Tag Archives: 2014

Mastering Me


My heart started racing, not the bad kind of heart racing, like, I’m going to die. But the good kind of heart racing, like, ‘Hello, can I help you with something? If not, please step aside because I’m about to kick the shit out of life.’  ~ from Where’d You Go Bernadette? by Maria Semple

MPA graduation

On May 18 I graduated with a master’s degree in public administration. During the last few weeks, I’ve had lots of people congratulate me, give me advice, or tell me what this degree means for my future. I’ve realized that, despite their good intentions, not a lot of them understand what this degree really means to me.

Yes, I can now apply for jobs that I wouldn’t otherwise be qualified for. Yes, I might be able to negotiate a higher salary for said jobs. And yes, society now views me as an “academic,” someone who has chosen to invest in education. The thing is, after 3 years of reading, writing, discussing, analyzing, collaborating, and listening, I don’t care about any of those things as much as I did when I started my MPA program.

In the last 3 years, I have learned just as much, if not more, about myself as I have about public administration. Sure, I learned about the necessity of public, private, and nonprofit entities to collaborate to provide adequate public services. But I also learned how I work best in collaborative groups, and what types of services I think every human being should have access to, regardless of race or economic background. I learned about balancing efficiency and equity in tax policies, but I also gained a deeper understanding and appreciation of my own values.

As cheesy as it sounds, I think, in my case, MPA could stand for Master of Personal Awareness. I didn’t just invest in education or job security, I invested in ME. I didn’t just commit to studying, I committed to expanding my worldview. Getting this degree has been a life-changing experience. I don’t just feel like a better job candidate, I feel like a better person. I feel prepared to take on whatever life throws at me next, because I understand myself better. It’s pretty damn exciting.

So, I suppose what I’m trying to say is: do something because it matters to YOU. Not because of what other people think you should do, or because you think something is supposed to matter to you at a certain stage of your life. Become a master of yourself, no degree required.

I also want to take this space to say a big huge THANK YOU for all of the support and encouragement from my family and friends during this 3-year journey. I’m particularly humbled by the patience, love, and support of my husband, who encouraged me from day 1 to pursue this degree. He has put up with a lot: me being gone an extra 3 hours after work for night classes, locking myself in my study to do homework on weekends, and having an occasional mental breakdown. Love you, hubby. xoxo



Happy New Year


On the last evening in 2013, I find myself in good company: my vizslador named Daphne, some Indian food, a bottle of sparkling cranberry juice, and myself.  I have a wonderful husband, who is not feeling well, and another little dog, who is recovering from surgery, but they are in a different city. It is not an ideal situation for any of us, but it sums up a number of things I’ve learned during 2013 quite nicely.


Daphne goes for my sparkling cranberry juice.

Daphne goes for my sparkling cranberry juice.

1. Expectations lead to disappointment. I did not expect to spend NYE without my most favorite person and with only a wet dog nose to kiss at midnight. I was sad at first, but then I realized that it really is just another night like any other. I’ve still had a pretty good time, watching some Netflix, enjoying my vegetable korma, and playing fetch down the hallway with Daphne. This year I’ve realized that the more expectations I set, the more times I end up disappointed. It might be something big, like expecting to kiss my husband at midnight on NYE, or something small, like expecting my Indian takeout to be ready on time. Either way, being too attached to an expected outcome sets you up for disappointment. It’s good to have goals and plans, but you can’t be so attached to them that you fall into a funk anytime something goes awry. I arrived to get my takeout tonight, and they had forgotten my order. I could have lost my temper and gone somewhere else, but instead I smiled and waited patiently. I knew that korma was worth the wait. And you know what, I got free masala tea! Not too shabby. Allowing ourselves to let go of expectations allows release from suffering/disappointment. This in turn allows us to enjoy whatever is happening to us right in each moment, instead of waiting for something that we expect to happen in the future. In 2014, I’m going to focus less on planning and more on living.

2. Do what you want, when you can. While sipping my complimentary masala tea and waiting for my food, I enjoyed a nice dose of people watching. Several groups walked in all dolled up, with sparkly headbands, fancy tights, tailored coats, and freshly shaven faces. Clearly these people were going to hit the town after enjoying some delicious Indian food. I probably could have found a group of people to get dressed up and go out with, but I didn’t really want to…I was looking forward to enjoying my Indian food and a cozy night to myself, without crowded bars and crazy people. And, let us not forget, I had a spectacular date at home: Daphne the vizslador. Daphne is also part of this lesson. We adopted Daphne just over a year ago, after I had the epiphany that I wanted another dog. A big dog. A slobbery, cuddly, wonderful dog. I had been telling myself we couldn’t get another dog because of the expense and the logistics. Then suddenly, I realized I was being an idiot. I have wanted said slobbery, cuddly, wonderful big dog since I was about 4 or 5 years old. I had a childhood dog who was wonderful, but not so slobbery, and definitely not cuddly. And we have Hobart, who is very cuddly, but not slobbery and quite small. So I said to myself: Elizabeth, life is short, and you have no business continuing to live without a big, slobbery, cuddly dog when there are so many of them out there to be loved and love you. And now I have one. And she’s wonderfully, excessively slobbery, big enough to earn the nickname “moose,” and cuddles with the best of them while taking up her fair share of the bed. And I guess the point is this: it is pretty rare that we can do exactly what we want. For example, to take a trip somewhere far away, work at a prestigious institution, publish a novel, etc. I think it is very important to do the things that really make us happy when we have the chance (i.e. order expensive Indian food and enjoy alone time, or adopt a big slobbery, cuddly dog), so long as it does not affect someone else negatively. In 2014, I’m going to seize all the chances I have to be happy, and encourage others to do the same.

3. Being alone can be a very good thing. I used to hate, even fear, being alone. I’ve never lived by myself, and up until quite recently, I used to fill any empty hours with social outings so I wouldn’t have to face a minute in the company of just…me. But as I’ve learned to reflect inward, alone time has become something that I treasure. Being alone allows us to tune in to our minds and bodies. It grants us the opportunity to address concerns and fulfill needs. The more comfortable we are in our own company, the better we can act in accordance with our values in the company of others. So tonight, I am enjoying my leisurely evening alone. I could be happy in many other places, with many other people, but I am choosing to be quite content being with me (and my big, slobbery dog). In 2014, I will use me-time to recharge, so that I have more energy to help others.

Now the hour of 2014 is upon us. I’m excited for this year. There are things to look forward to, things to hope for and dream of, and that is good. But I’m going to try to live most of 2014 in the moment, sans expectations. I will enjoy each moment for what it brings, I will choose to be happy whenever possible, and I will help others to be happy, too. When I feel lost, I will sit alone with myself, to remember where I am going.

I am very grateful for all my friends and family who have made this year a good one, and who I look forward to seeing more of in 2014. Happy New Year, all you creative, unique, and beautiful people.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a vizslador to kiss.