Don’t Settle In 2019 ~ 3 Tips

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Hello, dear readers, and welcome!

So…I am still alive, and am back from the grave (thankfully not literally, or that would be quite awkward).

I hope you had a wonderful holiday season, and are ready for a new year. I certainly know I am. The end of last year was a bit crazy, but I’m getting back to my normal (ha!) life. 

And, here to ring in New Year, I am have some tips for how to not settle in 2019.

So, without further ado, here are my 3 tips to get your New Year going and on the right track…


Tip #1: Become Grounded In The A.M.

What is the first thing you do in the morning?

This may seem like an odd question, but in my life, I’ve noticed it’s an extremely important question, with an extremely important answer. 

So, how about it? What does the beginning of your day look like?

Are you sluggishly crawling out of bed? Hitting the alarm clock again? Shoveling food down your throat before running out the door to work? Or, are you taking time to ground yourself before the day truly sets in? 

My morning starts early, and my first thing to do is to make a hot cup of tea (recently, I’ve been loving the “Three Ginger” tea by Pukka, which I found at Publix). After that, I do some stretching, my morning reading (bible, devotionals, books on culture and self-improvement, novels), take my morning walk, and have some breakfast (non-hurriedly) before I start the day’s work. 

Maybe you don’t have much time in the morning (I am grateful to set my own schedule, as it were), but there are still things you can do to ground yourself before your day really gets rolling. 

Now, what do I mean by “ground yourself” exactly? There are plenty of ways to take this phrase, but I look at it as “the act of reminding yourself what you believe, and allowing that to filter through the rest of your day”. 

Tea makes me awake, and reminds me of my heritage. My morning reading reminds me of the spiritual beliefs I have, and those keep me on track when life gets sticky. Stretching and a nice walk remind me to take care of myself, and that I have the strength to do what I need to do. And taking time for a nice breakfast reminds me to be thankful for what I have. 

What grounds you? What solidifies who you are? What will keep you balanced? 

If you don’t know, now may be the time to start experimenting. 

When you find your “grounding thing”, be sure to practice it every day. 


Tip #2: Buy A Bento Box 

Yes, this is my Japan-nerd side speaking.

But, hear me out. 

Most of us can agree that we want to start (and continue) eating better, right? And, if you already eat amazingly all of the time (whoever you are, keep going), you can still probably agree that you want to 1) bring food from home, 2) get better at cooking, or 3) have a cute lunch box that makes you want to take your time eating. 

So, my suggestion: buy a bento (弁当) box (yes, I am striving to remember those kanji).  

Bento boxes have great portion sizes. Bento boxes are (typically) adorable or cool looking (come on, there’s a Pokeball bento box, for goodness sake!). And, having one will make you want to pack your own lunch, and make it cute — which means both cooking, and finding a variety of healthy things to put in it. 

Come on, everyone. Following this tip is easy. Find cute bento box, buy cute bento box. There are plenty of great recipes to be found online so that you can fill your bento box, not just stare at its pretty design. 

(My friend bought me a bento for Christmas, and my first packed lunch consisted of rice balls — onigiri お握り– shaped using these molds; teriyaki salmon made with this recipe; spinach made with this recipe; and sliced radishes with snap peas. It was delish.)

(The site my friend ordered my bento from is bentoandco.com. Everything is reasonably priced, and comes straight from Japan.)


Tip #3: Make Decisions, Not Resolutions

The big thing to do for New Year’s is to make a — or twenty — resolutions. But, I stopped doing that years ago. Why? 

Because I never ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever 

*keeps going for a while*

ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever keep my resolutions. 

But, I still like to plan things for the New Year. So, without resolutions, what do I do? 

I make decisions instead. 

I’m sure some of you are thinking “well, Alexandra, isn’t that basically the same thing?”, but I would argue that it isn’t. Not exactly. 

When I make a resolution, I think: “I would like to do X”. But when I make a decision, I think: “I will do X, even if it kills me.” 

(I don’t recommend adding the “if it kills me” part, though.)

When we decide to do something, the hardest thing is actually following through. But, I would argue that following through on a decision is far easier than following through on something you merely “wish” to do. 

So, make decisions for yourself, and then put foot in front of the other to see those decisions realized. Things won’t work out the way you had planned (they never do), but with your continued efforts, eventually the possibilities will be realized. 

Christopher Reeve, the original Superman, is quoted to have said: 

“At first, dreams seem impossible, then improbable, and eventually inevitable.” 

I agree. It all becomes inevitable if you work hard enough. 


So, here’s to 2019, and achieving whatever you’re setting out to do. Be nice to yourself, but don’t forget to push the limits. You can achieve. 

Best Wishes, 

Alexandra ~


Do you have an New Year’s tips? Feel free to share them here! 


I’ll be doing some tinkering on this site in the coming months to make it a more friendly, awesome place for my readers, so if you see some changes, don’t fret. It’s all part of the plan! 


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Does Your Life Trump Your Brand?

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Hello, dear readers, and welcome!

Recently, something occurred to me — or, more accurately, it hit me in the face, as revelations have a tendency to do. Not too long ago I had a day where I woke up and…I could tell that my depression was hitting me hard.

Everyone who has depression (or any disorder/disease) has different difficulties. Though diseases and disorders have symptoms, they don’t manifest the same for everyone; we are all unique, even in the things we might not want to be unique in.

That day looked for me like a day where I felt worthless, unsuccessful, like I was never going to get anywhere, like I shouldn’t even get out of bed — I was tired, irritable, among other things. It’s hard accurately describe these feelings on a scale that fits the reality of them, but let’s just say I couldn’t wait until things were bright again.

It wasn’t the best day, but I try to look at the positive in every negative situation, and adapt or learn from there; I also try to make the best of those bad days when I have them, doing things I know will help, even if only a little bit. In this situation, the positive was that I noticed something had been covertly bothering me.

Several days before this episode, I had finished (“finished”) setting up my blog, purchasing one of the WordPress plans. Afterwards I was assaulted by a slew of emails: ways to make money with your site; ways to drive traffic to your site; ways to improve your brand–

Ugh.

…”Brand”.

I hate the term “brand”. But before you roll your eyes and tell me I was born in the wrong century, please let me explain why.

What does “brand” actually mean? Thanks to the handy Merriam-Webster dictionary, I can tell you just that. Leaving out the connotations linked to swords and charred wood — and the verb, which is similar to the below — we have:


brand

noun

a(1): a mark made by burning with a hot iron to attest manufacture or quality or to designate ownership(2): a printed mark made for similar purposes : TRADEMARK
b(1): a mark put on criminals with a hot iron(2): a mark of disgrace : STIGMA the brand of poverty
4a: a class of goods identified by name as the product of a single firm or manufacturer : MAKEb: a characteristic or distinctive kind a lively brand of theaterc: BRAND NAME sense 2

5: a tool used to produce a brand


So, what does this tell us? I’m one of those people who believe the meanings of words both do and don’t change over time. You could say that, even when the meaning changes, a part of the word’s power doesn’t. So, even if the meaning shifts, part of the old power is still there, linking to the new.

Brand. Our first definition of the word (above) tells us about a mark to designate ownership — such as a cattle brand. This can be the mark of a criminal, too, and in the past it was common to mark slaves (unfortunately, I’m sure it still is). This can also translate to a mark of disgrace.

What about the other definition: “goods identified by name as the product of a single firm or manufacturer“?

Businesses sell goods. Businesses have brands. So, if a person has a “brand”, does that mean they have a business? Is that all it means?

It would be nice if that was the only connotation, but so often anymore “brand” refers to the person themselves.

JK Rowling is a “brand”. James Patterson is a “brand”. Stephen King is a “brand”. Etcetera, and so on and so forth…

But if a person is a brand, instead of a business being a brand, then how does that change other people’s view of the person — and their view of themselves? Surely they are no longer a human being with a life, if they are being likened to a business producing products — and therefore everything they do is considered a product.

The person no longer has a life of their own, but something for others to consume…and eventually transform as they like, whether online or in person.

My recent grapple with depression was no coincidence, I think, though I don’t believe my frustration was the only cause for it. Still, the more emails piled in, the more I worried if I was doing enough — or if I was doing everything right.When the slightest decision you make for yourself, for your own life, can affect your “brand”, you begin to feel as though you can’t make any right decisions at all.

Why does it feel like when I focus on my “brand” — on myself as a company producing products or services — that I feel more like a slave to the whims and expectations of (unseen) others?

Hmmm, that sounds familiar, doesn’t it?

Now, I’m not saying wanting to build a good business is bad, or that wanting to reach out to others is bad. I like writing blog posts and sharing with other people, and I hope these posts inspire you. But I do think we have the tendency to stretch ourselves too thin, and to try and make ourselves into something we are not.

I recently posted the prologue of Shadows of Past Pages, book 1 in the Kieros Chronicle, which I will be sharing here on my blog. This was right after I received all of these emails about promotion and numbers and — brand, brand, brand, brand!

Here too I felt like I wasn’t doing enough, like I would never be doing enough.

Was one chapter every two weeks satisfactory? Could I keep up with that? Did I need to post every week instead? What if I needed a break? Would my readers be angry with me? Would they come back? Was I going to put all this work into posting and have it be all for naught?

I begun to lose sight of why I decided to post chapters in the first place: to challenge myself to finish the story.

I enjoyed putting together the chapter and illustration and posting it, but I feared I wouldn’t be able to keep up. Not only is NaNoWriMo around the corner, but I have been experiencing difficulties with my migraines more than normal lately. I’d posted about InkTober, and hadn’t shared any drawings — hadn’t even been able to draw as much as I would like. It all seemed like too much, and I was just ready to call it quits.

I told my mother as much, and she said: “Well, just get your chapters posted when you can.”

I replied that she didn’t understand — that I had to keep a schedule if I wanted to get anywhere, that I needed new content regularly, that I had to engage.

You know, brand stuff.

She looked at me, a bit miffed, and said: “You’re too hard on yourself. I don’t think anyone has that high of expectations for you — and if they do, they have a problem.”

She’s right. I am too hard on myself. I have ridiculous expectations.

But she was also right about something else.

Her words were wonderful thing to hear, because she was giving me permission — not an excuse, not an admission of defeat, but permission — to have a life rather than a brand. To take my time. To do what I can, when I can do it. To be my best self, in all of the special ways that make me me–

To make decisions for my life, rather than trying to make myself into some sort of production machine.

They say humans can only focus on a few things at once, and do them well.So, if you focus so much on that “brand” you’re trying to build, what is going to fall to the wayside? Your family? Your friends? Your dreams? As much as we would like to be able to have it all, I’m not sure it’s possible — and even if it is, I’m not sure the sliver of “everything” you can have is even worth it.

I like to take a walk in the mornings, if I’m feeling up to it. The photo above is of leaves I noticed on the side of the road when walking the other day — one of the first cool mornings of autumn! If I had been focusing so much on my “brand”, would I only have taken that photo to put in this post? Would I have been plotting out ideas for posts, sharing, marketing, etc. during my walk, instead of just enjoying it? What would I have missed out on?

What have I learned?

I think I would rather have a life than a brand, to echo Tim Tebow in his new book “This Is The Day” (which is actually quite good, if you’re looking for a read).

I can’t keep up with the demands required to be “successful” in these terms, and I don’t want to try. I spent years self-publishing, overworking, and though I’m proud of the books I produced, I also look back and realize how much I killed myself in that time — I even reached a point where I couldn’t write for over a year. I want to do things on my own terms.

If having a life instead of a brand means sharing posts less often, or taking my time, or having to try and fail and try again, then I’m up for it. If I blog for a year and nothing comes of it, then so be it. I’d rather be building a life, even if it’s not what others think it should look like. I’d rather be doing my best to help others, as well as taking care of myself, than worrying about what a successful blog is supposed to look like.

So what if I’m not “successful” (whatever that is)? If it’s not my own definition of success, which looks like chasing what is really important to me, then I don’t want it. Those numbers and likes and shares and whatever else are great, but not if they make me into a person-company or glorified slave to some overbearing expectations of what is “supposed to be”.

So, I’m going to try and do this the right way: one post at a time, one moment at a time. I’ve decided I won’t be blogging in November because I want to put all of my effort into NaNo. I plan to continue posting Kieros Chronicle, but without a schedule.

I’m going to do the best I can to build a life instead of a brand.


What things about modern business or social sharing frustrate you? How do you balance life and business?


To anyone doing NaNoWriMo, I hope you have a great month! I’ll be cheering you on as I type out my own story. If you’re looking for some tips and haven’t checked out my NaNo post, you can link to it here.

Best of luck! 

Alexandra~


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