How To Bounce Back From A Self-Care Extravaganza

I had the pleasure of traveling across the country to New York City for the weekend with my good friend, Jesse, for a girls’ trip.  We ate great food, marveled at the beauty of human creations in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and walked all over the Upper West Side until our feet felt like they’d been stomped by elephants. It was glorious. It was the kind of caring I could only ever dream of, but got to experience thanks to my phenomenal friend.

The Met, Egyptian Art
Amelia, Yours truly, Jesse
A happy tourist (Me)

The trip also got me thinking about what comes after something so great. What do we do with ourselves after the dust settles and we must return to our regular lives? You might not be flying for hours, spending money wildly, and luxuriating in a hotel like an heiress, but what if you take all the time you need to replenish your defenses only to come home feeling even more spent?

Taking care of ourselves can be just as exhausting as running our bodies ragged in the normal days of our lives. So, I would like some of my tips for bouncing back in your return to normality. I’ve been incredibly fortunate in my access to travel, self-care, therapy, and wellness options, and I have found that even with the best of times I still need a little help finding my equilibrium. Below, I’m listing my tried and true habits for not only maintaining the good vibes of self-care, but also maintaining healthy expectations for who I’ll be afterwards.

Sleep!

tired jet lag GIF
Disney

Sounds obvious, but is it something we let ourselves do after vacation? Or after a yoga session, or a hike, or a round of face masks and Judge Judy? Nah, didn’t think so! Think of it this way: you’ve just pumped your body full of that good stuff, like endorphins, adrenaline, and other sciencey things. Thus, your body is going to need to power down. I hate to sound like Morpheus in The Matrix, but at the end of the day we’re all walking and talking batteries. We need to recharge even if we’ve just been doing another form of powering up. Catch some zzz’s!

Ease back into your routine

Spinning GIF
Giphy

I know most of us use the weekend for our self-care extravaganzas – it’s just the way our work lives function. We feel guilty missing work, so we hold out until Friday evening to get down to business. That leaves us with going back in on Monday to face the monotony. This goes counter to everything we’re taught, but I would challenge you to not take on big projects right away, or act like the superhero you are first thing Monday morning. You’ll be feeling unstoppable, no doubt, but you’re going to be regret biting off more than you can chew. This isn’t about avoiding work all-together, but rather not falling prey to the urge to do it all. Take your time.

Don’t throw all the internal work out the window

relaxed yoga GIF by Hannah Bronfman
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This is really the tough one for me. I was super zen in New York, but that’s easy to do when you’re far away from responsibilities, stressors, and a regular routine. I was able to unwind and be introspective without being bogged down with the minutiae of life. When I go back I was understandably tired and sore from walking, then flying for 6 hours, but I was instantly unhappy when I set foot through my front door. So, what gives?

Well, I think I was looking for reasons to be stressed out.  If I were to go deeper, I would discover I was hunting for reasons to rob myself of the goodness that felt unearned. Self-sabotage is real, especially after something bigger than what you normally allow yourself to have.  So remember this, first and foremost: You have earned the good things that you get. We deserve the cakes, face masks, rest, hikes, movies, hours of conversation with loved ones, vacations, therapy sessions and joys of this life, no matter what.

Whether you be traveling far, or taking a weekend for yourself at home, I hope you enjoy it to the fullest without worrying about what comes next. We’ve got memories to make, after all.

Celebrate Make It Rain GIF by Captain Cuts

Bessie Stringfield, Your New Patron Saint of Adventure

Each week we will feature the kind of everyday heroes you can look up to. They come from all walks of life, age groups and beliefs. We hope you’ll learn as much from them as we have!

August is the month of changes, of possibilities, endings and beginnings. Schoolwork looms nearer, pools are emptying, but the month also offers the potential for discoveries academic or otherwise. I have a love-hate relationship with August; as a curious (i.e. nosey) kid, I looked forward to being in school and being introduced to new concepts in the classroom. All my friends were at school, rather than scattered about on vacations or busy playing sports, and we could compare stories, sunburns, or how tall we’d gotten in the months away. However, August also symbolized the end of leisurely freedom – the late nights watching HBO and eating ice cream without my parents knowing were pulled to a jarring halt right around the middle of the month.

Still, what I remember most about August, about those weeks leading up to my return to normality, is watching my Dad prep for his classes. Most people think History teachers have it easy. The common belief is they simply tell every class the same thing over and over again. That’s true for most, but my Dad isn’t your average nerd. Each year he looked for unique ways to spark a little interest in his students. He read new books, watched new documentaries, and went off to conferences around the country. My brother and I always looked forward to what he would bring back from his travels to exotic places like Atlanta and Phoenix.

Bessie Stringfield, today’s person you should definitely know, reminds me so much of those days spent watching documentaries with my Dad, enraptured by the adventures and daring lives. Bessie was born in 1911 and by the time she died in 1993 she had earned the moniker “Motorcycle Queen of Miami” for her feats on the Harley-Davidsons she loved. Despite the restrictions of the times, Bessie got her first bike at the age of 16, then traveled the country alone. She slept on her ride when she was denied a room at hotels, rode in carnivals for money, then eventually made it through all of the states in addition to Europe. He skill was so formidable that she would become a motorcycle courier in WWII, tasked with transporting sensitive information.

She embellished many of the details of her life for the rapt audiences of her young relatives and the children she took care of after settling in Florida as a housekeeper, however the fact that she lived an extraordinary life remains unquestionable. She was posthumously inducted into the American Motorcyclist Association Hall of Fame in 2002, long after her death, but I doubt she needed the accolades to validate her bad-assery.

What I love about the story of Bessie Stringfield is her relentless pursuit of what made her happy. Against the protestations of her family, she traversed the segregated and misogynistic landscape of the United States in search of her own slice of that ever-elusive peace we experience in following our hearts. When I lie awake in this unfamiliar town, missing the comfort of a controllable environment, I try to imagine what Bessie might have felt right before she did a trick for an audience. I sit in awe of her grit and feel slightly gobsmacked that she had the audacity to be free.

If you need encouragement to follow where your soul wants to lead, if you need a push to re-discover your dreams, or just a reminder that it’s alright to be a little bit off, look no further than Bessie. August is the month of discovery, after all.

Who are you emulating today? Let me know in the comments whose stories you can’t get out of your head. As always, stay safe out there!

You can read Bessie’s obituary in the NYT here.

I love this art essay of her by Rejected Princesses, which you can read here.

A Word with Caroline Luther

Each week we will feature the kind of everyday heroes you can look up to. They come from all walks of life, age groups and beliefs. We hope you’ll learn as much from them as we have!

You can learn so much about someone if you pay attention to the way they fly. Undeniable truths flash bright when we think we blend into the crowds, if you look up from your tablet long enough to spy them. Revelations are present in which seats we favor, who we clumsily ask to sit by and how we hold onto comfort miles away from the peace of the ground. Millions of us bustle through the tailwinds of each other, but how often do we stop to discover the familiarity of strangers? I’m guilty of this more often than I’d like to admit, after years of wrapping myself into a cocoon of downloaded movies I don’t want to watch and music I’ve listened to far too often in the face of unpredictable conversation.

My habit of shutting down during flights was put on pause during a recent flight home. I had the pleasure of meeting Caroline on that trip back to Kansas from New Orleans, after she hit it off with my mother in line waiting to board. I knew I liked her before we had a chance to introduce ourselves, thanks to those flashing truths. She and I spent the entire time laughing and sharing just enough of ourselves for me to realize she is one of those people everyone should get to know. Thankfully, she agreed to take part in this feature. Her interview is below, which I think you’ll truly love. Next time you fly, when you want to retreat, think twice. You might just miss out on a remarkable human.

 

What is your profession?

After some twists and turns through a graduate program in history (thought I wanted to be a professor) and several jobs in communications (grant-writing, writing-writing, graphic design, etc.), I’m going into my sixth year teaching high school history. And I love it.

 

As a child, what future did you see for yourself?

In early elementary school, I thought I’d be a teacher (both my parents were). I’m pretty sure I thought I’d stick close to my New Jersey home and most likely have kids. I’ve since moved to North Carolina and my husband and I have decided not to have children. I finally started teaching 13 years after graduating from college. Those are the right choices.

 

If you could change your life now, what would you do instead? Why?

Ooh, good question. Maybe I’d be a therapist (an LCSW rather than a Ph.D., though) or own a boutique selling women’s clothing. I need to care for people and nudge them to take care of and feel good about themselves. I’m usually right, so that helps me own my bossiness. Plus I like pretty things and have really enjoyed my stints in retail.

 

(Ask me again tomorrow and I’ll probably say that I want to be a backup singer!)

 

Can you share a time or event you didn’t think you could survive?

When I realized that my 53 year-old mother was going to die from colon cancer sooner rather than (years) later and couldn’t bring it up with anyone in my family. It was a bleak, lonely time. I just wanted to no longer exist.

 

What/Who pulled you through it?

Prozac. It took a while, though. And I credit my boyfriend at the time for making me make an appointment with the campus psychiatry department to get the prescription. He helped me get my life back and I’m forever in his debt.

 

How did the event/time shape the way you live now?

I’m very aware of my mental health. I try to be honest about what scares me and tell the right people about it. I also make sure to go to the doctors I need to see and keep track of the things that are most likely to kill me prematurely.

 

What are some ways you take care of yourself?

Loving on my cat. Getting enough sleep. Solitary exercise: running by myself at whatever pace works that day, yoga (mostly with an app but more and more just whatever feels right) and sporadic work with free weights. Sitting in an armchair in my living room listening to records. Giving my brain interesting things to do. Making sure to get the nagging things crossed off my to-do list and set my future self up for success.

What was the best/ funniest/ most memorable piece of advice you’ve received?

I read this in an article somewhere a long time ago. Former secretary of education Margaret Spellings talked about needing to put on one’s big-girl panties and get shit done. She might have even had a sign on her desk to that effect. I need that sign.

 

When do you feel the most free?

On summer breaks when my husband (who teaches English in an adjoining classroom) and I have 10 weeks of not going into work every day. We still work, but it’s nice to do that on our own schedules and have small adventures, whether it’s traveling, floating in a lake, going to Durham Bulls games, drinking local beers at local breweries or taking our books somewhere. Having a time-limited time when our time is our own is heavenly.

 

What do you want to be remembered for?

Making people laugh. Being a good teacher. Being good, period.

How To Survive Comic Con Like a Boss

The time for nerds to reign supreme has come! Out of the shadows and into the streets, like the plague we are, the smell of sweet fandom is everywhere now that it’s Sandiego Comic Con season. I went to my first San Diego Comic-Con in 2013 and the experience was mind-blowing. My brother and I weaved through the crowds, swooping up free stuff like kids or feral wolves. We took part in a Viking competition – and almost won! – and tried a zip line. I have yet to go so wild in public since.

In the mix of all the joy that comes with letting your geek flag fly while surrounded by happy people in Deadpool onesies, it is so imperative to learn ways to navigate safely. Today we’re going to break down what you should be doing while you let loose at the Con, or any event that draws a large, jubilant crowd. Whether it be a huge fan event like Comic-Con, a concert, or a carnival, these tips are sure to keep you safe and happy. Planning for outings of this magnitude can do a number on those of us with anxiety, so continue reading to find out how to prepare yourself for the event!

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Take care of your body

This means sleep, food, a safe shelter, AND watching out for yourself while you’re out and about. You don’t have to carry a weapon or start training in jiu jitsu, just make time to figure out a shuttle service, exits, and when things end. A common misconception out there is all nerds are nice. If you’ve spent any time in the comment sections of i09, CBR or Youtube, you’ll know this to be false. Bad people exist everywhere, just like good people, so please take care of yourself. Taking time to eat and stop to rest will keep you from crashing like a ton of bricks before you’re ready to stop and will keep you alert enough to monitor your surroundings.

Go with someone you trust

I debated putting this point first, because it has such a huge affect on your experience and how you approach it. I do not advocate for going to events of this magnitude alone, as it is so easy to get overwhelmed in the crowd. Plus, who is going to take pictures of you with celebrities or cosplayers? More importantly, who is going to have your back? We’ve all got friends we love to be around, who make us laugh or think deeply, however a person you trust is much more important. Go with someone you mesh with, who cares for you enough to say no to a party with strangers covered in red flags, or who knows when to say yes to one more lap around the booths. Liking someone and trusting someone are two different things, so be sure to weigh your options. You don’t have to be fans of all the same things – in fact, I’ve found it’s better when you’re not.

Allot for time

Rome wasn’t built in a day and fandom won’t be fed in an hour! When I say this place is big, I mean HUGE. There are events outside, events inside, games, food, booths, panels, everything! It’s truly a wonderland. That might sound daunting, but if you go into it knowing you’re going to have your hands full you can begin to plan. Sit down with your buddy or buddies before you head out for the day to figure out how many hours you want to stay and what you would like to see knowing that it is ok for those plans to change. There’s no doubt you’ll want to do other things once you’re there, which is why it’s important to set aside time for your group to explore. You’ve got to be flexible if you want to enjoy the experience. The website – like most events of this magnitude – provides a scheduling breakdown to help folks navigate safely, which you can view here.

Celebration GIF

That’s it for now, kids! Just remember to be patient with yourself, take your time, and don’t get wrapped up in looking cool. No one looks cool at these, which is part of the magic. Let us know in the comments if you’ve ever gone to a con in another city or if you’re in San Diego now!

Chicago: Making Peace With Painful Places

 

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Last weekend I traveled to Chicago for C2E2 (their comic con) with my parents and brother. The event was phenomenal, the costumes were outstanding and the people were kind, but it wasn’t the time with my fellow nerds that struck me the hardest.

The city itself was an obstacle I was nervous to tackle. I lived in Chicago for school many years ago and it’s where I went went through some of the biggest hurts of my life. It’s where I was assaulted at 20, where I had a nervous breakdown, where I was hospitalized and where I learned that I wasn’t invincible. I’ve returned a few times over the years since leaving, but each visit took a piece of me. I saw specters of failure in each familiar building, every friend who still lived there.

I went into this trip excited for my first C2E2, yet I worried I wouldn’t be able to take everything in through clear eyes. I thought about backing out several times, but my partner kept me from that course of action. To my surprise, once I was on the ground with my family things just felt different. I believe what made the trip better for me emotionally was the presence of people I know have my back through anything and vice versa. Laughing with my brother kept me from looking over my shoulder. Helping my father get his bearings on the CTA gave me a sense of pride, and reminiscing with my mom as we walked through the French Market made me forget for a moment the pain of the past.

On reflection, I’ve realized that with time and space we heal. The part that made Chicago so painful for me was the sense of shame I felt over leaving. All my life I wanted to conquer the big city; I left feeling like it had won the battle with me. My bestie Jesse – who I met at University – reminded me that it’s our responsibility to make decisions that are good for us regardless of what other people think. Leaving was difficult, but now I choose to think of it like this: walking away from bad things to heal is brave as hell. I wouldn’t be as happy or healthy as I am today if I had remained. You don’t get a medal for staying and suffering, but you do win something great when you leave. I won a second chance at life. Slowly, I’m letting go of the bitterness to see the city anew.

Tip for returning to places that hold painful memories: don’t go it alone if you can avoid it. Find a partner or a group that keeps you from focusing on the hurt.