Ubuntu

Ubuntu:  I am because we are

For the last five years, I’ve had the privilege of working on a leadership development experience with some of the brightest minds in the business. The African word Ubuntu sums up this community nicely. After 1,825 days, the cross country trips have come to the end and as always, the universe’s timing was spot on.

I could write pages on what I’ve learned, on how this extraordinary group of human beings has inspired me.  But, in an effort to be outside my comfort zone, I’m going to try to keep it tight and sum it up in five lessons from the last five years.

  • Be unapologetically you: When I first started the position I’m currently in, I tried changing myself to conform to the way others wanted me to be. I came off disingenuous and as if I was trying too hard. And I was. Once I let go of who I was trying to be and fell into who I was, it was like magic. I was confident, carefree and happy. My coaches tell me this is what owning your power feels like. GOOD STUFF!
  • Take nothing personal: When you work with people day in and out, for hours on end, they become your family, which is a gift. I love that I love spending my free time with my colleagues, that I consider many of them friends. BUT, it’s a double-edged sword. You MUST separate the two. Sometimes that means asking for help on how to manage both a personal and professional relationship. Sometimes that means saying you’re sorry. Sometimes it means drinking champagne. It always means being intentional and kind.
  • Stay open: SOOOO many things have changed in the last five years. And each one of them has made me a better person. I used to be so afraid to roll off this program. I do not know working life without it. Through lots of reflection and some tears, I’ve gotten to a place where I’m proud of the work I’ve done and feel in my bones that it’s the right time to move on. How do I know this? I got on the plane home from California with a smile on my face and an urge to write. That’s how I know. I would not be going to get my coaching credential in 2018 if I was still on the program. I know this for sure…the best is yet to come. And when you accept change, it is invigorating and spectacular.
  • Celebrate every win, big or small: Get through a tough session without having a nervous breakdown? Get yourself a pedicure. Successfully manage a room of tired, hungry coaches while still getting program feedback and do it all on time? Pour the champagne. Life is messy and scary. Every time you overcome sometimes that challenges you, celebrate. On the easier days, help someone else celebrate. Life is
    good vibe tribe

    My good vibe tribe with some missing

    too damn short. Also, when you’re not sure what to do, dance it out.

  • Be the good vibe tribe: These people I’ve worked with for the last five years, they are the best in their respective areas of expertise. But, even better than that, they are exceptional human beings, good as gold people, who choose kindness and love above all else. They will forever be my good vibe tribe – putting on smiles and staying in the high positive even through life’s hardest moments. They inspire me to be better, love harder and smile a little brighter.

And the biggest lesson of the all: Live in a constant state of gratitude. I DO NOT always get this right. Believe me, Newark Airport tests my high positive, grateful state on every occasion. In those trying moments, find one thing, one person, one experience you’re thankful for. And focus on it with all your might. I promise your mood with change instantly. I will be forever grateful for this experience and for my good vibe tribe.

find your tribe

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Standing in the Sun

Happy International Day of the Girl! This post felt right to share today.

Last week, I had the amazing opportunity to attend the Pennsylvania Conference for Women. I got to be in the same room as female icons like Shonda Rhimes, Carla Harris, Brene Brown and Michelle Obama, to name a few. I can’t really put into words what it was like to listen to these women. I left feeling inspired, motivated and humbled.

Shonda

Yes, that’s Shonda signing my book

Every single speaker (male or female) at the conference mentioned self-care, self-confidence and celebration of self! Carla Harris and Brene Brown really drove home these points (Google them right now). Carla’s opening keynote set the tone for the day: “Do not dim your light for someone else’s convenience, celebrate your successes, don’t hide them.” Later in the afternoon, Brene Brown reminded us that we’ll never belong if we don’t believe we deserve to. She highlighted qualities like bravery, authenticity and vulnerability as ones that will help women have a seat at the table. Sidenote: If you haven’t seen Brene’s TedTalk on vulnerability, stop reading and watch it now. This woman is the best therapist I’ve ever had and we’ve never met!

I felt the conference and my head was spinning. So many thoughts. But there was one word that kept coming up for me: WHY?! Why do we need powerful women shouting messages about owning your power and finding your authentic voice? Why do we as women undermine our intelligence, shrink into the background and forget that we have this utterly brilliant power inside of us. WHYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYY?!

I don’t know exactly why. But I do know more women fit the bill for the above then not. Michelle Obama talked about how important it is to give girls a voice from a young age, to let them be heard and to respect them. Both parents need to do this, not just moms. So, if I use myself as an example, I had parents who did this AND a mom who taught me the words to ‘You Don’t Own Me’ by age 7. So what gives?

The female brains are wired differently or at least that’s my hypothesis. We have to rewire our brain and the younger we start, the better we’ll be. So how? Stand in the sun. Standing in the sun is a phrase I’m borrowing from the Shonda Rhimes’ show Scandal. In short, Olivia Pope is going to live on an island with the super handsome Jake Ballard. She’s going to stand in the sun without a care in the world.

I’d like to offer that we women need to stand in the sun every single day. Alone. In our power all along power. You stand in that sun, you feel the rays hit your face and feel how empowering it is. Obviously, not every day will be sunny. You will have moments of darkness. But bring yourself back. Keep reminders of moments when you felt your own greatness. When you nailed a presentation. Or when you tried a new class at the gym. Whatever, wherever, whenever. Post pictures of these moments. Write ‘Own it rockstar’ on your bathroom mirror. Find a way to keep it top of mind.

You will get feedback, that’s part of life. It’s necessary for growth, especially in a professional setting. Take it, action on it and move on. Feedback doesn’t mean you’re broken, see it as an opportunity to increase your power. You are capable, strong, fierce and wonderful, exactly how you are right this moment.

My birthday was last month and every September, I think about how I want the next year to look. Lots of introspection and journaling occur usually while listening to my Girl Power playlist. I am taking this year to stand in the sun, to say yes to joy and no to guilt, overthinking and anxiety. Stand in the sun with me, my sisters.

And remind me when I forget it.

 

 

C-C-Changes

I wrote this post as thousands are suffering from the devastation of Hurricane Harvey. If that doesn’t give all of us perspective I’m not sure what will. I decided to still publish this post because what each of us is feeling is always valid. Please keep those in Texas in your thoughts.

I pride myself on being a positive, life-loving person. As I’ve talked about before, I was an anxious child and teenager. I swore I wouldn’t go back to being that person. The person that was “too much,” who lost friends because of fake freakouts and who walked around feeling like I was always letting someone down. That person was gone.

Enter a dresser. Yes, a dresser that caused me to revert back and feel all the feels.

I was never a big fan of change. I liked my world in black and white, no grey area. Clearly, life doesn’t work like that. The recents weeks, months, years have been filled with tons of change – it’s really the only constant in life. I’ve learned to accept that and put a huge smile on my face. See the first paragraph – I didn’t want to be that girl again – the anxious, negative, too much girl.

Then I decided to build this dresser over the weekend. Surely, I’m a smart girl, I can do this. After multiple hours and getting a friend on FaceTime, I literally lost it. I let myself get to this point because I don’t want to admit to feeling anything other than positive emotions. Let me be clear, the damn dresser is a first world problem and thanks to a very good friend, it’s standing with my crap in it. Life is good, actually it’s great, but that doesn’t mean I don’t feel some kind of way about the future. get up and dont give up

I. AM. TERRIFIED. 

Of becoming that girl again. 

But guess what?! It’s ok to be scared or anxious sometimes. I fight these feelings everyday so that I don’t go back to my old ways. No one, including me, liked that girl. The one filled with fears and doubts. But every now and again, she shows up because the feelings are valid. I need to recognize her, work through the feelings and move on, not bottle them up and explode on my poor friend who was trying to help.

Of course, once the floodgates open, every last insecurity came out. I should be able to build this dresser, other people can. Why didn’t I just pay to get a premade one? I *should* be able to afford a nicer one. Um, yeah total insanity. Who cares about how much the dresser costs, that it took me several hours to build it, why does ANY of this matter?!?! It’s doesn’t. All of this led me to my new mantra:

COMPARISON IS THE THIEF OF JOY

One foot in front of the other. Every single damn day. That’s all I can do. I am happy, I am healthy, I am surrounded by amazing human beings. On the scary days that I *will* allow myself to have, those are my reminders. And that I can do, overcome and become whatever and whoever I want.

So if you’re afraid that all the progress you’ve made might blow up, it’s okay. Feel the fear, talk to the boy/girl you used to be and politely tell him/her to hit the road. You are more than your yesterdays.

Digital Detoxing

It’s been a little more than a week since I’ve been back from vacation. I was fortunate enough to go to Mexico with my childhood besties. I intentionally didn’t set up my cell service because I knew I needed a break.

Thankfully, nothing burned down and no one died while I was gone. I had anxious moments where I thought something terrible happened and no one told me. Clearly, my family knows me better and would have texted one of my friends.  

I feel like everywhere you turn today, there’s research that shows the importance of shutting down. It’s one of those things you don’t realize you need until you do it. Now I want to integrate it into my everyday. Here are the four big takeaways from my digital detox. 

  1. Better connections: My friends and I were together most of the time and no one really used their phones. This meant we talked a lot, about different topics we don’t always get to at brunch when we’re home. It was nice to connect with them on another level. I also know I’m a big talker so I had to read my friends and know when enough word vomit was enough.
  2. Mind, body, soul is real: If one of these areas is out of whack, then they’re all out of whack. When we got there, I had a really bad headache and couldn’t even appreciate that I was on a gorgeous beach in the middle of Mexico. Physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health are all important and connected. It was a good reminder to pay attention to each. 
  3. Be a kid again: Thankfully my friends can be silly and fun without any prompting.cliff jumping We laughed more times than I could count! We also went down water slides and jumped off fake cliff (picture to the right proves it). It doesn’t matter how old you are, go outside and play every now and again. It feels SO good! 
  4. Non-attachment: I don’t need to be glued to my phone. The social media world kept spinning without me. Not every last thing I do needs to be on social media. Logically in my brain, I know this. But it was so freeing to not be conditioned by email or texts or other notifications. I’m *trying* to bottle up this digital freedom feeling and remind myself to not be so connected all the time. 

Have you quit the technology for a period of time? Helpful? Horrible? Please share! 

Break Before the Breakdown

I spent my #MDW doing absolutely nothing. No predetermined plans. No beach trips or barbecues. Instead, I slept. I exercised. I shopped. I caught up on my favorite T.V. shows. And it. was. blissful!

Because sometimes having your life scheduled to military precision drives you insane. Sometimes you need a weekend to exhale.good vibes only

This weekend was the first weekend I’ve been home, in my apartment, in six weeks. Five business trips along with one week at my dad’s house. Traveling is one of my favorite hobbies; my curiosity is instantly peaked when I’m in a new place. It’s one of the best feelings I’ve experienced.

But…

It’s exhausting. Early mornings, late nights, always being “on.” As extroverted as I am, even for me, six weeks was enough. I took the weekend to unwind, unplug and reflect. Schedule time to think my friends, it’s extremely important.

During week five while at my dad’s house, I literally had a breakdown. Think panic attack meets three-year old tantrum. One minute I was typing an email, the next I was hysterical. And I had no idea why until I took time this weekend to figure out what happened.

I am a creature of habit: I love having a game plan, a routine. I want to know how my day, week, month is going to be spend…loosely. Every hour does not need to be scheduled. When I break my routine, I lose control. I tell myself stories that are completely untrue. And my anxiety goes through the roof. Enter childlike breakdown.

Upon further review of the situation, here’s what I know:

I need sleep. This isn’t a new thing, even in college, I couldn’t pull all nighters. Without an uninterrupted six to seven hours, I’ve miserable. I also need to exercise regularly, better if it’s in the morning. It starts my day off right and prevents the spin.

I noticed that all of areas of energy are connected. For example, if I exercise, I am instantly in a more positive mood. Physical energy connected to mental energy, easy example I know. Then there’s emotional and spiritual energy, which is a bit harder. Writing in my journal every Sunday night is how I refill my emotional energy tank. I include things I am grateful for and other reflections from the previous week. Spiritual energy means finding your church. It could be an actual church, it could be your yoga mat, whatever is good for your soul.

All of these examples were missing the week of my breakdown.

surround yourself

The people in  your life are also a source of energy. It can be very easy to catch the energy that’s around you. You should only surround yourself with good people, positive people, people who want to make a difference. Negativity sucks the life out of you and negative people steal your joy. No bueno.

Sometimes I need to distance myself from people I love so that their energy doesn’t consume me. Sometimes that means taking a time out and walking away. I’ve done this at work, where I’ve gotten up from my desk and gone for a walk so I don’t lose it. If you feel a breakdown coming on, stop what you’re doing (it’s not that important), change your scenery (outside is recommended) and breathe. Break before the breakdown!

My new goal is to communicate this with the people around me. I can’t expect people to be mind readers. Share your routines, boundaries, plans for progress with anyone who could impact them. It will save you the headache later.

I’ve been much more intentional about controlling my different energy level since my breakdown earlier this month. So much so that I now track it my journal. I know when I need to sleep or need to meditate or need to talk to someone.  I can literally feel it and I’ll never ignore that feeling again.

If you’re energy is depleted in any way, you’re no good to those around. And with everything happening in the world right now, we can’t afford to be anything less than at our best.

Roam If You Want To

I’m gearing up for six weeks of travel with some family time sprinkled in. I won’t be in my apartment for more than a few days at a time. And I cannot wait.

When I started my job, I knew there would be some travel associated with the role. But I never dreamed it would afford me the opportunity to see so many new places. From when we were kids, my parents encouraged us to try new things and see new places. Luckily, thanks to a rigorous travel schedule, I’ve been to places I’ve never been before like Phoenix, Catalina Island and Chicago.

San Diego

Soaking up the sun in San Diego

I’m about experiences: I’d much rather buy concert tickets than a new outfit. I love to learn, to immerse myself in something different than the every day. Since I’ve graduated college, I’ve vowed to spend money on experiences, especially on new adventures. That’s why I love traveling for work: I get to tack on some personal travel like weekends in San Diego and Charleston.

It’s not just about travel. I try to make the most of living in Philadelphia, a city rich with opportunities to learn and stay curious. Thanks to friends and websites like Eventbrite, I’ve found mini conferences about female empowerment and panel discussions focused on resilience. Each had unique speakers with diverse backgrounds as well as free swag! In fact, the panel discussion on resilience was found through an Eventbrite email. You can find a conference or have your own get together by using Eventbrite’s super cool tool.

Sometimes, spending time with my mom in Florida or grabbing sushi with a girlfriend is the right experience. It doesn’t have to be a grandiose trip to be memorable. Some of the highlights of this year (so far) include nights out dancing with my best friends and singing in the car with my sister.

How you spend your money is entirely up to you. I’d advocate for saving some of your budget for experiences. The new pair of shoes will look phenomenal but memories made with people you love (you included!) will last forever.

To My Sisters

Lent started on March 1 and if you’re a practicing Catholic, you give something up. So, I gave up apologizing, casually throwing around “I’m sorry” when it wasn’t needed and certainly when I didn’t mean it. I also made a point to find at least one woman, each day, who left on impression on me. Maybe she showed kindness, or strength or listened when I needed it. Plus it’s Women’s History Month, why not focus on my fierce lady friends!

sistasMy little mission yielded a few lessons or maybe observations is a better word for what I saw. In 31 days, women close to me and complete strangers influenced the trajectory of my day. Each, in her own way, raised me up: with encouragement, compassion, advice or a mug of wine. I didn’t struggle to identify someone each day; in fact it was the opposite, I couldn’t choose one name!

As I paid close attention to the women I interacted with, I also paid close attention to my apologizing tendency as well as other negative language I use without even thinking about it. I saw myself really thinking about  saying I’m sorry. I only did it when I truly meant it. It made such a difference!

Word choice and the language we use especially when talk about ourselves is important. In the last month, when I listened more closely to these same women, they were far less empowering when it came to speaking about themselves. I heard women struggling to accept compliments, be recognized, say thank you and talk positively about themselves. It wasn’t always the case but happened more often than not.

It’s been an enlightening 31 days and my intentionality around apologizing and language will continue past the month of March. Now my PSA: Ladies, our paths are different from our male counterparts. That is fact, however, don’t forget where we as a population have come from. We must own our power as women, to set the example for those behind us. You are whole, you are strong, you have God-given talents that no one else possesses. They are uniquely yours. Own them!

The way each woman who crossed my path this month acted is how we all must treat one another. With respect, humility, compassion and grace. We must raise each other up. When one succeeds, it is a victory for all. It sounds preachy and idealistic, I know. However, it’s the only way to move forward and to make sure everyone knows and appreciates a woman’s worth.

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