big time.

Not to be a downer on Valentines Day, but I am speaking from my heart <3 

Happy Valentines Day. 

Monday, February 7, 2011

Super Bowl-Style Momentum Shift

So, I have to be completely honest with you. I sat down to write Monday’s post during the Super Bowl, and turned to Jeremy and said “I don’t know what to write about – I did and said so much during the conference that I feel kind of drained” (and of course the Halftime show didn’t do much to inspire either).  Jeremy thought for a half a second and then said one word – “momentum.” 

Momentum is exactly what I need to keep in mind right now. For those of you that haven’t seen the videos below, I have been away at a Student State Government conference for the past few days and had an incredible time, as I do at almost any student-centered retreat where learning and leadership are the goals. 

However, like many exciting and inspirational experiences that take place away from home, sometimes when you get back you forget or put aside all of the new ideas you had during your new experience.

And sadly, eventually, no matter how great you felt during a motivational speech, or what notes you took during an educational session, without momentum, those ideas will die.

There’s something I haven’t mentioned yet. When I started to write this post – I mean the second I typed the first letter of the first paragraph – the Super Bowl announcer came on and said “..…momentum shift.” And thus a blog title born and a topic confirmed. Fate.

Oddly enough a momentum shift is exactly what happens during great conferences and any other moment in life when you realize that you want to start channeling your energy in new directions. Having that momentum shift in your head is nothing short of transformative, and is absolutely vital for growth. 

And yet, just as football players often visualize winning a Super Bowl before they step on the field, the visualization is important, but it’s what happens after that mental shift that makes all the difference. It’s how you play the game. 

What are the steps you need to take today, right now, to complete your momentum shift? What ideas have started to blossom in your head and change your perspectives? It’s time to fully change your momentum. Don’t let the day-to-day get in the way of what you know you are supposed to do with the new knowledge and epiphanies you've gained.

As the announcer just said again, this very second (no joke) – “the momentum has totally shifted.”

It’s your turn. Even if you feel like you’re down in life by 2 proverbial touchdowns, choose to completely shift your momentum and direct all your talents where deep down you know they are supposed to go.

Get in the game.

(P.S. I can’t end this blog without reveling in the fact that I have written 2 posts in a row using football as a metaphor. To put it in perspective, just a few days ago I had to ask Jeremy to explain to me again what things like “3rd and 13” mean. So thank you for helping me discover ways to appear to be athletically competent).