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.

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Book Review: How To Disappear Completly by Kelsey Osgood

Last night I finished reading an anorexia memoir titled How To Disappear Completely by Kelsey Osgood. Although I wouldn’t classify this book as one of the best books I ever read, I really did appreciate the subject matter. If you are looking for a really entertaining read with spotless writing then this probably isn’t the book for you. But, it definitely provides a lot of food for thought.

Before reading this memoir, I had read other anorexia/addiction memoirs. The stories are brutal and heartbreaking. The things they put their bodies through, the extent they go to to lie, to hide things, to become sicker is unbelievable. But usually in the end they persevere. They overcome their downfall and get on a road back to health. For me, these memoirs were never more than stories. If anything they made me want to eat more, be happier, and just love who I am. I couldn’t imagine going through what they put themselves through. For me, these stories were deterrents. It never occurred to me to look at the other side of the story. To think about the readers who aren’t as happy with who they are, who are struggling to stand out or fit in, to feel loved, or admired. Osgood makes a very good point- these very memoirs are enabling these readers to be anorexic, to get the attention they are striving for, to accomplish something that is worth noting.

I’m still not sure if I completely agree with what Osgood is saying but I do agree she has something there. She refrains from giving any specific details about her own disease, claiming that from experience this only encourages bad habits and behaviors. If she reveals her lowest weight, that gives another person something to strive to be. If she discloses the amount of food she used to consume, that only gives someone a plan. Osgood claims she became a “good anorexic” by studying other people’s memoirs, case studies, magazine articles, documentaries, and television shows. As a young girl she graved attention she didn’t think she was getting, she wanted to accomplish something people would talk about, she wanted to be known for something, to succeed in something. She wanted to be “perfect” and loved. With all this information readily available at her fingertips- in the libraries, the bookstores, on the internet, or on television, Osgood felt like becoming thin would help her reach those goals and desires. She was going to get thin the easiest way she knew how, the way she had seen many other girls get thin. And boy, was she going to get really thin- she would show them. She found a new purpose, a new goal, a new way to feel better about herself and she had a lot of helping in doing so.

If you think about it, it makes perfect sense. Our society values being thin, pretty, and popular. We thrive to be successful, to accomplish something with our lives. We are bombarded with examples of “perfect” people and to reach their image seems nearly impossible. We can’t imagine a healthy way to look like that model in a bikini ad because we aren’t given the tools. Their aren’t many diet and exercise ads that say, “I ate this, this, and this today and I am still thin. I am still healthy.” But, there are many ads out there for unhealthy diets, their are many resources out there (chat rooms, internet forums, etc.) in which people encourage each other to get thin, to be the thinnest, and do it in the worse possible way. To be the worst is to be better, it’s means you are the “best.” I’m not saying that there aren’t any people, companies, or diet plans out there promoting the right things. But I do think they are harder to come by and aren’t as easily accessible. It’s easier to find stories about people who have suffered. It seems easier to starve yourself than to educate yourself on healthy eating and exercise.

This book made me stop and think- how about if we lived in a world where we didn’t talk about things like this? If no one ever shared their stories of eating disorders, drug addiction, or alcohol abuse. If no one ever revealed their greatest weight loss tip or the easiest/quickest way to get high. If we didn’t know the truth of people’s struggles, if we weren’t given that information to ease our own problems- would these diseases still exist? Would they be as prevalent? It’s a weird thought but something worth thinking about whether you agree or not. I personally think they would still exist. I don’t think these diseases or substance abuse would just magically disappear. And I certainly wouldn’t want to cut off an open dialogue about people seeking help and treatment. But I can’t help but think that maybe a little more privacy wouldn’t hurt.

After reading this book, I don’t know if I see the point in writing about your darkest, gruesomest days anymore. Publishing or filming the details of your life for the rest of the world’s entertainment. Why do we have the right to pry into your personal life? That’s your story, your personal intimacies, and no one should feel the need to publicize that information or even read it. I do believe that writing and coming to terms with where you have been, what you have done, and what you see your future to be are all huge parts of therapy and recovery but this can all be done, and should be done, privately. Your support should come from your family, friends, and loved ones. Not from people who don’t know you, who may encourage you to back track at any moment. In this age of social media frenzy, we all need to appreciate our privacy just a little bit more.

I always enjoy a book that forces me to think in a different way, to open my mind to new alternatives and ways of thinking. I like hearing different takes on the same subject, hearing all different sides before forming my own opinion. I will often stumble upon something I have never thought of before. How To Completely Disappear goes beyond anorexia. It brings to light a subject that everyone can relate to. It encourages you re-think what your version of “perfect” is, to re-evaluate what makes you happy, and to value your own personal life more. I think we can all learn something, whether we agree with Osgood or not, from this book. We should all stop to think about what we want to share before we share it- the effect it will have on yourself, on your loved ones, and those you don’t even know. Next time you go to write a status, post a picture, create a tweet, or even write a blog post just stop to think for a moment before hitting ‘enter.’ And maybe even put that smartphone down for a day. It won’t hurt, I promise. Censorship is a practice we should all partake in a little bit more.

Cheers, to celebrating love!

During my normal daily internet browsing I came across this absolutely adorable story/video about a 70-year-old woman who never got to wear the dress of her dreams on her wedding day so she decided to that she was going to make that happen now. This story struck me for many reasons. First let’s get to the obvious- this woman is kick-ass. It takes a lot of guts at the age of 70 to walk into a bridal store and say you are here to shop for a wedding dress… for yourself. Yes, you have every right to shop for whatever and wherever you want but that won’t stop other people’s eyes from staring and making assumptions about you. I can just imagine some of the things that ran through some people’s minds, “Why is she getting married NOW?!”, “Who do you think she is marrying?”, “How old is she?!”, or “She thinks she looks good in that?” I wish I could say that everyone’s reaction to seeing an older woman shop for a wedding dress would be positive (because it is a very awesome thing) but unfortunately, it will not. There will always be nay-sayers and debbie-downers everywhere you go and to put yourself in the spotlight like that is one of the coolest things I ever seen. I also think that it is amazing that after all these years this woman is still following her dream. I think there comes an age in many women’s lives that they give up on what they haven’t accomplished yet. They think their life is over so there’s no use in trying. Let this one single woman be an inspiration to all. She just shoved it in everyone’s face proving that it’s never too late. If your still breathing then your dreams are still worth achieving. Don’t put a limit on what you can or can’t do, you have no idea what you could be missing out on. Seeing the pure joy and happiness written all over this woman’s face says it all. If she hadn’t taken charge of her own dreams she never would have gotten to experience that happiness and that once in a lifetime feeling. That pure joy and happiness is the second reason that I love this story so much that I just had to come here and blab about it to you all.

Having just had a wedding of my own this story also reminded me what a special and memorable experience I had the honor of having. Yes, I agree that the idea of a “typical” modern wedding has gotten way out of hand. The extravagant venue, the music, the flowers, the decor, the food, the favors, the dresses, the tuxes, the makeup, the hair, the shoes, the cake, the first dance, the honeymoon all seem to consume your mind. Why do we need all these things to get married? Why isn’t love enough? Well, I will tell you why. In fact, love is more than enough. Like this woman, if you are with the right person, you don’t need all these things to be happy. All you need is that other person by your side. It doesn’t matter what you are wearing, where you are, or what’s for dinner. All that matters is that you are now bonded in a deeper love, a love that will only make you love your partner more and more everyday. BUT, until you experience a “typical” wedding day for yourself you won’t understand why you need those other things. It’s actually not really a need, it’s more of a want. All humans need love. We all have a natural instinct to find love. But, we also have wants as well. We want to share this moment with all our friends and family. We want to feel our absolute best. We want to have the time of our life. We want to feel like a princess. We need our partner to feel whole but we want our celebration.

A wedding is a celebration, it’s a once in a lifetime celebration. A celebration indicating that you found the love of your life, your soul mate, and your best friend. It’s a celebration that is worth the world. The day you get married is full of bliss, love, laughter, and joy from the moment you wake up till the moment you go to bed. The moment you slip into that dress it’s pure happiness. Your first step down that aisle is pure happiness. Your first kiss is pure happiness. Your first dance is pure happiness. The biggest moment of your life is immensely surrounded by happiness. There is so much love, so much excitement, so much good surrounding the both of you that it completely reaffirms why you are there, doing what you are doing. It’s true, the moment you say “I do” is really all you need but all that happiness that surrounds you makes for an unforgettable, completely self-centered, incredible moment that everyone deserves. We don’t need it but we want it.

This woman demonstrates that all you really do need is love. She was married happily for many, many years never having had a lavish wedding but she also demonstrates that sometimes it’s alright to want more than you need. If you want it- go get it. That pure joy on her face can’t be faked. That love for her husband can’t be faked. That want had to be clenched. And their love will only grow stronger.

You can see a few pictures on David’s Bridal Facebook page. Follow me on twitter @LConfidence and/or at my Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Lipstick-Confidence/411787572256608.

When does being “comfortable” go too far?

Lately there has been a lot of attention in the media about college-aged women and their sex lives. If you are a normal person you probably already said, “Wait- stop right there. Why should we care?” And you are exactly right, why should we care? Unfortunately, there are many reasons why we should care that go way beyond your personal morals about sex. Barnard College, a prestigious women’s college in New York, is one reason we should care. When students arrived back to campus this Fall they were greeted with a new guest policy that they were never warned about. The new guest policy states that no student is allowed to host an overnight guest “no more than three consecutive nights and no more than six nights total in any 30-day period.” Their guests actually have to sign in (and sign out) with security guards located in each dorm- another reason we should care. The college claims that this new guest policy came about from other students being uncomfortable with their roommates guests- one more reason we should care.

I see so many problems with this that I don’t even know where to begin- it’s actually kind of infuriating. Being a recent graduate of a women’s college this strikes a very personal cord with me. Let’s take it piece by piece. First, the wording and implications of the new guest policy really irks me. Why do they care how many TOTAL nights a student has a guest a month? Six nights doesn’t even cover all the weekends in a month. It seems to me that they are insinuating that when a student has an overnight guest they have sex and they are trying to control that personal choice. I just don’t see any other reason for it. If it was solely for the roommate’s sake they would have stopped at the “three consecutive nights” rule. Yes, even that part seems a little unfair but at least I understand it. It’s uncomfortable to have someone you barely know staying in your room and they certainly shouldn’t over stay their welcome so that part is totally fair. In life you have to give and take a little. But there is absolutely no reason any college or university should be concerned with how many times a student chooses to have an overnight guest. Another reason I feel this new rule is mostly about sex is that it pertains to all students, even those students living in singles. These students are not bothering anyone when they have a guest so why should they be restricted? Why should it matter? I realize that it’s hard to have a rule that only pertains to certain students but that’s one of the many perks of single living or of being an upper classmen. If the roommate issue was the only reason behind the new policy there are many other ways Barnard could have went about it.

Next, I do understand that many colleges have guests policies but how much they are actually enforced is a different issue. I do believe in some sort of guest policy because it’s necessary for the safety of the students but once again, Barnard has gone too far. The fact that these students have to sign in and out their guests with a guard stationed at their dorm is beyond me. It’s like your literally displaying your personal life to the public. I completely understand why students would feel like their guard is constantly judging their personal decisions, even if the guard could actually care less and is just doing his or her job. Every time you bring the same or different person back you are wondering what they are thinking. It’s uncomfortable and a private decision that shouldn’t be logged on a piece of paper. Not to mention that this is occurring in a place that celebrates all the freedoms women have gained and all the successes we have made. But how can you stand for that when your actions say the exact opposite?

Lastly, and the the biggest problem I have with this whole thing, is that this is resulting from the roommate’s “uncomfortableness.” Are you kidding me? How old are we again? Do we know how to use our voices? Apparently not. If these students can’t function in a safe, sheltered, single sex environment there is no way they are making it in the real world. What ever happened to working through your own problems instead of running to administration or a higher power? It’s an essential life skill that these women seem to be lacking. If you don’t speak up your roommate is going to assume you don’t have a problem with her guests so she is going to keep doing it. If these “uncomfortable” roommates could nicely express their concerns I bet 98% of these students would take those concerns into account and be more considerate about their guests next time. There are always going to be the few who don’t care about anyone else or their feelings but that’s what your residential/student advisers are for, not the administration. If three intelligent and grown women can’t work through their problems and differences I really do feel hopeless for the future. Once you bring your problems to a higher power you are then making someone else feel uncomfortable and are invading their privacy and two wrongs never make a right.

This controversial debate couldn’t of come at a better time for my blog, right when I’m talking about being in “uncomfortable” places. So naturally I feel inclined to throw out a few tips about how to talk to your roommate (or anyone for that matter) about something they are doing that is making you uncomfortable:

*Talk to your roommate in private. Not when your or his/her friends are in the room or when you are in a public place. Also, make sure it’s a good time for them to have a serious talk. If they are going through something super stressful they aren’t going to be as understanding as they normally would be.

*Be specific. Don’t just say, “I don’t like when you have guests overnight.” Tell him/her why. Is there something that they do that annoys you? Does it prohibit you from doing what you have to do? If you don’t give them something to work with they aren’t going to be able to fix it.

*Once you voice your concerns, you need to listen to theirs as well. What’s important to you may not be important to them and you aren’t going to be able to change that. You are going to have to find some even ground that you can BOTH live with.

*Whatever you do, don’t be judgmental. Don’t tell them that what they are doing is “wrong.” Make it clear that this is your personal preference, not a matter of right or wrong.

*If you need to, make a list of each of your needs and expectations then compare and contrast. Find a solution that meets all these needs.

*If all else fails, get a trained student involved. Talking to someone else who recently probably went through the same thing you are could be really helpful for the both of you.

*And sometimes you just have to suck it up. That’s what adulthood is all about, welcome to the real world.

College is an essential time for students to grow on their own, think for themselves, make their own mistakes, and learn from them. In four very short years you are supposed to become an adult, a full functioning adult. It’s scary and not easy. But guess what? You have to do it. Rules like these do not exist in the real world but problems like these certainly do. If you can’t learn how to handle them in a safe environment I’m not sure you ever will.

Here are a couple interesting articles about the this new guest policy from The Daily Beast and The Nation.

Adventuring to Uncomfortable Places…

There are many different places with many different rules, codes of conduct, and expected behaviors that once can find themselves. That’s what makes being confident 24/7 so hard. In one place one thing is expected/acceptable and in the next place you find yourself it’s well…. not at all. It can be overwhelming to keep all these expectations and “rules” in order and straight in your already very busy head. This feeling often results in uneasiness or the feeling of being out of place which in turn sends off a signal to other people around you. A signal that says maybe you aren’t comfortable with who you are, that maybe your confidence could use a boost. This certainly isn’t the case, right? Your just uncomfortable because you aren’t sure what is deemed appropriate or not. You find yourself becoming a little quieter, jumbling the words you do manage to get out, hesitating before you make any movement, and possibly you notice that you are even a little shaky. These are all completely normal reactions to an uncomfortable situation. But why should we let these little cues define who we are in that moment? Just because we feel that way doesn’t mean we need to show it. Just knowing one of two things that are expected of you at any given place will give the person next to you the “wow, this person knows how to act” kind of impression, and that’s just what we want even if we aren’t feeling that same impression ourselves.

Over the next a couple weeks I am going to try to take you places where expectations/behaviors might be a little different from your everyday life. If you just take one thing away from each blog post I promise you will feel more comfortable and confident the next time you find yourself in that place (well, at least the people around you will feel that way). First up is the dreaded hospital. No one likes going to the hospital. It’s often times depressing, sterile, and unfriendly. But at one point or another we will all have to visit someone there whether it be a parent, grandparent, aunt, uncle, friend, or co-worker. It’s one of those places that sometimes you need to force yourself to go to because it’s the right thing to do. Fortunately, there are some readily available tips and guidelines to help visitors feel more comfortable and well, confident with their visit.

*Don’t be afraid to call ahead. It’s always good to double check if visitors are allowed, what the visiting hours are, and what types are gifts/food are permitted. Every hospital is a little different. This is especially helpful if you aren’t completely sure what the patient’s current health status is or what type of diet they are on.

*Try to avoid visiting in large groups. I know you probably don’t want to go alone so it’s o.k. to  bring a friend of two but your whole pack of 12 girlfriends probably isn’t the best idea. Large groups of people can be very overwhelming to someone trying to recover and get better- it’s just plain tiring. Also not to mention hospital rooms are usually on the smaller side and your visitor might even have a roommate…

*Try to leave any small children at home. I know that sometimes this is impossible to do but try to find a time to visit when someone else is free to watch your children for a while. Hospitals are scary to adults, imagine what they seem and look like in a child’s eye. Children are also unaware of how to act in a hospital setting, their innocence can turn into a disruption to another patient.

*Consciously try to talk in a slightly softer voice than normal. The people you are with or visiting should still be able to hear you at a comfortable distance, no need to whisper, but you need to keep in mind that there are many other people in neighboring rooms or possibly in the same room that are trying to sleep/rest.

*Minimize cell phone usage. Only pick up incoming calls in the case of an absolute emergency while visiting the hospital. If you must make a call step out of the room and go down to the lobby where noise level doesn’t matter as much.

*Keep your visit short. I think the ideal visiting time for a friend or co-worker is 15-20 minutes (trust me, this feels like a lifetime) but for family feel free to stay a little longer if you want. It takes a lot out of a recovering patient to visit with someone and the reality is you probably aren’t the only visitor. Just knowing that you stopped in for a few minutes will brighten that persons day.

*Don’t assume physical contact is o.k. I know it’s a natural reaction to want to hug a friend in need but before you do so ask if it’s alright. You don’t know where the patient is feeling pain or how easy it is to move. Once you get permission- hug away!

*If your the patient, nurse, or doctor asks you to not visit then it’s simple- don’t visit. There is probably a good reason or the patient simply just wants their own privacy. Even if you plan on just stopping in for a few minutes, don’t do it. It’s rude and inconsiderate even with the best of intentions.

*If you are sick, even if it’s the slightest cold, don’t visit someone at the hospital. Even if your sickness isn’t a threat to them, it’s a threat to someone else staying in that hospital. There are a lot of very sick and elderly people in every hospital and the last thing you want to do is spread a nasty germ around.

*If you are visiting while a nurse or doctor comes into the room, politely step outside the room until he or she is done. This creates more room for them to work and gives the patient a feeling that you respecting their privacy and are really just interested in visiting them, nothing else.

*That being said, don’t pry into private questions or test results. If the patient feels like sharing, they will share. But it is good to show an interest. Ask how they are feeling, what their symptoms are, what they are doing to get better, etc. Take an interest in their disease, surgery, etc. It’s nice to know that the people who you care about also care about you as well. Taking an interest in someone else’s life makes them feel important.

*Don’t talk about negative things such as work drama, the failing economy, or huge blowout fight within your group of friends. The patient shouldn’t have to have anything else on his or her mind besides getting better. They will find out who got fired for what or who isn’t friends with who anymore once they get home. But you should talk about how much they are missed or funny things that have happened. It is very easy to start to feel isolated especially with longer hospital stays. If you can make the patient still feel somewhat connected (in a good way) to the workplace or your group of friends that’s awesome.

*Try not to sit on the bed or play with equipment. The bed and it’s settings are made just for the patient. There are often one or two chairs in the room meant for guests. If there aren’t any chairs you can manage to stand for 20 minutes- at least you aren’t the one in the hospital bed. Also be wary of the medical equipment. Try not to bump into it or move it. Even if the patient asks you to press a button or adjust something tell them you would feel more comfortable if a nurse did it and offer to page someone for them. You don’t want to be responsibly for messing something up or administering too much medicine, etc.

Nothing will make a hospital visit easy but they are certainly ways to feel more comfortable and confident with your visit. If you just abide by a couple of these “rules” no one will be able to tell just how nervous and uncomfortable you really are. Half the battle of confidence is knowing how to pretend.

I wonder where next week will take us……….

Can Money Buy Happiness?

A few weeks ago I wrote about my generation of women’s sense of self-worth and “can-do” attitude but it also bought to light the reality that, even today, there is still a wage discrepancy between women and men. This morning I came across an interesting article on NPR by Lisa Chow entitled “Why Women (Like Me) Choose Lower-Paying Jobs.” This article gave me a whole different insight into the very same problem and resonated a lot with my own life. During her recent interview with an economist who studies how people’s choice of college major effects their income he revealed that, “women often make decisions that lead them to earn less than they otherwise might.” It is no secret that there are some majors/areas of study that just won’t produce the same income levels as other majors might. Most people going into these majors know this, but they chose to do it anyway. The article also had some helpful graphs with it, showing the percentage of degree holders in certain areas of study that are women. Some of the “least lucrative” major areas are Early Childhood Education in which 97% are women, Communication Disorders Sciences that tallied at 94%, Social Work which contains 88% women, and Human Services/Community Org which came in at 81%. The “most lucrative” majors shouldn’t come as a surprise- Pharmacy Sciences/Administration won with the most women degree holders at 52%, Mathematics/Computer Science came in second at 33%, Chemical Engineering was next at 28%, and Metallurgical Engineering (huh?) contains 17%. In last place, Naval Architecture/Marine Engineering degree holders are only 3% female.

The economist from Georgetown University also pointed out that women’s choice of major isn’t the only problem, the jobs they chose once they graduate is another major factor in their income. He gives the example that most women who major in Math end up in professions such as teaching. Lisa, the author of this article, admits that she is one of these women. She majored in Applied Math, got her MBA, and is now a reporter for NPR. Awesome, right? But can she be making a lot more money? Certainly. As much $3-4 MILLION more! Lisa also tells the story of Rhea, a college career counselor. Rhea holds a degree in accounting and started her career in the corporate sector. Her boss offered her the opportunity to become a director but she turned it down. She was 5 months pregnant and there were more important things going on in her life at that moment. Eventually, she left the business world and ended up in the career path she is today.

This definitely raised a lot  of questions in my mind. What’s more important- money or happiness? Family or work? Of course, the answer is different for everyone. You may be a woman who loves engineering and who may or may not want children, so a job in your chosen field will give you both money and happiness. But, that isn’t me. I went to a top-ranked women’s liberal art college, I could have easily chosen a science major or a pre-med program. My school is known for their awesome science department- it’s prestige and intensity. Instead, I chose to double major in English and History. Why you may ask? The one science class I took in college (Astronomy) I absolutely dreaded. Every few minutes I found myself glancing at the clock and every time Wednesday night rolled around (lab day) I let out a long sigh. I couldn’t imagine spending any more time in a science/math related class than I had to in order to graduate. I wasn’t intellectually stimulated and I just wasn’t happy. To me, happiness is the most important thing in life. You only have one life to live- so why not be happy? Reading makes me happy. Learning about new literary geniuses and exploring new genres intrigues me. American history calls out to me and begs for me to learn more about it. This is where I am happy and this is where I feel most like myself.

What’s the income pay-off for my four years of a priceless education? Not very much (at least not yet). But, everyday I go to work happy. I enjoy what I do, I have a source of income, and I am constantly learning new things and growing in ways I didn’t even know I needed. My chosen career path is somewhat flexible and family-friendly. I have so many options to chose from when I decide to have kids including staying home, or even possibly working from home. I’m not sure that this is even what I want, I’m not sure what I want yet but I’m glad to know that flexibility is there. My happiness and my future family is what is important to me and that’s why I am where I am today. Yes, women in higher-paying fields have families too but those subject areas don’t make me happy. Yes, women who work a lot with very little flexibility have great families too, but that’s not what I want. I’m doing what’s right for me and I shouldn’t worry about being another statistic. I am a more confident woman because of the choices I made. I am more confident in my skill set required for my job and my ability to make an impact in my field. I feel like I belong here and the number on my pay check can’t tell me differently (…but maybe my bills can).

I’m not trying to say that gender wage inequality within job fields themselves doesn’t exist or isn’t important. What I am suggesting is that you should determine what you want from your life, what interests you, what makes you happy before you point any fingers at anyone else. Despite all the challenges that still face women- I am happy where I am and let me tell you, it feels really good.

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Beach Bumming

With the holiday and “last” summer weekend upon us the beach has been on my mind. There will be many people heading to some sort of body of water this weekend (myself included) whether it be the ocean, a pool, lake, or pond. Unless you have the luxury of your own private sanctuary you aren’t going to be alone. There will be many other families, friends, and lovers trying to enjoy their long weekend too. I know, the last thing we want to do it worry about other people on our time off but we can’t escape the reality. Wherever you may find yourself this weekend, there will be other people around you and it’s only right to respect their time and space as well. With a few small tips it’s actually pretty easy and it will make yourself look pretty good (and who doesn’t like that?) because unfortunately there are many selfish and oblivious people out there that have no respect whatsoever for others. I put together a quick list of a few guidelines that I try to follow when I’m at the beach, collected after experiencing many annoying and joyless beach trips. Hopefully this will help you vacation with more ease and confidence this weekend and many more weekends to come.

1. Before you stake your spot pay attention to your surroundings. First, try to leave a considerable amount a room between the other people on all sides of you. I understand that some beaches have limited room and even more so on busy weekends but try to make an effort to spread out. There are very few people who like being in arms lengths of people they don’t know, especially for long periods of time. I’m sure you don’t like it either, so why make everyone’s day miserable? People like to feel like they have a space that is all theirs. Have a particular spot that you like? Make sure to get there early to claim your spot instead of trying to squeeze in later. Being closer to the water, bathrooms, or snack bar is not worth the hassle of the huffs and puffs of other people around you. You should also pay attention to the wind and tide. You don’t want to sit too close to the water if the tide is due to come in soon. You can potentially lose your spot and may not find another one, or may need to squeeze somewhere else you really shouldn’t be. The wind direction is very important for those with umbrellas. As you can imagine, its not fun to get smashed in the face with a beach umbrella during a nice afternoon nap, especially if that beach umbrella is not yours. Just be aware and you will be fine.

2. Be cautious. If you are wearing flip flops or any type of sandal/shoe that isn’t secured tightly to your foot you should remove them as soon as you step onto the sand. Most sandals kick up a lot of sand as you walk and no one likes a whole pile of sand to the face- yuck! It’s also important to be cautious when shaking out your towel whether you are packing up or just re-adjusting. You make not realize it yourself but a lot of sand sticks to your towel and will get carried in the wind to the people next to you and maybe even beyond that. Take your towel to an open space and then shake it out.

3. There is no reason to yell- unless there is an emergency of course. Your voice carries on the shore so even if you think you are talking in a normal voice everyone around you can hear what you are saying. I don’t know about you but I really don’t care which muscles are sore, what you ate last night, or how horrible your job is. I go to the beach to relax, not listen to other people’s gossip.

4. If you are using a radio or speakers keep the volume low, just loud enough so the people you are with can hear it. Honestly, the best solution is an iPod and headphones but I realize that for larger groups people want to be able to socialize and hear each other without earphones getting in the way. So, if you do have a radio going just be mindful that other people may not want to hear your music. Also keep in mind what type of music you are playing, especially if you are in a heavy family populated area with children around.

5. Don’t smoke at your towel. The wind carries the smoke and you are in very close proximity to other people. Some people have allergies, asthma, and others just simply don’t like smoke blowing in their face- understandable. If you need to smoke find an empty spot on the beach, go for a walk, or head out to the parking lot.

6. If you want to get some exercise in with a football or frisbee pick your spot wisely. I hate having to constantly pay attention to those playing around me to ensure I don’t get slammed in the face. I want to close my eyes and relax or read a book. I don’t want to go home with a bruised eye or broken nose and I doubt you want to cause that to happen to someone else. Getting some exercise while at the beach is great, just pay attention to where you choose to do it.

7. If you are at a beach where dogs are allowed, keep your dog leashed. Not everyone thinks your dog is cute as you do. Also, don’t feed other animals. This includes other people’s dogs and the seagulls- ESPECIALLY the seagulls!!! If you like getting swarmed by seagulls then good for you but I can promise you that very few other people share that joy.

8. Lastly, clean-up. Before you leave your spot at the end of the day make sure all your trash is picked up and disposed of in the proper place. Beaches are beautiful, wonderful places but they won’t be for long if we don’t take care of them.

See, I told you (women love being right). These are all very simple things that only require minimal common sense. You can still enjoy your vacation the way you want to while respecting other fellow vacationers at the same time.

Enjoy your long weekend, get some sun, and relax. I will see you all next week!

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