Things I’m Doing To Get Back On Track This Summer

Confession time! I pride myself on being real with others so I’m about to be real with you. The past few weeks I’ve been slacking. I know, I KNOW! We all have times in life when we slack. It’s hard to be on 24/7 and excel in all areas of your life. This is how burnout happens, which leads you to be less productive in the first place. If anybody knows about being burnout, it’s me.

Granted, I’ve been sort of casually floating but I’ve been using travel, work and my health as an excuse. For the past two months, to be honest. And after working on my vision board and coming up with some goals, this isn’t gonna work. As a matter of fact, I’m already declaring my birthday goal to be, if it doesn’t line up with where I’d like to see myself, I’m not doing it. Not everybody or everything deserves your time or energy. And it’s up to you (me in this case) to be protective and take it back. So, this is how I’m doing it.

Give Myself Extra Time

Gah! I am the absolute worse at estimating how much time something will take to be completed. I love assigning different hours of my day to different tasks but to be honest, I really underestimate how much is needed. And it’s not a case of done is better than perfect either. It’s legit just me underestimating things. Something that will really take a few hours is only assigned one hour by my standards. This is a set up for epic failure on my part.

Going forward, I’m going to try to give myself additional time to complete tasks. This will be everything from work projects to cleaning at home. I already live by my planner so just making sure I keep it updated with things that are due and plans I’ve already made will help. Staying organized is important when practicing good time management!

Put In The Time

I know what you’re probably thinking after reading the above. Athena, you just said that you were going to give yourself extra time to complete tasks and projects. Yeah, I said what I said. And I will continue to stand by it. But to be perfectly honest, I don’t put in as much time as I should on certain projects, primarily my website. One of the reasons I’m so behind in my goals financially is because I thought I’d be earning a lot more money by now. The two clients I work with and love don’t take up that much time yet after I finish the projects, I give myself permission to check out and run around with friends. And that’s nothing on my friends, that’s entirely on me. I love being out of my house and having a very blessed social life. But it’s reflecting on my time I allocate my business and major money making the opportunity.

In order to grow my income, I will be shifting the amount of time to grow my website substantially. It will be done in small increments to avoid being overwhelmed so I can stay focused and I will be working on completing projects I’ve been sitting on for months. My goal with this website was to be as honest as possible while helping my readers live their best lives, through personal finance and life knowledge. I’m not doing that if I can’t walk the walk myself. It’s time to check myself before I wreck myself.

Get Back To Cash Envelopes

For the past month, I’ve been playing with the idea of getting back to cash envelope method. For those of you who don’t know what the cash envelope method is, it’s pretty simple to explain and put into action. At the beginning of each pay period based upon your budget and financial goals, you allocate a certain amount of money towards variable spending categories, such as groceries or entertainment.

You then withdraw cash from your bank, write different spending categories on envelopes and place the cash into the corresponding envelope. The key to a cash envelope to being successful is you only fill it with the predetermined allocated amount. Once that amount is gone out of the envelope, it’s gone.

Cash envelopes are an amazing way to grow self-discipline, keep yourself on track and see where your money is really going. But they only work if you utilize the system and don’t cheat. Withdrawing additional money from an ATM or using your card for spending would be an example of cheating. For full information, you can check out the system from the man who created it, Dave Ramsey.

I’ve used cash envelopes three times this past month and have had success. In two of the instances, I spent everything in the cash envelope but nothing else. The last time, I came under budget! I’m going to continue to assign cash in an envelope for trips and my weekly spending of food, gas, and fun. This has been helpful and as long as I don’t go out to eat very often, I can stay on track. Eating out is a luxury that leaves me feeling crappy so it’s something I need to limit anyways.

 

Work On Personal Development

My go to coping mechanism when I get stressed is to check out,mentally. I will literally sit on my cell phone and scroll endlessly on social media sites, especially Facebook. Wasting time on social media isn’t something that will help me reach my goals faster so I need to stop. I’ll be allowing myself a few minutes in the morning and evening and after that, no more. I can deal with my stress in other, more productive ways.

One of the more productive areas I hope to start spending time in is my faith. A friend invited me to church a few weeks ago and it was just what my soul needed. When I attend church and pray regularly, I feel a lot better about life, mainly being anxious about things I have no real control over. Church and prayer also reminds me of personality traits and actions I’d like to practice such as compassion.

Along with church, I’m hoping to keep active and read more. My hospital stay last month reminded me how much I love reading every night before bed so I’ve been picking that up. I’m hoping to finish the current book I’m reading and at least eight more to help with my goal of reading 36 books this year.

I’ve also been more active consistently due to FitBit challenges between myself and friends. Every week, we compete to see who spends the most time on our feet while teasing and cheering each other along. It’s been not only fun but helpful! Some days, I don’t feel like working out due to the heat Phoenix is known for. But if I can still see that I’m active, and spending time running around during the day, I don’t feel as bad. It’s also a great reminder for me to move at work given that I have a desk job.

Keep The End In Mind

Having so many goals for myself and areas to focus in, it’s hard to stay motivated. If having a few mental illnesses that are prone to slowing some down aren’t enough,  it’s still easy to procrastinate. It’s human nature to want to sit around and take the easy way out. If it wasn’t, a lot more people would be highly effective and successful. The laziness of summer just adds to it. By keeping the end in mind, I’m hoping to stay motivated to turn it back around.

I created a vision board earlier this month to help me stay focused on my end goals. It was through completing this exercise that I was able to see the life I want and what that really looks like, to me. My vision board wasn’t entirely anything I can’t work towards and a lot of it has to do with previous steps I’ve taken in my life as well as where I’m at now. I’m really happy and proud of how far I’ve come, especially in the past five years. I’m grateful for my cute apartment, my career and everything else God has blessed me with. Now, it’s time to keep my vision in mind as I set off to the next step in my journey. By keeping the end in mind, I’m hoping to do just that.

Summer has a way of sneaking by but I’m a firm believer that change can happen any season. What about you?

 

The Latina’s Guide To Long Distance Love

Long distance love. As much as I wish this didn’t describe my current relationship sometimes, it does. H & I met at a personal finance blogger conference in 2012 but started dating towards the end of 2013-beginning of 2014. A perk of meeting at a blogger conference? Someone with similar interests as you! You have things to talk about and know a lot of the same people. Cool! Not so perk? They probably live in a different state than you, as was my experience.

H currently resides on the East Coast while I am in the Southwest. We actually live 3,000+ miles apart if anyone is counting. While we didn’t intend to be in a long distance relationship, you can’t help who you fall in love with sometimes. And I wouldn’t change a thing. After being together four years, we have been pretty successful when navigating the long-distance hiccups. So while we can’t wait until we are eventually under the same roof, we’re happy.

A lot of people will discourage you from trying to be in a long-distance relationship. I have found many of these people don’t do so out of spite, but perhaps out of concern. Maybe their friends or family members haven’t been so successful in a long distance relationship department. Or maybe they themselves have had doubts, which led to them not pursuing a relationship, long distance or otherwise. This doesn’t mean that you can’t be. If you happen to find yourself in a similar relationship Latinas, I have a few pointers for you when the times get rough.

Realize It’s Going To Be Hard

I’m a blunt person so I will be getting first things first out of the way. If you are going to be pursuing a long distance relationship with someone, for whatever reason, realize it’s going to be hard AF. Yes, I went there and it’s better to know now so you can prepare yourself. It’s not impossible, which some may lead you to believe, but it is hard.

Dating someone who lives in town is one thing, but dating someone who lives hours away, by car or airplane, is another. You can’t see each other as often as you’d like or do random things like catch a movie just because you felt like it. You may feel insecure because you aren’t a regular part of their life or meet all of the people in it. Isolation Island might feel like a real place.

It’s okay to feel like this. If you didn’t experience feelings of doubt and loneliness at least once in awhile, you aren’t human in my opinion. As humans, we are social creatures by nature and spend a lot of time with others. The same goes for relationships of the romantic pursuit. When you can’t see the one you love on a regular basis, it’s hard. But knowing this going in will help save you from frustration when the going gets tough.

Communication Is Everything

Just like any other relationship, communication is key Latinas. It might even be more important in a long distance relationship since you can’t physically see each other.

Believe it or not, I wasn’t always a great communicator. Sure, I’m a great talker but not a communicator. I still don’t fully believe I am but I am definitely more self-aware than I used to be. Often, I assumed my partner would know what I was thinking and why I would get so upset over certain things. He’s my partner, right? Doesn’t he know me?!?! Not only was my way of thinking flawed, it didn’t help that my boyfriend is a whole generation older than me. Being older doesn’t always equate to being more mature but he definitely is in this situation. We also communicate more efficiently through different mediums, such as by phone or text.

Take time to really learn each others communication style and if it’s different than yours, be flexible. My partner hates texting but will text me because he knows it means a lot to me. I assume he knows what I am thinking and will often run with something but now I know I need to slow down. And when my feelings get hurt, I know I need to take a timeout to really assess what is bothering me before I call him and lose it. Even if you are about to lose it, or you’re lonely, talk about these feelings with your partner so you can make it through.

Meet Each Other Half Way

No relationship is 50/50 and this is especially true when in long distance love. Because you don’t live by each other or see each other often, it’s easy to get caught up in trying to gather whatever breadcrumbs you can to make it work. You may think your partner should talk to you for a certain amount of time every day because you do. Or insert 25 other things you think your partner should be doing just because, especially if you are in a long-distance relationship.

I’m not saying you should do all of the heavy lifting in a relationship or make all of the effort, but it’s a great idea to meet your partner halfway. Discuss strengths and weaknesses with each other and figure out a way to play off of them. My partner hates doing things he feels are minute but still important, such as picking out a gift or planning a vacay. However, my partner can afford to travel more frequently to me than I can to him, so I happily make the tradeoff.

Think Outside The Box When Traveling

Since you are usually traveling somewhere anyways, try to think outside of the box!

Instead of always visiting each other in our cities, we will pick out a different one to try instead. When we had first started dating, we spent almost an entire week in Boston and it’s still one of my favorite trips to this date. When you are both in a new city for the first time, you get to enjoy each other’s company in a new light. Nothing makes relationships grow Latinas such as trying new and different things to make memories later on.

Decide what new city you would like to explore and plan a trip there instead of your honey’s town. Since you’ll be paying for traveling expenses anyways, save up a little bit more to help with accommodations when you arrive at your destination. Plan a fun new activity such as a cooking class and make sure to remember downtime, such as relaxing in the hot tub. Take time to explore a new city with the one you love. And if an expensive trip isn’t in the picture, try a small day trip to someplace new, even if it’s just a drive for a change of scenery.

Utilize Technology

Twenty years ago, people probably assumed we’d be in flying cars by now. We’re not quite there yet, (I’m looking at you self-driving cars), but technology has still come a long way. Pretty much everyone has access to a smartphone or a laptop with a video & camera option. The point is, our options for communicating aren’t limited to what they used to be.

Utilize technology to your advantage in a long distance relationship. Try to Skype or Facetime your loved one at least once a week to see their face and check in with them. Text each other cute photos throughout the day to share your life or send funny memes to let them know you are thinking of them. Send quick emails or share links to articles you think they would enjoy. One way I love utilizing technology is by sending my BF something quick off of Amazon for special events or surprising him with some groceries. My BF’s love language is a toss up between touch and acts of service, so anytime he doesn’t have to step into a grocery store, it’s appreciated.

Take Time To Do You

Chances are, you will not be in a long distance relationship forever. Some people are in one for a year or two while others, like myself, are in them for much longer. There is no right or wrong timeline, just like in any other relationship even though it might feel like it due to distance. But, instead of waiting around for the “future” to start when you are both in the same place, try your best living your life in the now.

It’s tempting to save all the new experiences in your life for your partner, even if you see them frequently. While it might make sense in nature, it’s not healthy. You and your partner are not the same person and will have different interests and preferences. Plus, putting a lot of pressure on someone to make your happy in all areas of your life is a great way to become single or develop some unhealthy relationship beliefs.

Instead of waiting for that prince or princess to visit, take advantage of all that time you may have and channel it into something productive. Put in those extra hours at work or learn a new skill. Run a marathon. Read all of the books that have been piling up on your bookshelf. Take a cooking class. And then share your full life with someone you love.

Closing Remarks

Relationships can be hard and at times, long distance relationships can be even harder. I can’t tell you how many times someone has mentioned that I’m the only person they know who has actually been successful at long distance dating. Although it makes me sad, I’m not surprised. Relationships take time, effort and remembering why you are doing this in the first place, no matter where your partner lives.

But long-distance love is not impossible. I hope by sharing the tips above and what has worked for me will inspire you to give it a go. By utilizing technology and practicing open communication you can maximize the time you spend, both with and without each other. Because who wants to spend the weekend arguing when you could be cuddling instead?

No One Is Going To Save You… Except You

Did you know that 1 in 3 women live below the poverty line? This is article is part of the #WomenRockMoney Movement collaboration. The #WomenRockMoney movement is to help inspire women, just like you, to own your power. For more badass women and money tips, click here


After setting down my last box, my ex-boyfriend looked me in the eye then shook his head. I sighed. I didn’t ask him to help move me out of his apartment. Nor did I ask him for a free bed he insisted I take because “it was collecting dust,” in his parent’s garage. And I really didn’t ask him for his opinion on what was going on with me.

All I knew was that I had just found myself in the same position I was a year prior. A different man, a different state. Definitely the same story though. “When will this end?” I asked myself as I set about unpacking my bedding. When will I find a man who loves me no matter what and will be there when I need him? I’m there for everyone else and they just don’t love me, I thought bitterly as I stuffed my pillows into their cases.

What Was I Doing Wrong?

A few months later, I was in my groove. I was working out every day, I finally felt confident in the classroom as a first-year teacher, and was just accepted into Arizona State University for the fall semester. I was the healthiest I’ve ever been, was traveling and met a great guy. Who cared if he lived across the country? I moved in with my boyfriends anyways. And I set about my business.

My cloud nine lasted about three months. Due to my unhealthy coping mechanisms and thoughts about how relationships would be, my relationship with my significant other, and myself, wasn’t always the way it should be. My partner was, and still continues to be, great but I didn’t know at the time how destructive my way of thinking was until I found myself in therapy a few years later. I was desperate to find out why I kept repeating the same old patterns, in all areas of my life. After a particularly rough time, I remember bawling at my dad’s ranch disappointed and miserable. Why can I just be normal I wondered?

I Finally Get An Answer

Thanks to a great therapist, and okay, myself for going, I realized I was codependent. Codependency can be described in a variety of different ways and situations but in laments term, it’s when you sacrifice yourself in hopes that someone will recognize you and love you. It basically when you have a martyr complex so you can manipulate others and control the situation in hopes that they won’t leave you. It sounds harsh and it is when you first hear it, but it’s true. And it’s no wonder you repeat the same patterns with different people, hoping that one day they will stay.

Codependency is not the same for everyone and can be expressed in a variety of different ways, with different relationships you may have. For me, being codependent means if I sacrifice myself enough for someone, they will never leave me. And what I really thought was a man would one day love me so much, he would save me. Only then, would I have the life I wanted. I just needed to live with him so I could feel secure enough to get started.

Instead Of A Man Saving Me, I Needed To Save Myself

When you have a breakthrough in therapy, you realize a lot. And sometimes, what you realize is how much you depend on other people to make you feel good about yourself and how much time you’ve wasted doing that. While I’ve always somewhat maintained a sense of identity in my relationships, I didn’t really know how to focus if I didn’t have someone around 24/7 to make me feel better and tell me what to do. I had never lived on my own, did things by myself, cared about my environment or focused on my future and providing for myself. For the first time, I asked myself, what if I actually end up alone? What if, at the end of the day, it really is just me? It was then I realized, I needed to save myself.

No man was going to come and love me so hard all my broken pieces were going to magically go back together, despite what a meme on Facebook told me. No man was going to make me forget about my tumultuous teenage past and no man was ever going to replace what I felt was really missing in my life. I needed to get my shit together on my own.

The Force Awakens

After Operation Get My Shit Together On My Own commenced, I started to make some moves. I figured out how living on my own worked and got my first apartment by myself. Staying true to my personal finance blogger peeps, I found an apartment with all utilities included for around 30% of my net income in a cute neighborhood in Phoenix. Sure, Phoenix Metro is always looking for someone in the middle of the night in their helicopter, and my living walls are three different types, but hey, who’s keeping score? I’m a hop and skip from downtown without paying for the zip code.

I started my own family by myself with the adoption of my fur baby Harrison. He’s a polydactyl feline who ended up being FIV positive. But that’s okay. His expensive hospital bill helped me prove to myself I could live on my own, establish an emergency fund, use it, and be okay. Don’t get too crazy universe though, I still have to eat.

My first son!

I went back to school and finally finished my bachelor’s degree, something I had always wanted to do for myself. Lots of tears went into that piece of paper but the saying is right. No one will ever take that away from me. Along with getting my fancy piece of paper, I also got a pay raise, which now lets me contribute regularly to retirement and an FSA which I really needed when being diagnosed with thyroid cancer. Oh yeah, I beat that too.

It’s Just Me, My Cat & I

As women, there is so much hubbub about relationships and what purpose they serve in your life. When all you want is to be loved, or saved, there is certainly a movie, a song or a meme that will lead you to believe this is definitely possible. Which is sad because some of us wait for these men, who may or may not come, for our lives to truly start. I was one of those women and I still have to fight myself sometimes not to be.

We need to stop doing this. As feminists throughout the years, and now, have fought for our rights, we need to act on them and quit waiting for a man to save us. We need to save ourselves!

Live on your own. Get the cat. Fund your retirement. Take that trip. Stack that cash. Dabble in all of those hobbies. And attract the best possible partner to support you when times get rough, but only if you want to. After all, you can save yourself.

 

Things My Mother Taught Me

I have a love hate relationship with Mother’s Day posts so it’s ironic that I find myself writing one.

I struggled actually, even thinking about it. See, my mom passed away when I was younger ( 15) and it was very traumatic. It wasn’t her fault, but the circumstances around her death and after her death were rough. Life was just rough. And although I thought I was over it for many years, and was able to function, it took me a long time to process it. I’m still processing it. Grief is funny in a way.

But now that I am actually thriving in my life, despite circumstances that have happened lately, I can think about what my mom taught me. It may not be standard financial lesson such as a 401 K or taxes, but it is still pretty important to me nonetheless.

Life happens. Do your best anyways.

If I have learned anything this past year, it’s that life happens. I get so caught up loving life when it’s great that when something bad happens, it hits me harrrddddd. I get so upset that it’s literally all I can focus on and it takes me hours to calm down, only after I have bawled and cried to anyone who will listen to me.

I do have a condition that I actively seek therapy for ( borderline personality disorder if anyone is wondering) but a lot of my therapy involves changing thought patterns and healthy coping techniques. My coping techniques aren’t always the best but I am doing a lot better about not getting stuck in my head. And I have to remember life happens and I need to do my best anyways.

My mom was a prime example of life happening in so many areas of her life that I never realized it until recently when thinking about her. 

My mom and I at Disneyland! I still have that look.

My mom, who had never wanted children, found out she was pregnant with me after falling off a horse at a party. (Yes, my mom was a good time, something I like to think I inherited.) The doctor told her that she was fine and so was her baby and she sort of yelled WHAT BABY. She was on the pill being an independent woman y’all. Oops.

Life changed drastically for her and she did her best anyways. She moved to Phoenix so she could have more family support with her brother. She started a new job as a veterinary assistant so she could have more stable income. And she decided to be a single mother without telling the birth father, despite being chronically ill.

My mom ended up loving being a mother, something she had not imagined. She had such a great energy about her life despite her circumstances that she ended up dating the firefighter who came to deliver me. She maintained her single mother status until I was four and she married the man who adopted me, the father I’ve known (not the firefighter, she left him for my dad).

This wasn’t the first or last time she had a major life change. She ended up choosing to divorce my father a few years later. Things were tough financially for us then, since she was chronically ill and couldn’t work. But she still did the best she could and I never went without. And when she knew she was terminally ill, she still did the best she could, encouraging me to stay with my education even when I would rather be taking care of her. I ended up being home schooled the last few months of her life but I was okay with it and I’m happy I had the option at the time.

Life changed and she did the best she could. 

I wish I had more time with my mom. There is so much you need your mom for and I feel cheated on a lot of things. But, I am so lucky because I have so many people in my life who love me. And that is what I need to remember when life changes so I don’t become so stagnant in my own thoughts.

What did your mom teach you? 

Spring Cleaning? Follow These Tips!

I remember when I was younger, I loved cleaning the house. Growing up with a chronically ill mom and workaholic dad while being an only child allowed me to sucker in the cash. Before my mom’s medical bills got outrageous and she divorced my dad, I was able to sucker $25-40 a week just by cleaning, stuff most kids do to build character. Except my room. I hated cleaning that.

My apartment is sort of like the adult version of my room in that I don’t want to spend all day cleaning it so I make jedi mind tricks to help. Along with keeping a day job, freelancing, friends and being a cat lady, keeping a clean house helps keep me sane. It can help you too.

Allow time for breaks and time for work. 

I am the biggest proponent in the world of breaks. My mind is busy and I can get easily off task. Throw in some chronic health issues that require rest and anxiety that leads to being overwhelmed, I could use a nap.Which is why I allow time for breaks and time for work.

I am a big proponent for the 20-10 rule made popular by UfYH. You can read more about it but it suggests working for 20 minutes and then breaking for 10. It’s like the pomodoro technique but for those of us who don’t like tomatoes and can’t handle the idea of only breaking for five minutes. A professor in college suggested to my class only working on something for 20 and then doing a chore. This aligns nicely with that.

Don’t be afraid to throw shit out. 

I “think” hoarding may be generational. If you have parents who are hoarders or pack rats, then chances are you never really learned a healthy relationship with your own belongings.

My dad is the biggest pack I personally know and owns over 60 cars that don’t run. I can’t really discuss the idea behind this because it doesn’t make sense to me. But, I’ve had my own trials tribulations with personal belongings I didn’t need. Not only did I have a problem with shopping I will discuss at a later time, but I had a personal problem with letting things go.

After I realized why I had a shopping problem and why I was hanging on to things, I was able to declutter. Decluttering allowed me to move four times in less than two years  when my life was unsettled. I was able to move in two car trips instead of renting a u-Haul. Excess furniture I don’t utilize doesn’t belong in my house. And when my life feels chaotic, I know I can cut shit out.

Do a little bit each day.

Along with taking breaks, I don’t make it a big deal to do everything in one day. I do get stressed out if people are coming over or staying long term, like my boyfriend, but I try not to make a big deal out of it or cram it all on one day when I’m sure to get overwhelmed. Instead, I allow myself to do something everyday.

Maybe Monday nights are dedicated to the bathroom or laundry. Maybe vacuuming is something you do on Sunday mornings. Create a cleaning schedule and do things when you know you can, little by little, everyday. Along with a checklist for my night routine, I know laundry is done on Sundays and my fridge needs to be cleaned out on Thursdays.

Allow yourself some fun cleaning products.

Nothing is wrong with wanting pretty things in your home and that includes cleaning products. Not only do I buy sponges in fun prints from the dollar store, I also allow lavender scented Swifter sheets and bamboo smelling air freshener.

I like to have fun when I clean, so I power up the radio and pop out my hot pink spray bottles. You can get most cleaning supplies at the dollar store like me and splurge on a few items at Target. They are probably cheaper at Walmart but the one by my house is one frequented by Phoenix Police so I try not to shop there too often.

Do you have any spring cleaning tips to share?

What I Learned Going Back To School While Working Full Time

Copy of Pinterest Graphic – Untitled Design

I’ve never been the traditional college student. When I was a freshman at a community college, I changed my major five times. After the fifth major stuck, I only completed one more year before running away from my small town lifestyle to the busy lights of Las Vegas where I thought I would be way happier after hitting one of my rock bottoms. I returned to school after taking time off and graduated with an associates.  I don’t regret getting my associates one bit because it allowed me to earn more in the work force sooner than finishing my bachelors. However, I do regret not finishing my bachelors soon after.

After taking more time off, I started the journey of going back to school full-time while working full-time. I was denied an interview for a promotion based on my education despite already having at least ten years in the non-profit sector. I was disappointed in myself to say the least which just reignited the determination to get my education completed, once and for all. Now, I truly do love school so I can’t say, as much as I want, that I am never going back. I was offered various awards and scholarships to attend graduate schools, but after feeling burn out, this time it’s not right for me. I may go back at a later time, especially as my field ever changes. But for now, I am content with my bachelors and I want to share with you somethings that I have learned along the way. I hope you can apply them to your life to help you be a Money Smart Latina too!

1.I have time. No really, I do.  Going back to school full-time while working full-time seemed to be very daunting at first. And I acknowledged the privileges I had while doing so. I don’t have children or a husband, which do take time. Those are major commitments. When I first started going back to school, I rented a room from a friend and had a very caring boyfriend who lived on the other side of the country. So, it was fairly easy for me to come home and study or go to class after working 8 or 9 hours. However, circumstances changed and it made sense for me to move out on my own and into my very first apartment.

It gave me the space and silence I needed for a very demanding schedule. I also created processes that helped me cut down on time throughout the week like meal planning and batch cooking. Along with processes, I had to cut way back on other activities I enjoyed such as seeing friends for just about everything, reading and any other hobbies I once had, like blogging. It sucked and some of my relationships did suffer. But, I had time when I thought I didn’t and still averaged sleeping 7 hours a night. It was just all about finding it. This does mean I no longer watch TV ( maybe an hour every other day at the most) and I may or may not have gained weight that I need to lose because I stopped working out. Oops.

2. Failure to plan is planing to fail. Even if you don’t go back to school, start using a planner stat. I’ve always been a big planner nerd but I became even more so when I needed to keep track of where I was half of the time and not double book myself. Towards the end of my academic career, I even started planning out what I would be doing hour to hour. This helps you see what you need to get done for the day and keeps you from spending excess time on Facebook and other time sucks. I also have taken to laying out my outfits the night before, organizing my bags ( I have a lunch bag, purse and work bag at any given time), and packing my lunch all the night before. The thing I am still slacking on is reviewing my day the night before just so I can be extra on top of it and not be tempted to hit snooze if time does not allow. People, including myself, waste so much time not being organized so this really does help ensure life goes much smoother.

3. I believe in myself. I am okay. One of the most life changing things that has ever happened to me was when I was attending ASU. I was invited to study abroad in Israel as part as a counter intelligence training program for my dual degree in Criminal Justice and Criminology. At first, I was weary. The program was going to cost at least $10,000 and I wasn’t sure I could fathom that. But, I did everything in my power to ensure I could go. I applied for scholarships, made dozens of phone calls and set up a Go Fund Me. Once I raised the funds, I crammed as much info about Israel and the people as I could before I got there and after.

When I was swimming in the Dead Sea, I cut my foot which later got infected. I had to seek medical treatment and so, when our group was out and about, I found a pharmacy, a doctor and got everything I needed on my own. I’m sure my instructor would have helped me but a lot of people had a gross stomach bug so her hands were full. And, you know, my pride. I didn’t speak the native language and I had absolutely no idea what I was doing, but with fierce determination I figured it out.

I don’t share this quite often, but I have a mental health diagnosis that causes me frequent bouts of anxiety, depression and codependency.  I can be perfectly okay and seem on top of everything and then have an awful week where everyday is a sincere struggle to get out of bed and feed my cat, let alone go to work. A lot of people are surprised because I seem so “high functioning,” which is silly to me. Mental illness looks different on everyone and there is no one general picture of people when they are manic or hoping to sleep the day away.

Going away to a foreign country and having that experience was a game changer for me. Since I’ve been back in therapy, my personal motto has been, “I’m okay.” And while I believe it from time to time, after having that experience getting myself medical treatment, I actually started to believe it all the time. Accomplishing this degree while working full time and keeping my sanity intact meant I was okay. I can write tons of papers and do research and take exams. I can rock in my career and come up with great events while in the middle of finals. And I can have bad days and know that I am still okay.

While I’m glad I finished school, I am even happier that I decided to go back. Any big life event is an opportunity to grow if you allow it. And grow is definitely what I did.

Have you learned anything surprising about yourself lately?
Athena