Monday, June 23, 2014

Dr. Walsh

I enjoyed a great opportunity last week at the LEAD 1 Leadership Institute through Chesterfield County at the University of Richmond. It was four days of learning, discussing, listening to speakers, exploring the campus and participating in great team-building exercises. I enjoyed being back in the school setting and working with employees from all different levels, schools and experience levels. It definitely made me miss school! It was one of my favorite professional development opportunities, and I am excited to use the things I learned in my new job.

On Wednesday night, I also attended a Ph.D. information session through VCU for their Counselor Education and Supervision doctoral program. I have been thinking about this program for a while, but never really felt quite ready to commit to it. After the session, though, OF COURSE I want to do it, but I am keeping an open mind and taking the process slow. I am registering to re-take the GRE in late summer (yup, even though I have already graduated from VCU’s Graduate School of Education and already taken the GRE, my scores are too “old”) and have ordered a practice book to study with. The application is due in December, and I am planning to take a course as a non-degree seeking student in the spring to make sure that I can handle the coursework with my job. My goal would be to finish in four years- so that would put me graduating around 2019 (!) with almost ten years of experience as a school counselor in the secondary setting.  Hopefully that experience coupled with the degree with make me a good candidate for college jobs! This plan commits me to staying in Richmond for a little longer than I was planning but will give me an even better opportunity to find work in another state or country. I also will have to tone down my traveling, which is my biggest concern, but as my mom said, I can still travel, but I won’t be taking 4-5 big trips a year L. I will be able to travel to professional conferences, which will still give me my fix (hopefully)!  No matter what, my life of leisure will surely take a hit! However, I have always wanted to work at the college level and being a professor has been in the back of my head for a long time, so this is an exciting prospect. As we all know, though, a lot can change in a year, and especially in four years, so we shall see where this all leads! But I am very excited about the possibility of pursuing my doctorate.

No other news on my end- I have been working at the pool a lot in addition to my regular job, but starting on Sunday, summer traveling begins with a full week trip to Duck, Outer Banks for the 4th of July J!

Saturday, June 14, 2014

10 years ago

Today is 10 years to the day when I graduated high school on June 14, 2004!

It’s funny- people say that time goes by fast, and it does, but it also feels like that was a lifetime ago. I was in such a different place as an 18 year old as I am as a 28(!) year old.

April 2004 celebrating Emily's Birthday
I remember the day semi-clearly. My whole family was in town, including my grandmother, and I had the early graduation that day at 10 AM. I sat on the right side of the seating in the Siegel Center at VCU (all high school graduations in the area are held there) and my family was in the stands beside me. They cheered when my name was called across the stage and after obligatory pictures following the ceremony, we went home to have lunch and a Cold Stone Creamery cake (obviously, since I was working there at the time)! I don’t remember much afterward, but it was a nice day and the weeks leading up to it had been a lot of fun due to all my friends’ graduation parties! It is weird I still remember what I wore to those parties?! J

High school was a hard time for me. I did very well academically and had many good friends, but I put a lot of pressure on myself. I didn’t accept anything but the best in terms of my grades and extracurriculars and that kind of pressure can have negative effects. I was so caught up in being “perfect” that I remember so clearly simply wanting to be happy. I didn’t have a career or college goal at the time except to let go of my perfectionistic personality. To show you how aware I was of my faults at this point, I even wrote in my senior year scrap book (which I still have and looked through the other week- I am so glad I made one!) that my dream job was: To do anything and live anywhere that makes me happy. That is probably a little different than your average high school goal, right?

Humanities Senior Banquet  in June 2004
My life has only improved in the last 10 years. I went to two great colleges and met so many amazing people from undergrad and grad school and even more amazing people through my work. I cannot imagine how my life would have been had I not met all these people. They have definitely invigorated my life and helped me grow into who I am today! I am also lucky to still be friends with many people from my youth and to get to experience the highs and lows in their lives- all across the country. Friends are definitely the family you pick for yourself.

My change and growth has been gradual over time. I am still a perfectionist by nature, but I am much more relaxed about success and work. I have a good job and a stable income that enables me to do all the things I want to (for the most partJ), so I am very content and grateful (besides my usual "itch" for change). I think stability in and of itself has brought happiness to my life, because I have full control and am not relying on parents, teachers or admission offices to determine where my life will head. It is all up to me now (and the mercy of employers)! I also do not let work rule my life like school did. I still aim to do my best and do a good job, but I work so I can live my life and not the other way around. Most of my life goals now are not related to work but are more for my own personal fulfillment. This has helped me achieve balance, and I also think running and wellness/health has helped me overcome health barriers that were once struggles. I am, as always, a work in progress.

Posing in 2002 with my Algebra 2 class
So on this 10 year anniversary, I would say I am very glad to have high school behind me and would not trade where I am now for any other point in my life. It probably helps that I now work in high schools- I get enough of my school fix on a daily basisJ. My life keeps getting better and better, and I like it that way. No need to live in the past.

Monday, June 9, 2014


I had a great weekend in Duck (Outer Banks), celebrating the soon-to-be Mrs. Somers (aka Lauren Malakoff)!I have known Lauren since the end of high school and am so happy for her August wedding to a great guy! It was so wonderful to celebrate at the beach before the crowds of the beach season and when the weather was PERFECT (70's and no humidity)! I am so anxious to get back in a few weeks for the 4th of July:)

As is usually the case, pictures do the weekend more justice than my words, but it was a great weekend full of morning runs, days at the beach and pool, nights with good drinks & music (karaoke, anyone?), and of, course great (and lots of) food!

Out for drinks along the sound with the bride-to-be!

Fun ladies!

My love, Sarah Rose.
Our sweeeeet house!


View from top deck:)

The Currituck Sound:) Crystal clear afternoon!

Favorite part of Duck!

Richmond ladies!

With the bride before dinner!

Fun at dinner!
Congrats to Lauren! Thanks for such a great Bachelorette weekend!

Thursday, June 5, 2014


I really do prefer to write my own posts, but sometimes I come across someone else's words and I know that my thoughts would be less articulate than theirs . So here is a great post from that gives many great messages about what really matters in life- many things that I have been thinking of a lot lately as I enjoy my "life of leisure" and simplicity.
30 Life Lessons from 30 Years
1. We must love. You know the saying, “tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all,” right? I know, such statements sound so banal and vapid on the surface that we often dismiss them with a wave of the hand. But it’s the cold truth, a truth so profound that perhaps we can only discuss it with little cliched statements. But we must love, even if it breaks our hearts. Because unless we love, our lives will flash by.
2. Love isn’t enough. Although we must love, love is not enough to survive. We must take action to show others that we care, to show them that we love them.
3. Happiness is not for sale in any store. We can’t buy happiness. Hell, it sounds cliché to even say that, and yet we search the aisles and shelves and pages on eBay in search of something more, something to fill the void. But we can’t fill the void with stuff. It doesn’t work that way, no matter how hard we try or how much stuff we buy, because that stuff won’t make us happy. At best it will pacify us momentarily. At worst it will ruin our lives, leaving us empty and depressed and even more alone, alone among a sea of material items—sometimes a crowded room can feel the most alone. The truth is that we are all going to die, and heaping our tombs with treasure will not save us from this fate. Ryan and I wrote about happiness for Dave Bruno’s 100 Thing Challenge: The Minimalists On Happiness.
4. Success is perspectival. I used to think I was successful because I had a six-figure job that my friends and family could be proud of. I thought the house with too many bedrooms would make me look even more successful, and so would the luxury car and the tailored suits and the nice watch and the big screen TV and all the trappings of the material world. But I got all that and I sure as hell didn’t feel successful. Instead, I felt depressed. So what did I do? I bought more stuff. And when that didn’t work I figured out that I had to do something else with my life, that I had to stop living a lie and start living my dreams.
5. You must make change a mustI knew that I wanted to change my life for the longest time. I knew I was unhappy, unsatisfied, and unfulfilled. I knew I didn’t have freedom. Not real freedom. The problem was that I knew these thingsintellectually but not emotionally. I didn’t have the feeling in my gut that thingsmust change. I knew they should change, but the change wasn’t a must for me, and thus it didn’t happen. Anthony Robbins has a good aphorism to describe all these shoulds in your life: he says “after a while you end up shoulding all over yourself.” But once you understand these things on an emotional level you are able to turn your shoulds into musts. I believe that that is the pivotal point, that is when you get leverage, that is when you are compelled to take action. Thus, a decision is not a real decision until it is a must for you, until you feel it on your nerve-endings, until you are compelled to take action. Once your shoulds have turned into musts, then you have made a real decision.
6. Growth & contribution is the meaning of life. Giving is living, I said that before. I believe the best way to live a meaningful life is simple: continuously grow as an individual and contribute to other people in a meaningful way. Growth and contribution. That’s all. That’s the meaning of my life.
7. Health is more important than most of us treat it. Without health, nothing else matters. It took me over a year and a half to lose 70 pounds—70 pounds of disgusting fat—but that was seven years ago and I’ve kept the weight off and I’m not turning back. I’m 30 years old now, but I’m in the best shape of my life, by far. And it’s only going to get better from here. I wrote about my exercise and diet in this essay: Minimalism Is Healthy: How I Lost 70 Pounds
8. Sentimental items are not as important as we think. My mother died in 2009. It was an incredibly difficult time in my life, but it also helped me realize a lot about the unnecessary meaning we give to stuff. I realized that I could hold on to her memories without her stuff, that I don’t need Mom’s stuff to remind me of her. There are traces of her everywhere: In the way I act, in the way I treat others, even in my smile. She’s still there, and she was never part of her stuff. I wrote an essay about that experience: Letting Go of Sentimental Items.
9. Your job is not your mission. At least it wasn’t for me, though I thought it was for the longest time, I gave it so much meaning and worked so much that the rest of my life suffered. I wrote an essay about leaving my corporate job to pursue my passions and live my mission: Screw You, I Quit! You can also check out Day 19 of our journey for further explanation.
10. Finding your passion is important. My passion is writing. Maybe you already know what your passion is, maybe you don’t have a clue. Do yourself a favor and figure it out, it will change everything for you. Read the above mentioned “Screw You, I Quit!” essay for more discussion about finding your passions.
11. Relationships matter. Not every relationship matters all that much, but there are a few that really, really matter. There are a few relationships we should focus on (for most of us there are a handful of relationships that truly matter, probably no more than 20). I’ve found that minimalism has helped me focus on these relationships. And I recently learned how to establish deeper connections with people.
12. You don’t need everyone to like you. We all want to be loved, it’s a mammalian instinct, but you can’t value every relationship the same, and thus you can’t expect everyone to love you the same. Life doesn’t work that way. Julien Smith articulates this sentiment very well in his essay The Complete Guide to Not Giving a Fuck: “when people don’t like you, nothing actually happens. The world does not end. You don’t feel them breathing down your neck. In fact, the more you ignore them and just go about your business, the better off you are.”
13. Status is a misnomer. Similar to “success,” our culture seems to place a lot of emphasis on material wealth as a sign of true wealth, and yet I know too many people of “status,” too many “rich” people—hell, I’ve been to some of their dinner parties—who are miserable, who are not wealthy at all. They are only ostensibly “rich,” but they are bankrupt inside, emotionally drained and broke almost everywhere except in their wallets. But perhaps Chuck Palahniuk said it best: “You’re not your job. You’re not how much money you have in the bank. You’re not the car you drive. You’re not the contents of your wallet. You’re not your khakis.”
14. Jealousy and envy are wasted emotions. This one might be easier for me than it is for you. I’ve never been the jealous type. In fact, it has hurt some relationships for me in the past, because I didn’t articulate this fact—that I’m not the jealous type—to the other person. It’s strange but some people expect us to be jealous to show that we care. Instead, I choose to show that I care about someone by showing that I trust them and telling them that I trust them. Just be up front with people, tell them you don’t get jealous because you love them and you trust them. It makes everything easier.
15. Everybody worships something. My favorite fiction writer, David Foster Wallace, said it best: “In the day-to-day trenches of adult life, there is actually no such thing as atheism. There is no such thing as not worshipping. Everybody worships. The only choice we get is what to worship.” Many of us chose to worship our stuff. That’s what led me to minimalism. Ryan and I wrote an essay about it at the beginning of the year: Everybody Worships Something.
16. I am not the center of the universe. It’s incredibly difficult to think about the world from a perspective other than our own. We are always worried about what’s going on in our lives. What does my schedule look like today? What if I lose my job during the next round of layoffs? Why can’t I stop smoking? Why am I overweight? Why am I not happy with my life? Suffice it to say that we are acutely aware of everything connected to our own lives. That’s why Ryan and I wrote an essay about consciously removing yourself the center of the universe; it’s about paying attention to what’s going on in front of you and around you and inside you: I Am Not The Center Of The Universe
17. Awareness is the most precious kind of freedom. This is yet another reason why minimalism is so appealing to so many people. It removes many of the obstructions and allows us to focus on what’s important. Minimalism is a tool to rid ourselves of superfluous excess in favor of a meaningful life, it is a tool to take a seemingly intricate and convoluted world, cluttered with its endless embellishments, and make it simpler, easier, realer. It is unimaginably hard to remain conscious and attentive and aware. It is difficult not to fall back into a trance-like state, surrounded by the trappings and obstructions of the tiring world around us. But it is important to do so, for this is real freedom. Ryan and I wrote an essay about awareness and conscious freedom for Nina Yau’s site earlier this year: Awareness: The Most Precious Kind of Freedom
18. Be On The Mountain. This is the term I use for “living in the moment.” I wrote an essay about it a few years ago: Be On The Mountain.
19. We are often scared for no reason. Just ask yourself “what am I afraid of?” We are usually scared of things that don’t have a real impact on our lives (or that we can’t control, so we’re worrying for no reason).
20. It’s OK to change; change is growth. We all want a different outcome, and yet most of us don’t want any change in our lives. Change equals uncertainty, and uncertainty equals discomfort, and discomfort isn’t much fun. But when we learn to enjoy the process of change—when we chose to look at the uncertain as varietyinstead of uncertainty—then we get to reap all the rewards of change. And that’s how we grow as people.
21. Pretending to be perfect doesn’t make us perfect. I am not perfect, and I never will be. I make mistakes and bad decisions, and I fail at times. I stumble, fall. I am human—a mixed bag, nuanced, the darkness and the light—as are you. And you are beautiful.
22. The past does not equal the future. My words are my words and I can’t take them back. You can’t change the past, so it’s important to focus on the present. If the past equaled the future, then your windshield would be of no use to you; you would simply drive your car with your eyes glued to the rearview mirror. But driving this way—only looking behind you—is a surefire way to crash. Ryan and I wrote an essay about letting go of the past: Your Past Does Not Equal Your Future.
23. Pain can be useful; but suffering—there is absolutely nothing useful about suffering. Pain lets us know that something is wrong. It is an indicator that we need to change what we’re doing. But suffering is a choice—one that we all choose from time to time—and we can choose to stop suffering, to learn a lesson from the pain and move on with our lives.
24. Doubt kills. The person who stops you from doing everything you want to do, who stops you from being completely free, who stops you from being healthy or happy or passionate or living a meaningful life is you. We can doubt ourselves to death.
25. It’s OK to wait. Leo Babauta always reminds his readers to slow down, thatwe don’t need to hurry. Sometimes it’s OK to wait a little longer for something. Why rush if you don’t have to? Why not enjoy the journey? Example: These days, when I’m walking the streets of Dayton or Portland or Oakland or wherever, I don’t rush across the crosswalk when I see the flashing red hand warning me that I need to hurry up and cross the damn street! Instead, I wait. I let red hand turn solid, warning me to halt! and I let the traffic light change color from green to yellow and then red, and I wait. I look around, I breathe, I think, and I wait. It’s OK to wait. We wrote an essay about waiting earlier this year: Reasons For Waiting. Also, clearing my plate helped me tremendously with this.
26. Honesty is profoundly important. Honesty, at the most simple level, is telling the truth, not lying. It’s incredibly important to be honest, and it’s hurtful when you’re not, but…
27. Openness is just as important as honesty. Openness is more complicated than honesty. Openness involves being honest, while painting an accurate picture, shooting straight, not misleading other people, and being real. Openness is far more subjective, and you have to be honest with yourself before you can be open with others. This doesn’t mean that you must put your entire life on display. Some things are private, and that’s OK too.
28. Adding value to other people is the only way to get their buy-in. We recently wrote an essay about adding value to other people. It’s something I’ve lived by for a long time. When I managed a large team of people I constantly asked them questions like, “how did you add value this week?” I also asked that same question of myself, and I would share with my team how I added value that week. That’s how I got their buy-in.
29. Hype is cancerous. While eating lunch with Leo in San Francisco he said something that stuck with me: “I’m allergic to hype.” That sentence touched my nerve-endings and resonated in a special way. So often we fall for the hype (e.g., “Buy More, Save More” and “Three Day Sale!”) and we are suckered into rash buying decisions because of scarcity and a false sense of urgency. But we can train ourselves to not only resist such hype, but to have a vitriolic reaction to the hype, to elicit a response so off-putting that we avoid anything that’s hyped. This goes back to being aware, which is, as I mentioned above, the most precious kind of freedom.
30. I’m still trying to figure it all out. I don’t intend to promulgate my views and opinions as some sort of life maxims or absolute lessons by which you should live your life. What works for me might not work for you (hell, sometimes it doesn’t even work for me).

I am definitely finding as I get older that I enjoy living with less. Smaller car, smaller condo, buying fewer groceries, eating out less (or eating cheaper when I go out), doing less expensive activities (expensive concerts and such don't do it for me), knowing everything I own and where it is and paying for experiences rather than THINGS- those are all important things to me. I think their blog has wonderful advice on getting out of what you think you "should" do rather than what makes you happy. What makes me happy may be different from what makes you happy, but I have grown in that I don't care as much on what other's think of my lifestyle or what I am expected to do and am enjoying figuring it all out on my own:)