Make the Call

Yesterday I sent 191 text messages.

I could easily put together a list of reasons why texting is better than calling: it’s easier, it’s faster, you can do it during a meeting…etc.  How long has it been though, since you’ve really experienced the power of a phone call?  I mean the kind of phone call where you could have sent a, “Hey. How are you?” text message but choice to call instead.  
Yesterday I caught up with an old friend from my time at Iowa State University, Alyssa.  Alyssa and I talk on the only phone 1-2 times each semester to catch up.  We do not text in between.  She is in her last semester at The University of Kansas in their #sagrad program.  It would be easy, even more convenient, for our friendship to move to texting only.  We could keep each other informed of our job searches this semester and tell each other happy graduation via text message.  That will not happen.  It would change our friendship.  We have remained closer throughout graduate school at separate institutions by talking on the phone, even if that is only a handful of times a year.    
I’m scared that talking on the phone is becoming more and more obsolete.  I’m scared that my graduate school friendships after graduation will not include many that are over the phone.  I’m vowing to do whatever it takes to ensure that I still here voices on the other ends of my friendships, not just emojis. 
Whether you have a lot to say or not a lot at all, a phone call is more meaningful than a text message.  To hear someone’s voice on the other end of the line inspires a much deeper connection than seeing their name light up your screen as a text message.  It also shows that you care.  
We live in a world where our phones can do some pretty fantastic things.  Email.  Twitter.  Facebook.  Instagram.  Siri.  Games.  But how often are you using your phone to make a call?  

Behind the Lens

My fiancé and I had our engagement pictures taken this weekend.  It was really fun (and freezing cold). We had a close friend take our pictures and we were thrilled with how they turned out!  All in all, it was a really great experience.  It was my first time being a part of a photo shoot like that, with someone clicking a camera in your face while you were expected to look natural and pretend they weren’t even there.

It made me think a lot about how often we hide behind the lens of a camera.  How often we hide behind all sorts of things.  What have I been missing while I have been taking pictures of my own?  I used to give my roommate and best friend, Brian, such hard time for what I considered to be “excessive Instragramming”.  I am now guilty of excessive ‘gramming myself.  I love it!  Spotting things in nature, pictures of my friends (or cat), family, or just the many pictures of my coffee mugs are a fun way to document my daily adventures.

Earlier this month I saw The Secret Life of Walter Mitty.  Sean O’Connell is a photographer waiting for the snow leopard to come out so that he can get a picture of it.  Walter Mitty is sitting beside him.  When the beautiful snow leopard finally comes out, Sean chooses not to take the picture…

Walter Mitty: When are you going to take it?
Sean O’Connell: Sometimes I don’t.  If I like a moment, for me, personally, I don’t like to have the distraction of the camera.  I just want to stay in it.
Walter Mitty: Stay in it?
Sean O’Connell: Yeah.  Right there.  Right here.

I find this to be so powerful.  This week, I am going to work to try to stay in more moments.  That might mean still opening up my Instagram app, but not without consideration of staying in the moment for a while first.

Interacting Across Tiers

This evening I finished reading “The Defining Decade” by Meg Jay, PhD, a psychologist who works with twentysomethings.  It was my 3rd book of my #52in52 challenge.  I really enjoyed this book and found it easy for me to connect to.  One section of the book will stick with me more than any other: the section about weak ties and strong ties (p. 19-28).

Meg makes the argument that our weak ties are more important (or at least just as essential) as our strong ties.  Our strong ties include our closest friends, family, and colleagues.  Although they are the first we turn to when we need advice or connection, they are not necessarily the ones who can help us out the most.  Within our personal network of strong ties, we run the risk of thinking the same, having the same friends, the same frustrations and see obstacles in the same light.

Our weak ties are a different story.  They are our acquaintances, our friends-of-friends, and they are easy to overlook.  They stand within a different tier of our relationships.  I know that I am quick to assume that these connections do not matter or could not have a meaningful impact in how I navigate my world.  I assume these weak ties are made up of people who do not care about my successes, who do not care who I am or where I come from.

This is a scary spot to be in.  When we underestimate our weak ties, we are continuing to surround ourselves with people who are most like us.  I cannot think of a greater barrier to success, growth, and learning than to only interact with those in your inner circle.  Meg Jay helped remind me to think outside that circle.

I am a twentysomething.  I often forget about my weak ties.  I would challenge you, twentysomething or not, to consider your weak ties and be sure not to brush them over.  How can we ever get any better if we cannot draw up the courage to stretch outside our inner circle?

Letter To Me

10 years ago I was thirteen years old and in 8th grade.  Oh, middle school.  8th grade was a “banner year” of my life to say the least.  We had recently moved from Colorado to Illinois, which was not just a traumatic move geographically (exit: mountains and sunshine; enter: humidity and snow that never melts) but also emotionally.  My thirteen-year-old self was fairly convinced that my life was over and the likelihood of making friends again was slim to none. 

Today when I was driving “Letter To Me” by Brad Paisley came on the radio.  I was singing along and feeling reflective.  I started thinking about what I would say to my thirteen-year-old self ten years ago.  Thanks to Brad’s inspiration I decided to give this a try… so here is a letter to me.

Dear Amanda,

There is more to this world than Crystal Lake, Illinois and jumping on the trampoline in the backyard.  Experience it!  Stop wallowing!  Write a letter, make a phone call, and then get out there!

You will make new friends. Amazing ones. Friends that you do not know how you ever lived without.  When you miss those friends in Colorado, call them.  I promise, distance will not keep true friends apart.

High school will be a good time.  Be patient with basketball and give it a try – a serious try – because it will change you for the better.  Keep reading and writing and learning. 

Follow your heart.  It will get broken, smashed, stepped on.  You will feel like you won’t recover but you will, I promise.  Keep listening to your heart and things will work out better than you can even imagine.

Soak up every second at Iowa State because you will miss it.  It might take you awhile to miss it, but you will.  Your four years of college will be incredible but don’t buy into the idea that they are the “best four years of your life”.  Make all your years your best life.

Hang on tight in graduate school.  Remember the words that you hear on the first day of CSP orientation: Be where you are.  Trust CSP, trust your cohort, trust your faculty, and trust the process.  Lean into the discomfort of graduate school.  You’ll probably miss that too someday.

I believe in you. 


In the words of Brad Paisley, “I wish you wouldn’t worry, let it be. I’d say have a little faith and you’ll see”.

December 2007

December 2007

Stringing Together

We are all dealing with a lot, managing a lot, have a lot going on.  I was about to fall asleep tonight thinking of all of the little things that I have going on and The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants crossed my mind.  I knew there was a line in the first book about stringing together the little things.  I made a mental list of all of the little things that I have going on and I thought to myself, “How lucky am I”.  How lucky am I that I am being granted so many fantastic opportunities, have people whom I love and adore and who love me right back.  How lucky am I that I am entering my final semester of graduate school in a few days and I have things to worry about like: getting a job, missing my cohort post-graduation, and keeping up with my goals.  I am blessed beyond belief.  
In the upcoming months, when I start to get caught up with everything that I have going on, I am going to think of this quote: 
“Being happy isn’t having everything in your life be perfect.  Maybe it’s about stringing together all the little things like wearing these pants or getting to a new level of Dragon’s Lair – making those count for more than the bad stuff.”  The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 
Don’t forget to string together all your little moments. 

New Endeavors

This blog is a new endeavor for me.  And like with any new endeavor I am feeling a lot of things: fear, excitement, uncertainty, inspiration…the list goes on.   
I started with a title.  An enthusiastic Bruce Springsteen fan since birth, I was playing an old playlist  while brainstorming what I wanted my blogging journey to be about.  As if by fate, “Land of Hope and Dreams” came on.  This song speaks to exactly what I strive to create each and everyday: a train where everyone is welcome to ride if they choose.  This song also speaks to what I hope to do a better job with in 2014 – push toward my dreams, keep moving forward, and be good company on my own journey and for others in theirs.  
A trusted friend and colleague reminds me often that I must “secure my own oxygen mask before assisting another”.  I am a helper and a listener but this year I am focusing on practicing empathy with myself first.  I am committed to talking to myself like I talk to those I care about.  This blog is the first place that I am beginning.  I have wanted to write a blog for the last five years.  I have let the fear of striking out let me from playing in the game.  This space is for me and if you choose to read it, wonderful.  I’d love to hear what you think.  
Resolutions, Goals, Endeavors, Challenges, Etc. for 2014
  1. Read #52in52 – that’s 52 books over the course of the year.  I became aware of this challenge through Twitter (Follow me: @mandijgilbert) and some #SAchat colleagues.  I am taking full advantage of my Goodreads account as well and look forward to having some awesome conversations about books we’re all reading.  Consider joining us!
  2. Run year in miles (2,014) in 2014, including the Chicago marathon in the fall.  
  3. Yoga headstand (or at least get closer than I am now) as well as accomplish some of these other “Yes-You-Can Yoga Poses“. 
  4. This list is ever-changing and ever-growing. What are your plans for the new year?
I hope that you join me on my endeavors this year and in the land of hope and dreams.  Comments encouraged!  Happy 2014!