27 Things to do that are more fulfilling than complaining about turning 27…

We’re all climbing up that steep ladder called life, one lap around the sun at a time. My grandma always says, the older you get, the faster it goes. It feels like I was just planning my super hip Laguna Beach-themed 14 year old pool party, and yet here I am, writing about turning 27. Time flies whether you’re having fun or not, and our increase in age is inevitable. So, rather then complain about that slippery slope of getting older, here are 27 things to do that are more productive and fulfilling…

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  1. Get sweaty. Whether it’s running, jumping, lifting, or dancing, incorporate physical activity into your daily life.
  2. Take yourself out to dinner. Or lunch, or breakfast. Get comfortable spending time with yourself by keeping your phone in the car.
  3. Book a solo trip. You’ve mastered the art of dining alone, now go ahead and see the world with the most badass travel buddy out there— yourself.
  4. Drink a beer. A good beer. In the shower. There’s nothing a nice shower beer can’t cure.
  5. Clean your space. Vacuum. Dust. Declutter. Donate the things you don’t need. If you live as if you’re always expecting a wildfire, you begin to realize the material possessions you truly care about.
  6. Cook. Get creative! Try different spices and recipes, and don’t be afraid to make mistakes. Sometimes they lead to a whole new creation. IMG_6814.jpeg
  7. Meditate. Practice the art of stillness. Developing a mindful meditation practice has been my super tool in combating anxiety.
  8. Stretch. Amazon prime yourself a foam roller, and roll with it. You may surprise yourself with how flexible you are— mind, body and soul.
  9. Read something someone else wrote. Whether it’s a book, blog, or magazine. Fill your mind with the musing of others.
  10. Read something you wrote. I know personally, I’ve got a plethora of old notebooks hiding under my bed. Dust off the cobwebs are tap into thoughts of the past.
  11. Play an instrument. You don’t have the be the best, you don’t even have to be that good. Just try. Activate a new part of your brain.
  12. Organize your photos. You know you have to. When’s the last time you went through your photos from that trip in 2014?
  13. Take some more photos. Go outside. Find a pretty flower. Snap some shots.
  14. Get a pet. There’s nothing better than some unconditional fluffy love.Image-1.jpg
  15. Do your laundry. And then put it away. Don’t leave it in that pile one “the chair.” Be responsible, you’re almost 30.
  16. Write for yourself. Let your mind flow and your pen go.
  17. Write for others. Perhaps it’s a blog about 27 things to do that are more fulfilling than complaining about turning 27…
  18. Buy yourself a nice shirt. It’s got to be a shirt, and it’s got to be a nice one. You’ll feel that confidence dripping when your strutting around in that $30 diddy.
  19. Learn the lyrics to your favorite rap. A little swag never hurt nobody.
  20. Practice a new language. Duolingo is calling, and you should answer.
  21. Draw or paint or sketch. A free flowing creative mind is a peaceful one.
  22. Write a letter. It can be a letter to yourself, or to someone you care about. Whether or not you send it is up to you.
  23. Learn to do a handstand. It’s easier than you think. Engage that coreIMG_6070.JPG
  24. Garden. A little chlorophyl goes a long way. Dig into that dirt, go green. Bonus points if you see worms.
  25. Reflect over the last 27 years, or the last 27 minutes. Allow the lessons of your past to fuel your present.
  26. List your goals. It will bring you that much closer to achieving them. Be proud of your progress and empowered on your journey.
  27. Eat some cake. And eat it for breakfast. Live your life, you’ve made it this far!

RELATED: 26 Things I Learned by the Time I Turned 26 

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I’m Not Done Yet. From Finstas to Finding Yourself

 

“Protopia is a state of becoming, rather than a destination.” – Kevin Kelly, The Inevitable. 

As I flip through my copy of “The Inevitable”, my mind wanders to the corners of its own protopia. Kevin Kelly describes it as a state that is better today than yesterday, although it may just be by a little bit. A Protopia is the realistic future we should be striving towards. It’s the unavoidable tomorrow that will arrive come sunrise…

As a working member of this technological society, I know first hand that we are morphing. We’re growing, expanding, and changing, every. damn. day.

You may be reading this and thinking, “duh.” We’re not static beings, but instead are multi-faceted humans with the capability to learn and morph with our environment… This is universally understood. However, how often do you stop and think about how our technological presence plays a part in all of this?

Maybe you’re one of those naysayers who believes that social media is the devil. Maybe you’re a child of the 00′s, who doesn’t know life without an online identity. Wherever you fall on this spectrum, we can all agree on one thing: the internet isn’t going anywhere. So, let’s come together & brainstorm ways to use these intertwined virtual networks to create a very real protopia.

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Unless you live under a rock, it is likely that you are a member of at least one social network. Whether its Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, or a blog platform like Tumblr- you have created a virtual portrayal of real life you. I had an interesting conversation with my 17 year old sister yesterday about this topic. She was talking about how important “aesthetic” has become, and the great lengths her peers will go through to completely scrap an old look to become something new. “Finstas” are being created, and for all y’all who aren’t in high school, these are fake instagram accounts used to post photos that you only want your close friends seeing. It’s not even a matter of these posts being nasty or offensive, these are typically just photos that don’t go with the users “real” insta aesthetic.

The question then becomes, what is real? 

If you scroll all the way down to my very first Instagram post, I’m still the same ol’ Lauren I am today. Just younger, and strapped with an iPhone 4. The core of a social media identity is to represent who you are, but in a virtual world. This is sort of a crazy concept to wrap your head around, so it does not come as a surprise to me that we’re running rapid with finstas and gym posts, when we haven’t once lifted a weight IRL.

On or offline, there is a (not so) simple solution to this: self awareness. 

How do you define yourself? How would you describe yourself to others?

When I was in 6th grade, I shopped at Hot Topic and listened to Good Charlotte. In 7th grade, I had a change of heart and style, and started shopping at PacSun. The middle school years are when you’re searching for your identity. Trying on different masks, seeing which one fits. If I had an Instagram back then, do you know how many punk rock princess posts I’d have to delete before setting foot in PacSun…

It is concerning to me that kids have to go through this process of finding and creating themselves with a smartphone permanently attached to their hip. Social media has become a window to the world, and rather than developing their own identities, we’re clinging to the identities of others. Everyone wants contoured skin, a million followers, and an A1 aesthetic… but are losing touch with their own reality in the process.

Don’t get me wrong, if anyone is a social media advocate – it’s me. But, I am not blind to its dangers, In fact, I’ve made it my life work to create an anecdote.

Educate

We’re always learning, whether we realize it or not. While scrolling though Instagram, you’re learning about the world. About what people ate for lunch. About protopias. Literally– anything and everything.

This classroom is an interesting one, though. With the exception of posts that are created with the intention of being educational, most users aren’t putting their content out there with the thought, “wow, someone is really going to learn something from this.” But we should. What if everyone on social media stopped and thought for a second, “what can people learn from this?” before hitting that – post – button? Unrealistic, I know. But this can be flipped. What if everyone on social media stopped and thought, “what can I learn from this?” as they are scrolling though online content. This type of open-mindedness and thirst for knowledge can lead to a more fully developed sense of self. Think about thinking. Don’t just get lost in the mindless clatter that social media can be.

Inspire

Perhaps content we see or post isn’t meant to teach a lesson, but instead has the power to spark someone’s imagination. At the core of the platform that I’ve created, Out There Social, my goal is to inspire others to leave their comfort zone. This is the fuel that ignites the fire of everything I capture, ponder, write, and share. This is why I do what I do. This is why I love social media. Because I can reach the masses with messages that are so near and dear to my heart. I left my comfort zone in the dust years ago, and have been virtually screaming from the rooftops for everyone else to do the same.

We must realize the power we have as social media beings. Anything you post online, is seen by someone. It may not be a crowd of millions, but an audience is an audience. You have the conscious choice to decide how you will use this virtual stage. You have the free will to portray yourself to this audience anyway you choose. Your best bet, be yourself. Easier said than done, when most of us have a hard time grasping who we are.

Think of yourself as an online source of inspiration. Use your voice to challenge others to think for themselves. Allow people to walk in your shoes, but give them the freedom to tie their own laces. Close your eyes an imagine your own protopia. Then, get out there and make it happen.

Imagine an alien came down to Earth, and asked you to describe the taste of water. How would you do it?

Trying to describe the nondescript taste of water, to me, is the equivalent of trying to describe what it’s like to live in an unhealthy mental state. There is nothing to compare it to. It just is.

Now, imagine this alien takes you back to their planet, and gives you a taste of what water is to them. Suddenly, you can describe what you have been drinking your whole life by comparison. You have gained a fresh perspective into a different world, allowing you to reanalyze your baseline norm.

I did not have a comprehension of how detrimental my mental state was until I learned what positive mental health was. This is a petrifying thought. For 18 years, I lived in a figurative cage— bounded by the confines of mental health. I went for physicals every year… I was a healthy specimen. I was an honor roll student, had hobbies, interests, and a great group of friends. Yet, I was ridden by anxiety—- but that was my norm. I was use to the apprehensive fears that would keep me up at night, because that’s how everyone feels, right?

My anxious mental state was just a drop in the bucket compared to the bigger issues surrounding them. For 18 years, I dealt with problems that were bigger than myself. They all revolved around one thing—- mental health. But, it was not my own mental health that consumed me, it was my Dad’s.

Have you ever met someone who had behaviors so ridiculous that you just attributed it to, “oh, that’s just who they are.” Well, let me tell you, one glance at the index of a psychology textbook will tell you, there is a rhyme and a reason for everything.

I know of many people who have grown up with a parent or loved one that was ill. Disorders of the heart, brain, muscular or skeletal system are apparent, but disorders of the mind or personality are not so easily recognizable. Sometimes, in the most frustrating of cases, the disorders aren’t even recognized by the person who is suffering. In these cases of denial, the suffering falls upon those around them. Suffering becomes a part of everyday life, but you learn to put on your big girl pants and deal with it, because everyone is dealing with something, no?

I am here to tell you, nobody deserves to suffer. You are more than your circumstance, and there is always a way out. Sometimes, you have to fight like hell, but I promise you, there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Everyone says that life is short, but I think that discredits time spent suffering. I know there are people who look at me, and judge the life that I live. But you know, I wouldn’t challenge these people to try on the shoes that I have once walked in, because they have trekked through a dark, painful, and treacherous past.

Yes, life is short, and there will be suffering that we cannot control. That is inevitable. But we must recognize the things that we can work at— with mental health being at the top of this list. Sometimes, this means making hard decisions, and doing things we don’t want to do— such as seeking treatment. The ratio of those who would benefit from speaking with a mental health professional and those who actually do is incredibly skewed— which I personally think is a MAJOR underlying reason behind many of the problems in our world as a whole, but I digress.

The fact that #WorldMentalHealthDay is trending is a victory for the entire world. Between the election, clowns, and everything in between, we can scroll through a feed of support for those who know what it is like to fight an internal battle. Today is a day that we recognize the warriors who have overcome wars within themselves, and more importantly, letting it be known that you are not alone. There may not always be answers, but there is always someone who will listen to you. Who will understand you. Who will support you. Who will let you know, you are not crazy. No one deserves to feel that the weight of the world is resting on their shoulders. No one deserves to think that “grinning and bearing it” is any way to get through life. You deserve happiness. You deserve mental freedom. You are entitled to your health.

How many times have you heard the phrase, “it’s all about who you know”? Life is about connections: making them, maintaining them, and celebrating them. Think about your circle of close friends— how did these relationships begin? Was it at work? School? On reality TV?

Last month, I had the privilege of attending the opening of South Side Iron gym in Lemont, Illinois. But before we get to that, let’s rewind a bit…

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Last year, 20 individuals were sent to Hawaii in the pursuit of finding love. The premise of this dating experiment being, if your perfect match was standing right in front of you, would you even know it? What became of this, for two contestants in particular, was something that went beyond MTV’s expectations. Love involves trust and commitment, and while the goal of this show was romance, these qualities are also representative of genuine friendships.

If everything went according to plan 100% of the time, life would be pretty boring. These 20 men and women hoped to come out of this experience hand in hand with their perfect match, and a nice chunk of change from winning the grand prize of one million dollars. Sure, couples were paired and the cash was won, but what MTV couldn’t predict was the wonderful friendship and future business pairing between Connor Smith and Tyler Johnson.

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As this was going on in Hawaii, I was in NY, working at a kickboxing gym, bonding with my fellow trainer over our love for reality dating shows (among other things). A connection was made and we became fast friends, and soon, after discussing the most recent episode of the Bachelor, she suggested I should watch the MTV show Are You The One. As luck would have it, season 3 was premiering in a matter of weeks, allowing me to jump on the AYTO bandwagon.

Many can argue that in this technological world, we’re losing our ability to connect with others. The first word in “social media” is social, and if used correctly, actually enhances our connections exponentially. Through social media, my connection with Tyler — excuse me, Teeboogie — began. We bonded over our love of dancing (they don’t call him teeboogie for no reason), deep thoughts on life, and upbeat positivity.

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Now that we’ve covered the connections made in Hawaii, New York, and the world of social media, let’s jetset over to Illinois. Growing up, fitness has played an important role in Connor’s life. He told us that when he was younger, exercise was his reward. “If you finish your homework, you can go workout with your brother!” Over the past year, he has followed his heart, pursued his passion, and worked until his dreams came true with the opening of South Side Iron. When looking for a staff of fitness professionals he could trust, Tyler was a forerunner on his list. While Teeboogie’s energy is contagious and fitness knowledge is visible (peep the abs), the acquisition of licensure was necessary. So, with that, Tyler studied his butt off, aced his NASM certification exams, and became a licensed personal trainer.

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In due time, all these mentioned connections were bound to collide. A few days before the grand opening of South Side Iron, I sent a “this may sound crazy, but…” text to my college roommate and my fellow kickboxing trainer/reality dating show fan. The best kinds of connections are those that are on the same wavelength as you— the ones who applaud your adventures and who’s personalities enhance your ideas in ways you couldn’t imagine. At 6am on the day of the grand opening, we boarded the plane and headed to Chicago.

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Watching people follow their dreams ignites a special type of inspiration in my soul. Knowing the hard work and dedication that went behind the opening of South Side Iron made the decision to hop on a plane for a 24 hour adventure a no brainer. When watching TV, especially reality dating shows (my guilty pleasure), you don’t often think about the lives of the people off camera. After a taste of fame, it isn’t unusual seeing these individuals selling tummy tea on Instagram, or walking around feeling entitled to special treatment. This is not the case for Connor and Tyler, in fact, it is quite the opposite. Humble and hardworking are the pressing adjectives that come to mind in describing these two men. Both have overcome struggles in their lives that they have not allowed to define them, but instead, have helped them to propel forward and conquer what may seem to others as unconquerable. The positive energy in celebrating this momentous event in their lives was immeasurable… wonderful things happen when you live your dream!

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If you’re in the Chicago area, be sure to check out South Side Iron located on 1243 State Street, Lemont. You will walk out feeling strong, inspired and ready to conquer the world!

Safety, or something like it…

For the past 10 weeks, I’ve been conducting academic research in the field of Humanistic Psychology. This school of psychology focuses on how to help already healthy individuals become healthier. It is believed that given the right set of psychological and social conditions, everyone has the potential to become happy, fulfilled, creative, and emotionally whole.

A major tenant of this school is Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. This theory represents the stages of growth in humans, and the motivating factors leading up to achieving one’s fullest potential.

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My investigation is geared towards analyzing social media usage in relation to one’s placement within Maslow’s Hierarchy, and ultimately reaching self-actualization. For research purposes, I’ve been focusing on the levels of love,belonging, and esteem. However, the events of the past 24 hours have made me rethink one of the most preliminary stages: safety.

On Friday, 6/11, YouTube sensation and The Voice finalist Christina Grimmie was shot dead as she was signing autographs for her fans. This 22 year old singer’s life was cut short by an attacker that she had embraced with open arms. Armed with two guns and a hunting knife, the murderer then took his own life.

Hours later, just a few miles away, 50 people were killed inside an Orlando nightclub. What should have been just another Friday night out quickly turned into what is being called the worst terror attack in U.S. history since 9/11. Pulse nightclub, a gay bar that was opened to promote awareness to the area’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community, was dedicated to the owner’s (Barbara Poma) brother who had died from AIDS. Pulse’s website speaks of Poma’s brother; “Being raised in a strict Italian family, being gay was frowned upon. However, when John came out to his family and friends, the family dynamic transitioned from a culture of strict tradition to one of acceptance and love.”

These two devastating events brings me back to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. Pulse set out to create an environment of love and belonging, as Poma’s family did for him. Shows such as “The Voice” allows for talented artists, such as Christina Grimme to ignite their esteem, in a way that highlights their unique talents. Maslow believed that an individual cannot transcend levels without fulfilling the one that comes before it. You cannot become self-actualized without building esteem first. Esteem cannot be felt without first building true relationships of love and belonging. None of this can be achieved without ensuring our very basic needs of food, water, and sleep.

But, with safety as a foundational level, how can we build upon this in such an unsafe world?

I believe that we are becoming conditioned to accept unsafe conditions as our norm. Acts of terror, as horrid as they could be, are more commonplace than they ever should be. Maybe Maslow was wrong. Maybe safety should be removed from the hierarchy. Regardless of our understood unsafe conditions, the world keeps turning. Individuals such as Poma are still out there, attempting to create environments of love and belonging. Opportunities such as “The Voice” still exist, giving those with talent a chance to exhibit it, building their esteem. But, does this mean we should just give in, and accept the fact that we’re living in an unsafe world?

In a Facebook article a friend of mine shared, a statement was released that says, “This was a terrible tragedy, but sometimes these things just happen and there’s nothing anyone can do to stop them.” As an eternal optimist, it’s hard for me to come to a realistic conclusion. I don’t think any politician, scientist, religious leader, great thinker, or everyday person can come up with a viable response to the lack of safety we’re feeling. So, I’ll end this post with a page from the book “Ten Billion” by Stephen Emmott that has really stuck out in my mind…

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’Twas the night before school starts, as I lie in my bed,
thoughts of new lessons race through my head.

A journey on hiatus for about 2 years,
as I traveled the country and conquered my fears.

Now it is time to get back to the grind,
Researching articles, stimulating my mind.

Deepening my passion for psychology:
from Bachelor’s, to Master’s, now on to PhD.

A dream I had reasonably put on the shelf,
Is now within reach, so I can better myself.

A deep desire that my heart has been yearning,
that magical quest: the adventure of learning.

I’ll be up late doing homework, you’ll probably be snorin’,
But one day soon, I’ll be Dr. Lauren.

So, on this, the eve of my first day on this quest,
I leave you with this poem to get the excitement off my chest!