ErinM

Female
from NJ/NY

  • Activity

    • It Wasn't Meant to Be

      3 weeks ago

      ErinM

      When large life decisions loom on the horizon, we have a tendency to say something along the lines of "if it was meant to be, it will work out, and if it doesn't, then it wasn't meant to be." 


      There are good intentions behind that phrase, and I've said it to myself many times, but part of me struggles with it. 


      For one, it greatly oversimplifies the emotional investment we usually put into making these large decisions. 


      Example - when you're buying a house and putting an offer in. "Well, if my offer isn't chosen, it wasn't meant to be." 


      It's a way to manage expectations - to brace ourselves for what might happen. But if we're honest, of course we want it to work out. In that sense, "it wasn't meant to be" seems almost like a cop-out. It rings hollow. 


      Or when a relationship ends. Whether you initiated it or not, we either tell ourselves (or get told) "it just wasn't meant to be." Again, totally oversimplifying things. 


      Didn't get into the college of your choice? It wasn't meant to be. 


      Store was out of chocolate? It wasn't - don't you even dare.


      "It wasn't meant to be" seems to offer us some level of comfort. By saying it, we're essentially giving up control over whatever the situation is. We're leaving whether or not things will work out to some power other than ourselves. 


      And maybe we don't have all that much control in some cases. But I think it could also be a disservice to shrug things off without considering everything we can do to make something work in the first place. 


      My last gripe with the phrase is that it discourages us from digging deeper and learning. If we stop at "it wasn't meant to be," then we miss out on learning from possible mistakes, learning more about ourselves, and about the other people involved. 


      At the end of the day, sure, maybe some things weren't meant to be. But it doesn't hurt to go a little further and question why. 


      This incoherent and random rant was brought to you by coffee and a giant cookie. Both equally delicious.

    • The Stories We Tell Ourselves

      1 month ago

      ErinM

      I'm a great storyteller...but not in the best way, or even the way you would expect. 


      At any given time my mind is creating about 10 different alternate realities, complete with dialogue, real people (usually), some sort of plot, and a conclusion that I try my best to ignore because I have to take a second to remind myself that it's all fabricated. 


      My mind likes to torture me with worst-case scenarios on an endless basis, and it's been a hell of a struggle to tame it. 


      A lot of us do this. We put something out into the world, and in waiting for a response, we come up with a bunch of different stories. Then when we do receive a response, we react out of line with it because we've already grounded ourselves in a story that we believe to be true...but isn't. 


      Examples of Horrible Storytelling

      Here's a common example: you go in for a job interview, think you did okay, and then you never hear back, even after following up. Or maybe you pitch a potential client, and silence. 


      Chances are good that the thoughts running through your head aren't filled with happiness. What did I say or do wrong? Was it the way I dressed? Do they hate my writing style? I must have pissed someone off. You know what, I'm probably just not good enough for them.

      And on and on it goes, when the simple reality could be you weren't a good fit (in which case it's a lose-lose situation for everyone involved), they're busy, they had a budget cut, etc. The point is, there are many valid reasons that you didn't receive a response, but your mind will generally dwell on the negative possibilities. 


      Another common example is when you're vulnerable with someone, and they don't respond in the way you had hoped - if they respond at all. (As a side note, getting comfortable with silence can be incredibly difficult, so I guess our minds prefer to stay busy by writing these stories, eh?) This can easily lead to a fight because of mismatched expectations, when none were ever communicated (because they were all inside your head). 


      The best example I can give is from the book where I read about this technique in the first place - and don't worry, I'll get to that shortly, because it's something that's helped me a lot the past few months.


      A couple goes for an early morning swim on a vacation, and the wife is generally feeling happy about shedding some responsibility for the week to come. She tries to convey this by letting her husband know how happy she is to be there with him, and from her perspective, he totally shrugs her off. Clipped answers, seems distracted by something. The wife gives him the benefit of the doubt and tries again. Same result. 


      At this point, she can't help but start to formulate stories as to why he's not giving her the warm responses she expected. Do I look horrible in this bathing suit? Is he not as in love with me as I thought? Am I being too touchy-feely with my words? All this self-doubt and shame crept in as she rattled off what could be going through his mind, and what's worse is she was already anticipating a fight brewing. She felt disrespected, and she wanted to pass the hurt along. 


      "The story I'm making up is..."

      They eventually swim back to the dock, and she admits to him that she had been trying to connect with him the entire time, but felt as though he was blowing her off. "The story that I'm making up is either that you looked over at me while I was swimming and thought, man she's getting old, she can't even freestyle anymore. Or you saw me and thought, she sure as hell doesn't rock a Speedo like she did 25 years ago.


      The husband recognizes that she's trying to be vulnerable, but says he doesn't want to talk. After some more prodding, he admits that his thoughts were completely preoccupied during the swim as he was trying to fight off a panic attack. Apparently, he had had a nightmare about their kids drowning in the same lake they were swimming in, and couldn't keep his mind off of it. 


      Needless to say, things got real and they were both in a very vulnerable state, but they made it through because saying "the story I'm making up is..." throws personal accusations out the window, and allows the focus to be on the facts at hand. But that conversation could have easily taken a wrong turn had either of them lashed out at the other. 


      The bigger point is that she was completely off-base, and the fight would have been a waste of valuable mental energy for both of them, while also having the potential to ruin a vacation. 


      And this happens all.the.time. 


      Another great example she shared was a work-related one. A meeting was running longer than expected, and she suggested they skip over a portion of it and come back to it at the next meeting. Everyone agreed, but the person who was working on that project spoke up and said, "The story that I'm making up is that because we're skipping over it, it's not very important, and makes me feel as though my work has been undervalued." 


      Just the mere act of saying that opened the floor for dialogue - the employee was assured that their project was so important that it warranted enough time to spend on it, and they didn't want to have to rush through it. 


      What if that employee hadn't spoken up? Resentment about their work and their job could have built up, easily. They don't appreciate me. I've been wasting all this time on this project that no one cares about. Why do I even bother?


      How to Change the Narrative

      While I don't say the phrase "the story I'm making up is" out loud, I do say it in my head. A lot. 


      I try to be as self-aware as I possibly can be at all times. The degree to which that is effective varies depending on how much chocolate is available. But I recognize that my mind has a horrible tendency to be completely irrational a majority of the time, so I don't even try to reason with it. I try to laugh at it instead. "Yeah, that's totally plausible, Erin. You have such great perspective on this right now! Not.


      When that doesn't work, I turn to mulling over the story I'm creating. Sometimes I'll entertain myself and follow it through, other times I'll flip the switch in the middle and say "enough," and when all else fails, I journal about it. 


      In that journal is where I change the narrative. I ask myself where my assumptions are coming from, if they're grounded in anything at all (usually not), why I'm making the assumptions in the first place, what the worst-case scenario really is (and question if it's as horrific as my mind is making it out to be), allow myself to hope for whatever I believe is the best-case scenario, and generally try to discern between fact and fiction. There are also times I might try to approach the situation from a third-party view if I'm being really ridiculous. 


      "The story I'm making up" is a simple but powerful phrase. It helps to separate what's going on in our head with what's actually playing out in reality - something that can be incredibly difficult when we're knee-deep in a crazy tale we've concocted about god knows what.


      Overall, it helps to simply recognize that our thoughts are pretty much a byproduct of what our minds create when left to their own devices. We can choose to believe them, question them, act on them, or change them. 


      All I know is that I try not to live my life based on a false narrative, and this helps facilitate that. 

    • Conscious Lifestyle Inflation

      1 month ago

      ErinM

      In case you're not familiar with the term, lifestyle inflation generally means increasing your spending, typically when your income increases. This is usually done without much thought. 


      A good example is graduating from college, obtaining a real job that pays way better than whatever shitty job you worked during college, and thinking you can afford all the things with your new shiny paycheck. So you go out and buy (or charge) all those things. 


      I'm human, so I've succumbed to lifestyle inflation more than once, but I always try to do it in a conscious, deliberate way. 


      That means I focus on the increase in quality of life and happiness that some splurges bring. That doesn't mean making it rain all over the place, but it does mean buying things like a new laptop, sweet ass coffee, or a new-to-me car. 


      When Lifestyle Inflation Adds Value

      I explained my car decision in an earlier journal - essentially, it allows me to access a nomadic lifestyle that previously wasn't a reality with my older vehicle. I could have purchased another beater car that would get me from point A to point B, but that isn't what I was looking for, so I ponied up the extra cash for a vehicle that aligned with my values (and dreams). 


      This laptop purchase is similar. My last laptop (a Macbook Air) was purchased in 2013 after two years of trying to figure out if I should get a laptop when I had a capable PC. I came to the conclusion I had to buy one if I wanted to travel at all, so I did. The purchase aligned with my values/wants at the time. 


      Unfortunately, when I unexpectedly switched over to video editing, it was lacking...big time. 


      It doesn't have enough RAM and it doesn't have a dedicated graphics card, which means exporting takes forever and playing back a video is choppy (even with proxies). I've lived with this reality for almost two years now, getting by, but begrudgingly. 


      What that meant was any time I visited my parents, went away, or wanted to go to the library or a coffee shop, I'd have a hell of a time getting any work done. And if you know anything about me at all, you know that I hate being inefficient (and that I'm impatient). It was too limiting. 


      I dragged my feet on making another purchase because my Macbook was fine for everything it had been intended for. It still runs like a champ 4 years later. But my current reality is not the reality I purchased it under, and with more and more travel looming on the horizon, I knew I needed to suck it up and get a capable laptop. 


      Thankfully(?), my two PCs decided to shit themselves earlier this year, which made the decision to get a new laptop slightly easier. I'm going to use it as my main machine, whether I'm traveling or at home.


      The Value of Freedom

      If you can't tell, the common denominator in these two purchases is freedom. My car will get me anywhere I need to go (well, on land), and with this new laptop, I can finally work from anywhere (with an internet connection). 


      I won't need to worry about planning a trip to the library around whether or not I'll get video work in that day. I won't need to worry about pushing a deadline while I'm at my parents because my laptop is taking two hours to export a 25 minute video. 


      Both of these purchases give me the freedom of choice, and there's not much of a price tag that I can put on that. My bank account might have taken a hit, but I'm hopeful that both of these purchases will last me a long time while making me happy by facilitating the lifestyle I want. 


      Anyway, now that the laptop is done going through silly Windows updates, it's time to put it to the test. Which means opening Premiere and exporting a video while having a game running in the background while on a Skype video call while having Spotify and YouTube playing in the background and having 10 Chrome tabs open, among other things. Is that a likely scenario? Eh. 


      (Also as a side note, I never realized how pretty rainbow keyboards are. It was too distracting so I had to turn it on the lowest setting possible. Yes, that is sad. My exact words were it's rainbowing at me!!)


      In other horribly irrelevant news, my Twitter follower count is a satisfyingly even number and I'm savoring it because it probably won't last. My number of tweets is bothering me, though. Who else can't stand odd numbers?

    • Why We Should Be More Generous - and How

      1 month ago

      ErinM

      When people hear the word "generous" or "generosity," the first thing that often comes to mind is something of monetary value. Being generous can mean donating to charity, for example. But money is far from the only way you can be generous, and being generous makes for a more fulfilling life (in my opinion). 


      This was simply something that was on my mind, so here we go.


      Be Generous With Laughter

      It's cliche, but laughter can be the best medicine - whether you're the one laughing, or making someone else laugh. I would never want to live a life without laughter. (Million Dollars, But nope.)


      One of my clients actually caused me to think about this. Whenever she finds something funny, she puts everything she has behind her laugh. She's one of those people who will burst out laughing and be the last one to stop. 


      Some may find that annoying, but I think it's pretty awesome, especially since we tend to find the same things funny, so it's easy to make her laugh. 


      Laughing is interesting because it's something that comes naturally to me now, but didn't years ago. When I was in a phase (for lack of better term), I didn't see the point in humor, or laughter. I actively refused to be happy, I took life way too seriously, and I walled myself off from amusement. Don't ask me what I was thinking; it was a horrible way to live. 


      These days, I laugh often - especially at myself. Or my pets. I crack jokes (that fail) a lot. I try to see the humor in certain situations that used to frustrate me. As a result, I'm much happier.


      It's been scientifically proven that smiling is easier than frowning, and that when you smile, you're releasing dopamine and serotonin and giving yourself a hit of happiness. Plus, laughing a lot can be an ab workout. And there's nothing like getting into a laughing fit with someone else where neither of you can stop laughing because the other person keeps laughing and it's just a circle of laughter. Win win. 


      Be Generous With Your Time

      It kills me a little bit to see people respond to charitable causes with "I have no money to donate!" 


      Why not donate your time instead? 


      Time - in my opinion - is far more valuable than money. You can make more money. You can't create time. And people putting in volunteer work is just as necessary to business operations as money is. 


      Beyond that, giving someone your time or your (undivided) attention is a rare commodity these days. We're all "busy" and have something else to do, so being generous with either is pretty special. 


      Alternatively, you can do something nice for someone else so they don't have to spend their time doing it. When someone offers to take something off my plate, I'm always grateful for it. 


      Be Generous With Your Words

      Many of us take simple things like friendship for granted. When is the last time you thanked someone for being your friend? 


      Here's another one - have you ever tried to reach out and tell a content creator how much you appreciate their work?


      We assume that by being a friend in return, or by being a consumer, that our actions are speaking for themselves. While that might be true, it still feels good to have someone actively acknowledge it. 


      Thank people and let them know that you're grateful to have them in your life. It could be a boss, mentor, coworker, friend, family member, acquaintance, or someone you admire.


      Give praise when it's earned, encouragement when it's needed, or advice when it's asked for. Give compliments when they come naturally. 


      It might seem silly at first, but unless the person is a jerk, everyone enjoys feeling appreciated.


      Be Generous With Your Love

      I don't think there's enough love in this world. Everyone always seems to be on the lookout for how they can tear someone else down. Our minds are quick to make snap judgments, often negative ones. We naturally assume the worst about people.


      Yet, I'm willing to bet most people just want to be loved, or feel loved. Or even just connected. Not alone


      So why aren't we giving out what we want back? 


      I know I've had my fair share of trust issues in the past that have left me jaded, feeling like love isn't worth putting out into the world because I'll just get hurt. But...that's not really rational, and I'm sure I'll end up getting hurt eventually because that's how life works. 


      In the meantime, me hiding behind a curtain of fear is possibly hurting others, and I don't feel like my best self when I'm approaching the world from such a negative perspective. 


      If you've been to RTX, I'm willing to bet you've felt a strong sense of community just from being there. It doesn't take words to communicate that; the atmosphere is simply welcoming. Post-RTX blues are a thing because we don't feel that in our daily lives, and that's a shame. 


      It's easy to be a more caring person. Take a genuine interest in someone else's well-being; smile at someone; offer a hug or a shoulder to cry on; remind someone of your love; don't judge harshly; assume the best of people; do anything else I listed off above. 


      Being generous isn't difficult, it just requires conscious effort until it becomes habit.

    • Take A Walk With Me (a photo journal)

      1 month ago

      ErinM

      Walking is one of my favorite things to do. When I can't focus, I go for a walk. It allows me the space and time to reflect and gain clarity. It's also peaceful, which helps keep all the warring thoughts in my head quiet. 


      Walking has a lot of health benefits, too, but I won't bore you with those. 


      Autumn is my favorite season, and unsurprisingly, my favorite time to be in nature. 


      I have no idea what it is about fall that makes me indescribably happy. The crisp air, the beautiful foliage, boots, scarves, hoodies, the scent of apples, pumpkins, cinnamon, other yummy baked goods (I love fall scented candles, okay?), the endless clear blue skies, the crunch of leaves as you walk through them ... there's a lot to love. 


      Since the temperature is finally cooperating, I decided to go out and enjoy it these past few days.


      Here are some of my favorite shots (poor quality attributed to phone) - 


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      Do you enjoy fall or going for walks?

    • My Ride Has Been Pimped

      1 month ago

      ErinM

      Well, instead of pimping my existing ride, I got a new one. That still counts, right?


      The reason I wanted to write about this is because we have this horrible habit of taking wonderful things for granted once they become the norm for us. 


      It happens with everything from relationships to technology to cars. We're really excited for this new thing at first, so we go out of our way to treat it nicely, and then by the six-month to one-year mark, the novelty has worn off and we return to how things were before. 


      I'm not going to fool myself into thinking that won't happen. No matter how much I want to hold onto this feeling of "oh my god this is awesomeeee!", it's going to happen eventually. 


      But at least I'll have this to refer back to.


      How Awesome Is This Ride?

      So, exactly how awesome is my new car? It's pretty awesome. Check out this setup:


      Just-air-mattress.png


      The #1 criteria for my car search was the ability to sleep in it. Why? Because I don't want to just focus on traveling overseas. The U.S. is home to some pretty amazing places, and I figured having a car with me would be more practical than trying to rent one or Uber. And since I can sleep in it, I'm saving lots of money on lodging. 


      At first, I was kind of skeptical. I'm fairly tall, and a lot of the wagons and crossovers that were initially on my list seemed too small to fit me comfortably. Plus, telling salespeople that car camping was a goal of mine was met with some weird looks. Oh well.


      What I ended up with - a Subaru Forester - wasn't even on my list because of how it had ballooned over the years. It used to be a short, boxy station wagon, and now it's essentially an SUV. However, the price point was right on target, I enjoyed how it drove, and I fell in love with the colors of the one I ended up getting. 


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      Tell me I'm not pretty!


      Why I'm Happy

      I can safely say this is the first time I've ever been this excited about a vehicle, but I think that reflects where I'm at in life more than anything. 


      I was originally happy with my '02 Civic Coupe because it's adorable and sporty (and Honda's are great), but as the years went on, it was clear it wasn't very reliable to drive. That held me back more times than I realized. I didn't enjoy driving, and as a result, I stayed home more. (And without a commute, that can be dangerous.)


      Contrast that with yesterday... I got home and became restless for the remainder of the day because I wanted to go on a road trip right then and there and put this baby to the test. (Unfortunately, it needs an inspection and real plates, so that didn't seem like a good idea.)


      Interior.png


      Instead, I took it for a spin at night to see what a difference having new lights made. It turns out, a world of difference. My eyesight is horrible and I'm usually not super comfortable driving at night. My old car had been in an accident (not by me =)) and as a result, the driver's side headlight was a bit wonky. The lights themselves weren't very bright, either. These were crazy bright, and I can tell the high-beams will do just fine on creepy back roads. 


      As I continue to drive it, I'm discovering all sorts of useful things about the car that I never had before. The biggest plus is heated seats (I'm cold 90% of the time), the extended sunroof, and the aux input for my phone + Spotify. (I had a lame ass cassette tape audio jack connection thing before.)


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      But nothing beat the excitement of blowing up an air mattress, laying down, and realizing how perfect everything had come together. (My face says everything.) I pictured myself turning on the overhead light and reading with a view of the nighttime sky through the sunroof, being curled up in the middle of nowhere with some music playing softly...it's just so cool to think my car can double as a hotel room. 


      Oh yeah, and it's AWD, so I don't have to worry about road conditions as much as before. My Civic was nimble, but horrible in the snow and rain. 


      Overall, while my heart may have dropped a few times thinking about how much I was spending on this, I can say that excitement won out in the end. Cars are a depreciating asset - I would never consider its worth in my total net worth (especially since I'm going to drive it forever) - but I can view it as an investment in the lifestyle I want. 


      It's another symbol for this new chapter in my life, and I can't wait to see where it will take me.


      Here's a hint of it (more or less me being silly):


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      I fail at hiding.


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      Look at all this SPACE!! What is this even?!!? 


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      Just sitting back here. Chillin. In my car. Because I'm a total nerd.


      Do you have any car stories to share? Do you think I'm insane for being excited to sleep in my car? Let me know. =P

    • Friday the 13th Isn't So Bad

      1 month ago

      ErinM

      Growing up, I thought I had absolutely horrible luck. My dad would even joke that his side of the family was cursed with being unlucky (this, of course, he told to me right before I had surgery one time). 


      Then, one Friday the 13th, I decided to be somewhat of a rebel and declare it my luckiest day. Because I had such bad luck the rest of the time, this was my one day to be lucky. 


      And truthfully, good things usually happened on that date, so I continued to believe it. 


      These days, I don't put much stock into the concept of luck, but the realization of today's date made me think about how I've been slacking on writing about gratitude.


      So here's why today wasn't so bad, among other things: 


      -- I had my first good experience at a car dealership. Shopping for a car is exhausting and aggravating and I was so grateful to be treated like a normal human being today. I got to test drive the car without a barrage of questions (the sales guy just said "go, enjoy the ride!"), and there was absolutely no pressure. 


      -- I'm going back tomorrow and I should be leaving with a car, which is a relief more than anything. I finally found something I'm excited to drive and spend five figures on (okay, maybe not super excited about that). I'm happy I found something more safe and reliable to be encased in.


      -- My cat didn't make any attempts to steal my chair today. (Trust me, that's a win.)


      -- I received a shipment of my favorite coffee. I had been running out, which isn't acceptable. 


      -- I'm enjoying sakura sencha green tea because I'm feeling under the weather. (See, I'm not just a coffee snob. Also a tea snob.)


      -- I took a nap because I wasn't feeling well and then I didn't want to get up because the bed was too comfy. I'm always grateful I have the ability to nap whenever I want...unless I'm under a deadline. 


      -- It was finally cold enough out today that I got to bundle up. I'm actually wearing two hoodies right now. Trying to enjoy it for a brief moment before mother nature gets confused again because it's supposed to be 80 degrees on Sunday. Sigh.


      -- Similarly, I did laundry last night and pulled out a hoodie from the dryer, wrapped myself in it, and did a happy dance. Freshly washed, warm hoodies are the best. 


      -- I'm grateful for the collective wisdom of many individuals I used to narrow my choice of a new laptop down to one. The ability to buy stuff online is convenient, but when it comes to technology, I have a hard time buying without trying it. Here's hoping it works out.


      -- I'm grateful for the few songs that envelop me in a rainbow of warm fuzzy feelings. (No, not an acid trip.)


      -- My retirement account has more money than I thought, despite the crazy economy. This will be the first year I max out my IRA and I'm pretty excited. Vanguard admiral funds, here I come!


      -- I received an unexpected refund today, which is always nice.


      -- Also got paid (mostly because my one client was on vacation at the beginning of the month). 


      -- I booked a random flight to Austin because I miss the city and it was on sale. 


      -- Currently strongly considering jetting off to Ireland as I stumbled across a $290 round-trip flight.


      (As a side note, next year is basically going to be a year of traveling for me - and I'm immensely grateful I can do something like that. Still trying to figure out how I'm going to document it all, but I'd like to do something to "bring people along with me.")


      -- I'm grateful for the people in my life, and glad that, for the most part, they're healthy. One of my clients had a health scare and my dad is going through a few things, and it puts things into perspective a bit. 


      -- I'm happy that I have two quality pens. Good writing utensils are important to me. (Tip: if you're ever in an office supply store with me for some reason, I will be in the pen aisle.)


      -- Lastly, I'm grateful I got to witness this sunset. Nighttime is the best time for the beach.


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      What are you grateful for?

    • Are People Doing the Best They Can?

      1 month ago

      ErinM

      On the surface, this is a fairly simple question. Do you think people are doing the best they can in any given circumstance? 


      Most of us would probably answer with a resounding "no." Everyone knows someone who seems like a slacker, who skates by in life without any regard to how their actions impact others. (And let's not even get into serial killer status. I'm talking about the average person here.)


      There was more context provided in the book. In this case, the author had agreed to go to a conference she didn't want to speak at, and ended up rooming with someone she described as a slob. (The roommate was eating a donut when she walked in, and in making the effort to shake hands, wiped her dirty fingers on the chair she was sitting on without a second thought.) 


      Upon trying to make small talk, her new roommate decided to light up a cigarette, even though the hotel was strictly no smoking. When she expressed this concern, the roommate shrugged it off. 


      This person angered the author so much she took the issue to her psychologist. How could she be so uncouth? Who DOES that?! Every sentence was a scathing judgment on this person's character.


      Her psychologist simply asked, "Do you think she was doing her best?"


      "NO," she blurted out. "No way."


      It wasn't until she did some serious soul searching and reflection that she realized how unforgiving she was being. 


      "I assumed that people weren't doing their best so I judged them and constantly fought being disappointed, which was easier than setting boundaries."


      "Self-righteousness starts with the belief that I'm better than other people, and it always ends with me being my very worst self and thinking, I'm not good enough."


      Since she's a sociologist, she set about asking a variety of people how they would answer the question. I loved her husband's response the best: "All I know is that my life is better when I assume that people are doing their best. It keeps me out of judgment and lets me focus on what is, and not what should or could be."


      Why Cast Judgment?

      This also reminds me of the fundamental attribution error - the claim that in contrast to interpretations of their own behavior, people place undue emphasis on internal characteristics of the agent (character or intention), rather than external factors, in explaining other people's behavior. (Thanks Wikipedia.) 


      When someone is driving recklessly on the road, we assume they're an asshole. 


      When someone refuses to get off their cell phone in a library, we think they're an asshole. 


      When someone gives a customer service rep a hard time, we automatically categorize them as an asshole. 


      I'm not condoning these behaviors by any means, but we jump to these assumptions with no other thoughts attached to them. 


      I'm of the opinion that we're all human, and as such, we're subject to irrationality and making mistakes. No one acts perfectly in every circumstance. If we did, we'd have no regrets and a lot less self-help books. 


      At the end of the day, who am I to say someone isn't trying their best? How do I know what their best is? I have no idea what kind of emotional hell the day may have poured on them. (Maybe the author's roommate was in the process of a destructive divorce and only had donuts and cigarettes to turn to.)


      What's more is that this judgmental thinking rarely adds to our lives. I'd argue that it takes away more. Negativity is exhausting, and I'm sure you have enough of your own issues that you don't need to add the issues of others on your plate. From a mental bandwidth perspective, it's not sustainable. 


      So what's the solution? Well, I always try to minimize my exposure to this to begin with. If someone is driving recklessly, I distance myself...and that's about it. I don't curse at the person, I don't start ranting and raving like a lunatic all over social media. I acknowledge it, wonder what's causing the erratic behavior, and then I let it go. I always carry headphones with me in case someone is talking too loudly. If someone is saying hurtful things to an employee and I'm next in line, I try my best to lighten their day.


      As far as people in my life, I don't allow room for negativity. I'm not sunshine and rainbows all the time - far from it - but if someone is bringing me down, then I let them go. One of the basic principles I subscribe to is that something/someone must add value to my life in some way to be a part of it. I will do my best to help people, but there comes a point when you've provided all the guidance and direction and the person needs to take action. 


      Common thread: let go. Far too many people hold onto anger, resentment, judgment, or whatever else, and most of this is caused by people they don't even know. Why are you allowing the actions of strangers to affect you THAT much? What is the purpose in devoting that much mental energy to caring? 


      Am I Doing My Best?

      Okay, let's go back to the original point of this. 


      When I came across this question, I paused. My answer years ago would have been very different than my current answer, and that's because I used to be mired in self-righteousness. I know better than they do. How could they even think that makes sense? What a dumb mistake! I would never make that decision.


      Wow. (In case you're curious, I was pretty bitchy.) 


      I was coming from a very unforgiving place; a place full of hurt where I wanted to get back at the world for all the pain I had endured. A place of inadequacy. 


      Something I've struggled with a lot is the feeling of not being enough, or not doing enough. Asking too much of yourself and then beating yourself up for falling short is a vicious cycle, and it's not a productive one. So one of the things I've been trying to do this year is be more forgiving - of myself, and others. 


      Forgiveness is a very powerful thing, but it's not easy to seek it or grant it. However, it's extremely freeing once you figure it out. 


      As a result, I can approach this question with a much more level head. I know I'm doing my best, but my best looks very different on a day-to-day basis. Some days are easier than others. I have weeks where I'm on a roll with work, and I have weeks where my brain doesn't want to focus on anything.


      My best could be making it out of bed and checking email. Someone who didn't know any better could assume I'm a lazy bum who does nothing of importance, and that assumption would probably be fairly hurtful. 


      I refer back to the quote above. Life is a lot easier when you simply give people the benefit of the doubt (that includes yourself), and accept the fact that as humans, we're subject to making mistakes. 


      That doesn't mean letting people walk all over you, or giving yourself permission to slack off. You still need to be honest with those around you and yourself. But it does mean operating from a place of forgiveness and open mindedness. 

    • Create Your Own Opportunities

      2 months ago

      ErinM

      I could leave this post at the title, but that would be entirely too uncharacteristic of me. 


      I see a lot of people get hung up on scarcity - there's no jobs, not enough pay, not enough time, no way in hell they'll be able to do X, Y, and Z. They hold on to various excuses and focus on the limitations. 


      I used to subscribe to those thoughts, too. I was a certified glass half-empty cynic who didn't see the point in hoping for anything better (especially with my luck). 


      But that wasn't useful in the slightest. If you're unhappy with a situation, you need to find the power within you to change it. Unfortunately, a lot of people give that power away because they're focused on the wrong things. 


      Let go of excuses. Let go of immediately thinking of all the reasons why things seem impossible. Let go of self-imposed restrictions. 


      Instead of saying crap like that's too hard or I can't or I'll never be able to, flip it around. (Or in the words of a friend, focus on answers - not obstacles.)


      Break overwhelming aspirations down into little chunks and figure out what it'll take to get there, step-by-step.


      Ask how you can do something. Allow yourself to dream about what your life would look like if you could accomplish whatever it is that you're seeking. 


      Approach these things as a challenge to live a better life. 


      For the most part, what the average person wants in life isn't impossible to obtain, but we have this horrible habit of making something impossible by giving up on it easily. Yes, learned helplessness can be a bitch, but it's not insurmountable. 


      At the end of the day, we all have a choice to create our own opportunities. But creating an opportunity is harder than waiting for one to fall into our lap, so most opt to wait. And wait. And wait. 


      I don't know about you, but I'm impatient and I don't want to spend what's left of my time here waiting around for some unknown thing to transpire while becoming more and more hopeless. That's not living - that's letting life happen to you.


      Think about one thing you want to make happen in your life, and take one step toward making it a reality. Then keep going. Create your own path - don't let someone else create it for you.

    • The Power of Reinvention

      2 months ago

      ErinM

      Somewhere along the way, it's almost inevitable that you'll feel stuck. Whether in a job, relationship, a living situation, or just overall life (hello quarter life crisis). 


      What we do when this happens can have a huge impact on our character, and consequently, our story.


      Some people crawl their way out of a hole. Others place the burden of getting out on friends and family. Many will run themselves into the ground before they get a much needed kick in the ass and eventually make it out.


      Well, I've been feeling pretty stuck for months on end, and I haven't been able to find a reason for it. This isn't the first time, and I'm sure it won't be the last time. And every journey of getting out of the stuck-ness has been different, which makes figuring out the solution even more challenging. 


      What's clear, though, is that it doesn't matter if you try everything under the sun that you can think of - if it doesn't work, then you can't force it. Or, in the words of Einstein, "Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results."


      A Slight Epiphany

      Over the months of trying to apply all these different solutions to my life and seeing if one stuck (enough to make me feel unstuck), I came upon a realization: 


      We have the power to reinvent ourselves. 


      We're in charge of our path, and we can choose to change it...if we want to.


      If you don't like the person you are, if you want a new skill, if you want to lose a habit, you can reinvent yourself and your story. 


      The problem is most people are afraid of change, so they shy away from this. While change isn't easy, I can't help but be fascinated with this perspective. It's so simple, but there's a lot of truth to it.


      How I'm Reinventing Myself

      I like a lot about myself (after putting in a shit load of work - trust me, I detested the person I was years ago), but there are a few things that I know I need to change. 


      Along with this change in mindset, this past year I've also taken to thinking of things as experiments. Experiments allow for freedom - they're not permanent, and they're far less intimidating. This is important because I hold myself to wildly high expectations and tend to beat myself up over not achieving things. 


      My thought process on new things is more or less oh hey, I'll try this, see how it works, and evaluate at a later date, upon which time I can decide if it's working well or if it has failed and needs to be shelved. I also take care to note what exactly worked, what didn't and why - and if I should tweak anything and try again, or abandon something completely. 


      With my thought process and mindset explained, my reinvention is essentially hitting a giant "reset" button on life. That means letting go of a lot of things (almost everything) and leaning into all the amazing, overwhelming possibilities that life contains. 


      I'm not going to lie - it's extremely scary. I have no idea if it will work. But it's a much better alternative than staying stuck, and I know I'll learn something from it. 


      Making painful decisions isn't easy, but I can tell it's the right decision because underneath all the anxiety about the future, I feel an odd sense of relief. 


      Sometimes you have to take a leap of faith and trust that everything will be okay.

  • About Me

    Hi there. I'm absolutely horrible at introducing myself or writing about myself, so here we go...

    I used to write personal finance articles and manage social media for clients, but that somehow turned into editing videos for educational courses and YouTube. The journey of self-employment leads to crazy places...

    Like working from home in pajamas or yoga pants 99% of the time. I can be found the other 1% of the time at a coffee shop or library (dressed, don't worry). 

    Hobbies include playing video games or board games with friends, reading, listening to music, Photoshopping things, writing more stuff, learning new things, and laughing at my cats. Free entertainment at its finest.

    This is an outdated guide to affording RTX that I put together in 2016. Most of the basic info is timeless (aka - principles are the same), although prices have changed. I'm leaving it here in case it's still helpful for anyone.

    Some of my favorite quotes:

    Almost every successful person begins with two beliefs: the future can be better than the present, and I have the power to make it so.

    If you don't go after what you want, you'll never have it. If you don't ask, the answer is always no. If you don't step forward, you're always in the same place.

    You can never cross the ocean unless you have the courage to lose sight of the shore.

    Those sum up my philosophy on life pretty well...although that philosophy is constantly evolving. And I promise I'm not being philosophical unless it's after 2am. Don't ask why.

  • Comments (35)

    • rachyrock FIRST Member Star(s) Indication of membership status - One star is a FIRST member, two stars is Double Gold Goddess of Noms

      9 months ago

      Erin! Happy Warm Fuzzies day, friend!  caboose

      I am honored and so very happy to count you among my friends. I hope you've had an excellent day!

    • agpaladin789

      1 year ago

      Thanks for the add! I find it extremely inspiring and simply awesome that you are a personal finance freelance writer. I actually work in Finance/Banking and find myself teaching everything I've learned about loans, saving, investments, and other financial products to my friends and family. Unfortunately, not a lot of people know this incredibly life changing and tremendously beneficial information, so finding someone else who understands it so well such as yourself and shares the knowledge with other people is incredibly admirable. I'm Allan, nice to meet you!

      • ErinM

        1 year ago

        Oh my, a fellow finance nerd?!!? That makes me happy. =) You're right, not a lot of people are aware of the information, or about how life-changing it can be. When people hear "finance," they tune out immediately, and it's a shame.


        I started my blog with the thought of, if I can change just one person's life for the better with this information, it's been worth it. But, writing can be like talking to a wall sometimes, so I've thought about going into the financial planning field. Several of my blog friends have done it, but it's still not an easy path!


        If you're ever interested in writing about it, let me know. The personal finance community is awesome and you don't ever feel out of place for nerding out about numbers and stuff. ;) I'm glad to hear you're at least educating friends and family. Financial literacy is important. And thank you for commenting and adding me!

      • agpaladin789

        1 year ago

        That would be awesome! I'd love to help in whatever way I can. When people start to tune out during my finance ramblings, I usually keep going so that something sticks to them at least. I love to hear myself talk lol :P


        I studied Political Science in a liberal arts college in MA, with the full intention of becoming a lawyer. Instead, I ended up becoming a banker after doing an internship in investment banking, which led to my eventual career in finance. I grew up in a low-income household with little knowledge of personal finance, so I've made it a mission in my life to teach as many people as possible about personal finance, particularly individuals in low-income communities.


        How did you fall in this line of work?

      • ErinM

        1 year ago

        @agpaladin789 Ahh sorry, I forgot notifications stop working the first time you reply to something...


        Ha, I'm the same way. My friends know better than to start talking about finance stuff around me because I'll usually go on some sort of rant. But I also try to respect the fact that some people won't be interested, and I can't force them to be. I've been trying the personal angle of "getting your finances in order helps you live the life you want to live" so people have something to connect to.


        That's an awesome mission! There are a few bloggers I know who have a history in investment banking. I grew up learning what not to do from my parents (credit card debt), and like you, I want to educate as many people as possible so they don't make the same mistakes. It's unfortunate that personal finance classes aren't mandatory at some point or another in school.


        Blogging was the start of it all. I never set out to be self-employed at all, but after seeing many people in the community make the jump, I figured I could, too. Blogging gave me a huge network - quite a few blogs hire writers to produce content on a scheduled basis. One person writing 3-4x per week is rough. There are a lot of corporate blogs hiring that pay fairly well, but I prefer the more personal style of blogs. All of my clients came from referrals from others in the community. We very much like to help each other out, and we're rather close.


        Not sure if it's something you'd be interested in, but we have a convention called FinCon where we all meet up. It's in San Diego this year in September. Besides that, there are panels on how to get into the industry and there are tons of connections to be made. Also, The Road to Financial Independence is something you might find cool. It's a movement going across the country to inspire financial literacy.

    • topham FIRST Member Star(s) Indication of membership status - One star is a FIRST member, two stars is Double Gold DHYB

      1 year ago

      Hey new friend! Hows it going?

      • ErinM

        1 year ago

        Hey Topham! Thanks for adding me. =) Busy as usual, but hoping for some downtime later today. Dealing with a bit of the same struggles as you (regarding your recent journal). How has your day been?

      • topham FIRST Member Star(s) Indication of membership status - One star is a FIRST member, two stars is Double Gold DHYB

        1 year ago

        Things are going okay, super busy, but you know, when I'm not busy my mind wanders. Which is fine outside of work, but at work, not the best. I've been following you for a while (when LtTank mentioned us both a while back) but forgot to send a FR over. I like what you're doing with your journals!

      • ErinM

        1 year ago

        I hear you! I like keeping busy as it keeps my mind occupied, although it's nice to have a clear head when it comes time to write. =) Thank you! I'd like to get into a daily habit of journaling, but once a week seems to be a good pace for me right now. Journals are a neat way to look back on the past few years and see what was going on at that point.

    • LadyOddDuck FIRST Member Star(s) Indication of membership status - One star is a FIRST member, two stars is Double Gold Call Me Duck

      1 year ago

      Happy Valentine's Day, Erin! Hope you're having a great one!

      tumblr_o2gbh3Whyf1qdxepho2_1280.jpg

    • Desayjin FIRST Member Star(s) Indication of membership status - One star is a FIRST member, two stars is Double Gold RTX Guardian Emeritus

      1 year ago

      Happy Warm Fuzzies!

      heart

    • rachyrock FIRST Member Star(s) Indication of membership status - One star is a FIRST member, two stars is Double Gold Goddess of Noms

      1 year ago

      Happy warm fuzzies day, Erin! I sincerely hope that our paths will cross at RTX this year, since it's long overdue :)


      Have a lovely day!

    • artduck QUACK

      1 year ago

      Hey Erin! I just got your letter! I just got back to school, but I wanted to thank you for your kind words and kickass secret santa gift! I hung it next to my desk and it looks great! <3 I'm a guardian again this year for RTX so hopefully I'll see you in Austin this summer!

      • ErinM

        1 year ago

        Yay, I'm so glad you liked it, and happy you're also a guardian again! We'll definitely have to meet up at some point when it's not super crazy. =)

    • fallenlords Dirty Shisno

      1 year ago

      a personal finance freelancer? Its like you combined the 2 things every schoolkid hates, math and writing a lot. May or may not have also immediately thought of RvB and how that would be the most boring role possible for a project that makes super soldiers and AI.

      • ErinM

        1 year ago

        I hate math. It's more about the concept than numbers (most of the time). Writing is something I happen to love, and finance is something I'm passionate about, so making a living doing it is fine by me. Better than sitting in a cubicle all day, which I was doing before this, and is really boring.

      • fallenlords Dirty Shisno

        1 year ago

        Oh dont wory, im not judging that. Personally i rather like writing, at least as long as it isnt for something school related. Still, its like youve got a job that sci fi writers 40 yrs ago couldnt even dream of. Telling people around the world how to spend their money without even having to leave the house? What a time to be alive

    • Raf FIRST Member Star(s) Indication of membership status - One star is a FIRST member, two stars is Double Gold ShimmySham Gaming

      2 years ago

      apparently we weren't friends on the site! had to fix that!

      • ErinM

        2 years ago

        I thought we were, haha. Glad it's fixed now!

    • Fly FIRST Member Star(s) Indication of membership status - One star is a FIRST member, two stars is Double Gold Keeper of Blades

      2 years ago

      Hey I saw you jumped into the OCC! Welcome aboard!

      • ErinM

        2 years ago

        Thank you!

    • annagramx

      2 years ago

      So, not entirely sure how to accept friends on the new site, but thanks for the request! It just says pending and doesn't give me an accept option. Excited to see you at RTX!

      • Fly FIRST Member Star(s) Indication of membership status - One star is a FIRST member, two stars is Double Gold Keeper of Blades

        2 years ago

        Just wanting to help: If you go up to your profile name in the top right corner you can go to My Settings and they should be the last tab on the right.

    • sneedse

      2 years ago

      Happy Warn Fuzzies! Glad I got to meet you in Rafs stream. Look forward to getting to meet you next week! smiley12.gif

    • Audrey Spread The Love!

      2 years ago

      Thank you so much for your kind words, my dear. I hope you're having a wonderful day! smiley12.gif
      Spread the love with Warm Fuzzies of your own today!

    • rachyrock FIRST Member Star(s) Indication of membership status - One star is a FIRST member, two stars is Double Gold Goddess of Noms

      2 years ago

      Erin! Happy Warm Fuzzies Day! I've enjoyed chatting with you in the streams too, and I thank you for putting up with (& interpreting) my typos! At least it adds some comic relief smiley0.gif I've been busy too, but I look forward to watching the streams when I can! Hope to see you in a few this weekend! smiley13.gifsmiley12.gif

    • LadyOddDuck FIRST Member Star(s) Indication of membership status - One star is a FIRST member, two stars is Double Gold Call Me Duck

      2 years ago

      Happy Valentine's Day, Erin! I've loved reading your journals and getting to know you these past few weeks. I hope you're having an incredible day. Thank you for your awesome contributions to this community!

      This comment brought to you by the Warm Fuzzies Project. Now go spread the love. smiley12.gif

      • ErinM

        2 years ago

        Aw, thank you! smiley12.gif

    • LadyOddDuck FIRST Member Star(s) Indication of membership status - One star is a FIRST member, two stars is Double Gold Call Me Duck

      2 years ago

      Hey! So I'm going to try to join this thing called Glassbreakers which is a peer mentorship community for women. Thought you might be interested!

      • LadyOddDuck FIRST Member Star(s) Indication of membership status - One star is a FIRST member, two stars is Double Gold Call Me Duck

        2 years ago

        I did a big overhaul of mine about a month ago. Always refining it though. Hopefully the mentorship can help with that!

      • ErinM

        2 years ago

        Thanks for letting me know - it looks like a great community! Of course, my LinkedIn profile isn't up to date.. smiley6.gif I'll have to work on that.

    • Cailinbean FIRST Member Star(s) Indication of membership status - One star is a FIRST member, two stars is Double Gold

      2 years ago

      Thanks for the request! I had a lot of fun talking to you and Rachy and everyone else! :)

      • ErinM

        2 years ago

        You're welcome - glad we all got to enjoy each other's company! smiley1.gif

    • MegOmyeggo FIRST Member Star(s) Indication of membership status - One star is a FIRST member, two stars is Double Gold Small Lady

      2 years ago

      Hello new friend! :D

      • ErinM

        2 years ago

        Hi! :D

  • Questions

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