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Back to School: What I Learned From Working 2 Years

Back to School: What I Learned From Working 2 Years
Photo by OVAN on Pexels.com

I graduated with my Bachelor of Science in Anthropology in 2018, which feels so long ago but it most definitely was not. Getting older (yes, I’m only 24 but bare with me) keeps showing me, time-and-time again, how quickly time flies. One minute, you’re walking onto a college campus with lofty ideas and goals about the world, the next you’re working in a leasing office signing up for your 401(k) as soon as you become eligible. Now here I am, about to walk back onto another college campus but this time…things are different.

The past two years of working full-time has really helped me create a more realistic perspective about life. Don’t get me wrong: I still have my moments of naïveté where I get caught up in dreams instead of what is actually happening; but it’s easier now to cope when reality doesn’t match with my plans. Is that maturity? I don’t know. I do know that, this time around, being a student feels much different – especially since I’m entering law school, a graduate program that is specific to the career I want to do. My time in undergraduate didn’t have quite this level of focus. I feel like I have more to lose and that’s coming from someone who took her undergraduate courses very seriously.

Taking the time to work and really be in the world figuring out what it means to be an adult has taught me a lot of things. I’m going to immortalize a few of those lessons below, mainly as reminders for myself when school gets stressful (because it will), but also to help any other students or young adults figuring out their plans for school and career.

1. You’ve Got A Lot To Learn

I’ve only been in the workforce for two years, okay? I’m no Jeff Bezos or Steve Jobs, obviously. But I could be one day – that day will never come though, if I let my pride in the way. We each will always be students as long as we welcome learning. There are so many people who stop learning because they don’t like the work of it or feeling like a beginner again. Rightfully so, it CAN be horrifying to be back at a starting point but the truth of the matter is that none of us will ever know everything. We might as well embrace that mentality and be open to people and subjects (even if we think we know them well) as opportunities for learning, not perfecting. Pride is your kryptonite to growth.

2. You Have A Lot To Contribute

That being said, don’t discount the knowledge you have. Looking back the past two years, I constantly went from moments of pride thinking I knew what I was doing to crashing into a pit of despair feeling like I knew absolutely nothing. The truth is somewhere in the middle. I would even venture to say that that is the truth for most people: we all may not know EVERYTHING but we each do know SOMETHING. Share that ‘something.’ Use that ‘something’ to catapult your journey and get the learning flowing – don’t hold back your contribution out of fear. That’s just as prideful as thinking you’ve learned everything there is to know about a subject.

3. Goals and Reflection Are Important

I have always been a list person. I like writing them, setting out goals, and making plans. However, I would make so many that I would often forget or be too overwhelmed to go back and reflect on them. James Clear in his life-changing book, Atomic Habits, discusses the importance of starting small and making time to reflect on your efforts. How do you know if you’ve made improvement or not, or the progress of your to-do list if you don’t go back and check it? My outlook on planners and goals are still the same: I love them. However, now I don’t need multiple planners or various lists. Lately, I’ve been working on relying on fewer calendars and lists to make sure I’m not getting overwhelmed and that I’m focusing on taking action, not just planning to take action. I also make time–ideally at the end of each day for daily to-dos and then weekly/monthly/quarterly, as needed, for longer term goals–to see where I’m sitting in terms of progress.

4. Chase Discomfort, Reasonably

A tough lesson I have learned in 2021: discomfort usually means growth. I’m not saying to be reckless or put yourself in dangerous or self-destructive situations – please don’t. I AM saying to go after the goals you have that seem a little scary or intense. If you are working on your mental health, that might mean doing more exposures for your anxiety or learning coping mechanisms that you are not used to. If you are working on your physical health, that could look like waking up earlier and dealing with the awkward transition of living a more active lifestyle (figuring out sleep cycle, handling soreness, balancing cravings etc.) Most people stop their efforts because of that initial discomfort that comes with making a change. Sometimes it’s not even discomfort, it’s just…new territory, and that can be a little frightening. Don’t let that stop you.

5. Welcome Rejection

A big lesson that I’m going to be learning from for years to come is the negative ramifications of people-pleasing and what it looks like to have a healthy balance of concern over others and not being concerned at all. There’s a certain kind of confidence that comes with putting myself in a situation where I could easily get rejected: I’m aware of the potential heartbreak, and yet, I do it anyways. The answer very well could be a ‘yes’ but how will I know if I never try? Learning to welcome rejections and mistakes so that I can learn from them is an ongoing lesson, much like the above lessons as well, but it gets easier to put myself in those situations. Most mistakes are fixable or at the very least, learnable, and rejections, over time, can be overcome. Again, don’t let these hold you back but if they do get you down, don’t stay down. Get up again and keep going.

What are some lessons from work life that have changed you? Share below!

Stay curious,

Finding God in the Secular Workplace: 4 Tips for Honoring Your Faith

Writing this post gives me major imposter syndrome. Who am I to advise anyone on keeping God and their Faith at the forefront of their day when I fail to do so many times? Know that as you read this, it is coming from someone who is also looking to do this more often; someone who wishes they had read this kind of article much earlier in life! It comes from a place of understanding and sincerity – I hope it helps in some way. The secular workplace (a place of work that is not a faith-based employer/organization) can be filled with opportunities to both honor your Faith and forget your Faith…it can be tricky and especially in today’s political climate.

I’ve been lucky enough to be employed into an environment where I’ve felt comfortable for the most part expressing my Faith when needed or asking to take time to go and do something Faith-related. That might look like using a lunch break to go to Daily Mass on First Fridays or using PTO so I can attend a Eucharistic Conference or even just having the privilege of taking a quick break to go and pray for five minutes in private. All the times I’ve ever felt embarrassed or scared to do something like make the Sign of the Cross or pray a Rosary in public, the fear has been self-imposed and I think that that is a phenomenon we’re seeing more frequently. People think everyone will care or be offended at what they’re doing when most of the time, as long as you’re respectful, they don’t. Even if they did, when it comes to your Faith, we (as in everyone: you AND I) need to be much more courageous in sharing it. So what if someone yells at us? Throws things or even beats us? Dare I say, even fire us?

Again, this can be much easier said than done. I know that. So I wanted to write some tips below to help begin taking those steps to being more fearless in our Catholic Faith (some I need to work on myself while others are things I try to do often). At the end of the day, the most important thing is that we try to live a life of Faith and devotion to the best of our ability. This will look different for everyone: some may be more outspoken and brave while others may be more quiet and private. The only time we fail is when we fail to defend Christ and our Faith from blatant evil or disrespect. There is a time and calling to everything and that is something each person must discern for themselves.

4 Things To Do To Honor God at Your Secular Workplace:

Religious Art and Quotes

The best way to begin a conversation about the Church as well as remind yourself of God’s presence in all things is through beauty! People love beautiful things and most of the time, it’s easy to get away with posting a picture of Jesus or the Blessed Virgin or any of the Saints on or near your desk. In my office, I have a few sticky notes with Scripture on the desktop as well as a card that has a Prayer for Life on it. Generally, I wear jewelry that always has something that draws back to my Faith – the miraculous medal around my neck, Crucifix earrings or Miraculous Medal earrings from The Little Catholic. I don’t necessarily recommend going this far but tattoos can even count in some ways as reminders – I have a tattoo of Magdalene with her alabaster jar of oil on my left wrist and a Memento Mori skull on my finger. There are many ways to intertwine the beauty of Sacred Art into your office or clothing and it’s usually a great way to start being more Faith-forward in a secular workplace.

Use Your PTO or Lunch Breaks for Church/Rest

Take time off! Use your PTO and lunch breaks to go to Mass or Confession or a Holy Hour. The whole point of PTO is to use it and what better way than to use it to balance your work life with your Spiritual Life. Perhaps take a long weekend to go on a Silent Retreat somewhere or attend a conference. If you’ve been feeling called to attending Daily Mass, try talking with your supervisor or employer about working out a schedule that fulfills your obligations but allows you to go to church when you want. Another big statement that I’ve noticed more Catholics slowly taking back is prioritizing Sunday as the Sabbath, a day of rest. If you’re able: don’t work – don’t answer emails, don’t answer calls, don’t answer text messages. Obviously, there are going to be some moments and careers that require working on Sundays (especially first responders, nurses, doctors etc.) but if you’re in any way able to not work and set strict boundaries to protect the sanctity of Sunday, do it.

Public Prayer

This for me is the hardest, even down to the Sign of the Cross, I get nervous praying in public. Some days I’m braver than others and will pray a Rosary with it laying in my lap and quietly muttering the prayers but other days temptation wins out and I look for a bathroom to sequester myself into to pray. For some of you, perhaps your environment may force you to pray in private – all of that is up to you, where you work, and the context of the situation. I think as long as we choose to pray instead of not (even if it’s silent), then we’ve chosen the narrow path and that’s good. Maybe set an alarm to go off at 12 PM or 3 PM, step away for a break to pray the Angelus or Divine Mercy Chaplet, respectively. Make the Sign of the Cross before your meal and make a point to pray for a minute or two before eating.

Talk About It

I work in a fairly open office where most of the time everyone gets along well. There are moments where I’ll get questions on why I’m eating less one day (fasting) or not eating meat or where I’m disappearing to on my lunch break — all asked respectfully, not interrogatively. And they are great opportunities to discuss Catholicism! So, I explain to the best of my ability why I abstain from meat on Fridays and sometimes fast or I’ll mention that I ran to confession or Mass real quick during my lunch break. There have been times where, again, I’ll chicken out for fear of ridicule or punishment but that’s never happened for me yet and I pray it doesn’t happen to anyone else. Keep in mind, someone responding in curiosity or even disagreement doesn’t mean it’s personal they might not be used to seeing a Catholic practice their Faith openly before. Stay hopeful and persist! If you’re able to fulfill your obligations to work while still making time for your own life and spiritual happiness, then there should be no problem. (I say it like that as an arguing point for you to use to your employer if need be – hopefully you won’t have to experience push back on trying to live your life outside of work).

Tell me in the comments your thoughts and what’s the hardest part about living in the world but not of it? Especially in the workplace?

Ad majorem Dei Gloriam,

The Joyful Servant

Learning to Love: The Importance of Boundaries and How To Set Them

My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. (John 15:12-13)

We are all called to love in all things. So when it comes to romantic love, especially in today’s world, the lines are blurred between the fraternal, Christian love that is a part of our inherent mission and romantic, sensual love between two people. It is no coincidence that these lines are blurred because by creating a gray area it means anything goes – people can prioritize pleasure over commitment, they can deny the natural order of the World for the sake of their own lust, and the reverent becomes irreverent. All these things are goals of the Enemy.

To understand what love is and how it exists in all areas of life as well as how we are called to act on love in various areas are crucial for living intentionally. Most of us know what it’s like to be led on or even perhaps to lead on someone else – it’s not a fun game to play. Some people may say they like “playing games” or “just want a good time” but that is never wholeheartedly meant, at least not for the long term. At some point, life is going to take a turn, times will get tough, and the desire for support, friendship, and a true connection will arise. True love is the blessing that sustains us through the desert that this World can be.

In some ways, the best way to figure out how to love is to understand how NOT to love. When we determine our boundaries, we protect our morals, beliefs, and feelings (“keeping the reverent reverent” so to speak) from those who do not see eye-to-eye. It’s kind of like when you’re online shopping and you filter the colors, pricing, and styles to only focus on those items you know you want and need. Boundaries provide a similar filtering in dating – they are healthy, they are good, they are needed.

Joyfully Setting Boundaries 

I have also noticed that we tend to make dating much more complicated than always necessary. Granted, we’re talking about an area that is filled with the full spectrum of human emotion and passion – complexity and drama is warranted at times. That being said, our society today is saturated with unhealthy expectations and understandings of love and emotions. We live in a world where everyone is always wanting more, more, and then even more then sit back and wonder why they get no fulfillment from their choices. We are not fasting with our feasting. We need boundaries.

“We are not fasting with our feasting.

We need boundaries.”

So, how do you determine your boundaries? Simple: sit down and list out what you want and do not want in a relationship. Make it as long as you want – then go through and circle the non-negotiables. Write down anything and everything; it could be certain physical traits, character traits etc. but then go through and really ask yourself, “do I really have to have this in a partner/spouse?” Whatever you end up circling are the boundaries you’ll place on YOURSELF as you start going on dates. For example, if you know you definitively want to only date Christians, don’t open yourself up to anything outside of that. If you’re open to any religion, then that is not a boundary you would emphasize.

The next list: sit down and think of your vices. What are you easily tempted to do? Gossip? Sex? Impurity? Drinking too much? Gambling? Be blunt and put them all down. Then next to them come up with traits and virtues that battle those vices – ex. if you struggle with vanity, write humility. Think of past relationships (not necessarily just romantic) and how they may have hurt or helped you taming your vices. What boundaries do you want/need in place of your next relationship that will help you be better? Because a healthy relationship does that: it brings out the best in you, not the worst.

Finally, brainstorm different ways of introducing these boundaries to others. Make sure you do this in a way that it is positive and get acquainted with your statements so that they easily come up when the time comes. If you’re on a date and the person asks you if you’re open to hook ups, responding in a way that makes you sound unsure of yourself or shy doesn’t properly represent your morals if you don’t believe in doing that. It’s not just about the message you’re sending to the other person (sounding unsure could potentially make them think you might be convinced) but also about being true to you and true to God. Make sense?

Crossed Boundaries + Shame

While we should all remain vigilant and hopeful that we will keep our boundaries in place…more than likely, we’re all going to cross a boundary at some point. I pray that that is not the case for many people but if it is for you (because it is for me), know that to err is human. The solution: get back up (figuratively speaking), go to confession, and repent of any potential sins – not all crossed boundaries are necessarily sins – then reflect on what caused the boundary to be crossed.

Sit with any emotions that may come up: embarrassment, frustration, shame, hopelessness, whatever you may be feeling, and just kind of watch those feelings go by. Recognize their existence but try not to let them rule yours. I will go to a trusted friend or family member for feedback (or even a priest) and sometimes just to vent. Once you feel capable of approaching the boundary objectively, try to think of what needs to be done in the future to make sure it is not crossed again. Another very important lesson would be to discern what God is trying to teach you through all of it as well.

Remember, that shame is a tool of the Devil. The Enemy wants us to be defeated and hopeless – to feel that is what keeps us from moving forward and seeing our God-given purpose. If a lot of the emotions you are feeling are overwhelmingly feelings of shame, my advice would be to step back and take some time for yourself. Go and talk with trusted people, especially priests, for guidance then just focus on your life as it is without anyone in it. Just for a little while! Enough time to not let the shame keep you from enjoying and participating in your life. Don’t let one crossed boundary be the destruction of your whole life.

Reclaiming Boundaries

I’m only going to say one thing about reclaiming your boundaries: you are allowed to re-set them (or set them in the first place) even after breaking them or never having any at all. You are worthy of that. If anyone says anything differently, they’re manipulating you. 

And, that’s all I have to say about that.

Journaling Prompts – Relationships and Boundaries:

  1. Grab a journal or piece of paper, set aside 30 minutes or so to reflect. Be completely honest with yourself doing exercises like this – you’re only hurting yourself when you aren’t honest about what you believe or want.
  2. First: make a list of the qualities you admire and would like in a relationship. It could be a characteristic of the other person or perhaps even a dynamic you want between the two of you (praying together, communication etc.)
  3. Go through and circle the non-negotiables. These are qualities that would be deal breakers.
  4. Now, go through again and ask yourself if you are emulating the qualities you want in your significant other yourself. If not, write a list of these things so you can make an action plan for doing them yourself.
  5. Secondly: meditate on what your vices are. What are the temptations you constantly fall to or battle? Write them.
  6. Now, go and write the opposing virtue next to each vice or sin and perhaps an action item to help cultivate the opposing virtue.
  7. For those temptations on your list (if any) that could easily come up in a relationship, write how you can set a boundary to protect yourself from falling to that temptation.
  8. Finally, for each boundary you wrote out, come up with a sentence you would actually say (word-for-word) to another person to set that boundary with them. Pro tip: make it sound positive, as if you’re happy to be setting it.

So, what do you think of these journaling prompts? Let me know!

A #75Hard Journey: 5 Tips For Finishing It Strong

If you’re reading this, I’m assuming it is because you’re intrigued about potentially doing the 75Hard Challenge, or perhaps the whole LiveHard Program (created by Andy Frisella – you can check it out here). From what I’ve noticed: people either love or hate health/fitness/wellness challenges – there is usually no in-between. Most people who are sick-and-tired of hearing about it are going to peace out as soon as you start talking with a similar tonality as Tony Robbins – and that’s okay! Not everyone is into this kind of stuff and some people are. If YOU are, keep reading and watching along for my testimony and five tips to help you finish #75Hard.

To start, I gave my whole testimony in a YouTube video below. It outlines how I used 75 Hard to not only prepare for law school but also intentionally-kind-of-unintentionally as a supplement to my prayer and spiritual practice as well. If you’re interested in hearing a more personal testimony, what I did and did not do for the challenge – watch below!

If you’re here just for some tips in the case that you are starting your own personal 75 Hard Journey, I’ve listed my top five takeaways for finishing strong!

My Tips For Finishing #75Hard:

  1. Make The Tasks Easier on Yourself: At the beginning of each week, as well as when you first start the program, set aside time to plan and schedule in as many of the tasks, or what you’ll need to complete the tasks, as you reasonably can. Go ahead and get a gallon-sized water bottle (or half gallon and fill up twice), get the app so you can just check off tasks as you go ($5 for life), commit to what types of workouts you’ll do and print them out/save them somewhere so you can just refer to them and get them done without second guessing, and set an alert to take the progress photo at a time you know you’ll get it done (for me that was best in the morning).
  2. Set Yourself Up For Energy Not Burn Out: if you’re going from not working out barely at all to working out twice a day, be realistic about what your body can do. At the beginning, I told myself three main activities would be my baseline (if I do something different or more, great!): walks, running, and Pilates. By having three types of activities that I would rely on, I didn’t waste time trying to figure out what to do. I had only one of three things I could pick from for that workout. With the Pilates, I picked one main person after trying a few different YouTube accounts – again, it cut down on decisions: just go to their page, pick out the latest video or line up enough videos that I hit the 45 minute mark. This was also a great way to learn more about a particular type of exercise, in my case, Pilates; as opposed to changing it up so often that I don’t learn about proper form, intermediate/advanced sequences etc. (Move With Nicole’s YouTube page is my favorite!)
  3. Stop the Doubting: not everyone is like this but if you doubt yourself and second guess a lot, this will help. Set limits and boundaries. I picked the Mediterranean diet as my “diet” which is inherently not restrictive. So, how in the world would I know if I cheated? For me, I drew the line at no processed snack foods, fast foods, or sugary items like soda. Any of those would be considered a cheat meal. Everything else is fair game: that being said, I was still very stingy with grains, chocolate (I stopped eating dark chocolate on Day 4 to challenge myself even more) etc. Once you have that limit set it will help any doubt you might have as to whether you’re doing the program “right.” This is also a great mindset for stopping doubt in other areas: pick exercises you know are doable but still challenging, pick books that are interesting but perplexing and maybe even complex and so on.
  4. Have Accountability Partners: it is much easier to quit something when you haven’t told anyone. For me, I told myself I would share this journey with my Dad and therapist so I could have accountability on it and also vent to people when it got tough. By week three I was starting to talk to anyone and everyone about it because my mental/emotional health had taken a 180 degree turn for the better and others were noticing too! It’s hard NOT to talk about this when you see such big changes! I am now in a group text of five other likeminded women who are on their 75 Hard Journeys and it’s amazing to be a part of as well as witness.
  5. Understand Your Why…Then Tape It Somewhere You’ll See It: why are you doing this? For me, it was both spiritual and as a way to prep mentally and physically for law school. I wanted to know that I could manage my time, commit to something and see it through all the while creating healthier habits for the long-term. Sit down and really consider what it is about this program that allures you to it…what repels you? More than likely, your “why” is buried somewhere in between those two dichotomies – what you want to get from the program and what keeps you from doing it. Pick out that “why,” tape it where you’ll see it, and get started.

These tasks force you to think ahead, plan, and be on top of your schedule. All of which is going to more than likely change your sleep schedule, your routines, your planning – this is GOOD. The fact it is for 75 Days, which is only the first of four total phases in LiveHard, is super exciting because it makes creating real long-term change in our health and wellbeing that much more attainable. If this is how I feel now at the end of these 75 days, imagine how I’ll feel next year if I can complete Phase 4.

“75 Hard is truly about changing your life and mindset for the better.”

A Conversation About Stewardship + A House Guide for Starting Your Intentional Journey

The Heart of Sustainability

I started my journey to living more “sustainably” in 2017 when I moved into an apartment solo for the first time.  Every single decision I made was fueled by a sense of shame and guilt for being wasteful. Deep down, there was that true love for wanting to be resilient and mindful of the Earth. Yet, each failure or obstacle along the way where I “messed up” or created waste would result in a pitfall of eco-guilt.

Fast forward four years to now and my outlook on this process has completely changed – don’t worry, I still try my best to cut down on waste: I’ll bring my own tupperware places and usually bring my own food more than eat out (although I still eat out), when I buy products I always look for used/secondhand, low-waste and cruelty-free brands, plus over the past few years have been whittling away at donating/re-gifting items that no longer fit or are not used. 

For transparency’s sake though I still want to take a moment to address my achilles heel when it comes to trying to be more intentional. There are moments where I succumb to self-imposed pressure and buy new clothes for work or upcoming school. I do not compost as there are no readily available composting sources where I live and our recycling system here is sorely lacking. I drive to work everyday and so much more. 

It is so easy to get into that mindset of tallying up all your efforts, successes, and failures when it comes to this kind of effort. But, as it did before, that mindset leads to burn-out. While guilt is  a great motivator for change, too much of it is ultimately counterintuitive. 

Sustainability is not a competition, it’s a state of life. 

One of resiliency and fortitude, resourcefulness and intentionality. The biggest change that has occurred is not my opinion on whether I should be sustainable or not but how I go about that and why. 

My ‘How’ and ‘Why’

Fear, eco-guilt, different adversities in life may alter living sustainably being a goal: money, time, and resources are some of the main things that can keep someone from making environmental stewardship a priority. What if I told you that making and keeping it a priority would completely change, not only our personal lives, but our culture as a whole? And for the better?

Enter: intentional living. I love this term so much, and I do because it truly gets to the heart of the matter. Everyone’s journey to living more sustainably is going to be different, some more smoothly than others. When we put the focus on the effort to try and be more mindful of our decisions and the impact it has on the world and other people, I think it will hit home for people more than just talking about Global Warming or Sustainability – especially since, unfortunately, we live in a world where those two terms have been heavily politicized. 

Is it possible to say you lived a life completely zero-waste? No.

Is it possible to say you lived a life of intentionality? Yes.

That’s the difference.

The largest motivator for me now when it comes to living intentionally is my Faith. One of my favorite examples of someone living out respect and love for Creation is Saint Francis of Assisi. Saint Francis was one of the most intentional people, besides Jesus Himself, to ever walk the Earth. Every single decision he made, he did it to glorify God and He saw God in everything. Saint Francis literally made the World his Church and every day was just another worship song to share the Truth. 

Where Do We Go From Here?

So there’s more to this conversation. For me, it is rooted in my faith: resiliency, compassion, resourcefulness, and temperance. The products we use and fill our lives with are more than just mere possessions – they are glimpses into how we view ourselves and those around us. It is no coincidence that we live in a world where most products are made to be thrown away. Our culture is so scared of commitment and true care for others that it has extended into our supply chain as well. If we started to really and truly care for every single thing we bring into our lives and the lives those things affect when we purchase them, we would see a mass change in our culture too. 

You don’t convince others or yourself, for that matter, that caring for the Earth is important by debating or arguing or shaming them. If you want to convince others to live more intentionally: show them. Be a beacon to that way of life and how much joy and benefits it can bring. Be Saint Francis. Our attempts to do so will be better in some seasons of life than others but the heart of our stewardship should no longer just be about “being green” or trying to solve the world’s issues on our own – it is a deeper, more meaningful, and divine reason to live out this calling that all of us are invited to.

Keep in mind, our time here is limited and so is Earth’s. This home of ours will pass away – this doesn’t make our efforts to care for it fruitless or pointless, if anything it means more. Remember: living intentionally with the goal to live in a way that betters the world than when you found it not only heals the Earth but it heals people too. That deep passion and nurture for our environment, and everything in it, brings people closer to God, who is all love and nurture.

Isn’t that ultimately what we want?

Beginner’s Intentional Guide For Starting Environmental Journey

Start Here: go through each room of your house and take note of areas that have more waste. It helps if you’re in the process of decluttering and organizing too so you can see everything. Here are some questions to help:

Kitchen: do we recycle? Compost? Are we able to in this area? If so, how do those processes work? Do we throw out food a lot? Do we eat out a lot? Is most of our waste plastic? What are some items in here that I can replace with reusable items instead of disposable?

Bedrooms & Closets: do we use these items anymore? If so, how often? Would I miss them if they were gone? Do they fit? Are they broken? Can we fix them? For those things you want to get rid of: can you donate to a thrift or consignment store? Can you gift to someone? Can you sell online? Can you buy more ethical/sustainable options when it comes time to?

Living Room/Hallways/Community Areas: is there a lot of clutter? If so, why? Do we keep multiple items or things we don’t use/need? Do we decorate? If so, do we decorate with meaningful items that will last a long time? Is it hard to keep clean? Do we use the items in these areas? Would I miss them if they were gone?

Bathroom & Laundry: what are some reusable swaps I can make in here? Are my products all packaged in plastic? Are they cruelty-free? Toxic substance free? Can I afford those products? If not, what are some other ways I can make better decisions in here? How long do we shower or run water?

Habits: do I shop a lot? Online or out in public? Do I eat out a lot? Can I bring my own Tupperware? Am I able to start cooking at home and prepping meals more? Can I afford to buy more local items (local meats/dairy, CSA boxes, farmer’s markets etc.) What are my habits when it comes to shopping – is it more spur of the moment, emotional etc. Do I make an effort to recycle? Do I take time to learn more about ways to be a better environmental steward? Do I talk and invite others into the conversation?

Let me know what you think of this guide and if you’d be interested in a PDF version!

Seasonal Living: 5 Ways to Celebrate Spring

I used to hate Spring. Truly! Growing up, I remember feeling uninspired, bored, and dreading the hot weather when April would roll around. If you were to ask me today how I feel about it, I’d tell you that I love it. It’s been a goal for the past year or so to work on cultivating more joy into my life year-round, not just when good things like holidays and milestones happen. The way to start is by searching for things to find joy in and making time to celebrate them all year-round – this goes hand-in-hand with living intentionally since it requires you to reflect on what’s worth celebrating…and to me, that’s the best part.

Below are some ways that I celebrate Spring – to clarify, when I say “celebrate” it doesn’t necessarily have to be a big party (although I had a big Garden Party for all my friends planned last year before COVID hit, one of these days it will happen). Sometimes, it is as simple as intentionally setting aside the time to do something specific to honor a specific thing. Celebration is truly just a state of being that comes from your state of mind!

“Celebration is truly

just a state of being that comes

from your state of mind!”

Freshen Your Home

If you think about all the ways we describe and symbolize Spring, it gives a pretty good indicator of what we feel makes Spring, Spring. Flowers, sunshine, light breezes, Easter, baby creatures – it’s a season of newness, life, and growth. Have you ever wondered why Spring cleaning was a thing? Personally, I think it stems from when Christians would deep-clean and declutter their home during Holy Week to prepare for Easter. However, it’s also a great way to help yourself be in a better mental and emotional state!

Don’t make this overwhelming! For each week, pick a room that you’ll tackle until you’re done. Next thing you know, not only will your whole house be clean, but by the time Summer comes around you’ll have spent the season, even in this small way, celebrating by making your home match that Springtime feeling of freshness and newness. Here are some tips for starting out:

1) declutter first and separate items from things to find a home for and things you’re not sure if you should give away. Hide the latter group until you can decide and in the meantime, research ways to responsibly re-home the other items!

2) organize your things in new ways which can help make your spaces feel new. Re-arrange furniture, where/how you store items and try to use what you have already before splurging on new stuff. If you do end up buying, try to buy used or thrift!

3) clean! Lately, my goal has been trying to set up a regular cleaning cycle each week where I knock out a room or area every day so that cleaning the house is not so overwhelming. We do have someone who comes regularly to do a deeper clean but there’s always stuff to do between those times like sweeping, vacuuming, dusting etc.

If you need more reasons to consider incorporating this into your life, read the article below about how cleaning connects to mental wellness:

Article: “The Powerful Psychology Behind Cleanliness”

Be Intentional About Going Outside More

A true gamechanger for me this season of life has been going on my daily, morning walks. I’ve been doing 45-minute walks and it really feels like a little retreat during the day. Yes, even during pollen season! I highly recommend finding ways to step outside more. I nearly fell asleep reading on our front porch yesterday because the weather was so delicious. If you need more incentive for trying this out: getting outside helps with mental and emotional wellness too. Here are some ideas for getting outside (especially if you’re busy):

  • schedule time in for a walk (even if it’s only 10-15 minutes, try to aim for at least 15 minutes)
  • eat lunch outside at work
  • start a garden or get some plants for your porch/deck to draw you outside
  • get a bird feeder that you can refill to also get you looking and going outside
  • plan a picnic with friends
  • join a recreational group (running, soccer, golf etc.) that plays outdoor sports
  • go hiking
  • enjoy your coffee on the porch
  • open your windows/curtains as soon as you wake up

Article: “Sour mood getting you down? Get back to nature”

Eat Seasonally

This part is the hardest for me as I’m a creature of habit, I’ll make the same meals for every day of the week to cut down on waste and budget. So, a lot of the produce I get is typical produce you’d find in any store but not necessarily always “local” or “seasonal.” Eating seasonal produce has both great effects on health and the environment: 1) it diversifies your plate which means more nutrients, 2) it makes you a better cook by having to switch up your recipes and knowledge of food to cook with whatever is in season, and 3) it makes you more mindful of what grows in your area instead of shipping in produce from another country which can take a lot of time, money, and resources. (Go and read the “Economy of a Banana”) P.S. I’m not saying to never eat bananas, I love bananas! Just be more mindful and branch out to try new things here and there!

Here are some ideas for practicing more seasonal eating and ways to make it fun!

  • Go to a farmer’s market as much as you can (BONUS: talk with the farmers about their produce and where they are from)
  • Pick out a new vegetable or fruit to try each week that you haven’t before
  • Subscribe to a local CSA box
  • Look around for local resources for dairy and meat
  • Plan a cooking night with friends/family where everyone brings a dish made from local, seasonal produce (or cook together!)

Set and Reflect on Goals

The beginning of the year is not the only time to set and reflect on goals – utilize Springtime as a way of reinvigorating your New Year’s goals and perhaps, even make this a quarterly check in. Just set aside some time around the first day of Spring (30 minutes to 1 hour) to make a vision board, write a list of your short, mid, and long-term goals or bullet journal how the first quarter of the year has gone and how you’d like the rest to go.

Practice Joy…and Enjoy It

Joy is a muscle. You grow it, you exercise it, you utilize it. You don’t let it just sit around weakening or ignore it when it comes your way. I really do encourage you to make a regular practice of finding the things that bring you joy in each season of life. It’s a game changer. I went from disliking Spring and it being my least favorite season to me not having favorites anymore because I look forward to every season!

A few of the things that have really made Springtime a season of joy and one I love:

  • sunrise walks even though it was initially difficult to get up early/not get winded or tired
  • a good cup of coffee even if it takes a little longer to make it
  • starting my mornings slow with prayer and reading even though it requires scheduling
  • eating healthy but still listening to my body
  • gardening even though it requires scheduling and budgeting
  • getting fresh flowers, especially tulips, even if it means paying a few extra dollars

…did you notice? A lot of these things that I LOVE also all require taking the time to schedule it in, budget for it, or just patience. All good things usually do. That is what Spring has taught me this year.

So, give Spring a shot – come up with your own annual traditions to really embrace this season of life and exercise your joy! Tell me what you’re going to try in the comments!

“Joy is a muscle.

You grow it, you exercise it, you utilize it.”

‘What is Truth?’

“The existence of truth is self-evident. For whoever denies the existence of truth grants that truth does not exist and, if truth does not exist then the proposition: ‘truth does not exist’ is true, and if there is anything true, there must be truth.”

– Saint Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica 1Q2, A1

“What is truth?”

I watched the scene unfold on the screen this past Easter Sunday as it would if I were reading the scene from the Bible (John 18:38). Pontius Pilate’s character in The Passion of the Christ, with open palms and jaded tone asked Jesus Christ, “quid est veritas?” My stomach dropped. I have often asked this question and a few years ago did so in a very public manner when I wrote an article for The Courier-Tribune (Asheboro, NC) that was aptly titled “Your Truth Is Not My Truth – Or Is It?” and it remains one of my biggest failures as a writer to date. I’ll explain why it was a failure here in a second but not until after I tell you what happened after the article was published…

Not too long after, I had received a few different comments from readers. As a beginning freelancer, to receive any response at all was amazing! The first two responses I received from readers were very complimentary and certainly inflated my ego; but then, I read the response published by The Undercurrent challenging the logic and reasoning behind my article. Since then, my words have haunted me.

My Critic Is Correct

I remember reading Duke’s response and thinking to myself, “I agree with everything he’s saying.” I also remember re-reading my own article and still thinking to myself, “I stand by what I said…so, where did I go wrong? How can both of these be correct to me at the same time?” Years later, as I tried to write a response last year in 2020, I printed off both articles to try and get to the bottom of what was going on. Duke and I can’t both be right, right? Since I’m the only person who can explain my intentions, I believe my errors were three-fold:

  1. I was attempting to apply an anthropological point of view as an analogy to an exercise from a creative writing class I was in and also to a fiction book that had inspired that class that explores “truth.” There’s nothing wrong with that, per se, if we’re just looking at the article from a creative lens but it definitely alters my message. Although I was steeped in more relativistic views at that time of writing this article, I still believed, and always have, in an objective right and wrong. I should have made that clear and established the boundaries within which I was examining what Truth is.
  2. My goal for the article was for readers to walk away considering their impact on people. Although you wouldn’t believe it reading the article, I was attempting to explain how the impact we have on the world is not always what we think it is – my main intention was never actually, directly about Truth. Our intentions don’t always come through crystal-clear (I know, the irony is not lost on me in this situation). If someone is hurting and they’re telling you that they’re hurting, who are you to tell them they are not hurting? I wanted to stress the need for empathy but unfortunately, it was lost underneath a very poorly executed argument. Mea culpa, mea culpa.
  3. Let’s face it: the more you write and debate, the better you get at it. On topics concerning such heavy items as truth, relativism, and empathy, I need more work and experience! What you’re reading when you read that article is an essay by a college student who was undergoing intense self-reflection and discovery on what her world views and opinions were at the time. Many of them were very conflicting inwardly just as they were outwardly. Ultimately, I should have written on something else if we’re talking about expertise here – “write what you know,” you know?

The Truth Will Build You Up

We live in an age where everyone wants immediate responses. There’s a phenomenon occurring in discourse day-to-day where if you don’t talk or type fast enough or respond within an acceptable timeframe (and “acceptable” is very subjective here), you must be ignorant. It wasn’t that long ago that people would wait weeks and months to receive letters from loved ones but now we live an age where if you don’t send out the perfect thought in 140 characters or less, you’re considered dumb or that your argument is weak. Here I am, five years later finally stringing along sentences I should have said originally but again, we learn in our own time and often through error do we get better. Don’t let this self-imposed pressure to speak quickly keep you from speaking truthfully and prudently.

What I want to get across today that I did not in my original article: there will always be someone who experiences life differently from you. That does not negate the existence of Truth, it just makes the journey to finding it a little more complex. I can understand now how my words defended a relativistic view of “truth” (i.e. there is none). But Truth is real and it does exist – there is objective right and wrong, truth and falsity. My concern for the article was to get across the need for more empathy in our world, true empathy. Not just the smile-at-a-stranger-kind of passive empathy but true, listening, understanding, and researching kind of empathy. The kind that makes you want to get your hands dirty finding solutions to the world’s problems instead of just arguing with people all day to hear your own voice (sums up a lot of the politicians in today’s world, in my lowly opinion.)

Empathy and justice can co-exist. We’ve just done a horrible job at creating a world that nurtures that.

People have no sense of justice anymore. Only tit-for-tat politics based on faulty logic (much like my original article) and vengeance.

People have no empathy anymore. They only care about themselves and vindicate their selfishness because “everyone else is being rude to them too.”

These extremes are creating a never ending cycle of insanity.

Unfortunately, we are long past the age where educated discourse can take place. Everyone has to have the last word and if everyone is so focused on getting that perfect 140-character-comeback-Tweet then who is taking the time to think before they speak? We are so scared of making mistakes, coming off as stupid when people find out about our mistakes, or offending others when we are simply expressing and discussing ideas that we’ve created a never ending field of landmines out of words.

What I Would Tell Pontius Pilate

If I had the opportunity to talk to Pontius Pilate in that moment, I think I would hug him first. I know what it is like to feel jaded, to be overly concerned with earthly things and people. It wears on your soul and starts to chip away at your logic. I would tell him to not let the wiles of this world keep him from seeing that Truth is as real as water. It is inherent, logical and discoverable – anyone who claims to “believe in Science” should be climbing up this hill to defend the existence of Truth. Yet, it seems that the very people you would think would defend it are running in the other direction.

“I would tell him to not let the wiles of this world keep him from seeing that Truth is as real as water.

It is inherent, logical, and discoverable.”

On a more spiritual note, if I was with Pontius Pilate in that moment, I would take his hands and point to Jesus Christ. The man standing before him whipped, beaten, bleeding, hemorrhaging, broken, and yet, still standing. A man who was innocent and yet, was traded in for a murderer. A man who forgave and prayed for his critics until His last dying breath. The Truth was staring Pilate in the face and yet, he still couldn’t see it? He still had to ask what Truth was?

We are all Pontius Pilate.

When my stomach dropped hearing those words escape his mouth in front of Jesus at that moment, all I could hear were my own words. I felt the shame that I hope Pontius Pilate did later when realizing what he had done. He may have washed his hands clean (Matthew 27:24) but his words still made him culpable in the crucifixion of Our Lord. All I could see were the very same arguments and ideas that are being spewed and shared, which I unfortunately have contributed to, in today’s world.

We live in an age where Pontius Pilate is ruling. Let’s not let him walk away without understanding the Truth this time.

What Would Socrates and Hemingway Do?

My biggest inspirations as a writer, although there are many, are Ernest Hemingway and Socrates. Both of them have one thing in common and that is their ability to withstand critique and challenges. After all, the teaching method where professors answer their bright-eyed pupil’s questions with more questions is called the Socratic Method for a reason. Hemingway himself had a career-long rivalry with F. Scott Fitzgerald. Both are legends that live on in literary history. Neither one canceled the other. They critiqued each other instead.

One can only hope that a single person’s critique will leverage you to the same level as renowned, dead philosophers and writers (if that’s the case, I owe Duke a drink) but more than likely that won’t happen. I’ll live. What WILL happen is progress – being challenged on my thought process, writing execution, and ideas did not kill me. It forced me to know myself better. Looking back over my article showed me all the ways I can get better. Does that mean that I completely kowtow to Duke’s opinion? No. I stand by portions of my ill-executed point that during the length of our lives we often form opinions and beliefs about the world that in turn affect the way we act and our actions affect those around us. Sometimes in ways we don’t even realize. However, I agree with him that my flawed execution of that argument tries to prove that Truth does not exist…and it fails, as it should because Truth does exist.

What I committed was a False Analogy fallacy: if I wanted to talk about empathy, I should have talked about empathy. So, the next time I write an article or vocalize an opinion, I’ll keep in mind the things I’ve learned from this experience: what’s the point I’m trying to get across? Am I doing that? How am I doing that? How would this sound to a stranger? All practical questions we could ask ourselves when writing Facebook posts or Tweets or whathaveyou.

Freedom of speech is for everyone. Even for the person you don’t like. Even for the idiot who keeps talking when everyone wants them to shut up. It exists for the person you agree with as well as for your critic. Had my critic never written his article, I would never have realized how badly executed my message originally was. I would be lying if I said I wasn’t disappointed after reading Duke’s review to find that he did not lavish me with glorious praise and idolization. However, once my ego came back down to earth I realized that Duke had done me a huge favor and one that I was already paying thousands of dollars to go to school for: challenging me. If your idea, more importantly your ability to represent an idea, cannot withstand the rigors of questions, debate, and argumentation – then there’s something wrong either with the idea, your knowledge on the subject, or both.

Most importantly, did you see what Duke did NOT do? He didn’t cancel me. He didn’t ask for my article to be withdrawn or for the editor to demand an apology. He didn’t start a hashtag with my name calling for my head on a platter or send me death threats. He wrote his own, thought-out response challenging me to either shut up or defend myself. Another piece of dialogue, moving the conversation forward and being challenged on our opinions is not the end of the world nor does it make the critic a bad person.

Sometimes, a critic is exactly who you need to help you see the Truth.

Should You Go To School? Tips For Deciding on School, Graduate School, and Work

This is a big topic and it’s one that is so underrated. I wish that I had more people in High School (honestly, before then) who really sat me down and taught me how to reflect on my skills, interests, and passions to come up with a game plan for my future. The main focus when discussing college, was always: which school are you going to and how to get in. Never was it: is school the next best step for you right now? If so, what kind of school? If not, what kind of job or experience will you pursue next?

I wish the discussion as to whether I should go to school or not had been more of a pronounced conversation. I remember having two counselors at school who questioned me as to why I wanted to go out of state but they never took the conversation further. So, I want to have the conversation that I wish I had because this discussion is not just for those in High School. The questions at the heart of this matter is not just: “what college are you going to?” but “what is your vision?” and THAT is a very important question for anyone at any stage of life.

School vs. Work: What ‘Should’ You Do?

First things first, let’s talk about the most glaringly obvious question here that everyone faces in our American society at some point: will you go to college or not? School is a wonderful privilege to have. It is a tool. Some people have sharper tools than others when it comes to this arena and some people have the completely wrong set of tools for what they’re trying to build. Yet, we live in a society that treats school as a Rite of Passage instead of a toolbox and I firmly believe that is setting us up for failure and financial insecurity.

There really is no ‘should’ in this situation – it depends on your plan for yourself. Looking back on my experience, I didn’t have a clear-cut plan, I knew the subjects I was interested in and had different ideas of careers I might pursue but nothing solid enough to make college the best next step for me, and yet, I went anyways. It is at this point where we face a crossroads in trying to figure out what we should do with our vocations: do you not go to school simply because you don’t have your whole life mapped out? No, I don’t believe so. However, going to school simply because “everyone does” or “you need to to be successful” as many people would have us believe, are not good enough reasons either.

As with many things today, there needs to be a balance between having an end goal that we work for and being flexible when times and visions change. Most importantly, we really need to teach this balance to the upcoming generations; otherwise, they run the risk of getting stuck like many today over decisions they made when they didn’t have the proper tools and discernment to make them in the first place. Essentially, the skill I am talking about is resiliency and boy do we need that now more than ever.

We Need To Have A ‘Why’ As Well As A ‘How’

Here’s my opinion: school is good and I think people should go to school if it is necessary for your end-goal, whatever that may be. If it is not necessary for what you want to do in life, then there is no need to go. We often equate our degrees with intelligence but this is false equivalency – think of all the people who cheat their way through school, who “just get by” and end up with the same piece of paper as those who work hard for it. Can we really measure intelligence and success just by getting a degree alone? Plus, there are many people who didn’t go to college, and some even high school, who are incredibly intelligent and successful now, how do they factor into the equation?

So what are we missing?

We’re missing our reasons for pursuing school or work – the ‘why.’ This will ultimately determine our decisions. If you are in my situation and realize that you want to be a lawyer, school is the next best option. If you were like me in high school and kind of all over the place with interests and passions: working for a year to get a concrete experience of some sort or getting your basic requirements done at a community college would be the next best step. I believe that would have been the next best step for me because my solution would have allowed me to experience different developmental settings (still being in school but also while working) thus matching the state of life and mind I was in. I was nowhere near ready to commit to a specific school and degree so I should have put myself in a situation that allowed me to try and do different things to determine what was right for me.

Why are we investing and committing years of our lives to things we have not properly discerned are right for us?

This isn’t to say that you take so much time thinking about your options that you never make a move. Ultimately, it’s going to come down to taking action and making a decision to see what the result will be. You may pursue a career only to find out five years later that you want to do something different. Who says that you made the wrong decision? It’s not wrong, you just evolved and that’s normal. That being said, what we should be aiming for here is that balance we talked about in the first section – resiliency. The first decision we make shouldn’t put us in a situation where we can no longer evolve or change our mind if we do. Again, a balance between commitment and flexibility is key and yet, sorely lacking.

How We Can Change The Game

So how do we change these extremes? How do we create a better atmosphere for education and career development that can nurture people of all talents and backgrounds for their vision? A few suggestions of mine would be:

  1. Stop treating a school or career decision as if it will determine the rest of your life. You may spend twenty years working for the same business or twenty months. Neither one is wrong as long as you are able to sustain yourself. We need to be able to set goals, pivot on those goals when challenges arise or opinions change and then put an action plan in place to pursue those goals.
  2. Stop treating college as the only option: college is good but not for the person who doesn’t know what they want to do or knows what they want to do but it doesn’t require a four-year school. You do not need a degree to be successful.
  3. Stop having these conversations about school until we can make the financial side of it the majority of the discussion: if you can afford to go to a four-year school “for the experience” that’s great! But that’s not the case for most people. I am now inundated with private loan debt (that I brought upon myself) for going to a school that I should have thought much longer and harder about attending. I accepted because they offered the biggest scholarship but that scholarship was not big enough to offset the out-of-state tuition. People need to have a better understanding of personal finances if they are going to decide whether they go to school or not – and that applies to anyone at any age.
  4. Stop treating graduate school as if it’s worthless: there are in fact some people who need to go to graduate school to get the career that they want. That path is not for everyone just like not going to school is not for everyone. The problem in this situation lies in why people are needing more and more degrees to do what they want to do but that issue does not rest upon the shoulders of any one person. Nor can it be solved overnight.
  5. Stop treating community college and trade schools as “less than” liberal arts or four-year schools: there is an unspoken snobbery that comes with pursuing these options instead of going to a four-year university and/or a liberal arts college. If I could go back, I would have stayed home, taken my General Education Requirements from a community school, and worked part-time before deciding on going to a university or not. These options are GREAT options for those who are in an interim period where they are deciding what they want to do next or know what they want to do but don’t need to go to a four-year school to do it.

One of my friends knew she wanted to be a nurse and she knew the nursing school she wanted to attend. She ended up going to community college and nannying for the first two years out of high school to take the pre-requisite credits she needed to get into her first-choice nursing school and to work on her application. She is now graduated from said school and working full-time in her dream job.

I know of people who never went to school who are working hard in fields they love and those who are still in school going on their sixth year of higher education to receive their Doctorate in a field they are passionate about – what do they all have in common? A vision. That vision doesn’t necessarily have to be a lifelong one but it does need to help you decide as to whether you should go to school or enter the workforce (or something alternative, which I’m going to discuss in a video tomorrow!) Everyone’s definition of success and happiness is going to be different so why would we treat our careers and education as a one-size-fits-all system?

Final Thoughts

If you are in the process of deciding what to do next in terms of school or career, I encourage you to reflect on the following three things to help make your decision:

  1. Finances: will the reward outweigh the cost?
  2. Result: will it move you forward, closer to where you want to be in life?
  3. Why: why are you pursuing this decision?

If you can not answer these three questions then I would step back and not make any decisions until you can. Even if you are in High School – I don’t care what people say, it is okay to not go to school right off the bat. And to the young adult (or even older adult) who is considering a career change or going back to school, these reflections still apply! The goal here is to make a decision knowing that it moves you closer to what it is you desire; if you’re not sure if it does that then stop and re-consider. Can you even say in detail what your goal is? Stopping to re-evaluate or deciding to take time to think things over doesn’t mean you never go to school or change careers, what it does mean is that you are being more intentional about this decision-making process than what society is currently encouraging us at the moment. This is your life and you deserve to treat every decision as an important one because it is.

At the end of the day, if the only thing holding you back is fear of failure then you’re in a good spot…pursue the next best step that will put you in a situation where you are closer to your dreams.

“Pursue the next best step

that will put you in a situation

where you are closer to

your dreams.”

KimberMarie Faircloth

My LSAT Journey: What Was Good and What Was Bad

My LSAT Journey: What Was Good and What Was Bad

Every student and lawyer I go to for advice on law school, the LSAT, being a lawyer or any other related legal topic, always prefaces their wisdom with a healthy dose of negativity:

“[Classes] could be going worse.” 

“You will stay up until midnight studying and have very little sleep and social life.” 

“Don’t go.” 

Most of the time, they’re coming from a place of humor but I’ve always been a firm believer that jokes always have truth in them somewhere. While I appreciate authenticity and transparency when giving advice, there is an art and nuance to giving it in a way that is both honest and encouraging. Most people, including myself at times, could use some training in this art-form. 

So, if I’m going to be giving you a little taste of my LSAT-prep-and-testing journey, I want to make sure that I give you both the positive and negative of what I went through. Keep in mind, I am DEFINITELY (did you see the emphasis on “definitely?”) not an expert on LSAT prepping. I’ll leave that to Kaplan, The LSAT Trainer, and The Princeton Review. However, my experience is one that others, I’m positive, have also gone through and one that can be learned from just like anyone else’s. 

I like to end on a good-note so let’s start with the things I could have done differently or better

  1. I should have signed up for the test earlier. That should have been the first thing I did when I decided that I was going to take it. As I started studying, the lack of a firm deadline floated underneath the surface of my subconscious the whole time. While I did have a vague timeline in my head of when I wanted to be done with testing and I approached the LSAT with a study schedule, topic logs etc from the get go, I still had not committed to it. Plus, with that deadline, I could have properly staged my studying period for it. I began to burn out about a month-and-a-half before the LSAT. I kept studying but I remember a lot of the content feeling more foggy and was not nearly as focused as I should have been. 
  2. This next one I go back-and-forth on but have a feeling that many people would attest and say, I should have taken the test again. That’s right, I only took it one time. Take that for what you will – I scored an average 153 and that was the score I needed to get into the school I was looking at with a scholarship. However, I did decide as I was putting in applications (way before then actually) that should I not get accepted, I would take a break over the holidays, sign up for the LSAT again, and try the next year. If you have the opportunity to take the LSAT again, I would recommend it unless your score is truly at a place where you can be content with it. For me, I knew I could have done better had I switched up my study game but that being said, it got me the result I aimed for so I’m still on the fence with this one. 
  3. Having a study partner would have been very helpful with accountability and challenging myself more. If you are in your undergraduate years studying the LSAT, count your lucky stars! This is a great time to take it and if I could go back I would have forced myself to take it the first time, at least, during college. I would have been able to network more easily with other pre-law students, study together, have more time to study, and have the benefit of pre-law, on-campus resources being at hand. 
  4. I would have focused more, from the very get-go, on practice tests and quizzes. I started off taking a practice test and followed The LSAT Trainer for the first four months, I learned so much from the book itself but my test-taking ability and applying what I was learning needed honing. For whatever reason this has always been my issue in education – I understand the subject matter but then applying it is the hardest and I would imagine a lot, if not most, could commiserate with that! I would have doubled the exposure to quizzes and practice tests if I could go back even when I was already taking them consistently.
  5. No comparing. Comparison is the thief of joy. I am good at asking for help, advice, and gleaning lessons from other’s wisdom (it is the Anthropologist in me). However, sometimes being too concerned about how other’s approached situations can paralyze me from making my own. Do not let this blog post, or any other post or piece of advice you receive keep you from moving forward. Make the next best decision you need to for you, okay?

Now. The irony is that the majority of the things I would have corrected are things I commonly heard from other law students about their experience with the LSAT – and all of them had varying degrees of where they went or what they were doing. The point: studying, just like learning, is different for everyone and at the same time, the majority of us are going to experience similar feelings, fatigue, and fears with the LSAT. You are not alone. Keep working and you will get there! So, let’s end on a good note of the things I did well…

  1. Immediately when I started, I created a study plan. Actually, a lot of the planners and logs I utilized in the beginning were from The LSAT Trainer’s Student Resources (highly recommend them!) plus, he has different study schedules you can use if you need help determining when and for how long you should study! *This is where having a set date for when I needed to be done would have been ideal – I ended up just studying with no end in sight until I finally committed to a test date. No bueno.*
  2. I changed methods when it suited me. About four months in, I had had a conversation with an acquaintance about his LSAT journey and he said the number one regret he has was not taking a prep-course of some kind. I mulled over that for a bit because I, too, was self-teaching. In the beginning, I felt good and I could see improvement, small but improvements nonetheless, in my scores anytime I would take a practice test. However, I did feel a lull anytime I sat with the book and my pencil – I was starting to hit a wall. Ultimately, four months before the test I signed up for Kaplan’s Self-Guided Online Prep Course. I felt refreshed, I didn’t need to think too hard about what I needed to do next because Kaplan pretty much laid it all out for me, I just needed to do the work. 
  3. As I stated above, it’s good to get advice from others until you start to get too concerned about how others did things. It’s a double-edged sword: you absorb wisdom by asking people about their experience without actually having to do what they did BUT you then wonder if perhaps it would work differently for you should you do what they did (or vice versa, NOT do what they did). At the end of the day, I think it’s always better to ask how others approached the LSAT. It’s interesting to hear (at least to me) and helps provide perspective. Just don’t ruminate too much on how Sally studied 6-weeks before with a tutor and improved her score the second time or John self-taught himself 6-months before and scored high the first time…it truly does not and will not help you. Focus on you and the improvements you are making and will continue to make if you keep working
  4. Although I struggled in the deadline department, I DID have a goal for schools I wanted to attend and more so, how I wanted to finance my law school career. I wanted scholarships, just like we all do; however, I was never tied body-and-soul to one particular law school which gave me freedom to look at my score, see what my options were, and then decide whether I should go for it or try again. The alternative would have been aiming for a particular law school and taking the LSAT until I got the score I needed to attend that school. Just because you get accepted with that score does not mean you will get scholarships though which is why I focused more on my score first before picking schools.
  5. I stayed hopeful. I would be lying if I told you that I studied from the end of February/beginning of March all the way to November with gusto, organization, and constant improvements. I work full-time and have a handful of other commitments that I also had to budget time into – there were periods that I fell off of my study plan. That being said, I kept trying, switching things up as needed, and at the end of it all, I consistently kept coming back to my study books and at long last, showed up for the test.

I actually came very, very close to throwing in the towel the day of out of nerves and fear. I didn’t because I knew I would regret that even more than scoring really low – so, stay hopeful even when you make mistakes, score lower than desired, or the subjects start to run together. There will be an end and you get to decide when that is! If you score low? Try again. If you end up not taking the test for whatever reason, give yourself some time then hop back on the horse. If you get rejected from your dream school because of your score, try. Again. 

The LSAT is learnable and you are coachable. That only stops being true when you decide it is false. 

“The LSAT is learnable and

you are coachable.

That only stops being true

when you decide it is false.

-KimberMarie Faircloth

Living With Intention: What Does That Mean?

Since starting my journey to living more sustainably took off in 2017, I’ve slowly come to realize how easy it is to get lost in the sustainability and green “fads.” It’s the same sensation you get when you see ads for new clothes only with the end goal of being “sustainable” instead of fashionable. But, just like everyone has a different body size so is everyone at a different place mentally, emotionally, financially, spiritually etc. in their lives. One size does not fit all.

If you’re not vegan, does that mean you’re not properly pursuing sustainability? If you don’t compost, are you failing? If you recycle, are you contributing to the broken system or helping keep items from the landfill? Not every woman wants to (or can) use period panties or a diva cup – does that make their commitment to a more environmentally in-sync world less so? It’s all relative, truly (and I don’t mean that in the way that everyone is throwing around relativism these days). These things depend on our health, where we live, our resources…this isn’t to say we shouldn’t strive for them but they shouldn’t be the criteria by which someone is judged as to whether they are improving the world or not.

Living intentionally is more inclusive to our whole being than just focusing on being low-impact, zero-waste, green, environmentally-friendly or any other moniker that has been thought of to describe all the same efforts.

There is so much more to the conversation surrounding sustainability than just recycling, reducing, reusing, zero waste, etc. Living with intention encompasses living sustainably and intersects with the rest of our being – it is holistic. If you’re religious or not – it touches on that. If you’re able-bodied or not – it includes that. If you’re living on a tight budget or have money to spare – it encompasses that. It forces us to reflect on all areas of our life: financial, mental, emotional, physical…to figure out what our next best steps moving forward in our lives should be.

“Living with intention encompasses

living sustainably and intersects with

the rest of our being – it is holistic.”

Kimbermarie faircloth

Our culture today is fast – our food, our technology, everything. To the point that it resists the pace and inherently perfect design of nature. We can eat produce that naturally is not found in our hemisphere and even then, still choose to buy the $3 meal made of mainly grains and sugar. We can buy clothes that were made in a blink of an eye with fabrics made with who-knows-what produced by strangers who may be dealing with exploitation, no pay, and/or horrible work conditions. What’s worse is that our access to the “better” options: the ethical clothing, the organic foods, the healthier lifestyles are generally more expensive. We’ve become so out of touch with the rhythm of the natural world, our natural bodies, and the cycles that have always worked well on their own that we have put a price on the supply chains that can help us get back to those very things. The irony is palpable.

This type of living slowly wears on the soul. Do you ever catch yourself wondering why you buy the things you do? Balking at your credit card bill after a splurge at Hobby Lobby or Target? Do you know the people who made the clothes you wear or the decor you arrange on your nightstand? Do you know what your body needs? Your mental or emotional health? Perhaps, even spiritual? When we steep ourselves in this constant flow of just buying things and doing things without considering “why” we do them, or how they affect others, we live a life on a superficial level. 

So, living intentionally – it’s radical. It is actively choosing to meet yourself where you are at, do what you can at this moment to do better and live out your ethos in every breath you take. Simple, right? (That was rhetorical and sarcastic). It does take more time, more research, more pauses, and more sympathy. But at the end of my life, I would rather be surrounded by people, my home, and memories that I built consciously and slowly over my lifetime with love than being buried alive in knick-knacks being forgotten by people who I only have superficial relationships with. Living intentionally should extend to every aspect of your life. Not just your waste or recycle or compost.

It extends from your interactions with people every day to your presence on social media. From your diet and groceries down to your health and finances. From your belongings and clothing to your idealized self and purpose. Choosing to live intentionally should infuse every aspect of your life because to live intentionally you infuse every decision and action you take with yourself. If you don’t know what it is you want your life to be about or purposed towards, then naturally you would find this concept overwhelming. Here’s the thing though…

I’m not saying you need to have a life plan or even a 5, 10, or 25 year plan. That’s not what I’m talking about. When I say “know what it is you want your life to be about or purposed towards,” I’m talking about macro-level impact here. Do you want to cause harm or peace? Do you want to be efficient or wasteful? Do you want to be resilient or fragile? Do you want to do good or bad? These questions can be answered simply with “yes” or “no.” The hard part is distilling these decisions down to our actions and thoughts. That’s where the work begins. Intentional living in a world that now thrives off of superficiality and quantity over quality is going to be difficult. Thankfully, it also encompasses our “failures” as well as our efforts to do better – both of them matter. We learn from the failure and seek to do better. This. is. intentional. living.

This type of living takes time. It won’t happen overnight. But it will be worth it.

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal; but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

-Matthew 6:19-21

Intentional living is for everyone. There is no contest or scale – just the slow progress towards a better self and world, which will look different for everyone…but imagine how different the world would be if everyone embraced just that.