7 Things I Learned About Graduate School

It is tough. I recently spoke to a fellow student who was having a hard time. I told her that if graduate school were easy, everyone would do it. That is the honest truth. It takes a lot of time and dedication to get a master’s, MBA, or beyond. Imagine if they gave out degrees at a drive thru window. Would it hold the same esteem it does today? Probably not. When the going gets tough, the tough get going!

Graduate school is a team sport. You are only as strong as your weakest link. Graduate students come from all different educational backgrounds—various majors, online students, community college graduates, etc. This means you are placed in groups for projects with students who may not be as familiar with a subject as you are. Just like any team sport, you have to help each other and bring others up to your level. They will do the same for you when the time comes.

You need a buddy. Or two. Or three. The people! I have met some amazing and talented individuals through my graduate program. Students from all walks of life and located all over the country! It is always good to be in it together. I text almost every day with various people from the program; we keep each other grounded and focused. I’ve made sure to align myself with positive go-getters; these are the folks you want in your cohort!

Online learning is not for everyone. Thankfully I completed my undergraduate program in an online environment, which made it an easy transition to graduate school. In my current graduate program, there are students who struggle with the online approach. Essentially the student is teaching themselves. The learner needs to have the discipline and smarts to figure out tough concepts by reading and synthesizing the information. Some learners require more hands-on teaching and that is okay. It is best to figure out your learning style before you enter an online program.

You learn what you’re made of. I learned I get cranky after a few hours of statistical analysis but I am really great at cranking out A papers in a few hours. I also learned that I feel compelled to teach and help fellow students who are struggling—whether that be with the concepts or to be emotionally supportive. Some students crack under the pressure. You really see what you are made of when you enter graduate school.

Efficient time management is key. When I decided to go to school full-time and work full-time, it was a big decision. I had no idea if I could handle the course load on top of my 40+ hour work week. I am extremely dedicated and I make sure not to squander one single moment. Waiting in line…reading a textbook. Lunch breaks at work…writing a first draft. Every second counts! Weekends aren’t glamorous and most often I am chained to computer. It is all worth it in the end!

You feel proud and accomplished. According to the 2015 Census, only 12% of Americans have an advanced degree, this includes master’s and doctorate degrees. This means as a graduate student, you are doing something that not everyone else is doing. You are learning more, doing more, and going beyond the norm. Personally, this makes me feel extremely accomplished and proud!

Thinking about graduate school and have questions? Let me know!

Finding Happiness in 2017

Look at this picture; I am clearly elated. The beautiful strand of pearls didn’t make me happy. The handmade chiffon skirt didn’t make me happy, nor did the turquoise statement ring. The unknown snorting, bowlegged bulldog running up to me full force, prowling for kisses—now that made me happy! What is my point? Things don’t make us happy. We pack our lives full of stuff. Stuff we want, stuff we think we need. Stuff, stuff, stuff. More and more. Yet those things can overcome us and fill our lives with clutter, both mentally and physically.

happy

Photo Credit: Joe Carpine

I have, for a while now, opted for a lifestyle which requires less and less. I hover on the precipice of minimalism. Over time, I realized all my possessions didn’t bring me joy; it was experiences and it was people (and dogs, of course). The more I freed myself from having the latest and greatest things, the more happiness I felt.

Through our consumption of media we are being sold stuff. Every. Day. In magazines, on social media, on blogs, up on billboards, etc. Buy this car and you will find happiness. Spend X dollars to get this new [gadget/handbag/outfit] and it will bring you complete and utter bliss. Well, no it won’t, that is called marketing. It may give you a dopamine rush with the thought of being “new,” yet once that passes (and it always does), you are right where you started.

“I hope everybody could get rich and famous and will have everything they ever dreamed of, so they will know that it’s not the answer.” -Jim Carrey

Like any human, I still  buy things and hold onto items which I enjoy. I just try to be mindful of what I am purchasing. I think to myself: Do I really need this? Will it bring me joy, not just now, but long-term? Will it last? Can I live without it? And usually, the answer is yes, I can live without it. I also think of what in life really makes me happy, and instead of buying things, I seek out the true joys. Those joys are time with my husband, our dogs, seeing family and friends, my quest for education, photography, blogging, and traveling.

The next time you find yourself cruising the aisles of Target, remember happiness comes from within. De-clutter your life and find the good stuff that lies inside each and every one of us.

Want to read more about my personal story? Check out The Truth About Finding Happiness.

Christmas Questionnaire

screen-shot-2016-12-23-at-9-29-13-pmWhat’s your favorite Christmas movie? I love Elf, Home Alone, and White Christmas!

Have you ever had a white Christmas? Yes, growing up in New England we had more snow than we knew what to do with. This is my first southern Christmas, but I am not missing the frigid temps or snow!

Where do you usually spend your holiday? There is no “usually” for me. This year my husband and I will celebrate here in Georgia. Last year we celebrated in Maine, which was lovely. Who knows where we will be next December!

What is your favorite Christmas song? I love Silent Night, or any songs with a biblical reference. I love listening to music which truly embodies the meaning of the season: the birth of Jesus.

Do you open any presents on Christmas Eve? Yes, I don’t like waiting… I also usually end up giving gifts early because I get so excited to give them.

Which holiday traditions are you looking forward to this year? Making sugar cookies, playing scrabble, going out for Chinese food on Christmas Eve, watching Elf with my husband, and secret santa with the Carpenter crew. I also send out photo cards each year, which is a great tradition and an excuse to have our photo taken!

Is your Christmas tree real or fake? We decided on a fake tree this year due to the clean up factor and pets.

What is your all time favorite holiday treat/food/sweet? I love hot cocoa with whipped cream. Sugar cookies are also up there on the list!
img_4155Be honest, do you like giving or receiving gifts better? Both! I love love love giving. I get too excited to give a gift and always end up giving it early or telling the person. I love seeing the joy in a recipient’s face when they really love their gift.

What is a favorite childhood Christmas memory? One year, my Mom took us to the Trinity Church in Boston for Christmas Eve. We got dressed up and attended the service, it was so beautiful and moving.

What would be your dream place to visit for the holiday season? Colorado or Banff, Alberta.

Are you a pro present wrapper or do you fail miserably? I am somewhere in between. I watched a YouTube video for tips, but they still never look as neat as I would like!

Most memorable Christmas moment? My husband and I shared our first Christmas together last year in Maine. I told him I had never had my own tree (as an adult). He decided to surprise me and found the biggest tree he could, which was over 10 feet tall, and strung it up with lights. It was the most wonderful moment to come home to that huge pine!

What makes the holidays special for you? Being with people I love and celebrating the birth of our Savior. I also enjoy some casual/low-stress time to unwind from a busy year.

I hope everyone has a Merry Christmas!

The No-So Perfect Moments

Life isn’t perfect. Far from it. Although looking from the outside in, some lives may seem picture perfect. When sharing with the outward world, we tend to only focus on the good. Not the messy hard times. I think challenges, and the grace we show in those times, make us who we are. I know this is definitely true for me. God likes to test me in the littlest ways, to ensure I am learning the lessons He has planned for me. This week there were a few not-so perfect moments, which in the scheme of things, seem pretty trivial.

In the essence of sharing the great, good, and not-so-good moments and being real, I am going to divulge some of the challenges I faced this week:

Someone tried to scam me on the internet. I have a lovely [read: expensive] coat I am selling online through an app. A user from the app messaged me and we agreed to a price. I was friendly and I said I would mail it quickly…I got the coat all boxed up and the transaction was complete. I got an email from the app service team stating the user tried to conduct false business and was removed. I thankfully hadn’t yet shipped the item, but I was quite hurt someone would try to steal from me.

My iPad screen shattered for no reason. I watched a movie on my iPad, then put it on my nightstand before bed. When I woke in the morning, the screen somehow shattered. The device was never dropped or bumped. I took it to the Apple store, they—in so many words—said they didn’t believe my “story” and they couldn’t help me. Ouch.

I had an intense allergy attack. I don’t know if it was the Georgia air, but something got to me! I woke up feeling sniffly, however I thought it would pass. By midday I was a sloppy mess, complete with exhaustion. I had never experienced allergy symptoms so acute. This attack was head on and unrelenting; thankfully a few days later the Claritin kicked in.

So there you have it—my messy and imperfect life. Like I said, these are tiny blips in the scheme of things. Honestly, it makes me appreciate my life and the wonderful things I am blessed with—my family, husband, friends, career, education, health…the list goes on. Sometimes it helps to rant about a bad week, yet remain thankful for the incredible weeks that lay ahead.

Your Words Become Your Actions—Please Choose Carefully

I am a person who believes that words matter. Many of the words spoken from this election’s presidential candidates, the media, and each side’s supporters was disheartening, to say the least. I often don’t engage in conversations about politics because of the intense nature of the subject matter. I feel my opinions are my own. My life, personal experiences, and education shape my particular views. We are all on different paths and believe different things, thus we have different opinions. The negative words that have been spewed are appalling and harmful to our divided country.

My heart is heavy for our world today, yet I keep faith that love will overcome hate. Right now, it seems very distant, but my hope still remains. I see many good things in our world and plenty of great people striving to work hard and make a difference. I want to focus on that. The good. I was not raised to write insensitive or attacking comments online, therefore I don’t (thank you, Mom). I will teach my child the very same. Passions run deep. I understand that, but it doesn’t negate awful behavior.

Change starts with people. From me. From you. We can do small things each day to make America better. I think the term “respectfully disagree” has gone by the wayside. Debates between strangers become personal attacks and confrontational verbal assaults. Does this type of behavior solve the issues? No, it divides people. I know we have freedom of speech, and that is a wonderful thing. Just remember, those words matter. They mean something and they can hurt people.

Remember to be love. Be kind in all that you do. I know sometimes it can be a challenge, believe me, I know. More can be accomplished with a good heart. Don’t forget, your words become your actions—please choose carefully.

5 Wonderful Ways to Invest in You

I am a firm believer in doing things for myself now, which will make me a better person in the future—some of these actions can be small and others a bit more grand in scale. Just like a financial investment, it may take some time to achieve the end goal, but it is important to start. I know it can be easy to focus on the tangibles, like a new haircut or killer outfit, but these self investments go beyond the physical.

“An investment is a monetary asset purchased with the idea that the asset will provide income in the future or will be sold at a higher price for a profit.”

IMG_9326Take the time to enrich yourself and grow as a person! It is so extremely important to focus on your own personal goals and self-betterment. If you don’t invest in you, who will? This requires you to put yourself first, which is an acquired skill, but be adamant about focusing on doing great things now and reaping the benefits later.

Below are some wonderful way to invest in you:

Take a class: This could be anything: learn how to sew, type 60WPM, or use XYZ computer program. One of the best things I did for myself was to enroll in an advanced computer class. The training taught me all the secrets to using Microsoft Office—Excel, Word, Powerpoint, etc. I am now an Excel wizard and I can do things with a spreadsheet you wouldn’t even begin to fathom! This made me a better student and a better employee. Thanks to the web, many classes can be found online.

Read an interesting book: Okay, I am not talking Fifty Shades of Gray here, people! Perhaps something that challenges your mind…a biography, a memoir, a classic. I have read some great books and what they all have in common: they taught me something new. This could be on an emotional, philosophical, or intellectual level. These little gems are free too, all you need is a library card.

Learn a new hobby or skill: Expand your mind and teach it do something it has never done. Learn a new language, teach yourself photography, or become an expert organizer. The options are vast! Learning photography was such a thrill for me, with some time and patience it has developed into something I am very proud of. The long and the short: the brain is a muscle, flex that old bird!

Go after that degree: Education is a great way to get to where you want to go! Skills and concepts learned through schooling are extremely valuable —not to mention a degree will help you in your career or trade. Extending knowledge is something not everyone has the privilege to do, remember that. If you can go after that goal, whether it be an undergraduate or graduate degree, there is no time like the present.

Start a 401K and/or a Roth IRA: Yes, literally invest in yourself and your future! At the request of my father eight years ago, I opened a 401K. It is matched by my employer, and should have been a no-brainer. I now have close to 75% of my annual income in my account thanks to a diversified portfolio. My future retirement looks pretty bright!

Tell me a way you have invested in yourself!

A Few Days to Recharge

I am one of those women who knows when I need some downtime. I thankfully haven’t gotten sick in two years (way to go immune system) and I have managed to keep the stress levels low – even when planning a wedding in two weeks and relocating to a new area, thousands of miles from familiarity.

Women can do it all, and in heels no less, but that doesn’t mean we don’t need a respite once in a while! When I start feelings burnt out, I take some time. I am lucky to have plenty of paid time off at my job, I use it when I need a personal day or just time to recharge. This week was one of those times.
Relax.jpgI just finished my second to last term of school and now a new one is starting right up. Work has also been insane. Our fiscal year ends in October, this means everyone is running around trying to spend every last budget dollar and it all needs to gets accounted for…not that I don’t love managing a hefty marketing budget, but this girl needs a break!

Early in the work week I decided to take Thursday and Friday off. One of those stay-cation/long weekend deals where I could sleep in and watch Netflix 8 hours a day. I ended up watching a show called Doctor Foster which blew my little mind (the dinner scene in episode 4 was bonkers). Most often I don’t have a moment for any “Netflix and chill,” but with my time off, I made it happen! I also ran some errands and checked a few items off my personal to-do list.

These two days were just the recharge I needed to get myself back in the swing of things!

Stop Comparing and Start Living!

Spending any time comparing yourself to others is a waste of your precious time. “I wish I had her body/outfit/hair.” Stop right there! I know in today’s technological times we see everyone’s highlight reel rather than their real life. It can appear as if everyone is traveling to Bali, sipping mai tais, and clutching the latest designer handbag, but don’t buy into it and don’t let that take away from you.

The key is to focus on your beautiful self, the experiences you want in life, fulfilling your dreams and going after what you want. Being on the sidelines watching someone else’s life is not the greatness you were meant for.

“Comparison is the thief of joy.” -Theodore Roosevelt

Comparing yourself to others is the quickest way to steal your inner joy – darn right, Teddy! Naturally we may want to compete. On some level we are always going head-to-head with others: for a job, on a sports team, or to win a contest. Healthy competition does exist, but life does not need to be one big race to the top. We all contain the power to be successful in a host of different capacities – just think of how many people are successful bloggers! There is plenty to go around, friends.

I get troubled when I see women (and men) wishing they were someone else. Everyone is special in their own way and each person is bestowed with different gifts. It is unrealistic to think everyone has to fit in a pretty little box of what society considers valuable. What you love to do is valuable. You are worthy and you can contribute to the world in some great ways. I try to focus on doing the very best I can, rather than noticing anyone else. Sometimes it helps to put the blinders on!

“You is kind. You is smart. You is important.” ―Kathryn Stockett, The Help

You are smart, kind, important, capable, and amazing! Harness your life and go after the things you love. Fall in love with your life. If you aren’t in love with your own life, make changes so you can get where you want to go. I always wanted a job in marketing. I worked hard and spent many years working my way up. I got there! I spent my time concentrating on my path, not comparing my journey to others. We all take different roads!

Goals are key for harnessing your own dreams. One way to achieve your goals is with a mentor, they can be a source of inspiration not competition. Mentors can help you get to where you want to go and they will value your differences. Most successful individuals will be happy to help someone who is driven and eager to do well. Supporting others is necessary on many levels, try to raise up anyone and everyone you can. Pay it forward.

Don’t forget, it goes way beyond the physical. Yes, it is nice to have silky hair or a cute outfit, but a great life should be about more: your education, your spirit, your philanthropic efforts. An Instagram feed won’t tell that story. Greatness goes deeper than any picture can ever convey.

The Truth About Finding Happiness

As I get older, I realize how unimportant the formerly important things were. I think of all the status symbols that used to matter – a new car, fabulous clothes, the newest iPhone… and now I say to myself, what was I thinking?! Truth is, those things can make you giddy for a brief moment, perhaps excite you, but they cannot bring true happiness. Happiness is found deep within, an inner peace and contentment, not with belongings or possessions, but with feelings.

In my late 20s I bought a Mercedes, a shiny black four door sedan. It was what I thought I wanted at the time. What I thought I should obtain by a certain age as a symbol of my socioeconomic status. I posted a picture on my social media site, the car almost smiling with its big lilac colored bow. See me, I am happy. I can afford this!
img_0930I had set a goal for myself to get my dream car and I did. Turns out, I was setting the wrong goals. The car wasn’t what I needed. I needed something more. I was foolish and thought a [insert designer brand name here] handbag would make me happy. I spent $1,300 on a piece of monogrammed leather, yet the high was temporary. The purse soon lost its luster and there was a whisper of emptiness.

“We buy things we don’t need with money we don’t have to impress people we don’t like.” -Dave Ramsey, The Total Money Makeover: A Proven Plan for Financial Fitness

Once I hit thirty, I realized how much of this “happiness” I was being fed, mostly by society and the media. Instead of striving for greatness in my life, I was longing for material things. I decided to reprioritize and focus on things that really mattered.

Now, happiness is going full-time with my education and working to finally finish my degree. Happiness is applying to graduate school. Happiness is doing well at my job. Happiness is walks with my husband and our dogs. Happiness is blogging. Happiness is volunteering and making a difference. Happiness is taking pictures. Happiness is wandering our great country.

“When someone chooses to value herself over the things she can buy, true transformation begins.” -Suze Orman

My thinking shifted. Love for material things became replaced with a love for experiences. I made sure to cut out the noise from social media, TV, and the internet telling me I desperately needed a new outfit every season, the last gadgets, and a daily $6 latte.

Of course I still buy things, but I definitely think long and hard whether I am making a purchase for the right reasons, or if I am only trying to fill an emotional void. My husband and I decided to invest in my education. I amped up my retirement fund. I began to save rather than buying more things. Turns out, happiness was putting me first.