Lesson 4: Living in the Past

If I had paranoia, I would say the world was out to get me. If I understood the science behind parallel universes or time travel, I might argue that last night I experienced it. You tell me what you think of this playlist:

“Motown Philly” Boyz II Men

“Wannabe” Spice Girls

“Baby Got Back” Sir Mixalot

“Tell Me Why” Backstreet Boys

“Cha Cha Slide” DJ Casper

AMAZING! Right?  

Last night,  I chaperoned the Senior Prom of 2017. I felt like it was 2001. It had me thinking of all the people I left behind 16 (😖) years ago. That night, I was surrounded by people who I thought would be my forever friends. We were so close, how could we ever be torn apart? We had “been through so much” that we would never forget one another– until college started. Until we were working jobs. Until we moved and relocated. Until we got married. Until we had kids. 

To this day, I actively talk with 3 friends from high school. Granted, I stalk them on social media like it’s my job… they can’t lose me that easily. I certainly know what’s going on with them, but it has become less personable than I had imagined. Were we torn apart? I would say no. We all electively chose some aspect of our current path. Life didn’t drag us kicking and screaming away from the obelisk in our mutual “backyard” in Wantage, NJ. We had the choice to move ahead (or at least laterally) in our lives. 

Based on my A-rated social media “research” skills, I have deduced that some of the old posse are taking aggressive strides to reinvent themselves. Others are happily maintaining the status quo. Still others are looking for change but don’t know how or where to start. 

Last night, I lived in the past… and it felt so right. Much like in 2001, I rode to and from prom in a silver chariot… though not a Plymouth Horizon. This time, my date stood me up.  I also replaced duct tape to hold my dress up over my shapeless body with Spanx to make my “shape” more flattering.  I was still a wallflower at the dance, chatting only with 3-4 people while others danced. Again, I attended no after-parties. I came home to the love of a black cat… not the same one but equally awesome (RIP Cuddles💗).

Regardless of the year, the lyrics and rhythms of the night had the power to take me back in time. I’m thankful for that. I am thankful for my memories, both good and bad. I am appreciative that they have made me the person I am today. I wouldn’t suggest living in the past, but visiting sure is nice. 

Today I adulted.

Alli Kelly’s Adulting Report Card

Made a choice/choices that led to self -improvement:  A

Showed self-awareness: A

Made a choice that took others’ feelings/beliefs into account: F

Showed initiative: A

Took accountability for action/inaction: A

Strengths: Improved fashion sense. Goodbye “Alli Style.”

Weaknesses: Bustin’ moves with no rhythm. Socializing. Respecting people’s privacy on social media. Posting pics that no one wants released.

Pass/ Fail: Pass 

 GPA: 3.2

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Lesson 3:  You Can’t Please Everyone

‘Hi, my name’s Doormat. Please feel free to walk all over me, use me, and abuse me.’

As a champion of self-advocacy, I have the unexplainable habit of becoming a yes-person at the least opportune times. Regardless of how busy or stressed I am, I have the niche of  making it worse by agreeing to things that loved ones, friends, acquaintances, and even perfect strangers ask for. 

Sometimes the requests are small and harmless. Other times, they’re loaded with unexpected escalations that skyrocket to absurdity. Regardless of what the wise teacher Experience has led me to understand, I continue to say yes to being a doormat. 

So how does one discriminate when ‘no’ is the correct answer? Interestingly, the answer to this lies within my cat, Kirby.   

To give a bit of background about Kirby, my husband and I adopted him from a shelter. When we first met him, his name was Jag. He was snuggly and sweet. Once the adoption became final and we got to bring him home, his demeanor changed, as did his name. He became an untouchable. His eyes widened with terror when we approached him. He bolted when we spoke to him. We never did anything to harm or scare him. We love him. Kirby either changed or he had the courage to reveal his true self. 

 Kirby is loyal to 3 things- his best cat friend, Binky, his toys (we call them his babies), and most importantly, to himself.  He refuses to pretend to be anything he isn’t. He gives his people attention on his terms, only when he wants to.  Colin and I joke that he’s coming around, but those comments are more for our emotional benefit than his. He has everything he needs to be safe and happy. He knows it. Regardless of how indifferent he is to humans, he does whatever he can to honor his relationship with Binky and his babies. He takes his babies for food and water. He shows affection to Binky with kisses and snuggles.  Interestingly, however, he holds no sense of loyalty or obligation to his people. He says no to us regularly. Kirby is not a doormat. 

So how do I selectively learn to say yes and no like Kirby? 

I don’t.

It simply isn’t who I am. 

One thing I can learn from Kirby, however, is to be honest with myself.  I am a doormat. 

From a slightly different perspective, however,  good for me. Good for me for believing that I can do anything.  Good for me for having a shred of humanity left in me. Good for me for going above and beyond.  

Alli Kelly’s Adulting Report Card


Made a choice/choices that led to self -improvement:  D

Showed self-awareness: B

Made a choice that took others’ feelings/beliefs into account: A

Showed initiative: A

Took accountability for action/inaction: B

Strengths: Looks to help others. Shows self-awareness. 

Weaknesses: Will continuously become over-extended due to personal choice. 

Pass/ Fail: Pass 

 GPA: 3.0

Lesson 2:  Making and Breaking Plans (Spring Break 2017)

Picture it- A Daytona college-chic hotel in late March. The sun is shining on girls in neon bikinis who are riding on the shoulders of guys whose lats look like yield signs. Pool side bars are filling yard-long party cups with foamy, light beer. Music is blaring. People are stumbling– into adulthood.

The scene I described is everything  adults picture when they hear Spring Break. As a high school teacher, I often hear students idealize how Spring Break will change between high school and college. I, however, could only think how much Spring Break changed between college and now… now that I’m adulting. 

Friday 3 PM– The bell rings in a medley of the Hallelujah Chorus signaling the end of the school day and the start of Spring Break.

‘Ok. I have 9 “days off.” This is going to be great!’

‘I’m working my part-time job 3 of those days. Mark that on the calendar first. I also have to grade papers and plan for the 4th Quarter… Sunday. Save that until the end.’

Friday 4 PM (The start of Spring Break)- “Sure I’ll go to happy hour, April! We haven’t been out since December. Let’s get this party started right! See you at EATS.”     

Real-World Translation– I drink 2 fruity, lambic beers and eat a metric ton of loaded fries and call it a night by 6:30 PM.

While driving home from EATS-

‘I need to spend some quality time with the hubs. He took me to the beach last weekend. He hates the beach! He must have been miserable going there. I have to find something to do with him this weekend that he’ll like. Hike? Disney?’

‘The house is a mess. Monday- Rescue the inside of the house from itself.’

Real-World Translation– 9 hours of cleaning later, I can see the floor, tabletop, and counters again. Hairballs and dust bunnies stood a fair chance of establishing squatter’s rights. 4 loads of laundry later, all is right in the world.

‘Tuesday- work.’

Real-World Translation– I find out that I have to work on a day I requested off. Now, Sunday has to be shared with learning to fold napkins shaped like bunnies.

‘Wednesday- work and errands.’

Real-World Translation– Damn, I’m going to be late to work! These errands are taking twice as long as they should!

‘Thursday- Outside renovation project! This could get costly, but it’ll look amazing. Do I know what I’m doing? No. Fake it til you make it! I better ask Rick for help. He has a truck that I may need to get supplies. I should reach out sooner than later!’

Real-World Translation– This “1 day” project becomes a “3 day” project consuming my time, my energy, and my financial resources. Is it too late to quit? (PS- thank you Colin and Rick for helping get supplies!)

‘Friday- Maybe I’ll go to the beach. Clearwater has such amazing beaches and they’re so close! I’d be stupid not to make the day of it.’

Real-World Translation– So long, beach day! Hello, Kmart, Home Depot and Lowes… (un)official  (project) sponsors of Spring Break 2017.

‘Saturday- I’ll tackle the garage! I may need more storage bins…’

Real-World Translation– Well, let’s be honest… this never happened. The outside project has consumed me. Eye on the prize- a beautiful courtyard for sunning and entertaining.

‘Sunday- Nothing but blog and schoolwork!’

Real-World Translation- … and re-cleaning the house that looks like it exploded… and folding bunny napkins… 

Steinbeck was right, “The best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry.”  At the start of Spring Break, I had air-tight plans for how I was going to manage this “time off.” I knew I wasn’t working for rabbits (which, I’ll ironically “make” today) or a farm to till with my own hands (though I have a very simple herb pot growing in my courtyard), I was just chasing my very own, pleasantly simple American Dream (that may or may not have worked out exactly as planned). So, at 10:50 am on a Sunday, with a mimosa in hand, here is to the American Dream and adulting! Cheers! 🥂

This week, I adulted.

Alli Kelly’s Adulting Report Card
Made a choice/choices that led to self -improvement:  C

Showed self-awareness: F
Made a choice that took others’ feelings/beliefs into account: A

Showed initiative: A

Took accountability for action/inaction: B

Strengths: Asked for help when needed. Accomplished some goals.

Weaknesses: Time management and reasonable goal setting.

Pass/ Fail: Pass 

 GPA: 2.6


Lesson 1: Asking For Help

Sin, sin, cosine, sin, 3.14159.

Happy Pi Day everyone! Pi Day is usually my most conflicted day of the year.  For anyone who knows me, you know how much I hate math.  You’re also aware that I’ll do just about anything for some pie.  Why do I hate math so much?  The answer is easy- it exposes my weaknesses and I, like most people, don’t enjoy feeling  vulnerable.

As  kids, we are taught to take chances– safe and calculated risks that will make us “better people” for having had the experience.  We’re encouraged to try new foods, travel, and volunteer with organizations that reveal a societal deficiency.  These risks ‘broaden our horizons’ or so I was told.  These risks force us to embrace things that are “new,” “foreign,” and sometimes even “scary.”

As small children, we enthusiastically try new things each  day.  Sometimes the actions and choices receive consequences, other times, however, they receive rewards.  We learn  from consequences that we shouldn’t repeat a certain action or behavior.  Alternatively, rewards coach us to keep trying.  When our choices produce neither a reward nor a consequence, our motivation becomes the issue.  Do we persevere and keep trying until we see our own progress (a reward like no other) or do we quit and try something else that is more likely to be noticed and praised?  More importantly, do we choose to work on something that is our weakness and risk vulnerability for self-improvement?

As an adult, choosing vulnerability seems to be one of the most terrifying options.  Face it, we’ve lost our sense of “childhood wonder” and replaced it with jaded and resentful sentiments.  Our complexity is our vice.  Our workplaces reinforce that we need to be problem solvers, not problem havers.  We’re encouraged to figure it out, not ask for help– help is the last resort.  Resultantly, this trickles down into our personal lives.  We’re more inclined to complain about something than ask for help resolving it.  I see resolution as the ultimate “check in the box.”  I love to make lists and put check marks of completion next to each item.  Recently, however, I noticed a trend.  If the item requires another person’s assistance, I very often don’t tackle the task until it’s absolutely necessary.  Why?  I hate feeling like a burden.  I get frustrated with myself that my “toolbox” isn’t well-equipped enough to solve the problem.  My pride is hurt because I have to acknowledge that someone else’s toolbox is better than mine.  Lastly, asking for help makes me vulnerable.

A few days ago, I opened up a message on my personal Facebook.  I asked my friends for their help.  I shared that my goal was starting this blog.  I spent plenty of time brainstorming names and I came up with several that I liked.  Check in the box.  Not quite. I had to commit to one name.  I couldn’t do it.  So I chose to open it up to people who I hoped would eagerly share their insights.  64 people supported my call for help (thanks to those who did!). Not 1 person commented something negative.  Not 1 person told me to be self-sufficient.  Not 1 person noted this indecision as a vulnerability. I survived asking for help! I survived exposing a vulnerability!  Adulting win!

Now, as a reward for my adulating, Key Lime Pie for breakfast!

Today, I adulted.

 

Alli Kelly’s Adulting Report Card

Made a choice that led to self-improvement:  A

Showed self-awareness:  A

Made a choice that took others’ feelings/beliefs into account:  A

Showed initiative:  A

Took accountability for action/inaction:  A

Strengths: Asked for help when needed.  Did not allow pride to interfere with decision-making. Accomplished a goal.

Weaknesses:  Pie is not a substitute for a well-balanced and nutrient-rich breakfast.

Pass/ Fail:  Pass                                                                                                                                 GPA: 4.0