A few weeks ago I found myself on the receiving end of a natural disaster, except this time around, I wasn’t the one who had to experience it firsthand.
At the start of this year, I was practicing two languages – French and Spanish – and mainly used Duolingo to keep on top of my daily studies (I’ve since dropped French and have been focusing solely on Spanish).
While my Spanish to begin with isn’t too bad – thanks to many years of language class in school – it still helps to keep up with it. However, as the days drag on, I find myself more focused on “getting it out of the way” rather than truly taking in the language. My vocabulary is extensive. My practical grasp on the language, one the other hand, is not.
Once you get into a certain habit, it becomes second nature. Unfortunately in a lot of cases, that also means you’re just going through the motions. You do it because that’s what you do. It’s a simple matter to open up a phone app, reach your (or the app’s) goal, and carry on about your day. It becomes second nature in a bad way, and instead of absorbing it all, you’re doing it with no real useful outcome. In some ways, you’re making it harder on yourself because you need to go back and re-learn it.
I’m not saying that practice is bad. Far from it. At times it can be very helpful and in this particular situation, my vocabulary has grown, and that’s not a negative. But to blindly follow along with something just because, you forfeit (and often forget) important critical thinking that allows you to truly learn.
When I was a Peace Corps Volunteer, we were taught (lol) about the dangers of rote memorization, or “chalk and talk” as it was so lovingly referred. Practice is fine. Blind practice is not. You learn nothing but how to hone your short-term memory, how to pass a test, and how to forget whatever it was immediately after. This is a lesson I have to remember with myself and my personal goals, and not just when it comes to learning a topic like with Spanish.
With that in mind, I (we) need to take a more proactive approach to active learning. In order to escape the tedium of blind practice, it’s important to step up and step out. How else are we to learn if we don’t give ourselves a chance?
It’s so easy to make excuses for ourselves. Not in the, “Sorry, I would love to babysit your pet ostrich, but if you’ll excuse me…” way, but in the “Well I can’t do that because…” way.
But what’s the difference between giving an excuse and giving an explanation?
Over the past month, I’ve cycled through every major emotion—and a few minor ones, too. Happiness, sadness, joy, anger, jealousy, grief… you name it.
Naturally, the ones that stick out most are the negative emotions. These are tied to fairly large events that have transpired in the past 30 or so days. To explain one of these events: I was on the waiting list for a particular job for months. I spoke with HR multiple times, only to be kept in the dark (HR was with me on that, too, so it’d be remiss to blame them). Last week, I was told the job was made redundant, and so, the hope I’d carefully built for that opportunity was dashed.
It was upsetting. Who wouldn’t be upset by that? But, I had to remind myself that this was just one in a sea of thousands. Still, I have a bad habit of nursing negative emotions far longer than I should (and I assume many others as well). In reality, we shouldn’t hold back on feeling them. Bottling them up will do more harm than good in the long run. Don’t ruin your life because you cannot let go. Let them cycle through you, allow yourself to feel whatever it is you’re feeling (safely), and be prepared to let it go once it’s run its course.
The great thing about emotions is that they’re temporary. Sure, they might mix and mingle and confuse us, but at the end of the day, we can lie down and awaken with a fresh slate. It might be hard for bigger events in our lives, but we will not feel that way forever. Tomorrow may turn out to be the best day of your life. And even if it isn’t, remember that no feeling is final.
These three simple words, like many three-word phrases, hold a lot of weight and a lot of confusion.
I wrote the title of this post as a sort of internal joke to myself; I genuinely didn’t know what I wanted to write about. But, as is nearly always the case, my mind has drummed up something for the captivated masses.
All five of you.
Whoa, two posts about exercise? Weird. But while we’re on the topic, why not?
As mentioned in my previous post, I’ve started taking my exercise routine seriously. And part of this is attributed to me shrugging off the awkwardness that inevitably ensues when you’re flailing about your room, sweating buckets and panting heavily.
Rather, I had to shrug off the idea that I couldn’t comfortably exercise in my own house because other people would see me, or walk in on me, or generally be an inconvenience to me (and I to them).
I am learning how to own my own space.
Since about March of this year, I’ve been getting back into the habit of exercising. I like to exercise at night, not for any particular reason. I guess it makes me feel like I’m working for my bedtime.
The idea of willingly putting myself through so much torture was, at one time, unheard of. But now, I find myself looking forward to working out more and more. I still don’t entirely identify with people who work out all day every day, but I do set aside about a half-hour five days a week. And, while I don’t exercise a ton, I’m starting to understand how people can get addicted to the feeling.
Sometimes I push myself too hard and too far, resulting in many sore and strained muscles. When I feel pain – not just average “workout” discomfort, but genuine pain – I stop. I have to listen to my body and give it a rest. I don’t give up on exercising entirely, but I’ll allow myself a day or two to heal.
I find this is harder to do with other pursuits; grappling with the idea of stopping versus stopping “for now” can be a challenge. For example, when I’m trying to write something (such as this post), and I’m hit with writer’s block. There are some days where it feels like I should give up completely, but then I have to remind myself: I’m not stopping, I’m just standing still. Stopping implies an end.
It’s okay to take a break once in a while. It’s okay to breathe. There are times when stopping, full-stop, is necessary. There are other times when a pause is all you need.
Just stand still, catch your breath, and keep moving forward.