The Beauty of Connection

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By Abby Berman Mazenod

What is happiness?

In truth everyone has their own definition and a list of their own personal ways of achieving it. In starting this post, my intention was to help people find simple ways in achieving daily happiness. My list really included similar items to what I would assume most people’s lists would contain-things like the importance of taking care of yourself, the value of alone time, time management and filling your day with productivity. But when I actually wrote down my list, my “roadmap to happiness”, I realized that almost everything I could tell anyone about “getting happy”- they really could figure out for themselves. Most people know themselves, and what day-to-day things they can do to make themselves happy. When I wrote down my list I realized that only one thing on it was even worth mentioning. Of course you know that you are the only one who can bring you happiness. I don’t mean to downplay the power of “self” and a need for confidence in ones own life. However, in my opinion, after finding yourself and understanding who you are, the “root of happiness” and ultimately “life” is human connection.

This one is hard. Possibly one of the hardest things for me to do period. I’m not sure why, but the older I get the harder it is for me to allow myself to connect with people. Connecting with people takes an effort. It means that we need to take down those protective walls we have built and actually let people in. The older we get, in hopes of protecting our fragile little hearts, we push most people away and stop our chance at feeling real feelings for them. It’s hard to know when we can really trust someone not to disappoint us because most of us have become so accustomed to disappointment. It’s sad to me that we start to associate all new encounters with disappointment. True, people will disappoint, but they will also be the ones to help you find meaning in your own life. We have so much and can learn so much from ourselves, but life can be just as enriching when we choose to learn from others too. True connection is where humanity lives and it’s what this crazy thing called life is all about.

It’s easy to be lazy! It’s hard work to get to know someone and to find someone that you really feel a natural connection with. It’s very instinctive in this digital age to shut ourselves off from the physical closeness of people because we have limitless access to them through our phones, tablets, computers, etc. However, it’s also unnatural and unhealthy for our happiness. While this modern access to so many people can eventually lead to connection, this connection through a device isn’t the physical connectedness that we need. As humans we need true human closeness.

If you can’t see it in yourself, look around. We live in a world that is hungry for human contact. We have starved ourselves from the beauty and the essence of humanity itself. Please allow it in your life. Take your head out of whatever device it’s stuck in and give the gift of a real friendship to someone. Give the gift of real friendship to yourself. I’m working on it too. People will shut us down out of pure habit, but don’t be too hurt. They are only a product of this time. Be persistent and take the time to allow yourself to feel the fulfillment of closeness. Open yourself up to the possibility of connection. It’s important for your health and happiness.

xoxo,

Abby

 

http://www.tracingabby.com

 

10 reasons why going back to school as an adult isn’t as scary as you think it will be…

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by Abby Berman Mazenod

 

It’s OK. I get it. You don’t even need to explain… School just wasn’t for you. It really wasn’t for me either. After 13 years of being forcibly educated, once I graduated high school I was just over it. I tried to do junior college, and even went to half of my classes that first semester. But when I got honest with myself, my brain was fried and I was done.

Fast-forward 10 years later… I finally earned my Associates degree last fall, I am transferring to a four-year university next fall, and I can honestly say from my experience, that going back to school as an adult freaking rocks! I love being a student, and I think you will too. Here’s why…

 

 

  1. It’s way easier than you remember.

 

I remember the school of my younger days being really hard. Don’t get me wrong, school is hard work… but if you’re anything like me, by now you’ve gotten yourself through much harder times. Compared to paying rent, buying a car, paying a mortgage, keeping a steady income, paying taxes, dealing with crazy relationships, getting married and just the plain day to day survival that you’ve most likely mastered by now, school is a piece of cake! The organization and simplicity of it has almost become a sanctuary for me. It’s simple. You do the homework, reading, and studying, and you WILL get good grades. I wish I realized it was that easy when I was younger… but then again, I probably wouldn’t have cared much then anyway.

 

 

  1. You’ve already found yourself.

 

The search is mostly over. In my late twenties I know who I am. I can only imagine that the older I get the more truth that will hold. I know what I love, enjoy, and want to spend my time doing because I’ve had the majority of my twenties to figure it out. I have more self-awareness, and understand how I learn, and how I best present myself. There are still things I’m figuring out, which is a journey that I never want to end, but as for right now, I know my acedemic goals because I know myself, and that’s something that 18-year-old me wouldn’t have been able to figure out.

 

 

  1. You know how to just get crap done.

 

I spent most of my late teen years and early twenties avoiding things. It literally took good old life experience for me to realize that if something needs to get done, you just need to buckle down and do it. Once you’ve realized how less stressful life can be when you stop avoiding the unavoidable, getting schoolwork done is easy peasy.

 

 

  1. You’re better at time management.

 

In my early twenties, I usually had two jobs, a band, a boyfriend, a multitude of daily commitments that include spending time with friends and family, going to the gym, keeping my apartment somewhat clean, and that’s not even including doing the fun activities like reading, traveling, cooking, girls nights etc. Basically what I’m trying to say is, becoming an adult trains you to manage your time wisely. Sure I still waste time, but the important thing is that I know the best ways for me not to waste time. I use lists, alarms, an actual calendar, I allow myself down time and allow myself to sleep, and my brain works more efficiently in the time that I have.

 

 

  1. You actually study.

 

Like I said earlier… you do the homework, reading, and studying, and you WILL get good grades. Going back to school, and making it your choice makes all the difference. You’re not sitting in a classroom full of, let’s face it, children to not get good grades. Studying is still a bummer most of the time, but the cool thing about being an adult is that you’ve finally gotten a grasp on that whole idea that sometimes you just have to do things that you don’t want to do. It also feels really awesome to know that you’ve got your shit together before midterms and finals.

 

 

  1. You have a goal.

 

If you’re anything like me, you’re not just doing this because you have some free time and you need a new activity. (If you are going back to school because you have free time and need a new activity, then your life rocks and I’m jealous.) If you’re anything like me, you may have realized that it’s time to get a better job; maybe one with benefits, healthcare, sick leave, vacation pay, a salary, and you’ve realized that going back to school to get some kind of a degree or training is a means to that. Once you have some kind of an action plan, life is exciting! Seriously exciting! And it’s much easier to be successful in something that you’re excited about.

 

 

  1. You get to pick your classes.

 

Okay… there are some classes that you have to take to be able to transfer, but for the most part you have lots of options. I’ve taken Karate, Film, right now I’m taking three English Literature classes (which feels very indulgent-I’ve become a Lit nerd). There’s every reason for you to have fun in your classes when you’re “choosing your own adventure”!

 

 

  1. You have a legitimate excuse to ignore other responsibilities.

 

When you’re in school, you very quickly learn to make school the number one priority. What’s shocking though, is your family and friends understand and encourage your new priorities. People get a lot less upset when you’re not available if they know that you are trying to dramatically improve your life. You’re allowed to get take-out a little too often, splurging on anything that you can consider educational is encouraged, and your husband/wife/significant other might even do your laundry every once in a while (mine does, but I’m a very lucky girl.)

 

  1. Winter/Spring/Summer Break

 

Seriously. Remember how great Spring break was when you were a kid… It’s still just as great! Okay, bills still need to be paid…I still have to go to work, but somehow those extra few days off that week seem like a real vacation, and if you’re someone blessed enough to not have to work… I can imagine its FREAKING AWESOME! Winter and summer breaks are so deliciously long (two months) that at the end of them I am just itching to get back into the classroom. It’s the perfect yin to my yang.

 

 

  1. New educational technology is awesome.

 

Okay, not just educational technology, all technology!

Remember when you had to look for actual books, journals and magazines for research papers, and then you had to find your material in those books, journals and magazines, and then you had to photocopy your article and highlight it, and then figure out how to cite it? Remember that?! Yeah… it’s not like that anymore! Now to find 6-8 good sources it takes all of about 30 minutes on websites like “jsor” and “academic one file”. These websites only have academic journals and articles, they summarize the article for you in case it doesn’t apply to your topic, and they even cite the articles for you in the correct format for your bibliography. With these tools writing a research paper is a breeze.

It’s not just writing papers though. With audiobook apps like audible and overdrive, if I don’t have time to read this book for that report, I am listening to it while I’m driving to and from work every day. Almost every novel and short story is available instantly in audiobook format, and pretty inexpensive compared to how expensive books on CD are.

Studying is made easier with apps like StudyBlue. StudyBlue connects you to people in your class so that you can share flashcards. Digital flashcards are so much better than hand written flashcards.

There are mountains of amazing technological advances that make school a million times easier, but the last I’ll mention is my very favorite, especially when I’m feeling extra lazy… the speech-to-text option on your computer. If I’m really tired, and my hands can’t type fast enough, it is so nice to be able to just talk my text into my computer and have it type my research paper for me. It really takes so much stress out of writing a paper.

 

 

That’s it!

 

I’ve given you 10 great reasons why going back to school as an adult can be one of the best experiences of your life. It might be a little bit scary to take the plunge, but once you do it, I guarantee you won’t regret it!

-Abby

http://www.tracingabby.com