Motivate me Monday

Guess what?

I’ve made a very bold decision.

To cross #65 off of my bucket list.

Run a marathon.

AAAHHHH.

Yeah I’m nervous.  And because I know myself too well and I want to do this the right way and take my time in doing so, I’m giving myself two years to reach this goal.  Yes, YEARS.  A marathon is 26.2 miles.  So by the end of 2015, I will have run a marathon.  At least that’s the goal.  If it doesn’t happen or as long as I am still working towards it by then, I think I’ll be okay.

I’ve been doing a lot of research and reading about running marathons and the training the comes with it, and what I’ve taken away from all of it is that this will be a long, hard process that I’m going to need to take seriously.  And I think I need something like that in my life right now.  A project, if you will.  I’m going to start by training for a 5k, then a 10k, a half marathon, and finally a marathon.  To start, I’m going to use Cool Running’s The Couch-to-5K Running Plan that I heard about a few years ago.

I started today, and I feel great about it.  About halfway through the workout, I felt amazing.  I was like what is this 60/90 second running/walking alternation?!  I could run that marathon right now!  And then I lol’d because that was a sick joke.  But it has never felt better to set such a huge goal for myself, and after just the first day of working toward it just a little, it already feels rewarding.

Here’s the thing about setting goals.  Slowly getting closer to achieving them is an incredible feeling.  Running (literally, in my case) towards what you want gets your life going.  And that’s how it should be.

After running I had a really super good awesome wonderful meditation.  I remember when I first started meditating (I don’t really actually know if I’m really meditating but that’s what I call it…) aka thinking only positive things for 2-10 minutes and doing some deep breathing.  Is that meditating…?  Cause that’s what I’ve been telling people that I do every morning.

ANYWAY.  When I first started, I remember thinking like 4 positive things and I thought it had been 2 minutes already but it was really only about 15 seconds… This morning I couldn’t stop thinking of all the good things.

I just had an awesome run.  I feel really good.  I’m out of breath in a good way.
I have an awesome family, boyfriend, friends, and there are good people in the world who are working to make it better.  Including me.
I get to see my nieces today.  They’re going to change the world in a decade or so.
I’ve been to more places than most people have in their lives.  I’ve seen countless sunsets.
The sky is blue today.
I am blessed, grateful, happy, deserving.

Literally I couldn’t stop.  And then my phone went off and I remembered that I have work to do.  But I stopped and also remembered that life is too good to me.  And it could be for everyone.

“When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.” – Wayne Dyer

I could live here.

My girlfriends and I always say, “I feel like a new woman!” after we get waxes down below.  And if you’ve ever had one then you know what we’re talking about.  That feeling you get when walking out of European Wax Center (or Zenter, where I went this morning here in Sevilla) and back into the world is, dare I say, Priceless. With a capital P.

This morning at Zenter, the lady who was waxing me said I must be really excited that the waxes here are really cheap (€18 ~ $23).  My face lit up and I went on and on about how I try not to get waxes in the States because they cost me about $50-$60 including tip.  She couldn’t believe it just as much as I couldn’t believe that it costs half the price here.  “Los Americanos no sabe nada,” she said.  (Americans don’t know anything).  I laughed and completely agreed.

After my wax, I left with a smile on for reasons I couldn’t really share with anyone.  I just felt great and well, you know, like a new woman!

So I’m walking back to my apartment, passing through Calle Asuncion–the main shopping street/center in the barrio of Los Remedios in Sevilla.  It’s a wide street, no cars allowed.  Full of shops and boutiques, cafes and small bars.  There were children playing soccer and old couples people-watching on benches.  Dogs in the shade of the trees that line the street, and people riding along the bike path.  Women watering plants on their balconies.  Happy humans all around.

And then there was me, a study abroad student cherishing every second of living in this neighborhood.  The sun was shining and I walked down the street like Tom Hansen in (500) Days of Summer while Hall & Oates plays.  I looked around me and I thought to myself, “I could live here.”

The aura of travel

I love early mornings. And I really love early mornings spent traveling. I woke up a little earlier than 6 am this morning in order to make a 7:14 am train from Amsterdam Centraal to Schipol Airport in order to make a 9:35 am flight to Madrid.

The walk to the train station was quick, and yet we passed quite a few fellow travelers. Walking in the darkness with their backpacks and heavy jackets. We traded polite nods as we passed them, and it felt like an exchange of a “Welcome” and “Goodbye” to Amsterdam from one visitor to another.

At the train station, it was silent apart from mechanical sounds and the rolling of suitcase wheels. In the bicycle car of the train, a wide open seatless space, a dozen early morning travelers stood together. I was well aware that we are all going to separate places but I couldn’t help but feel an automatic connection with this group of strangers.

All of us, unquestionably, would have preferred to be in a warm comfortable bed rather than squished together in a moving train car. We all know early mornings and the rush of trying to make a flight. We all know what bad customer service is like. We all know just wanting to go to sleep, and just hoping for good weather, and just wanting to be there already. We all know extra fees, overpriced everythings, back pain, loud crying babies, and in general, we all just know.

There was an unspoken understanding between us all on that train this morning. Even if no one else felt it, I’m glad I did.

 

 

And then there were 10

Today begins the ten day countdown to the day I leave for Spain to study abroad for a few months.

It’s an extremely exciting time for me right now.  It feels like a satisfaction-guaranteed type of deal–and I’m willing to bet that it is.  I’m scared and I’m overwhelmed, but I’m more than okay.

I’m making my way around the corner to walk the road where I’ll make my most legendary memories, take some of my most spectacular photographs, write the most detailed journals, and feel most alive.  And beyond all of the good I expect to find, I have to say I’ve also been preparing for what scares me.  Missing home, missing people, missing the familiar.  Failure, disappointment, loneliness, getting lost.  Change is often good, but almost always something to fear in this life.  But regardless, I am sincerely looking forward to what these next few months have to offer me.

My infatuation with travel and meeting new places is in a state of unrest right now, so deep I can feel it in my boones, my blood, my breath.  Heart and mind aside, my body is aching for a new place to be.  My feet want new sidewalks and my eyes need new–or maybe just different–shades of color and sky.  And my hands?  They just want to high five all over the world.

I’m planning on a re-invention of sorts for this trip.  Try new things, be more adventurous (there is always room for more adventure), consume lots of alcohol, form good habits, never sleep, spend all my money, no regrets, etc.  To sum it up, I suppose one could say YOLO…

Sure, roll your eyes at me.

But I’m the one getting ready for the trip of a lifetime.

twenty13

This year I learned a lot about people and friendship, travel, time, and myself. The lessons I learned were simple, and it feels like we should just know them as a common sense but it seems like even when we think we know, we don’t.

The people in my life have always been at the center of my world, and for good reason; I’ve always considered myself the luckiest person for being extremely blessed to know so many amazing people. I value my relationships with people and I’ve always thought myself to be considerate and empathetic and reasonable. I like to think that the people I choose to associate with are the same way, but this year I’ve seen darker sides of friendship that I wish didn’t exist.

The lesson here is that people can be fake and pretentious. They can let you down, and they can ruin relationships. I watched friendships fall apart and people grow apart this year, and it just reminded me that as we grow older, we tend to be more selfish and less selfless. It’s a dog eat dog world, and it’s not until we make these mistakes for ourselves that we learn the lesson.

So one of my resolutions this year is to be a better friend. The world needs more of those.

With all the traveling I was lucky enough to do this year, I learned plenty about the hardship and reward that comes with it. The importance of experiencing travel, seeing the world, spending time away from home, and–as cheesy as it sounds–“finding oneself” will always be aspects of life that I want to acknowledge. For me, travel is the purest and hardest (but best) way to experience life. You learn to expect the unexpected, deal with problems and people, and see the real beauty in what you’re looking at.

My travel resolution of the year and for the rest of my life is to never stop.

2012 also helped me realize just how sneaky time is. It’s quiet, quick, and so extremely priceless. The other day someone asked me how old I was and it took me about six seconds to answer. It feels like the last two years have gone by so fast that I still feel like I’m 19. And I suppose that’s a good thing!

Lastly and most importantly, the last year has taught me plenty about myself. I hate comparing, but I guess it’s the best way to see ourselves as part of this world. So I like to compare myself in terms of what kind of person I am. And my resolution is just to be a better one.

An obligatory Christmas post

Merry Christmas to all of you lovers, dreamers, nonbelievers, humans, creatures–whatever you are, I hope you are having a beautiful Christmas.  A Christmas that is overflowing with joy and exploding with love.  Or at the very least, I hope you’re having a good day.

As usual, I can’t believe it’s Christmas.  It always just sneaks up on me every year.  Life just goes by so fast, doesn’t it?

December 25th brings up a lot to think about, but mostly the 365 days that came just before and that will come after today.

The last year has been fantastic.  I traveled to places I’ve always dreamed of visiting.  I finished another two semesters of college.  The people in my life remain happy, healthy, and full of love for each other.  I met some incredible people and made some really meaningful connections with people.  I’ve had my fair share (and maybe a little more) of adventure this year, and I could not imagine my world getting any better from here.

But the most amazing this is, is that I know it will.  I have a beautiful future to look forward to.  You want to know how I know that?  Because I won’t accept anything else.

To some degree, I believe in fate and destiny but I also believe in chance and making my own luck.  All of the experiences I’ve been blessed enough to have had this year were not random strokes of luck–they were plans.  I worked hard to be deserving of everything I got, and I intend to do the same for the rest of my life.  Fate and destiny have their own roles to play but when I look ahead to the next 365 days, I know that only I can get myself to where I want to be.  Same goes for you.

So, friends, never stop being thankful.  Do it all day, every day, during every moment you can.  THAT is how you spread love.  It’s how we keep ourselves moving forward to bigger and to better.

There are too many sunrises and sunsets to see, chocolates to eat, days to enjoy, oceans to swim in, air to breathe, people to meet, and trees to save.  Look ahead and find the future that you want.  Take it, and make it.

PS- I tried so hard not to include a rant about consumerism and how I think money/material totally replaced the true meaning of Christmas…And I succeeded!  So for that, you’re welcome.  You have been spared.

Undress the Stress: Day 42

Yesterday was the last day of my stress management class, and I can’t say I’m happy about it!  Six weeks went by a little too fast for my liking.  I really enjoyed this class and I did learn a ton about stress and more importantly, myself.

In the last few weeks I’ve realized there’s three simple changes anyone can make in their lives to be less stressed.

First, practice the way you express yourself.  A LOT of stress comes from holding in our feelings because we don’t want to offend or hurt anyone and we don’t even notice but it is hurting someone–ourselves.  The DESC tecnique is wonderful for this.  You don’t necessarily need to do all four steps every time you are in a confrontational situation but it really does work.

Since learning the idea behind the DESC, I’ve been loving using the ‘I’ word as often as possible.  Saying ‘I’ avoids offending anyone and causing them to be on the defensive.  You’re expressing yourself and saying how you feel.  Expressing yourself is freeing yourself.  Of all burdens, stresses, emotions, and anything else that is better off gone.

Another easy change to make is in perspective.

For the last six weeks I’ve learned that mindset has almost everything to do with the way we react to everything.

  • Retrospect.  Every time I have a test or exam to take, I’m usually anxious, nervous, stressed.  I stay stressed until it’s over.  And when it’s over, I look back and laugh at myself for being so stressed.  After noticing this, I’ve noticed that it helps if I begin to look at moments with a retrospective eye, even before they take place.  It’s always easier to be stressed in the moment but if I change my perspective, I could avoid so much unnecessary, daily stress.  
  • Adam & Eve.  One day I was thinking about how much less stressed Adam & Eve must have been because let’s face it–life was much simpler back then.  There was no government, school, work/business, bills, banks, etc.  A lot of stress that I feel today is due to these institutions, and I thought that I deserved to have an Adam & Eve life.  There’s no reason that I should be more stressed than them.  Sometimes when I’m stressed about school or work I put myself in Adam and Eve’s shoes and ask myself if I would be stressed in their time period.  The answer is almost always “no” and so it makes me feel better about not worrying as much.  I realize that life is not meant to stress me out.  It’s supposed to be fun and beautiful, and if I’m spending my days stressed, then it’s quite the opposite.
  • Contrast.  Recognizing that stresses are not life-or-death.  This semester I did a lot of volunteering.  I worked with people who lost their homes and everything they had to Hurricane Sandy, and I met a lot of homeless people who sleep in the streets on cold nights and carry everything they own on their backs.  After my experiences with these people and seeing how different their lives are compared to mine, I made it a point to think about them during times of stress.  There are people who rely on food and clothing donations every single day to survive.  It was really difficult to see how drastically different my life was compared to theirs, and it helped me think about stress in a different way.  There are people in the world who deal with stresses during every second.  Homeless people don’t get a vacation from being homeless or starving on the streets.  They don’t get to travel like I do, and they don’t even have a warm place to spend the night.  All of these things have shown me that my stresses could be so much life-threatening.  When I think about this, somehow I feel less stressed because I know how lucky I am.  If I hand my paper in late, it’s not the end of the world.  If I don’t do well on one quiz, at least I still have my friends, my family, and my home.  At the end of the day, that’s what matters to me.

The last simple thing to do to undress your stress is to breathe (and maybe some yoga…).

Every morning, I wake up, smile, breathe and take a few minutes to think about positive things only.  I literally just close my eyes, do some deep breathing, and sometimes some deep thinking.  I think about the good people in my life, the new day ahead, the possibilities of the future, and the wonders of my past.

I swear, doing this every day for the last few years has completely changed my aura and who I am as a person.  I’m calm, relaxed, always happy and positive.  Jumping into the day in a crazy stressful rush is never ever ideal for me, and it throws me off my inner balance completely.

After breathing, I also do a little stretching.  It’s not really yoga (I just took my first yoga class last week!).  It’s more like moving meditation + breathing + a wake up routine.  Which all = nothing that makes sense until you do it and understand why I’m always feeling peaceful and alive.

Sometimes I’m so positive that I think it might be dangerous.  I scare people with my happy intensity sometimes.  But I’m alright with that cause everyone can use a little more love, am I right or am I right?

ANYWAYS.

Thanks to those of you who have been reading this Undress the Stress series for the last few weeks!  I hope you learned something through my stresses.

+signs&sunshines,
@codea

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Having enough

Tonight I will be going to New York City with an organization called the Midnight Run to deliver clothing and food to the homeless.  I participated in this Run last semester at Hofstra University and it was one of the most enlightening and humbling experiences I have ever had.

It’s not often that I get to have direct interaction with homeless people in the streets of New York City.  Sure, I see them all the time, but very rarely do I get the opportunity to approach them with clothing to give.

Throughout the semester we’ve been collecting clothing, food, and monetary donations from the Hofstra community to help our cause.  We received an overwhelming amount of donations and I am so much more excited to make this trip tonight because we have so much to offer.  Last night, we were sorting through bins and bins filled with hundreds of donated clothing items, accessories, shoes, toiletries, food, etc.  and I was surprised at the quality of some of the donated clothing.

There were brand new men’s dress shirts from Ralph Lauren, Banana Republic, Hugo Boss, and other brand-name retailers.  There was a woman’s gown and brand new semiformal dresses, fancy work tops, business suits, and new pairs of shoes.  Winter coats, beautiful leather jackets, North Face jackets, brand new Armani socks, and clothes from popular stores like H&M, Forever 21, and Ann Taylor Loft that were definitely purchased within the last few years.

All of these were being donated–implying that they are no longer wanted.  I know that may not be the case for every one of those items, but it seems to me that no one is conscious about money and quantity because we never feel like we have enough of anything.  Money, clothes, shoes, whatever it is.  Maybe some people don’t recognize how fortunate they are to be able to donate clothes that still have the price tags on them just because they don’t want them anymore.

I thought about the millions of purchases made just within the last week what with Thanksgiving sales, Black Friday, and Cyber Monday deals.  I can almost guarantee that next semester when the Midnight Run committee asks for donations, people will be donating unworn clothes that they purchased this weekend just because they were on sale.

All I wish is that more people open their eyes to bad habits we’ve developed in this consumer culture of ours.  We clearly don’t need to be purchasing so much STUFF because sometimes we end up donating them even before we use them.  Since I started making my own money and paying for expenses on my own, I’ve developed a greater understanding of the reasons its important to stay simple.

Make purchases that you need instead of purchases that you might want.  Treat yourselves to clothes once in a while but don’t get to caught up in it.  Who are you trying to impress anyway?

You have more than enough and more than you know.

Sandy Relief Volunteering

This past Saturday I spent the day volunteering in Freeport on Long Island.  A few friends and Hofstra students and I helped a family move all of their belongings out because the entire first floor of their house had water damage from the hurricane Sandy a few weeks ago.  As heartbreaking as this was to witness and be part of, I learned so much about gratitude and how important it is to never let yourself become consumed by what you own.

Here are a few photos of the damage and all of the belongings that needed to be moved out of the house:

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The family we were helping was so sweet and throughout the whole day I spent with them, it never felt like they were letting the negativity of this tragedy get to them.  They kept thanking us for our help and calling our their angels.  They ordered us pizza and shared their stories and passions with us.  They offered us everything they had left and were more than willing to give it away.  All they kept saying was, “If you break something, it’s okay, we’re not the type of people to be upset over things.

More important than things, was love.  For each other, and for their pets!

Martin and Debbie have been married for over twenty years and Debbie couldn’t stop talking about how much she loved her husband.  He has had five brain surgeries, two strokes, and one heart attack, and it is absolutely unbelievable how much hope and happiness they have after all of those horrible health problems.  They are as happy as ever.

The best lesson I learned that day was from Debbie.  She said, “You meet so many good people in your life that you never even realize their impact.”

That was one of the best and truest things I’ve ever heard anyone say.  Sometimes we encounter people just for a moment, but our lives touch forever.  When you share a moment with someone, that moment can have an impact on your for the rest of your life.  Whether they give you something that is material, or whether they teach you a lesson, it becomes a part of you.  And that is part of the reason I think this world is so wonderful.

We pass strangers every day, and at every moment we have the opportunity to make a difference, just for a moment, or forever.  Most of the time, we don’t even know of the difference we made.  A simple act of kindness could have had that impact of forever on someone, and chances are we’ll never know what we did, but it’s important that we do it.

At the end of the day, we got rid of most of the things in the lower level of the house.  Furniture, food, appliances, memories.  All left on the sidewalk to join the piles of “garbage” that was never really meant to be garbage.

JDRF Walk for Kevin Frazza

This summer marked the 6th anniversary of my friend’s murder.  You can read that story here.

This fall marked the 7th JDRF walk that we have been involved with.  Kevin had diabetes and we couldn’t think of a better way to come together than to celebrate his life by walking and supporting the cause as a team of friends, family, classmates, teachers and community members.

Kevin died in 2006, right before our first year of high school, and we did our first walk later in that same year.  Ever since, it has become my favorite tradition and I look forward to that day all year long.  In high school, it was so successful and we got everyone we could involved.  It became an event for our entire high school and not just our grade.  Team Frazza always had the most members.

After graduation, we all went away to college but always always always made it an obligation to return home for that weekend in October to remember Kevin.  Our team decreased in number, but always increased in pride and most importantly, in love.  We have Kevin to thank for our friendships and closeness as a grade.  He brought us together–this network of genuine, good people.  I love knowing that a life so short created a bond so deep.

Kevin’s birthday is on October 16th, and the walk is always held on a Sunday at the end of October, so it’s a special month for us in many ways.  We get together the Saturday night before the walk, and there is always a birthday toast to Kevin.  He brought us together more than anyone or anything else in our lives.

This year at the walk, we celebrated Kevin’s 21st birthday with a delicious, sugar-free cake baked by his amazing mom.  We sang happy birthday and after the song ended, I kid you not, the candles blew out.  There was a shared moment of butterflies among everyone because we knew.  Happy birthday, Kev.  So glad you made the party.

If you’ve ever lost anyone, I would hope that you have people around who remind you that everything is okay.  I know I’m fortunate to have my entire high school class to run to whenever I miss Kevin.  What I’ve learned in the past six years was more than just about the death of a friend and what it feels like to lose someone who made you laugh on a daily basis.

I learned about myself and everyone else around me; how we can come together and stay that way forever.  We have been more than just a team and more than just classmates.  We’ve become a family.  It’s hard to say if this would have happened if we weren’t affected by such a tragedy so early in our lives.  But it did.  And now all we can do is share our story to remind everyone that the people you surround yourself with are the people who will get you through the most difficult times of your life.

So surround yourself with good people, and once you find them, never loosen your grip.