2016 – Oh Baby, What a Year It’s Been

I always recap the year on New Year’s Eve or some date close to it, so here I am again…but I don’t have nearly as much time to be as detailed as I’d normally be, so I’m going to do my best at summarizing my takeaways over the last 365 days.

The first thing I have to say is that 2016 has been a monumental year. One of my best. I’m ending it in a different place than I started, which is always a feather in my cap, and while my life has taken a dramatic turn from what it once was, it makes me happy that this year I finally found the courage to be myself.

1. I kept my faith first this year, and as a result, I got some of the things I’ve been longing for. No, it wasn’t always easy to choose Jesus first, to not act and wait for His word, and to stick to what He states for us is right. But I did. I chose the hard path. And He rewarded me for it by helping me grow by leaps and bounds.

2. My family is growing! I thought we couldn’t have more kids. I thought something was wrong with me. Something was definitely wrong with me, but it was my thinking, not my reproductive system. Our son will be here in March. Though Kennedy is a fantastic kiddo, she doesn’t deserve to be an only child, and as it’s looking now, she won’t be. (I’m so, so happy for that)

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Just us, the founders of Team Oesterlein. ❤️

3. My marriage is on the upswing, after a long period of downswing. We have no fairytale romance or whirlwind story to speak of. We’re just two imperfect people who like having each other around and tend to do some great stuff when we stick together. I don’t speak for him, but I will go so far as to say that we both learned this year how to put aside the bullshit, and dial up the realness. I’ve enjoyed abandoning the periphery in favor of growing closer to the person I said a vow to grow with almost nine years ago.

4. My career moved in a positive direction this year. I was finally able to move away from teaching in favor of something else related to education. I love the field, but I wasn’t in love with teaching anymore. I’m currently in love with curriculum, though.

5. I stuck to my biggest New Year’s Resolution for 2016 by abandoning Facebook…as well as Instagram, Snapchat, and Twitter. Yes, it did mean I had to give up being a Beachbody coach as well, not because it’s impossible to work that business while not on social media, but because I wasn’t willing to invest the time to learn to do so. I walked away. Certain people are still mad. That’s okay, I left on a good note and have nothing bad to say. People’s opinions of me are really none of my business or concern.

6. I got the upper hand on my anxiety this year. I did this through a variety of measures including prayer, meditation, journaling, speaking to a counselor, subscribing to The Anxiety Coaches Podcast, my semicolon tattoo, setting new boundaries, being wholly honest with others about my feelings, and what I view most important: practicing emotional detachment. I found the courage to release myself from the weight of things I was under and didn’t need to be. Don’t ask me why I felt like I had to assume these burdens; in some way, I think I thought I was being a good friend or person by doing so. But no more. Especially when referring to the phenomenon that was #5 of this list, I have learned to confidently view myself as being in control of my life and its direction. I cut my obligations to others by cutting people out who only expect things of me but offer nothing. I toughened up. I’ve learned how to say no, how to stand up for myself, and how to not care about pleasing others. Did it cost me anything? Yeah, I suppose. But what I gained? Priceless. I have clear perspective on who I am. I recognize that my feelings are not my reality and therefore I don’t need to be victimized by them. I’ve learned how to pick up a thought and also put it down so that I can live in the moment. I was never like this when I was a Facebook user. I’m a better wife and mom now. I love who I am. And I’d rather love me and be hated by others than do things the other way around. My husband and daughter seem to love me for this too, and they (as well as our impending arrival) are the only ones I’m interested in making happy. (Mom and dad too, but we’re all 32 years deep, so they can’t really get rid of me. Did I mention they celebrated 35 years married this year?!)

Okay, well, I’m off to take K to my parents’ house for a bit. I can’t effing wait to see you, 2017. Many thanks to 2016 for everything it brought. I couldn’t have written a better year for myself if I’d tried.

Liberated.

It’s been a while since I’ve contributed anything here. My emotions have run the gamut these last few months as politicians have dominated the airwaves, cases of police-related violence have shown up in media, two hurricanes have blown through this region, people have been…well, people, I’ve learned the sex of my new baby, and had a momentum shift at work. I’m in a very good place, but that doesn’t automatically spell ability for me to articulate exactly what I want to say next on this blog.

My identity has changed quite a bit over the last few months as well, and that’s called into question my presence on most social media platforms. Most people who follow me on Instagram see me as a coach and fitness guru. I wouldn’t consider myself those things anymore. I change outfits so often, for some it’s hard to keep up. But underneath whatever my new focus may be, I am still ultimately me. Most folks don’t have the patience or power to see that, and that’s okay.

Lately, I’ve been exchanging valuable lessons with my counselor – she was appointed to me through the program my OB’s office offers for expecting mothers to help with parent education, mental health and stress management, and other psychological services. What I love about getting to meet with her each week is that she affirms a lot of the realizations I’ve had about myself and my relationships with others recently, and not just because she’s my friend and loves me and wants me to feel supported, but rather because her professional opinion reflects a stance in support of the changes I’m making. These two items (my choices and changes and her professional approval) exist separate of each other. I don’t kneel before her each week asking what the next step to take is…rather I’m just taking steps, following the path that feels right, and when I open up to her about it, she meets me with praise.

The person I used to be was someone who was in survival mode. Especially when I look at that girl who lived in California from 2008-2014, I definitely see someone who just wanted to find a good place to be so that she didn’t have to be alone or on the outs. My family had left, and though I had my boyfriend/husband, he also had a life, a career, and an identity of his own. I needed (or felt like I needed) certain people around to not feel so alone or abandoned.

Now that I live here, closer to family and raising my own small family, that need for others has waned significantly. I still value friendships and people for what they bring to my existence and what they allow me to offer to them, but I don’t seek to make new friends or know new people now. I know everyone I want to. I’m close to who I want to be close to. That circle is drastically smaller than it’s ever been, but it’s also the most appropriate it’s ever been. There are people who aren’t included there who don’t like it. Fine. There are folks I kicked out because I didn’t deem them worthy anymore. Fine. (and no, that ain’t some Mean Girls shit; I don’t have time for one-way relationships anymore) There are folks who don’t like me but choose passive-aggression over stating their feelings plainly. Enjoy. This life reset has been about refocusing on what’s important, letting go of what’s not, and emotionally detaching from things (and people) that just aren’t worth the investment. And from where I’m sitting, it’s working.

View More: http://collectionbyclaribelphotography.pass.us/antoinette--july-2016

I always feared isolation because I thought it’d make me sad. The truth is, the smaller I keep my world in terms of association and affiliation, the happier I am. I would rather be alone and content than surrounded by a sea of people who claim to be on my team but constantly hurt me through being obliviously self-absorbed, or strapping me with unfair expectations. I’ve found the courage and power to say no, to keep the door locked after others walk out of it, and to set fire to the bridge myself if I know I won’t need to cross it again. None of this emerges from an angry or bitter place, but rather one of protecting my true happiness. And yes, it leaves me feeling liberated.

Wrong Label

I don’t do well at creating analogies most of the time, but I’m going to take a stab at one right now.

Imagine, if you will, the assortment of soft drinks that sit neatly stacked inside a vending machine. If one is lucky enough to have the two dollars and some change these cold beverages cost (seriously – the cost of soda is one of the many reasons I don’t drink it!), as well as the patience it takes to slide their dollar bills into the narrow mouth of the machine, they get the option to select their drink of choice by pressing the corresponding button which usually has a picture of their desired soda on it. Soft drinks have come a long way and run the gamut from sugary juices and teas, to energy drinks, to bubbly favorites like Sprite, Pepsi, Fanta, and Mountain Dew. Now, more than ever, there is a wide variety of soft drinks to choose from.

Anywho, in this scenario we have a young, thirsty soda buyer on a quest for cola. It can be Pepsi, it can be Coke, hell, it can even be that dreaded RC knock-off crap, but cola is the end game. The vending patron purchases her soda from an overpriced machine and hurries off to her next destination, be it a class, a shift at work, or home. The brilliant red hue of the can and the curvy letters on the label appear all too familiar, and condensation even begins to form as the icy can makes contact with the much warmer air outside of the vending machine apartment where this soda had once lived.

When she pops the top and takes a swig, the taste is both familiar as well as surprising. It’s definitely cola, and the bubbles spring against her tongue in a familiar way, but something else is there. She drinks a little more, and can’t quite place the difference, but this isn’t cola as she’s used to it. There’s an unexpected finish to it. It isn’t a bad one; in fact, it actually tastes pretty nice. It’s a different flavor, though, and while she finishes the can, she’s left wondering why those 12 ounces of cola hit her so differently from other servings of cola she’s had in the past. This soda drinker hasn’t caught on that the contents of her plain cola can actually contained cherry cola. The sweet finish was pleasant, but not sought after, and the uniqueness of the cherry cola loses its value by being represented by the wrong can.

A similar tale could be told about my temperament.

As a child, I was always friendly, outgoing, and spritely (since I brought up soda). I had my own bouts with nervousness at giving presentations or being put on the spot to speak in school or extracurriculars, but these didn’t keep me from taking to the stage for dance recitals, performing in choir, pursuing a short-lived career in radio, appearing in two music videos for BET Network, performing at my high school’s first ever poetry slam, pledging a sorority, and even wanting to become an educator in the classroom as an adult. I’ve always been typed as “loud,” and indeed, my voice carries. Meet my mom; I get it from her.

But these traits have always garnered me the label of “extrovert,” and before age 16, I just went along because I didn’t know any wiser. It wasn’t until I was in the throes of puberty that I started to question whether or not I was really as open and outgoing as everyone had come to think I was, or if I was just someone who coped with the pressure of being put on the spot better than others around me. I can remember sitting in my 10th grade English class, hating life, watching the clock incessantly, when we (the class) stumbled upon some names within our assigned novel that our teacher had trouble pronouncing. Because my mom had many Chinese, Vietnamese, and Korean coworkers and friends, I learned tricks of pronunciation and was able to spit the names out easily. Suddenly, all eyes turned to me as she asked me to continue reading this section of text. I read it as best I could, and the students around me pressed me with questions about how it was that I spoke so clearly even with words derived from other languages. I shrugged and waited out the final moments of 6th period and booked it.

The next day, this boy I’d had a crush on, who was also my classmate in this class, sat next to me and asked if I wanted to hang out with him and his speech and debate buddies one day after school. They were part of the elitist cool at my high school – not jocks or popular – I wasn’t into those guys. I refer to them as the elitist cool because they were so smart and stuck up they built their own upper echelon. I’d later learn that those types of fake societies matter about as much as two-dollar bills, but when you’re 16 and  have just learned that when you throw on a skirt you have hips, that kind of invitation can make you feel good. But I couldn’t go. Not because mom or dad would object – I could think of a good enough lie to wiggle around them – I just didn’t want to be put on the spot. I didn’t want these people knowing who I was. I couldn’t let him see who I really was. No abuse at home, no bed wetting problems, no Rosemary Kennedy sibling hidden away in my family’s attic. I was just a nerdy girl who liked to play Zelda and listen to music for hours in her own room without fear of someone barging in because there were no siblings to share space with. I liked to research things in my spare time and write poems. I’d spend hours in my room just zoning out after school because my mind was on overload sometimes. So many people and cliques and rumors and trends to keep up on and MTV and people to call and…I didn’t want them knowing any of that about me because it was private.

That was the day my introversion and I shook hands, and we’ve been locked ever since.

Fast forward to now, where I sit in a place where I have nothing left to do but find myself as I live in a still fairly new location, reunited with family I’d been far away from, and still adjusting to my ever-changing role as a wife, mom, career woman, and entrepreneur, and I’m learning to embrace my introversion more tightly. I was always typed as an extrovert because I engage in “outgoing” activities such as socializing with strangers at gatherings and public speaking, but what nobody ever really knew (even I haven’t understood this until recently) was that those activities drained me. I needed my alone time to recover from them, and my home environment was of such where I didn’t have to put forth much effort to get this. Mom and dad were involved, but they gave me my space. I always had my own room and pretty much ruled the upstairs of our house as the guest bedroom had my computer in it. I just thought I was being an only child, and to some degree that may have been true, but as I’m learning, I was also recharging in solitude as introverts often do.

introvert advantage

From The Introvert Advantage by Marti Olsen Laney, Psy.D.

[It’s not the introvert bible – I’ve found a few questionable spots in this book and I’m almost through it – but it gives a nice perspective on what it’s like to date, parent, and be married to introverts if you are or are not one. I’m learning that I can actually relate to the world…if I want to.] 

 

Failure to do this can have grave consequences like panic attacks, sudden mood shifts, and unkind words. I hosted a bridal shower at my home in California and had two anxiety attacks trying to keep myself together as droves of strangers marched through my home, passed my 9-month old daughter around, and peered curiously at pictures of my family on the walls. I shoved my postpartum body into a sundress and tried to play hostess, but all I wanted to do was curl into a ball on the floor and try to process the upcoming move. I like for people to come over, but I don’t like for them to stay long. I can be open, but I prefer to keep myself hidden. Even the glimpses you see of me on this blog, which are more than any I share on other social media, are limited glimpses. The complex and beautiful web that I’m weaving isn’t for others to behold beyond my spouse and someday my daughter, and they even need a road map to navigate it all.

All of this, in summation, is to say that I identify very clearly with that unique cherry cola that was mistaken for classic and undervalued behind an improper label. I sit on the more extroverted side of introversion, but make no mistake that introversion is where I sit. I’ve been on the wrong shelf for quite some time, and have finally been moved, and I like it here better (there’s more room).

I’ll have more to say on this later.

Retiring the Machine

Every walk of life includes peaks and valleys, and for much of the journey we can imagine ourselves participating in an ongoing climb. We strive to do more, be better, achieve things we’ve never had, etc. Look at Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs if you need further clarification on this part of the life cycle.

I’ve been climbing my own mountain for quite some time now, longer than I had initially imagined. I can remember standing in the den of our house in Vista, holding a then only 4 1/2 month old Kennedy, discussing with Fabian the plan of action for how we would relocate ourselves, our baby, our careers, our cares, and our belongings to the other side of the country for the greater good of our entire family. The clock started then, and so did the climb. After that decision was finalized and we started the process, everything just got faster and faster…

Ever since, I’ve had momentary pauses, but I’ve been in motion the entire time. If not to put together the puzzles of a cross country move, then to learn the new lay of the land here in Florida, to find a job, to get back into school, to find something fun to do as a release, to adjust to online teaching as a career, to run in five directions consecutively in order to keep relationships intact, and to somehow keep my head above water through it all. In the midst of this, I also decided to start a business of my own. Where I found the time to do that I will never ever know, but that’s what I did and I’m just about a year in with it. Oh, and add an escrow to the tail end of that. Those are never ever fun or easy. If you can recall the Myth of Sisyphus, the former king had been condemned by the Greek gods to roll a boulder up a mountain with the aim to maybe leave it at the top or let it roll down the other side only to find that each time he would near the peak, the weight of the boulder would result in its rolling back down the path it had traveled. Sisyphus’ plight demonstrates the concept of insanity to us, because for as long as Sisyphus rolled that boulder, the outcome always remained the same. To do the same thing over and over and expect different results is exactly what insanity is, and week after week, month after month, and (I can actually say) year after year I felt the weight of the insanity that has been my life for two years.

mom and kennedy

One of the momentary pauses I got to have during this two-year period. Kennedy is only 8 months old here, and though the move was happening when this photo was taken, I wasn’t completely buried under my obligations yet. I was still able to freely be a wife mom here, and I’m so, so anxious to get back to this place again. (Photo credit: Primrose Plum Photography)

 

But unlike Sisyphus, I actually get to realize a different, much more triumphant outcome.

I hold two masters degrees now. I run two businesses from home and make my own work schedule. I live in a house that has everything I need in it and is located near people I care about living close to. All of these achievements were goals and milestones I set for myself, so I’m elated to have been blessed to realize each one of them.

But what it took…

Time and energy are just the surface sacrifices. Those moments of watching cartoons with my little one, going on dates with my husband, helping my mom and dad around the house, and sitting still long enough to talk on the phone or have lunch with a friend have also been sacrificed. My personal care has been sacrificed. Don’t worry, I kept showering through all of this 😉 but I could’ve used more sleep. I could’ve used more time to myself to think. My soul could’ve benefitted from more time spent playing my guitar. My body could’ve done better with more exposure to the sun.

I symbolically crossed the finish line on Friday when I defended my way to a perfect score for my MBA capstone, with boxes and blue painter’s tape still strewn about my newly moved into house. On Friday, the journey ended, and so did a chapter of my life that I didn’t even know I was capable of living through. It will go down as the most painful, difficult to budge, ‘I don’t want to do this anymore’ shouted through tears chapter in the Antoinette book, but it was so, 100 percent, absolutely necessary for me to write. I’m a better woman for it.

It’s time for me to retire the machine. A piece of her will always be present because of who I am by nature, but in much smaller doses. It’s time for me to recoup some of what I lost personally while I also process all of the ways in which I’ve been made different.

I would write more, but I hear my daughter calling me…

 

 

 

Check Yourself Before You Wreck Yourself

In the past three days, I’ve spent a lot of time in webinars and watching videos for both professional and personal development. As a professor, it’s a requirement that I complete a certain number of hours of professional development in order to stay fresh on my subject matter and best practices for the industry I work in. I’ve always kind of looked at it as a pain, and I usually scramble to complete it each quarter. My professional development for both of the schools I teach for is due next week.

As a fitness coach, I’m also encouraged to do personal development – this is for the purpose of personal growth, which enables me to connect with the people whom I coach more comprehensively and purposefully. So, in the last few days, I’ve had to do a lot of “behind the scenes” work to make myself better in my roles as an educator and as a coach. It’s been time consuming and laborious because of the amount of note taking I have done, but it’s also been immensely humbling as I can feel myself turning over a new leaf.

Life is very much about perspective. We can view situations in a number of different ways to lead to a variety of different outcomes. For some, a flat tire on the way to work can be a huge day breaker – they will allow this incident to set the tone for the remaining 16 hours of their day. For others, it’s an inconvenience, but nothing to cry about. And for others still, it’s seen as a nice excuse to grab a cup of coffee and head into work later that morning. Each of these different outlooks comes from a different approach. The way you choose to approach a situation will directly affect your experience. Some people approach work or certain relationships with a bad attitude, so it’s no surprise that they have a poor experience. While taking a positive approach to situations doesn’t give way to utopian dreams, it certainly makes the experience easier rather than more difficult.

I’ve had to check myself recently, because I wasn’t taking the proper approach to all aspects of my life. Lately, I’ve been working hard at making repairs in my marriage by communicating more positively and expressively to my spouse who in turn has reciprocated. Who doesn’t love sharing positive communication with their spouse? I’ve also been on a soul-searching journey to figure out just what my future will be as a career woman, a mother, a creative soul – as a person. While these areas seemed to be blossoming in my life, my professional experience was tepid and lackluster. Because of the person I am, I don’t like to just half-ass or phone it in on things that define me. The day I start half-ass parenting (and not just “I had a long day so let me microwave dinner” parenting, but blatant, “I’m going to cut major corners as a standard” parenting), half-ass spousing (which I was doing for the latter half of 2014, and I’ve since stopped because it was selfish and hurtful) half-ass teaching, half-ass friending, half-ass LIVING – the day I start doing any of that is the day I need to just withdraw altogether. Half-ass teachers do not inspire. Half-ass marriages don’t work. Why have friends if you’re going to half-ass it? Why work a job if you’re not going to give it your all?

I have been half-assing my job as a professor, maybe not in my on-ground position, but definitely in my online position. I think I made an unfair comparison to what IU would be like by expecting CCSD standards, which are impossible to expect. It’s like biting into a strawberry but wanting it to taste like a peach. It’s not going to happen! And as a result of my unrealistic expectations and subsequent disappointment, I had grown to resent my job and bosses. I became accustomed to doing the bare minimum and was ready to fire back at anyone who demanded otherwise. I’m ashamed to admit it, but this is who I was.

Then I devoted some time to personal development as a coach, and it dawned on me: The only way to make my situation into what I wanted it to be was to treat it like it was what I wanted it to be. I needed to treat my job as exciting and engaging, treat my boss as a woman with experience and good feedback, and look at the company as one that housed potential for me if I should choose to seek it. My bad experiences were exactly that – my bad experiences. They don’t speak for the overall school and could have easily been changed by a different approach. I had to check myself before sitting down with my boss for my annual review, and instead of throwing my hands up in the air and telling her I was fed up, I sat down and admitted to her that though I was performing well, I could do better. I had to apologize for half-assing it. She seemed surprised but also appreciative, and we both came away with lots of positive gems after this meeting. I’m so glad, because it could have easily gone sideways had I not been honest with myself.

Are you honest with yourself? Are there things that you could be doing that you aren’t because you’re making excuses or half-assing it? I believe the purpose for development on any job is to make us into better people to fill our roles. Yeah, the webinars and seminars are time consuming. Some cost money and require travel and we’d much rather be at home with our loved ones or doing the things we enjoy. However, nobody becomes great by simply staying where they are. Self-actualization is an ongoing process over the course of our entire lives, and it can only happen when we look at ourselves honestly and decide to make improvements in the areas we are falling short in. If you’re someone who thinks you don’t need professional or personal development I ask you this: Are you CEO of the company you work for? Are you financially set for the rest of your life? Is your body perfect? Are your relationships perfect? Have you learned all there is to know in your industry?

Nobody can answer yes to all of those questions, which is why personal and professional development is for everyone. Yes, even you.