Tag Archives: happiness

Resolutions.

23 Jan

So, dear readers, the last you heard from me I was bracing for life as a 25-year-old. Now it has been almost one month & let me say, not a whole lot has changed (except I can’t believe I’m saying that number when anyone asks me how old I am)!

What has changed for now though, is a few parts of my lifestyle.

Backing up a bit, 2016 will mark my fourth year of writing in the Czech It Out Blog! To sum it up: You have watched me graduate from college, prepare to move to Prague for a year, move there, freak out, find a job, find the BEST friends, hate my job, fall in love, quit my job, come home, sink into a depression, find my dream job, break up, climb out of the depression, get political, then travel back to Prague & beyond!

Haven’t we grown so much together? I know I have–I mean my writing is proof of that. I went into this blog thinking I would just write some fun wanderlust-inspiring posts for friends back home. Little did I know that this blog would soon become a vault for writing done during the most prominent metamorphosis of my life. 

Honestly! I have a new friend who has begun reading from the beginning of Czech It Out & is a little shocked at how different of a person I am NOW compared to who I was in June 2013 when I published my first post!

And then there are you, my dear readers. You are the family, friends, acquaintances & strangers who have been tuning in from the beginning. Thank you again for your constant support!

And you know how I look at the beginning of each new year; how I structure my ‘resolution’. You know I don’t believe in giving something up or adding something new, but instead ask: what do I want to get out of this year? 

Some of the past few years were very successful:

2013: I Want To Find Adventure- I moved to Prague alone in July 2013, just two months after my college graduation. I had no friends, no job & couldn’t speak the language!

2014: I Want To Find Love- I met Filip in January who was one of my greatest love stories to date. Later that year in September I realized just how loved I truly was while healing from my dog bite.

2015: I Want To Find Success- Towards the end of 2014 I got my dream job working at EF with exchange students. The following year (after a ton of hard work) I received a pay raise & two mini promotions & now feel more successful & content than ever.

So you’re noticing there is kind of a theme with my resolutions–they are not very black & white. True to my poetic soul, each year I give myself a resolution that can be interpreted many different ways.

I determine what I want & need based on my current state going into the year, what am I craving the most & a goal I hope to achieve? After a little deliberation about what my current values are, I have decided…

2016: I Want To Find Health For The Mindy, Body & Soul 

Once again, this is not as black & white as “go to the gym more” or “cut out sweets”. This resolution will probably be the most challenging of all, because where my previous resolutions where 1 part me & 1 part fate this one is all me. I have to work very hard to achieve these goals myself.

Plus this goal is the most personal of all, let me break it down for you…

1. Mind. Stay away from toxic thoughts (anger, jealousy, revenge, etc.) both towards others & self.

This one is a lot harder than you’d think. I may have the occasional ill-will towards others, however, I have always been the type of person who avoids those that I do not like. I don’t give them the time of day.

However, one thing I have been struggling with my whole life are the horrible thoughts I have towards myself. Whether this is socialization or society or a toxic combination of both, I truly can be my own worst enemy.

And I never realized just how bad it was until last year.

Shortly after my dog bite fiasco in August 2014, I began visiting a wonderful therapist named Dorothy. She was patient, understanding, & honest. She made me feel comfortable confiding in things I have never told anyone before. 

We would discuss the thoughts & issues I had & then construct how we could improve them. This was really helpful for me to overcoming the depression after my dog bite, however, we soon had to confront the terrible elephant in the room: my crippling body image.

This was one of the hardest things I have ever done in my life. I wasn’t just ripping off flimsy band-aids from lifelong cuts, I was digging through the hard shell I had acquired in Prague then ripping off the band-aid to expose my deepest & darkest wounds.

There were times when our conversations helped me overcome huge obstacles & there were times when we couldn’t even continue the session because I was so upset. But these talks were something 24-year-old Jessi needed, they were something 14-year-old Jessi needed & they were even something 5-year-old Jessi needed.

2016 began with insurance telling me that they would no longer cover my visits with Dorothy. And there was no way I could afford them, so it was time to say good-bye.

It was a lot harder than I expected because this woman has helped me through so much. Fighting off the demons that have always tortured me & confronting them with a new-found strength. The sad realization is the demons will always be there it’s just now I realize how much artillery I have to defend myself.

This is why I ask 2016 to please allow my to continue to strengthen my mind.

2. Body. Respect & thank your body for all it has helped you through. Do not poison it or maim it, instead focus on how to nourish & replenish it. In return it will continue to function properly.

During my time with Dorothy she would have me complete several writing exercises where I was forced to divulge all my insecurities of my body, but also realize all it can accomplish. 

The sheer idea of it being able to recover completely from such a horrific injury is pretty incredible. As is its ability to help me get through so many early morning gym workouts & then extreme physical activities like caving in Budapest & climbing to the top of one of the New Hampshire White Mountains!

Bodies can do some pretty cool stuff when you get past all your hang ups about their exterior design ! 

However, this got me thinking what have I done for my body lately?  Not a whole lot except critique it, shame it & fill it with a whole lot of things that are not too good for it.

Besides having a very sensitive stomach & a bit of scoliosis, my body was considered quite healthy. All limbs work, white blood cells respond promptly to illness & all my vitals are perfect. So why was I basically poisoning it with processed food, alcohol & trans fat?

It is time to make a change.

A few months ago, I went on a medication that didn’t allow me to drink alcohol. I followed this stringently & was pretty surprised to realize how easy it was. 

That is why I have now decided to give up drinking alcohol altogether.

Not to make a big deal about it or shame you for drinking it, but because all that sugar isn’t good for me, my hangovers in the past year were unbearable & alcohol lead me to a few scenarios where I put my body into even more harm.

No more.

Another change will have to be diet. But not your typical fad diet, one that is just simply logical. I know when I am eating/drinking something that does not properly nourish my body. I know when I am consuming chemicals & preservatives that will make my stomach hurt later. So I am simply trying to do that less & less. 

3. Soul. Live an existence that is genuine & true to yourself. Bring good energy into your life with positivity & avoid spreading or encountering negativity. Live a life that makes you proud to be you!

This sounds like the most abstract one of all, but it’s really quite simple: just be a good person! 

Believe that by spreading good karma to others, you will also receive it yourself. Little kind gestures go a long way & negativity can physically make you sick. Know the difference & avoid situations, habits, or people that are no longer making a positive impact.

I began this post by highlighting just how much I feel I have changed as a person since I started this blog almost 4 years ago; however, I believe that these changes were catalyzed by an abrupt change of surroundings.

I had no choice but to change who I was as it was a direct adaptation of my new environment. 

However, I never want to stop changing. I want to keep meeting new people, keep gaining new perspectives & keep challenging my mindset to stretch & mold to new ways of thinking.

And dear readers, I think this all comes back to my passion: travel.

Travel will put me in these soul-shaping situations I have so desperately been craving.

In 2016 I will have the opportunity to travel to roughly six new international cities. 

In February I will head to Asia with my Grampy, in April I will head to The Netherlands & Scandinavia to visit Gillian & in the fall I will head with my family to Europe.

While seeing new places is exciting as a tourist, I am going to try my best to keep in mind my resolution & be open to any new global perspective or lifestyle these travels may bring. 

& You know I will be writing about it every step of the way!

Cheers to 2016 & cheers to a new year of exciting experiences! I hope you are all blessed with nothing but happiness, good health & new adventure!

JG 🙂

Our Constant Pursuit of Constant Happiness

22 Feb

I read a quote a little while ago that absolutely shook me to the core: “Don’t let your happiness depend on something you may lose.”

Think about that for a second. It’s terrifying.

It made me so upset because I realized that a lot of my immediate happiness depends on things I can, & typically do, lose. People leave, experiences end, & moments fleet. And then I am left alone again, typically with a dull pang of sadness.

I guess the only real way of explaining it is considering Christmas Day. You plan, decorate, invite, bake, & get so excited. And then the day finally arrives & seems to go by so fast. Then suddenly, it’s December 26th & you have nothing left to look forward to anymore. The magic has disappeared.

This is how my life has been feeling lately. A roller coaster that builds & builds planning the next party, date, or hang out, only for the steep descent down to rattle me back to normalcy.

In all honesty, I feel like a has-been. Like I used to be so cool. When I lived abroad I had all these wonderful experiences, met so many people, did so many exciting things…& now my life has no true meaning. I wake up, commute, work, commute, sleep.

I know, you probably do the same thing too, right? Well, doesn’t it suck.

How are we expected to live in a state of constant happiness when our lives are so completely bland. Maybe we’re all a little depressed deep down, but we just don’t call it that, instead we brush it off as the average & accept it.

But do me a favor & ask yourself right now: Am I happy?

Personally if you have to think about it chances are you’re not. 

But shouldn’t you DESERVE to be?

Happiness is a strange thing. We are all expected to be it, but in the long run, we don’t really value it. We choose money over happiness, we choose stability over happiness, & we put other’s happiness before our own.

Happiness comes in waves for me. It’s a rush of euphoric emotion that is completely overwhelming, but then the squall dies down & all is still again. And I keep trying to get the rush back. I keep trying to cut corners & mimic previous actions, hoping to get the same effect. I just want to ride that wave forever. But that just doesn’t seem to happen.

Look at this pie chart that represents this idea. For a society that strives for perfection, we sure as hell settle with ‘average’, ‘normal’ & in this case ‘pretty happy’ real fast. It’s a strange concept. Is it truth, or just modesty? Did 50% of the people surveyed mentally negotiated to themselves before responding? Negating out things like crippling debt with young grandkids before shrugging & saying “I guess pretty happy”.

Is that really acceptable?

Maybe it’s just American.

It wasn’t until I visited Europe that I realized the belief of constant happiness was a very American concept. We are the unwavering optimists of the world. We do promote that good old ‘American Dream’ after all! We are told at a young age to try our best & we will be victorious, that we can be anything we want if only we push ourselves hard enough.

Well, what is ‘enough’?

Where does the line between our capabilities & incapability begin? And is it ever okay to accept that? Can we just be content with progress or growth instead of always pushing the limits to be ‘the best’?

Let me tell you, spending time in some fairly pessimistic countries is rough for a born & bred American optimist. People don’t automatically say ‘good’ when you ask them how they are & a plastic smile is certainly not the best remedy for a broken heart.

And it’s pretty off-putting. So we label the French as “rude” or Czechs as “unhappy”, but America, how many of us, the great nation pumped with smiles, high fives & gold stars just for participation right out of the womb are really not as chipper as we seem?

Apparently a whole lot. I mean why else would there be a multi-billion dollar anti-depressant industry? Where a simple pill, the quick flick of a pharmaceutical switch, can have those chemicals balanced again in no time! And before you know it you’ll be dancing & smiling like all those actors in the commercial & so hyped up in a chemical fog that you will never feel down again! (Note: this is only if it WORKS. Some people experience all those pesky side effects including nightmares & increased suicidal thoughts, but you don’t really hear the narrator mention those over all that cheerful music!)

^This is telling you to add more anti-depressants to your anti-depressants in order to cancel out side effects…makes sense.

So while most Americans seek solace in medicating their unhappiness & most Europeans prefer to just wear it on their sleeves sometimes I wonder who is truly happier?

A.) Those who set high expectations & are devastated when they’re not met

B.) Or those with lower expectations who are pleasantly surprised when things go extremely well

Guess it goes back to the age old glass half full/half empty debate.

However, who is even allowed to be unhappy these days? Wide spread anti-depressant access wouldn’t exist if there wasn’t some sort of stigma associated with unhappiness in this country. Personally, I believe there totally is. Self-help book readers receive sympathy, therapy attendees receive judgement & no one truly wants to hear how you actually are today.

Let’s face it: Unhappiness/Depression/Long periods of sadness = weak. 

You are admired more for putting on a brave face & living an absolute lie no matter how much you may hurt deep down. You’re strong, actually. And this polite game of sweeping one’s dark emotions under a socially accepted rug is all fine & well until it becomes deadly. 

This is 17-year-old Draven Rodriguez.

He gained fame for his laser cat yearbook photo, something that he insisted be published to mirror his unique sense of humor.

Draven Rodriguez killed himself this past Thursday.

The details are still unclear, but it was definitely suicide. However, family & friends do not paint him as those gloomy ladies moping around in anti-depressant commercials. He was “vibrant” & “made friends everywhere he went”. He was a member of anti-bullying campaigns & had “an incredible mind”.

He was also, like most suicide victims, quietly suffering. And now he is just another statistic. Another story that will never be told because there was no one to listen or possibly no one he thought would listen. 

Although this is an older graph, it does show an interesting trend. In 2007, the most populous demographic killing themselves was arguably the most privileged in U.S.A.: a white male, ages 45-59/30-44. Each instance is different, but what could have been the cause of this? Was it the pressure from their jobs? The stress of being a father? Or was it because these are people who are least allowed to be ‘depressed’ in our society. I mean afterall, I don’t see too many anti-depressant commercials depicting an attractive 30something buisnessman who needs to be wound up again.

Maybe it’s because this is when a man reaches his prime, & is expected to be his strongest. He is typically settled in his career, & a real family man or provider of a household. But it is a demographic that is also anticipated to feel the most pressure & unhappiness.

Do you know who else fit this demographic?

And just like Draven Rodriguez he would also be described by his sense of humor, uniqueness & overall big personality.

But Robin was sadly so much more than what we all saw. He battled a dark side that society did not allow him to express. So he hid it with a smile & humor until it tragically consumed him. And this seems to be happening all too often. 

We need to realize that happiness is just not an everyday thing.

It comes in moments & experiences. In little exchanges or encounters. In warm breezes, or yummy meals, or laughs with friends. And then, just as soon as happiness comes–it can leave.

As is sadness. It is real & painful. It causes tears & anger & emotions that cannot constantly be pushed to the side. Humans are designed to experience a wide spectrum of feelings, it is our nature. It is healthy.

However, we need to create a society where we can express all of these emotions in a safe environment. Instead of prescribing & diagnosing, we need to learn to speak & listen. Instead of shaming others we need to SUPPORT others. Then watch how much the suicide, mass shooting & bullying statistics go down.

So yes, right now in my life I am not jumping up & down 24/7 with happiness, but I am not crying myself to sleep every night with unhappiness either. I realize that happiness can only truly exist if unhappiness does as well. There must be a balance. Unhappiness must exist in order to appreciate fleeting moments of happiness. And happiness must exist so it gives us hope that this life really is worth living. And only then is when we can find inner peace.

JG 🙂

It Was The Best Of Times

14 Nov

Hello, dear readers! Sorry I haven’t written to you in a while, but let me say I have been pretty busy. And no, not busy laying on a couch healing from my dog bite watching my 385th episode of Maury or getting rejected by yet ANOTHER dream job in the final round or body-shaming myself to tears…but busy being happy.

Nice to have a little change, huh?

The root of this happiness is, unsurprisingly, the root of my happiness for over 8 months. The person who I ever-so-romantically approached in the Chapeau Rouge Bar while double-fisting a Gin & Tonic AND Rum & Coke (French Bachelor party men are quite generous!). The boy whose very first exchange with me was:

“Um, do you speak English?”

“Yeah”

“Okay, you’re sitting on my coat.”

My amazing Czech boyfriend, Filip! 🙂

Fifi is the best ever

Although we did not have the dreamiest first meeting, Filip & I hung out a few more times, then began dating in February when I was still living in Prague. I know all relationships are like this at first, but we soon became inseparable. I can only characterize it like this: ya know those first few ‘honeymoon months’ where you laugh at everything, hang out 24/7 & are just completely infatuated? Well, my ENTIRE relationship has felt like this. I’m serious. Even when our honeymoon stage was well over.

This is a boy who has seen me at my absolute WORST: panicking about my crazy boss in Prague, comforting me when I was in the fetal position sobbing about not getting my dream job, & feeding me with his last few dollars when I was dead broke in another country. He even honest-to-God almost flew to USA for a weekend to sit with me in the hospital after my dog bite. Plus he 100% loves me for the quirky, crazy, opinionated, strong woman that I am. We are not luck, we are chemistry. We are compromise & hard work.

Honestly, I was pretty nervous in June when my days left in Prague were numbered. I was worried about the future of our relationship. Here I was, having found the hands down best boyfriend of my six years in the dating world, & now I was going to have to move 3,000+ miles away from him for an indefinite amount of time. Scary.

But we planned Filip’s trip to USA & promised to Skype regularly. I’m not going to lie, a long distance relationship is in no way fun. You miss each other a lot & you miss the little things, things like holding someone’s hand, watching movies together or going out to eat. But then again that’s just the price you pay for this lifestyle. However, Skype & daily message updates are the key to staying in tact. It made me feel like we were still on the same page. 

And after over 4 months of Skype & daily messages, Christmas finally came, Filip came to visit me in America.

fifiandme

(4 months & 1 week apart will make you appreciate your boyfriend 100x more)

I think one of the best things about Filip’s visit was the huge sigh of relief that came along with him: nothing had changed. We were still best friends, laughing at weird Youtube videos, trying strange food combinations & completely crazy about each other like we were in Prague. Our relationship had survived the test of distance & time; now I felt like we were even closer. 

During Filip’s 3 week visit (thank YOU, CZ for your long paid vaycays!) I made sure we stayed busy. Shopping, parties, pumpkin carving, a mock Thanksgiving dinner, & trips to Boston, New York & my beloved college, Roger Williams. We even went trick-or-treating on Halloween in costume since he had never done it before! As Mama G would say, Filip certainly had some F-U-N! And you know what, dear readers? It was about damn time that I did too.

This summer (after returning back home from a summer working with the MEPIs & Japanese girls) was not really the most ideal situation. But when Filip came to visit I was able to laugh harder than I had in forever & it felt great. It really was like I was complete again. It was a nice change of pace.

It was sad to see him go, but I plan on visiting him in Prague next February. It will be our 1 year anniversary! And this time at the airport when we said goodbye, something was different. There were no tears or feelings of uncertainty, it felt like we knew exactly where we stood & these next months apart would be much easier than last time.

Plus, little did I know, my usually awful (& in the past months straight up terrible) luck was about to do a complete 180.

ef

(This building officially opened like LAST WEEK)

Since before my dog bite I had been desperately & quite aggressively trying to find a job. Unfortunately I had a vague idea of what I wanted to do. I liked helping people, I was quite good at talking to people…& oh ya, here’s the kicker, I wanted to travel for free. I started my attack plan with colleges first, thinking working on a cute, well-manicured campus like Rog would prevent me from wanting to kill myself every day. I applied to every school in New England basically & got nothing. I decided to think more outside the box…& it hit me. I remembered while working with the Japanese girls my awesome supervisor, Christine, had praised my skills & said I would do wonderful at a tour company. I took the idea & ran with it.

Well, ran as far as you can with a heavy limp because this was around the time I was attacked by that stupid dog. The bad part was that I was basically immobile for almost a month, not even being able to attend an interview had I scheduled one. The good news was that all this free time allowed me to dig into Christine’s broad suggestion of ‘tour company’. I scoured the internet & eventually stumbled across EF Tours.

The name sounded familiar, then I realized it was the company I had traveled with my very first time abroad to Paris & London in high school! The trip that inspired me to study abroad in college, which gave me the courage to move to Prague. Through a series of ripple effect events this company had basically changed my life. My passion for travel was discovered on my trip with EF Tours.

sillycaro

(This stoic moment in France brought to you by EF Tours)

This was cool! But I mean that was like almost 7 years ago! Surely, EF is some boring little company with cubicles & draining customer service telephone jobs right? Wrong, wrong, WRONG. EF Tours is this huge awesome Swedish company with 5 international headquarters, one of them just happening to be in Boston! Oh my God, is this a sign? Destiny? It must be because for your first year of work you get THREE WEEKS of paid vacation & FOUR for the second year (take THAT, Czech Republic!). More than that the Boston office is that awesome building in the photo above that was designed to have breath-taking panoramic views of the city, sits right at the majestic Charles River & was just built like a month ago! I actually trembled browsing the website–I belonged at EF.

I ended up applying to two positions & heard back from both, however, interviews were delayed due to my immobility issue. As the weeks went by I found myself making it to the first, then second, then third round for an extremely competitive sales position at the company. When Filip was here I made sure to always keep my phone near, jumping every time I received an e-mail, cursing every time it was a Groupon promo. After 3 whole days after the company said they would contact me with their final decision I mustered up every ounce of courage & called them. The phone call was about 2 minutes long & by the end Filip saw me at my worst again because I was sobbing in the fetal position. It wasn’t fair. I was crushed.

Crushed for an entire day, then I got angry, then I got motivated. I applied to three other jobs with travel agencies trying to shake off the immense sense of hurt I felt.

stonehill

(Stonehill: I am forever haunted by ‘what could have been’)

Sidenote: so not sure if you have noticed by reading my posts, but I can get pretty dramatic at times (I mean I DID do plays all through high school…). I also love a good metaphor & some personification. A prime example of this would be my college search. After almost a year of hunting, I applied to 5 different schools but all that mattered were the top 2, Stonehill College & Roger Williams University. Now, from my posts you may think I was a die hard RWU Hawk from day 1, but that’s not true. Nope, fall semester senior year I was 100% infatuated with Stonehill. I was obsessed with the school. I stalked the website, forced my mom to take me to 2 open houses, I even shadowed a class. I loved that school. So much that I opted for the ‘Early Action’ application option which meant applying to the school earlier than required in order to find out if I was accepted earlier than others.

I did the same thing for my RWU application because I loved that school as well, but not as much as I loved Stonehill. I can remember waiting every day for that letter. Running to my mailbox like a mad woman. Finally, it came, & the envelope was tiny. Inside my worst fears were realized. I was ‘deferred’ which meant I was not accepted with the first group so my application was put with the rest & I would have to wait until spring to find out if I was accepted.

To anyone else this would have been sucky but not completely awful–but not to me. It was over. This was personal. A few days later I received not just a giant envelope but a personal phone call from RWU accepting me into their university. & My mind was made up. Stonehill, if you didn’t want me now, then I don’t want you ever. (Stonehill did eventually try to ‘win me back’ by calling me up with a bouquet of apology flowers in the form of a theatre scholarship/scouting opportunity when they accepted me in April…too late, I was already Rog’s girl!)

rog

(In the end, Rog was obviously the right choice)

My point with this tangent? I take things like rejection quite personal. If you don’t want me, I don’t want you & I will never want you & we’re done! So, EF, sorry, but we’re THROUGH.

But then I realized I was 23-years-old & this was a company that was just trying to run a business, not some guy who lead me on. Plus, I really did want EF. So bad. So, I got back on that horse. I went right back on the ‘careers’ section of the website & started from square one. Why? Because I knew I belonged there & I was not going to give up or let something like pride get in the way. I applied to one more position while holding my breath.

Fast-forward to the next week & Filip is getting ready to leave but I can’t be completely sad because I’m too busy being excited about the travel agency company that is rapidly on the fast track to hiring me. Within a few days I had completed a phone interview & online business test, by the time they’re background checking me, I know things look good. Then, out of the blue, fate steps in: EF wants an in-person interview…the same day as my final in-store-assessment interview with the travel company! Taaaalk about adrenalin!

I walked in to two buildings on Monday & was then somehow miraculously offered two of my dream jobs on Tuesday. And you know exactly which one I accepted. I did more than get back on the horse after I fell off. I knocked on every single door I could, & then, when one was opened only to be slammed in my face–I broke that mother f**ker down. 

EF-Tours

It is a strange, strange thing looking at your life through hindsight. To look back & try to remember the pain of the setbacks, the sting of countless defeat, the endless waiting for something to finally happen. And then suddenly, that day comes & you are on the top again.

4 months & 1 day has shrunk down to nothing…only for it to start a new countdown all over again until the next big reunion. And waiting at the top of that damn roller coaster for as long as I did seems like nothing, because now I am finally moving & the ride as the newest regional manager for EF High School Exchange Year has finally begun.

JG 🙂

Pour Some Out For My Homies

17 May

Update: I AM FREE.

After one of the most bizarre weeks ever with my (ex) boss displaying some of the oddest behavior (lurking around my classroom in the dark, crazy bi-polar personality changes, ‘forgetting’ to pay me until 4 days after pay day…), I made it. Barely though. I had my school keys already taken off the main key ring, had tossed all my un-used worksheets into the scrap paper pile & was just finishing up my final class when she decided to twist the knife deeper & completely devoid any shred of guilt I felt about quitting. 

We had literally 2 minutes left of class, & I told the students to start cleaning up. Post quitting celebratory drinks with Gillian & Filip at our favorite pub were already arranged & I could not GTFO of there fast enough. When all of a sudden, this woman comes into my room.

“Hi, I am looking for Jessica.”

“Uh, yeah, that’s me.”

“My daughter has a private lesson with you right now.”

Um what.

See this is what I am talking about, this is why I despise my boss so much. She is so damn inconsiderate. She NEVER mentioned this lesson, never asked if I was free for the lesson, NEVER EVEN BROUGHT IT UP. Yet she made this poor woman & her daughter drive all the way across the city in rush hour traffic. 

“Um, I had no idea about this lesson, I’m sorry, I have plans, I can’t do it.”

Suddenly, what do you know, my phone is ringing & it’s my boss telling me she has a problem & forgot to tell me & begs me just to sit & talk to this little girl for 10 minutes just to see what level she is. And reluctantly, I agree.

But I am so glad I did.

This girl was adorable, smart & way too advanced in the English language to be wasting her time at such a horrible school that only wanted her money. Talking to her for those 10minutes made me realize, while I was estactic about quitting my teaching job, I was really going to miss teaching. So I wanted to write a post to give some special shout outs to some of the little ones who have changed me over these past 9 months.

Kamila, 4,

One of the most well-behaved Montessori children I have ever encountered. I am not sure if you are aware of the Montessori teaching style but it mostly results in unruly children who don’t understand the concept of sharing or being directed by a superior. But Kamila did. She always chattered away in long sentences in Czech to me, like I understood any of it, to which I always responded with an excited “Wow! Okay!” That always made her smile. 

Veronika, 5,

Another great Montessori kid who would always greet me with a huge hug when I would pick up her class downstairs. She loved to make little art projects & always wore the same pink dress over her clothes. She is one of the kids who, from early on, instinctively always went to hold my hand as we were walking up the stairs to our classroom.

Filip, 2, 

My youngest student, but also one of the most improved. I would have an hour long one-on-one class with him because every other child who attempted to enter the class was not as mature and often left crying & screaming. ‘Fifi’ as he called himself blew my mind every week when he would greet me at the start of class saying ‘Monkeys jump, monkeys jump!’ (Referring to the 10 Little Monkeys Song) He was like a sponge, repeating EVERYTHING I said & actually remembering & understanding. He would tackle me & hug me & his favorite sentence by the end of the year became: “Fifi is crazy! But Jessica is crazy too!”

Prokop & Elias, 5,

These two extremely hyper blonde best friends originally did an observation class in one my most calmest classes. The results were awful. The tackled each other & Prokop “Rocky” left crying with a bumped head. I was weary when my boss created a special class with only these two boys, but it worked out great. I mirrored their energy & after every snack time for 10 minutes they would chase me around the room pretending to be Iron Man or Spiderman. Their final class with me consisted of me painting their faces like transformers. 

THE BEST CLASS: Vivi, 5, Luisa, 5, Diana, 5, Lauren, 4, Sophia, 5, Hermina, 3.

I loved coming to this class every week & simply referred to them as ‘my girls’. They were not only all extremely smart but they all loved me & listened to me. They would all come in with homework completed, follow directions & give me big hugs when they left. They loved to point at me & say I was various items they had for snack that day. They thought it was hilarious. My biggest victory as a teacher came around March when all the girls (even little Hermina who is basically a baby my boss stuffed in the class because her mom already paid) said their first sentence. Going over family vocab & I said: “Me, I have 2 brothers, do you have a brother?” They all went around the room responding USING THE CORRECT PLURALIZATION “I have 1 brother”, “I have 2 brothers” “I have no brothers” I have never been so proud.

Pata, 8,

The mature & smart older sister of little Honza, a boy who was too unruly to be in class, Pata was very responsible. She always did her homework correctly & just loved to learn English. She would often ask for copies of worksheets we did to practice further at home & impressed me with her improvement each class.

Eliska, 8,

Sweet & shy, Eliska was also one of the strongest in her class. She would always come in with her long brown hair in 2 braids & would wear cute little skirts. She also loved to learn English, but was also an amazing artist. Many of the homework assignments I asked her to do are still hanging on my wall & will continue to in USA just because she is that talented. 

Andrea, 4,

This little spit fire who began the class shy & quiet certainly came out of her shell. She is the one who would joke at snack time that her water bottle was actually filled with alcohol. She especially thought it was hilarious to sneak up and take the pillow I sit on at circle time. I will miss her for her wonderful personality & her cute little metallic rhinestone outfits she would rock each class. 

Danny, 4,

Another one who began extremely shy but soon found his place. Danny is the little boy who was so excited about the weekend he accidentally peed his pants. He was so adorable & fit in perfectly with his class. His mom, who was a sweetheart, would always whisper to him at snack time in Czech to offer me a piece of the chocolate he was eating. That’s one way to definitely get on my good side!

Ivan, 5, 

One of my all-time favorites, I can remember Ivan all the way back from the open house in September when I played board games with him & his little mini-me brother, Boris. His family soon became one of my favorites as well, with his mom always asking me about me & gifting me with an amazing (expensive!) box of chocolates on Christmas. Ivan loved spiderman & dinosaurs & we just completely formed a bond. He would always sit next to me at snack time & even when he got a little fresh mid-way through the year, all I had to do was give him a look. He was one of the few kids who felt bad about misbehaving because he knew it upset me. I will miss him very much & will always save the slightly lopsided self-portrait he drew for me.

Dori, 8, & Tobi, 6,

A sister & brother with SO MUCH energy. Whenever my 3 hour Friday class was quiet you knew it was because these two were absent. But as much as Dori would get upset & cry sometimes or Tobi would throw a temper tantrum & hit another student, they were such sweet children. Dori loved to act like a big sister to all the other kids in the class & Tobi was OBSESSED with playing Plants Vs. Zombies on my computer. Their mother is blind & they would always come & go from class linking arms with her on both sides. Even when Gillian was still teaching at the school, she loved these two, & when she quit they were the only 2 kids who asked about her. Dori would give me a big hug & kiss on the cheek when she would leave & Tobi would always want to hug me & sit on my lap while we watched videos (all completely normal/allowed student-teacher behavior here). Often if I was leaving the school the same time they were we would walk to the tram together & they would hold my hands. These children genuinely loved me & their parents said they would not be able to sleep on Thursdays because they were so excited for English class.

See, I really do love my students & some of them I will never forget. As much as I completely dreaded coming to work somedays because of my crazy boss or unpredictable parents, my students made it all worth it. They made me laugh & smile. I would chase them around the room, we would have tickle fights & then they would amaze me & make me so proud with their English. 

When I quit I wanted to make sure that the parents knew that.

It is unfortunate that my working situation was so awful–but I wanted the parents to know that I wasn’t leaving because of their children. So I sent out an e-mail to all the parents from my school e-mail address saying what a pleasure it was teaching their children. I wished them all luck on their future with the English language & said how proud I was of all of them. And its true. I can remember from all my years as a student some of the great teachers that I had. They inspired me & I will never forget them.

& I just hope that at least one of those kids remembers that blonde American teacher from some weird place called ‘Massachusetts’ who loved to draw horses & sing about monkeys.

🙂

-JG 

Why I Don’t Want A Thigh Gap

2 Feb

So now my blog will once again get a little personal: brace yourself.

As I previously stated, living in Europe for six months has certainly changed me.

1) I am more independent. Previously living in a world where Mama G was only a phone call away to deal with scary things like banks, student loans & doctors–I am now able to navigate all 3 by myself.

2) I am more relaxed. Deadlines? Stressful. Driving? Panic attack. No food, no money & literally living month to month? Somehow not that scary anymore. Since moving to Prague my problems have seemed to multiple, but the way I handle them has drastically changed. I am now a firm believer in: everything will work itself out eventually, there’s no need to worry.

3) I am more self confident. Yes, it’s true. And it took me just up until recently to realize it. Since living in Europe, a land where I am surrounded by skinny people I have never been more secure with my body. 

But let me tell you, for the past 23 years it has never been this way. For as long as I can remember, I have been plagued with crippling body image. It probably began around Kindergarten (sidenote: isn’t that awfulNow that I am around children this age all the time who are epitome of beauty, youth & innocence, I think it would break my heart if one of them thought they were fat at age 5!) But I did. & It only got worse. Years of diets, playing on sport’s teams & comparing myself to literally everyone around me followed. 

Little voices inside my head said the most viscous things to me. & Worst of all was I thought I was actually a pretty alright person. I tried hard in school, had a lot of friends, & lived a good life. So where did these voices come from?! But then I remembered (& can still hear them right now at age 23) what others said to me.

“Jess, put that down, do your thighs really need that?” 

“This is why you don’t have a boyfriend.”

“You look huge in this picture.”

“Looks like you have to go up a size again.”

& my ultimate favorite: “You’re too pretty to be this big.” 

I would like to point out that the definition of obesity is 50lbs over the average weight. I have never been obese. I have been overweight, yes. But I have never been immobile or unathletic in any way. Yet all these things were still said to me. Why?! Out of ‘love’, out of ‘care’, out of cruelty? Regardless the point of these phrases they all achieved some goals: they achieved years of missed pool parties, every shopping trip avoiding dressing rooms, month after month of crying myself to sleep, hundreds of meals sneaked away from the disapproval of others, exercising myself sick for appreciation & a poisonous self loathing that will probably follow me for the rest of my life. 

But lately, that voice really hasn’t been saying much. Instead my inner dialogue has had a more logical approach. “Sure, girl, eat this chocolate but you BETTER do that extra half an hour tomorrow in your workout!” or “You’re not hungry right now, Jess, you’re bored, drink water & go to sleep it’s 11pm.” or the best of all “Whoa! You look great! You feel great! You’re dedicated & healthy!” I have just been so much more positive. Laurie, my personal trainer, still makes me weigh myself weekly which is good. I am happy to say that since living here I have lost weight. & It was all because of the good old fashioned healthy way.

But I have to ask who do we even lose weight forOurselves? Why yes, your heart will certainly thank you for that extra cardio session & slipping on a smaller pant size certainly does give a sense of accomplishment. Our family? Nothing like hearing your uncle who barely speaks say how good you look at Christmas time. Our friends? Gotta love the dynamic shift when you are suddenly a threat & no longer ‘the fat friend’. The opposite sex? It’s amazing who appears out of the woodwork after you shed a few pounds. Our society? You’re skinny now so you must be pretty, right? And desirable? And worthy? Personally, I think it’s a little bit of all these things.

But it shouldn’t have to be. The reason you want to/try to lose weight should only be for one person: yourself. It is your body. The body you will have for the rest of your life. You can try & alter it any way you want–but you can never escape it. Trying to polish, primp, tweeze & stitch it up so it’s pretty enough for the rest of the world means absolutely nothing if you still hate yourself deep down.

Image(Above: Summer ’13 after months of a strict diet & strength training/cardio sessions with my personal trainer. I think I look healthy & I know I was happy. This is my goal & it doesn’t include thigh gap) 

Dear readers, one of the hardest things you will learn in life is to love yourself completely, inside & out. 

& This is why I do not want the coveted thigh gap. Because my body WAS NOT MEANT to have one! I am destined to be curvy, no matter what weight I am. I have wide hips, a booty, but also some pretty solid muscle. It’s genetics. Exercise will not give me a thigh gap & sure, surgery may, but then I just feel like I would look so unnatural. Now, I have nothing against thigh gaps! Some girls have them & because they’re meant to. It’s how their body is built & you can’t hate them for that. Everyone is different.

& Then there some girls who are just taking selfies of themselves leaning forward with their legs apart making you feel bad about yourself. 

Know the difference & be realistic. Then the road to self love will be much shorter than you think. 🙂 

-JG 

Adult Life is Overrated

17 Sep

Somewhere in between daily spending $8 at Lower Commons with Hawk Dollars (aka: “fake money”) & drinking too much every Thursday at Gillary’s, Roger Williams University was supposed to prepare me for this stage of my life. Sleeping through 9ams & attending free spin classes & ringing up a $25 bar tab on a ‘low key’ night was somehow preparing me for work meetings, proper exercise & budgeting, right? I must have missed that in the fine print of the school Mission Statement because, let me tell you, I wasn’t ready for this at all.

I wasn’t ready for rent, groceries, “proper adult behavior” & just taking care of myself. Sure, I was okay living on my own. Even though RWU was only 1 hr from my hometown of Sutton, Massachusetts it might as well have been on another planet. A misleading planet where students get everything for free, food is delicious (& ridiculously abundant) & your only main concern is making it to class looking vaguely like a functional human being. 

Unfortunately, my fellow recent graduates, college was setting us up for failure. Because life is HARD. Not hard as in ‘Oh my God, we’re going to miss the shuttle because I haven’t pregamed enough’ or the dreaded ‘I have NOTHING to wear tonight!’ Hard as in, ‘What do I want more: a rain coat or to eat dinner or to go to buy some $2 wine?”

Image(Above: Me in college)

Image(Above: Me in college in Europe)

Image(Above: Me as an adult in Europe)

It’s clear what I’ve been choosing.

But all jokes aside, I really have been roughing it lately. But I’m okay with it. I’m not panicking as much as I was when my TEFL program ended. I have an apartment. I have a job. I have a great family. I have awesome friends. What more do I need in life? Sure, some nights I need to skip a meal, or go without any phone credit for a few days, or steal the internet from every Starbucks I see. But this transition isn’t easy for anyone. It doesn’t matter if I am here in Prague or back home in Sutton–life is going to sometimes suck right now. That’s a given. 

Luckily, I get to live like a 5-year-old.

I have started my job at the Keytone School in Prague & really enjoy it so far! I love kids & have always felt like I just click with them. I like to color & run around & watch cartoons & eat pb & js. Maybe that’s why adult life has been so hard for me–because I am a big kid deep down myself. I envy their lives. I envy the fact that if they have a bad day they get to cry over nothing, & if they’re angry they get to roll on the ground kicking. But I have to pretend I am always okay. It’s not fair!

Image(Above: a picture of me & the 2 boys I babysat all summer. Look how happy this picture is! Enjoy your youth, boys)

Luckily though I get paid to be a little kid all day. We sing songs, we paint, we play games. I absolutely love it. There is just something about children that makes me so happy. After getting my TEFL I was torn between this job at Keytone & another job in which I would teach only adults. Everyone told me working with adults would be so much easier. They are professional, respectful & ready to learn.

But then I realized, that’s not what I wanted.

Sure kids have meltdowns, scream, run around, are messy & loud but that’s why I love them. Their creativity & individuality is still so pure. They have not yet been clenched by the jaws of society, telling them what to say or what to do in a classroom setting. They are still learning…but so am I. Most of them have never been a student, but I have never been a teacher. It’s like we’re navigating this new right of passage together. 

And sure there are going to be a lot of times when we cry, get angry & really want our mommys…but over the school year we are going to learn how to deal. & We are going to be just fine!

-JG 🙂