I Survived the Whole30 (I think…)

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32 days ago, I started the Whole30 for a variety of reasons but most of them coming back to my physical health.

 

I was eating pretty unhealthily. In particular, I ate in excess of foods (with added sugars, dairy, grains, legumes, other stuff too) that I ultimately had to give up for 30 days. Dairy and baked goods were my worst offense in general, and I knew this. So I started partly because I wanted to change my relationship with food so that I didn’t rush to eat those foods in particular.

I’m also on a weight-loss journey. I truly think that I am destined to be thick, full-figured even, but I know that I want to be active and physically engaged, and I also want my stomach to ass ratio to improve (come on, tell me you think about this too when you’re working on your body). Some people say that it’s all in what you eat so in addition to doing the Whole30, I also worked on some portion control when it comes to my meals.

So I’m going to further break down my major takeaways from completing the Whole30.

  1. I had to develop a new mindset. When I started the Whole 30, I was not excited about it, at all. I talked about it like I dreaded going through the experience and was counting down the days when it would be over. I’m also an emotional eater. When I feel anxious or depressed, I go to food. When I feel happy, I go to food. I couldn’t do that this time, food could not serve as a distraction. I really had to make a conscious effort to approach and speak truths to how I feel rather than to let some junk food drown them out.
  2.  I had to re-evaluate how and what I cook and how I usually do breakfast, lunch, and dinner. I hate eggs, I don’t like the look of them, the taste of them, they’re just not good to me but learned that with some poultry, vegetables, or hot sauce, they’re tolerable. I Grilling, baking, and stir-frying are usually my preferred ways of cooking in general so it was good to keep doing what I’ve been doing. I was actually surprised how much variety there was to the foods that I could eat.
  3. Meal prep is key when it comes to the Whole30. Knowing that I was only allowed to eat certain foods helped me start to consider my food options. However, I came to realize that while meal prepping is all fine and dandy, I do prefer to not eat the same thing everyday. So I would meal prep up to three days and get ready for the next meal. I would have some meat seasoned in the fridge overnight while finishing off the meals that I made a few days ago. Time became a huge factor as well. There were times during the month that I would have to cook as early as six in the AM just so that I can have meals to eat.
  4. I tend to be a social drinker so doing the Whole30 last month was somewhat difficult, especially because of how social I was during the month. However, it is very possible to socialize without alcohol.  It encouraged me to channel some good energy. I think my friends would agree that I was still a fun person to be around. They better! I was the best DD in the world.
  5. I had to change my “free-gan” (I eat free food) ways. I knew that my relationship with food was going to change but I think this was one of the first realizations I had. During the first half of the Whole 30, I was surrounded around a bunch of free food, which included a lot of free food I could not eat. Had I not been on the Whole 30, I would have been ready with a Tupperware to take some home with me (exaggeration). Just because food is there, waiting for you to eat it, it does not mean that you have to. It was tempting, but I definitely held on all the way.

I can continue to talk about the many things that I learned along the way, but I am glad that I went through the process. I am happy that gave up some of the foods that I loved and learned to love some of the foods that I don’t eat enough of. I am happy to announce that I lost 25 pounds in the process, which I attribute to both food choices and exercise. I am in the process of reintroducing some foods (and alcoholic beverages) back in my life, but I am going to try to slow that process down as much as I can.

Would I do it again? I definitely am open to doing another round in a couple of months. For now, I’m going to see if I can actively practice what I have learned from my Whole30 experience.

Thanks for reading!

 

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Vulnerability365: A Journey Uncovering Self

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Before you read the post, watch TEDx video for context. Or don’t. That’s cool too. 

 

So for those who did not watch the video or who have already watched this previously, Brené Brown, researcher-storyteller, talks about her understanding of vulnerability, through what she has learned through her research and from her own personal development.

Before I even get into the meat of this post, I want to clarify that I watched this first to gain more insight and to provide me a bit more courage in writing about vulnerability and it made me slightly more comfortable in being more candid about the topic of this post.

I suck at vulnerability, the art of being vulnerable, and doing vulnerable shit in general. Doing things, saying things, thinking about things that is even remotely close to requiring me to be vulnerable brings me:

  • a great amount of anxiety
  • tears that I haven’t used in a while
  • many internal thoughts that overwhelm me emotionally and physically

I think being afraid of being vulnerable stems from the ultimate life desire to be free from shame, regulation, and doubt – all coming from myself. I have had many experiences in life (which I cannot begin to share for the simple fact that I wouldn’t know where to begin) that has left me feeling disappointed, isolated, heartbroken, emotionally drained, and distrustful of people and experiences.

I think everyone has that life desire, so I know that my struggles are not uncommon from others, but I can feel like I am the only person who knows what I am going through and because I think that way, I act that way.

I’m not too good at talking about my emotions, especially as it pertains feelings for others or about others.

I’m not all that good about letting people comfort me, even when it’s clear that I need comfort.

I’m terrible about asking for help. 

I’m constantly psyching myself out about the things I want to do and dream of doing. 

Brene: “You can’t numb those hard feelings without numbing the other affects, our emotions. You cannot selectively numb. So when we numb those, we numb joy, we numb gratitude, we numb happiness.”

I’m now at a point in my life that I am trying to be intentional about how I take care of myself, how I engage with my outside world, and how I can be more “responsible.

So how do I do that?

By starting a new journey in my life, I’m calling Vulnerability365, where I intend to practice being more vulnerable everyday for a year.

I am starting Vulnerability365, this with the intention to:

  • improve my relationships with my family and my friends
  • start new relationships
  • be more romantic
  • be more sexual
  • be more honest
  • be more creative
  • be more healthy
  • make decisions that will grant me new travel and social experiences

Which means I’m more courageous. Which means I’m less afraid. Which means I’m taking more risks. Which means I’m more emotional. Which means I’m emotional publicly and privately. Which means I might smile more. Which means I might cry more. Which means I might be more blunt. Which means I might not say things at the “right time.” Which means I’m more impulsive. Which means I might be more intense. Which means I might be more passionate. Which means I might be more aggressive. Which hopefully means I’m more of me.

I really don’t know what this will look like but I do plan on doing more journaling and social media sharing for my own accountability.

Today is Day 1 and it has already been a rough one. I’ve talked with a couple of friends about my struggle and received some support. I wrote this post through pauses, tears, and streams of consciousness. However, it’s a process worth going through.

To end this post, I’m going to include another quote from Brene because it definitely speaks to where I ultimately want to be:

“To let ourselves be seen, deeply seen, vulnerably seen … to love with our whole hearts, even though there’s no guarantee — and that’s really hard, and I can tell you as a parent, that’s excruciatingly difficult — to practice gratitude and joy in those moments of terror, when we’re wondering, ‘Can I love you this much? Can I believe in this this passionately? Can I be this fierce about this?’ just to be able to stop and, instead of catastrophizing what might happen, to say, ‘I’m just so grateful, because to feel this vulnerable means I’m alive.’ And the last, which I think is probably the most important, is to believe that we’re enough. Because when we work from a place, I believe, that says, ‘I’m enough’ … then we stop screaming and start listening, we’re kinder and gentler to the people around us, and we’re kinder and gentler to ourselves.”

My One Word for 2017

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So like last year, I am selecting one word that I hope to focus on and live towards going into 2017. I was back and forth about what I was going to choose.

Last year I chose “thrive,” and when I think about 2016 and what I was looking for in myself and how I wanted to live and develop, I truly think I made that word work for me. Despite how much of a roller-coaster 2016 has been for many of us, including myself, I definitely believe that I have thrived. In my #oneword post, I wrote “thriving is living in and beyond the moments that you make, whether they are good or bad.” I have set out and accomplished some great things this year: graduating, moving, starting my first full-time job, and developing more of a sense of adulthood and independence. I also had a number of panic attacks, days where I was too anxious and depressed to do anything, and then I got really sick in the last two months.

With all of what happened this year, I realize that going into the new year, I need to treat myself better. I need to improve my mental and physical health. I need to do what I should to live out my values, beliefs, and visions.

So my #oneword for 2017 is going to be “responsibility.” I plan on changing my life next year by finding myself in every action, every response, every life update, and every feeling that I can control. In the situations and the moments I cannot control, I need to prepare to follow-up in such a way that keeps me moving forward, keeps me strong and secure in my moves.

Seeing that I consider myself at a point of transition in my life, I also think that “responsibility” is a perfect word because it will allow me:

  • to be more assertive and focused at work
  • to be more outgoing when trying to find community
  • to be more vocal of my faults when I am aware of when I do or say something that hurts or offends someone
  • to improve my self-consciousness and consciousness of others
  • to own my feelings and to show more love
  • to be active in my wellness journey
  • to think about so many other ways I can help others

Here’s to 2017!

 

 

What Is My Why: Reflections on My #SAPath (Part Three)

In honor of Careers in Student Affairs Month, I would like to dedicate this post to reflecting on how I got here with the hopes to create or add narrative to the paths that people to take to pursue a career in student affairs. Please feel free to comment or share with someone in the field or someone who is considering a career in student affairs. 

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Hopefully I can end this mini-series on a good note. With the reflections that I shared in the last two posts, I hope that you can see that my #SApath was not a straight one. It was not a path that had a focus on a specific functional area for too I was very open to learning that I actually wonder if it has become too broad.

I now work in a leadership development office, which is great because when I was beginning to learn about SA, leadership development was a functional area that I ultimately wanted to work in. I never imagined that I would get to be in my “dream” functional area so early on in my career. Being at my current institution really allows me to work with many other areas, offices, and programs across campus. I also get to develop my skills in teaching, which I think might be one of the most rewarding experiences that I get to have.

On the other hand, it does help solidify my answer when people in my family ask “So are you a teacher?” 

I want to talk to that point a little bit, because I think that it has ultimately become important. I want to be a student affairs educator and that is what I am doing for the most part. I have the opportunity to help students discover and improve their strengths, their potential, and the skills they need to be successful. I get to watch students get challenged, persevere, and grow in curricular and co-curricular settings. I also still get to work as a change agent and an advocate. Initially I developed an idealistic view of student affairs, but I realized that this field still needs to change.

  • To be more welcoming, supportive, and reflective of people of color.
  • To be more welcoming, supportive, and reflective of queer and trans persons.
  • To be more welcoming, supportive, and reflective of people with visible and invisible disabilities.
  • To recognize and celebrate multiple religious and spiritual backgrounds and customs.
  • To create more collaborative efforts and relationships with academic offices.
  • To recognize and properly compensate those who work long days and see and work with students at the highs and their lows.
  • To develop more research and share more stories with the greater community, emphasizing on the many roles that we all play in the lives of students.

I want to be that change. I want to be a student affairs educator that gives the field new meaning, more intent, and helps it grow beyond its purpose. When I think about what is next in my #SAPath, I get excited. It could mean more teaching, transitioning over to preparing the future of our field or other educators. It could mean taking on higher leadership roles in the profession, being someone’s Dean of Students, Vice President of Student Affairs, being a president of an institution. It could also mean taking what I have learned and working in a different field, a different profession. At this point, I am still unsure. But I still have more of a path to make for myself, more students to educate and connect with, and much more stories to learn.

Made it to the end of #CSAM16! Thank you so much for reading. Look out for future posts on my blog! 

What Is My Why: Reflections on My #SAPath (Part Two)

In honor of Careers in Student Affairs Month, I would like to dedicate this post to reflecting on how I got here with the hopes to create or add narrative to the paths that people to take to pursue a career in student affairs. Please feel free to comment or share with someone in the field or someone who is considering a career in student affairs. 

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Applying to graduate school was a year-long task, full of anxiety and super determination. As much as I appreciated the opportunity to interview with several institutions and different functional area offices, I realized that during that time I was still developing skills that I was not overly confident in. One major skill that was developed that time was interviewing. If I knew then what I know now, I would done things so much more differently. As an introvert, I know that I have to prepare myself to utilize more of my energy and to be “on” and ready to talk about myself more than usual. I can confidently say that at the time, I was not completely prepared to do that and it definitely impacted my possibilities at getting an assistantship or a position that would assist in funding my graduate education.

Another major factor that came into play was my level of self-awareness as it applies to my social identities, especially my racial and gender identity. What they don’t tell you about grad school is that as a person of color, more specifically a woman of color, and even more specific a Black woman, socialization is going to be very difficult. I haven’t even committed to my graduate program at the time before I realized that. When I finally did decide on attending Syracuse University for my Masters degree, I had a lot of idealistic thoughts at the time. There’s people of color here. Everyone is so nice. The program cares a lot about social justice. And honestly, it’s fair to think that way. I just found my grad program. I didn’t think I was ever going to go to grad school. I would make my parents so proud.

My graduate experience was the slowest two years I have ever had, the greatest emotional roller coaster I’ve ever been on, and the greatest challenge I’ve ever conquered. My whole experience can be described as the feeling of “phoniness in people who believe that they are not intelligent, capable or creative despite evidence of high achievement.” In shorter terms, this is also known as impostor syndrome. I constantly felt like I wasn’t supposed to be there. I was one of two black people in my cohort, the only black woman in my cohort. I didn’t have an assistantship and was drowning in more student loans than I wanted to. My back and forth struggle in writing research papers (I didn’t learn or use APA until grad school), feeling impatient and frustrated about how surface level our conversations were around topics of social justice and diversity. Being alone and feeling alone was a constant issue for me. It impacted my confidence and lowered my expectations of my academic and professional skills and abilities. My mental health suffered more in grad school than in any other year in my life combined. I contemplated quitting after my first semester.

I did not quit. However, I share this part of my path because this is often the parts of the journey that does not often get highlighted. Yeah, we go to grad school to get our degrees so that we can produce the rainbows and unicorn feelings to our students who want to do what we do, but do we talk about those inner feelings of the graduate experience? I know that my graduate experience is only mine, but I cannot imagine that I am the only #SAPro who almost didn’t make it, who almost gave up, who had to go through the forest of thorns just to smell the roses.

I won’t delve deeper into my graduate experience because if you’re familiar with my blog, there are other posts that talk a bit more about those experiences. But with all the internal struggles that I had, I still walked away and graduated with:

  • New friends for life – I really had no idea what kind of meaningful connections I would have made when I started grad school. We all started in different places, rode that struggle bus together, laughed a lot, cried a little (I think I did most of the crying), and made it through! We’re all in different places and in different areas now, but I still try to keep up with them and their lives. All the pleasant moments I had in grad school are all because of their support and their friendship.
  • An appreciation and interest in working with STEM students – I primarily worked with them in part of my graduate position, learned about their responsibilities, their needs and interests. It ultimately led to me getting hired for my current position.
  • A greater awareness of different types of institutions – From attending a small, public institution, then attending a large, research, and private institution, while being surrounded around a mix of institutions in the area.
  • Improved skills in written and verbal communication – Between all the e-mails and papers I needed to write; all the blog posts I wanted to write; presentations and interviews that needed to be done
  • Seeing what politics looks like (another factor that is not discussed enough) – There was a lot of changes in leadership, administration, and student opinion and it was great to see this show up, this greatly impacted my learning
  • A Master degree – Oh, you thought there was going to be some meaningful statement?

Oops! Made it over 900 words this time, I guess I’ll have to continue with a Part 3! Thank you for reading! 

 

What Is My Why: Reflections on My #SAPath (Part One)

In honor of Careers in Student Affairs Month, I would like to dedicate this post to reflecting on how I got here with the hopes to create or add narrative to the paths that people to take to pursue a career in student affairs. Please feel free to comment or share with someone in the field or someone who is considering a career in student affairs. 

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I was a sophomore in college, and I just started my year as the president of the Residence Hall Association (RHA), a residential student government organization.

At the time, it was still an interesting thing for some of my peers and myself because as a first year student, I would have never thought to be a president of anything. As a matter of fact, I didn’t initially apply for the president, I applied to be secretary. The position stereo typically fit who I was at the time: an excellent note-taker (and to this day, I still think I’m top 5), more on the quiet and reserved side, and a team player. I also applied for it because it was safe; the position would not pose so much as a personal challenge. The executive board responded to my application and suggested that I should consider the president position. They asked me if I was comfortable and all the while I’m thinking, Hell no, I can’t be no president, I’ve never led anything!  But I eventually did get to the point where I did realize all that can come from considering the president position. I would be able to improve my public speaking, I would learn how to lead meetings, I would learn how to work with others, etc. Above all, it would completely take me out of my comfort zone, helping develop as a person and a leader while having the opportunity to impact others. 

Okay, so back to what I initially stated… So I’m a sophomore in college, and I’m getting a bit (keyword is a bit) more comfortable as the president of RHA and I’m at this conference for other residence hall governments in the Northeast Region (shout out to NEACURH, Moose Love <3). A speaker from the host institution is giving a speech during the opening ceremony and mentions that the institution has one of the best graduate programs in student affairs.

*light bulb* What is student affairs? That question went through my mind for the rest of the weekend? The details seem a bit fuzzy to me, but for some reason I remember asking my advisor questions, checking out the NASPA graduate program directory, doing as much intro research as I could during that weekend.

I think I knew then that I wanted to go into student affairs. I wasn’t 100% certain though. It had a lot to do with me and the roles that people in student affairs have for students and at the time, my vision was very narrow. I wanted to be who my RHA advisors were to me to someone else. I wanted to supervise and advise students and help them come out of their shell and to be more of who they already were. So yeah at the time, I only was considering residence life as the path of entry into student affairs. It wouldn’t be until the following year where I would be made more aware and understand different functional areas. Enter the NASPA Undergraduate Fellows Program (NUFP).

I started as a NUFP Fellow during my junior year of college and I truly am thankful for this experience. I learned so much from doing research, having to complete different assignments and activities, and having a cohort of peers that were also learning about the field with me. I gained new mentors, one in a mid-level position and one in an upper-level position, and I appreciated their insight as I continued to explore the field. They often challenged my opinions and my reflections on my experiences, pushed my professional development much further, and offered great insight to their own student affairs paths. A significant learning experience came from attending student affairs local and national conferences as a NUFP Fellow. I knew that being part of NUFP was meant as an opportunity to recruit traditionally underrepresented undergraduate students into careers in student affairs but having the opportunity to meet people who shared similar and different identities was rewarding.  I got to meet and engage with other NUFP fellows, NUFP alums, and professionals from marginalized backgrounds and began to develop connections and relationships that I still have to this day. My favorite thing to ask people I met was, How did you get here? I was very interested in learning their paths, their stories, and their interests. It taught me that no path is the same as another. 

I realized that I am already over 800 words, I don’t want to overwhelm you all who are reading. Stay tuned to Part Two! 

I Look Like a Student But I Teach The Class: Being a Young, Fresh, N’ New Professional

Play this song in the back while you read this post: Young, Fresh, N’ New by Kelis ♫

 

Not sure the significance yet but I’m going to try to make the connections somewhere in this post. 

So since my last post (which has been quite a while), I have started my first full-time position as a student affairs professional, which is quite exciting! I’m in a new area in a school I am very interested in, working in an area that I am quite passionate about: leadership development. This position truly excites me because unlike a lot of other leadership development offices across higher education, my office is kind of like the bridge between academic affairs and student affairs. In addition to being an administrative staff person, I also will be teaching students. For my future career aspirations, this is actually an amazing first step (that’s for another post for another day). For my now, this has been somewhat of an internal and external social struggle.

*sigh* “To be young…”

A major theme that my transition into my new role has highlighted for me has definitely been about being young and being in my position where I will be the facilitator and the teacher. In particular, I have been thinking about it in comparison to the rest of my staff only because of the different points of life each of us are in. Also I am beginning to think about how I will show up in a classroom and trying to navigate and overcome the fears that I fall out of balance in between trying too hard to demonstrate authority and being someone who wants to help my students make an impact. In addition to all of those apprehensions, I also consider my physical appearance. I look young (SN: Black don’t crack). While I will not get into specific details out of respect for my colleagues and my work, I will say that those feelings of imposter syndrome come up time and time again. However, my staff have been pretty helpful during my transition and have reminded me that I need to do what brings me comfort and credibility as a young professional.

“Freaky freaky fresh!”

Another part of my transition has allowed me to think about what kind of energy and expertise am I bringing to my office and will bring into the classroom. I do not take for granted how as a young professional with multiple identities , I had to navigate my own experiences in developing as a student leader and as a professional. I think that I can provide context from sharing my personal experiences and doing additional research to begin to answer the developing questions about leadership. My transition has also challenged me to begin to think about the STEM student culture, at least for my institution. Working at a technological research institution where most of the students are future engineers is an adjustment, especially for me coming from a liberal arts undergraduate education. I have to develop skills in communicating with my students with more logical and technical language (which as a “touchy-feely” person will be an uphill battle) and at the same time, teach and help my students develop emotional intelligence. The great part about all of this is that I have some things to learn from them and vice versa.

“Who’s that girl? Who’s that girl? It’s [Karyn]!”  (Use the New Girl jingle.)

Surprisingly, being a new professional has actually been the least of my worries during my transition. I come at my institution at a time of new ideas, new visions, and new comers. It would have been strange to be one of the few new staff members to join a student affairs division, but that’s not the case. Even before I started working, I was already making connections and joining communities at my institution. Moving to a new area where I do not know many people, I was very adamant on developing connections at work first (especially because I will spend most of my time at work). Although I still have more people to meet and more bridges to build, I am relieved that I do not have to wear that invisible “I’m new, please be my friend” badge on my forehead.

Honestly, my transitional period is still in effect. But I could not go another month without acknowledging that it’s off to a good start.