Get Out of Your Own Way

All my life I have abided by this plan.  A plan involving a series of life goals to be completed in a particular order at a particular time with little variation.  I am very much a perfectionist – refusing to accept any standard short of perfection and breaking at the seams when things stray out of my control.  It is something that I found little fault in until I realized that it was actually getting in the way.

I grew up in Charlo, MT, a small town about an hour north of Missoula, MT.  You can verify this with my parents, but I believe I got off to a good start – not getting into a lot of trouble growing up, smiling for pictures, and eating my fruits and veggies.  Like most small-town kids, I was involved in a lot of school sanctioned activities.  I stayed busy spiking volleyballs, dribbling basketballs, or leaping over hurdles after school.  I was a part of several student groups aimed at developing various skills and helping the community – all while maintaining good grades.  I had the support of my family, the tight-knit community, and all the hours invested into me by my teachers and coaches.  When it came to my senior year of high school, I knew where and what I wanted to study before that notorious “last first day.” I was too proactive for my own good.  I filled out as many scholarships that came my way to ensure I could afford my college education without taking out loans or burdening my parents.  I received my high school diploma and was set to attend the University of Montana and study Marketing through the school of business administration in the Fall 2014.

Everything seemed to be going according to this meticulous plan I had my mind set on.

Although I know many non-traditionalists, adventurers, free spirts and the like that contest this idea entirely (and there is nothing wrong with that), I imagined my life following this ideal order in which I went to high school and graduated with good grades and big dreams for college.  I would start college the following fall with an idea of what you wanted to study and make a career out of.  I imagined meeting all kinds of people, growing as an individual, graduating 4+ years later, and stepping immediately into the ideal career the day after I receive my diploma.  To date, my life has followed this plan.  As I near the end of my college endeavors, I fully expected to make the later part regarding a career a reality.

Up until recently, I felt that I had to tailor my life to this rigid plan otherwise I wouldn’t succeed at getting where I want to be in my life.  I would fail myself, my family, and everything that had gotten me to this point.  I felt so constrained by this expectation I had put on myself to follow this plan exactly that the thought of not knowing exactly what I want to do with my life – let alone after college – was alarming.  As you can imagine this was a HUGE obstacle in my plan. I assured myself that I would figure it out.  I had to figure it out, but I was running out of time.  Quickly the seams of my sanity pulled further and further apart with each passing day.

I finally realized that it didn’t have to be this way at the source of many great epiphanies – a long car ride.

It all bubbled to the surface after spending a much needed four-day weekend away from Missoula.  On the ride home with my long-time boyfriend, we started talking about school and how we planned to turn our degrees into a career.  As the conversation progressed, I realized that I don’t honestly know what I want to do with my life, and I probably won’t find my ideal job right after college.

The more I thought about it, the more ludicrous this expectation seemed to me. Not only did I come to terms with that fact that it’s okay to not know exactly what I want to do, but how could I possibly know what I want to do for the rest of my life?  Why should I base the next 40-60+ years of my life on a mere 20 years of life experience and knowledge?  I was fed up with the preconceived idea that I had to stick to the plan.  I realized that it was unrealistic, and although it is a potentially suitable path, it is not the only path.  I finally committed myself to being less of a perfectionist and letting life take its course.

I don’t know exactly what I want to do and that’s okay – but I’m not going to stop trying to figure it out.  I want to be honest with myself and let go of the things I can’t control.  I want to search for opportunities to grow and become more of the person I want to be – whether that be job opportunities, painting, internships, traveling, volunteer opportunities, or voicing my thoughts in my first blog post.  I am a business student, but I don’t need a big corporation and paycheck for a satisfactory life.  I don’t want to get washed up in something to big.  I want to be purposeful and make an impact with the work I am passionate about.  I want to network with people not because “a bigger network makes you a better prospect” but because I want to have genuine relationships and get to know others who are finding or have found themselves to.  I want to be inspired by what I am doing.  I’ve realized that there is so much more to life than simply making money and living for the weekends.  If I want to accomplish these things, it is unlikely that I will get it all on the first try.  So, I need to stop thinking I will.

This is the type of realization that everyone seems to come to at some time in their life – a series of “mid-life crises.”  I have shared my quarterly life crisis in the hopes that it might inspire those of you that feel burdened by plans, expectations, social norms or whatever it might be to come to terms that sometimes it really doesn’t matter that much!  Even more so, I wrote this for myself – to hold myself accountable and remind myself to let go and live a little looser.

I will always plan, but I have made a pact with myself to not be tied down by it.  Someone once said, “Just because my path is different doesn’t mean I’m lost.”  I haven’t always believed this, but I’ve decided to start thinking this way.  Don’t be afraid to get lost occasionally and embrace your own journey.


Aspen Runkel is a student at the University of Montana pursuing a Bachelors of Science in Business Administration.  When she graduates in May of 2018, she will have majored in Marketing with a certificate in Digital Marketing and a minor in Media Arts.  She enjoys painting, cooking, DIY, and being active with sports, hiking, and traveling.

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Lace Up: Anyone Can Be A Runner

Screen Shot 2016-03-28 at 2.51.02 PM The amount of times I have heard “I’m not a runner” or “I’m not built like a runner, therefore I can’t run” has really started to piss me off and honestly, whoever I walked by this weekend saying these things, thank you for the inspiration to prove you all wrong.

I’ll start by being completely candid, I am a bit biased to the whole physical activity hoorah. I grew up playing competitive soccer up until the day I left for college. I mean, yes, it’s a lot of running and disciplined conditioning, but I never had to run longer than 3-4 miles at a time in those 15 years of playing. I should also add that each of those miles had to be in 7 minutes or less (the struggle was totally real).

Once college started, all concepts of physical activity went out the window and I was now struggling to run 1 mile, on a Sunday, while trying not to gag over the smell of Captain Morgan and Fireball seeping through my pores. Cool.

Freshman year ended and those attractive 15 pounds needed to go (this isn’t where running saved my life, I just got cut off of my campus meal plan when I moved out of the dorms). Exercise became important again and I was back in shape but I still couldn’t run more than 2 agonizing miles, maybe 3 on a good day.

IMG_8584Come Junior year I accepted an offer for an internship in Seattle and decided I should find things to do that would let me see the city in a unique way. This is where running made my life great. I signed up for the Rock and Roll Half Marathon in Seattle, by myself. Turns out I wasn’t alone, a few of my friends had already signed up and planned on taking a road trip to run as well. Training became fun as we increased our distance by one mile each Sunday and spent the majority of our runs singing and talking in very breathy sentences. Come race day, 13.1 miles never seemed so doable.

To make a long story longer, I caught the running bug. Since my first half in Seattle, I have completed two more half marathons, improving my time each time.

The point of this was to show that anyone can lace up some shoes and hit the pavement. I can’t lie like some Pinterest post and say it’s as easy as that. Running is an investment in your time, your body, and your wallet. Ugly running shoes changed the way I felt about running. YOU MUST INVEST IN UGLY RUNNING SHOES. My GPS watch complimented my competitive drive by keeping my pace (so that I wasn’t trying to run 7 minute miles for 13.1 miles straight) and my running belt was crucial for holding my phone, keys and ID. Looking the part makes performing the part so much easier.

Screen Shot 2016-03-28 at 3.15.13 PMI’m not saying go sign up for five half marathons or to start out running 9 miles at a time. I challenge every one of you to start by going outside (weather is a horrible argument), plug in some pump-up tunes or grab a friend to distract you, and start off slow. If 1 mile is all you’ve got, then it’s one more mile than those sitting on the couch. Happy Running 🙂

*Serious about it? Comment below for more tips and help on joining a world wide community.

Growing Up: 21 Things I’m Still Working On

At 21, I’ve learned some really good lessons so far! But there are also a lot of things that are still uncertain, or that I simply don’t know. I’m workin’ on them; here are a few…

1. Going to bed early.

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I try so hard every night. It never happens. 2016 maybe?

2. How to talk to people.

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I’m not going to say I am THE awkward penguin, but making conversation with someone can definitely stress me out.

3. What good wine is.

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They’re all delicious and heighten my hopes and dreams…Am I missing out on some big secret?

4. Laundry.

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Let’s get real. Do I really have to separate my darks and my whites?

5. Why are there different kinds of forks at a nice meal?

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One is enough isn’t it??

6. What is stock and how do I do this thing called investing?

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Thank god I learned Hot Cross Buns on the recorder and how to locate a library book using the card catalogue system though…whew.

7. How to spend money on things that matter.

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Should I buy those boots that I don’t need and look strikingly similar to ones I already have? LOL probably.

Which brings me to my next point…

8. How to save money.

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Is there maybe a formula someone could give me? That’d be great.

9. How to say no.

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This is a hard one for me. What can I say; I’m a people pleaser.

10. What my political viewpoint is yet.

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Growing up in a lower middle class family, and then being taught and molded by (mostly) wealthy business professors tends to pull you in opposite directions…

11. Who I am.

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Ok. I know this may sound a little cheesy, but I really don’t know all there is to know about myself yet. What makes me tick? What stresses me out most? What kind of ice cream is my favorite??

12. How to be flexible.

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Nuff’ said Lorelai.

13. What my strengths/weaknesses are.

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You can’t really Google this one yet…

14. How I have become so much like my parents in so many ways??

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Seriously tho. How did this happen?

15. To love the parts of myself that no one claps for.

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Still learning this one.

16. Taxes.

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How do I even…?

17. How to stay positive and look for the good.

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This line made me rethink my entire existence.

18. Accepting disappointment.

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Disappointment is such an uncomfortable feeling for me; I often let it get in the way of my moving forward.

19. Letting go of control.

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Let’s just say Monica from F.R.I.E.N.D.S. is basically my spirit animal.

20. Putting myself first.

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People pleasers generally struggle with this.

21. Eating Well.

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Kit Kats and ice cream are wonders of this world and why can I not eat them all the time?!!

Did you like this?? Check out my first post: 21 Things I do know to be true

4 habits that shorten your life!

"The angry baby's fist"

"The angry baby's fist"

For many people, happiness is the ultimate goal of their existence whereas for some others is considered to be an elusive success. But why it’s so hard for us to get rid of negative thoughts that might keep us back, preventing us from developing further our inner skills?

Through this short article we will attempt to figure out which are the 4 primary bad habits which contribute negatively to our mentality getting us older faster than anything else.

Live according to others’ indications
“Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter, and those who matter don’t mind.”
Bernard M. Baruch, American philanthropist

Parents, friends, colleagues and other favourite or not persons, directly or indirectly, pressure or push you to comply to or follow a specific way of thinking, behaving and making decisions. That does not mean that these people hate you. They just have different expectations for you and try to give advice by indicating you what’s right and what’s wrong. You should take into serious consideration that you are the only one who has the authority to indicate what action you will take in any situation you get involved. If these people really care for you then, they will accept and respect your choices without questioning or dissuading you.

Resist to change
“Only the wisest and stupidest of men never change.”
Confucius, Chinese philosopher

Changes occur every day in your ordinary life affecting you in various ways. Changes, for instance in the workplace, are often irrevocable and in case you decide to resist, your life will get tougher and at some point unmanageable. The best possible way to accept smoothly all these changes is to be fearless towards them and stay flexible adapting your life accordingly. Keep in mind that there will be changes that will surprise you; others that will make you feel mixed emotions and a lot more which will have a positive impact on you. It goes without question, be open to changes.

Judge people
“We can never judge the lives of others, because each person knows only their own pain and renunciation.”
Paulo Coelho, Brazilian novelist

As human beings we have the predisposition to criticize behaviours, situations and people themselves. Nobody is perfect and you know that. It’s worth trying to focus on how to improve your weaknesses as these efforts will distinguish you as a person and personality towards the others. Having that in mind you will stop judging other people’s lives, behaviours or achievements and aim on the goals that really matter for you.

Blame yourself for every personal failure
“The first rule is to keep an untroubled spirit. The second is to look things in the face and know them for what they are.”
Marcus Aurelius, Roman Emperor

Successes and failures are part of our lives. We succeed or fail when we sit for an exam at the school or university, when we submit a project or research to a professor or employer, when we nurture our children and a lot more examples. Do not blame yourself for mistakes you’ve done in the past or failures you’ve been through and not overthink of them because you will probably end up wasting your brain power and energy on underestimating your capabilities and hurting yourself.

Thirty Over Thirty

If you have been following us at Unbelievably, then you know that we are a University of Montana classroom full of young bucks and does. There has not been a poll, but I would be willing to bet that the mean age is around 24 years. Allow me to take this opportunity, as the token “old” person, to clue you in to a few things that may be coming your way as you get older.

Thirty after Thirty

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Photo Credit: www.flickr.com/photos/psd/6641956439/in/photolist

After 30,everything hurts more. From stubbing your toes, to working out at the gym, you will just hurt more. You will get used to it, trust me.

After 30, it will be harder to maintain your weight. The foods you enjoy the most will now cling to your sides, like a child clinging to its mother. You will either have to work harder to lose it, or accept your new, fluffier self.

After 30, sleep will take precedence above going out. There will still be times you like to go out, but it won’t be the production it used to be. In the cost/benefit analysis, sleep will almost always beat anything else. When you do go out, it will be fun to look around and try to figure out if you are the oldest person there.

After 30, college is more difficult. Your future self is thanking you for getting this over with right now. When you are an older student, you are plagued by the constant references make by instructors who are younger than you about your generation. No, my generation was the tail end of Generation X, not the tech-savvy, self-entitled one so often referenced in the media. Some professors will patronize you with “life lessons” that you learned ten years ago. Especially the “life’s not fair” lesson.

After 30, it will become difficult to relate to people who are twenty-five or younger. You won’t watch the same shows, know the same songs, or use the same social media outlet. I love being around people that age, but small talk is almost impossible. Heck, I still watch Seinfeld. I still say “heck.

After 30, you are expected by society to be at a certain place in your life. If you are not, you will be judged harshly. Not married? No kids? Don’t own your own house? Don’t have an “adult” job, free of name tags and hair-nets? You will be judged as a person who is immature and cannot handle responsibility, not a person free of the demands of modern materialism.

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Photo Credit: www.flickr.com/photos/lobstar

After 30, birthdays are just silly. Honestly, I can’t remember the last birthday present I ever got. I usually just look for who remembered me on Facebook, and fill up a growler or two.

After 30, you will struggle to keep up with trends in everything. You are no longer the demographic of choice, because you no longer have the highest lifetime value. Ads are not pointed at you, and it is just too much effort to keep up with all the new music, hairstyles, cultural trends, and hot new phrases. At your age, you have enough to remember.

After 30, there are rules. No more tattoos, no more spiked hair, and remember, certain outfits are no longer appropriate at your age. No more tank tops for you fellas, and for you ladies, no more miniskirts.

After 30, you will not have the same number of friends you have now. Everyone is just too busy for you. You will settle for few, carefully-planned visits with people you really care about, people who are worthy of your time and are who are loyal.

After 30, the personality you have is stable. This is what you have to work with, like it or not. It becomes more difficult to change, and you grow to find comfort in habits and routines. This includes beliefs. It is a good idea to challenge them from time to time, to see if you really are on the ethical path.

After 30, you will see the things you loved as a kid, and what you were into as a teen, get rebooted as something “retro” or “classic.” I saw a girl wearing a hoodie with the number “1979” on it. The year I was born. I still don’t understand why anyone wears clothing with dates on it. You will see all your favorite toys, shows, and movies reappear as new movies, toys, and t-shirts. You will cringe the first time you hear your favorite song from freshman year on the “oldies” station.

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Photo Credit: www.flickr.com/photos/gardensk8

After 30, if you are still lucky enough to have your grandparents alive and well, you will be in the minority. This is the beginning of the losses you will have in your life, for most of you. I won’t tell you to get used to it, because you won’t. I lost my last grandparent almost twenty years ago, and I still think of her every day.

After 30, your body will not work the same way. You will be slower, you won’t be able to learn things as quickly, and will sometimes even feel betrayed. It might be helpful to re-interpret your body as something to take care of, put the correct fuel into, and accept its imperfections. Appreciate all the amazing things it can do, and above all, recognize that only 150 years ago, people usually only made it to 49 years old.

After 30, you will notice, ahem, physical changes. Spider veins, cellulite, gray hair, losing hair, hair in unexpected places, and painful joints. You won’t be able to tolerate temperature changes as easily, and you won’t have the stamina you used to have. There will be wrinkles. Sun spots will appear for those who tan. Try to accept it. You can’t really stop it. Take a good look at your parents, because you will probably age the same way that they do.

After 30, you realize that time is limited. You begin to waste it less, and value it more. Human perception of time speeds as age increases. Time will literally just fly by.

After 30, you will realize just how annoying you were at 16. The things you thought were so cool really aren’t. Never watch your favorite show you liked as a teen, because it will be forever ruined. Nothing is more uncomfortable than watching Saved By The Bell for me. Why did I think it was so funny?

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Photo Credit: www.flickr.com/photos/catbeurnier

After 30, you realize just how cool your parents are. You appreciate who they are and what they have done for you. Their annoying behaviors will become funny stories you can bank for later recollections. You might even get a little teary-eyed when you see older photos of them, before they had the glasses and gray hair, before they joined AARP.

After 30, you will have different perspectives on what the younger stages of your life were like. You will begin to glorify them. You will re-imagine “good ‘ol days”, leaving out the bad parts. When I catch myself doing this, I just remember that they may have been good ‘ol days for me, but only because I was six and unaware of the situation. They weren’t good ‘ol days for my folks.

After 30, you will assume that people in their twenties don’t know what they are talking about. It is important to remember that these are people who deserve respect. They may talk about things they don’t know about, but you did that then, didn’t you? Maybe you should listen once in a while, you could learn something from them, in between all the “actually’s” and “likes.”

After 30, you will look in the mirror and see your mom or dad. You will hear their voices when you speak. You will even have some of the same mannerisms and quirks.

After 30, you will prefer quiet over noise. It is easier to sleep when it’s quiet.

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Photo Credit: www.flickr.com/photos/flexgraph

After 30, you will see the value in not always having the last word in arguments. Maybe.

After 30, especially for you ladies, you need to think about what your plans are in the realm of children. Don’t be pressured into having them just to appease some family member. Also, do not get married for that reason. It is time to be honest and realistic with yourself. That “someday” you talked about as a twenty-something has a limited shelf-life.

After 30, it hits you that in ten years, you are a legally protected status. No one can discriminate against you based on age at 40 and older, according to federal law. (In Montana, though, no one can ever discriminate based on age, young or old.)

After 30, the carnival rides aren’t so fun anymore.

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Photo credit: www.flickr.com/photos/anirudhkoul

After 30, the things that you thought were boring when you were younger are nice and relaxing

After 30, you will worry more about cancer. You will have known someone who has it by this time, and it is no longer something that can’t happen to you.

After 30, you will adore your siblings. Your differences will be something that makes you smile to yourself.

After 30, you still won’t grow out of that feeling, every once in a while, that you are alone in the universe, no one understands you, and you are a social misfit.There will still be times that you will say something that would have been witty ten years ago, but isn’t anymore, followed by an eye roll and an obvious echo. But now that you are 30, you let it go and don’t waste energy on getting upset about it. Waste not, want not.

This won’t be true for everyone. Maybe your generation will figure out how to get rid of grays or wrinkles, or be brave enough to continue getting tattoos. This is just my experience as a person of 35 years, taking this class with you all. Thanks for being a part of my learning experience, and I wish all of you the best for your future!

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Photo: nysocialstatus.com