That First Step is a Doozy

OkayI know I said that the next post would be a review of my shiny new book; all I can say is that it’s in draft. And that book is data and fact filled. So I’m not rushing myself, I decided to veer a bit and talk about my first day of class! (Cue shifting of backpack straps and pushing up of glasses.)

The class of 2013, as I suppose we’re classified, is pretty small. About 13 people of various ages, experience and background. It’s a relief to meet new people and hear their stories and how they got into communication. Theory class on Monday gave a basic overview of what we will be doing during the semester. Based on the reading schedule, it has become very clear that the trope of “Grad school is not undegrad” holds very true. We’re talking on average three to four peer-reviewed articles per week. However, it came back to me that the reading, exploring theories and the application of those theories was what made me so excited about studying when I was 20, 21. At 26, I’m excited to get back to that love.

Now research, that’s going to be a challenge. I’m not the most analytical person and this course will challenge me. We are exploring qualitative and quantitative research, and I’m looking forward to the cumulative two or three-person project for the semester. Of course, now I have to scope out my classmates and, as I told my sister in the Bat Cave, “figure out who is smart but not so smart I have to manage their ego.” Folks in academia can live in ivory towers, as my theory professor said, and I don’t want to aid and abet this attitude.

So far, so good. Some reading to do, I have to get back in the studying frame of mind. More than anything I’m excited to get back to what it is I love…education.

I Believe in the Power of Positive

Light Bulb

The other day I was speaking with my sister, who also happens to be my only reader so far, and I told her that one topic I will not cover on here is my relationship. I’ve come to the conclusion that despite what popular culture tells us through shows like “Sex and the City” and books on relationships (and TV shows and “experts” and ad nauseum), talking about relationships, especially your own, becomes maddening after a while. It becomes a soul suck of “well did he mean this? maybe he feels like that…what do YOU think?” until it’s a vicious cycle where no one in the actual relationship is talking, just the woman and her friends. And let me tell you, one thing I’ve learned over the years (yes, I’m only 26 but I learn quickly), is that most of the time you (woman) are upset, your male counterpart either a) doesn’t know it because he’s inside his own head or b) doesn’t want to say anything and will wait for you to say something.

In college, I had a cork board that stayed with me through all four years with various photos, ticket stubs, pins and sticky notes. One of my notes said “Believe half of what you see and none of what you hear,” which was especially true on a very small campus with a tendency toward gossip. But the note that resounds with me today was “Positive thinking brings about positive results.” The Mayo Clinic agrees with me, noting that:

“…some studies show that personality traits like optimism and pessimism can affect many areas of your health and well-being. The positive thinking that typically comes with optimism is a key part of effective stress management. And effective stress management is associated with many health benefits.”

Although I wouldn’t call myself the most cheery person in the world, I definitely find that my unique brand of positive self talk combined with faith has kept my  head above water over the past five years. I avoid negative cycles and negative people, never being one to understand that brand of “Woe is me, life is so terrible, don’t you agree?” that coworkers and associates can drag others into. Although every day isn’t always the best, since this isn’t promised to us, I’d rather focus on what is going right and plan for making other areas better than to wallow in it all like a pig in slop. And now this blog is another outlet for bringing the good vibes to my world, and possibly yours.

Next up, I review the first two chapters of my latest favorite read.

Defining My Limits With Social Media

Yield
Today I read two stories that brought to mind the self-placed limits on what I share and how I interact with digital content.

First up: Facebook has done away with Places…as we know it. When this feature, which at the time was mobile-only, debuted I immediately put the kibosh on it. I’m of the mind that if I wanted you to know where I was, you’d be there with me or you’d get an invitation. And the fact that other people could check you in, without your approval, was borderline creepy. As soon as I found out what privacy toggles needed to be changed to disable the feature, I jumped on it. Now you’ll be able to add location to photos (love that idea!) and status updates, like when you’re planning a vacation or running to brunch and want a friend to join you there.

The second story: Magazines are increasingly adding digital tags in their stories and ads to drive readers to supplementary online content (video, photos, coupons). I pretty much gave up on magazines as I saw the prices increase but the amount of pages with content relevant to me decrease. I mean, how many ways can I learn about how to put on mascara and how to please my man? Neither here nor there. According to the article, a study found that in a survey of 100 magazines on the newsstand this June, there were 373 digital codes compared to 88 in January. That’s quite an increase, and advertisers are paying attention and paying up.

However, I find that I’ve yet to scan these kinds of tags. At a recent conference I attended, we brought this technology for attendees and were recognized for it on the Microsoft Tags blog. As these kinds of add-ons become standard for magazines and events, I’m sure I will be part of that second wave of adopters, the ones that have to see that other folks are doing it and it’s worth my efforts. Until then, I’ll keep flipping physical pages only and limit my online sharing to the great salad I am enjoying for lunch, not where I’m at as I do just that.

What is memory when it’s not necessary?

Since I’m dead in the water (also known as sleep on the couch) right after my back-to-back-to-back news source (The Daily Show, Colbert Report and Rachel Maddow), the three shows provide me with the combination of comedy and news that I need for a balanced brain. Just recently Colbert gave me some food for thought during his “The Word” segment. The topic was transactive memory or “a system through which groups collectively encode, store and retrieve knowledge.” This is a great idea for someone like me who has a memory like a sieve. Seriously, I forgot the word campaign the other day, who does that?

Back on topic now, Colbert then brought up the idea of memory in the age of Google, based on a report from Betsy Sparrow, which showed that people are increasingly relying on technology for their memories. Well lo and behold, as I was picking up books for graduate school (one week and counting!) I saw this book on the discount table.

Can you believe I only paid 50 cents for this? I’m looking forward to sharing what I learn from the book on here. I love the reference to an awesome sci-fi, futuristic movie, which itself is based on the amazing Philip K. Dick story “We Can Remember It For You Wholesale.”

So if you’ll excuse me, it’s time for me to curl up with a good book.

Push (Compel) and Pull (Impulse)

The other day, as I slowly delighted in half of a homemade brownie, I immediately fought with my inner desire not to get the other half. I distracted myself with work and then began to think about impulse control and the lack of it. I managed to quash the “need” for baked goodie and started looking into the science of why it’s so hard to stop at just one chip, cookie, kiss, etc.

Apparently, impulse control is influenced by an imbalance in serotonin levels, which also affects anxiety, depression and panic. I’ve always thought it as more mind over matter and self-discipline but then again that’s why I’m not a scientist. I can almost get it. You know that ping you get when you walk down the snack aisle and you want to sweep your arm across the entire Lay’s display. You feel like you know better but there is a larger part of you that is charging you forward to the undue behavior.

At the opposite end, instead of trying to not do something, I often find myself struggling to find the compulsion to do things. Must-do items like write and exercise, things of that sort. Now that I no longer have the luxury of work-sponsored gym membership or apartment amenities, I joined the nearby 24 Hour Fitness. I know exercise is good for you and all that jazz, but I truly find balance when I’m active and physically expending my frustrations.

So the note I keep in my head: don’t be so hard on your impulses, even if they do involve cupcakes, and compel yourself to three times a week in the gym, especially when you’re paying for it!

About making it happen for yourself

I’ve been sitting on the suggestion from my mom for a few weeks: start a blog. For years, she’s been telling me that my sister and I should blog based on our conversations alone. Over the four years since my older sibling has been in London, living the life of a blipster ex-pat married to a lovely Brummie, and I’ve been out of school working full time, we’ve had what we lovingly call the “Bat Cave.” In reality, it’s Gmail chat, who is a moody wench sometimes (depending upon our topic of conversation). These hours-long discussions of literature, culture, fashion, t-shirt ideas, love and loss and all things Kanye have been a lifeline for both of us. Although we weren’t close growing up, (despite our mom’s many calls down the hallway at our rumblings that “you only have one sister!”) we have created a bond that sustains us through twice-a-year (thrice in the good years) visits on one side of the pond or the other. However, I know that if I shared a Roni-and-Leisa only blog with people, it would be met with raised eyebrows and mutters of “How many 80s movies are they going to reference?” So that idea was vetoed.

After a recent heart-to-heart with my mom, she gave me advice that I’m sure I’d heard before but somehow came through my fog and funk louder than usual: “Make your own opportunities, because no one is going to hand you anything.” It is so true, especially in these times, that making something out of nothing, a dollar out of 15 cents if you will, is the way of the world. Jobs are harder to come and my prediction that the bachelor degree is going the way of the high school diploma in terms of must-have-to-be-considered status has come true. I made an agreement with myself about two years ago: new job or grad school. At the same time that I wrote essays and requested transcripts, I placed resumes and hit up contacts. In April 2010, I came to the job I have now and put grad school on the back burner, knowing that desire would come back. Lo and behold, I applied for school in January of 2011 and decided upon University of Texas at Arlington.

But I still feel the need for a challenge. So my mom’s advice to create my own wind behind my sails manifested itself in the idea to start a blog. I don’t consider myself the best writer in the world but I enjoy people’s stories. It’s why I studied communications; it’s why I enjoy working at an association. And I hope it is what keeps me going as I continue to share on here. And so ends my first post!