30 Day Striving Challenges

In the weight of summer humidity this past July, my sister Rosa Marie and I painted a consigned hutch that would go in the Greenville apartment I would be moving into the following month. As we rolled and brushed in the garage, we listened to a TED Radio Hour episode titled “A Better You.” One of the speakers, Matt Cutts, decided to try something new every thirty days, which is about how long it takes to develop a habit. Since beginning this practice, he has done all kinds of things – some ambitious, like climbing Mount Kilimanjaro; others are quite simple, like practicing gratitude, or taking a picture or complimenting his wife every day.

His seven-minute segment on that podcast has stuck with me since we listened. It made me think – what are the things I still want to add to my life, and why haven’t I done them? Maybe it’s time to try it, if only for thirty days. Matt found for himself that while doing his 30 day challenges, the time passed more memorably and his self-confidence grew. He also discovered that there were things that just weren’t for him, like meditation, or how going vegan allowed him to reexamine his assumptions; perhaps, just as we now don’t cook with shortening, eating meat won’t be a healthy practice in fifty years’ time.

My 2017 New Year’s Resolution was to watch at least one sunrise a month. I missed July and September, but I definitely pulled myself out of a groggy sleep at least 13 mornings this past year, and I’m satisfied that I did. Sunrises are extra special, because they require an extra amount of work. When I take in the promise of a new day, I’m aware that I’m doing something that most people won’t see. Especially since I traveled so much last year, I got to soak up some pretty spectacular demonstrations of God’s creation and the artistry of a painted sky (even if at other times there was a crane in the frame, or I was simultaneously warming up for a half-marathon).

Stigma surrounds many self-improvement philosophies, but I really like Cutts’ idea. Surely striving for things out of our ordinary routine stretches us as individuals, makes us more aware, and perhaps introduces us to new hobbies, interests, movements, or notions. In the last few days of 2017, I pondered how I wanted to approach the coming year, and I realized that I don’t want to be comfortable. As I settle into more routine and deeper, stationary roots in Greenville, I want to push myself into unfamiliar arenas by making and striving for new goals.

Apparently, most people have given up on their New Year’s Resolutions by mid-February. We get bored. We’re not disciplined or motivated enough, or our goals are unrealistic. I don’t have the tenacity to swim 365 days straight. But 30 days? That’s tough, but it’s feasible. This past year, I did end up adding some new experiences to my life. The two that most quickly come to mind are learning to scuba dive and running a half-marathon (I’m still on the mend for that knee injury, but I’ve deferred my marathon registration to next year, so hopefully I’ll have 26.2 miles in the books this December!) Both revealed new, stretched limits on my physical boundaries and showed me that oftentimes, to do something new just requires a decision to go for it.

Cutts recommended not making a whole planned out New Year’s Resolution of 30 day challenges, but I couldn’t help myself; there’s so much I want to try this year! And as I dreamed about what I’d like to do, I started pondering trips, and lectures, and books, and restaurants, and soon my challenges transpired into a full-on categorized spreadsheet. As my students would say, yes, I am so extra.

When I showed chart to Rosa Marie, she argued that I can’t plan out my whole life. I know; I’ve learned that lesson. But having a clear direction for what I’d like to accomplish makes it far more likely that I’ll actually get there. Plus, “don’t get sick” and “meet my husband” aren’t on this chart; these are decisions within my locus of control. Lists and productivity are in my nature; this chart is a pretty natural byproduct, comical and ridiculous as some of you may find it to be. I just bought my one month new member trial at Soul Yoga, so you bet you’ll see me doing headstands by the end of the month. The fridge is cleared out of junk food for Whole30. I’ve invested in all the cycling necessities and accessories to get out on the Swamp Rabbit Trail, and far beyond that. 30 day challenges in 2018 – let’s goooooo!

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Marathon Training & the God-Shaped Hole

The first week I moved to Greenville, I decided to train for a half-marathon. Within thirty minutes, that decision jumped to training for a full. For years I have been a casual runner, but I had never clocked more than eight miles at a time. The initial 13.1 miles have always been a bucket-list item I knew I was capable of. The 26.2 seemed inhuman, which I guess was the appeal. It was a reach, a stretch that would take a lot of discipline, pushing myself beyond anything I had ever attempted. As I wrote in the September moving-to-Greenville post, I knew I would never have more time and less commitments than I do right now. I’m only responsible for myself, and I’m not committed to a gazillion different activities yet. Training would give me some built-in routine in this new life chapter.

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Off the Road

Last month, funemployment officially came to a close.

Following an unforgettable jaunt snorkelling with all the nea-ture in the Galapagos Islands, an invigorating few days trekking the AT in the Smokies, and a long-anticipated Charleston reunion with my soul friends Mariah and Tracey, I moved to Greenville for the next chapter of life: Adult-ing. Which I’m actually enjoying very much; so far, I think I’ve been kicking butt at it, even with all the boring, mundane responsibilities that come along with the role.

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A Toast to Georgia & Duncan

Last night, my sister got married! The wedding took place at Sugah Cain, our family property on Johns Island, under a canopy of live oak trees – truly God’s outdoor temple. A week ago, the forecasted 80% chance of thunderstorms was unpromisingly bleak. A lot of prayer warriors were on their knees supplicating for more favorable conditions, and MAN did Jesus come through. The gentle breeze, glow of the setting sun, and just a touch of summer humidity created the perfect ambiance, but the ceremony itself was even more beautiful.

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In the Center of God’s Will

Happy Spring!!

My life of funemployment has continued to be a cycle of trip research, planning, and itinerary spreadsheet writing; packing; jumping on an airplane; adventuring; flying back home; crashing into bed late at night; unpacking; running a load of laundry; meeting up with a few friends; and planning once more before I’m off on another travel escapade. I have to admit…within that physical merry-go-round, I also endure psychological swings of gratitude, utter exhaustion, a “here we go again/just do it” mentality, and excitement.

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Grateful Journal


Through the month of January, I had about fifteen distinct blog topics floating around in my head. Some were life updates, like that Subaru Outback WITH a sunroof that I bought — woot woot! — or weekend trips up to Richmond and Roanoke to visit Abby and Kayla.



Other blog intentions included evaluations on Trump’s first week in office and podcasts I’ve listened to; some entertaining babysitting anecdotes; the decision to move to and teach in Greenville this fall, and the peace and excitement I’ve felt about it.

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Raise a Glass to the South, Y’all

I flew direct from Auckland to Houston – an overnight flight that made a nonstop 13-hour journey relatively bearable. As I braced my body for the jolty touchdown onto American soil, I also braced my being for reverse culture shock. I didn’t know how I would feel about the materialism of Mt. Pleasant, or the general culture of the Bible Belt. I was giddy, but slightly scared, as my in-flight journal entry attests:

My chest feels light and twisted, because as much as America is home, I’m afraid of waffling between two cultures and not really having a place. It has been a whole year, and I’m nervous about all the differences in my outlook and experiences that up to this point I was not aware of, or had not acknowledged.

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