Week 38

You’re in a room with a group of people who all share the same opinion on a certain topic. Do you go with the flow or argue the counterpoint?

Honestly, I love playing devil’s advocate. Not in a hostile way, but if someone happened to be having an idea, I would argue the opposite to make sure they thought of all the things that could be against them. So, honestly, I think I would argue the opposite regardless of whether I have the same opinion or not.

Uber short response. XD

bp

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Lessons From the Dark

David and I are overwhelmed by everyone that has reached out to us after my last post. I would like to reiterate: we are doing okay now! People have asked how they can help. Honestly, we would just love some mail. A handwritten card brightens our day so much. We check the mail everyday, and usually it’s empty (unless it’s a bill, eww). So if you still are wanting to help us, spend 50 cents on a stamp, and write us a letter or draw us a picture ❤ Spread the sunshine.

I have learned so much about myself since we moved, and I wanted to share some of the lessons I have picked up in the past two months (henceforth known as “The Time”). If you are going through a dark time, this is for you. If you are going through a rough time, you can reach out to me as well—I will talk to you, I will pray for you. (I will not give you money, because we still have very little, but everything else, I can give.) Just know that you are not alone. Most people go through a time (or times) where they look for the next steps in life.

It’s okay to make mistakes. Sometimes we take the wrong path. It was well lit, marked with decently clear signs, and had happy, successful people waving you on. It was the right path for them. That doesn’t mean it’s right for you. Maybe “your” path is the one with hardly anyone. Maybe it’s a dark one. Maybe you are going to have to carve your own path through the brush. God’s got plans for all of us, and we don’t always know where we’re supposed to go. During The Time I prayed many prayers, meditated, and bargained with God. “Just give me a sign that this is right for me.”

Before I changed jobs, I made lists, I weighed options, and I thought that Aflac was the best choice I could make for myself and for my family. I was sure of it. But after a month, I realized that I had made a mistake. I should have stuck with the other job. What had seemed like the “safe” option, I had judged as boring. I thought I would get bored. You know what, I was right. Answering phones at Elavon would have been boring. But you know what? The opportunity to move up into a position that I actually love would have been worth it. I had lost sight of what was really important to me while chasing money. I made a mistake.

That’s okay though, because I took my experience, did some reflection, and learned about myself. Now I know more about me and where I can put myself career-wise to best use my strengths and passions (thanks, Ken Coleman). Now I know what I need to work on and what I need to do to get there.

Look forward to the future. So your current situation isn’t ideal—dwell on how great the future will be. We had no money, and we had to be very careful about using more gas than we needed to, about getting extra food, everything. It seemed like we couldn’t breathe. We kept our heads up by thinking and talking about how great it will be once we get on our feet. We have crazy rich dreams like buying more than one cereal at the grocery store. Maybe one day we could buy a dining room table and chairs! Maybe even a bookshelf to get all our books off of the floor. We tried to keep our heads positive by thinking about how great it will be as we keep going. As a plan-lover, I spent time planning what we will do with the money as we get it. What things we could get first—it kept me excited for what is to come.

…but also live in the now. While we looked forward to future happiness, we also tried to focus on the good things in the present. David liked to hit me with the “Tell me 3 good things that happened today.” I’d have to do it. Normally, once you start listing, you can just keep going. There were good things happening even in our darkest times. Sometimes it was as simple as “I went to this dentist office, and this lady named Nancy actually held a conversation with me” or even just “I saw some really cute doggies at the animal hospital.” Some days only one good thing stood out in my mind, but every single day, without fail, I could list at least ten good things. Most were small things, but all of them helped me be grateful for what I was going through and what I still had. I wasn’t making a paycheck, but I had a husband who loves me, a home, water to drink, [some] food to eat, and a bed to sleep in at night. We were okay, and I was very grateful for that.

Keep going. I thought of this a few times: what if I gave up? What would that look like? Would I quit my job and stop paying rent and utilities? Cancel everything and move back home? Give up on being an adult?

No.

You can’t just turn life off. You can maybe pause for day and rest, but come that next sunrise, life is going to keep going. Regardless of whether or not I wanted to, I was going to keep going. I could choose to keep going where I was or I could get a new job and keep going with that—I had to keep moving forward. I kept seeing my friends who live close to here (and who so graciously let us use their laundry machines for free). I kept going to church. Kept reading, kept trying to better myself as a person. You gotta keep going—maybe change directions, but keep moving forward.

Pray. My church had a ladies day this past Saturday, and author Abby Rosser spoke to us about waiting. In her case, she was waiting to adopt her son Ezra, but the focus in her lesson and in one of her books was her relationship with God during all of this waiting. Man, could I relate to everything she learned from her waiting.

I wasn’t waiting on a child, but I had done some of the same things during The Time. I prayed for guidance at least once a day. I prayed for strength, clarity, and some kind of sign whether this was right for me or not. I prayed for God to take my worries and anxieties and for Him to take care of us. I just wanted Him to show me the right path… and He did.

He kept things in my heart and mind that were important to me. He gave me friends who reached out with advice. He gave me resources to guide my passions, and he guided me to where I am now. He is amazing.

So if you are struggling, please reach out to others. We can help you. We have all gone through hard things in our lives. We may not have been through all of the same things, but someone has been through what you are dealing with and can help you. You just have to ask, believe, and keep going.

bp

Moving On: When You Learn Lessons You Didn’t Know You Needed

Wow! Brittany and David moved to Knoxville! I wonder how they’re doing. I haven’t heard from them since they moved.

Here’s a check in.

You haven’t heard from us because we have been STRUGGLING.

Before we moved at the beginning of June, I accepted a job at Elavon Merchant Services to answer phones for $15/hour full-time. Sweet gig.

I had already scheduled a second interview with Aflac for the following Monday, so I figured, “what the heck? might as well go even though I know I’m not going to take the job.” Man, in those interviews, it sounded so great. All the money you could ever want. A simple plan to follow in order to achieve your goals. I weighed the pros and cons, and eventually the potential for enough money to pay off student loans and help my mom fix up her house and donate to all of the charities I wanted won out. I chose to go with Aflac, so I emailed the HR person at Elavon the night before I was supposed to start to tell her I wouldn’t be working for them. (Rookie mistake, I know, but past Brittany had high hopes.)

A job as an Aflac sales agent probably would be great to someone who is already financially stable, knows people in the area, has health insurance through a spouse’s work, and has a super reliable car and plenty of money for gas.

I am none of those things. None. I held out that if I just kept following the plan we put together, eventually the money would come. I held out for a month. No money. Not even a penny. I spent almost $200 in gas money, had to borrow money to pay our month’s bills, and it was an all-around horrible situation for me.

On top of the financial struggles, I also fell into probably the deepest depression I’ve ever experienced. For people who knew me right before we moved, I was in a habit of going to the gym at least 6 days a week. I loved it. I felt so weird if I didn’t exercise. I exercised, ate healthy foods, and splurged on unhealthy things when my brain said we should. After I started this job, however, we didn’t have money for food. I couldn’t bring myself to go to the gym or run or anything. I worked and I prepared for the next day’s work. I followed the plan. I kept working even though everything in me wanted to give up. I wasn’t eating regularly. I couldn’t bring myself to eat breakfast anymore, even though I’ve always been a breakfast person. My stomach was constantly in knots. By the time lunch came around, I didn’t have food to bring with me to eat nor did we have the money for me to eat out like most of the other Aflac agents do. I would bring a Clif Bar in my bag, but most days I wouldn’t eat it—if I don’t eat it today, then that’s one less I have to buy to eat this week. I lost 10 pounds in less than a month. I felt horrible.

I was alone all day. In my car. Driving around wasting gas. Sure I technically talked to 15-20 business owners each day, but when most of these people have been taught to do everything they can to keep salespeople out, you are really alone. Sales just isn’t for everyone, and maybe I’m just soft-skinned and I gave up to quickly, but it did not make me happy.

One of the things I admired about the company, though, is how dedicated their agents were. These people believe so much in their company that they become “the Aflac guy” who just can’t stop telling people about all of the great things the company does and what it can do for them. They are always talking about it. Everyone in their circle knows that if they hear of anyone needing insurance, they can send them to that person.

That is not who I want to be. I want to believe in something that strongly, but I don’t necessarily want it to be my work. I don’t think I have enough stamina to be “the Aflac guy.” I prefer to draw the work/play line and leave work at work. In that job, however, work was everywhere. In my car, on my personal computer, my cell phone. Maybe that was why I burned out so quickly. Maybe that’s just not for me.

So here I am: unemployed, super poor, but honestly, happier. Last Friday as I was getting ready for my last Aflac meeting, I was dancing and singing as I got ready. I went to the gym that morning. I even put on makeup. It was exhilarating. Do I wish I had started looking for jobs two weeks ago? Yeah, kind of. Do I wish I had just stuck with the Elavon job in the first place? Yeah, kind of. BUT I think God had me go this route on purpose. I have shed so many tears and prayed so many prayers for me to see the way I’m supposed to go, and He has done that for me. We have found a great church with great people. We have the support of so many friends and loved ones. I have learned so much from this experience.

Now we begin the process of getting back on our feet. We’re going to be just fine. It’s gonna take time and lots of frugality, but hey, at least we will both have steady paychecks once I get a new job.

(Also we would really appreciate prayers <3)

bp

A Coach, A Mentor

Coaches see you at your highest and lowest points. They see you at the end of a hard-fought win, but they also see you running your heart out the practice after a hard loss (my old teammates could probably tell you the exact practice I mean).

I played basketball from fifth grade until my senior year (minus junior year), and I had a grand total of two head coaches. From 7th grade through high school, the same coach helped me grow. He helped me play harder, smarter, and helped me realize that I am capable of more than I believed, and for that I am forever grateful.

I was never the best basketball player. I couldn’t dribble very well. I wasn’t very fast. I would only make a shot here and there. I wasn’t a super valuable player except for the fact that I was big, and I was strong. I couldn’t shoot or drive, but I could 100% hold off the other giant girls while someone else did those things. By my senior year, I could sprint up the court before the other players and our point guard could throw the ball to me for an easy layup before everyone else realized I was down the court. I could only do it once or twice a game, but it still felt great. I could set screens for the other girls, creating a wall to protect them from the defense for an open shot.

As a seventh grader, all I could tell you about my role on the court was that I was bigger than everyone else. That’s all I knew. I was big; I couldn’t run as fast as everyone else, and I belonged under the basket. Coach Wood took me on the team anyway. He worked with me on my shooting; he taught me ways to get around giant girls; he showed me how to use my size to my advantage. He spent hours and hours with the team, going over basics, running, learning plays, strength training, and learning to be better.

I finally made the starting lineup my senior year, and though I never became the star player, I felt valuable in my position. I was never the best shooter, the fastest runner, or the toughest one on the court. I just don’t think basketball was meant to be my sport. And that’s okay because I learned so much from my years learning with Coach Wood.

He pushed us. So hard. One more down-and-back. One more rep. He always wrote inspirational quotes on the board of the locker room, and they have stuck with me to this day. “There’s no ‘i’ in ‘team’ except in the A-hole.” That was a big one. I still quote it. On a more serious note, one he used more often over the years was “Mind over Matter,” but he wrote it like a fraction. I can still see it in the corner of the board. He was the first person to introduce me to this quote, and to this day, when I work out, that runs through my mind.

Speaking of working out, Coach Wood, you are also the reason that I could walk into a gym in college and know exactly what I needed to do. I have taught several friends how to use gym equipment and not look like an idiot, and I definitely couldn’t have done that without all those hot summer workouts before practice.

Thank you, Coach Wood, for teaching me that I can be strong, valuable, and tough, and that I can do anything with practice and perseverance. I value every practice, every game, every workout I experienced under your leadership, and I wish you the very best wherever you end up next—they will be some really lucky players.

Week 37

If you have a problem, would you go to a family member, best friend, or a stranger?

I normally talk to my husband. He’s a sound, secure board upon which I can bounce ideas. He is reasonable, but always has my best interest at heart, even if it isn’t the answer I necessarily want.

Second is one of my two best pals who now live pretty far away since we’re all adults now. They’ve been my best friends forever, and I know I can talk to them about anything. Really, anything. They know me better than anyone, and they have each been through parts of life I haven’t hit yet (same with me). The three of us balance each other out, and we put our strengths where the others have weakness.

Third, I have a network of other close friends from church, school, family, etc. I think it really depends on the issue. I have friends/family that are better at different things. If I have a financial problem, I won’t go to my husband because he’s not great with money, and would just reply with, “whatever you think, babe.” I would go to my dad because he’s good with stuff like that. If David and I are fighting or having some other weird marital thing, I’ll probably go to one of my friends who have been married a couple years for advice.

I get along really well with people, and I think I give pretty decent advice most of the time (please correct me if I’m wrong), so the network of people I feel I can talk to is pretty vast 🙂

Week 36

True or False: “I am more likely to try something if others would be impressed.”

I am not self-motivated. At all. That’s why I haven’t written a book yet. That’s why I didn’t finish these “52 weeks” in 52 weeks. That’s why I have been trying since middle school to be skinny like my friends. That’s why I have no goals crossed off my list that aren’t school related.

I have such a hard time holding myself accountable, doing things for me. I somehow cannot motivate myself to achieve anything for me.

I finished school to make my parents proud. I scored top marks in high school to make my teachers proud.

I don’t think I have ever successfully done anything just for me. If you know me, you know I have tried to lose weight for pretty much my whole life. I can’t do it. I have tried to make the decisions to improve my physique for myself, but I can’t trust myself. Trying to be self-motivated leaves me accountable only to myself, and we all know that she isn’t great.

So, yes, I am more likely to try something if others will be, let’s not say “impressed,” but maybe “proud” instead. If others who are close to me will be proud, I am way more likely to succeed. I might try it for myself, but I always fail.

2019 Word of the Year

My alarm went off this morning, and I did not want to get out of bed. It was a long night. I went to bed early, my husband came to bed late. He wasn’t feeling great, so he barely slept which means I barely slept.

My alarm was set for 5:15 AM so I could get to the gym about 5:30 and be the only one in there to workout (really, the best way to workout in my opinion). I was tired; I was groggy; I did not want to move. But that empty weight room had a pull to it. There is nothing like being the only one in there—you can use any machine you want without having to wait for cocky baseball players or bratty cheerleaders to be done with them. It’s glorious. If I’m being honest, a majority of my mornings have been like this since January.

If you follow any bullet journal or planning blogs or YouTube channels, chances are you have seen people choose a specific word or phrase for the year. They then use this word or phrase as a base for their goals for the year. I have seen “mindful,” “peace,” “joy,” and many others, and, while I admired their creativity, I had never chose to do that myself. Until now.

This year I decided that my health is the most important item on my goal list. Since January 1st, I’ve been putting my health first. Sometimes it’s my physical health (i.e. spinach and lots of water), and other times it’s my mental health (i.e. a Frosty and a good book). I’m eating with nutrition in mind, reading more, writing more, and spending less time on social media and Netflix/Hulu.

At the beginning of the year, I read a book called Eat to Live by Dr. Joel Fuhrman. His eating plan is called the “nutritarian” diet, and this means that you eat foods with high nutrient density. For example, a serving of spinach has more nutrients than a serving of celery, and you eat more of the things that have high amounts of nutrients, and less of the things that don’t. I followed his program almost flawlessly for two separate weeks since Jan 1st, and the first week I dropped ten pounds, the second, another five.

While I haven’t completely committed to the nutritarian way of life, I do eat more healthful foods. Sometimes we still go to Wendy’s. It happens. I do, however, notice how sluggish and gross I feel after eating these things, and that is prompting me to always make healthier choices. It has helped me think more about what foods can do for me: how can they help my body do what it needs to do? I am more in tune with my body: with more water, my head is clearer; if I eat milk chocolate, my stomach gurgles; with less added sugar, natural sugar tastes much sweeter.

It’s a process, but I’m trying to be healthier so I will feel healthier, and then I will feel better. Eating better makes me happier: having good fuel in my body makes it work better, and that’s my goal for the year.

Week 35

You are walking down a road with three paths: mountain, forest, or ocean. Pick one. What do you feel?

I really don’t think I would pick one. I would make time to travel down all three. I’d start with the mountain because it’s probably the hardest path (with the climb). I would look down from the mountain and all its majesty before hading back down the path to check out the mystery of the forest.

I like hiking through the woods. Theres a park near my old school that has hiking/running trails in the woods. I used to drive out there to run in the summer. Being in nature is peaceful to me, and that is why I can’t choose.

I would intentionally leave the ocean for last because a) the sand would get in my shoes and make it uncomfortable to keep walking, and b) because the beach in the evening/night is wonderful. If you can’t be at the water for sunrise, just after sunset is the second best time. The sunsets are beautiful, of course, but nothing compares to going out near the water once it’s pitch black outside, and you can’t see anything. You can only hear the water pitching toward you and then receding. Over and over again.

My friends and I spent a couple hours at the beach like this. We had our phones (a source of light), but we had the lights off. We liked the blackness. We just sat around and talked for a while, enjoying the tranquility. Then we took a walk down the coast. Turns out, there were other people out there as well! We just couldn’t see them because it was so dark, and everyone seemed to respect the peaceful nature of the darkness, so we couldn’t hear them either until we were close, their hushed voices only carrying a few yards away.

I definitely couldn’t choose one path. Being outside is peaceful to me, and, when presented with a decision like this, I would choose all three. I might even try to break it up into three days so I could experience each path to the fullest.

“How Are You?”

“Hey Brittany, how are you?”

“Hey, how ya feelin’?

If you work outside the home, you get asked these kinds of questions every day. Multiple times a day. And how do you answer them?

“I’m good. How are you?”

“I’m doing fine.”

Whatever the case, most people don’t stick around to have an actual conversation about how they are actually doing/feeling. I started answering with real answers (“Real tired today,” “I really don’t want to be here.”), and people are then concerned about your wellbeing and act all concerned asking why you feel that way and if you’re okay. They don’t care. Most of the time anyway; they mostly don’t care. They care to finish the conversation, but no further.

I’m not against these people, but I am against asking “how are you?” unless you are genuinely curious.

So, Brittany, how are you?

I’m okay. You know those tests you had to take in middle/high school that were a scale of 1 to 5: 1=extremely unsatisfied, 2=unsatisfied, 3=indifferent, 4=satisfied, or 5=extremely satisfied? (Alternately, Taco Bell’s surveys are the same.)

Most days I’m a solid 3. I’m just going to work, getting the day over with so I can go home and sleep again. There are definitely days where my 2 status hits, sometimes even 1, but most days I just chill at the “indifferent” level.

I have happy days. I just feel like I have so many things to do, and I don’t have a chance to breathe. I’m constantly trying to be better: go to work, go to church most services, and try to meet with people I care about and want to get to know better. It’s exhausting. Life is exhausting.

So how am I? I’m surviving. I am still functioning. I’m going to work and making money, saving money. I have friends—I may not hang out with them 24/7, but I have them, and we see each other sometimes. I stay relatively healthy. I read and watch movies and TV.

I’m planning for the next step in our life, but it’s so hard to look forward when sometimes it’s all you can do to make it through the day.

Week Thirty-Four

A colleague takes credit for your work and is rewarded. How does that affect your perception of your own value?How do you react?

I confront them politely. “Hey, I did this ______, why did you take credit for it?”

I wish I could truthfully say that. In reality, however, I would probably make a passive aggressive remark to the person who rewarded my colleague, trying to get them to realize that I had done it instead.

I grew up in a passive aggressive household. We didn’t confront people when we were upset with them or if they hurt our feelings. We made passive aggressive comments and washed dishes angrily or folded clothes too hard. Once my husband pointed out to me that I did these things, it killed me a little inside, but at least now I know that I do them so I can get better; now I can recognize the why of my behavior.

I’ve been working on my passive aggression for a few months now, and, though I’m not perfect, I see examples of it everywhere, and it makes me sick. I try not to participate in behaviors that make me sick when others do them.