Take Advantage of Willpower

When I was trying to get healthier physically, I was always reminded that habits have the advantage over willpower. I always disliked this idea because it seemed to be that the two forces go hand in hand. To develop healthy habits, it took a lot of willpower to start eating better, exercising, and taking care of myself mentally. It was a lot of work for it to become routine, but once it did, it was hard to shake.

A friend of mine told me recently that she scheduled all of her classes in the morning because she wanted to get her day started early and if she had all afternoon classes she would just sleep in. Although I understood what she meant, I wanted to tell her that it was totally possible, and probably more sustainable in the long run, if she just exercised some willpower for a few weeks until waking up earlier became a habit.

I’ve always been a night owl and an early bird, so it’s important to me that I find a way to get 8 hours of sleep while still being able to stay up later but wake up before noon. When I was in high school, I had the worst trouble getting up the morning. Part of that struggle definitely came from the fact that I wasn’t motivated to get to school because I didn’t enjoy my experience there, but most of the problem was exhaustion.

Despite understanding the science of why teenagers need a lot of sleep, I still had to find a way to get up earlier and have more energy. My exhausted state was no longer becoming sustainable and I knew it was important for me to focus on schoolwork at the time I was dealing with this. So, I took advantage of my willpower. I forced myself to make certain habits for two to four weeks. If they hadn’t stuck or, at the very least, weren’t easier by that time, I could drop them. Most of the habits not only stuck, but I found myself looking forward to acting on them.

Willpower, in my opinion, is underutilized and underappreciated. There is so much power in being so motivated and excited about the possibility of the future that you can force yourself through the difficult times. If they continue to be difficult for too long, then you’ll know that those habits were not for you. While habits may be more sustainable in the long term, willpower is an excellent way to take advantage of the initial motivation and excitement that comes with starting a new phase in life.


Exhaust Yourself

Lately, I found that I have to exhaust myself to be able to sleep at night. I took about a 2-month break from ballet and exercising in general, but it’s time to get started again. Although my time off was beneficial for my mind and body, it’s become more of a drain as time has gone on. My body needs to be physically exhausted for me to sleep well, function properly the next day, and process my energy intake properly.

There is value to exhausting yourself. I believe that we aren’t really meant to sleep when we still have the capacity to go. The feeling of sore muscles and nothing left to give is the feeling that makes me enjoy going to bed at night. It gives me an idea of how hard I worked that day. I may mentally exhaust myself, but if I don’t do the same physically, the imbalance of forces will inevitably be noticeable in my everyday life.

The trick is to find something that makes you want to exhaust yourself. For me, it will always be ballet, but recently it’s also been cycling and pilates. It’s been exploring Montreal by foot. It’s been walking up and down my university campus until my calves are screaming at me to rest. If you don’t enjoy how you tire yourself out, then you will always be focused on the fact that you’re just trying to exhaust yourself.


p.s. I fell down twice going up the escalator in my metro station after ballet class last night. There is also value in knowing when to stop. Happy Humpday.


Working Remotely: How to Recover

Recently, it seems like the dream for people in the workforce is to work remotely. I often hear friends of mine say “I wish I could work from home. A remote job would give me so much freedom to live and travel and experience what I have been missing out on in life.” This idea is not false, not at all, but, like many other things in life, it is incredibly romanticized. My remote internships have given me hundreds of opportunities and opened doors to my future I would have never considered before. However, it takes discipline and passion to keep yourself from falling off the wagon when you don’t have immediate pressure.

When I moved to Montreal and started school at McGill, I underestimated the amount of time I would need to dedicate to school. It’s been a little over a month since I started, and I feel as though I’m getting the hang of things, but I have a lot to catch up on before I’m in the clear. My internships and most of my life outside of school had to be put on hold so I could find my balance and figure out how to manage a new lifestyle, culture, and style of learning.

Now that I have a pattern of working and studying, I’m prepared to integrate remote work back into my schedule. Yesterday, I finally finished a rough draft of a project I was supposed to send to my boss months ago. The great thing about being an unpaid intern is that, because you’re doing free work, your boss can be pretty lenient, but that comes at an expense to your professionalism. You may not face the same kind of punishments as you would if you were being paid, but how does your image to your boss suffer? Will they ever hire you for a paid position if you can’t prove you’re abilities while the pressure is low?

I’m incredibly fortunate that I know both of my “bosses” fairly well, and they understand that moving to a new country and start at a new school is a huge change that will come with uncertainty. The past month hasn’t just been about settling into the increased workload, it’s been about figuring out how to grocery shop, how to manage my money, how to live with strangers, how to divide up housework, and how to take care of myself in the face of immense stress. But now, it’s time to recover.

When recovering from a setback while doing remote work, the hardest part of getting back will be your first day. Whenever you decide to start working at your normal pace again, it will be difficult. You will probably experience a lack of motivation, an inability to work at your full capacity, and a nagging in the back of your mind saying “why even start again? Why bother?”

The stress of beginning again will pass. It will take time and discipline, just like all aspects of remote work do, but during this time it is important to remember why you started your work. Is it something you’re passionate about? Does it give you the life you want? Are you allowed a flexible lifestyle because of how you work? Instead of focusing on the ways that starting again and working more inhibit you and stress you out, think of how they make your life easier and more enjoyable.

When you recover and as you do so over and over again, every time you have to pick yourself up will get easier and faster. You will have more reasons to start, more memories as to why you love what you do, and more experience getting back on your feet. Give yourself time and patience as you work your way into a new phase, but learn the difference between being gentle and making excuses. We all go through difficult periods, but what differentiates those who succeed on their own from those who can’t manage it is the ability to push forward and challenge yourself despite the discomfort you will face.


Photo credit to alternative.ei

Fall in Quebec

You know, they say that Quebec is famous for it’s foliage. I won’t deny it, Autumn in Montreal has been somewhat magical compared to my last five Autumn’s in New Mexico. Despite the beauty that I saw as I walked around, I couldn’t help but feel a bit somber today. It was Canadian Thanksgiving, and I had never felt more alienated on a holiday.

I had celebrated this holiday before, but now it would certainly be more regular and pronounced during the holiday season. At the same time, I will lose something that is dear to me – American Thanksgiving. I’m not attached to the holiday so much as the memories I have surrounding it. A big meal consisting of some of my favorite foods, time with people I truly care about, and, most importantly, a break from school.

At McGill, we got one day. One day to rest, be thankful, eat dinner with people we are just getting to know, and scramble to get the last of our homework together.

To anyone in Canada, Happy Thanksgiving. To anyone in America, you guys don’t know how much I envy you right now.


Finding Your Center

In dance, there is a concept of finding your center. It sounds very ~spiritual~ and kind of bullshit if you take it at face value, but it actually means a lot of sense in terms of physics. There are few concepts in ballet that are as strong as your balance. Being able to balance in your rotation, on the ball of your foot, and then eventually en pointe. Finding your center or your core allows your body to be in proper alignment without much effort.

The idea of finding your center has come to mean a lot more to me than strong abdominal muscles. When I take a break from ballet, like I had done for a few months prior, I find it incredibly difficult to get back into the swing of things. I usually say it’s a 2:1 ratio for getting my strength back. That is, if I take a one week break, it takes me two weeks to get back to where I was before I rested.

Since moving to Montreal, I’ve been going through a rough patch. Unlike friends of mine that stayed in their home country after graduating high school, I’m experiencing quite a bit of culture shock. Although I’ve lived in Canada before, I was never under the same circumstances as I am now.

Now, I don’t know when I’ll go home. I don’t know when I’ll see my parents or my friends or my little sister. The currency is different, the lifestyle is different, the food is different, everything is different! Most of it in a good way though. There is a lot more to do here. Such as tonight, for example, I’m going down to le Quartier des Spectacles to see some street art.

I’m slowly finding my center, but I haven’t been giving myself enough time or space to do so. I continue to push myself to be healthy and push myself to figure it all out faster than anyone else does. I’m my own worst enemy right now.

For many people, this time of year is a very transitional state. Whether you’re in college and facing upcoming midterms, in work and nearing the end of your quarter, or going through something that you hoped you wouldn’t have to brave during winter, give yourself a little more time than you expect to get your bearings and land on your feet.



Montreal Winters

The holidays are fast approaching and the impending Montreal winter is making itself known. This year is set to be one of the coldest the province has ever seen.

It’ll be my first winter in Montreal, but I have an idea of what is in store for me. I’ve spent winters in Canada, but never in Quebec. Montreal is infamous for their miserable cold and wet seasons.

We’ll see if I make it.