Reschooling Tools

Reschooling Tool #3: Be Good to Yourself in Little Ways

It’s been a bit of a tough week. I’d hoped to turn my copious notes into blog posts, but unfortunately the words haven’t been flowing very easily. Today I spent 6 hours straight at a coffee shop crafting a grant proposal that’s slowly taking shape. I wish I could bring it forth from my brain, fully formed, like Athena springing from Zeus’ head.

My hair smells like roasted coffee beans and my eyes are about to fall out of their sockets, but I am pleased to have rewarded myself by doing a few simple things I enjoy. These are the small ways in which I was good to myself today:

1) Took breaks when I needed them.

I normally push myself and power through, even when I’m past the point of exhaustion. Today I realized when I wasn’t being productive and stopped to stretch, get some fresh air, and grab a mocha.

2) Did a puzzle.

Back in 6th grade, I was really into doing puzzles, but I haven’t touched the hobby since then. Today I grabbed a kids’ puzzle of a cat in a basket from the back of the coffee shop and pieced it together. There’s something extremely satisfying about snapping each piece into place. Because there were only 63 pieces (minus a few that were missing), I set myself up for success. Hooray for achievable goals.

3) Watched Friends for the first time in ages.

I don’t let myself watch TV very often, but I was simply too exhausted to do anything else. I hadn’t seen the episode where Monica gets her hair in cornrows, then gets them stuck in the shower curtain while swinging her braids around while singing “No Woman, No Cry.” It felt good to laugh.

I just polished off a bag of Trader Joe’s chocolate covered pretzels, and now I’m going to eat pizza and drink a beer. Learning to be good to myself is a major part of my reschooling, and I’m proud to be making subtle progress.

Reschooling Tool #2: Find the Opportunity in Every Challenge

Tonight I broke my digital camera. I had the lens extended to take a photo, and I dropped the camera on the kitchen floor. The lens wouldn’t move, and I reacted as follows:

1. Swore at the top of my lungs.

2. Googled “Fix Digital Camera.” Followed suggestion to hold down the power button while twisting the lens outward. Managed to push the lens back in, but it still wouldn’t extend.

3. Ate half a bar of dark chocolate. I always default to this when at a loss for what else to do.

4. Decided that breaking the camera might be a blessing in disguise.

5. Resolved to use my parents’ camera until I can get a new one.

I’d wanted a different camera anyway, since my camera takes terrible low-light pictures and has recently started shutting itself off randomly. It also has one of those ridiculous docks to download photos, instead of a cable. Since I’ll be documenting my reschooling and travel experiences through photos, it’s essential that they’re good quality and easily transferred. If I hadn’t broken the camera, I probably would have continued to get by with my old one and compromised the quality of Reschool Yourself. So even though I’m still annoyed at myself for being Miss Butterfingers, I choose to believe that the mishap opened up the opportunity for a better quality camera during the early stages of the project.

I can’t say why this is so, whether the universe has some kind of master plan. All I know is that it doesn’t hurt to think that things happen for a reason, that there’s a hidden opportunity in every challenge or mistake. For example, if you miss your flight, consider that perhaps that plane might have had a serious problem, or lost your luggage. Perhaps you will meet someone on your new flight who will become a close friend or romantic partner, or connect you with a job. Maybe you’ll inspire someone or pass on a life-changing recommendation. The best part is that you may not ever know what opportunity arose from a certain challenge, but you can assume that one did — or will in good time.

When things don’t go according to plan, brainstorm the wildest and most positive possibilities that could result. I don’t know yet why I dropped my camera today, but I have some ideas. Maybe it’s so someone will donate a Sony Cybershot camera to the project, ya think?

Update: Through some generous donations, I was able to buy a Sony Cybershot in October. Thank you!

Reschooling Tool #1: Victories & Gratitudes

For all of my adult life, I have kept daily to-do lists that are much longer than I can ever possibly complete. Even though I realize this, I still get upset with myself for not finishing every task. “You didn’t change phone plans, send out resumes, cook dinner, or catch up on emails. What DID you do with your Saturday?”

In order to appreciate what I DID do, I began to write down a list of victories — little and big, as many as I could think of — before bed each day. I found that celebrating even boring accomplishments like “Scheduled dentist appointment” helped me focus on what I had been able to check off the list, rather than what still remained to be done. Recognizing myself for my efforts made me happier and more energized to tackle the next day’s To-Do’s.

Eventually I expanded my “Victories” list to “Victories & Gratitudes,” to include little things that I was grateful for that day: “Amazing chocolate cake,” “Rock Band on PlayStation,” or “Naan ‘n’ Curry” (at least half of the gratitudes are usually food-related). On even my roughest days, I felt pleased about the happy moments I’d been lucky enough to have.