Life in General

Things Girls Like

caa8957a12a25135_2894847831_1aa08871c7_b.preview_tallToday is my 24th birthday! I have had a feeling for a while that 24 is going to be a good year, filled with unexpected opportunities and accomplishments. Over the last few days, I have been celebrating with my family and friends (and my boyfriend, whose birthday is also today), and am so excited to ring in a brand new year. Because my birthday has been filled with the things I like — chocolate cake balls, yoga, useful gifts, free burgers, fantasy football and, of course, my loved ones — I thought it was only fitting to share this slightly more general list of things that many girls like. If you’re shopping for a 20-something girl this season or simply trying to understand one, please enjoy this comprehensive (and probably sexist) list.

Things Girls Like

  • Farmers markets. We probably don’t need all the produce we just bought, but we feel a little more environmentally aware when we buy local. We also enjoy the experience of posting pictures of ourselves at the farmers market on Facebook, even if we didn’t end up buying anything at all.
  • Brunch. Brunch is a fun activity to participate in, especially after the farmers market. However, it generally doesn’t count as a true Brunch unless you order a mimosa or, at the very least, an orange juice. (A chronic water-drinker, I tend to fail at Brunch.)
  • Mason jars. A few months ago, the Mason jar became the Regina George of Kitchenware. Girls enjoy crafting with Mason jars, drinking out of Mason jars, even layering their salads in Mason jars. Want to make your friend a delicious cookie with a twist? Throw flour, baking soda, sugar, vanilla extract, eggs and butter in a Mason jar. It won’t taste very good, but she will adore it so much that she’ll post it on Instagram with the hashtag #blessed.
  • Starbucks drinks that “feel like Fall.” Girls from Florida and other states that don’t experience real seasons are especially guilty of this. When the pumpkin spice lattes are back in stores, we know that it’s almost time for “sweater weather,” and we can finally break out those cute-but-hardly-functional infinity scarves.
  • Taking pictures with flowers. Flowers make our lives infinitely prettier, so if we photograph ourselves holding flowers or sitting in a garden full of flowers, we are guaranteed at least 50 percent more likes on social media.
  • All things DIY. Especially when those DIY projects involve Mason jars.
  • Expressing their emotions with emojis. Why use words when we can use silly iPhone faces to show our true feelings?
  • Lighting candles. Vanilla and lavender are sooooo relaxing.
  • Statement necklaces. What better to accessorize with, my dear?
  • Vision boards. They’re like a real-life version of Pinterest! Use your vision board to plan a wedding, shed excess weight or plot out revenge on all of your ex-boyfriends.

Share your own favorites in the comments section below. You know you want to!

The Weekend Five: Tips for Road Trip Etiquette

five rules for road trip etiquetteWe are in the thick of summer, which is the best time of the year for a road trip! I’ve personally never taken a long trip in the car (I prefer flying!), but over the years I have taken several mini-road trips out to other parts of the state, and I’ve definitely picked up my share of advice and pet peeves in that time. As you gear up for your own road trips this summer, keep these five rules in mind. (Want to share? Tweet this!)

The Weekend Five: Tips for Road Trip Etiquette

1. The driver controls the music.
If you’re not the one driving, don’t touch the radio unless the driver says so. Driving can be as stressful as it is costly, so the driver should play the music or radio shows that put him or her most at ease. Of course, if you’re the driver, you should also be polite and open to suggestions from your passengers (it’s not nice to blast Megadeth when your friends are trying to avoid hearing loss, for example), but as a passenger, it’s not nice to turn off the driver’s song just because you dislike Nickelback or whatever.

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2. Keep your feet off the dashboard.
There is nothing that I hate more than when passengers want to treat my car like their dirty apartments. (Okay, that’s a little dramatic – I also hate bigots, Internet trolls and cockroaches.) You don’t live in my car, so keep your feet off the dashboard and sit up straight.

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five rules of road trips3. No backseat driving allowed!
This has always been another huge pet peeve of mine! As a passenger, you should speak up if you believe you’re in serious danger or if you see something that the driver can’t, but avoid criticizing minor aspects of the driver’s technique: a slightly crooked parking job, a turn signal that started a little too soon or a little too late, the driver’s speed being slightly faster or slower than you would drive. Again, unless it is something that could put the passengers in danger or get the driver in trouble, there is no need to comment on minor mistakes – chances are, they are one-time mistakes that the driver has already caught, and you would be making them too if you were the driver that day. Backseat driving can also put the driver on edge and make him or her very uncomfortable, which doesn’t always make for safe driving.

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4. Show your appreciation to the driver.
On a long drive, it is only fair that the passengers contribute something for the driver, whether that includes gas money or lunch. Long drives cost a lot of money (and energy), and your driver deserves contributions that make the trip easier.

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5. Don’t eat in the car without the driver/car owner’s permission.
Some car owners are cool with passengers eating whatever they want in the car, but others are not so lax. Find out what your friend will allow early on (Food? Drinks?) and if he or she does allow food in the car, try to only bring food that won’t make a huge mess or have a strong smell. An easy road trip food I like to bring is a bag of grapes – they don’t make crumbs and they won’t make your fingers sticky, either. I love hard boiled eggs, but I don’t bring them in friends’ cars because the smell can bother people. Be respectful of your driver!

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Other tips: Don’t douse yourself in perfume or cologne if you’re going to be in close proximity to people for a long period of time. (Conversely, make sure you’re clean and wearing deodorant if you’re going to be in close proximity to people for a long period of time!) Offer to help the driver navigate if he or she is lost. If you do bring clean snacks, share with the other passengers!

What are some of your tips for road trip etiquette?

Dinner Table Etiquette: How to Talk to Someone With Dietary Restrictions

480845_601090163258974_1110035571_nFor the past few months, I have experimented with an elimination diet. Alternating between the strict Whole 30 program and a more relaxed, mostly clean eating lifestyle, I have learned a lot about myself and my reactions to certain foods. (As an added bonus, I experienced weight loss, increased energy levels, improved mood and the best skin of my life!)

During that time, I have discovered that no two people are exactly alike when it comes to what works best for them and what kind of diet/routine they can most realistically stick with. However, the more ingrained I become in my healthy new lifestyle, the more I have been met with skepticism and some very strange faux-concern, and the more that I have learned just how judgmental our society is regarding food and dietary restrictions.

I suppose I had witnessed some of this before, but never firsthand. When a vegetarian or vegan discusses his or her choice to stop eating meat or animal byproducts, naysayers are always quick to say, “That isn’t healthy at all! What about all those nutrients you are missing out on?” (The best part is when someone says this while eating something undeniably processed or bad for you, like a bag of Cheetos.) When someone mentions a gluten intolerance, we dismiss what might be a very real sensitivity for them as simply a fad diet. If a person’s choice in cuisine is different from our own, we lunge at the opportunity to correct him or her, regardless of how informed we really are.

Cartoon_--_crouton_makes_saladBack in February, I embarked on my first Whole 30. For the next 30 days, I eliminated gluten, added sugars, legumes, dairy and various processed foods. Since then, I have completed my second Whole 30 and am currently on Day 3 of my third. When I am not on the program, I occasionally add in some of the above foods in moderation, but find I have less of a craving for them and now am aware of which ones have had negative effects on me. While several people were skeptical (“What can you eat during this program?!?!?”) and it has certainly been a challenge (I love me some simple carbs), the program was actually quite similar to what my doctor had been suggesting to me for years.

And yet, we are quick to dismiss someone’s dietary restrictions or lifestyle because it doesn’t fit into our own nutritional ideals. Why? To me, the only other people whose opinions matter on this subject are my doctors and, to an extent, my parents. Aside from a few basic standards – fruits and vegetables are healthier than Dorito’s, for example – there are many points in nutrition and weight loss where people (especially non-professionals) are going to disagree. “Is paleo the way to go, or should I go on Weight Watchers?” “Should I weigh myself every day, or throw out my scale?” “Are grains really the enemy?” The trouble is, we each have different bodies, minds and relationships with food. Therefore, can we really all fit into one box? Should we?

2161-300x300When you meet someone whose dietary preferences or restrictions aren’t the same as yours, listen and be respectful. (Tweet this!) Ask questions if you wish to learn more, but don’t try to pressure another person into something just because you think it is the right way. (Of course, if a friend or family member is consuming dangerously too few calories or exhibiting signs of an eating disorder, you may want to step in. Again, be kind and check your judgment at the door – food and body image are very difficult and emotional issues for many people.)

I truly believe the Whole 30 has changed my life for the better, and will happily talk to friends who are curious about the program or about the less restrictive changes I’ve made. However, I don’t believe in pushing my views on somebody else. I know several vegans/vegetarians, people who keep Kosher, people who avoid gluten, people who count calories, people who want to lose weight and people who want to gain weight, and I believe that different bodies and minds will benefit from different routines. Aside from a few basic principles, there really is no one size fits all, so let’s not offer unsolicited advice that may not work as well for someone else as it does for us.

In short, be kind and don’t dismiss others. Isn’t that how we should be living our lives anyway? :-)

The Weekend Five: Lessons Learned on The Whole 30

keep-calm-whole30-pinterestHappy Sunday, friends! As some of you may know (especially if you follow me on social media), last week marked the end of my second Whole 30. For those unfamiliar with the Whole 30, it is a 30-day program designed to improve your health by eliminating some of the major problem foods: sugar/sweeteners, grains, dairy, legumes and various others.

I don’t claim to be an expert in nutrition, and in the past I have avoided discussing my journey to better health on this blog. However, in the past few months since I began experimenting with cleaner eating, I have had dramatic improvements in my skin, energy levels and mood that I never thought possible through diet alone. (I also managed to lose a lot of weight!) Because of my positive experiences with the program, friends have approached me with questions, so I decided to devote an entire Weekend Five to it!

Below are some of the lessons I’ve learned after completing the Whole 30 program twice. (I plan to do it again in June, if anyone is interested in joining me!)

The Weekend Five: Lessons Learned On The Whole 30

Jersey-Shore-Five-Snooki-Pickles1. Read the ingredients.
When I started really reading the labels on my food, I was amazed at all of the hidden ingredients I found! For example, every jar of pickles in my local grocery store either contained corn syrup, yellow food dye or both. To fulfill my random pickle craving without compromising my diet with unnecessary ingredients, I drove out to a nearby health food store. They tasted just as good as any other pickles, except they wouldn’t make my skin break out the way that food dye does, and they wouldn’t give me a headache the way sugars often do. You’d be shocked at how easily the manufacturers sneak sweeteners into places we wouldn’t expect: sauces, chicken broth, etc. If you aren’t keeping a close eye on what is in your food, then you could be sabotaging your diet in the process! The fewer the ingredients, the better, because it generally means that your food is closer to the original source.

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2. Do things the RIGHT way, not the quick way.
When I look back at some of the ridiculous ways I tried to lose weight in high school and early in college, I have to laugh. There are a lot of fad diets out there, and we’ve all tested them out. But as much as we like to complicate things, it’s really quite simple: cut out the junk food, eat healthier foods, watch your portions and exercise. Doing it the right way will lead to better habits and weight loss that sticks! Slow and steady wins the race.

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veemoze snacks3. Find ways to beat the excuses.
For the past few years, I wanted to lose weight through cleaner eating, but I always had my excuses: I can’t cook. I’m too busy to prepare meals. When I’m tired, I need my food to be quick to make.However, out of necessity during my Whole 30, I discovered snacks that were easy to make ahead of time, meals that didn’t require much preparation and pre-packaged foods like Lara Bars that were a better alternative to any other “nutrition” bar in the aisle. (Seriously, read the ingredients!) I also learned that washing some fruit or cracking open a hard boiled egg really didn’t add much time to my daily routine, and that my excuses were actually invalid. Figure out your excuses now and then figure out how you are going to beat them in the long run, so that they don’t beat you!

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4. Weigh the pros and cons.
The next time you are having a craving, ask yourself: “Do I want 30 seconds of gratification, or do I want a lifetime of good health?” The program is only 30 days – to give into temptations early on is to cheat yourself! In the long run, you should allow yourself indulgences every once in a while, but remind yourself that there is a trade-off. Do I miss certain foods? Yes. I have even brought them in as an occasional treat now that my program is over. But I also know that, while delicious, some tempting foods will ultimately make me tired and grumpy, and will make my skin break out. Do I want to eat unlimited amounts of junk food, or do I want glowing skin and a body I’m proud of? The answer to that one is quite simple!

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0b32ed3e28a98cf77dbc847abf7697c05. There are seven days in the week. Someday isn’t one of them.
Every day, there will be reasons not to start. Maybe you’re stressed out at work, or you’re afraid of what others might think. Forget those reasons. Give yourself a reasonable amount of time to prepare (read, research, shop, gather ingredients) and then press play. Once I finally took action instead of making up excuses, I started to see success. Stop resolving to start “someday” and take your first steps today. (Tweet this!)

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Readers, have you ever completed the Whole 30 or another clean eating program? What would you suggest to others considering it? What did you learn during the program?

Are you considering a program like this? What questions do you have about getting started?

The Post-Grad 15: What I’ve Learned Since My College Graduation

Me as a college graduate!

Me as a college graduate!

When I was a freshman in college, I launched The Freshman 15 series on my blog. Every month, I provided a list of 15 tips for college students geared toward a particular theme, such as getting involved on campus, navigating college relationships and overcoming homesickness. That first April in 2010, the series kicked off with a list of 15 lessons I had learned that year in college, and this quickly became a tradition – every April brought with it a list of what I had learned outside of the classroom that year (see Year 2, Year 3 and Year 4).

Although these posts were some of my blog’s most popular, The Freshman 15 series fell to the wayside about a year ago. However, this month, I am excited to announce that The Freshman 15 is officially back and (hopefully) better than ever!

As many of my readers may know, I graduated from college back in May 2013, so this month’s article comes with a twist – a list of 15 lessons I learned in the year since I graduated college! The past year was particularly eye-opening for me, as I moved to a new apartment, began working full-time and experienced other substantial changes in my life. In that time, I faced plenty of ups and downs, and am excited to share what I discovered in the process!

The Post-Grad 15: What I’ve Learned Since My College Graduation

 1. You can get through the seemingly impossible, but you have to take the first step. (Tweet this!)
In my first year out of school, I overcame a few challenges in my life that I thought would be impossible, simply by moving forward. Instead of sitting around, waiting for things to get better, I took action and made my life better. This year was proof that “Your life does not get better by chance. It gets better by change.” I achieved positive results in my life by doing things I’d never done before, and learned that our biggest opportunities for growth often come from the challenges we didn’t think we could face.

2. Don’t put glass bottles on the top shelf, especially above a carpeted surface…
… And if you do, make sure you have plenty of carpet cleaner on hand! I learned this lesson the hard way when I knocked a bottle of Kahlua off a shelf and had to make a late-night trip to the store for cleanup. Several rounds of vacuuming later, my apartment was as good as new, but my leg and foot were a different story! (The worst part is that neither my roommate nor I drink Kahlua or had any use for it on our shelf!)

01595c42c30d4e84d087359d60e68d083. Tragedy does not care about timing.
I have written about this before, but I cannot stress this lesson enough. Only a month after graduation, I experienced two profound yet completely different losses within four days of each other. At the time, I was in new-hire training at work, and in the middle of packing up for my upcoming move across town. Dealing with two negative situations at the same time was difficult and often felt unfair, but I quickly learned that – cliché as it is – life isn’t always fair. At the end of the day, you still have to find healthy ways to cope and still function as a human being. Life will continue to happen around you, whether or not you pick up the pieces, and the world will spin madly on.

4. You can find alliances in unexpected places.
Accept them. You will need them, as you adjust to The Real World, and from time to time, they will need you. Be the type of friend you would want to have, and open your eyes to the wonderful people out there who want to be yours.

5. Get a roommate.
You will save money this way, and you will be a lot less lonely!

I am fortunate to have this trail right outside of my neighborhood!

I am fortunate to have this trail right outside of my neighborhood!

6. Breathe in the fresh air.
I mean this literally. Make it a priority to go outside. Several months ago, my boyfriend and I discovered a nature trail near my apartment, and since then, I have enjoyed countless walks down that trail when I need to get away. (Recently, my roommate and I even encountered a bunny out there!) Find a peaceful place where you can go when the weather is nice and you need that change in scenery.

7. There will still be days that suck.
You know the ones I’m talking about… the long, cold, rainy ones when all you want to do is go home and sleep, but then you find yourself pulled into one fiasco after another, and when you finally think it’s all over, you drop your keys in the dark. Those days still exist, even now that you’re supposed to be a well-adjusted, sophisticated adult, and you will never escape them completely. But then there are the good days that make all the struggles and minor crises that much easier to take, because they remind us of the success we’re working toward.

8. You are never too old for a Disney movie night.
Sometimes it’s important to stop taking ourselves so seriously and to enjoy the simple things that remind us of our childhood. Whenever I’m sick, I curl up in bed and watch Beauty and the Beast, partly because Belle is my all-time favorite princess and partly because the film takes me back to a simpler time in my life. Find those comforts and take advantage of them when needed. (This same rule can be applied to the Spice Girls movie, which my roommate and I may or may not have watched at home a few months ago…)

9. Clothes make the man (or woman).
To be taken seriously in the workforce, you have to invest in a few key pieces. Make sure you have a nice suit and can put together a clean and polished outfit for an interview or for work. Some items can be found on sale or for much cheaper, but you will need to invest in quality clothes. (These are great graduation gifts to ask for!)

121212someecards110. Learn about finances before you graduate.
Know how to write a check, balance your checkbook and create a budget. You can find plenty of templates online to get started, but you will need to find ways to stay organized so that you can avoid paying late or spending more than your paycheck allows. Learn about how to build your credit score and develop positive habits now, so that your borrowing history doesn’t keep you from reaching your dreams later in life.

11. It is much more difficult to take time off to go see family.
Because of this, you have to value that time now more than ever. Don’t let those visits get lost amidst piles of work and obligations. Appreciate the family you have and make the time for them when you are able to do so.

12. When looking at jobs, think big picture.
Salary is important, but what about the job’s benefits? What about the company culture? Will you be happy there? I was lucky to accept a job where many employees have stayed on for years, one where I could see myself long-term, but some people will go against their gut and take the first job offer they can get their hands on. Keep an open mind, but don’t settle if the job isn’t for you.

Home sweet home!

Home sweet home!

13. Develop a sense of community, wherever you end up.
Find free events in your area, cheap museums to visit, local parks and other attractions that contribute to your community’s identity. This helps you to take pride in where you live, especially when you are in a new place, and in my case, it helps me feel less homesick! These types of events can also help you to save money while still having fun with friends.

14. Life doesn’t fit into a neatly shaped box.
Sometimes, things don’t go as you plan, no matter how hard you try. There may be times when your life feels less like a glamorous Audrey Hepburn movie and more like an extremely depressing episode of Girls. It’s okay to veer off path once in a while, so long as you develop that support system that can steer you back on course.

15. Be thankful for the good times.
I cannot stress this enough. While you experience highs and lows after graduation, you will want to remember the highs and never take them for granted. As one project I’m working on this year, I keep a jar of all the great things that have happened in 2014. Every time I experience something positive that I want to remember, I write it down on a small slip of paper and stick it in the jar. At the end of the year, I look forward to pouring everything out and reliving some of those happy memories. After all, amidst the lows, the year has also brought with it some pretty spectacular highs. :)

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Readers: Are you a college graduate who would like to share a lesson you’ve learned since graduation? Email me at vmoses90@gmail.com for details on how you can contribute to an upcoming article on So It Must Be True!

Unfinished: The Tricky Thing About Closure

Lifetime_How-I-Met-Your-Mother_6_Unfinished_79899_LF_2013_HD_768x432-16x9“You need demarcation.”
“Demarcation?” I asked.
“It means a clear separation between two things,” he told me. “A solid end before a clean beginning. No murky borders. Clarity.”
- Sarah Dessen, The Moon and More

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As I was binge-watching old episodes of How I Met Your Mother, I came across an episode in season six that struck a chord with me. In the episode Unfinished, Robin has recently broken up with Don, a boyfriend who had left for a job in Chicago just as things were getting serious. Robin experiences both anger and remorse as she deals with one of the most difficult break-ups of her life, concerned that she will never have closure, and that she and Don “will always be a loose end.”

closurelaw-smIt is a problem that so many of us face in our lives, whether we are going through a break-up or experiencing another monumental change. Within the realm of relationships, it is difficult to find closure if one or both parties aren’t ready to let go, and as much as we hate to admit it, we often aren’t ready. Lines of communication are kept open, words are minced to soften the blow and suddenly we find ourselves wondering where we would be if X, Y and Z had never happened. Things end in a way we don’t expect and don’t like, and the closure we yearn for is suddenly out of reach.

I remember at the end of my junior year of high school, I finished my cheerleading season with injuries and a few sub-par performances that my sophomore-self wouldn’t have been proud of. Because of my senior year schedule and my new position as a yearbook editor, I knew that cheerleading in my senior year was out of the question, but it was hard to wrap my head around the fact that my season hadn’t ended the way I wanted it. I was devastated, and considered forcing practices and games into my schedule so that I could end my cheerleading career on a brighter note, if only to gain the closure I so desperately needed.

delete-buttonOf course, I realized that would have been a mistake, and while I initially mourned the uniform and pom poms (bear with me, I was a teenager!), I eventually moved on. I had a successful year as a yearbook editor, and not re-joining the team gave me more time to write freelance articles locally. As an adult, I have never regretted the decision I was convinced I would regret at age seventeen.

In my college years and early twenties, I have been in situations that initially lacked closure as well – a break-up I wasn’t ready for, a perfect first date that never led to a second, jobs I applied to that never called back. I have craved closure and sometimes I have even gotten that closure thrown back at me in the worst possible way. However, I have also met new people along the way and even ended up at my dream job.

7fd7600e150ac1bce69b852d20676a53Throughout Unfinished, Robin struggles to erase Don’s phone number from her memory (and from her cell phone), but by the end of the episode, she forgets it. And just as Robin forgets Don’s number, you too will forget your ex’s nuances (or the job you didn’t get, or the sport you quit, etc.) in certain ways because your brain will be focused on something else: a hobby, perhaps, or someone new. Breaking up with closure can be a tricky thing, but it passes with time as you change your circumstances and create your own closure.

“And the heart,” says Judith Ortiz Cofer in her poem To a Daughter I Cannot Console, “like a well-constructed little boat, will resume its course toward hope.”

The Weekend Five: Things I Learned in the Six Months Since Graduation

Me as a college graduate!

Me as a college graduate!

It’s crazy to believe that it has been a little more than half a year since I graduated from college! It feels like just yesterday I was ordering a cap and gown and finishing up my last few senior projects for the year. About a week before walking across the stage, I accepted a position in my dream job, and looked forward to beginning anew.

Six months later, I am finally adjusting to working full-time and living on a different end of town. As I settle into “adulthood,” I am still in love with my work and apartment, but I have also learned a lot since the day I turned my tassel and accepted my diploma.

This week, I will reflect on some of the lessons I have learned in the past six months. Feel free to add your own post-grad lessons in the comments section below!

The Weekend Five: Things I Learned in the Six Months Since Graduation

1. Not everyone will like you.
It’s harsh, but it’s true. No matter how sparkling your personality is, how hardworking you are or how well you match your accessories to your outfits, you won’t win the heart of every single person you encounter. As someone who cares admittedly too much about what others think, this was an especially difficult truth for me to accept. Sometimes this has to do with the other person — maybe he or she is jealous of you, or just bitter about something you can’t control. And sometimes this has to do with you — maybe you’re an acquired taste. Instead of trying to change those people, focus your energy on the things you can control.

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ElleWoods2. Take advantage of everything you can get your hands on.
“That’s not in my job description” isn’t necessarily a good reason to turn something down. Whether you have the opportunity to learn a new software program or head up a project in a different area than you’re used to, you can make yourself a much more valuable asset by saying “yes” and trying something new.

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3. Tragedy doesn’t care about timing.
In other words, life isn’t always fair. I learned this lesson the hard way when I experienced two great losses in my life within four days of one another. Although I knew that both were coming, they still hurt, and it was difficult to cope with one while coping with the other. Sometimes, you’ll experience several hardships in a short time, but you still have to pick up the pieces, show up at work the next day and function as a normal human being. Remind yourself that things will eventually turn up, and find healthy ways to cope with your feelings.

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graduation4. Timing is, however, important.
Never underestimate the significance of being in the right place at the right time with the right people. I would have begun networking earlier in college if I had known how helpful it would be in the time that followed. From job prospects to relationships, timing can make all the difference in how successful you are. Work hard, but be patient.

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5. Learn to laugh about the bad experiences and mistakes you have made. After all, you can write about them in your memoir someday!
Remind yourself that this too shall pass. Whether you just endured a difficult breakup or struggled through an important interview, the way you handle your hardships will define you. You won’t be able to find humor in everything, but try to learn from your mistakes and not dwell on them forever. When I look back on some of the things I worried about in college, I can’t help but laugh and ask myself, “What was I thinking?” Nowadays, I think a little reflection and a few laughs are just signs that you’re growing up.

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What are some of the things you learned when you first graduated?

How I Met Your Mother, Toltec Wisdom and Letting Go

images“Oh, if you could just let go.” – Mae, Just Let Go

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For some of us, September marks the beginning of a new year. For others, it simply points out that the old year is almost 3/4ths over. Still, I like to think of this time as a new start, whether you’re embarking on a new school year or celebrating the Jewish High Holy Days, and with every beginning should come its fair share of reflection.

Recently, I looked back on my previous year and realized just how much anger and resentment I had for some of the things in my life that hadn’t gone as I’d hoped. Not only did I recognize my own grudges, but I also picked up on some of the grudges that others around me had held. It seemed that everyone I knew had lost a friend, endured a difficult breakup, missed an important opportunity or failed at something they truly wanted. We may not have realized it, but we were walking around each day with a chip on our shoulders, an air of disappointment or a certain sadness we couldn’t shake.

IMG_3431I recognized this in myself and in others, but the solution didn’t hit me until about a week ago, when I was watching a rerun of How I Met Your Mother. In the episode after Ted, the protagonist, gets left at the altar, he thinks about what he would say to his ex-fiancee if he had the chance. Finally, he comes to this conclusion, which Older Ted narrates to his future children:

“Kids, you may think your only choices are to swallow your anger or throw it in someone’s face, but there’s a third option: you can just let it go, and only when you do that is it really gone and you can move forward.”

It sounds so simple, but all too often we take the “easier” road of resentment, in which we either act on our anger toward others or we keep it bottled up. Of course, neither reaction is a healthy one, and even when we display our anger openly, it rarely helps the situation. I think that a huge part of the problem is that we don’t trust ourselves to find our happiness from within; our self-worth is so defined by others that we can’t allow ourselves to let go of the past.

51MfVDOlEkLIn his book, The Four Agreements, Don Miguel Ruiz says, “If someone is not treating you with love and respect, it is a gift if they walk away from youWalking away may hurt for a while, but your heart will eventually heal. Then you can choose what you really want. You will find that you don’t need to trust others as much as you need to trust yourself to make the right choices.”

When you walk away from something that isn’t right for you — whether that is a relationship, friendship, job or anything else — you have to trust yourself and move on. Wallowing in the past and not accepting the things you can’t control will only embitter you further.

Take a moment today to break free from something that has been holding you back, and allow yourself to finally let go. It may take some time, but it will be worth the effort and will be the best way to begin anew.

International Adventures: Tips for Celebrating Bastille Day in Paris

Paris

Sitting by the Eiffel Tower several hours before the fireworks went off! :)

Bon jour! For those of you of French descent/nationality, I wish you a happy early Bastille Day!

Last summer, I celebrated Bastille Day in the heart of Paris. Bastille Day, the French National Holiday that takes place on July 14, commemorates the storming of the Bastille in 1789, which symbolizes France’s freedom from its former monarchy. Because I had spent my Fourth of July on an airplane and missed out on all of the American traditions, I was excited to celebrate Bastille Day in France and become immersed in the French culture.

For those of you who made the trip out to Paris this summer, add Bastille Day to your itinerary. (Tweet this!) The city bursts to life with events and traditions that are enjoyable even if you aren’t French, but they can become a bit overwhelming for those who haven’t experienced the holiday before. Here are a few tips for how to appreciate all that Bastille Day has to offer without getting lost in the crowd.

Watch the parade on television.
This may sound counter-intuitive; after all, why would you watch a parade from your hotel room when you could watch it in person? Unfortunately, the Bastille Day Military Parade that takes place on the Champs-Elysses draws in such large crowds that it is nearly impossible to find a spot from which you can actually see the parade. Instead, open a bottle of champagne, turn on your television and stay by a window. If your hotel is near Bastille itself, you may even see the Patrouille de France jets fly by outside.

Paris226Spend your day in the city.
Once the parade is over, go outside and participate in all the revelry that Bastille Day has to offer. Take pictures with cadets from the military academies, climb the iconic Eiffel Tower (what better day to do it than on Bastille Day?) and eat an early dinner outside if weather permits. The excitement of Bastille Day in Paris is contagious, and by spending the holiday among the locals, you will feel like even more of a part of the experience. Be sure to watch your belongings, though – it is easy to lose track of your bags in these crowds.

View the fireworks from the Eiffel Tower.
The perfect place to view the Bastille Day fireworks from is the Champ de Mars, the lawn of the Eiffel Tower. Although the fireworks show doesn’t occur until late evening, arrive early with your camera, a few snacks and a towel or blanket to sit on. My friends and I selected our spots six hours before the show, giving us our fair share of seating. The fireworks are accompanied by music, so you will find yourself singing along among complete strangers from all over the world and having the time of your life.

Leave early.
Although the streets and subways are going to be inundated with people, you can still avoid a great deal of the crowds by leaving the fireworks show five minutes early. This will help you skip the big rush and get back to your hotel safely.

Enjoy your Bastille Day!

Original version published in Immersion World.