be here (for) now: poco a poco

Little by little, this little life sneaks by us.
Little by little, these little moments stack up.
Little by little, the little things we do become the large stories we tell.
Little by little.

I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking (and therefore, talking) about the way this season impacts the little moments that become our days. Nature is slowing down and curling upon herself for the winter ahead. The slowing of the natural world highlights the wild pace at which we live. While it may be easy to blame our chaos on “holiday madness,” what we’re really feeling is the whiplash that results from ignoring Nature’s hints to slow with her. As a kid I used to spend hours at the park with friends on a merry-go-round, pushing each other as fast as we could and jumping off into the grass to see who could keep their balance the longest. Oddly reminiscent.

Flash forward to current moment, and I’m struggling to stay grounded when all I want is to be swept up with the excitement of the season. I’m fortunate because I have a lot that I’m looking forward to. Every day feels like the first day or two of a week-long vacation…so much to do and see, so much anticipation, but also the desire to soak up every moment. It’s the edge of a cliff that you are so excited to jump off that you forget to stop and take in the view from the top.

Three weeks from tomorrow my bags will be packed, my tears will be flowing, and my heart will be bursting as I make my way from my beloved adopted home in Austin to my treasured first one in the forests of New York. I’ll spend another three weeks there saturating myself with the love and warmth of family and lifelong friends, and then set sail for an untamed and unplanned journey to the jungle with my main squeeze. After years of talking, thinking, and dreaming, we finally pulled the trigger and started making the real changes that would enable us to live a life on the road. My toes are so close to the edge of that cliff that I can feel the breeze caressing my face every time I close my eyes.

But then I open my eyes again, and the real work begins. How can I keep these daydreaming eyes wide open for the last few weeks of this chapter? Rather than rushing ahead to the next chapter and speed reading until I find out what happens to the girl (!)…I am slowing down. Reveling in each sentence, each word. Reading the details between the lines of each moment that will ultimately foreshadow the future. It’s hard work, but it’s work that I choose. Choosing to slow when I want to move fast, when others want me to move fast, I move slow.

It’s not easy, and I get distracted easily. I’m busy prepping my bags and cleaning out my closets; mundane work that is fueled by reveries of waterfalls and soundscapes of the wild. But then I remind myself, Be here…for now. Be present in these little moments. Feel the hot Texas sun on your bones. Enjoy your morning stroll, rich in appreciation for your neighbors near and far. Blast some tunes as loud as you can when you clean the kitchen. Turn the radio off and roll the windows down on your commute. Say yes to dinner with friends on a work night. Say no to the things that lower your vibration. When I began practicing this little bit of mindfulness, my energy shot through the roof. I had been spending so much time on the merry-go-round of routine that I felt depleted and depressed. Once I jumped off, caught my balance, and sat in the grass looking up at the sky, the energy started flowing. Little by little, the daily practice of staying present began to feed my inspiration. I’m still working on it, but little by little, I know it will become my freedom, my refuge, and the springboard to my next big chapter. But don’t worry, I’ll take my time getting there. Little by little, I’m building my story.

Here Goes Nothin’

Here Goes Nothin.

 

Gotta love when you hear that! We all know that means something that is very much NOT nothin’ is about to go down. So here’s mine.

2017 has been a year of learning. A year of emotional turmoil. A year of many personal highs and even more societal lows. I can remember this time last year, feeling desperately hopeful that we had hit the bottom and the only way left to go was up.  Haaa. While I could go down that rabbit hole (and I will), I’ll save it because there’s another something that’s not quite nothing a’coming.

Three months ago, I decided it was finally time to quit my day job. It wasn’t because it was a soul-sucking, ass-kissing, culture-squashing corporate job, it was quite the opposite. I was managing and Adult Education program for an amazing nonprofit organization with a fantastically supportive team at my side. However, juggling that plus teaching yoga PLUS trying to dip my newly licensed toes in the Massage Therapy world was too much. “My plate overfloweth” and something had to go, so I took my biggest responsibility (and therefore stressor, and therefore Self Identifier) off the books. I went on vacation and didn’t open my email once. I released myself of the need to put out all the fires. I thought it would be liberating. Exhilarating, even.  I did not expect all of my newly freed time to leave me exhausted under a heavy load of guilt, ego, and loss. Months after the clothes from that trip were put away, I’m still here unpacking what it means to no longer work in the nonprofit world, and even deeper, what it means to feel all of these crazy emotions about no longer working in the nonprofit world. I’ve come a long way, but the first few times people asked the daunting “What do you do?” question, I felt like I needed to give them a resume along with my new job title; as if I needed to explain why I’m more than a Yoga Teacher, or not just a massage therapist. It makes me cringe to admit how much value I inevitably put on my super-cool do-gooder past in nonprofit. Ugh.

“A real sign of progress is knowing that your natural worth does not change depending on what you do” –yung pueblo

I read this quote to myself just about every day. The first time I saw it was long before this big transition, I’ve quit many jobs that didn’t serve me and never looked back. Hell, I’d even coached my friends through leaving their own jobs, preaching this same ideal. This time was just so different, it was my turn for the lesson. I know that there are a lot of reasons why I felt defined by this role- I loved what I did. I believed in our mission, wholeheartedly. I left some of the most amazing coworkers I’ve ever had there. I spent a lot of time defending it to my friends and family who just “didn’t get it.” And then I gave it up for something of which they had even less understanding. Stated bluntly, wherever understanding is missing, respect often is unheard of. I am so happy with the work that I do now, but I know that many people that I love dearly cannot make heads or tails of it, and that’s OK.

The purpose of this post is not to defend the virtue of one industry over the other. Let this serve as a reminder that you are not what you do. That your worth is not defined by your paycheck or the hours you put in to earn it. That only your actions can define the person you are. And most importantly, that it works both ways. Everyone knows an asshat that does charitable work and a saint in a cruel industry. There will always be so much more to the story, and defining ourselves and others by our line of work is unrealistic. Just as working for an undesirable company does not automatically make you bad, long hours at a nonprofit does not automatically make you good.

Now I work at a spa. An expensive one at that. Each time I look at my schedule, there is a big part of me that aches for clients that don’t have “Spa Retreat” in their vocabulary. It’s not on my employer to make that happen*, it’s on me. I need to be the person I think I am and go out there and do the work that I value. After weeks spent chewing on these thoughts and cultivating this acceptance, I am finally out of my own way and re-energized on this path. The timing of this epiphany is impeccable too, because…and drumroll please…I’m moving to Costa Rica next month. More to come on that. Here goes Somethin!

 

*Special note, my spa does a TON as a business to give back in other ways, just sayin

Private Yoga?

Is private yoga a thing for normal people? Like, people who have kids and watch too many cat videos and forget their coffee on the roof of the car people? Yes! Private classes are a fantastic way to begin or deepen your practice, and a safe place for connection with the undivided attention of your teacher. Private classes are like a mini yoga teacher training without the hefty investment; it is an chance to examine your practice, increase body awareness, and understand how the words of a teacher translate to your breath and movement. In this setting, you’ll have the opportunity to pick your teachers brain, learn about yourself, and develop the confidence and skills to truly listen to your the innate wisdom of your own body.

Learn the Basics

For most, access to classes is not the main barrier to entry. Yoga has exploded in popularity across the country and throughout the internet community. A quick google search delivers endless results of local gyms, studios, and online platforms offering yoga to the masses. But that’s just it- masses of people are turning out, and that can be intimidating for anyone first attempt to jump in. As with any new practice, a lack of familiarity with the ‘norms’ and ‘culture’ is a strong deterrent. Add Insta-famous yogis and expensive gear to the mix and you’ve got a perfect storm of NOPE.

Here’s the secret though- all of those barriers are usually (never say never) just preconceived notions created by our own fears of looking silly. Yoga is for everyone (more here), but it’s easy to see why a public class can be intimidating. Taking a few private classes is a fantastic way to increase your awareness of the practice, it’s benefits, and what the heck to do when you get to a public class. In the safety of a one-on-one setting, you’ll gain the confidence you need to ask questions as they come up and geek out about the changes you feel (or don’t!). In building a strong relationship with your teacher, you will be emboldened to unlock the teacher within.

Every Body’s Different

As a bodyworker, this is a biggie for me. Every body is so very different! You don’t have to be a beginner to benefit from a private yoga class here and there. Teaching public classes means you teach to the average body- there are certain tried and true cues that most teachers will default to, taking time to problem solve as they can, but ultimately doing what they can to keep everyone as safe as possible. Private classes give you the opportunity to figure out why that Warrior One never quite feels right, or what it means to “isometrically pull your hipbone into it’s socket” (whut?). There are just some postures that can be workshopped and adjusted so that you reap the same benefits without putting your musculature at risk. Remember, flexibility is not mobility, and vice versa. There are some body structures that will not take traditional postures, and that’s okay. A skilled teacher can identify and modify for those unique variations in a private setting, empowering you to do the same in a public class.

Accountability

Let’s face it- everyone wants to be reliable. When your name is marked down in someone else’s planner, you’re more likely to follow through with that commitment. Working in a private setting will hold you more accountable to your practice and help protect the space you’ve dedicated to achieve your goals. Blowing off the internet lady is easy, but skipping out on an hour with that super enthusiastic teacher down the road? Not so much! In being accountable to each other, we learn to be accountable to the practice too!

It all comes back to the relationship you forge with your teacher; a private practice will help you gain skills and familiarity with the physical practice, but on top of that you’ll also find that you’ve gained a teacher that supports you, motivates you, and has your back when Life things happen. We all come to yoga for different reasons, but there is typically an underlying theme of desire for change, and change doesn’t happen in the comfort zone. In cultivating a practice, we upgrade our toolbox of ways to spin lemons into lemonade.  A private teacher is there to remind you why you want the changes that brought you to the mat, and hold you to that commitment as you bust through your boundaries.

Build a Home Practice

For many of us, routinely making it to a studio isn’t the most efficient way to get on the mat. A home practice gives you more autonomy over your schedule, especially if you travel a ton, have little ones to think about, or simply don’t live near a studio that inspires you. Luckily, the internet was invented and anyone with a decent wifi connection has on-demand access to world-class teachers for about as much as a Netflix subscription. While it’s great to have someone to virtually guide you through their sequence, it is very much a one-sided conversation without space for dialogue.  A regular private session is a wonderful supplement to your home practice, giving you the opportunity to play an active role in the conversation- What do you like? What doesn’t feel good in your body? How can you safely build up to the more advanced options? Private sessions are tailored to your needs, body mechanics, and goals. Your teacher can point you in the direction while you do the work in your home practice.

Deepen Your Practice- without the extras

I can’t stress it enough- everyone comes to yoga for different reasons. Someone looking to yoga as a form of physical exercise will have preferences vastly different from their spiritually-motivated neighbor. For some of us, yoga is the way to kickstart the day and add a fire to our bellies. Others use the space as a way to find peace, quiet, and inspiration. Most commonly, it’s a bit of each. Whatever the reason, dropping in on a public offering can be a crap shoot. In a private session, you get to define what the practice looks like. Enjoy astrological anecdotes? Say so. Hate hearing Rumi quotes? Say so. Prefer to classic rock over Native American Flute music? Say so. Want to know about the mythology behind the postures? You guessed it…SAY SO! Yoga is always your practice, but a private setting give you the power to mix and match exactly which ingredients go in to your particular brand of practice. Finding this secret recipe sows the seeds of a deeper practice- somewhere you actually want to go. As you dive deeper, you may find that the original reason you came around starts to change- and your teacher is there to accompany you in that new space.

 

All in all, yoga is a massive topic that can be broken down into infinite pieces marinated in “shoulds” and “coulds” and sprinkled with “do’s” and “don’ts.”  At the end of the day, you are the gatekeeper to your own practice, and all of this mumbo jumbo is simply a suggestion to chew on. Unlocking the split between mind and body can help bring you to your own conclusion, and it never hurts to try something new! If you’re on the fence about entering a yoga class at your local studio or have found the internet community as less than motivating, try a private class on for size. If it doesn’t fit…on to the next. ❤

I ran out of gas today…

I ran out of gas today. I really did. Literally, car stopped moving on I-35 as I was about to exit onto one of the famous, MASSIVE Texas highway overpasses (and you know that every time I drive on one of those damn things I hold my breath out of fear that a simple sneeze could send me flying though the air like a not-so-romantic version of Sandy and Danny riding into the clouds…fan fiction background here).

Back to the highway. As I stood there in the median between highway and exit, between shrieks of potential sideswipes and soundless screams of profanities, I pondered my own predicament and the series of events that put me there. Quite simply, I had chosen to be there. I’ve never been out of gas, but I have ALWAYS pushed that limit to see just how far I could get. I even got a bit of a thrill at the station when I inevitably stopped to fill up, looking to see how much longer I could have gone. It’s stupid and I know that. Sorry Momma. Needless to say, I helped myself to a healthy serving of Life Lesson and will no longer play this “just a bit longer” game with my gas tank.

I have a bit of a habit of being on E, in more ways than one. I push and push the outer limits, sure that I can defy the rules of time and space because I’m special. As my car not-so-gently reminded me today, Not So. I spent the rest of the day a bit startled, but also introspective. What other areas of my life are on Empty? Where else have I been neglecting a good fill up?I’ve been going for just about as long as I can remember. I graduated high school when I was 16 because I was bored and doubled up on classes. In college, I took every course I could possibly fit, one more each semester just to graduate with two majors and two minors that I BARELY use.  Now I’m “adulting” by “balancing” colored blocks in my planner with three jobs and my daily doses of sunshine therapy, exercise, and invaluable time with loved ones. My days are long, my mind wayfaring, my eyes heavy. I’ve neglected certain creative outlets (like this one) and my words are stiff after months of a silent keyboard. Despite it all, I am happy. Things feel good. I’m no stranger to the depths of the dark downs, but my ups have been particularly pleasant as of late.

I know I owe much of my happiness to the acceptance I’ve cultivated through a committed relationship with mindfulness (Okay, and the recent purchase of a heavy bag helps…). I gain a new, more robust perspective with each experience, each person, each journey, and this big picture helps calm my old anxieties. BUT, is this feeling REALLY happiness, or am I simply well-adjusted? My habits haven’t changed, only my attitude, and that is really just a meager step on a lifelong path. I pride myself on having firm boundaries to make time EACH day to do the things I love…but it’s just that- I’m doing things, always. I’m living on my reserve tank, filling up only when it’s convenient and nonchalantly daring my gas pedal to fail me. Now I have the opportunity to Learn; there are no ordinary moments. I know that I will never run out of gas again, and I say that with vigor and without space for ifs. I will not choose to learn this lesson again. I have the power to control the gas in my car, and my challenge now is to control symbolic tank fueling the miles I pace each day.

Your turn. Let us be ever aware that every car has a different size tank, mileage, and type of fuel. My lil 13-gallon tank will never compare to yours. Same goes for my Reality. Holding difference as given and comparisons aside, where is the little orange arrow pointing on your gauge? When is the last time you checked your gauge to ensure its accuracy? What is the quality and quantity of fuel you are using, and how frequently do you stop at the pump? Answer today, tomorrow, and each day until your pattern emerges, then do something (or nothing).

 

P.S. Thanks Practice Yoga Austin for the best yogi memes, appropriately featured here. You da real MVP and I love ya.

 

Warning: This is a Rant. But I’d love for you to read it.

I’m upset.  My stomach is turning and words are stumbling out of my fingers wondering how far I’ll go before deleting this entire post and continuing on with my day.  As you may or may not have noticed from the lack of posts over the last 6, 8, 12 months…I’ve got shit to do today, I don’t have time to write.  But I think this is important.  So here it goes.

In light of recent events, there is a lot to be upset about.  Listening to the media would have you feeling like society as we know it is crumbling down to the ground one shot at a time. I’ve spent a good chunk of my time just wondering how much time I should spend thinking about my role in this- what should I think, how should I act; do I go about my day like nothing happened and keep high spirits?  Do I reach out to friends and followers on social media, expelling opinions like I’m turning a profit on them?  Times like these challenge our civility and beg the question: How do I Be?

Today was different.  I woke up to another report of a sickened individual with a vengeance grown on pure hatred and fear, hunting and haunting another group of innocent people.  Most alarmingly, my first thought was not what happened, but when will this happen next…and to whom?  I’ve come to realize that I no longer feel shocked by the radical actions of the chronically fearful, but instead I myself feel fear for when these same individuals forcefully enter my personal circle.  Fear.  The same emotion I’ve been unpacking since starting this blog.  Fear and all its friends.

Still, this isn’t what I’m here for.  It was a later news report that finally tipped the scales.  Enter the newly passed GOP Platform. Yes, it’s getting political.  Feel free to jump off the ship now if you want, no questions asked.  The GOP Platform, amidst the chaos that surrounds this obsessively publicized campaign, has decided to move to the right of DONALD TRUMP when it comes to LGBT issues.  As in, stamping a big exclamation point on the otherwise fading ultra-conservative subgroup of constituents.  As in, including language that is specifically symbolic in nature to further solidify the party’s efforts to marginalize a community just as it grasps its first glimpse of equality along the horizon.  As in, forcing an ill-equipped and abused teenage girl into become a parent while legislating away the right of a loving couple to provide a safe home to a child.  As in, alienating an entire community from the conservative ballot and consequently invigorating partisan extremism.  As in, planting a nearly identical seed of the institutionalized inequality- and subsequent fear/hate therein- that has driven us to this point in the first place; at the risk of overusing a cliche, history unlearned is doomed to repeat itself.  There are countless incomprehensible prime-time news stories today that will become the incomprehensible histories for future generations to examine…but this is something we are actively choosing to allow by passively refusing to take control.

When it comes to the tragedies and the travesties that have thrust their way into our daily experience at increasing frequencies, I am at a loss for answers.  We cannot change the demented crusade that has berated our society, we can only learn from it.  Our individual lessons will not be duplicated, but they will lend meaningful action to the collective conversation when transmitted from the heart.  My lesson: do not draw lines between what someone can and cannot do because of an arbitrary category that the disembodied voice of the masses has created.  Do not cheapen the experience of another because you have not shared in it- they are not wrong for the lessons life has passed to them and not you.  Do not give in to the fear of an ego that accepts only sameness in others.  Celebrate the differences, show love to a stranger, and treat yourself the way you want others to treat you.  Spill out the courage and impartiality from your heart to drown the flames of hatred rather than feeding them with fear.  Find the little cracks that YOU can change- be it a targeted joke, throwing fair and informed punches in constructive arguments, or simply letting that car merge on the freeway- and patch them before they split wide open in a cataclysmic debasement of Us.  I could care less who you are voting for in November so long as you know what you are supporting.  The history books are counting on you.

Good Morning, Sunshine: 10 Ways to Make Sure You Kick Ass Today

This one has been on my mind for a while now, and it’s time to share.  Mornings are lovely and exciting times for everyone; the sun opens its warm shiny rays upon us, birds are singing, animals frolicking- the world is waking and YOU get to witness it!  Unless you are not a Morning Person…in which case mornings are your sworn enemy- a time when you are rudely robbed of your right to bask in the glorious cloud of dreamland.  If you hit snooze multiple times on your several alarms, rush out the door, and hope to someone there is coffee in the office, READ ON.  We’re going to take this slow, and we’re going to do this together.

Daily Disclaimer:  I am not naturally a Morning Person, so I (absolutely) do not do all of these things every day.  Some days it is difficult to drag myself out of bed and I have to eat my words for breakfast.  One thing is for sure, on the mornings that I hit the most of these targets, I have the very best days.  Think of this as a menu of options for your own daily dose.  And then expand. Grow.  Brush your Teeth.  Call your mom.  Okay, I’m done.

1.  Stop Pressing Snooze

This may seem obvious, but it is important to be honest with yourself the night before.  A good morning routine starts before you even get into bed.  Take a moment at the end of the day to rehash your experience.  Do this OUT of bed so that you don’t carry along as an obstacle to sleep.  Set your alarm clock for a reasonable (and achievable) time to wake up, not a reasonable time to start pressing snooze.  Give yourself a little pep talk about that time, and mentally set your body clock for the same time.  By eliminating the unpredictability of when you will wake, you increase your chances of a more meaningful sleep.  The simple act of anticipating a good night’s sleep actually increases the chances of it occurring.

2.  Move

An important first step to your morning routine is simply taking one.  Or maybe a few.  Go for a walk until your eyes open.  Focus on open-chain movements and calisthenics, finding rhythm in your mind, body, and breath.  Yes, I know that you don’t have time to exercise/go to yoga/run 5 miles…save the excuses and make time for just five minutes of movement.  Although I love to work my way through 30 minutes of the Ashtanga Primary Series followed by a solid savasana, there are (many) days when I don’t have time.  My favorite alternative is to take a walk while shuffling my legs like a Olympic hurdler and moving my arms like a crazy person pretending to swim along the sidewalk.  Bonus points if it’s raining.

3. Think

The same way you did last night before bed, take a moment to set an intention for your day.  That Morning Person I mentioned in the intro loves mornings because they serve as one a beautiful backdrop emanating a delicate balance of peace and energy that is marvelous in the truest sense of the word.  So do it; marvel at it.  Sit and listen to your body and the way your breath naturally dances with the nature around you.  Things are coming to life, and  you are lucky enough to bear witness to it.  Let it inspire you to be just as amazing throughout the day.

4. Drink

Don’t forget to hydrate for your day.  You’ve been sleeping for the last few hours and your body has been working hard.  Fill that gas tank!  Schlepping down some agua first thing in the morning will do wonders for the cells in your body and leave you feeling refreshed and ready to take on the day.  Personally, I think it helps fend off the impending coffee jitters though I have no scientific proof of the relationship.  I’m chronically on the verge of dehydration because I get too distracted to listen to my thirst siren, but starting my day with a big Spring water has helped me stay privy to my needs.

5. Cold Showers

This one took me a long time to embrace, but I promise it is worth it- especially on those days that I only have time for one or two morning activities.  There are plenty of gnarly dudes in the Cold Thermogenesis field worth giving a look and listen, and finding your own way to incorporate it into your routine is key.  My quick tips?  Pay attention to your breath and your shoulders, make plenty of noises.  If you are holding your breath, your shoulders are raised- both no no’s in the stress-release world.  Once you mentally prepare yourself to hop in, continue breathing controlled, smooth breaths.  You’ll never need coffee again (stay tuned).

6.  Stay Naked

Who says you have to put clothes on the moment you dry off?  One of my favorite taboos on my To Tackle List is Nakedness.  The only way to get over your own aversion to it is to practice it.  Stay naked for as long as you can, wherever you can.  If you are lucky enough to get some sun on those buns, do it!  Pay attention to the way being naked makes you feel.  Does it feel wrong?  Sexual?  Embarrassing? Do you feel that your body is connected to your mind at all?  The art of being naked in non-sexual situations is incredibly energizing and equally intriguing if you take the time to analyze your feelings about it.

7.  Unplug.

Notice the punctuation here.  There is no question mark, and no room for ‘unless’es and ‘until’s.  Put the phone down.  If you are in a profession that requires you to be accessible, keep the volume on but seriously just put it down.  Emails can wait.  Texts can wait.  Facebook can absolutely wait.  If someone needs you as badly as you think they do, they can call you.  The only person able to enforce the work-life balance is one that makes a promise to their self about boundaries and enforces it.  No one else is going to do it for you.  If you want to fully dedicate yourself to your profession, make sure you have the best self to give.  Take your naked morning coffee moment and savor that shit.

8. Create

Make something.  Let your inherent ingenuity out of its cage.  You don’t have to paint a masterpiece or make a spectacularly crafted meal (but if you do, c’mon over to my house).  It can be as simple as making your bed.  Do anything that is a small accomplishment that you can take a bit of pride in.  It’s the proverbial “step in the right direction” that can set the tone for the rest of your day.

9. Learn

Spend a little time educating yourself about something you are interested in.  Read a book or newspaper.  Get those neurons firing about something that excites you.  Start thinking critically and write down ideas that pop up.  Clearing the fog in your brain before you get to work is an essential ingredient to the “How is she always so on?!” reaction.  Plus, you get to learn stuff!  Stuff and things (ie: passions) are good for keeping in touch with your youness and the world you plan to interact with today.

10. Protect

This one is admittedly general, but make your morning your thing and guard that bubble of gold to the death.  Stop telling yourself that you don’t have time for you.  I get it; I’m not a mother, I’m not an executive, I’m not responsible for your typically defined “high stakes” anything, but I am happy.  I work hard in an emotionally demanding industry, and I’m able to give myself to my work each and every day…Just don’t expect me to drop my morning for you (okay well once and a while, sure…but I’ll be sure to accomplish at least a few things first).  I’ve made this clear to those that depend on me, and I set that alarm early enough to be ready to answer their calls when they need me.  So yes, this may sound naive, but what if it’s not?  I dare you to try.

Gen Why: The Problem with Millennials

The Millennials.  Oh, the Millennials.  Everyone has something to say about this rambunctious group of young people taking over the planet…literally (pun intended…literally).  Who are we?  Why are we making headlines?  And why is it so damn hard to understand us?  The corporate world doesn’t know what to do with us; Marketing firms have their very own subject devoting to engaging us; Older generations scoff at us just hoping the next generation will save us…and if you’re anything like me, our parents are absolutely terrified of us.  I’m not speaking from experience, but as far as I’ve heard, we are something so acutely undefined that society trembles at the mere thought of us.  But here’s the kicker…our numbers indicate that WE are society.  So, what is it that makes us so different than every other generation?

Problem No. 1: Definitions

Generation Y is loosely defined as anyone born in the time spanning the early 80’s to early 2000s.  We’re the first crowd to come of age in the new millennium (ahem, the name).  Anyone from 12 to their mid thirties could technically be categorized as a Millennial, and that’s a huge spread.  In some cases, parents could be in the same generation as their kids.  How exactly are you supposed to define a group of people so large?  It’s easy, just use the word diverse, which is admittedly accurate but about as telling as the Natural Flavor label we’re all protesting.  Trying to confine us to this ambiguous un-definition is a problem.  And you wonder why we’re all so avidly trying to break away from labels!  The one that is most commonly ascribed to us is completely irrelevant, so it follows that we rebel against any others you try to pin to us.

Problem No. 2: Society’s Box

We are essential a society of boxes.  Humans just love to categorize things, it’s the way our brain works (or so the brainiest in our society tell us).  Millennials are sick of the categories, and we aren’t confining ourselves to the solid structures our parents so happily passed on to us.  We grew up in hand-me-downs and we don’t want or need any more of them.  Our world is quite literally bigger than our parents’ was as we grow more and more connected and find easier ways to experience life in every different corner of the world.  Backpacking through Europe for the summer out of college has turned into years spent as nomads chasing our dreams and living on pennies, smiles, and the pure knowledge acquired from living in cahoots with foreign soul siblings.  We embrace the ways in which we don’t fit in a box, and celebrate the uniqueness in others.  We all go through the same awkward, mortifying (thanks to the explosion of social media, selfies, and the “share” button) stages in life when our confidence is knee high to a grasshopper, but luckily the elders of our beloved Gen Y are there for us with powerful campaigns to reach out to each other in moments of need.  The confidence that follows is a force to be reckoned with.

Problem No. 3: Success

It’s suddenly cool to have a passion, not stacks of cash.  We absolutely do not define the quality of our life by the depth of our pockets.  And who could blame us for questioning this paradigm?  We went to college like we were told, traded our souls for a diploma, and got strapped with crippling debt that will last until we’re sixty.  Money means almost nothing to a person with $100,000 of debt accruing interest- especially when it was spent on a Brand (college) of education that does almost nothing in the workforce. When we do amass a bit of extra money, we spend it on things that improve the richness of our experience, not flashy toys to look at.  If you ask most of us, we’d be perfectly happy living a simple life on the country side surrounded by the ones we love;  Love is the thing that drives us- a love for each other, a love for a cause, and most importantly, a love for ourselves.  You would never ask the person you love most to work a lousy job that made them absolutely miserable.  As we grow into the shoes of self-love, we treat ourselves with this same tenderness.  So yes, the head honchos of previous generations may call us soft and unmotivated…but more than likely it’s because we’re gearing up to walk out of that awfully lit cubicle for the last time with a big ol’ Fuck It stamped to our backs.  You can’t quit something you never really started.  More and more Millennials are rising to executive levels and six-figure positions and trading it all in to follow their dreams.  Don’t take it personally, ‘cus we don’t.

Problem No. 4: Entitlement

It’s easy to get caught up in stereotypes of the few of us that emit the pungent air of Entitlement wherever they go, but don’t put that on all of us; there are bound to be a few in every crowd.  It’s not so much that these folks are bad, they are an extreme case of what a lot of us believe in: the idea that there is more to life than just getting a job, finding a S.O. to marry (in extravagant fashion), having kids…you know the story.  This is not to say that Millennials are anti-marriage or family, we are just waiting longer to dive in.  We are living longer than ever and there is less of an emphasis on the race to family life.  We are beginning to understand the difference it makes to know who you are before you try to raise another human or promise your life to one.  In true Millennial fashion, we question the societal pressure to “settle down” and its apparent measure of well-being.  Back to Entitlement- I will be the first to admit that there is certainly a crowd of folks in our generation that wear this word proudly and make the rest of us shake our heads.  However, there is also a bit of a blurred line between Entitled and Unsatisfied.  We are more willing to up and quit it all not because we feel that our 40 hours aren’t valued, but because we don’t value those 40 hours.  If it feels like a waste of time or goes against the standards we’ve set for ourselves, no amount of money will make us feel satisfaction.

Problem No. 5: Gen Why

My very favorite attribute of my fellow Millennials; we are the pinnacle, the epitome, the alpha, and the omega of the WHY.  We simply do not allow a statement to linger unquestioned.  We are curious creatures with an affinity for investigating.  If you tell us it’s healthy, we want to know exactly what it has in it and why it belongs in our body.  If you tell us its dangerous, we want to know who decided and how they came to that conclusion.  We absolutely do not adhere to the “Because I said so” or even the simple “No.”  We care about what is going on in (and to) the world, and we’ve lost a lot of trust in authority figures  (sorry y’all, but you haven’t been exactly a beacon of assurance!).  The idea that someone has a more important voice than any other someone is suffocating to us, and we won’t stand for it.  We have an unprecedented understanding of the different walks of life that bring us all to the same table, and we value each and every individual as much as we value ourselves.  We know that experience fosters learning, and given that each person will experience life through different eyes and realities, we are hungry to learn from and with one another in a mutual exchange of information achieved through good conversation, a bit of wine, and a lot of questions.

Last Thoughts

Millennials are inquisitive folks, and we have infinite access to information at the tips of our fingers.  We have the ability, creativity, and information we need to follow our passions and we do so.  We enjoy making connections–rather than competitions–with each other.  We’re finding our deepest selves and what makes us tick in a way that no generation has taken the time to, and it’s making us more confident and innovative than ever before.  Our generation spans almost 30 years of growing, and we’ve got a lot to show for it.  But maybe Millennials aren’t so different, maybe society is undergoing a “House on Mango Street”-esque coming of age.  We challenge the boundaries that the previous generation has created to keep society in line and in doing so we are inspiring growth, connectivity, and an ambiguity in which this fearless generation takes comfort.

A Note on Hipsters: Okay, yes, I too giggle at people that spend inordinate amounts of money to get clothing that looks just thrifty enough…but I also spend more time than I’m willing to admit putting on makeup that looks like I’m not wearing makeup so am I really one to judge?  Nah.  The case I want to address here is when people, even Millennials, complain about “the hipsters taking over.”  I live in Austin, Texas.  I get it.  But you’d probably be lying if you said hipsters don’t bring their own gamut of insanely delicious food and drink.  It’s creativity that you can physically consume and it’s fantastic.  Often pricey, but fantastic.  Now, if you’re going to charge me $7 for a PBR I’ll probably just turn around and leave.  But then again, I probably wouldn’t order one anyways when you have such a huge selection of locally crafted beers on tap.  Stop hating on the hipsters yall!