Our Need for a Purpose

A friend of mine recently made the comment that she was wanting to “find a purpose”. I think that’s something we all share. We all want to find our purpose in life. We all want to find a way to make a difference, to better ourselves, and to better the world. Sometimes we feel this desire so strongly that it feels like a need, like we might die without it. But where did this need come from? I guarantee you that my cat has no such need or desire. He could care less about finding his purpose or bettering himself in some way. He just wants food, water, belly rubs, head scratches, and to finally catch that elusive red dot. He is purrfectly content playing, napping, eating, and grooming all day long. So why aren’t we?

While it certainly seems like we are content working just enough to pay the bills and watching Netflix all day, deep down inside most of us aren’t. We may enjoy it at the time, but there’s that nagging voice deep within us telling us we should be doing more. We should be reading, writing, creating, exercising, and planning in order to improve ourselves. We look for our purpose in the things we make, the ways we improve, the volunteer work we do, and the career path we choose. We want to find a way in which we can contribute that will give us that sense of fulfillment and accomplishment.

Where does this come from? What part of our brain developed this inner voice pushing us to do better instead of being satisfied with just enough? Where along the evolutionary trail did we develop this need? And why do we have it? What purpose does this almost primal feeling serve that drives us to work harder and nags us when we relax?

Perhaps it’s sociological. Improving oneself and the community is rewarded with praise, admiration, and increased social status. Whether it’s having a fit body, working with a charity, or being knowledgeable in trivia, we are impressed by skills, knowledge, and selfless acts shown by others.

Or perhaps it’s instinctual. When the community is improved, it improves our own lives as well. Being fit or talented can help when threatened. And when people are in awe of someone, it’s easier for that person to manipulate his/her fans for self-gain.

Whatever the reason, we all have this drive to find that sense of purpose. That one thing that will give us a sense of fulfillment and help leave our mark on this world. Have you found yours?

What do you think causes this need for purpose? Why do we need this type of fulfillment? What purpose have you found for yourself? How did you discover it? Or are you still searching?

Me? I want to be a teacher, a writer, a mentor, and a mother.

Learning to Swim by Falling in the Ocean

Woops. I recently left the engineering field to pursue a career in teaching and I had my first substituting job the other day. Wow was it awful. It was for a 6th grade class at a school known for disciplinary issues, but I didn’t know to check for that. I just took an available job. That was a mistake. I could tell I might have made a mistake when the instructions from the teacher included three different things to do in case of a problem student and ended with “good luck :)”. “Good luck” is so not a good sign. I did have problems. I could barely get homeroom under control enough to call role, and I lost my entire class at lunch. Yes, lost them. They all eventually ended up back in the classroom, but still. Luckily, a co-teacher came in and started writing lunch detentions left and right and was able to somewhat control the classroom. I was at a complete loss at how to handle something like that. The students ran around and hollered like 4 year olds and did not listen to me at all. It was….a little shocking. And it certainly made me question going down this route. But at least it can only go uphill from here, I hope.

Simple Green Tip: Reusable Shopping Bags

Many of us have them, but we often forget to take them into the store, making it seem silly that we got any in the first place. Here are a few tips to help you go green and actually use your reusable shopping bags.

  1. Get shopping bags that you like. The more you like the bags, the more you’ll want to show them off. I got my reusable bags from an Etsy shop called TheGeekyHomemaker (although she appears to be taking a break at the moment). If you can find a shop that will make custom ones, I suggest doing that. I simply told the maker a bit about myself, what I liked, my hobbies, my favorite colors, animals, and mythical creatures and told her to have fun with it, and I loved the result. I love taking my bags into any store and showing them off, and I especially love receiving compliments on my bags. You can also ask for specific patterns or colors if you have a more specific idea of what you want.
  2. Keep your bags in your car. Until you get into the habit of taking the bags into the store with you, I recommend keeping them in the front seat so you see them. Additionally, if your phone has the ability to remind you of something when you arrive at a location (like iPhone does), then set a reminder to grab your bags when you arrive at the grocery store.
  3. Put your bags back in the car immediately after use. I suggest making this part of your unpacking habit after getting home with your goods. I personally hang each bag on the doorknob of my front door after unpacking them and take them out to my car the next time I go anywhere. But I also live on the third floor and don’t feel like running them down to my car when I just brought them up.
  4. Take them everywhere you shop. Remember, these aren’t just grocery bags, they are shopping bags. Take them into the drug store, the pet store, clothing stores, the mall, or anywhere else you are likely to make a purchase that will go into a plastic bag. Not only will this help lower the number of plastic bags in the world, but it will help develop a habit of taking your bags with you that will eventually become second nature.

Where did you get your reusable bags? What are some tricks that you use to help you remember to use them? What’s your favorite thing about using your bags?

Impressive Talents

What is it about seeing others’ success that makes us want to be able to do the same thing? I always feel more motivated to work out after watching an action movie with a lot of skilled fighting than I do from reading about how exercise is good for me. I feel an urge to learn how to grind a pipe on my roller blades after watching someone else do it. I even feel more inspired to write after watching a TV show with a successful author than from daydreaming of a new story or poem idea. Nothing makes me want to study more than watching Bones or Big Bang Theory (when they actually talk about their research, anyway) so I can strive to be as smart as those characters. This also applies when I see friends or colleagues show off knowledge or a talent, such as doing a hand stand, describing how different chemicals react together, playing an instrument or singing, or explaining how something works. Often times when I wish I was better at something, it stems from me feeling a sense of  awe as I watch someone else showcase a talent or knowledge. This makes it difficult to determine what hobbies I genially enjoy and what hobbies I just want to get good at in order to show off. Piano, for example, is something I used to care about getting good at to show off to others, but now I only play for myself, because of how much I love it. Jigsaw puzzles are also something I enjoy, although I do love showing off my skill at those. Knitting, while I enjoy making things and I enjoy the Zen in it, I believe is a talent that I enjoy showing off what I make more than actually making things. But that’s still something I am trying to figure out because I also do enjoy making things for other people. I am no good at drawing and gave that up years ago because I never felt like I would be good, even though I used to love to draw. Writing is always something I have loved, and certainly not something that I show off, although I do enjoy sharing my writing. I’ve never found a good enough reason to really get in shape and get strong. Anytime I want to, it’s to be able to show off, and I never stick with the work outs for more than a few months. I’ve just never found a good enough personal reason to stick with it. But I always get motivated after watching Black Widow kick butt in the Avenger movies. Or Bones, for that matter. She’s a much more realistic goal too. But back to the main question: why does feeling awe at someone else’s talent make us what to also possess that talent? (I’m assuming I’m not unique in this, although I recognize that probably not everyone feels this way.) I suppose it would have to do with what we personally hold value. I see the value in being able to fight, in case I was to be assaulted. Therefore, I’m impressed by awesome fighting skills. Or maybe it’s the other way around. Maybe I’m impressed by a skill, so I decide it must have value. One way to get someone to like you more is to ask them to do a small favor for you. Social convention will oblige that person to say yes, and they will subconsciously justify doing you a favor by deciding that they must like you. So perhaps I am putting value into skills I see others do that impress me in order to justify being impressed by them. After all, what practical need would I have for doing a handstand or taking out 10 guys at once who all have on body armor?  What need would I have for being able to pop a wheelie on a motor cycle or be phenomenal at Mario Cart? Both those talents impress me, but that doesn’t mean they are valuable or that I need to accomplish them (as much as I may day dream about accomplishing them). After all, I am impressed by doctors and dentist, but have zero desire to do either of those jobs. I suppose the trick is to consciously separate things that impress me and things in that I am genially interested. That way, I can stop day dreaming about fighting with the Avengers and start actually doing things that bring me joy and satisfaction.

It Takes a Day to Break

I imagine those of you who suffer from chronic, oh so persistent, depression will relate to this the most, but maybe everyone will.

This is going to be a personal post, and possibly a bit depressing, so Mom you might want to skip this one.

It feels like my life is a cycle is pulling myself together, getting my life on track, being on a good streak, and then falling. It’s annoying a best and completely discouraging at worst.

B-Ravin, what are you talking about?

I’m talking about how one day can set you back so, so much. It takes three days to form a habit, and one day to break it. Lets say you feel like you’ve got your life finally on track. Or, on track for your situation. You’re in college, developed a good study regiment, a good workout routine, and you’ve been sticking to your new diet for two weeks now. Great! You’ve probably worked really hard to get to that point. Then you have a day where you get sick. You don’t work out for a few days due to exhaustion and you break your diet because you only feel like eating jello. You study the minimum amount so you can spend the rest of the time sleeping and watching tv and hope that this illness only last a day or two. Your whole routine, the one you’ve worked so hard to establish and perfect, is ruined. Once you feel better, you first have to catch up on all the studying and homework you put off. This leaves little time for cooking and working out, so you get take out and skip the exercise. Slowly, so slowly you may be able to force yourself to get back on track with studying, get off the junk food and back to cooking, and eventually back to the gym. For a few weeks. Maybe even a few months. Then you get sick again.

B-Ravin, I know exactly what you’re talking about.

While most everyone can relate to this if I’m talking about a cold or an ear infection, not everyone realizes that depression is just as bad. You spend one day where you just can’t force yourself to get out of that bed, and everything falls apart. The next day, it’s hard to get up, but you may eventually do it. Then you’ve got to set what’s priority and focus on catching up on those priorities. Then slowly break all the bad habits you formed while playing catch-up, and replace them with new ones.

That’s the cycle of my life. At least, that’s how it feels. I still haven’t managed to get back into a regular workout routine after a few months (I’ve worked out on and off, but haven’t formed a habit). Granted, part of that is because I’m not in a great situation at the moment – many things in my life are very unstable right now – which causes more frequent days of not getting out of bed until noon, if at all, because hey – why bother? But even when things were good – nearly perfect even – I had sick days that would just throw off everything.

I’m not even sure what happened. I had a regular work out habit, diet, chores, and job hunting routine that I followed daily. After a while, they just feel apart, and I have been struggling to get them back together ever since.

What do you do to get back into the swing of things once that swing has been thrown off? Do you struggle going back to set habits & routine after you spend a few days with a cold or depression?

What is Engineering?

Engineering is the application
of science and mathematics.
It’s the medicine you injest
to fight off a cold.
It’s the chemicals you spray
to kill off the mold.
It’s the engine that runs in your car
and the plane that flies you so far.
Engineering is all around,
in your life and forever bound
to you.
It’s the sidewalk on which you jog,
the boat on which you sail,
the room where you rest and slumber,
and the computer where you read your mail.
Engineering is where art and practicality collide.
It’s the stain-glass window you see in a church
that casts multicolored sun rays across the pews.
It’s the colored concrete that looks like red brick
that you walk on as you cross the street.
It’s the school cafeteria
designed to look like a chapel.
It’s the large swimming pool
that looks like Mickey Mouse
and includes two slides and fountain.
Engineering is the creative solution to life’s little problems.
It’s the volume button on the steering wheel
and the microwave that cooks your frozen meal.
It’s the e-reader that saves you space
and the map app that takes you any place.
Engineering is all around,
in your life and forever bound
to you and me and all across society.

New Year Resolutions

It’s been a while since I’ve made New Year Resolutions, so I thought I would this year. I used to find the idea of these annual resolutions a little silly because I didn’t like the idea of waiting until the new year to set goals for yourself. I still don’t. However, a lot of my goals have taken a long break due to a nasty break up, general discouragement, and the holidays. So, I thought I would use the new year as an excuse to revamp my goals and get back on them. And maybe add a few new ones. Like, go a full year without smoking a cigarette.

Anyway, it seemed like a lot of people would put off making a goal until the New Year, and then they would only stick with it for a few months, give up, and say “maybe next year.” Which is the reason I have not done them in the past. If I wanted to set a goal, I just set it at the time. But there is some romance in the idea of making a new change with a new year. Similar to a new start to a new semester at college (those didn’t last either). It also makes for a good excuse when someone asks about a new habit of yours – everyone understands a New Year Resolution. So, in the spirit of the new year, I will make some resolutions of things I have been wanting to do or goals I had been working on, but have drifted away from. The rest of this post is more for me than you, but feel free to skim through if you need or want ideas for your own or are genuinely interested in my resolutions. Also, please comment and share your own resolutions, if you’ve made any.

1. Get a job in my field of interest.
This is a big one. I’ve had a Civil Engineering job doing general work (sidewalks, drainage, piers/boardwalks, boat launches, and dredging – so much dredging) and I didn’t like it. I learned a lot, but I have a passion for water and wastewater treatment and reclaimed water. So, that’s what I’m looking for. I currently have business cards (for me), a list of companies to look into, and some networking with some of the companies. I think my first step getting back into the job hunt is to organize what companies I have done what with – either applied for a job or the contacts I have gained from Networking with contact info and notes. The next step is to re-check job postings in companies I have already looked at to see if anything new has been added with the new year. Next will be to continue through the list of companies, making network connections and looking at job postings, keeping notes all the while.

2. Blog More (writing and reading blogs)
My brain is constantly running and I enjoy writing a lot, so blogging makes sense, however I just don’t make the effort to sit down and write it out. So, for the new year, my goal will be to post at least twice a week, and read a least two blog entries a day.

3. Go the whole year without smoking
With an allotted 10 slip-ups (because, reality).

4. Publish a Cook Book
I have an idea for a cook book a want to do, and I love cooking, so I want to make one this year. Nothing big – 20 to 30 recipes, but they will be themed. Step one is to see if there are any copyright or patent things with cook books and recipes, since so many books have very similar recipes. Step two is to actually write out the amounts and cooking steps for the ones I know I want to do, and try them out the way I’ve written them to make sure it works. Step three is to come up with new ideas to add and try them out as well. Step four is to look into publishing and all that it entails. Step five is to publish. I think I can do all that in a year. If I set monthly goals.

5. Set Monthly Workout Goals
And follow-through.
January’s goals will be to complete a 30-day plank challenge and be able to touch my toes without bending my knees.

6. Learn Spanish
No, I don’t expect to get fluent. My goal would be to do a Rosetta Stone lesson at least three times a week and find a Spanish learning buddy to learn and practice with.

7. Make and Stick with a Sleep Schedule
This includes a daily wake up time, a bed-time ritual, and a morning ritual.

8. Cut the Caffeine
Limit to one caffeinated beverage a day. I’m looking forward to this one the least.

9. Spend at least 10 min a day in the sun
Considering the fact that our society is built to avoid the outdoors as much as possible (A/C, heaters, indoor activities, vehicles to get us from one building to the other, etc.), some days I just don’t get outside enough. Obviously I’d love to get more than 10 min of sunshine a day, but some days I know that just won’t happen.

10. Keep in better touch with friends and family
I don’t have a lot of close friends, so a voice or video call once a month shouldn’t been too hard to incorporate. And that will be my goal. Parents and sister will be once a week (at least). Close friends and relatives once a month. Slightly less close relatives once every other month. And for every one else, there’s email.

This does seem like a lot at one time, especially because I have other goals such as working on sight reading (for music), make more time for hobbies (including reading/writing), read more educational articles, keep up with the news better, and general health goals, but I think with some planning and organization I can at least do the big 10 and then slowly incorporate the others.

What (if any) resolutions are you making for 2016? What do New Year Resolutions mean to you? Do you make resolutions every year?

The Evils of Pride and Judgment

There’s a reason Pride is one of the 7 deadly sins: it pins us against each other. It leads to judgment, disrespect, possibly hate, and even discrimination. And yet, pride is pushed in our society. “Be proud of who you are,” is a popular slogan, with alterations such as “be proud to be black,” “be proud to be educated,” and “be proud to be an American.” But being proud of who we are often means we look down on others for not being us. For example: If I’m something to be proud of, and you’re nothing like me, then you must not be something to be proud of, which means I judge and ridicule you for not being me. It sounds ridiculous when said that way, but it’s what happens. Even though that’s not what we are consciously thinking, that is the story we are really telling ourselves when we judge others based on their looks or actions. “I can’t believe he’s doing that. I would never do that.” “Why in the world does she think it’s okay to dress like that? I would never dress like that.” “I can’t believe how fat that person let himself get. I would never let myself get that fat.” “Ew, look at how buff her arms are. They’re huge. I would never let my arms get that big.”

We have a hard time understanding why someone would do something or look a certain way when it’s different from what we like or believe. It’s hard to understand why someone would want to go out to a noisy bar instead of curling up at home with a good book. It’s hard to understand why someone would stay at home and read a boring book when they could go out and have fun at a bar. It’s all about perspective. And pride. Since we’re proud of the way we do things, proud of the things we like, and proud of the way we look, we can’t fathom why someone would want to do, think, or look differently. We truly believe that if we don’t like doing something, we can judge others for enjoying it. We truly believe that if we don’t feel comfortable showing off our legs, we can judge others for showing off their legs.

Before I realized why I was doing it, it used to judge and look down on others a lot. Probably about the same amount as the average person, but it felt like all the time. Being fit and physically healthy is important to me, so I looked down on others who are obese. I wouldn’t be able to live with myself if I let myself go like some people do (for now, ignoring the fact that some obese people really do have a serious medical condition). I was horrified at those that do let themselves get obese and wonder how they can even stand it. I thought of them as horrible people for letting themselves be that way. I looked down on them because I have PRIDE. In reality, we just have different values. Physical fitness and health isn’t a priority to them like it is to me. It’s a simple matter of lifestyle CHOICE and neither is better than the other. They are simply different.

Another example is that my sister enjoys going out to bars and clubs with her friends even though she doesn’t drink. The reason she doesn’t drink is because she has a drinking problem. She has been through rehab and attends AA meetings daily and is very involved in the AA community. However, she is a very social person and makes friends of all kinds. A lot of people might judge her for going to bars and clubs with her condition. Most people can’t fathom a bar or club being fun without alcohol and they wonder why she surrounds herself with that temptation. Well, from her perspective, alcohol is no longer tempting to her. Yes, sometimes she has bad days and it is tempting, but she doesn’t go to bars on those days; she spends extra time with her AA friends. From her perspective, she has a lot of fun at bars with her friends. Just because you or I don’t understand it, because we’re different people, doesn’t mean we have the right to judge her for it. It’s her life and she enjoys going out and being social. (I should also point out that she is in college, and most people go out to be social at bars and clubs at that age.)

If we are going to be unified (or just happy), we need to stop separating ourselves from one another by judging each other based on  differences. The easiest way to do this is to let go of pride. By letting go of pride, you can more easily accept that it’s okay to have different views and lifestyles than your own. If you’re fit, it’s a lot easier to not hate someone for being fat. If you like to stay at home and read, it’s a lot easier to not isolate yourself from friends or family who prefer to go to bars and clubs. If you like to dress modestly, it’s a lot easier to not judge those who like to dress to show off their skin. By just letting go of pride and accepting the fact that other lifestyles are no worse or better than your own – simply different – then we can let go of hate we didn’t even know we had. We can bond with others more easily and more deeply because we have removed this invisible barrier that we weren’t even aware we had put up.

I used to have a hatred for those very different from me. It used to hate and be disgusted by obese people, girls who wore a lot of makeup and showed off their legs, and anyone who was very promiscuous with many partners. I wouldn’t have even classified myself as a very judgey person (I think most people don’t). I didn’t have any idea why I felt this hate or disgust towards certain people. I finally realized it was because I was proud. I was proud to be [somewhat] thin/fit. I was proud that I didn’t wear makeup. I was proud that I didn’t wear super short shorts or have sex with people I’d just met. I shouldn’t be proud of any of those things. Being proud of those things was leading me to judge and hate others for not being those things.

In order to let go of that silly hate, thus leading me to be a happier person overall, I am letting go of pride. It’s a work in progress. The most important thing to letting go of pride is to not let go of your self-esteem or self-worth. I don’t think I’m any prettier or uglier than girls who wear a lot of make up. I don’t think I’m a better or worse person for watching my weight. I don’t think I’m any smarter or dumber than people who want to spend there night at a bar instead of reading at home. I don’t think I’m any greater or lesser than those with a different skin color or different sex than me. I’m not “proud” to be a woman. I’m not “proud” to be white. I’m not “proud” to be an American. Because as soon as I am proud to be one of these things, I am isolating people that are not one of these things. Don’t get me wrong, I like being a woman, I like being an American, and I like my Irish heritage, but I’m not proud of any of those things. I think that is an important difference to recognize.

What are your thoughts about pride? What aspect about yourself are you proud of? Thinking back, have you realized any time when your pride in that aspect may have isolated someone you’ve seen or been in contact with? Has it ever made it hard to be really close friends with someone or accept someone they way they are?

Solo Sunset on the Beach

I’m staying in a hotel on the beach for a week, and I just took a lovely stroll along the shoreline during sunset because it looked too beautiful not to. I was also alone, being recently single and not having friends in the area. For a brief moment I thought, “it would be nice to have someone to share this moment with.” Lots of people think that. Lots of people don’t go out and do things if they don’t have someone to go with (which, by the way, going out and doing this is how to meet someone to go out and do things with). I’ll be honest and tell you I almost didn’t go for that walk because I was alone – am alone – and I am so glad I ignored that notion and went anyway, because I often have great moments with myself. Sometimes we can be so wrapped up in ourselves that we miss moments with others. We know this. We understand this concept. What many people don’t realize, however, is that sometimes we can be so wrapped up in spending time with others, that we miss moments with ourselves. Moments with ourselves are fantastic and healthy. Specifically, quiet moments with ourselves where we let our minds wonder and/or just appreciate the beauty of a simple sunset. Yes, it would be nice to again have someone special to share life’s simple moments like those with, but the great thing about a sunset is it happens every day, meaning I will have plenty more beautiful moments to share with myself or someone else. Besides, sometimes sharing a moment with someone else can ruin the moment because they won’t be quiet and just enjoy what’s around them, which is exactly what you’re trying to do, but can’t in their talkative presence. So, if you’re alone, don’t let moments pass by just because you’re afraid of experiencing them without someone special. Experience them. Not only can they be a good way to center yourself, they can be a good way to meet others and make friends. I have found that people are a lot more likely to approach and talk to you if you are not already hanging out and talking with someone else.

In addition to a nice walk on the beach at sunset, I also enjoy knitting, going on nature walks, and working jigsaw puzzles with just myself.

What kind of moments to you enjoy spending with yourself? When was the last time you enjoyed something with just you? Did you enjoy it?