goals

25 at 25: My Birthday Bucket List

10642782_10154513491505627_1672977676_oIt’s hard for me to believe this, but tomorrow is my 25th birthday! 🙂 The last year, with all of its ups and downs, truly flew by, and it’s so weird for me to say that I’ve been around for a quarter of a century. I still think of myself as a college student, half worried that I have an exam that I forgot about — not as a professional who has been in her career for two and a half years. Where does the time go?

In order to get a little more excited about my birthday this year, I decided to put together a bucket list of things I hope to do while I’m 25! I am looking forward to trying some new things and visiting new places in the next year, and can’t wait to share my adventures with readers. 🙂

I plan to blog about some of these experiences as they take place, but I will also be tracking them on the 25 at 25 page on my blog. Here are the things I hope to accomplish at 25!

  1. Leave the state of Florida for a vacation.
  2. Go to the Central Florida Zoo in Sanford.
  3. See a local performing arts show.
  4. Visit my sister in her new apartment once she leaves for graduate school.
  5. Go to the planetarium.
  6. Pursue public speaking opportunities.
  7. Roam around Leu Gardens in Orlando.
  8. Take a wine and painting class.
  9. Spend the day in St. Augustine.
  10. Visit the Morikami Museum.
  11. Go on a behind-the-scenes tour of Magic Kingdom.
  12. Apply to MBA school.
  13. Start a small side business for career coaching and resume writing.
  14. Ride the swan boats at Lake Eola.
  15. Take a Spanish class.
  16. Tour the Lakeridge Winery in Clermont and attend a wine tasting.
  17. Go berry picking.
  18. Attend a class at the East End Market.
  19. Try a meal from a food truck.
  20. Host a murder mystery party.
  21. Embark on another round of Whole30.
  22. Drive out to New Smyrna Beach.
  23. Watch a mob movie.
  24. Eat a macaron for the first time.
  25. Treat myself to a spa day.

What’s on your bucket list for the next year? Share your goals in the comments section below!

Link Love Wednesday: Happy New Year!

0b32ed3e28a98cf77dbc847abf7697c0Happy Hump Day, my dear readers, and welcome to the very first Link Love of the year! I hope 2015 is treating you well and that you are on track to accomplish everything you set out to achieve in the final days of 2014. I know I am! 😉

Settle into the New Year with this week’s batch of Link Love. You won’t regret it!

Link Love Thursday: Graduation Is Here!

graduate-school-masters-bachelor-useless-graduation-ecards-someecardsIt’s crazy to believe how much can happen in one year! I recently celebrated the one-year anniversary of my college graduation, and am coming up on my one-year anniversary at work. College seniors are now going through their own graduations and beginning their post-grad lives. In honor of Graduation Season, I’d like to share a few great resources for college grads (and current students as well)!

What were some of your favorite links this week? Share in the comments section below!

Living Each Day Like It’s New Year’s Day

Happy New Year FireworksHappy New Year to all of my lovely readers! I hope 2013 is treating you well and that your New Year’s Eve festivities were safe and memorable. Recently, I have been thinking a lot about all of the excitement that takes place in late December and early January, and I have to ask myself this: Why aren’t we this excited about new beginnings at all times of the year?

Don’t get me wrong – like many of you, I plan to reinvent myself in 2013 and take on new obstacles throughout the year. I love writing down my new year’s resolutions and yelling out in excitement at midnight as the ball drops in Times Square. I love saying “Happy new year!” to friends, family members and strangers in the supermarket in early January. But when do the New Year’s festivities truly end? Is there a cut-off date when “Happy new year!” becomes too outdated, when New Year’s resolutions are no longer relevant?

These are just a few questions to ask yourself as you dive headfirst into the new year. I challenge each of you to be your very best self this year – make your goals visual, try out one of these resolutions for bad girls and geniuses, or change your relationship habits. But don’t let your dreams come to a half in the middle of the month; instead, be passionate and live every day like it’s January 1. Don’t be afraid to set goals when the month is up – it is never too late to change what needs to be changed.

Once again, Happy New Year to each of you. What are your resolutions for the year?

Relationship Dependence: The Blair Waldorf Story

Upon first glance, Blair Waldorf of Gossip Girl may not seem like the perfect role model. After all, toward the beginning of the series, the icy Queen B of the Upper East Side is primarily known for her sinister scheming, her self-centered nature and her lack of regard for the middle class. She wears headbands as a status symbol and holds court with her minions on the steps of the Met.

But as the show progresses, Blair transforms into more than just a not-so-nice It Girl — not only does she show us her vulnerable side, but she reveals an intellectual, ambitious side of herself as well. She applies to Ivy League schools before ultimately attending NYU and Columbia, strives to become a fashion editor-in-chief and interns at a high-profile magazine in the city. Aside from Brooklyn’s Lonely Boy Dan Humphrey, Blair is arguably the only character in the series with real aspirations and a sense of purpose.

The only thing holding her back? Her heavy, often narrow-minded focus on the men in her life, especially during the past two seasons.

Whether it’s her tortured love affair with the nefarious Chuck Bass, her passionless engagement to a European prince, or  her slowly evolving friendship-turned-more with Dan, Blair’s relationships have completely taken over in recent episodes, essentially turning her into a shadow of her former self. Although her character has matured considerably, she has not focused on school or her dreams in more than an entire season. Instead, she regresses to a feeble little girl who depends on her on-again-off-again-boyfriend’s love as her only way to survive.

We’re all allowed to be a little irrational sometimes in the name of love, but when it consumes our lives so much that we have little else to think about, it has become a problem. We start to define ourselves by the relationships we enter rather than the collective experiences we have undergone and the goals we have set. We go from “Queen B” to “Chuck’s Girlfriend,” and we lose sight of our personal dreams and opportunities.

The real Blair Waldorf will stop at nothing to get what she wants… except when Chuck is in her life. This is not to say that we should avoid relationships at all costs or become completely jaded and cynical about love before we turn 30, but we shouldn’t sacrifice every original thought we’ve ever had just so that we can be with someone. Instead, we should pursue relationships with people who are just as ambitious as we are, who are entrenched in their own personal growth as well.

It doesn’t matter if you’re dating the bad boy, the prince, the bookworm, or the lacrosse captain. What matters is that you maintain your sense of self along the way and find someone who will support you even when your goals have nothing to do with the relationship. After all, aren’t you worth the effort?

Happy Valentine’s Day, dear readers! You know you love me. XOXO.

Commitment: It’s Not Just About Settling Down

“I think that when men hear that women want a commitment, they think it means commitment to a romantic relationship, but that’s not it. It’s a commitment to not floating around anymore. I want a guy who is entrenched in his own life. Entrenched is awesome.” – Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns) by Mindy Kaling

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For my very first book of the new year, I dove into Mindy Kaling’s autobiography Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns), which was one of the best decisions I have made so far. Not only did this book make me realize that I want to be Mindy Kaling when I grow up, but it also provided a lot of insight into the worlds of writing, self-confidence, success and, of course, relationships. One of my favorite chapters from her book, entitled “Men and Boys,” discusses the differences between “boys” and “men,” and Kaling’s preference for the latter. She argues that, unlike boys, men aren’t afraid of commitment. However, she is careful to define commitment as something more than being exclusive with someone; rather, she refers to commitment as being “entrenched in [one’s] own life.”

As someone who has always found it important to find something you love and then incorporate it into your world as much as possible, I found that this chapter really resonated with me — not in a Nicholas Sparks/Lifetime Movie/I-need-to-get-married-and-have-babies kind of way, but from a different point of view. I find myself drawn to people who are goal-driven and focused, who have something they’re passionate about and are willing to work hard to achieve their dreams. Interacting with people who are just as excited about what they’re doing as you are can be a rewarding experience.

From a more individualistic perspective, I think it’s important to round yourself out by finding something worth committing to. Rather than floating around waiting for life to happen to you, you should be out in the world, discovering who you are and settling into that role. Rather than focusing on the superficial, look for something other than a vague interest and then learn as much as you can about it, take steps to develop skills in it and then showcase that however you can. Once you start taking control of your own life and then committing to this new world you’ve created for yourself, you should look for those same types of people, ones who are passionate about something but also willing to be a responsible grown-up.

Book Challenge Results of 2011

Happy New Year, everyone!

For the first time ever, one of my New Year’s Resolutions last year was to read 50 books in 2011. Between school, life events and just plain abandonment of the really bad books, I wound up only reading 38 books… which is still an accomplishment for someone who loves to read but doesn’t have a lot of time to do so! Some of these books inspired blog entries (see links below), while others required me to open myself to genres I wouldn’t have otherwise considered. I learned a lot from last year’s book challenge, and am excited to try again in 2012.

Below are the books I read in 2011. Feel free to comment with suggestions for this year’s book list, along with any questions you have about books you’re thinking of reading, as well as your own resolutions for the coming year!

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Books I Read in 2011

1. Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones (1/6/11)
2. A Mercy by Toni Morrison (1/17/11)
3. Voices by Lucille Clifton (1/19/11)
4. Red Riding Hood by Sarah Blakley-Cartwright (2/12/11)
5. The Red Convertible by Louise Erdrich (2/17/11)
6. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins (2/20/11)
7. My Year of Meats by Ruth Ozeki (3/8/11) — With Your Whole Heart
8. The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein (3/10/11)
9. The Latin Deli by Judith Ortiz Cofer (4/4/11) — Heartbreak and the Latin Deli
10. This Lovely Life by Vicki Forman (4/14/11)
11. Rosemary’s Baby by Ira Levin (4/16/11)
12. Everyday Chica by Cecilia Rodriguez Milanes (4/21/11)
13. The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger (4/28/11)
14. For One More Day by Mitch Albom (5/2/11)
15. Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins (5/8/11)
16. Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins (5/10/11)
17. Along For The Ride by Sarah Dessen (5/20/11) — Our Struggles With Either/Or
18. The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan (6/14/11) — The Joy Luck Club And Happiness, Meet Me Halfway (Or Elsewhere)Innocence Versus Hope
19. Something Borrowed by Emily Giffin (6/20/11) – Something Borrowed: The Ethics of Boyfriend Snatching
20. What Happened To Goodbye by Sarah Dessen (6/29/11) – What’s In A Name?
21. Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert (7/6/11) – Eat, Pray, Be Present , Following Your Heart and Finding Your Backbone
22. Something Blue by Emily Giffin (7/7/11)
23. I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou (7/19/11)
24. Understanding the Psychology of Diversity by Bruce E. Blaine (7/23/11)
25. The Shining by Stephen King (7/25/11)
26. Uglies by Scott Westerfeld (7/31/11)
27. Pretties by Scott Westerfeld (8/10/11)
28. Specials by Scott Westerfeld (8/20/11)
29. The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway (8/26/11)
30. Some Girls: My Life In A Harem by Jillian Lauren (8/31/11)
31. The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros (9/20/11) – Waiting By The Window
32. A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett (9/28/11)
33. The Princess Bride by William Goldman (10/9/11)
34. Once Upon a Quinceanera: Coming of Age in the USA by Julia Alvarez (10/24/11)
35. The Little Mermaid by Hans Christian Andersen (10/30/11)
36. Growing Up Brady: I Was a Teenage Greg by Barry Williams (11/26/11)
37. The Snow Queen by Hans Christian Andersen (11/26/11)
38. Ogilvy On Advertising by David Ogilvy (12/17/11)

 

The Friday Five: Holidays to Observe All Year

With Thanksgiving just around the corner, it’s nearly impossible not to have the holidays on your mind. Of course, as much as I enjoy pumpkin pie and cranberry sauce, I absolutely love the holiday’s vibe – the reminder that we should be thankful for all that we have and more. Of course, November 24 is not the only day we should set aside to give thanks — that day should be every day!

This week, I would like to take a look at some of the holidays we should observe more often. Feel free to chime in with your own in the comments section below!

The Friday Five: Holidays to Observe All Year

1. Thanksgiving.
Well, if that wasn’t a given, I don’t know what is. 🙂 We should take some time out of every day to reflect upon how fortunate we are, regardless of how stressful life can be.

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2. Valentine’s Day.
Telling someone “I Love You” shouldn’t be restricted to February 14. Doing something spontaneous and sweet for your significant other will mean a lot more to that person if it happens on a random Tuesday rather than a holiday when everyone feels obligated to be romantic. Similarly, you should show small acts of kindness toward everyone throughout the year, instead of saving up for one grand gesture and a remainder of mediocrity and halfheartedness.

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3. New Year’s.
This doesn’t mean you need to get rip-roaring drunk every night and cheer when the clock strikes 12 — you can save that until December 31. However, many people wait until the New Year (and occasionally Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year) to make amends for past mistakes and to create new goals and resolutions. However, we should spend the whole year working on ourselves, not just one small window of time. If we set reasonable expectations throughout the year, we are more likely to stick to them and see some real results. Besides, it is never too late in the year to reinvent yourself.

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4. Independence Day.
Most people tend to be patriotic around the Fourth of July, Memorial Day or a national disaster, but when barbecues and fireworks aren’t taking place, a lot of us forget what it means to be American. You don’t need to be in-your-face about your nationality, but it is important to be present by recognizing how lucky you are to be where you are. (I understand that some readers do not live in the U.S., so feel free to replace this one with one of your homeland’s own national holidays!)

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5. Halloween.
The spookiest holiday of the year is all about overcoming your fears and allowing yourself to have fun. As Robert California from The Office says in a recent episode, “Fear plays an interesting role in our lives. How dare we let it motivate us? How dare we let it into our decision making, into our livelihoods, into our relationships?” By stepping out of our comfort zones more than once every year, we allow ourselves to develop and grow as human beings (or ghouls).

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What are your favorite holidays, and what have they taught you?

Happy holidays, everyone! 🙂

Following Your Heart And Finding Your Backbone

“See, now that’s your problem. You’re wishin’ too much, baby. You gotta stop wearing your wishbone where your backbone oughtta be.” – Elizabeth Gilbert, Eat Pray Love

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As children, we were always taught that we had the power to make our dreams come true. The possibilities were limitless — as long as we wanted something badly enough, put in some effort and had a little faith, we would undoubtedly be able to obtain it. Our desires were merely a four -leaf clover, a penny in a fountain,  a wish upon a star away.

Innocent young creatures as we were, we felt entitled to our dreams. And why shouldn’t we? After all, we were nice enough to the other kids, did our best to behave and sometimes even ate our vegetables. Sprinkle on a little fairy dust and we were well on our way to accomplishing our goals.

Of course, as silly as this sounds, some of us have carried this philosophy into our adolescence and adult lives. Logically we know that no fairy godmother is about to wave her magic wand over us and make all of our hopes and dreams become a reality, and yet we still wind up waiting around for our lives to happen to us. We let our emotions get the best of us and meanwhile hope that the answers and solutions to our problems will find their way into our lives and work themselves out.

Sometimes, when we want something badly, we don’t think about it in the most rational way. Although I consider myself extremely goal-oriented and I have worked hard to achieve what I have, I will admit that I also have my struggles in certain areas, and that I have goals that I’ve been working on for years with no luck. This can get even a fairly optimistic person like me down. Such failed attempts at any task might make me and anyone else think, Oh, how unfair life is. Then, we blame our circumstances and wonder if our dreams will ever become our realities.

As I was reading Eat Pray Love this week (just finished today!), the above quote really struck a chord with me. Too many of us simply wish for things as if wishing is all we need to do, but then we forget to wish with our backbones, or really stand up for ourselves and do what needs to be done, as hard as that might be. Sometimes, we need to look within ourselves and find a strength we were lacking before, one that will guide us toward achieving our toughest goals and improving upon our weaknesses.

At the end of the memoir, author Elizabeth Gilbert wraps up her year of travels by discussing how she ended up with such a peaceful and happy new life. Now involved with a Brazilian ex-patriate who pledges his love to her, Gilbert writes, “I am happy and balanced. And yes, I cannot help but notice that I am sailing to this pretty little tropical island with my Brazilian lover. Which is — I admit it! — an almost ludicrous fairy-tale ending to this story, like the page out of some housewife’s dream… Yet what keeps me from dissolving right now into a complete fairy-tale shimmer is this solid truth, a truth which has veritably built my bones over the last few years — I was not rescued by a prince; I was the administrator of my own rescue.”

Too often we expect others to come to our rescue, or for timing to work itself out, or for all of our annoying little setbacks to disappear, but the truth remains that in order for us to see any real improvement in our lives, we have to slay our own dragons. A little help every so often is certainly appreciated from the ones we love and admire, but we have to rely fully on ourselves if we want to experience positive change. We can only live out our fairy tale endings if we muster the courage (find our backbone) to do something about them.

Inspiration in the New Year

“May your coming year be filled with magic and dreams and good madness. I hope you read some fine books and kiss someone who thinks you’re wonderful, and don’t forget to make some art – write or draw or build or sing or live as only you can. And I hope, somewhere in the next year, you surprise yourself.” – Neil Gaiman

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Let’s face it: it’s easy to get caught up in the monotony of our every-day lives. When we aren’t on holiday, we tend to go through the same daily routines without really stopping to take a breath and soak in the beauty of the world around us. We forget about the things we love because we’re too busy “getting through” the things we’re supposed to do — assignments, work, chores, etc. Soon enough, we lose touch with the things we’re most passionate about, and begin to regard them as distant memories.

For me, reading and writing are the two great loves of my life, and as an overbooked college sophomore perfectionist extraordinaire, I often feel like I’ve lost the former of those. While I make writing a priority through my blog and other personal projects, I hardly get the chance to pick up a book these days, and I miss the feeling of becoming immersed in a world that is not my own.

In fact, books have often served as my inspiration. I’ve always been amazed by the idea that a story written centuries ago can still be experienced in a different context in today’s world — the idea that humans, while constantly pursuing new goals, never really do change. Regardless of the advances in technology over the years, we are still susceptible to the same things: love, envy, greed, competition, pride and the search for something better. It’s the very reason why I can read Breakfast at Tiffany’s, which was published in the 1950s, and be reminded of my own college dilemma. Reading, especially when it comes to some of the older works, allows me to make connections I might not otherwise make, and I hope that my own writings will one day have that same effect on someone else.

Anyway, in order to reignite this passion and not get completely sucked into the daily monotony, I decided to follow my friend Melissa’s lead and attempt to read 50 books in the new year. Even if I don’t accomplish this goal, at least I will have made reading a priority, and will gain plenty of knowledge and insight from the books I pick up!

I will keep track of these books on the “Book Challenge 2011” tab above throughout the next year (feel free to check it out from time to time!) and can’t wait to see what’s in store for me. I encourage you guys to try this out too — and if you aren’t a reader, make another goal that has to do with something you love to do (make time for music, art, sports, or anything else you enjoy). Take a few minutes each day to chase your dreams — you never know where 2011 will lead you!