Days 9 and 10: Political Action

Until recently, I’ve viewed politics as something to study, read about, and complain about. Not something that I actively participated in (aside from voting every year…okay every other year). Despite that fact that I majored in political theory, I’ve not been super politically active. I was not sure how to get involved, who to contact, or what to say.

That all changed recently.

Yesterday and today, my “Say Yes” action has been contributing to the political process. Neither of my actions have been super grand, but I have stepped out of my comfort zone to participate in the political process.

Yesterday, I signed up for the Colorado Springs Feminist group. I have been lurking on their meet-up site for a while, but I had yet to become a member. I often think, “Oh, but I never have time to go to anything.” Well I decided it was important for me to become a member and make time to go. So, I added my name to their Meetup list and Facebook group. It’s nice to know there’s a community of like-minded people around me. One of these days, my “Say Yes” action will be going to an event!

Today, I made 5 Calls to my representatives or to committees in Congress. As mentioned before, I hate talking on the phone. I have avoided calling Congress for so long because I would have to speak to someone and come up with something intelligent to say. Thankfully…there’s an app for that. Apps like 5 Calls or Daily Action provide you names of your representatives, give you the phone numbers, and give you a script to follow based on an item in which you are interested. Today, I made 5 calls (and, mercifully, left 5 voice mails) about causes that are important to me. I had easy talking points, and I felt myself becoming more confident as the calls progressed. While this isn’t a ground-breaking form of action, I feel accomplished, and I know I had done my part.

These are small actions, but they make a difference. With consistent effort and practice, I plan on becoming more active and more vocal. There are easy ways to become involved in the democratic process, and I feel lucky that I have the ability to act.

Challenge 1, Days 7 and 8: Celebrations

On a Monday or Tuesday night, I normally love curl up in bed and watch Chopped or read a book. Right now, I’m reading Amy Schumer’s book (it’s fantastic – if you haven’t read it, pick it up now). As this month’s challenge would have it, however, I need to say ‘Yes’ to something out of the ordinary every day. So, this Monday and Tuesday, I said yes to two different celebrations.

Monday marked the first night of Passover. While I do observe Passover every year, I was not sure I would be able to make it to my family’s celebration because I live about an hour away, and it was a school night. That said, I decided it was important to me, so I RSVP’d with an emphatic “Yes!” I am so glad I did not miss this family celebration. My uncle is an incredibly creative person, and he likes to spice up our traditional seder every year. This year was no exception. So, instead of assigning reading roles like normal, all participants at this year’s Passover seder had a Bingo-board, complete with Passover’s greatest hits (I never thought I’d yell ‘Bingo’ after the word ‘boils’ was called, but there’s a first time for everything). My family and I observed the holiday while laughing the night away, which is just what I needed after a long Monday at school.

Today (Tuesday), I went out after school to celebrate the birthday of a good friend and co-worker. Ordinarily, Tuesdays are reserved for cooking, yoga, and TV, but I jumped at the invitation to celebrate. It was nice to break up the week, especially after a long day of proctoring the SAT, and celebrate a good friend who has become such an important part of my support circle in Colorado Springs. I still did yoga and watched TV (the cooking will have to wait till tomorrow), but it was important for me to be social first.

I may return to my den tomorrow and Thursday, but I’m glad that I started the week with these festivities!

Challenge 1, Day 7: Tending to the Garden

I have a terrible track record with plants. I once bought a basil plant. I would walk by it and think, “I should water that,” and then I would keep walking. Needless to say the plant did not last. Recently, a co-worker gave me a plant to look after, and I have asked my 14 year-old TA to monitor the plant because she is far better with it and more responsible than I am. I am a green thumb failure.

That said, I have recently discovered the therapeutic activity of weeding. I live in a cute townhouse with a small yard, which attracts its fair share of unwelcome plants. Now that spring has finally sprung in Colorado, dandelions and other deceptive greens have sprouted and taken over our yard. On this temperate spring day, it seemed like a perfect time to remove some unwanted lawn inhabitants. I was provided with an incredible sense of catharsis thanks to yanking things out of the ground and throwing them away. This was especially true if the root was particularly stubborn. I like to think of this as some sort of metaphor for my life. Some unwanted stress has taken root, but I have the ability to dig it up and throw it away. Some stress might prove more challenging to get rid of, and I might decide to hack at it a little bit and decide to come back to it again when I feel stronger. Other obstacles are easier to knock away and get rid of, purging them from my life.

When I ended my short weeding afternoon, there was plenty more to tackle another day, but I felt a sense of accomplishment and calm.

Challenge 1, Days 5 and 6: New Friends!

I think anyone can agree that moving to a new city is challenging. Finding a place to live, getting settled in a job, and finding a support system all take time. When I moved to Colorado Springs, I was very fortunate in that I found a place to live with great people incredibly quickly thanks to mutual friends. Though my roommates and I are on totally different schedules and I never see them, they are wonderful people and made my transition to a new city that much easier.

At work, I made an effort to ingratiate myself in the school community. I met people from different departments in order to establish a network at my work place. Through various happy hours, trivia nights, and school events, I have become great friends with numerous co-workers. This network at school has been invaluable to me as I transitioned from Boulder to the Springs.

Outside of school, it took a little longer for me to feel comfortable putting myself out there and meeting new people. This was partially because of my crazy work schedule, but my desire to be an introvert and reenergize on weekends kept me from really reaching out. As discussed before, I am not the most comfortable showing up to things on my own when I do not know anyone, and I tend to wait for an invitation. One such invitation came early January when my roommate introduced me to a bunch of her friends through a Bachelor viewing party. I haven’t been an avid Bachelor fan in the past, but I quickly jumped at the opportunity as a way to meet new people. This quickly became one of the best decisions I have made as I met wonderful women who have welcomed me with open arms.

This month’s challenge is not just about pushing myself out of my comfort zone or out of my routine, but about saying yes to opportunities. This weekend, I was invited to a 1920’s party at Bristol Brewing and then a Bingo night with my new friends. I jumped at the chance to say yes to both of these opportunities.

The 1920s party was a blast, complete with costumes, old-timey music, photo booths, and old cars. It was wonderful to laugh the night away with good people and meet more people in the process! And, while I had terrible luck at Bingo, it was great to learn more about the people around me and discover a fun Saturday night activity.

I am so excited to continue these friendships (both in school and out) as I settle into Colorado Springs.

Challenge 1, Day 4: A Jazzy Outing

I firmly believe I have the best job in the world. I teach high school choir, and every day, I am inspired by my students and their desire to grow as learners, as musicians, and as people.

Today was no exception. It has been a goal of mine to get my jazz choir to sing solos at a coffee shop. Not only do I think jazz and coffee go wonderfully together, I think it’s a great way to introduce the school music program to the greater community and to give students a chance to perform solos in a relaxed atmosphere. After planning all year, we finally had our coffee shop performance today. This was the first time I have planned a concert like this on my own, so I had some pre-performance jitters… Despite some slight hiccups (for example, a rather large miscommunication about the time of the performance), the event was great! The group sang several of our ‘greatest hits’ (pieces we’ve been working on since August that the kids ask to perform whenever they get the chance), and the soloists were poised and prepared.

While I definitely have ways to improve the concert for next year, I am incredibly proud of how this first concert went. I learned to trust that I can pull off a big event and provide students with a wonderful learning opportunity.

Challenge 1, Day 3: The Scenic Route

I have never been good with directions. Anyone who has ever driven with me, tried to navigate a new city with me, or simply asked me whether something is to the left or to the right can tell you that. Today, I proved that point to myself when I went to find my new favorite coffee shop. After driving down the road that I thought it was on for far too long, I quickly realized I ended up in an are of Colorado Springs in which I had not intended to be. Instead of getting frustrated, taking out my GPS, and programming in where I wanted to go, I chose to take a moment out of my routine (as I remembered this challenge could be things out of my comfort zone OR out of my routine). I decided I would enjoy the scenery (beautiful houses by the Broadmoor in the Cheyenne Mountain area) and indulge in some classical music on KCME public radio (if that doesn’t cement my identity as a nerd, I do not know what does). After having a day in which several things did not go my way, leaving me rather agitated, the relaxing drive was exactly what I needed.

After driving around for a bit, I went to my favorite hotspot in the Springs – the Ivywild School. Instead of sitting at a table by myself, which would have been my norm, I grabbed a seat at the bar at the Principal’s Office, and treated myself to a non-alcoholic coffee cocktail (a ‘brewjito’ – cold brew coffee, mint, and lime – a surprisingly refreshing combination!). I sat and talked to the bartender and got some work done. The change of scenery from my school desk to a lively coffee shop/bar was nice, and I was actually more productive because of the novelty.

While this was a completely unintended trip, I’m glad that I broke my routine, relaxed, saw a new part of my city, and tried something new.

Challenge 1, Day 2: A Community Dinner

I live in a Co-Housing Community in Colorado Springs. For those of you who are not sure what a Co-Housing Community, allow me to take a minute to explain. It is a series of individual houses that share a common house, community garden, and share duties that often fall to a home owners association . Yes, it has some similarities to a commune. My particular community is home to several retired people, quite a few Colorado College professors and their families, some young families, and my roommates and me.

I have had very little time to participate in any of the community activities because of my hectic schedule at work, but due to a snow day, I was able to go to the community dinner tonight.

Attending events in which I know few people and they are based around small talk totally stress me out and are out of my comfort zone. For those who know me well, this may come as a surprise. But alas, I am an introvert (an outgoing introvert, but still an introvert).  While I often force myself to go to events in which I can meet new people, I find those situations draining and challenging. I would much prefer to stand in a corner with a person I know well and let them do the talking until I feel comfortable or as though I have something to contribute.

Tonight, I told myself to accept the very nice invitation from a member of the community and go to the dinner. I didn’t completely break out of my comfort zone (I was sitting with my roommate who is absolutely wonderful at talking to new people), but I met new people in the community. I learned about the fascinating things the that people I live near do for a living, the interesting events coming up, and even some Jewish events that happen at Colorado College. I also managed to find a 13-year-old who was willing to unclog our shower drain if we paid him a little. I’d call this an incredibly worthwhile success. While I still felt awkward making small talk (Okay, is there anyone who doesn’t feel awkward making small talk), I met new people and had very pleasant conversations!

Day 1, Challenge 1: Yes, And…

I am a big fan of improv and sketch comedy. I have been since I was a teenager, staying up late to watch Whose Line is it Anyway and SNL. I briefly thought about the idea of moving to Chicago and taking classes at Second City, but that idea didn’t pan out when I realized how hard those classes are to get into (I’m also not that impulsive – though sometimes I wish I was). I keep looking for an improv class in Colorado Springs (if anyone knows of any, let me know!), but I have yet to actually enroll.

All that aside, if I know one thing about improv comedy it is that the first rule of improv comedy is to say “Yes.”  In her brilliant book, Bossypants, Tina Fey outlines it like this:

“Always agree and SAY YES. When you’re improvising, this means you are required to agree with whatever your partner has created. So if we’re improvising and I say, “Freeze, I have a gun,” and you say, “That’s not a gun. It’s your finger. You’re pointing your finger at me,” our improvised scene has ground to a halt. But if I say, “Freeze, I have a gun!” and you say, “The gun I gave you for Christmas! You bastard!” then we have started a scene because we have AGREED that my finger is in fact a Christmas gun.” (Bossypants, Reagan Arthur Books, 2011).

She continues by admitting that you’re not always going to agree with people in real life, but try saying yes and seeing where you end up.

The second rule of improv is to say “Yes, And…” Once you have said yes to an idea, you add your own. As Tina* says, “Don’t be afraid to contribute. It is your responsibility to contribute. Always make sure you’re adding something to the discussion.” This leads to the next rule – make statements. Don’t just ask questions. Be decisive and do not apologize.

And finally, there are no mistakes in improv, only opportunities. Or as I like to say, make mistakes boldly!

So this leads me to my first 30-day challenge. I am saying “Yes, and…” to new opportunities. I am not great at getting myself out of my comfort zone. I like certainty, and I like routine (I feel as though these are very normal human comforts). So instead, I am challenging myself to say “Yes” to one thing that is out of my routine or out of my comfort zone every day. I will take the tackle the task head on and I will complete it in a way that is true to me. I will be decisive about my actions and not wait for permission or shrink into the background. And finally, I will accept that any mistake I make in this process is a new learning opportunity. As I try new things, I’m bound to fail, but it’s in the failure that I grow!

After all that lead in, here’s day 1: I made a phone call! Okay, now that doesn’t sound particularly ground breaking, but it definitely pushed me out of my comfort zone. My colleagues and I are planning an honor dinner tomorrow for our music students. However, there is an impending snow storm, and we’re not sure if the event will happen. Because of this, someone needed to call the caterer and ask about a contingency plan. I tend to avoid calling people I do not know because I develop this incredible anxiety about having to talk to them (for those who know me, this will seem incredibly shocking as I willingly talk all the time, but calling a stranger is intimidating because of my general awkwardness on the phone). However, my colleagues were busy with responsibilities, and I had some free time, so I volunteered to call. In the moment, I knew what to say, was professional, and did not stumble over my words too badly. I felt good for getting over my irrational fear, and I was able to help out.

Not the most groundbreaking way to push myself out of my comfort zone, but hey, I’ve got to start somewhere!

Special thanks to Tina Fey for inspiring this month’s challenge.

* I like to think that I am on a first name basis with Tina.

** I tried to hyperlink to Tina Fey,  but she is unfindable on the internet, so I’m leaving you with a link to Amy Poehler’s Smart Girls page. It is incredibly inspiring. Check it out.


The Trip Begins

This January, I bought a journal that had the following ideas on the cover:

Be Kind

Be Brave

Be Awesome

I had been looking for the perfect replacement journal for months. My previous (and beloved) journal of 14 years had finally ran out of space, and I was looking to get into some regular journaling. When I saw the black and gold journal with those simple directives on the cover, it immediately spoke to me, and I knew I had my 2017 journal. These three commands got me thinking. While I strive to be kind every day, I would not necessarily consider myself brave, and I sometimes hesitate to definitively say that I’m awesome. So, if this was the cover of my 2017 journal, I should strive to “Be Kind, Be Brave, and Be Awesome.”

Around the same time, I started reading Gretchen Rubin’s The Happiness Project. In the book, Rubin chronicles her adventures in a year in which she set goals to make herself happier. A researcher of human happiness, Rubin is no stranger to the idea of happiness. At the beginning of the book, she notes that she is pretty happy in her life, but she can always strive to be happier and improve herself. The idea of this really made sense to me. In what small ways can I make subtle changes to improve my life? I started my own “happiness project” in the middle of January with vague ideas and goals for each month. This was incredibly difficult for me for 2 reasons. 1, I am incredibly systematic and linear in the way I think. Starting a project about self-improvement in the middle of the month (let alone a good week after the new year) made me stressed out because I had already “missed out on time.” Secondly, I tried to follow Rubin’s exact project and formula. I set vague themes for each month, and then I set sub-goals that were more specific, but still fairly vague and sometimes unattainable. The January goal of ‘Get Rid of Things that No Longer Serve Me’ worked for a short time when I was getting rid of clothing, but it became a lot harder to accomplish when I had purged my closet and tried to become more metaphoric in my cleansing.  And while I like the idea of many of my goals ( the March goal of reach out to an old friend or talk to someone new every day is still something I’d like to accomplish), I found myself retroactively making up ways that I have accomplished my goal so I can give myself a check mark instead of actively trying to meet that goal.

So now, I am here, April 2, 2017. I am starting a new project.  My linear and organized brain is having a very hard time with this because I am starting a project without a clear demarcation of a new event. It’s not a new year or a new month or even new school year. I haven’t moved somewhere new, nor have I turned a year older. But, it is a new day, and I can count today as the start of a new year.

This project will be similar to my “Happiness Project” but have clear goals and guidelines. I will set out to complete a new goal every 30 days. It may be a concrete project, like knitting, or something more abstract that can continue, such as calling an old friend or exercising daily, but I will be focusing specifically on on goal every 30 days. Instead of setting multiple goals per month. I will set one. In order to keep myself accountable, I will be blogging about my adventure. Each goal will be attainable and affordable (I am a teacher after all, and my time and resources are not abundant).

And, because I hate to quit things I’ve already started, I’ll keep up with my vague happiness journal and allow the goals I’ve already set for myself to be guidelines for my concrete goals and objectives.

So, all that’s left is to start my project. Stay tuned to tomorrow’s post to find out my first challenge. (I’m marking April 3 as the start of the first 30 day project)

Here’s to the start of a new trip around the sun!