Truth Posts

A Reminder: Have You Thanked Your Problems Yet?

(Editor’s Note: This was originally posted in June 2012 and was subsequently picked up a few other places, but I thought it was fitting as a reminder for Thanksgiving here in the U.S.). 

Let’s pause and look around us – and be grateful for everything that we do have. It’s so easy to get caught up in our own world: things that are driving us crazy, holding us back, or not turning out as we planned. But have you recently looked outside of your sphere (and your current woes), to reflect on what you have?

I’m in the business of turning negatives, challenges, questions, into amazing positives. Don’t have a job that brings in six-figures, I’ll help you land that. Not sure if you should stay in grad school or take a promotion at work, no problem. Can’t seem to break into the corporate world with your current set of resume materials, easy breezy fix. I listen to people’s problems and help them on their path to find a solution – and I love every moment. But are our problems really that bad?

After watching the first half of the Secret Millionaire, I was touched, inspired, and questioning my own world perspective. A little disclaimer – I love this show; I love how it highlights how different people live throughout the United States, that it attempts to show and share the reality of life for so many people that are not represented in media, that it reminds us of the impact that volunteering (and yes, money), can have to so many people. But as I was watching kids being taught how to landscape a cemetery so they can add that skill to their resume, I paused the show and literally stepped away from my TV.

When was the last time that you stepped out of your current life woes and reflected on the things you do have? I know that it has been too long when I was worrying this morning about how to bring in new clients while sitting at Starbucks with my venti iced coffee in my hand and my laptop computer on the table (not to mention all of the other gadgets in my purse). It’s not about things – but how amazing is it, that these issues are the ones that I’m lucky enough to worry about. I have a beautiful apartment, I don’t have to worry about my next meal, clothes, things galore, and so much more.

Our own life decisions and challenges are important – it’s not about how you compare to people who may be less or more fortunate. But at what point do we give our personal crises a break and realize that we are very lucky to be having those types of problems in the first place? When you put your decisions into the perspective of others, the problem doesn’t seem so big or overwhelming.

So I urge all of you to take a moment and reflect on how lucky you are to be struggling YOUR struggle. Even as difficult, challenging or overwhelming it may seem, there are so many others who are struggling for things/decisions/options that you have either overcome or accomplished. Remember that: you have accomplished! Each time you pay your rent check, buy groceries, get in your car, call someone on your cell phone – your hard work, dedication, determination, and perhaps luck, have helped you do that. Be grateful for what you have and figure out how to pay it forward.

About Melissa


Melissa Anzman is the creator of Launch Your Job  where she equips ambitious leaders with practical ways to grow their career. She is the author of two books: How to Land a Job and Stop Hating Your Job. Follow her @MelissaAnzman.


Longing for the Start of School...sort of

by Rebecca Fraser-Thill grad_school_2

When you think of autumn, what springs to mind? Crisp evenings? Shortening days? Earthy scents? Halloween pranks?

Oh come on, you're holding back. Just try to convince me you don't think of school.

And no wonder you do:  after umpteen-odd years of trucking off to pencils, books, and dirty looks at the first drop of a leaf, autumn and school are strongly associated in our minds.

Which is fine and all. Until this association starts making us think we want something that we don't.

The Dangerous Fall/Grad School Link

Let's get this out of the way up front, lest I be labeled an anti-gradschoolite. There are many valid, terrific reasons to attend grad school. For instance:

  • Working toward better placement/career potential in a field in which you have proven and sustained interest
  • Increasing your knowledge of a subject about which you have proven and sustained interest
  • Engaging with the brightest minds in an area in which you have proven and sustained interest

(Sense a theme?)

If everyone were attending grad school for valid reasons, though, I wouldn't see a sudden surge in "hey former prof, I'm thinking of going to grad school!" emails every darn autumn. Which I do. Every year. The onslaught is a-coming.

To understand why the "huh, grad school is sounding good" blitz is a seasonal phenomenon, we must travel back in time to our childhood falls. In particular, to the prelude of our first day at school. (Cue the wavy lines and do-do-do-do music.)

The New-School-Year Scene:  Your mom is ironing the brand-new outfit you’ll wear on your first day, and you’re loading your crisp, clean backpack with all manner of school supplies. Your erasers are pink and four-cornered. Your pencils are sharp and smell like a day in the words. Your notebooks are ripe with blank pages so fresh and new that they stick to one another in their spiral spine.

Can you feel it?

I'll bet you can.

For twentysomethings, The New-School-Year Scene is as irresistible as the (ever so brief) 'N Sync reunion.

Why Twentysomethings Crave Autumns from the Past

Why is the draw of school in the fall so overwhelming to us when we're in our twenties (and perhaps far beyond)? Because those are the years when we're positively unmoored by the lack of what I call The 3 P’s:  possibility, predictability, and purpose.

When we conjure The New-School-Year Scene, those 3 P's become tangible all over again. We remember what it felt like to be poised on the edge of an entire new existence. Life seemed organized, opportunity-filled, and oh-so-beautifully structured.

No wonder, then, when autumn comes lugging its conditioned associations to The New School Year Scene we think:

“Oh! I could have those feelings again! I want that! I think I’ll go to grad school!”

Sorry to break it to you, but once college ends, the days of experiencing an externally-imposed sense of the 3 Ps are over. Period.

The twenties are all about accepting that very point. And then figuring out how to create our own internally-driven sense of predictability, possibility and purpose all the same.

This process is often termed "becoming an adult." And it sucks. Totally sucks. No sugarcoating there.

Thing is, going to grad school solve the underlying issue of needing to learn how to create for yourself what the world once created for you.

It only defers it.

(Full disclosure:  I write this not as someone who took my own advice, but rather as a recovering Autumn-Allure Addict. Yes, a AAA. As bad as it gets. To avoid facing the fact that my days of externally-derived 3 Ps were over, I jumped into grad school AND teaching. That's right, I'm here to scare you straight.)

The Problem With Going to Grad School To Relive the Fall of Our Childhood

Point number two why grad school is the wrong answer if the idea is only hitting you in the fall:  not only does grad school fail to provide the 3 P's for the long run, it also fails to square with nostalgia.

To see what I mean, please join me again in my time machine. This time we're traveling back to about two months into any given school year.

The Two-Months-Into-School Scenario:  You’re back to wearing hand-me-down clothes that fit awkwardly and get you teased. Your backpack’s bottom has blackened and the zippers have begun to show signs of rebellion. Your erasers have turned into dark, amorphous blobs that are inexplicably sticky. Your pencils are perpetually broken and smell of cheese puffs. And your notebooks? Oh, your notebooks. Once a stack of possibility, they now hold words and symbols you barely care to try to understand and their voluminous ranks have been decimated from notes passed to friends and paper airplanes flown at substitutes.

Had you forgotten that scene? Ours minds are convenient like that, scraping the moderately crapping portions of life from our memories. Hence the onset of Twentysomething School Nostalgia.

This delusional nostalgia is a major issue. I’d wager it causes a good portion of poor-grad-school choices, with desire to impress and social comparisons being the other major reasons. (Or you can be really "awesome" and go for the trifecta like I did!)

The reality is that grad school consists much more of the Two-Months-Into-School Scenario and barely any of the New-School-Year Scene.

In fact, you don’t even get The-New-School Scene beyond the first year of grad school - if you even get that - because you work your behind off year-round. And you’d better be damned sure that you care about the words and symbols that you’re writing in notebooks because you won’t only be jotting them down, you’ll be creating some of those jammies of your very own.

(For the record, the same could be said of teaching, so don’t even go there unless you have a “proven and sustained interest” in pedagogy. Identical urge, different cloak.)

How to Fight the Annual Siren Call to Go to Grad School

So if you now recognize that your sudden desire to go to grad school is born more of the leaves a-changing than your purpose calling to you, how can you fight the insincere urge?

1) Start by accepting what you’re actually craving each autumn:  a return to a life you’ve outgrown. Allow yourself to grieve the loss of the rhythms of childhood and the comforts those rhythms brought.

“Our twenties can be like living beyond time. There are days and weeks and months and years, but no clear way to know when or why any one thing should happen. It can be a disorienting, cavelike experience.” –Meg Jay, The Defining Decade

2) After grieving, create ways of infusing your current existence with hints of seasonality. It’ll take the edge off the false allure of autumn. For instance:

  • Schedule a day-long clothes shopping trip every fall.  Bonus:  take mom with you - nostalgia and financial support in one fell swoop!
  • Go back to using a paper planner and choose an academic year one even though you now live on a calendar – or fiscal! - year
  • Reinvigorate your office supplies every fall with a fresh infusion of pens and desk organizers. And some of those big rubber erasers. Just for kicks.

3) Make a concerted effort to construct the 3 P's – purpose, possibility, and predictability – for yourself. This is, of course, a humongous task. No wonder I've devoted an entire website to the process.

All in all, do whatever you have to do to experience the clear path, opportunities, and “my life is all in order” feeling of your childhood autumns…without jumping into grad school. At least until grad school, not nostalgia, is truly what's calling you. Your wallet, social life, and mental stability will thank you for it.

We’d love to hear from you in the comments below:

What are you going to do to create a sense of purpose, possibilities and predictability this Fall – without entertaining the sudden notion of going back to school?

Fraser-Thill_squareAbout Rebecca

Rebecca Fraser-Thill is the founder of Working Self, a site that helps young adults create meaningful work - that actually pays the bills! She teaches psychology and is the Director of Program Design for Purposeful Work at Bates College. Her work has been featured throughout the media, including on The Huffington Post, The Chelsea Krost Show, and Stacking Benjamins. Follow her @WorkingSelf.

What To Do When You Feel Batshit Crazy

Oh wait! I have absolutely no idea.  I have an August link round-up post all ready to go for this morning. It's full of articles I've been reading and interviews I've been doing . . . and . . . and . . . how can I post that when there's a bigger truth clawing it's way out?

Yesterday I told The Man that sometimes I need to process things in private before I can share them in public. What a load of B.S. Sure it's true sometimes, but other times it's just me being a big chicken about blogging.

The truth is, I've been preeeettty much a hot mess for the last few days. For reasons beyond my comprehension. I've had a pit in my stomach and a cloud of anxiety and sadness hovering over my head since I woke up on Friday.

I have tried everything I can think of to make it go away, in approximate order (some steps have been repeated):

  • Crying
  • Yoga and Crossfit almost every day
  • Walking through the streets of New York
  • Talking to The Man
  • Journaling
  • Getting to work - coaching, emails, meetings, working on MSH for the new class
  • Dinner and coffee with friends
  • Talking on the phone with people I love
  • Crying
  • Staring in the mirror - wondering how to make the damn waterworks stop
  • Faking! It! Till! I! Make! It! DAMNIT!
  • Cooking dinner at home with Julie (by cooking, I mean providing moral support)
  • Watching Sex and the City in bed
  • Buying self-help books on Kindle then berating myself for using them as an emotional crutch
  • Feeling exhausted by my inner critic: the Personal Development Police's desire to constantly troubleshoot and fix me like a robot, ensuring everything out of my mouth is completely logical, attractive, and adheres to all self-help clichés
  • Bursting into tears on the phone out of nowhere during an otherwise "normal" conversation yesterday. Followed by . . .
  • Snot-nosed crying to friends and to myself about feeling like such a mess. Followed by . . .
  • A hot shower. Followed by . . .
  • Skipping yoga in lieu of eating Ben and Jerry's Frozen Yogurt ice cream under a blanket while watching Bachelor Pad on the couch.

Oh yeah, you heard me. BACHELOR PAD. Yes, it has come to this. When all else fails, delight in the batshit crazy of others.

And then I realized, for the umpteenth time, reminded by friends and The Man, that I cannot MAKE this go away.We can't ever just MAKE our feelings go away. Stuffing them down is simply a recipe for a volcanic eruption of emotion that will blindside you when you least expect it. Hello, yesterday afternoon! 

This is about all I know right now:

  • I have been feeling anxious. I can't explain it.
  • I feel vulnerable.
  • I even feel....gasp....a little needy for a little extra love and kindness. And I hate feeling needy.
  • So by hating it, I am judging myself about those fears and feelings.
  • I am judging myself for not having it more together right in this moment. For not being stronger. More trusting. For not being in that relaxed, easeful place that I've been in the last few months (and loving).
  • I feel shame and embarrassment about all the crying and anxiety.
  • I feel worried that you will judge me.
  • I feel apologetic for being upset when nothing "on paper" is actually wrong and I have so much to be thankful for.
  • I feel sorry for "imposing" this mood on others, for burdening them with my seemingly-silly problems. Inner critic enters stage left: Careful! It could be contagious! Or become a self-fulfilling prophecy of hurt and rejection! 
  • I feel frustrated that none of my self-soothing fixes seem to be working. But writing this post and saying it out loud IS helping (albeit terrifying in it's own right).
  • I feel scared to just sit in the discomfort, even though I know that's really what I need to do.
  • I feel like this could all go away tomorrow (or today!), and that maybe I'll feel dumb for sharing it all so publicly.

And yet, part of me knows, that there is something beautiful and worthwhile here. That, as my friend Sally reminded me, nothing is broken. That in fact, the willingness to be vulnerable, open and honest (and even to fall apart) is a major ingredient for love, and for living a big, full life.

And that actually, I wouldn't have it any other way.

So, community that I respect and adore, I'm all ears -- any words of wisdom? How do you handle or sit with your feelings when they get totally overwhelming? 

And yes, the round-up post will go up soon. But at least you're getting the deep-down-and-dirty-emotional round-up first :)

I leave you with these wise words from Brené Brown (thank you Jules for the reminder!) that have been very comforting for me these last few days:

“Your capacity to be whole-hearted can never exceed your capacity to be broken-hearted.”

I'm back! And I don't know what to write...

Getting ready to teach a yoga class at Wild Rose in Chiang Mai

Say not, "I have found the truth," but rather, "I have found a truth." Say not, "I have found the path of the soul." Say rather, "I have met the soul walking upon my path." For the soul walks upon all paths. The soul walks not upon a line, neither does it grow like a reed. The soul unfolds itself like a lotus of countless petals.

—Kahlil Gibran

As many of you know, I spent the last month traveling in Southeast Asia. The first stop was Bali for a week and a half to hang out with Elisa in Seminyak and Ubud (my magical new soul city), traipse around temples with cheeky monkeys, and practically live at The Yoga Barn.

Next up was two and a half weeks in Chiang Mai, Thailand where I became certified in Thai Massage, had the great honor of teaching a yoga workshop at Wild Rose Yoga (owned by an amazing woman, Rosemary Bolivar), and ate enough mangoes to feed a small village.

The month was relaxing, powerful, healing, introspective, and yes, life changing.

Now, just shy of a week into my return home, I find myself at a loss for words.

I also find myself a bit reclusive. The first few days I was home I didn't tell any of my friends or Facebook comrades; I still haven't made any major announcement, and I'm hopelessly behind on email and social media.

In lieu of actually re-integrating into my "normal" life and work, I cleaned out and meticulously re-arranged every single surface and crevice of my apartment -- right down to color-organizing, neatly rolling and sorting every item my underwear drawer. COLOR. ORGANIZING. MY. UNDERWEAR. DRAWER. Hey, better than sitting in bed with a pint of Ben and Jerry's. (Or is it?!)

I feel a sense of (admittedly self-imposed) pressure to share something BIG and enlightening with all of you. Ten things I learned from a month abroad! Five mind-blowing insights about spirituality! I look at my Google Reader backlog of 750+ posts, and they are all offering something. What do I have to offer in this very moment?

Radical honesty.

During our 30-hour drive to SXSW earlier this year, my good friend Mike and I committed to living from a place of radical honesty this year -- at least to the best of our ability. It's tough, but damn does it feel better than hiding from or sugar-coating our truth.

So, my dear friends and blog readers, I am letting you know that I don't know what to write.

 Here's what I do know:

  • I'm exactly one year into solopreneurship. I am loving my life and my decision to quit and move to New York now more than ever . . . AND I am at a bit of an impasse with my business. I am head-over-heels in love with my coaching clients and the Make Sh*t Happen crew, but I don't know what my next big idea is, or if there even needs to be one for a while. I'm turning 29 in October of this year, then 30…and I'm not sure what the bigger umbrella over Life After College will be -- but I know there is one slowly peeking over the horizon. I am swinging between business trapeze bars . . . just trying to be quiet enough to get curious and hear what my gut has to say.
  • I have met an incredible man who has cracked my heart wide open, and who has been a constant source of inspiration since the day I met him. I don't know what it will become or how long he will be in my life (do we ever know these things?)…but I love what it already is. With him in the picture I've felt radiant, blissful joy; deep soulful connection; and tremendous growth through the challenge and possibility of relationship. Out of respect for him, and out of a desire to keep this delicate area of my life private, that's all I'd like to share for now. To The Man: thank you from the bottom of my heart. For everything. I am in your corner for as long as you'll have me there.
  • One of the most powerful moments of my trip was a numerology life reading that I had in Chiang Mai with Neil Beechwood, an incredibly intuitive, warm man (huge thanks to The Man for setting this up). Our session provided impeccable clarity; it gave me a map for my own self and put words to who I have always known that I am. It was comforting, enlightening, and deeply insightful, and I know that the session is already a pivotal milestone in my own lifelong personal development journey. For any of you looking for insight about your own personality, innate desires and big life picture (past and present), I cannot recommend a session with Neil highly enough. He lives in Chiang Mai but does sessions over Skype for £50.
  • I've been spending a lot of time with Khalil Gibran, Lao Tzu, and Sharon Salzberg's book Lovingkindness: The Revolutionary Art of Happiness (again, credit to The Man for that one...can you see why he's completely stolen my heart?!). Now more than ever, I am practicing the idea of divine surrender;  letting the universe work her magic without trying to force her in any one direction. Getting quiet enough that I can allow life, decisions and ideas to unfold as they are ready, not a minute sooner. Staying present with what is in front of me TODAY, loving and accepting myself as I am TODAY, and trusting that I will receive the wisdom I need TODAY to prepare me for whatever tomorrow brings. Finally, I am working on constantly coming back to a place of humble gratitude for what ALREADY is.

Where are we headed from here?

At some point my own thoughts around all of these things will start settling and I will tell you more, or at least share as much as I can about my process.

I have a feeling that this phase of processing may last a while (confirmed by my numerology reading)….so bear with me if I go through periods of being more quiet and introspective than usual. After almost five years of blogging, it seems that is also probably par for the course :)

I'm definitely in high spirits, but right now the truth is . . .

I don't know what else to write.

A moment of reflection in Gusti Garden, Ubud