Law School Orientation + First Week Guide: Do’s and Don’ts

Photo by Ivan Samkov on Pexels.com

My liability statement would be that I’ve only been in school for two-weeks so take everything with a grain of salt. That being said, a lot of trial-and-error can happen in a short amount of time: a lot of myths about law school busted, some upheld, and then of course, the unexpected always pops up. Below is a quick guide to the things that were helpful and then things that were not-so-helpful during Orientation and the first week of school. Not all of them are strictly law school related so I hope you can find some meaning in this guide even if you’re pursuing a different program!

3 Do’s

Do a “little” preparation…

Before law school, I had many many people tell me to just focus on resting, creating a good routine, taking up good habits, and not really focus on “preparing.” However, I view all of that as a form of “preparation” because all of those things: health, wellness, organization, rest, are critical to being a successful student! And I did actually read a few books before school starting because I wanted a better idea of “law school lingo,” I went into the books expecting to take everything with a grain of salt (much like this post). There are no attorneys in my family that I’m directly related to so the jargon often used and the lifestyle of a law career is very new to me. By reading books written by professionals and getting to hear their perspective on success in law school, helped prep me just by exposure to the words and ideas. I wouldn’t go much further than that in terms of preparation, i.e. don’t worry about trying to get a grasp on legal theories and rules before class. That’s why you’re going to law school! (That would apply to any program, honestly. If the program sends you certain prep courses to take then by all means, follow their instructions, but anything outside of that: save for when classes start.

Read everything twice, maybe three times…

Orientation can be overwhelming, it’s a lot of people, especially after over a year of isolation and intense social-distancing. It can also be a lot of information: honor code, school culture, technology requirements, class descriptions, class schedules…the list goes on. So, when you’re handed a document that the administration took the time to print out for you containing essential information about your classes or certain requirements, read it. Read it twice, and then maybe even a third time. There were questions asked, by both me and other students, that were outlined in documentation we received. I chalk this up to nerves, which is okay! But just make sure you’re taking the time to read the instructions given before going and asking what the instructions are – if it is very clear that something was left out or there was an error, then definitely ask about it.

Embrace the awkward…

There’s going to be an element of awkwardness to it – that is almost always the case for social interactions. Those first few minutes, that first hour or day can be like pulling teeth but it gets much better. Consider how you might be feeling: excited, nervous, maybe even scared…then multiply that by how many students are in your class. You’re not alone! So, embrace the awkward ice-breakers or team-building exercises, say “hello” to new people even if it feels weird, ask to sit with them to eat or grab a cup of coffee. Once you get over that initial hump of awkwardness, it is usually much, much smoother. Don’t let it hold you back from interacting during Orientation or classes that first week and getting to know other people.

3 Don’ts

Do not gossip or be overly sarcastic.

Common-sense, right? I believe that it is very easy for all us (myself included) to slip into gossiping or sarcasm as defense mechanisms. It’s a new school year, perhaps (like in my case) a whole new program that is known for being very intense. I did notice at times some students being VERY open in different group-chats started for our class and all I’m going to say about it is this: you are making first impressions for the first few WEEKS. Do not get too comfortable too early. Be professional, reign in the sarcastic jokes because not everyone has humor like that and please refrain from talking about others or at the very least, the WAY you talk about others. You may think you’re being “constructive,” but I would urge you to read out loud to a friend what you’re going to send in a message or even say to someone before doing so to make sure that it is coming across the way you intend it to. And take note of people who do gossip or are overly sarcastic in all of their responses…

Do not be rude or entitled to administration, even if there’s an error.

Again, it sounds common-sense but that first week or two is intense. As I mentioned before, there’s a lot of information, a lot of emotions filling the campus/room/building, and a lot to do. Our school gave us an Orientation Checklist everyone needed to complete that was frequently updated even up to the day of Orientation! When you are reaching out to professors or administrators to ask questions, (1) make sure the question wasn’t already answered somewhere else in your paperwork, emails, or online/during class and (2) make sure to be polite. If you’re nervous, that’s fine, but anxiety can often make us short with others so be mindful of your tone. Saying “thank you so much for your time!” and “Hello, how are you?” to the people who are teaching you and/or administrating the program you’re taking goes a long way. Think about how it makes you feel when people treat you that way versus the opposite…act accordingly.

Do not get stuck on people, expectations, or rumors.

This may not apply to you and if not, that’s great! But if you are someone who might get hung up on what other students are doing to prepare or get settled into classes, unrealistic expectations (set by you or others), or rumors about who the “good” professors are and who the “bad” professors are, then this advice is for you. When you hear or encounter these thoughts, treat it like a red flag. Make a note of it and then remind yourself of the good things that can happen, to set realistic expectations for yourself and others, and to not pay too much mind to rumors. Make your own judgment of people and classes after giving them ample time to display their true characteristics (or better yet, don’t judge at all). You are there to learn, get your degree, and get your dream job – do you really want to waste your precious time (that could be put towards studying or networking) worrying about other people and things that may not be true?

I could probably keep going on about the lessons I’ve learned, very quickly, from these past two weeks but I’m going to leave it here. These were the first things that came to mind and stood out to me very often during Orientation and the first week of classes! Good luck to you as you start your journey and let me know below of any advice or lessons you encounter that you’d like to share as well!

Sincerely,

5 Things I Do to Combat Social Anxiety in the Moment

Photo by Lisa on Pexels.com

I am by no means an expert on this but after officially starting counseling in 2018 and really committing to overcoming certain fears, I’ve come to terms with the fact that we will always be working on something. For some people, that may include anxiety! In some areas of our lives, we may feel little to none and in others, it can be overwhelming – then those areas may switch as we grow and evolve as people. I know they have for me. One of the exercises I’ve been working on has been “exposing” myself more and more to things that scare me so that way I don’t fall victim to avoidance and staying in my comfort zone all the time. Below are things that I’ve done that have REALLY helped – but you have to actually do them to see the benefits!

Eye Contact + Smile

Such a small thing to do but so powerful. I am not the person who usually says “hello” immediately to people when they walk in the room but it is something I want to grow more used to. At Orientation last week, I found myself trying it out and it was so empowering. Next time you’re feeling brave, try this: the next few people who walk into the room, look up when they do, gain eye contact, smile, and say, “hello.” That’s it. You don’t have to start a conversation with them (if it leads to that, go with it!) just a simple, “hi!” Again, it feels small but if you struggle immensely in the social area this could be exactly what you need to start showing yourself that you are social and good at it!

Body Language: Train to Relax

As I type this, I just reminded myself to relax my jaw and shoulders. It’s a constant fight but our body language sends more messages to people than our actual words do half the time. The more I relax myself (which is good anyways for someone who is very often in fight-or-flight) the more I send out signals saying I’m relaxed to those near me. Have you ever been near someone who is super angry or upset? Even if you aren’t talking with them, isn’t their energy (depending on the person) sometimes palpable? That applies to you too. For the rest of the day, take notice of where you feel tense. Try not crossing your arms and turning your body towards the people you are talking with or focusing on. They may not say anything but people notice when you are invested in their presence or trying to run away.

Plan Your Questions

I had an informational interview with a District Attorney about a month ago and the lead up to that interview was the most panicked I’ve been in awhile. It took me about fifteen minutes into the discussion to actually calm down – I really did think I would have to ask to excuse myself BUT I employed the relaxation technique above, grounded myself, and really focused on what the attorney was talking about to get out of my head. I also knew what I wanted to talk about and that helped me, once again, focus on the present reality and not the anxious scenario swirling around in my mind. If you’re meeting someone new or going to a new place, consider who you might be interacting with and plan some questions you can utilize throughout the event (and consider what you might say if someone asked you those questions too). I would also say to try out situations where you are exposed to silence (going to a restaurant by yourself, being in a big group and having organic moments of silence etc.) and just sitting with them. Yes, they’re awkward but the more you get through those you’ll realize they really are not that bad and the less anxious you’ll be as you experience them in the future.

Plan Your Movements

A few weeks ago, a friend of mine got married in Charleston, SC. I wasn’t a part of the bridal party but all my friends, who I was staying with, were. So, when the rehearsal dinner came around I was left to my own devices. Instead of staying in, I forced myself to go ahead and get ready as if I was going out with them then as they headed off to rehearsal, I had them drop me off at a rooftop bar. All. Alone. It was horrifying but it helped to Google beforehand pictures of the restaurant, I asked my friends what it was like in terms of setup, and I even envisioned how I would walk in and where I would go. Yes, it sounds silly but again: the only way to make these situations less awkward or fear-filled is to do them more often. So, plan ahead if that brings you comfort and then maybe one day, challenge yourself to just go on a moment’s notice without planning ahead. You may even WANT to do it!

Know Thyself (Why Are You There, Comfort With Silence)

As I was sitting at that rooftop bar, I am not exaggerating when I say my hand was shaking as I lifted the glass of wine to my lips but I made sure to make eye contact with the bartender, smile, relax myself, and just be. Sometimes I would watch the TV over the bar (even though I have no interest in sports) or look at my phone. I made myself take breaks from looking at my phone so I could be open to conversation even though they didn’t happen. About an hour into sitting there, I started looking around for jazz performances as I had been wanting to attend one lately. Lo and behold, there was a Frank Sinatra song performance going on about 12-minutes away from where I was. I bought a ticket, finished my drink, then went to the next place (still alone).

Who am I? ” I thought to myself.

That was the first time I had ever done something so spontaneous and by myself. That was also one of the best nights I’ve had in years. It was fun because I did things I enjoyed or had always wanted to try. I also felt pride in challenging myself and succeeding at what I said I was going to do. A part of these exercises is knowing why you’re doing them, why doing them is a good thing, and that it’s okay to take up space.

BONUS: take some time to research from reputable resources what anxiety it is, how it works, why you have certain symptoms (talk to your doctor and/or counselor as well) to get a better physiological understanding of why we react to stress the way we each personally do. I started paying attention to things that affect my hormones and stress (sleep cycles, caffeine intake etc.) to consider foods and activities in my life that could help mitigate or improve my anxiety. Everyone is different so please consult with a trusted provider and your own intuition.

Stay curious,

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is the-joyful-servant.png

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.

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.

“Is This The Path For Me?” Three Tips for Discerning Career, School, and Big Life Decisions

I wish I could say that I had a lightening-bolt moment where the heavens opened up around me and harps played signaling that my life’s calling was to be a lawyer. Alas, that did not happen. However, what did happen, which I find to be all the more meaningful and personally empowering is the process by which I landed on this decision to pursue becoming a lawyer. The earliest I remember being interested in this were at various times throughout middle and high school growing up – random daydreams usually after hearing a lawyer talk about their career or seeing something eventful or interesting on television. Then the urge would dissipate as I became distracted by one of my many other interests.

As I entered the College of Charleston, I flipped back and forth between different paths (as most students do). I knew for a fact I wanted to keep my Anthropology degree but was lost in where to go from there (a subject I will dive deeper into in the future). I remember buying an LSAT prep book but never getting past Chapters 2 or 3 and never committing to actually signing up for the LSAT. The end of my college career was a whirlwind – I ultimately dropped a minor so I could move back home and finish my last few classes online a semester early to be close to my mother who was diagnosed with cancer. I don’t regret that decision.

Fast forward to 2020, it’s the beginning of the lockdowns in March due to COVID-19. I have a little more time on my hands since I’m working from home with no commute to work. I had spent the last year in my first “big girl” job as a leasing agent with full-benefits and good pay for a great company after facing around six-months of unemployment post-graduation, with the exception of part-time time gigs found by a temp agency.

One of the first days of lockdown, I remember texting my sister asking her opinion on what she could see me doing and if she could see me being a lawyer.

“Will it make you happy?”

“Yes, I think it could and I think I could be very good at it.”

I had my answer. I started prepping for the LSAT, which I would later sit for in November, finally feeling more secure in my purpose and the life I wanted to have moving forward. All that being said, there’s three MAJOR details that I want to emphasize for any fellow future-law students, college students figuring out their next step or anyone who is discerning a potential career change. Looking back on my journey, I’ve found that these three things played a large role in my decision-making process that I feel will help others too:

#1: Talking to People

Quick: who are the people closest to you that you can trust the most? Whoever came to mind, write their names down. Use them as sounding boards for your discernment process. These people should know you very well and should be people that you can go to about anything but who will give you honest answers. For me that was my Dad and my sister with a few very close friends. Ultimately, their opinion should NOT be the defining voice in your plan – you should be. So, even if they tell you some opinions you don’t want to hear, take their input and really mull over it. If it upsets you, reflect on why. If it excites you, reflect on why.

The other people you should be talking to are those who are doing whatever it is you want to do. When I worked for the temp agency, I landed a part-time job working for an Estates Lawyer which would later be very impactful in my decision. I got to see the day-to-day of one type of lawyer, the good and the bad that came with her position, as well as at least one area of law in practice. That experience, plus gaining advice and guidance from that lawyer and hearing her journey through law school helped me start mine. I also relied on other friends and acquaintances who are either going through law school or have already graduated and are out “in the world” (some working as attorneys and some not) to gain their insights.

This website also has a great outline for preparing and discerning law school: What Do Lawyers Do?

#2: Data Dump

If you’re going to pursue something, especially any sort of professional or graduate degree, you need to know what you’re getting into. More than likely, after talking with people who are in the field, they’re going to give you resources. Some more helpful than others.

Use them.

You don’t have to treat them like the Bible – after all, everyone’s experience is different – but they will help you get a more holistic idea of what you are or might be pursuing. I’ve read articles written by people who have been left in debt, embittered, and regretful of their time in law school as well as heard from those who are successful and happily running their own law practice or working in law now. Both help and are necessary to listen to for a fuller understanding of what it means to be a lawyer.

Research the different industries within law – trademark, cultural heritage, environmental, corporate etc. (If you’re pursuing a different field, do the same, I assure you there will be many different subsets and industries wherever you’re headed). Look at the current growth rate for lawyers, which sub-industries are booming, bar passage rates for your school (or those you are interested in applying to), different law schools in your area, day-to-day experiences of different types of lawyers etc. the list goes on and on. Take in as much as you can about the career you’re interested in and then see what excites you and what does not. If you start to get overwhelmed, step back, take a break, and pick up at a later time.

A great place to start, the American Bar Association.

#3: Visualize

So, this is going to be the part that is most ‘woo-woo.’ Yes, I want you to visualize yourself as a lawyer. Use all the experiences that you’ve heard and details you’ve researched to paint a picture in your head.

Here’s the catch: don’t just envision success.

You could pursue law school to find that you hate it, it’s not at all what you want to do and/or it’s much much harder than you ever thought it could be. The opposite could also be true: it may be something you love, it’s exactly what you expected, and although it is rigorous, you’re doing it. Most of us are already daydreaming anyways, the key here is to visualize both the good and the bad.

If visualizing the bad really makes you uneasy and question whether you want to move forward maybe you need to step back and explore more before making a decision. If you can’t even imagine what the day-to-day of being a lawyer means except whatever you’ve seen on Law & Order or Suits, then DEFINITELY step back and do more research. I’ve had many law students who look at me and answer my question: “how is school going?” with:

“it could be worse.”

Yikes! Granted, I don’t blame them – I’ve heard that law school itself can be very detrimental to mental health – I’ve had a couple friends warn me to not drink too much as they’ve seen many colleagues grow dependent on drinking for relaxation, coping with stress etc. Should this scare you or me away? Not necessarily! But that’s exactly why “visualizing” both the good and the bad of a profession will help you determine if it is truly the path for you – specifically focusing on overcoming the “bad” can also help profoundly.

If you don’t believe me on the power of visualization, check out “The Extraordinary Power of Visualizing Success” by Matt Mayberry, CEO of Matt Mayberry Enterprises.

Finally, Take Action!

So, those are the three main things that I’ve done and continue to do while preparing for law school! They helped immensely with my discernment over whether this path is for me. Although I am understandably nervous about starting school, I’m more excited than nervous even though it is extremely challenging, time-consuming, and mentally/emotionally taxing. If you’ve done these three things and nerves are still keeping you from pursuing a career or a dream that all-in-all feels like your next best step, here’s your sign to pursue it. Most people often don’t succeed or get the life they want simply because they refuse to take action. The steps above will get you nowhere if you don’t ultimately make the decision to try.

“The steps above will get you nowhere if you don’t ultimately make the decision to try.”

Actionable Steps:

  1. Talk to people you trust and those who have experience with what you’re setting out to do. Learn from them: listen, ask questions, take notes, and reflect on what they’re sharing with you – the good and the bad.
  2. Research as much as you can about your interests, create a full picture of the industry or career you want. You should be able to walk away knowing what you need to do to achieve it, the different paths to getting there, and to be able to explain to others what it is you want to do.
  3. Visualize yourself doing what it is you want to do – visualize success as well as failure, can you see yourself overcoming failure? Persisting with the career or idea in spite of adversity? If not, then perhaps you need to step back and take more time to research, shadow, and reflect before moving forward.
  4. Take action – make a decision!