action, adventure, art, career, creativity, Life, youth

This just in: Marian Cannon Schlesinger, 101, is my new idol

Marian Schlessinger
Marian Schlesinger

Marian Cannon Schlesinger is 101 years old and the ex-wife of Arthur Schlesinger Jr., historian and special advisor to President Kennedy. She’s also my new idol.

“She’s still painting, writing, watching Rachel Maddow, and reading two newspapers a day,” said The Atlantic in a recent interview with her. What struck me most about the interview was her advice to free-spirited women: “Do your thing no matter what…Early on I decided being a painter was what I wanted to be but I wanted to be a lot of other things too. I wanted to write…play tennis…have a lot of friends [and] beaus. I think I’ve been very lucky. But I think that I’ve made some of it for myself. I never gave up. I wanted it all, in other words, and I think I really almost got it all too…Just keep going.”

Thanks, Marian. I will.

community, home, housing, youth

This just in: A win-win housing solution in the Netherlands

In the Netherlands, students live rent-free with seniors at a retirement home in exchange for visiting with the seniors.
In the Netherlands, students live rent-free with seniors at a retirement home in exchange for visiting with the seniors.

No matter how complicated a problem is, there is always a win-win solution. My favorite recent win-win is a cross-generation community solution that I wish was around when I was in college. I could have used it. Heck, I could use it now.

Imagine if students (or entrepreneurs for that matter) could somehow obtain free housing while they were in school (or started their businesses). Now imagine that people in retirement homes could be surrounded by youthful energy. In the Netherlands they put these two needs together, offering free housing to students in retirement homes. In exchange for free housing, the students spend 30 hours per month being “good neighbors” to the elderly residents. They watch sports games together, celebrate birthdays, and visit them when they don’t feel well.

This story made me smile from ear to ear. I hope it makes you feel the same way. What a beautiful, wonderful gift for all of these people, young and old. We really are all in this together.

courage, values, youth

Inspired: The Courage to Be You

af7dba3c3a670aa6a228a62cf1a37ae6We spend a lot of time raising kids to be proud of who they are only to spend time as adults trying to be someone we’re not. We broaden our kids’ horizons and then specialize ourselves right into a corner to get a certain job, to fit in with a specific group of people. Please don’t ever be less than who you are. We need you to shine as brightly as you possibly can because there are so many people counting on you to the light the way. Be there for them by just being you, all of you.

inspiration, letter, writing, youth

Beautiful: CBS This Morning Features Emotional and Inspiring Note to Self by Congressman John Dingell

Congressman John Dingel being sworn into office
Congressman John Dingel being sworn into office

CBS This Morning has an incredible feature called Note to Self that asks prominent people in our society to write a letter to their younger selves and share it with the world. Art Garfunkel, Oprah, Dr. Ruth, Tyler Perry, and Maya Angelou comprise a small handful of people who have participated in the project and each brings a unique blend of comfort, wisdom, humor, and profound understanding to their letters. Congressman John Dingell is about to begin his 58th year serving our nation and his letter is the latest addition to this fine collection. I was transfixed as I heard him and watched him read his four and a half-minute letter to his younger self on Monday’s episode of CBS This Morning. As much as we try to live life in the moment, it can only be fully understood and appreciated in hindsight. Thankfully CBS This Morning is capturing these words so that we may all benefit and learn from them at any age.

Video of John Dingell’s letter to his younger self:

dreams, faith, time, youth

Beautiful: Today’s Reality Was Once Just a Dream

From Pinterest
From Pinterest

No matter where we are in life, there were internal and external battles we had to win to get here. If I’ve learned anything about people over the many years I’ve spent elevating people watching to a high art, it’s that everyone, everywhere, is fighting something every day. Always healing. Always overcoming.

I’m proud of the life I’ve built because of what I had to live through to get here. It’s so improbable on so many levels. If I were to go back and talk to a younger me, 5, 10 or 20 years ago and tell her what life would be like at 37, I’d never believe it. To make a living as a writer, to live where I live, to be blessed by amazing people in my life, to love and be loved so deeply and with such conviction, to have healed so much so I can offer the opportunity to heal to others, I wouldn’t believe it. 17-year-old me would never have been able to fathom it. I can barely believe now, in the midst of living it. It was a journey I never imagined.

When I think of all the dreams I have now, they seem improbable at best. They are so big, much bigger than me. And in those moments, my journey over the past 37 years is a great comfort. I close my eyes and I try to hear the wise voice of 57-year-old me, telling me that all the dreams I have at 37 are only the beginning of what’s in store for me over the next 20 years. I imagine her telling me about incredible things I will do that I have not even been able to fathom because right now they are actually impossible. Someday, and someday very soon, they won’t be because our world and our capabilities are changing, accelerating, so fast. The future is going to be amazing.

Then I open my eyes and take a full deep breath. I feel buoyed by confidence rather than weighed down by too-heavy dreams. I remember that today’s reality is so much more than any 17-year-old me in a tiny rural town ever thought possible. And that keeps me going. I may not be able to see around the bend, but it’s enough to know that someday I will.

creativity, happiness, work, yoga, youth

Beautiful: Interesting Work is the Fountain of Youth

“Find something youre passionate about and keep tremendously interested in it. ~ Julia Child

There is no better feeling than being fully engaged. Energy zings right through your veins. Your heart, mind, and spirit are perfectly aligned in your pursuit. It keeps us young, active, and curious.

That’s exactly how I felt as I started working on designs for a personal and home fashion line that will benefit Compass Yoga. The first campaign will begin at the end of June. As I was working on the designs this weekend, I felt all of my skills snyc together in pursuit of this larger goal to build a self-sustaining organization that gets more yoga to more people in more places.

I’m with you, Julia. This is all it takes to generate a joyful life – do work you love that holds your interest and then find a way to do this work as often as possible.

friendship, Life, love, relationships, stress, work, youth

Beautiful: How to Survive a Quarter Life Crisis

I am a trendsetter – I was having a quarter life crisis long before it was in fashion. 25 year olds, I hear you. I know exactly how it feels to be sitting at your desk that you busted your ass to get by working hard in school and plunging yourself deep into student loan debt, and be haunted by the thought, “Is this it?” (For the record, there are plenty of people of all ages in companies large and small who are thinking the exact same thing and they don’t have any answers wiser than yours.)

Now that you’re 3 years out of college, you may have officially established a fair amount of distance from a friend circle that is literally next door. People get busy. They change. And sometimes we don’t change with them. This is an awful truth about aging of any degree. Times change us.

Maybe you’re in a great relationship, a bad relationship, or no relationship at all. Unfortunately, we’re bombarded in our society by images of happy couples that have no problems and are eternally in love, expect of course in all of the tabloids that we can’t get away from that show love is miserable for everyone. Either way, we’re getting really ugly messages about love and they’re causing us to have unrealistic and harmful expectations, both good and bad, of ourselves and others. In 37 years, this is what I’ve learned about love: we can only expect to get what we give freely.

Add all of this up – the job, the friends, the relationship – and who wouldn’t have a quarter life crisis?

I’ve got one magic bullet for you and you’re not going to like it but it got me through my quarter life crisis (and my 1/3 life crisis, for that matter) and I hope it helps you, too. Stop everything. Put aside your work, friends, relationships, family, bills, responsibilities, worries, disappointments, and fears for 5 minutes every day. Close your eyes, one hand on the heart, one hand on the belly. Breathe so loud in and out through your nose that you drown out the noise of your brain. Get lost in your breath and the absolute f’ing miracle that is you.  

Your parents, friends, teachers, the media, and even our President have told you can do anything you want to do. They told you that you can be anything you want to be. And you can, but here’s the part they didn’t tell you – no one is going to make it happen for you. You have to make it happen for you. Don’t bet on someone else to help you get the life you want. Betting on yourself is a much better bet. You can create it with your own two hands. And that process begins by slowing down.

I know this is not the answer you wanted. It’s certainly not the answer I wanted because it was going to take too long, be too hard, and no one seemed to be willing to guarantee results for me. But I tried everything else, and I mean EVERYTHING else, and it didn’t work. Peace is a daily process; we must constantly tend to it and the only thing that makes that possible is to go in, slow down, and listen to our breath and the beat of our hearts. It’s still the only thing that works for me even today, many years post quarter life.

From one quarter life crisis survivor to another, just try it. Try it for a week. See how it feels. And if you’ve got questions, contact me. Seriously. I want to hear from you and I want to help.

women, youth

Beginning: What It Means to be Young at Heart

“Everyone is the age of their heart.” ~ Guatemalan Proverb via Daily Good

“You look really good for 35.” One of my co-workers said that to me this week. I adore her and I know she meant it as a compliment though it struck me as such an odd thing to say. Exactly what does 35 look like? I turned 35 in March and detailed out 35 things I’ve learned along the way in this lifetime. As I wrote the post, I was continually surprised by how un-35 I felt.

The other day I was brushing my teeth and it happened. One little lone white hair. I immediately ran to Google and found that stray white hairs can happen at any age and one really doesn’t signify anything. I looked a little closer at the mirror. No wrinkles yet. “Good,” I thought. “This oily skin of mine has some upside.” I promptly started to see a dermatologist for the first time in my life to make sure I keep this skin as long as possible. No matter what Google says, that little white hair was a wake-up call. Time is passing by, like it or not. I was surprised by my reaction. Maybe I am not as okay with aging as I thought I was.

And then I saw this Guatemalan proverb on Daily Good’s email. It made me laugh at all my determination to not get older, or at least not to look like I’m getting older. In my heart, I’m still sorting it all out, still experimenting, and still beginning. Now I’m starting to realize that perhaps this sorting is a lifelong process, for the young and the young at heart.

I’m reminded of Sandra Cisnero‘s writing that says we are always all the ages we’ve ever been. We carry that experience, that memory, that outlook with us. Whether or not we have white hair and wrinkles, there’s a part of our heart that is always young. And that is a comfort at any age.

faith, yoga, youth

Step 298: Someone’s Listening

“When you have come to the edge of all light that you know and are about to drop off into the darkness of the unknown, faith is knowing one of two things will happen: There will be something solid to stand on or You will be taught to fly.” ~ Patrick Overton

In the past few weeks, the press has continuously covered the recent rash of suicides among young people across the country. To contribute to a solution, I’m reaching out to a number of youth organizations and schools to see if there are yoga classes I can offer that would be helpful and to see if Innovation Station might be used as a tool to not only build creativity, but to also build community and understanding and tolerance.

On Sunday, I met up with my friend, Sara. We we were in the same yoga teacher training class, and Sara is now studying to be a holistic health counselor. We got to talking about her journey over the past year and how she came to realize that she wanted a career in the wellness field. Once she discovered her calling, she found that the world started opening up possibilities for her to live the life she wanted. Every day she’s amazed by the new opportunities coming her way as a result of articulating her dreams. Universal consciousness is a wise and generous listener.

I wish I could gather together every young person today who is struggling, who doesn’t see a light at the end of the tunnel, who truly believes that life cannot and will not get better. I want them to know what Sara and I have experienced. Yes, it can improve, but more importantly I want to tell them something even better – that someone, somewhere is always listening. They may find that hard to believe when everything around them seems so gloomy. I can tell them from my first-hand experience that I have been listened to and that the world’s energy sprang into action when I needed it most. If we have the courage to give words to our greatest fears and our greatest dreams, if we can ask for help and then accept that help, the world will offer up a way forward. Even in our loneliest, darkest hour, we are not alone. And never will be.

goals, marketing, New York City, priorities, work, youth

Step 237: Do You Want to “Arrive”?

I always know that something is afoot in the universe when the subject of a conversation I have with a friend is echoed in a conversation I have at work the very next day. Last night I had dinner with my friend, Courtney, and we talked a lot about “arriving”, both in a professional and work sense. I met Courtney through my yoga teacher training and as new teachers we’re both trying to find our way through the complicated maze of the wellness industry. She and I are both contemplating full-time career moves as well.

We talked about relationships and living in New York City, a city whose residents strive to arrive in every aspect of our lives and yet are also always reaching for that next rung up. After all, most of us moved here to prove we could make it here, and therefore make it anywhere. (Thank you, Frank, for writing that succinct, poetic line to describe our complicated, collective goal.) Because we live in this delicate balance of thriving and striving, it’s hard to know when we’ve actually made it.

I work full-time as a product developer for a premium financial institution. Like many luxury brands, our brand halo has always had the understanding that once you carry our brand in your portfolio, you’ve made it big time. It’s a sentiment that’s served us well except for one tiny, recent glitch: many young people (young Gen X, Gen Y, and Millennials) don’t feel like they’ve made it yet and therefore don’t have a sense of belonging with our brand as they do with many others. It’s a tough nut for us to crack since we’ve spent over 100 years touting ourselves as aspirational and a recent market study showed that young people today are choosing to grow up later in life than previous generations. The real risk for us is that if we don’t grow loyalty among the youth segment now, we actually won’t be relevant to them once they do feel like they’ve made it.

I’m a cusp Gen X / Gen Y so I understand this mentality. In truth, I’m not sure that I’ll ever feel like I’ve arrived and a large part of me doesn’t want to feel that way. I live in New York City because I actually love striving, pushing my limits, and the feeling I get from growing, intellectually, spiritually, emotionally, and professionally, every day. Honestly, if you’re not interested in growth and change, I would recommend living someplace else. New York City is just too difficult a place to make your home unless you love to push yourself every day. I love New York City – I’m probably a lifer – but it is not for everyone and I understand why people choose to move. There’s no shame in that at all; it’s just a matter of priorities.

When I think about the youth dilemma facing my company, I think we’ve got one clear choice: Do you want to be a brand that rewards people once they feel like they’ve arrived at some idealized financial state or do you want to help people strive, accomplish, and push their boundaries no matter where they are on the “arrival spectrum”. That’s a very different kind of brand attitude that requires a new overarching brand strategy and quite a shake-up at my company. It’s a question worth pondering and acting upon – living in a state of limbo and identity crisis doesn’t help anyone, and in actuality it’s a sure-fire way to become irrelevant. Eventually, you’ve got to say “this is who I am” and be with the people who support that.