Never stop learning.

Many people tell me I am crazy for continuously keeping myself enrolled in school since I am a mom. I earned an AS degree in 2012 from a community college and it took me more than 4 years to complete the requirements. I have promised myself that I will earn a BA or BS degree, and I will continue to work on that. I have a decent job in a good company, so why do I want more? Why doing it knowing it will take me another 4-6 years to complete it?

For starters, let me tell you about my experience earning the AS. When I moved to the US I had no clue how the school system worked. I was used to a school year that started in January and ended in October. I had no idea how to apply for a college or university. I had no idea your income plays a factor in financial aid or how to fill out a FAFSA. An amazing friend at Macy’s kept telling me I was too young and smart to settle as the dresses specialist and needed to get myself an education. She was a very smart woman who worked for NASA and had a part time job at Macy’s not for need but for fun and distraction, go figure! So, with her advice, I got the nerve to find the closest community college and I did the online enrollment. I submitted the required paperwork and in no time, I was able to enroll in classes. Yay! I thought it would be very simple from that moment on. But when I tried to enroll in a class through their online system, I had no idea what classes to take to earn a degree, any degree really. So, I made an appointment with a counselor and got probably the worst advice of my life.

He asked me about my career goals. I explained I had planned to become an architect back home, but I was in a new country and at that point I just wanted an education. He said that since I didn’t had a specific major in mind I should focus on GEs.

  • I said:  “sure thing, which class first?”
  • He said: “it doesn’t matter, just take any classes you want from the list”.

He handed me a list that anyone who has attended college or a university might be familiar with, but to me it was a bunch of letters and numbers that made no sense. You know, those classes code and section numbers? I mistakenly thought I could take ANY classes from the list without knowing each group has a required amount of credits or to consider which ones were good towards a specific degree. What a shame! Would I have known better, I would have earned a degree much sooner and possibly transfer to a 4-year university. It would had been much easier then without kids to do all of that. But I had to take the long way, so I went with taking any classes advice.

I enrolled in two classes and came to an agreement with my manager at Macy’s that I needed to take Tuesdays and Thursdays off to go to college. And that first semester was great! My schedule worked out, we had gotten a car by then so I didn’t have to take the bus to college. I was learning and enjoying it, and finished the semester with good grades. The following semester I enrolled in more classes but I quickly had to change that as I changed jobs in January and with my new schedule I could only take some night classes. Again, finished the semester great, learned a bunch and was ready to continue my path. But this was the moment when my life changed. I moved to a different city, started living on my own, got a new job, and as you can imagine all these new components didn’t add up quite nicely to the challenge.

I enrolled in a few classes at the closest community college in my new city. My worked schedule was all over the place due to low seniority at the hotel so I couldn’t attend classes on campus because hours started conflicting with work. I imagined the following semester would be better once I was more settled and my schedule had gotten a bit more regular but that didn’t happen. I kept enrolling in classes I couldn’t finish because a manager would agree to give me certain days off so I could attend on campus classes but weeks into the semester that no longer could happen because someone was taking a vacation or bump my shifts so I just couldn’t stick with it. I eventually figured out that online classes were a better choice so I started doing that. I was so sick of having to work an early shift one day, a swing shift the following, a graveyard the next one, having one day off and it would repeat in a similar pattern. I considered taking accounting classes because it seemed that the ladies in the accounting department had a Monday – Friday, 9am-5pm job and I wanted that. I consider myself good with numbers but it wasn’t something I felt passionate about so that idea went away quickly. Then I considered and administrative job which would give me some similar hours so I started taking the classes to earn an Administrative Assistant AS degree. The best part was that every class required was available online! The bad part was that I still had some GEs to earn which didn’t have online options such as math so I worked graveyard for a few months so I could take a math class during the day.

Now all of these sounds tiring to me! Add to that two adorable kids that had come into my life to the equation.  I was busy and tired, but most importantly I was decided to change things for better and I knew I needed to compromise for a little while before I could reach some of the goals I had. A gazillion years later, I earned my AS, yay! At that point even though a BA/BS was still the goal, it had been pushed to the back burner as I had finally gotten a job at the hotel with a regular schedule and banker hours, yay! Since then I have taken several classes of things that interest me: film photography class, health related classes, and just recently I took a graphic design class where I learned about the use of typography for digital imagery. As I mentioned at the beginning, I am working with a very respected company and if I chose to, I can have a great future here as an administrative professional. That is good news, but while I am not trying to diminish my own role, I don’t think it will be enough to satisfy my urge of challenge and continuous learning.

My current plan includes taking additional classes to become a personal trainer. My husband swears there is no future there but this is a passion of mine. I would enjoy very much helping others reach their fitness goals and become healthier. Also this is something I can do on the side. I will take more graphic design classes. Graphic design freelancer anyone? I enjoy very much creating invitations for my kid’s parties and not only I want to get better at that but also learn more about digital arts. And when my little ones are a bit older, I will enroll in a university, kick ass in class, and earn my next degree. Boom!

I find the idea to limit ourselves to one profession sad. Sure, you might be happy with what you do and I am sure you are really good at it too, but why not learn new things? Our brains are so amazingly capable of it and many people chose not to use that power. Educating ourselves in different topics is good because you don’t want to blindly believe, trust, or do what the others are doing without having your own opinion. I think educated people can easily mingle with anyone from any society level or background and find a topic that interests both. Let me be clear that you don’t want to do this to be a smart ass and think you are better than others. Do it because knowledge is power. Power to make informed decisions, informed comments, and even help others with your gift. You might be an amazing cake decorator but you don’t know that yet because you haven’t bothered to give it a try. You might have an artistic side that you haven’t explored and it deserves the opportunity to be shared with the world. I think the more you know, the more you bring into the world, the luckier we are to have you!

 

 

 

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Finding balance

So remember how this page was about my fitness journey? Well that has changed. A lot. I am still working to become the best version of myself but so many things are going on that it has been hard to keep up with anything and everything. Let’s recap so it makes more sense:

  1. I welcomed baby no. 3 in late August last year
  2. I work full-time job because this is the Bay Area and I doubt we could give our family the quality we want with just one income
  3. I went back to college to earn a certificate in Graphic Design… this will take a while btw!
  4. I have an amazing Pinterest board with recipes I am desperately trying to cook for my family because eating is still essential to live
  5. I need to workout so I can reach my fitness goal
  6. I need time to do fun activities with my kiddos

So as you can see, I have a lot going on at this time. And the only way to accomplish it all is to find the right balance. This post is about my plan to do just that.

Let’s start with the basics: sleeping! You need to be rested to be functional. I mean it! Unlike a car that can ride until the gas tank hits empty, our energy output is not the same with a full tank of energy than with half thank and even less with an empty tank. My little one is not a great sleeper yet. He went from waking up twice for feedings at three months to waking up every hour and a half at five! Usually they sleep more as they get older but he missed the memo. He is now waking up one time only for night feeding he is almost seven months old. My point here was, for the last two months my sleep has been horrible and I haven’t feel rested in a while! Now that he is sleeping better I am planning to go back to the gym in mornings. More on that to come.

Another basic: eating. I seriously do not know nor can imagine how certain people can “forget” to eat all day. Seriously? How? I mean it, how??? The problem that I have is that when I lack sleep and I am low in energy, I run to food for comfort and that is not okay. Nope. Not at all. Not even the tiniest bit. With the baby sleeping better and as he has gotten older that he can entertain himself with toys, I am having more time to cook on the nights that I am home. This is super important! The easiest way to make healthy choices is to be prepared with healthy choices. When I have the time to meal prep, my meals are on point most of the time. I rarely give into cravings and don’t have to run through the drive thru for choices.

Another basic: family time. I don’t know about you but it drives me insane that my kids prefer to spend tons of hours in front of a screen. Whether is the TV or the computer, or kids shows or computer games, I hate if they spend more than 1-2 hours in that. The only way to keep them away is to take them to the park, for a walk, or to play outside. But for my sanity, I can’t just let them play outside unless I can sit with them to keep a close eye on them. And of course, while I am there might as well play catch with them too! Finding time to do this when you barely have time can be challenging, but this is what we are trying to figure it out so let’s add this one to the list, shall we?

Now let’s move to necessities. First need: work/commute. Don’t get me wrong, I would absolutely LOVE if I could get paid for not working but that is just not how the world works. Bummer! If you are a financial guru who knows how to make your money work for you even when you sleep, please show me how! But if you are like myself, regular mortal kind, and need to be part of the workforce to earn a paycheck, let me tell you, it sucks but you are not alone! Sure I would love to be an stay at home mom. WOULD. LOVE. IT! But life is expensive, and we are not wealthy to do that right now so both  my husband and I work. It happens and it is totally acceptable. Some workplaces are more flexible than others. Maybe you need to be at the office at an specific time or maybe you can work from home. Whichever way works for you it will certainly require a specific amount of time that you have to dedicate to it. So you need time for that assuming you work a regular 40 hours workweek + 1 hour of commute time daily. Let’s add this one to the list.

Second need: growth time, aka study time. I just recently attended a seminar at work. The guest speaker was the new SVP of Finance. He has held several strong positions over the last 20 years with a different company. He shared his success story to motivate us to aim always for more. One of the things he mentioned and he said were extremely important for any person to achieve greatness was to never stop learning. Those guys who basically own large parts of the world (you know who I am talking about) have one thing in common regardless of the industry they conquered: they learn something new every day! He said they save at least one hour of their busy day to learn more. Whether is something new or to become the expert in your current field, never stop learning. Which is why I decided to go back to school and learn about graphic design. I am already interested so why not become an expert at it and who knows, it might mean another income so let’s put some eggs on that basket! I know school isn’t for everyone, but learn something new every day. A new recipe, a new skill, a new something! Let’s add this to the list for sure.

Third need we are adding and probably the last in our list of important stuff because the rest are wants not needs is health. Now health is many things. Is eating right, working out more, staying active constantly, sleeping well, mental state, spiritual state. You need time for this. All of this will give you great health. You have to make time for this important stuff. Trust you me. This is not me typing my opinion, is research speaking through me. Did I mentioned I am taking a wellness class online? Oh yes, I am doing that too! The book I am reading for the class talks about this and how when we can’t find the correct balance we stress out which leads to several bad things that include chronic diseases, increase/loss appetite and/or weight, lack of sleep, swing moods, and you know all that crazy stuff stress makes us do. So we need time to be healthy because it is not all DNA or environmental circumstances, is what we to do balance and clean our bodies. Let’s wrap the list and make a plan now.

Everything I mentioned are actual needs we have because that is our nature. To find the balance you have to first learn the difference between the things you want and the things you actually need. For instance, I would love to get a mani at least every other week but I am not going to die because I haven’t had one in 4 months. Natural is cool, right?! Once you realize which things are wants and can be postponed or pushed to the bottom of the list, you can focus on the important stuff. For me to fit on my busy schedule all the stuff I need I have to learn to compromise in certain things because the day only gots 24 hours ya! This is how I do it:

  • Make a schedule and stick to it. I have an alarm set up on my phone to go off at 6pm every night before my kids go to school. When the mimi alarm goes off, we know is time to start the night routine. Is that simple and by 9 o’clock we are all in bed (as long as baby cooperates of course).
  • Plan your meals. Whether is your work lunch or family dinner be prepared for it. When you don’t have a plan you settle for convenience which can easily translate into McDonald’s and heck no, I don’t think so! The same thing happens when you go grocery shopping. If you don’t have a list of the ingredients you need to prepare such yummy meals, you will end up grabbing a bunch of unnecessary stuff like chips, ice cream, cookies, more ice cream, more cookies!
  • Cook meals ahead of time. If you have a crockpot, then use it! My husband and I have a list of crockpot recipes for dinner. Throw everything in the morning and set to low and when you come home, dinner is ready! PLUS, leftovers are great for work lunch next day!. You are so very welcomed 🙂
  • Take turns with your partner. If my husband is cooking, I am spending time with the kids reading or working on homework, and the other way around. He is your partner! Get him involved if he is not yet.
  • I go to school two nights a week and when I come home kids should be in bed. Even it the plan fails and they are waiting for me (this has happened more often than I wished) kiss those kids and tuck them in! These are precious moments so enjoy them! These nights I might not to go to bed by 9 but for sure by 10, and that is still okay my dear. Again, learning is so important. Education is the one thing no one can take away from you. You are not a nerd, you are smart! And even if you are a nerd, you know shhhtuff, so awesome! Invest time in learning, is really, really, really, really good for you
  • On weeknights, I have my cellphone around because of work. My boss sometimes texts me changes for the next day and I do check work emails for about 10-15 mins every night and do a final check of his calendar. BUT on weekends, I don’t even carry my cellphone sometimes! Why? Because that little maniac is such a distractor! I stay away from social media as much as possible and gave up on any phone games. Waste of my time! I do share the occasional “heck, these kids are too darn cute!” picture but I don’t post 842 pictures per day! HECK. NO. TO. THAT! Trust me, a lot of your precious time is wasted on paying attention to your cellphone. Here is some of the time you can spend learning instead. Checkmate!
  • Separate work and personal life. When you are work be all work. When you are at home, be all personal stuff. Do not bring your work home, and do not take your personal problems (if any) to work. Is part of the balance and it is so very good for you. Always remember, your company does not care about your emotional health and balance. They are about profit. Don’t compromise your well being for your work. Ever.
  • Take turns. Like I said, I can’t make one hour available every day for the gym but how about if 3 days of the week I sleep 1 hour less and put that hour into a workout? I think is a fair compromise. You can also eat your lunch just a bit faster and go for a little walk. Do this every day and your body will thank you the fresh air and activity. I don’t know about you but sometimes I watch a show via Netflix on my cellphone during lunch. And I finish my meal, but I still got time so let me finish watching this episode. NO! Put the phone down or in your pocket, and instead take the walk I just mentioned. The bit of time is there, and is up to you what to use it for. Sure maybe once a week watch Netflix but stay active the other days if you can.

These are some of the things I got for you. This is a work in progress. Not every week is perfect or easy. Sometimes the balance happens better than other times. Just keep going. Just keep trying. Every day is a new opportunity to rock it so go for it!