Fitness Plan/Writing Plan 2014!

Back in the day, I’m talking waaay back in college, I had a very good schedule. Classes really did take the majority of my time, but I also had a part-time job. During my senior year, I started taking pilates on Tues and Thurs evenings (and actually lost a lot of weight – we’re talking about 8-10 lbs and I’m an average sized but short 5’1″ lady). Lately, with a life happening here and there, I felt I was constantly pulled from my schedule. Now with the dust a little more settled, I’m starting to get back into a routine. This is the same routine that I should be able to stick to all the way to the middle part of next year:

*Fitness goals: Yoga & Marathon Training

For many years, I’ve tried this running in the morning thing – ugh but it hasn’t worked for me. I’m the most comfortable running in the late afternoon or in the evening. I’m not sure if there’s a physiological reason for this (since the psychological reason is not enough to convince me to force myself to run in the mornings) but I prefer to write in the mornings and running/cardio makes me…tired. Instead, I’ve done yoga pretty regularly in the mornings and have no problem with that. So I’m going to head back to the yoga studio for 4 times a week, in the early mornings (between Mon-Fri) but I might throw in a hot class on one of my running rest days. And of course, I’ll have to train to run and preferably do it in the afternoon and evenings. I think 5 days a week with 2 rest days is as much as I can do right now. So the fitness schedule will look something like this:

Monday: Running

Tuesday: Yoga + Running

Wednesday: Yoga

Thursday: Yoga + Running

Friday: Yoga + Running

Saturday: Rest and Rest

Sunday: Running

The running will look something like 3 days of running, rest, 2 days of running, and rest. And the yoga will be more concentrated with 4 days during the week. As I get more miles, I will start to mix in other types of cardio with the running.

*Writing Goal: In the short term, I’m planning to write every day for the remainder of December (my schedule is open enough for me to do it). In the long term, I’ll be setting word number goals instead once I have my teaching schedule pinned out come Jan 1.

LET’S DO THIS!!

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Getting Back into the Saddle…

Phew! It’s been a while since I’ve updated. I guess I sorta fell out of blogging world after I finished my last race. Well, lots of new things have happened since June of this year…and here’s a brief recap:

1. Hubby deployed!

2. I turned 30!

3. I’m going back to university teaching in winter of 2014

Because of these big changes, I’ve also made new goals in response:

1. Going to train for my first marathon (haven’t decided which race, but it will be in the 4th quarter of the year 2014

2. Going to finish my gosh-darn dissertation by summer of 2014 because I can’t take the judgement that is being passed on me everyday by my committee everytime I speak to them.

3. I’m going to make this the most productive writing year thus far in my life!

 

So this is what’s going on…it’s late, and I just finished my Christmas shopping. Will update again soon about my work, my running, and everything else in the months that my husband is away from home (whoopeedoo, I get to be an adult and handle adult things 24/7!!) I apologize for the slight sarcasm here and there 🙂 Anyways, it’s back in the saddle for me, again!

Moving Forward?

Things are starting to improve: I can feel it. I’ve been feeling more motivated. The professional conference I went to was the sign I need to move forward; however, that was not enough! This is something that has been confusing/baffling to me in the month after I came home from the conference. I thought I would immediately dive into my work with high energy and ethusiasm…but that’s not the case. Instead, I would open the Word document that contained my drafts, proceed to start at it, and then refocusing on other activities and tasks not related to the dissertation. This sounds like a classic case of avoidence, but the question is why?? I’ve been inspried and made a conscious decision to follow through with my academic efforts, so why weren’t my thoughts translating into action??

Today, while actually working on some chapter revisions, it suddenly dawned on me why it has been so difficult for me to get going on my dissertation despite the solidfying of my intentions — I have a lot of guilt and shame associated with working on my dissertation. I feel embarrassed and guilty that I’ve not made too much progress since last summer. I feel awful that I had squandered away this past year — a tuition break that I was supposed to use to finish writing my dissertation. Whenever I tried to work on my dissertation in the last month, these thoughts would circle me:

Should have written more…Should have been more rigorous in my methodology…should have been more confident in my abilities…shouldn’t have mentally “checked out” when things got tough…shouldn’t have allowed my problem to keep going for so long…regretful that it will take me probably an additional 6-9 months to finish…regretful that it will cost me more finacially to finish…

Yeah, that’s a lot of should haves and shouldn’t haves. It’s small wonder that I wanted to avoid working on my dissertatiion…it triggers such terrible feelings of guilt and shame (aka I’m a terrible student/academic!!). However, I now know what is holding me back, so I can attempt to fix it. One of the reasons why I was able to see/feel small progress in my work in the recent is because I’ve slowly learned to control and push aside these awful thoughts that I’ve been associating with my dissertation.

Looking through The Woman’s Book of Confidence by Sue Patton Thoele, I was able to find these wonderful excerpts about letting go of guilt and shame and how to do it:

The person we most often stain with feelings of shame and guilt is ourself, and much of our guilt and shame comes from believing we have failed in some way or other.

Make a list of your seeming failures — the “shoulds” you think you think you need to feel shameful and guilty about. Ask yourself if you did the best you knew how at the time; if so, think of a symbolic way to release those feelings.

Yesterday is irretrievable and tomorrow is unknown. We have done the best we could, and now it’s time for us to forgive ourselves for our seeming failures, congratulate ourselves for getting up after falling down, and then leave remorse behind us. 

I wrote down my feelings as a way of acknowledging them. And now I’ve recognized that this is the way I feel, I can start to work on releasing those feelings and disassociating the guilt I feel with the tasks I have to accomplish.

I know I’m already getting better and getting stronger.

Redemption

A while ago I wrote this post about what I’m passionate about in the midst of some heavy self-doubt about my professional identity. I have always been pretty clear about my preferences and interests…my real problem was being scared of uncertainly, risks, and failure…all very real prospects for any academic who’s trying to “make it.”  For months, I’ve been looking not only for jobs (albeit half-heartedly because I was unsure about what’s going on) but also a sign. In my own way, I’ve been praying for higher powers to reveal to me the meaning of my life outside of my wonderful family and married life.

Back in September I made the commitment to go a regional professional meeting this past week. For a while, I was dreading the whole ordeal and briefly considered abandoning the trip. My logic was if I wasn’t going to stay in the field/profession, what is the point of “professional development”? Fortunately, I did have a travel grant to spend on this trip…so I thought why not go for the good weather, good food, and good company? It’s hard to say exactly why, but this trip turned out to be the sign I had been seeking. Here are some thoughts about this conference and how I felt while I was there:

1. I love research and all other academic nerdy stuff! On the first day there, I spent 5 hours in a room listening to people speak about their research and I was absolutely enthralled by the whole experience. Yes, by the end of the 5 hours, my back was hurting from sitting too long and I had developed a slight headache from waking up really early that day to catch my flight…but I held off going to the bathroom so I wouldn’t miss any minute of the presentation. In that moment, I felt alive, happy, and comfortable. 

2. I have the best mentors. In this academic life, it’s very easy feel alone or that you’ve been left behind in some way by your peers, life, and happiness. I know that sounds desolate, but this is a very lonely life. Being at the conference reminded me that I’m a part of a community of scholars and there are people out there rooting for me and willing to mentor me. All my life, I’ve always been blessed with the mentorship of great teachers. In Chinese, we call those who bless us with guidance and mentorship 貴人 (rough translation: good-person)…and I have them in my life. I am not alone. No one expect me to “make it” all by myself.

3. My very good friend and colleague MAG made a really good point…he said “academic is a part of your identity.” Identity is a funny thing and it’s actually a concept I occasionally use in my work. But MAG is right: being an academic is a part of me, which explains why I felt so wretched when I tried to “sever” ties with my academic identity. I once thought maybe I had been brainwashed and only clung to academia because it’s the only thing I know. After this past week’s experience, I don’t think that’s really the case. Although it is still the area I know the most about, trying to turn away from it just made me miss it more.

There are also several other events that made me realize other parts of my struggle with this academic quandary. For one, I thought perhaps my husband and I can allow his military career to be the dominant one and I’ll just do all that I can to support him. But sometime over the last week, our good friend J and his wife B said goodbye to us and moved on from military life. This made me realize one day, my husband will also leave the military: it might be in a year, in 5 years, or in 15 years…but regardless, he will leave it one day and be proud of all that he did. Where does that leave me? Maybe I’ll have children and be proud that I spent all my life supporting my family…but I don’t think that will be enough for me. I have to live out my potential beyond my home life.

Lastly, I don’t think I ever really gave myself the chance to make this academic and military dual career work. Yes, objectively, the conditions and the terms of these two types of professions are incompatible…but there are also ways in which it might work out. For example, aside from only working PT or being a stay-at-home mom, it is very hard to negotiate time off to coordinate with the big chunks of leave time that our military personnels enjoy. As a professor, it is actually very standard to have summer and winter vacations, which often coincide with summer/winter leave. It’s definitely not going to be perfect: if I do pursue an academic career, there will have to be serious compromises (e.g., living arrangements, children)…but I am hopeful (for the first time) that we will be able to coordinate so we can both become illustrious in our careers and become well-established in our respective chosen careers. I need to work hard and give it a chance.

Strangely, I feel that this conference was my redemption and it pulled me out of the depths of my despair. Even though the period of uncertainty and self-doubt really hurt my progress, I also believe it was necessary for me to fully appreciate what I have and who I am. Fall and winter is at an end; spring has sprung. And it’s wonderful I came to my revelation the day before Easter. I am so thankful for this gift.

Am I a Procrastinator??

“The distance isn’t important; it is only the first step that is difficult.”

– Marquise du Deffand

I’m a regular reader of the daily inspirations on the Chopra Center. I love it because it helps me think about my life and the way I choose to live each day – with intention. This is the quote I saw today, which brings me to something I’ve been struggling with as of late. Procrastination.

I wouldn’t say I’m a chronic procrastinator, or that procrastination is present in many aspects of my life. My house is fairly organized and clean; in fact, my husband and I make a conscious effort to not allow chores to pile up for more than a couple days at most. I also make an effort to not allow errands to pile up or drag itself out so dry cleaning is done on time, cars are serviced within schedule, bills are paid before they are due…etc. I am also hardly ever late for work, school, social engagements…and I have been able to meet my deadlines. This is except when it comes to my dissertation.

What’s going on here?

I find myself staring at my computer and not getting much done. I’ve been reading many books but none of them really related to the work I have to do. I would set goals for myself, but not able to reach them because I would choose coffee with a friend, browsing at Target, watching a TV show, reading an unrelated book, working out, cooking….basically you name it over writing and working on this damn dissertation! Someone once told me this process of screwing off is normal, but I feel absolutely awful and consumed by guilt after blowing off work.

In true procrastination fashion, I decided to read a book about procrastination (but I also want to know how to overcome it). I’m usually pretty good at self-diagnosing my psychological state and interpreting my own behavior. For example, I know the reason behind my procrastinator behavior in regards to the dissertation – it’s not because procrastination is my usual modus operandi but rather there is something specific about the dissertation that feeds my behavior. So I need ideas/guidance/tricks on how to correct such behaviors. 

I found a short little book that’s an absolute gem. The Procrastinator’s Digest by Dr. Timothy Pychyl  is a concise book about why people procrastinate and what can we do to overcome this behavior. It took me maybe two hours to go through it and understand what I can do to get myself back on track. I am also taken with this book because Dr. Pychyl is totally realistic in his advice and recognizes that procrastination is a habit that takes time and effort to correct. The idea is not that by reading his book we’ll suddenly have an epiphany and become non-procrastinating on adverse tasks. At least for me, the best part about this books is we learn to understand why we behave in certain ways and then acknowledge our behavior. Only through acknowledgment can we start to address our problems and use problem specific tools to overcome our behavioral tendencies. There are three quotes from the book that really spoke to me:

Procrastination is a problem with not getting on with life itself.

My current motivational state doesn’t need to match my intention in order to act.

Self-change is a journey I take daily, and I will persevere patiently as I take two steps forward and one step back.

Especially the last quote. It reminds me of why I go to yoga and what I try to work on while I’m on the mat. For too many years, I’ve been too harsh on myself – I’ve learned to forgive others a long time ago but I’m still working on forgiving myself. By acknowledging that my state of mind (and the cause of my inability to complete my work), I set the intention of self-forgiveness: I forgive myself for feeling scared and ambivalent; I forgive myself for feeling weak and vulnerable.

Finding My Passion

A lot of thinking transpires in my conversations with my BFF M.

I’m incredibly blessed to have a friend like M; she understands me and is always so encouraging without being patronizing. We are like sisters :) Something we’ve both been working on (and have been for a couple of years) is finding ourselves and our passions. I don’t mean “passion” in a frivolous sense. Obviously, we love cooking, baking, fashion, guilty-pleasure TV, and the Duchess of Cambridge (who doesn’t!) but those are more like “escapes” – something fun, entertaining, and a place to temporary forget our troubles! At least to me, those don’t constitute inspirations that I could build a career out of. So, what am I passionate about? Another friend of mine, J, gave up the trappings of an academic life to pursue her dreams of becoming a writer and working for a non-profit. She loves writing and she keeps an amazing blog, along with various writing/writer projects! J was the first person who recognized and pointed out how “boxed-in” I was by academia. I think over the years, I’ve talked myself into thinking finding that university/college TT job and the 7 year climb to tenure with no regard to the quality of life is the ultimate goal of my life. Now, by allowing myself to even consider something outside of the academy as my life’s work, I feel so liberated but also so lost. I’ve been thinking about this very often, especially as I approach the final stages of my PhD education (READ: existential crisis). So, I decided to apply some systematic thinking and problem solving skills to my dilemma (using that education…ha). I start out by asking myself two important questions:

What am I passionate about? 

Teaching, helping others, learning, welfare issues related to our military personnel (including veterans) and their families, the social and political status of Asian Americans, politics (in general)

What am I good/skilled at?

Research, problem solving, thinking analytically/systematically, writing, communication, organization (creating order from chaos)

If you look at what I have just written, it would seem strange that I am trying to look outside of the academy. Truth be told, I’ve never minded the content of what I do; rather, I’m turned off by the structure, the rigidness, and the abstract nature (i.e., sitting in the ivory tower) of the profession. Also, while this might be “blasphemous” (by academy standards) to say, I actually want a life – support my husband’s career choice in the Army, spend time with my family, possibly have children, travel and discover the wonders of our world…etc. I’m not naive enough to think I can have everything, but I am at least willing to consider all possibilities. Right now, I’m not sure if there’s a particular job/career path that fits the bill of what I just described outside of the academy, but I am going to start somewhere.

While I was going through a bout of days long existential crisis this past fall, I started to look around the internet for any topic that might interest me (let’s just call this research instead of wasting time). That was when I first became aware of the possibility of becoming an instructor, teaching Army Family Team Building (AFTP) courses for the ACS on post. Last week, while going through the ACS schedule for my FRG group, I noticed that there are instructor training courses being offered next month. After a brief call with a representative from ACS today, I decided to sign up for this course (3 day series). I think this volunteering opportunity fits the bill of what I would like to become involved in. We all have to start somewhere so I’m looking forward to this!

Intentions

My prime intention for 2013:

I will refuse to allow obstacles to consume and dissipate the quality of my attention in the present moment. I will accept the present as it is, and manifest the future through my deepest, most cherished intentions and desires

–Deepak Chopra

This is the beginning of the 3rd week in this new year…and I’ve been working on myself. It’s been kind of up and down for me since last fall – I oscillate between motivated/hopeful and unhopeful/lost about my plans for 2013 and future career prospectives.  Although I’ve gained some new perspective in this process and feel OK psychologically and emotionally most of the time, I still fall into episodes of “darkness.”

In December, I applied for two teaching jobs but I recently received a “thank-you” letter for one app and didn’t even hear back from the other (despite the fact this current term have started). Even though a lot has changed between submitting my job apps and right now (I am probably not in a position to take a full-time job anymore), it is still very discouraging just because it was kind of a “dream” job and it casts a shadow of doubt on my prospects in the future. I am a fairly rational and logical person…but sometimes it’s just too tiring and difficult to call yourself back from the edge of dark thoughts.

I tried to talk to my husband about how lost I feel in life and that my ambivalence about finishing my dissertation stems from being unsure what’s my next step in life. The pragmatic soul he is told me that I’m in fact, very blessed – I’m not under any type of pressure to find a job immediate because his (fairly good) job will be able to cover the expenses for both of us for the foreseeable future. I guess that is true but it somehow doesn’t make me feel that much better. I’m guessing this is an issue that I will have to revisit in the future…but for now, I’m trusting my head and heart to the intention of moving forward and keeping in the present moment despite obstacles that may arise. I need to keep exploring and searching…but I still need to move my life ahead. I’m always a work in progress.