Friday, April 29, 2016

Sending Smoke Signals

Its about that time of year- the "burnout" stage. The point in the year, semester, work period where we all just stop caring, fall in a rut, or lose sight of our purpose- our call for help : our smoke signal. There are a couple of different paths we can take at this point, most all of them are broken down into the "easy" and the "challenging". For example, those who remain determined, pushing themselves continually through comfort zones; versus those who lose focus, and simply "get by" . Our first path in this example is pretty challenging to begin with, but at the end of the semester the difficulty level increases tenfold for most, finals are here, seasons are coming to final competitions, and friends begin to check out for the summer. It is easy for us to withdraw, to fall behind on our academics, and to mindlessly trudge through our day. How will you respond?
A couple of days ago, I turned down an opportunity to go see a band I'm obsessed with because I was exhausted. When I had talked to my Dad about it, I told him I knew I needed the sleep, the study time, and a quiet night to recollect so I didn't ruin all the work I had put in over the semester. His response? "If you gave up now, it would be like running an entire race just to walk off before the last lap", and he couldn't have put it into a better metaphor (for his track- obsessed, metaphor loving daughter)- and then most everything made sense. Of course I am still exhausted and fighting my urge to pack up and leave this minute- but I know that I never could, not now, not after everything I've worked for. In the past few weeks I could easily walk away from friendships, teams, and relationships that took work and effort. I could withdraw from everyone and everything with the excuse that summer is near, and people I have become close with will be far. I could throw away everything I have built with people in my life that I enjoy and love, I could conveniently forget the good and the bad we've had together, and just walk away. While this all sounds pretty pessimistic and dark, it is something I have seen happen all too much in just the past three days alone. People turning their backs simply because life gets tough, making excuses for their fear rather than voicing their concerns. Relationships and friendships that could have been preserved, started, or saved with communication, a promise, and a little bit of passion. The road less traveled, while often challenging, is absent of the ruts and monotony that characterize the path taken by so many lately; and as much as I am fed up with the indifference hanging in the air - I refuse to follow in suit. When the bell is rung for the last lap...will you be on the track?
With love & faith,
A Duck With Fire

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Stressing Our Differences

It is prime time for stress, at work, school, life in general... the seasons change and yet our lives keep on going leaving us yearning for a chance to put a pause on everything. The buzz on self-care is never ending, leaving some of us more frustrated than relaxed. Recently I attended a conference at Harvard University with our group of peer educators on campus, the key note speakers preached the wonders of meditation, telling us that "mindfulness is not possible without meditation" using metaphors such as playing the piano, and then following those same metaphors with the admittance that they had never even played the piano! How were we supposed to sit back and listen to speakers who could not relate to the metaphors they were preaching? Or listen to someone tell us that we could not possibly be mindful or self aware without the act of meditation in our lives? I may not be the best at handling my stress, I may benefit from meditating, but I would by no means claim that I am not aware of my own self... All around me I see people getting into petty arguments, passive aggressive communication (or lack thereof), and self isolation. I also see many people thriving, loving what they do every day and doing it well - living life to the fullest and looking to the bright side whenever possible. My point to all this is, everyone handles stress in their own way. Some of us internalize, others project it on each other, and in some cases I've had friends who simply don't stress at all. My biggest pet peeve in this entire world is when people tell others that their stress is more significant than the next guy. Comments like "oh that's nothing" or "she's overreacting" , no! If I can write an essay in a half an hour and the person next to me takes over two hours, does that mean that I can negate their stress? What if that same person is great at math and can finish a problem set in half the amount of time as me? We all weigh things in our lives differently, we all have strengths and weaknesses that make up who we are. There is no reason, no acceptable excuse, for putting another person down simply because you do not experience the same type of stress. If we all came together and supported each other more often rather than comparing ourselves and making our stress a competition; if we built an atmosphere of understanding rather than hostility- maybe we wouldn't be so stressed in the first place. That being said ,we're all human, we have this innate nature to compete and compare, and of course, we all screw up. Maybe you didn't mean to let that comment slip, or to avoid your friends, or sound hostile- its okay. An apology goes a long way, whether it is immediately after that "oops" moment or even a week later. The most important part of apologies like this is to explain why you snapped that day, rather than simply hiding behind an excuse. For example, I could say "Sorry I snapped at you." or I could say "Sorry I snapped, I have just been so stressed lately, and I'm really not handling it well, I didn't mean to take it out on you" that way, I take responsibility but also give reason. If a friend says that to me, I'm usually more inclined to be concerned about that friend rather than being upset about the situation. In times of high stress, its important to keep in mind that we aren't the only ones, and if you see a friend struggling- its better to say something, than to completely ignore it. Its amazing how far a simple "how are you?" can go . 
Take care of yourself in anyway that you do, keep kicking ass at life, and keep an open mind. 

Wishing the best and utmost support for every one out there! (Just keep swimming, just keep swimming!) 
~ A Duck Just Doing Life