Testing

2018 has been a pivotal year in my life, a year of testing myself. Starting the year stripping away a large chunk of obligations by taking the spring semester off school, then piling them back on in autumn with a moderate load of 16 credit hours. Spending the majority of the year entrenched in Yoga Teacher Training, taking (and passing!) my YTT test in late August. Allowing myself to be roped into a few commitments that I was a bit afraid of, but knew I subliminally wanted to do because of the challenges, like teaching Pre-K Sunday School and joining the cast of a production of West Side Story. Trying a challenge on Instagram where I created and shared art daily for a week for the first time. Testing out a more sustainable lifestyle; finding ways to cut unnecessary and necessary expenses, building good habits that actually stuck and unraveling old ones that never served me well…

Ultimately, I tested a lot of preconceived notions I had about myself this year and tried to tear them all down to the best of my ability. I had just arrived at a point where I knew I needed to make some changes and let go of a lot of tightly held, unproductive ideas and mindsets. A lot of it was just a series of quiet, internal shifts that turned into a lot of strategic and surprising “no”s and “yes”s in my life. I admit that I thought I was a bit crazy to say no to spring semester 2018, to say yes to YTT, to teaching Sunday school, to being cast in West Side Story a week before finals…even smaller challenges like designing a cousin’s bridal shower invitations, and taking a solo 3-hour road trip to visit another cousin for a weekend. But this is definitely a year of decisions I don’t regret in the least, not that I make a point of regretting things. I’ve even signed up for a Media Communications seminar class in Paris for spring break 2019, and instead of weighing all the reasons it would be easier not to in my head like many past opportunities, I was confident that the timing was right for once.

At the end of 2017, I was honestly feeling very jaded about my college experience and the place I was in. But now, a year later, I’m feeling a bit like I did those first couple months of my freshman year, seizing extracurricular opportunities and excited to do my homework for the first time in a long while, though this time the excitement is not from naive expectations, it’s with full knowledge of how much effort it takes to show up and do the work of working towards your goals. I’m going to go ahead and just let myself enjoy this moment as I tell you I got all five A’s this semester.

I do think about the past a lot. Too much, probably. It’s funny how even though I love seeing how all the pieces, good and bad, brought me to where I am today, which I’m very grateful for, I still often find myself thinking about the same old things I would change if I could. I finished Daredevil season 3 a little over a month ago (so good, so sad the show got cancelled), and in the last episode, Matt and Sister Maggie have an exchange about this. She says: “If God allowed that, there’d be no future, only people endlessly rewriting the past.” I’m not one to take serious quotes from tv shows (usually just funny ones, heh) but that line stuck with me. It’s true, things happen for a reason and we’re not meant to go back.

I love writing these reflective end-of-year posts and hope to continue this for many years to come. Each month seems to go by so quickly, but all those days and weeks of tiny decisions still add up to a lot of directional shifts and life changes. At the moment, I have absolutely no idea what this time next year will look like for me, and this time last year honestly still feels pretty fresh. But I’m super excited to take it one day at a time and see what I say “yes” and “no” to in 2019. I’m sure I’ll continue to find ways to test and surprise myself, especially now that I feel I’ve earned my adult sea legs, haha. I finally feel ready to embrace moving forward, to let go of gripping my childhood and past life stages as if I’m going to lose all my good memories by growing up. 2019 is looking like the year to embrace responsibility and fresh opportunities.

Teacher

Whew, August was quite the month, so much so that I started this post four days before it ended and here I am finally hitting publish already over halfway into September.

It feels like I have been constantly moving the past few weeks, and (surprisingly) I’ve liked it. I slowed down quite a bit at the start of this year because I wasn’t feeling in control of my life, I felt like I was stuck in bad patterns that I didn’t have the time and energy to get out of. I took the spring semester off, more or less because I just couldn’t bring myself to register for classes. I think, subliminally, I felt very defeated that many of my former classmates were going to be graduating in May and I knew I still had a ways to go, and all the roadblocks of the previous four years resurfaced as doubt and despair. I had gotten too stuck on shortcomings and failures and had forgotten to tally all the small victories and successes, which were equally numerous. I let myself take the time to tear down those bad patterns and build them back up with good replacements, and while I kept trying to absorb all the motivational and self-help type information along the way, I also realized that I already had everything I needed to know to fix my patterns. I just needed a long, hard reset that ended in an honestly rather sudden return of motivation one day at the beginning of last month.

While I took a semester off of school, I definitely didn’t take a break from learning, in fact, I scaled up the learning in my time off. I still had yoga teacher training to fill my weeks and occasional weekends, and I was listening to all the podcasts on motivation, good habits, success stories, etc. in the meantime. I’m simultaneously curious about and terrified of how many hours I spent listening to podcasts/youtube videos this year…it’s probably a very high number. I certainly learned a lot and overall just love listening to others’ stories, experiences and perspectives, but I think the most important thing I learned is that while I needed the rest and reset, I didn’t need to learn some magic “how to be motivated/productive” key. I just needed to decide to start taking charge of my life.

I literally paused a podcast a quarter of the way through earlier this summer and started scheduling a meeting with my advisor for the next day, preparing to register for classes and just overall began resuming being an adult. The podcast I was listening to wasn’t even some life-changing advice, it was just some casual banter about what the hosts were doing that day or something, but it made me realize that I had basically let my willpower atrophy until simple responsibilities felt overwhelming. It probably has a lot to do with anxiety, but I guess I was sort of raised to not frame every problem I have in terms of mental health issues, for better or for worse. So, I decided right then and there that I was tired of feeling like a timid kid and that I wanted to start doing little things every day to build back up my “responsibility willpower” and feel more like a functioning independent person. And here I am a month or two later, 16 credit hours, staying on top of all my assignments, the most consistent sleep schedule I’ve had in years, and also with two new titles that include the word “teacher.”

I think you’ve probably gleaned the fact that I love learning by now, but I never really saw myself as a teacher. I’m a generally reserved, introverted person and it takes a lot of mental energy for me to be in a place of leadership over a group. I signed up for yoga teacher training a year ago because I wanted to learn, not because I necessarily wanted to teach. I’m very happy to say a year later that I made it through the training, led a 1.5-hour Ashtanga class, created and taught my very own class, and passed a 15 page test (that took me three hours) on my first try. It wasn’t easy at any point, but I’m so happy I did it, and I’m even a bit less intimidated by the teaching aspect with some experience under my belt. However, I’m still in it primarily for the learning, and if I’m being honest, I think any good teacher is a teacher that wants to learn from teaching and teach to learn.

So, shortly before taking my YTT test, I was also asked if I could teach the Pre-K Sunday School at my church this school year. I only have a handful of students, but saying yes to that was still a big deal to me. I love kids and think they’re the sweetest souls that deserve the absolute best, so I’m always a bit intimidated by interacting with them because I want them to feel understood, and sometimes young kids still learning to communicate are hard to understand when you’re not their parent, plus I don’t have that large, fun, extroverted energy that kids often respond more easily to. The reason that I want to be a children’s book author is because I can give special stories and images and lessons to children without directly speaking to them, haha. But anyway, I said yes, and the first two classes have gone well. I just have to keep them occupied for 15 or 20 minutes, so nothing terribly difficult, but I definitely give all the props to teachers because it takes time to prepare the simplest activities. I’m going to have to work on some batch planning so I can save myself some time in the future. It’s both exciting and intimidating that I will be working with these kids every Sunday until the end of next Spring…

So while I have the right to call myself a “teacher” in more ways than one at the moment, I still prefer to just consider myself a lifelong learner. That was such a long thought dump, but I wanted to update on my past month because it’s been a lot of new challenges and overall I’m pretty proud of myself for handling it all as well as I have managed to so far in a sustainable way. It just takes a couple months of having a pretty open schedule to make you realize that life isn’t fulfilling long-term without things to do and challenges to overcome. Do you consider yourself a teacher, a learner, or both? I think we’re all both to some degree.

One (or, foundations)

As of August 1st, it has officially been one year of Luna Moth Life! I’m starting to notice a trend, at least in the last two years, that I get a wave of motivation at the beginning of August (and last month of the summer). Last year, I started this blog, got very organized, and started building better habits. This year, I’ve been making sure to stay on top of my to-do list and I’m busily approaching the end of a year of yoga teacher training.

I find that my productivity comes in waves like this. I’m not a very go-go-go person, to be honest. It almost feels like a scandalous thing to admit that in America, where the culture encourages the opposite of slow living. I’m pretty laid back and like to do things in bursts, but I think I underestimate the amount of things I can take on with just a little better time management. I’m trying to hold on to the momentum of doing a few tedious but important things each day, and I want to start scheduling time to rest and do things I enjoy just like I would schedule an appointment or class so that I can be better at focusing on work and not just doing fun stuff to procrastinate and then always feeling slightly guilty about it. Sometimes I forget how few responsibilities I actually have in my current life…I don’t have kids or a full-time job, I’m just a student living with my parents with a pet rabbit and a blog at the moment, so I need to keep building my foundation of good habits while I can.

This morning I had a private handstand lesson with a fellow yoga teacher trainee who runs his own gymnastics gym as a skill-trade for recently helping him review the Ashtanga sequence we have to lead. I’ve been able to do a handstand since I was 13, but I was the last one in my ballet conditioning class at the time to get it as I had only done gymnastics briefly when I was very little. It’s not easy to stand on your hands, but it’s not necessarily hard, either. It’s like standing on your feet, you just have to take all those automatic forces that keep you off the floor and push them out your hands instead. It’s one of those things that just takes practice, and then it’s like riding a bike, it never really leaves you. When I was 13 and finally got the hang of kicking up against a wall on my own, I made the habit of coming home from school and immediately going to the wall in my bedroom and practicing kicking up a few times every day. After a year, I could finally kick up with reasonable control and hold a handstand against the wall for a minute.

With all the yoga classes I’ve been attending regularly as part of teacher training, I’m in a lot better shape than I was as a teenager and my handstand form is better than ever. But I still can’t quite kick up away from a wall without a spotter because that bit of fear of falling holds me back. Today, with Jose, I worked on better kick up technique (I keep using “kick up” here but that’s a slightly incorrect term because for best control you should be aiming to hop up from the bottom foot, not kick with the leading leg, just fyi) and we also practiced bailing out (how to fall out of it with control and without hurting yourself). Because Jose has his own gym, we had lots of padding to practice with, but the goal is to practice cartwheeling or tuck’n’rolling out of the handstand enough that you have the control to land softly on any surface.

I do have a point to this post besides recounting my handstand lesson. You see, I’ve been learning that you need to be able to eliminate the fear of failing (falling in this case, same thing) in order to progress with anything you’re working on. Often, the fear of failing makes us more likely to fail because we don’t learn how to fail gracefully, instead we panic and potentially end up hurt. But you have to train your instincts to be able to handle things going wrong in order to eliminate the fear. Fear is blinding, but learning to overcome it will often lead you to finally have the strength and confidence to avoid failing at all, and that’s where you start moving forward. You’ll still inevitably fail again at some point, but you will be prepared for it next time, and you’ll land softly. 😉

Oh, and remember not to hold your breath, and exhale when you’re falling so you don’t get the wind knocked out of you…does this still fit my metaphor? I’ll let you decide…haha.

Just aim to build a strong foundation. Practice until you get it right, then practice more until you can’t get it wrong, and if you do go wrong, know how to bail yourself out with the confidence that you made it all those other times before. Nobody knows what they’re doing, but the people who understand this can confidently make it seem like they do know what they’re doing because they know it’s okay not to know. I hope you followed all that, haha. I feel like a lot of this is stuff I’ve talked about in my posts all year, but it really is the key to adulthood and not getting overwhelmed and burnt out. So I figured I’d sum it all up. Happy Birthday Luna Moth Life, I’m gonna keep working on ya to build up the foundation for my next life ventures.

Consistency

Did you notice the sneaky mini re-design? The logo I’ve had up for these last six months was decent, but I have to be honest: it was more like a draft than a finished product. The filename even had the word “temp” in it because it really was meant to be temporary. It was not my best craftsmanship, and it’s really quite amazing how much my digital art skills have grown just in the months since I made it. Where the last header had too little going on, this new one might have a little too much going on, but the difference here is that I now have so many ideas popping up (like little mushrooms in the grassy meadow of my brain–to tie in the photo above lol), I can hardly keep up. I’m going to throw out a quote here that again, I’m sure I saw on pinterest at some point:

“You can’t use up creativity. The more you use the more you have.” – Maya Angelou

Can I just take a second to say: this is THE TRUTH.

I have never really had a shortage of ideas for projects, usually I’m in a constant state of more ideas than time. As a person who enjoys all manner of creative expression, my brain is just used to finding inspiration for all sorts of projects in everyday life and continually filing ideas away, although I’m also kind of lazy when it comes to actually committing to pulling out supplies and making things, so most of that inspiration gathers dust for a while before finally being used in an occasional burst of energy, sometimes all combined into one experiment, or I get tired of an idea before even getting around to trying it.

Since starting this blog and having a more regular habit of creating (drawing/digital illustration/graphic design), I find that I have more ideas than ever, but I’m also way better at executing them and improving them. When I used to create more rarely, every effort felt more significant, so the results were usually worse than expected because my expectations were too high, or I tried to do too many things all at once. Now, the nature of my creations is more ephemeral, it’s about the practice rather than aiming to create something great. As a result, I find it much easier to call something finished and move on rather than giving in to perfectionism, and honestly my creations seem to be better as a result. I also find that all the inspiration in my brain is finally translating more smoothly. Because I’m more consistent with my practice, my own style is starting to come through, whereas when I used to make something once in a blue moon, I would get caught up trying too hard to achieve a specific thing and it would look forced or copied.

I’ve noticed similar results in my yoga practice. Last semester when I was in a bit of a rut, I wasn’t consistent and I wasn’t making much progress. Since I have some more time this semester, I have been making sure to show up to classes consistently and the progress is kind of crazy. I can feel my strength building week to week, and I am suddenly making breakthroughs on little things I was never able to fully get before. I’ve also made surprising progress in a short time since going back to ballet class. Last week, Miss Jill said that I had great energy in my dégagés, and Miss Abbey complimented my jumps–and we laughed about it because those were not my strengths in the past! Funny what comes out when you return to something after some time off.

It all makes sense, but it’s still kind of mind blowing how fast progress can build when you strive for establishing habits instead of specific goals. Consistency really is the key, but it can also be the hardest thing to start and maintain. Looking back on the resolutions I’ve made for this year, they all basically involve building consistency in various areas of my life. I’m doing pretty well with that so far, but it definitely involves daily intention.

Luckily, that’s what this blog is all about. 😉

Reflection

Wow, what a year 2017 has been. I have honestly had some of the best and worst experiences of my life this year, but one of the things I remember from our many discussions in yoga teacher training is that it’s beneficial to not jump to label experiences “good,” or “bad,” because truly, everything is an opportunity to learn. Failures and hardships are often much better teachers and motivation than successes and good times, and I have certainly had that reinforced this year. I had some major personal successes and took some leaps, reformed some bad habits and overcame some obstacles. My family experienced a major loss together, but also has quite a few happy things to look forward to in the coming year. My faith has strengthened and my confidence in my value as a person has grown. I started this blog, and by quietly showing up here again and again to put my creations out into the world, I’m accepting that improvement comes through doing, perfection doesn’t exist, and everyone needs to start somewhere.

This year I cemented some new goals and plans and learned to be especially patient when I’m feeling especially impatient (because instant gratification is not actually gratifying). I learned a lot of similarly contrary-seeming things, actually. Less really is more. Owning less makes me happier and frees up a surprising amount of my time, focusing on less allows me to accomplish more (still working on that one), and less perfectionism in my individual work allows me to improve more. I’m a quiet person by nature, and I’ve learned to appreciate the power of listening, but also to not hesitate to speak up a little more sometimes. Plus, I’ve learned to embrace that there will always be light and dark, (literally and figuratively) and to appreciate both for what they are. I’ve always been drawn to a little darkness and I used to think I was destined to be a night owl forever, but now I’ve learned to appreciate the mornings and try to get as much daylight as I can, because too much darkness and solitude can weigh on you. It’s all about balance.

Also, after diving into self-improvement this year, I have become a lot more comfortable with being myself. I still have plenty to work on, but I’m definitely not the insecure teenager I was just a few years ago. I don’t overthink as much. I “like” things on social media that I like. I give people compliments when I mean it. I’m more open to opportunities and experiences, and I say yes as much as possible, but I recognize the importance of saying “no” as well. I’ve also gotten better at letting go of what I can’t control or change. My personal values are firm and well-considered, and I know that I am capable of functioning as an adult, even when everything feels overwhelming, because everyone has to get through life and figure things out the same and no one has all the answers.

So, 2017 is definitely a year that will be clear in my memories, but I’m praying that 2018 will bring more goodness and growth and challenges, because I’ve finally learned that praying for an easy life doesn’t work. It’s never easy for anyone; it’s better to pray for strength to handle the things that come your way, and learn to roll with the punches. I even came down with the flu these last 3 days of 2017, and since I’m not one to get sick very often, it was sort of a last, humbling reminder that I’m not in control. It’s important to learn how to take care of yourself even during the times when you just want to give up.

Hi 2018, cheers to a new year full of new surprises!

P.S. I made a phone background as a little present for anyone reading! You can use it by clicking here and saving it to your photos, then set it as your background if you like 🙂

Trust

I think the root of so many problems lies in trust, or lack of it.

In our monthly Sunday session of yoga teacher training last week, after the morning yin yoga class, we began with a brief meditation. It involved sitting and breathing in and out for equal counts of your own timing while blocking one nostril, alternating and repeating, and then after a series of that, breathing through one nostril at a time without physically holding the other closed with your finger. I can’t remember how many breaths but it was probably around 10 minutes of this meditation.

The first thought I had when our teacher told us to begin was already to doubt myself. Not that I could do it, because we had already done this sort of active breathing meditation in the past, but just various silly things, like: “oh no, I think I already forgot the instructions–how many breaths am I supposed to take? when do I switch sides? am I doing this right?” etc. I kept opening my eyes for the first few breaths to check that I was doing the “right” thing. Luckily, after a minute I remembered that lesson that keeps tapping me on the shoulder and whispering in my ear lately: “there isn’t necessarily a ‘right’ way. just do it.”

I could’ve spent the ten or so minutes wondering whether I was doing the meditation “right,” or I could relax into it and focus on the breathing on my own pace. Which was the whole point, anyway. But sometimes we forget that we don’t always have to follow instructions to a T. Sometimes we forget that we know what we’re doing. We forget to trust ourselves.

Later in the day, we were given instructions to pair up and study the muscles of the hip, upper leg, and abdomen. We were given a list of muscles, a total of 16 groupings, told to grab an anatomy book, and figure out their attachments and origins, and subsequently what kind of movement the muscle controls. Now, I loved the one anatomy class I took my senior year of high school and I tend to retain that kind of highly applicable information pretty well, but this kind of assignment (using medical illustrations and not, like, google and youtube, mind you) seemed like a pretty big jump outside of my scope of expertise. However, since I’ve known this teacher for the majority of my life, I’m pretty used to her tendency to assign challenges by now.

After an hour, I’m pretty sure we were all going a little brain dead from the mental work, but it was surprisingly not as out of reach as it seemed when assigned. We were all used to using these muscles, we just never had to think about them that technically until that point. But we figured it out, mostly, and then it was time for lunch. Again…a small part of me didn’t want to trust myself at first, but I proved that I had no reason not to.

Later, the final thing we did was build little tensegrity structures out of popsicle sticks and rubber bands. These were confusing at first. Once we got them started, we helped each other hold them together to finish connecting the parts. As I was pulling all my rubber bands into place, I started to get that doubt again. I was sure it wouldn’t work out, saying I had probably done something wrong, it wasn’t looking quite right. Yet, as I pulled the last band into the notch of one of the sticks and we let go, it sprung into place and held its shape.

Lately, I’ve been losing faith in myself. I’ve suffered a few major failures in the past few years and I’m still suffering from the residual ego-bruises. Now, when I fall behind, I start to doubt my ability to succeed. The thing about working as part of a group, such as in yoga teacher training, is that ego is often pushed aside. We’re all helping each other, we’re open, we’re vulnerable, we’re in it together. It’s good to push aside your ego as much as possible, especially where success and failure is involved. Your failures do not define you, and neither do your successes. They just help you learn and grow. These are all temporary experiences, and you will have plenty of them in a lifetime.

Often, I need to write my experiences out to connect the dots. I didn’t really know where I was going with this when I started to write this post, I usually don’t. But I think I’m convinced now; I’m not helpless, or aimless. Maybe I should trust myself a little more…but more importantly, realize that trusting myself isn’t really about me. It’s about trusting all the lessons I’ve been taught. Abandon that ego and you find that you’re never really alone. You’re not God. You didn’t get where you are by yourself. You’ve had a lifetime of lessons: hard lessons, small lessons, shaping you and nudging you into where you are. It’s not all on me, and I would be pretty silly to think it is…trusting myself is really just trusting in something more.