You’ll spend your whole life waiting for the water to turn on.

A few weeks ago, I washed my hands as I usually do after going to the bathroom. I enlisted two pumps of soap, rubbed my hands together quickly, and rested them under the faucet to rinse off. My mind wandered as I stood for about ten seconds waiting for the water to turn on.

It didn’t.

With frustration and soapy hands, I walked over to the next sink and did the same gesture: hands under faucet, signaling the water to take its course. Just as I was about to pull my hands back with another fit of frustration, I realized there were two knobs sitting on both sides of the sink.

I looked up at myself in the mirror, shook my head, and turned one of the knobs with an, are-you-kidding-me, laugh.

And that’s when it hit me:

I would have spent my whole life waiting for the water to turn on.

Okay, maybe I wouldn’t have waited my whole life – I would have, at least, tried a few more sinks. Is this what 30 feels like?

While my current reality doesn’t feel much different than 28 or 29, I do feel more responsible. Specifically, I feel more responsible for taking care of myself – for finding inner peace; for reflecting more intentionally; for guarding my heart; for taking risks.

For turning knobs.

I think I experienced my 20s with an assumption that the water would always turn on. And it usually did for me. I was privileged enough to almost always have “clean hands.” And even in the darker times of my past decade, I still held this expectation while knowing it was not always or actually going to be the case.

And as such, I am now more aware of the work I need to do in moving forward.

I accept that the only two feet I can stand on are my own.

More than #selfcare, this is my vision of self work. Self work is hard. Self work is unconventional. Self work is the antithesis of self-help. Self work matters.

In order to become a better and more capable human being, I am aware that no one is going to do the work for me. I have to do the work myself. Sometimes, it’s easy. Sometimes, it’s complicated. Sometimes, we look into the mirror and know what and when and how we need to change. Sometimes the faucet turns on.

And sometimes it doesn’t. And that’s okay.

When I turned 30, I expected there to be some incredibly revealing moment that would help guide me into the next decade of life. I expected 30 to be a lifetime supply of “water.” I expected vulnerability and change to be expired, and a new freedom to emerge as a beacon of hope for me to cling on to.

But today, 30 feels a lot like 29. And 28. And that’s totally okay.

I’m still vulnerable. And I’m still hopeful for change.

Here’s to the introspection. Here’s to the knobs. Here’s to self work.

Faucet-forward,

Michael

Oxygen Mask Warrior

In education, it’s easy to pause and ask the daunting question, “What will they do without me?”

In fact, if you work in any student services or client-based field, this question has probably crossed your mind at least once in your career (and for some, once, per week). I certainly had this moment as I prepared to leave my previous posting in higher education, and covered it some in the piece, “The Educator Curse.”

I recently visited with one of my closest friends, who is currently torn between a huge possible job opportunity versus staying in his current position. Mixed within the layers of, “What if,” the aforementioned question, “What will they do without me,” was certainly alive and well throughout our conversation. And this was, however, a bit surprising to me. Up until this moment, I had always viewed this particular friend as an oxygen-mask warrior.

safety_oxygen_maskYes, you read that right: Oxygen Mask Warrior

I’m talking about making you your #1. I’m talking about securing your own oxygen mask before assisting others. I’m talking about making yourself matter.

This specific friend has always been one of the few people in my life to argue, “Michael, take care of you first,” and in the most, if-you-can’t-love-yourself-how-in-the-hell-are-you-going-to-love-somebody-else, kind of way. Furthermore, he has modeled the way in doing this, living as an example to me in all of his actions. But life happens, and sometimes we forget how capable and unique and talented and worthy we are.

And, all of this leads me to the question, Is your oxygen mask secure? 

Amidst the busy weeks, crazy hours, long nights, and unpredictable life moments, are you an Oxygen Mask Warrior? Are you kind to yourself?

So much of my move to Washington, D.C. is dripping in personal and professional selfishness, and in the best of ways, I have fully embraced this new reality. I’m excited about this. And, in fact, I’m thrilled about it. The only way upward is onward. Secure away, life warriors.

Taking care of me,

Michael

So, you don’t believe in resolutions?

IMG_9962

First off, I get it. Nothing is more annoying this time of year than the, “I promise to lose weight,” “I will be more green,” and, “I will spend less money,” New Year’s swears. I have certainly experienced my own share of declarations shortly after each December 31st, many to ultimately fall short of my original hopes and dreams. And while failure certainly happens, over the years I have learned that resolutions are essential – for all of us. To me, not believing in resolutions is a lot like not believing in hopes, goals, or dreams. And furthermore, “not believing,” can also, at times, come off as, “not supporting.” Let’s pause here for a moment.

Since the last time I used one it resonated really well, I am going to pull from my Grey’s Anatomy tool box, yet again. Please observe the following:

“Fresh starts. Thanks to the calendar, they happen every year. Just set your watch to January. Our reward for surviving the holiday season, is a new year. Bringing on the great tradition of New Year’s resolutions. Put your past behind you, and start over. It’s hard to resist the chance at a new beginning. A chance to put the problems of last year to bed.

Who gets to determine when the old ends, and the new begins? It’s not a day on a calendar, not a birthday, not a new year. It’s an event. Big or small. Something that changes us. Ideally, it gives us hope.

A new way of living and looking at the world. Letting go of old habits, old memories. What’s important is that we never stop believing we can have a new beginning.

But it’s also important to remember that amid all the crap are a few things really worth holding on to.”

What are you letting go of and what are you holding on to? Your own swearing off of resolutions doesn’t mean you aren’t dreaming, hoping, planning, and wishing. And the mere presence of other’s also shouldn’t hinder you from reaching out, supporting, and helping people achieve their short, temporary, and/or long-term goals. Again, “What’s important is that we never stop believing we can have a new beginning.”

A few weeks ago, I had a friend text me with the dilemma of what she wanted to be when she, “grew up.” Facing this same struggle every single day, and with hundreds of dreams always coming in and out of my peripheral, I found some solidarity with her, focusing less on an exact career plan. Instead, I focused on myself, and who I would be rather than what I would be. In fact, I would argue, who we want to be when we grow up is different from what we want to be when we grow up. Now, we can find parts of who we are within that what, but ultimately these are two different concepts. And it was this past few months where I have finally fully grasped and appreciated this sentiment.

unnamedIt has become a new challenge for me, and now a hope for all others. Separate the two. Aside from my aforementioned career-inquiring friend, one of my best friends from college recently reached out to talk about resolutions since she knows I’m a firm advocate for them. She has a goal of losing 50lbs. Of course, I support this, and am so thankful that she feels comfortable to share this with me. But then I started to doubt myself shortly after her confession. And as I grappled with this new information, I started to think about my role in her self-disclosure. Specifically, What responsibility do I now have to my friend to help her, push her, support her, encourage her?

And the answer is, a ton.

In fact, we all do. Sharing a New Year’s resolution is like sharing a secret. Some are big, and some super petty and fun. And either way, both should be engaged carefully and shared thoughtfully. And more than that, each resolution should be respected fully. And this is where the nay-sayer should pause and listen up.

No resolution? Anti-resolution? Embrace this: Focus on you. Focus on who you want to be, how you want to live, and when you are and can be your most authentic self. That’s a start, right? You see, these are the things which matter most. While I support all those aiming to lose weight, spend less, go green, and the list goes on and on, I am, more times than not, suspending my own dreams and destroyed-goals for these very sentiments. Me. And, of course, I challenge you to do the same.

Focus on you this year, and the rest will fall into place.

New year, new you. Embrace life, embrace the best you.

Resolved,

Michael