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Welcome to the Corvias Connects blog! Corvias Foundation scholars and alumni contribute to this blog to better support and connect our group.  We hope you find the posts to be interesting, helpful, and inspiring. Be sure to check for new posts each Thursday evening.  If you have suggestions or are interested in joining the blog project team, please feel free to contact us. Happy Reading!

 

The opinions and views presented on this page do not reflect those of Corvias or Corvias Foundation but are independent presentations of each writer’s voice.

Grit and Gratitude

Last September, the Corvias Alumni Network gathered in Raleigh, NC.  In addition to our regularly scheduled networking and think-tanking, we were treated to a delightfully honest presentation called “Gettin’ Gritty with Goal Setting,” by Dr. Jermaine Davis.  

With a wide grin and a whirlwind of good vibes, Dr. Davis introduced us to his trademark style of ‘edutainment.’  He asked us what it felt like when we accomplished goals, and he taught us the “good job rap” (Good Job, Good Job.  Good Job, Good Job. G – double O – D- J – O – B. Good Job, Good Job). Grit, tenacity, explained Dr. Davis, the ability to work through adversity, that is what helps us reach success, not natural born talent or perfectionism or reinventing the wheel.  He pointed out that the line between success and everything else is really fine, photofinish type fine, and that we don’t need to barrel across the line to success, we only need to cross it by a hair.

What I appreciated most about Dr. Davis is that he didn’t tell us to go work our fingers raw, hoping and praying to be noticed and promoted.  Instead he gave us real tools, tangible and realistic examples of what we can do to get gritty so we can find success. He began by asking us what was on our plate each week.  Each person, he said, no matter who you are or where you from, only has 168 hours in a week. We spend those hours doing things we must and doing things we want. Between sleep, work, and all of our other basic obligations, there’s not a lot of hours left over to do the things that we love.  Dr. Davis asked us to think about that: does the way that you spend your weekly hours match up with your core values? Are your priorities in order? Are you neglecting something you ought not to?

We talked about emotion management.  Emotions happen, they just do (see: Inside Out), and depending on how you approach those emotions they can be helpful (facilitative) or less helpful (debilitative).  Facilitative emotions help propel you, they push you into new things. Debilitative emotions get us stuck, often in our own heads, unable to make decisive action out of fear or shame.  Jealousy of a colleague’s work can be used to invigorate your own work, or it can make you bitter and resentful. Bad emotions are not always debilitative, often they are just a response to negative stimuli.  Debilitative emotions are notable for their intensity (bitterness) and duration (bitterness over a long period of time). If you find yourself stuck in a cycle of debilitative emotions, Dr. Davis suggests gratitude practices.  Gratitude, he says, is the antidote to negative thoughts. While we often try to bury bad thoughts in positive thoughts, what we ought to do is focus on the things that we already have that we are grateful for.

At times in our lives, each of us will experience debilitative emotions.  The grittiest of us know how to identify those negative reactions and use that energy instead of succumbing to it.  It takes practice to know how to do this, the kind of practice that only comes with having failed enough times to learn to be gritty.  Paradoxically, failure is the only way to succeed. When we fail, it’s hard not to take it personally, especially when we’ve tried with everything we’ve got.   Even though rationally, we often know that circumstances are out of our hands, judges have their own interests, everything is politics, companies hire based on the dollar not on the best qualifications — even though we know that a setback isn’t our own creation, we can still feel like giving up, especially when we get in our own heads.  

But gratitude brings us back down.  It takes us out of our anxious headspace and back into the present moment, whatever that is.  Usually, the present moment isn’t the worst case scenario we’ve imagined. Gratitude helps remind us of the job that still pays, the friends and family that still love us in their own imperfect ways, of good health and of new opportunities — gratitude reminds us of the simple things that make our foundation.  A healthy social network, stressed Dr. Davis, is vital for both gratitude practice and recovering after a setback. Friends and family help us back up — nobody got where they are alone, don’t try to be the first.

There are four types of people, Dr. Davis, explained: Adders, Subtractors, Multipliers, and Dividers.  The Adders are your friends and peers, people who push you forward. The Subtractors are your bullies and adversaries, the people who push you backward.  Multipliers are your mentors, they push you way up. And the Dividers rip your life apart, tear you to pieces, break your heart. Most of us, those of us in school especially, struggle with Subtractors.  They’re everywhere and until you’re really comfortable asserting yourself, their influence can add up quickly. Lord help you if you know you have a Divider in your life; some people, you’ve got to love from a safe distance, but you never stop loving.  For me, I realized I was short on Multipliers and my life felt, subsequently, stagnant. Had I skipped this discussion, who knows how long it would have taken me to identify this easily addressed problem.

It was a pleasure to meet Dr. Davis.  I hardly encapsulated his speech and I definitely lack his eloquence.  I find that wisdom is not something new that I’ve learned, but something old that’s been put in its place.  That’s what “Gettin’ Gritty” felt like: lots of things I already knew being arranged in a way that made sense.  Perhaps you need that in your life; I encourage you to come to the next of these annual summits. If any of these points resonated with you, please leave a comment and let’s talk.  

So…You Had A Bad Day, Huh?

In writing for the Corvias Connects blog, I’ve tried to focus on a few personal development topics and one of them includes living in & understanding the moment. You’re probably wondering – what are you even talking about and why should I keep reading this? Well, because – for the last few days, I have lived in the moment and positively ruminated on the idea that some days are just bad…and that is okay. The first part isn’t groundbreaking or really what is even important. Rather, the second part is something that I did not accept or even acknowledge for the first 25.5 years of my life.

In the past (…like literally up until yesterday), as soon as something went wrong in my day, I would sit on it for hours. This was always unfortunate when it happened at the beginning of my day because I would milk it for the ENTIRE day. The worst part of all of this is that I knew what I did, knew it was wrong, and knew how it affected my mental health. However – on Tuesday, I had a bad morning that had actually carried over from Monday night. Tuesday started off with being short staffed at work, so everyone was in a cranky mood already at 6:45 am. I fell into the trap of negative talk with my coworkers – “oh my gosh, we are so in trouble today, how will we ever survive, etc” (spoiler – we survived and it actually ended up being a good work day). However – I didn’t realize that I had already primed myself to be in a bad mood based on the events from my Monday night; I had gone to babysit for a family that I have had a great relationship with for over 2 years and I realized when I got there that I had magically lost both of their house keys. GREAT. I started to have a lot of negative self talk that continued all night. All I could think about is how I wanted to check in all of my bags and all over my apartment for their keys, but I wasn’t going to be able to go home for 4 hours. So – as you guessed, for 4 hours I sat there and thought about how nervous I was, how angry the parents were going to be, and how I wish I could be looking for the keys instead of spending time with the two beautiful girls in front of me. After what felt like the longest four hours ever, I went home and miraculously found one key but never did find the other. I nervously sent a text to them, explaining my mindset and recapping my search for the keys and didn’t get a reply for literally 2 days – aka today. The reply said – “So sorry I didn’t respond earlier – it has been a crazy week. Not a problem, don’t even worry about it. See you tonight.”

Not a problem. Don’t even worry about it.

WHAT? How could they really feel that way? They forgave me without even hesitating?

All I had done was worry about it for 72 hours.

Then I saw this photo.

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WOW.

I realized that this post directly affected my absolute day-to-day life. I spend so much time focusing on things that are negative if they happen that I often miss out on the positive aspects of the day. Then in my next breath, I talk about how much I want to just live a happy, carefree life – now I realize that this is no way to live a happy, carefree life.

When something bad happens, acknowledge it. Embrace it. Feel the emotion for all that it is. Then LET IT GO.

This is something that I am working on. I am going to put it on my vision board. LET IT GO. If it does not honor, encourage, better, inspire, or teach me any longer, I’m done with it.

I hope that someone in this group needed to see this picture like I did. I think that we miss out on too many positive experiences that we are physically present for because our minds are not fully operating. I would hate for us to continue to miss out on positives while ruminating on pointless negatives.

PS: take a second to make sure your key rings are firmly coiled… ❤

Bon Voyage! The Pros and Cons of Studying Abroad

Studying abroad may be one of the most beneficial and impactful experiences a person can have in college. However, there is a lot to be considered when deciding if study abroad is the right choice. You must make considerations regarding the location, cost, time you would like to spend abroad, and how the courses offered fit into your coursework at your home institution.

Studying abroad is an experience I will never forget but I did not make the decision lightly. I went back and forth for months trying to decide if I wanted to study in England, Ghana, or Italy and if I wanted a short-term or long-term experience. After considering cost, duration, and coursework, I chose to study abroad in Florence, Italy for five-weeks during the summer and take a sociology of the Italian Mafia class (fun times!). Based on my experiences prior to leaving and once I was abroad, I have compiled some pros and cons to consider when deciding to study abroad.

Pro: Language Immersion. If you are studying a language in college, visiting a country where that is the native language can bolster your speaking skills. Additionally, taking a language class with a native speaker can be incredibly beneficial.

Con: Not Knowing the Language. Conversely, if you are not fluent in the language, it can make everyday life difficult. There will be a lot of opportunities to push yourself to learn as much of the language as you can, but you will definitely be outside your comfort zone.

Pro: Resume Builder. Studying abroad is a great addition to your resume whether you are looking for an internship or job or pursuing a graduate degree. You can showcase your ability to be independent and flexible, and you can demonstrate cultural humility.

Con: The Cost. A major hurdle to overcome is the cost of studying abroad. Many factors can affect the cost such as duration of the program and cost of living in the country you are visiting. However, oftentimes colleges have many resources, such as scholarships and loans, to help pay for the cost of a study abroad program.

Pro: New Friendships. One of the best parts of studying abroad was the chance to make lifelong friendships with the people I traveled with. If you travel with a program, typically people are just as motivated to make new connections. If you do not travel with a standard program, there are probably still many other students who are studying abroad and eager to make friends.

Jenny _ Kam in Capri

Con: Homesickness. Being a new country for any amount of time will make you miss being at home. A good solution is to create a new routine for yourself and try to stick to that. Additionally, setting up times to talk with friends and family may prove beneficial.

Pro: More Course Options. Studying abroad offers coursework that may not be available at your home institution. While in Italy, I was able to study the sociology of the Mafia. That was definitely not a course offering I had at my undergraduate institution.

Con: Navigating the Requirements. Depending upon your location of choice, it can be quite a lengthy and confusing process to get the appropriate documentation for travel and enrollment but there are resources to help navigate the requirements. The study abroad office (or their website) at your institution is a great first step, as they have probably assisted hundreds, if not thousands of students study abroad. The U.S. Department of State also has numerous resources on their website such as a traveler’s checklist and visa requirements for each country.

Pro: New Holidays. When studying abroad, you may have the chance to participate in and appreciate a new celebration or holiday. This is a fantastic way to get the most out of your study abroad experience.

Pro/Con: New Customs & Culture. Navigating new customs can bring about many feelings. It is thrilling to try new foods, see new sites, and exist in a new country; but, not knowing a country’s customs can serve as a constant reminder that you are an outsider.

There are many compelling reasons to study abroad but there are equally profound reasons why it may seem like studying abroad is out of your reach. After college, you may never get another chance to study abroad, so it is important to carefully consider all the options and resources available to you. My decision to study abroad gave me an opportunity to learn unique stories about Italian history, make irreplaceable memories with new friends, and gain confidence I might not have at my home institution.