The Money Struggle

In my last post, I wrote about my Lenten promise to avoid buying non-necessity material items for myself. Until this point, it’s been a bit of a struggle to keep that promise (and I’ve slipped up a few times), but a recent wake-up call made me realize that I need to be mindful of what I spend for more reasons than Lent alone.

When I checked my credit card statement for last month, I had racked up more than $600 is credit card expenditures, more than I can ever recall seeing on my statement. I only had $800 in my bank account and paying the bill would take me down to $200 to my name. I realize that I’m fortunate to have that amount of money (and not be in debt), but I’m also nervous because it’s probably the most short-up I’ve been since high school.

The above situation forced me to realize the importance of being conscious of what I buy and how much I spend. Even though I was spending less money on material things, I still allowed myself to purchase food and drinks, which added up fast. I think that not buying lots of clothes and other things created the illusion that I had tons of cash to throw at restaurants and coffee shops.

I’ve resolved to do a complete 360 and change my spending habits long-term so I’ll continue practicing smart spending, even after Lent. I honestly can’t make it if I don’t do something now when it’s still fixable.

For the next two weeks, I’m doing a financial crash diet and not spending any money on anything I don’t need, including services and restaurants. Everything I eat or drink will be stuff I bought from the grocery store and prepared myself (unless I happen upon some free food). I’ll do yoga in the comfort of my own apartment; I’ll read the books I already have. When it’s warmer out, I’ll find someplace to hike where I don’t have to pay for parking.

I’ve been hunting for cheap, healthy recipes and for things to do that don’t cost money (see this list). I also plan to get back into taking surveys for Amazon gift cards, which I had a fair amount of success with during Winter Break.

Thinking so much about money makes me feel shallow, but it’s also real and important. I wish I’d been more frugal in the first place, but I’m glad to be learning now before I’m in over my head.

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Lent 2018

Last year, I published a couple of posts about Lent and my Catholic faith. Lent is a season dedicated to sacrifice, personal growth, and intentionality. I typically make a promise to God to do something that requires both self-sacrifice and doing good.

This year, I’ve chosen to disrupt my desire for material items by promising not to buy non-necessity items for myself. I can still buy gifts for others or purchase meals at restaurants, but I can’t acquire stuff, like clothes or decor for my personal use. So far, so good.

I’m also working to get rid of things I no longer need and give them to people or places who will put them to good use. Last weekend, I rooted through drawers and found clothes stacks of clothes to donate/sell. The majority of the items will go to a Catholic charity in Indianapolis, but I plan to sell some things because I truly need the money.

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Tonight, I cleaned out my makeup drawer. Even though I couldn’t donate anything (for obvious sanitary reasons), it felt great knowing I’m no longer holding onto tons of stuff I don’t need.

I plan to keep up the trend, going through shelves, drawers, closets, and cabinets in search I stuff I can let go of. By limiting my material intake and by reducing the amount of stuff I currently own, I’m creating more space in my life for God and for all of the people and things that matter most.

Cold Weather Running

As I mentioned in my last post, I am not a fan of running in the cold. I know: no pain, no gain, but I really hate running in weather that makes my face hurt. Not to mention, the cold kills my phone and I need my phone to track my mileage, pace, etc. on Strava. Soooo, it’s a lose-lose situation.

BUT…

Through some trial and error, I’ve figured out what I need to do in order to make cold weather running as bearable enjoyable as possible. For me, it comes down to knowing what to wear, getting in a proper warm-up, and keeping my phone warm enough to sustain the outside temps.

I gauge my attire by wearing what would be too few layers if I was just going to walk around or sit outside, but too many if I were to stay indoors. Typically this means a pair of leggings, gym shorts (my butt gets surprisingly cold), thick socks that cover my ankles, a long-sleeve athletic top, a fleece quarter-zip, a windbreaker, some light fleece gloves, ear warmers, and (sometimes) a neck warmer.

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Warming up indoors before heading out is important, especially for injury-prone people like myself. For me, this usually means some gentle but thorough stretching or my calves, quads, hamstrings, etc. Running on cold muscles in cold weather is never a good choice.

Lastly, I’ve found that putting my phone inside of a spare glove and then tucking it into the pocket of my windbreaker keeps it toasty enough to survive a 3-mile workout and still have a good amount of power left. At this point in my training, I’ve yet to exceed 3 miles in cold weather, so I don’t know how durable the phone-glove-pocket strategy is for longer amounts of time, but it’s what works for now!

Of course, preferences and strategies vary person-to-person. What helps you push through cold runs?

Hit the Ground Running

Woof. It’s been a minute. Life became much busier than I anticipated and blogging fell to the wayside. All these months later, I’m brushing off the dust and returning to the blogosphere. Instead of trying to catch up on an entire semester of grad school and the start of a new year, I’m going to jump right in with what’s going on now.

I registered to run a series of three progressively longer races this spring. The race distances are 3, 6, and 10 miles respectively and I enjoy that the steady buildup makes the prospect of running a 10-miler feel less overwhelming. I ran the 3 last week and the 6 is coming up in March.

The running commitment has, for the most part, helped me adopt healthier living habits and has given me something to focus on outside the grind of school and work. I certainly have on- and off-days and weeks, but over-all, I’ve been eating healthier, sleeping better, and feeling generally more positive than I did before I began running.

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I’ve been intentional about shopping for healthier foods, even on a grad student budget

Training for the races also satisfies the starving athlete within me as I miss having the outlet that rowing gave me for so many years in high school and college. I try to balance running with yoga and strength training in an effort to avoid injury. So far, I have zero regrets.

I’ve been training without a plan, but I should probably find one and stick to it. I’m a bit of a baby about the cold, so motivating myself to run outside in February is tough…and usually not successful…which has made sticking to a plan a bit of a challenge.

One thing I love is that I’m finally learning about balance. Last semester, I was entirely overwhelmed by everything happening around me and only had the capacity to focus on work and school. While I’m even busier than I was in the fall, running adds an element of structure that didn’t exist before.

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I’m not perfect (like I said, I don’t have a training plan and I like to avoid the cold), but I’m doing a million times better than I was last semester and I attribute a lot of it to running. Here’s to many miles ahead!

 

To-Do

The past several weeks were hectic as I learned to balance a new job with a new city, new people, and a new school. While the balancing act isn’t quite perfect, life feels 1,000 times more together since I recently put everything on paper.

I love planners and calendars to an unhealthy extent, but it usually takes a minute for me to figure out exactly how I want to organize them each school year. Due to my own indecisiveness, I currently own four different 2017-2018 planners. After a trip to Target with $15 to spend, I finally nailed it.

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I found a simple weekly/monthly planner on sale in the stationary aisle and picked up some cute sticky notes, page flags, and a paperclip-shaped bookmark in the dollar section. While I’ve always envied people who bullet journal, I don’t have that kind of time or artistic skill.

Color-coded tasks and the dollar section extras add just enough flair for the planner to look fancy while requiring far less effort than bullet journaling.

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Having all class assignments, work deadlines, running goals, and appointments in one spot puts me at ease. Today consisted much less of trying to remember a million things I might forget, and much more of actually getting stuff done. Who knew a simple planner could have such a profound impact?

Micropost: Radical Kindness

I spent the past week with the letters “rk” penned on my hand in black ink, a constant reminder to practice what I call “radical kindness.” To me, being radically kind means seeing the light in everyone, expecting the best of them, reconciling, forgiving, and expressing genuine care, always. Some aspects come more easily for me than others, which is why I need the reminder to pause and think before I say or act.

Radical kindness does not mean ignoring pain, anger, or disappointment; it does not mean letting others do hurtful things without being held accountable. It means acknowledging those things, but not holding onto them. It means showing just as much care and compassion for people who are hard to love as we do for those we love easily. That’s what makes it radical.

Radical kindness is an active and deliberate choice to put more love into the world, especially when it’s the most challenging to do so.

What I Didn’t Expect to Learn in My First Weeks as a Resident Director

It’s been too long since my last post and even though tons of stuff has happened over the past few weeks, I’ve struggled to pinpoint a new topic to write about. I began working as a Resident Director (RD) in the middle of last month and just finished up my first week training RAs. I’ve learned an incredible amount – both things I expected and things I did not – since starting this new job.

Below are some of the lessons and realizations I encountered unexpectedly these first few weeks.

1. Being older doesn’t necessarily make transition easier.
My transition from high school to college was rough. Even with the rowing team as a source of instant friendship, it took until my second semester of freshman year before I felt 100% comfortable. Going into this new chapter of my life in Indianapolis, I thought the transition would be easier; I was used to living away from home and had already started to familiarize myself with the area and with the people here. However, about three days after moving in, I became shockingly homesick.

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Morning in Oxford, Ohio

I didn’t long for my childhood house in the same way that I did at the start of undergrad; instead I desperately wanted to be back in Oxford, which had become synonymous with “home” over the previous four years. At first, I felt embarrassed for being homesick at 22, but I’ve come to reason that there are huge changes happening and I have every right to miss what I left behind.

2. Human connection is critical.
I’ve been incredibly fortunate to have Nora, my friend and former roommate from Miami, living in the area. I can’t fathom moving to a place without knowing anyone and it’s been great to spend time with someone with whom I already have an established friendship. I was also lucky that my first and second weeks brought visits from my friends, Ingrid and Katie, who provided some familiarity amidst the change.

Still, it’s been tough not having a large group of friends…..or even people who I can spend a couple hours with for coffee…around. I know I’ll find my people once classes begin later this month, but in the meantime, I’m dealing with a severe hug shortage.

3. Support systems are vital.
This relates closely to the previous point on human connection, but is worth its own subheading because it entails a step further than simply connecting. Know who you can rely on to be there for you when you need it most. Include people you work with (it’s nice to be able to talk to someone without having to re-explain your job), but branch beyond that. Friends from work can be great, but sometimes it’s nice to have outside perspectives.

I’m beyond thankful for the support I’ve received from college friends, mentors, student affairs professionals, former supervisors/professors/colleagues, people I met during grad school interviews, and family as I work to orient myself, find connection, and understand my new role.

4. Mistakes are not tattoos.
The mindset that mistakes are permanent marks against us is something I’ve struggled with for a very long time. I rarely believe another person’s mistakes tarnish them permanently, but I often tell myself that my mistakes are there to stay. I once explained this to my therapist, saying I imagined my mistakes and wrongdoings like little black tally marks that appeared on my skin and could not be removed.

But mistakes are not black marks on the skin; they’re not the first things people see when they look at one another. And they’re not permanent. I’ve made hella mistakes during my first three weeks here and there are many more to come, but I’m blown away by the power of forgiveness. People are okay with (and actually prefer) me being a human. The biggest slip-up I had was trying to be anything but.

5. It’s okay to say what’s on your mind.
This is another big one for me because I was raised in a family that doesn’t spend much time talking about feelings. The correct answer to “How are you?” is almost always “Good” or some variation thereof. It’s taken a lot of conscious thought to get into a headspace where I share exactly what I’m thinking and feeling with colleagues and other supportive people who are genuinely interested in knowing those things, but I’m getting better at it.

6. God is there and He listens.
This is not unsolicited religious advice; it’s simply relevant to my journey and my experience. Some parts of these past few weeks have been amazing and some parts have been rocky, but God has been there through all of it. He has provided love, guidance, and patience beyond measure. He’s been with me at my loneliest and has forgiven me when I’ve messed up. Despite all of the changes happening within me and around me, God remains constant.