Create Your Own Story

In the April 7th edition of TIME Magazine there was a commentary article entitled “Fast-Track Girls Finish Best” by Charlotte Alter. The article talks about two recent books Marry Smart by Susan Patton and Lean In For Graduates by Sheryl Sandberg and the advice they are both giving to young women today. Patton focuses on marriage/building a family while Sandberg zeros in on the career side of things. Although they both focus on different aspects of a young woman’s life, they are both saying the exact same thing: we don’t have any time to waste.

With all due respect, as a woman in my mid-twenties, I have to say I completely and wholeheartedly disagree.

Now, I haven’t read either of these books for myself and I also never plan to read either in the future. Here’s why.

Patton’s March Today Show interview sums up her book enough for me. Patton urges college women to primarily focus on finding a husband, further suggesting that young women should spend 75% of their time finding a spouse and 25% on professional development. She even suggests that if you need cosmetic surgery to do so before college, in order to make yourself more “socially successful” at finding a spouse. Patton has our biological ticking the moment we turn eighteen. She actually really seems to believe that we have absolutely no time to waste if marriage and children are part of our life plan, “Work will wait. Your fertility won’t.” I guess I missed the memo that said parents spend thousands and thousands of dollars to send their daughters to college for them to find a spouse and get knocked up. After all, that’s the only thing all women want anyways. Right?

Sandberg takes on the other extreme, that your career should be your prime focus. Sandberg, as the chief operating officer of Facebook, is a hugely successful woman in which many young women look up to. She has certainly climbed her way to the top in the corporate world and she deserves every bit of that success and admiration. The TIME article points out that in the introduction to Sandberg’s book she writes, “There’s no question that the world moves faster today… This means that grabbing opportunities is more important than ever.” Meaning, we need to take every opportunity we can to further our career as soon as we can. Alter describes Sandberg’s viewpoint perfectly, “The idea is to get good enough, fast enough, that your career becomes childproof.” Makes sense because all women are solely career hungry. Right?

Here’s where I have a problem with what both these women are saying. It’s not the advice itself that ticks me off (alright, maybe a little). It’s the fact that these women are sitting there telling other women where their priorities should be. Maybe I’m completely crazy, but what if we all just worried about creating our own story? I don’t see men writing countless books and articles for other men about how to live their life. It seems like most men sort of just figure their life out on their own. Why can’t we do that too? How about if women just started supporting other women’s decisions despite if we agree with them or not? How about if we all just decided which life path to take on our own based on what is personally important to us, what goals we have for ourselves, and our interests? Would the world fall apart? No degree, no life experience, no personal background qualifies one person to give another person advice about what their priorities should be. Part of life’s journey is figuring out those priorities for ourselves. The mystery of not knowing what the next step will be is half the fun. The priorities we choose create our own unique life. A life completely different from the woman sitting right next to you, living across the street from you, or living across the country.

Before my husband and I got married, we were dating for almost eight years. I was a sophomore in high school when we met and started dating. He has been a huge part of every aspect of my life since then: proms, graduations, birthdays, vacations, sporting events, successes, and failures. I chose to stay in a relationship with him because it just felt right to me, because I couldn’t imagine my life without him in it. While my friends were thinking about which boy they wanted to hook up with next I never once questioned my decision to have a serious boyfriend through most of my high school career and all throughout college. Although, he has always been and will always be one of my top priorities here’s the shocker- he wasn’t my only priority. My school work, where I wanted to go to college, and my career were all important to me too. I wanted to get good grades, go to my dream college, and have a successful career all with him right by my side. I never felt like I needed to pick one or the other. I created my own life story to fit all my own priorities. Yes, I got married less then two years out of college. But, I married my best friend, one of my biggest supporters, the person who always pushed me to be the best I could be. I also filled my time with priceless work experience, internships, and classes that would help me fulfill my other priorities. About two months out of college I was offered a job in my dream profession. Not because I was lucky, but because I worked for it. I sculpted my life to incorporate both of my priorities into it. I took part in internships, classes, and hobbies that showed I was serious about my career too. I had more than one dream, more than one priority and I created a life that would fit them both in it together. This is my story and let me be the first to tell you, it’s probably not yours too.

My decision to get married in my early twenties was one of the best I ever made, but I wouldn’t suggest or discourage another young woman from doing the same thing. I would rather ask, “Do you truly believe this is the best thing for you personally?” I couldn’t be happier to have started my dream job right out of college, but I wouldn’t suggest or discourage this either. I would rather ask, “Are you sure there’s nothing else you’d rather do?” I decided not to continue my education right after college, but I wouldn’t suggest or discourage this decision either. I would rather ask, “Do you feel completely prepared to reach your goals with the resources you currently have?” I decided that I was happy in the state I was living in, in the area I called home, so I decided to stay. I never studied abroad nor did I feel the need to travel immensely after college. I wouldn’t suggest or discourage another young woman from making that same decision. I would rather ask, “Do you feel completely fulfilled or do you feel like you are constantly chasing after something new?”

Unfortunately, my life decisions, what I have chosen for my priorities, won’t help you find yours. Patton’s and Sandberg’s won’t help you either. Follow your heart and trust your instincts. If you aren’t ready to settle down- don’t. If you aren’t ready to enter into the workplace- don’t. If you want to focus on getting married and having kids- do it. If you want to work solely on building your career- do it. If you want to make both work- trust me you can do that too. Making a quick decision is easy to regret, but no one ever regretted taking the time to truly figure out what they wanted. Despite what Patton and Sandberg suggest, you my fellow ladies have all the time in the world because as soon as you figure out your own priorities you won’t need anymore time.

From woman to woman, my advice to you is simply no advice at all.

Fitness: Interval Running Workout #5

I’m back! Well… kind of.

I’m back at the gym, but not as much as I would like. But sometimes you just got to take what you get and make the most out of it. It hasn’t been easy, I definitely have fallen behind a little bit now. The running is a tiny bit harder now that I have been out of commission for a couple weeks and I find myself wishing just a little bit more that I was sitting on my couch back home instead of running. But I have no doubt that I will break down that wall and will be back on track in no time. Challenges and goals inspire us to keep going, to fight through the pain. So, that’s exactly what I am going to do. And I hope you do too.

Ladies, you have been warned. Start shopping the swim section now because you will love(hate) this workout. It’s called the “bikini cardio” workout. It’s about a 45-minute run and probably one of the harder runs for me personally. But hey, who ever said having a bikini body was going to be easy? If it was, we would all have them. It’s a lot of running at a fast pace but summer is almost here so we don’t have a lot of time to waste. Your bikini and sun-kissed skin will thank you later.

The Workout:

*Warm-up for 3 minutes. I do this by walking at around 3.5 mph but it’s your choice. Get the blood flowing.

*Run 2 minutes at 7.0 mph.

*Walk 1 minute at 4.0 mph.

-Repeat the run/walk cycle 9 times (not including the warm-up).

*Sprint at 8.0/8.5 mph for 1 minute.

*Walk at 3.8/4.0 mph for 1 minute.

-Repeat this sprint/walk cycle 5 times.

*Cool down, your choice, for 5 minutes. You will need it, so don’t skip it.

You probably understand now why this is called the “bikini cardio” workout. It’s hard and tiring- I know it is. But, at the same time it’s an awesome workout with even better results. If your legs feel like jelly, you can barely breathe, and your clothes are soaked with sweat you know you did something right for both your health and that bikini.

Happy exercising!

What I Take For Granted

Coming from a middle class family living in a suburban town in a developed country, there are probably a lot of things I take for granted. Many of which I probably don’t even realize. I never had to worry about food, clothing, or transportation, and most importantly I have never felt unsafe because of my gender, race, or values in the town in which I grew up or in the towns that surrounded me. But the one thing I certainly know I have taken for granted is my education.

By now, it’s no secret that about three weeks ago over 200 Nigerian schoolgirls were kidnapped from the Chibok Government Girls Secondary School by an Islamist group called Boko Haram, simply just for going to school. The group is now selling these girls into slavery or as “wives.” Boko Haram actually means “Western education is sinful.” These girls did absolutely nothing wrong on April 14th, the day their school was attacked and they were taken as hostages and transported to a remote forest outside of Cameroon. They were simply just trying to get an education- they weren’t asking for a miracle, they weren’t expecting the impossible. They just wanted to learn, which is apparently a “sinful” concept to some.

Living in the United States, schooling for me was always a given. You have preschool, kindergarten, elementary school, middle school, and then high school. Our public schooling system makes education accessible to everyone despite gender, race, or religion. In the public school system in which I attended, college was also pretty much a given. I never felt like continuing my education onto college was an option, rather more like a requirement. I know very few people who didn’t continue onto college after high school, whether it was part-time, full-time, one town over, or across the country. There are very few times that I think twice about my college degree. Don’t get me wrong, I know that I am very fortunate to have had the college experience, to have a Bachelor’s Degree to my name. Looking back, I feel overcome with joy and happiness. I made some awesome friends, attended many thrilling classes  (some not so thrilling), and created many life lasting memories. But at the same time that lack of personal acknowledgement, that sense of feeling like college was a requirement rather than a privilege, makes me sad and a little less incompetent.

Incompetent? A little strange, yes. But how could I not feel that way? There are so many young girls and women out there who are constantly restricted. Restricted on what they can wear, who they can marry, what job they can hold if any, or what they can believe in. And here I am, a 20-something year old woman in my career of choice, married to the man I chose, with a college degree, and a house of my own. What do I really know about life? About struggling? About challenges? About being told I can’t do something? About being restricted? Let me answer that for you- absolutely nothing. And despite all my years of schooling, I couldn’t even begin to pretend I understand.

So, I won’t pretend. I absolutely cannot wrap my “educated” brain around what is happening in Nigeria right now. I especially could not begin to fathom the lack of importance some people put on an education. Ojonwa Miachi, an education activist in Nigeria, recalls remarks she remembers hearing from some of her extended family members, “We don’t need to spend much on their education, they’re just going to go off and get married.” Of course, having an education is not a prerequisite for marriage but what does that have to do with anything? An education is a priceless commodity. Wait, education? A commodity? Unfortunately, that’s exactly what it has become. Education is not a given, it’s not a requirement, nor should it be privilege. Education is not accessible to everyone, but it very damn well should be.

An education is not about how much Shakespeare you have read, how much calculus you understand, or if you can recall the dates of World War I. It’s about the ability to think. The ability to formulate your own opinion. It’s about the ability to acknowledge that everyone doesn’t have the same opinion  as you do. That many times, there is more than one right answer to every problem. It’s about knowing that everyone’s life should be equally valued, regardless of gender, race, religion, or morals. Most importantly, it’s about having the chance to become your own person. To shape your future into the life you want. If you end up being a housewife- great. If you end up being a doctor- great. But that ability to think, to comprehend, to formulate is priceless. It’s a skill that every single one of us should possess. Therefore, each and every one of us should have an education. Each and every one of us needs an education.

I may not be able to completely understand what is happening in Nigeria. And I certainly do not agree with it. But what I do know is this: violation of human and women rights is a very real thing. We may want to shut our eyes and turn our heads because yes, it’s horrific. But that doesn’t change a thing. It’s still there. It’s still happening. No matter how perfect your own life is, no matter how easy you have it, no matter how few obstacles your life entails- oppression is still there. To not acknowledge it is ignorance. To not talk about it is ignorance. To not accept it’s existence is ignorance. But to not educate yourself and your loved ones- your friends,family, neighbors, and even complete strangers- is the worse ignorance of all. I can promise you this, our darkest days will arrive the second we stop learning.

We are all entitled to an education based on the simple fact that we are all human. As Miachi said herself, “We can’t keep quiet or sit back or think, ‘You could lose your life.’ Because we want to ensure the rights of human beings and women and girls are not violated.” To me, that’s a truly educated woman.

So, please bring back our girls and let’s all get educated.

Tex-Mex Baked Pierogies

Since yesterday was Cinco de Mayo, I couldn’t resist but to make a festive dinner. It only seemed right. Who doesn’t love an excuse to cook or eat Mexican food? We have tacos and quesadillas a lot so I was on the hunt for something slightly different. I came across a recipe for Tex-Mex Baked Pierogies… intriguing. We always have a big bag of frozen pierogies in the freezer so I already had the main ingredient. I went on to read the rest of the ingredients- enchilada sauce, corn, onions, cheese. All the things that make Mexican food so great. As you probably guessed already, I just had to make it. And Cinco de Mayo was just the most perfect time as ever to do so.

It’s a ridiculously easy recipe, great for a busy night. And it’s also very tasty. It’s the perfect recipe for when you are looking for something a little out of the ordinary but using all very ordinary ingredients. Many ingredients in which you probably already have. It could have only of been better with a margarita in hand (mental note for next time).

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Ingredients:

1 can of black beans (I didn’t use these because my husband doesn’t care for them and it was still delicious)

1 can of enchilada suace

1/2 cup of frozen corn

2 scallions (I forgot to buy these so I just chopped up some onion instead)

1 16 0z.-package of frozen pierogies (or about 16 pierogies)

1 cup of Mexican shredded cheese

1 tbs. chopped fresh cilantro (optional- I didn’t use this either)

 

Directions:

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

2. Combine the beans, sauce, corn, and scallions/onions in a bowl.

3. Spread half of the mixture onto the bottom of a baking dish.

4. Add pierogies.

5. Top with the remaining enchilada sauce mixture.

6. Cover with foil and bake for 40 minutes.

7. Remove the foil and coat the top with Mexican cheese.

8. Put back in the oven uncovered for 5 minutes.

9. Top with cilantro before eating if desired.

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P.S. I actually took my own pictures this time! 🙂

Enjoy!

 

Fitness: Interval Running Workout #4

Alright, I have a confession to make: I haven’t been to the gym all week. Now for the excuse…

We have been super busy around the house, painting, landscaping, and a ton of other small projects that are probably completely unnecessary. This past weekend I spent most of my time weeding/mulching which requires a decent amount of squatting, bending, kneeling , and lifting heavy mulch bags. Let’s just say I could barely walk Monday and Tuesday, even with all the running I have been doing. Every day after work this week we have tackled another project, leaving just enough time for dinner and bedtime. At first it feels really good to skip the gym, like you are getting away with skipping some tedious horrendous chore, but I soon come to miss it. It feels great, after sitting at a computer all day, to just let loose and run for a little. If one good thing comes from this week (besides all the stuff we are accomplishing at home), it’s realizing that I like my new workout routine despite how I may feel while actually doing it. Sometimes you just need to step back and reassess what you are doing/what you have to really appreciate it. I can’t wait for things to get back to normal, hopefully by Monday.

And no, this doesn’t mean that you should stop running too so I made sure to post another workout. This workout is meant to focus on “fat burning” as it has a decent amount of running at a decent to fast pace. There are two plus sides to this workout. One, I personally feel like this workout goes by the quickest out of all of them. Two, you actually get to rest. Like no running, just stand there type of rest. It’s not long, but it counts for something- trust me.

The Workout:

*Warm-up at a 7% incline for 5 minutes.

*Jog at 6.0 mph and a 4% incline for 2 minutes.

*Sprint at 7.o mph and a 2% incline for 1 minute.

*Walk at 4.0 mph at a 7% incline for 2 minutes.

*Jog at 6.5 mph and a 4% incline for 2 minutes.

*Sprint at 7.5 mph and a 2% incline for 1 minute.

*Walk at 4.0 mph at a 10% incline for 2 minutes.

*Jog at 6.5 mph and a 5% incline for 2 minutes.

*Sprint at 8.0 mph and a #5 incline for :30 seconds.

*Rest by carefully jumping to the sides of your treadmill for :30 seconds. While you are resting, set incline at 2%.

*Sprint at 8.0-8.5 mph for :30 seconds.

*Rest for :30 seconds. Set incline at 1%.

*Sprint at 8.0-8.5 mph for :45 seconds.

*Walk at 4.0 mph at a 5% incline for 3 minutes.

*Jog at 6.0 mph and a 2% incline for 3 minutes.

*Cool-down by walking at 3.5 mph (no incline) for 4 minutes.

Guess what?! You’re done! You just kicked ass. Yes, yes you did.

Keep going for me while I finish my brief hiatus. I will be back soon, I promise.