Updated: Apr 7, 2019
Who am I and how did I get here?
I’m sure, if you’re anything like me, that you’re wondering what the person behind the posts is really like, and do I really apply all these tips I’ve given you to my own life? Consider this post the extended “About me”. If you couldn’t care less about the person behind the posts, then skip it.
So hi, I’m Abby. I was born, raised, educated, and still live in small town Pennsylvania. It’s alright here. Don’t love it but also don’t know yet where I want to go next. So here I stay for now. I was one of those “smart kids” in high school who didn’t really have to try so I never learned how to study but still got good grades. I’m sure many of you are familiar with that feeling. I got to college, didn’t know what I was doing, took some random classes, didn’t know how to study.
My grades in my first year definitely weren’t bad, but they weren’t great. Right before sophomore year, I fell into a whirlwind long distance relationship. It was a crazy, abusive rollercoaster. I definitely learned a fair amount about myself in that relationship and decided to stop letting life take me where it wants and making excuses for my laziness and indecisiveness and instead take control of my life. After our (final) break up near the end of the semester, I took all those sad/hurt/angry feelings and used them to fuel my self improvement. This is where my journey of learning self discipline really took off. My grades had improved a bit before then, but the break up fueled me really digging in and doing my absolute best.
I had declared Studio Art as my major that fall, and a few weeks into spring semester, I added Computer Science as my second major. Studio Art isn’t a hard major, but it is very time consuming to create art. Computer science, on the other hand, is very difficult. To excel in all of my classes, that semester I picked up the habit of waking up early. That was my first major step in learning self discipline. I also started planning out my time more precisely that semester, and starting projects the day they were assigned, instead of the day they were due.
My life was still a little messy and I was pretty sad for a lot of that spring as I recovered from the relationship and rebuilt myself into a new person, the person I wanted to be. That was a critical year for me because it was then that I had the major realization that my life is in my control, and the decisions I make (or don’t make) decide where I go. You can live your life actively or passively, and this was the year that I decided to become the active driver of my life.
Just after sophomore year of college ended, I met my now-fiance. We hit it off immediately. Like, hooked up the night we met and were dating in less than two weeks type of immediately. The first few months of our relationship were definitely a bit of a learning curve for me. I hadn’t dated a ton, aside from my short and disastrous up relationship the previous fall, because relationships hadn’t really interested me.
Between the damage done in my previous relationship and my inexperience, I wasn’t sure how to be in a happy and healthy relationship. I remember asking Bennett early on if I was allowed to wear a bralette to a festival, because my ex would not have let me go out in public dressed like that. Bennett pointed out that I don’t need his permission to wear things. I can just wear what I want. I also was not a very nice person at that point in my life. I’d always been one of those “I’m honest to a fault” type of people, and didn’t mind making jokes at others’ expense. But because I loved Bennett so much and didn’t want to hurt him ever, I learned how to control what I said and think about others before I spoke. Through all this, I also continued to wake up early and improve my time management skills.
Junior year of college flew past. I took quite a few difficult classes and would often be in the CS lab programming at 8 am on Saturday and stay there for 8 or 10 hours, before going home to work on the rest of my homework. I nailed time management that year. I developed systems for myself and discovered that the best way for me to accomplish everything I need to do is to plan out each day before I go to sleep the night before. Even with all of this homework, I never had to pull an all nighter in college to finish it. Not once. I also discovered my passion for ceramics half way through junior year, and spent quite a lot of time in the studio that spring practicing my technical skills. By march, my professor had hired me to help out in the studio, and by the end of the spring, I had become proficient enough on the wheel that she hired me to work as her assistant in the studio that summer.
During the fall of senior year, I picked up meditation. My time management skills and habit of waking up early every morning had been thoroughly solidified at this point, and I felt ready to start the next step in my self improvement journey. The practice of mindfulness has greatly helped me manage my anxiety and be a much more calm and present person. They can sound a little weird at first, but meditation and mindfulness are incredibly beneficial practices. Even in the times when I’m not meditating regularly, I still am mindful in my day to day life and it has made me a much happier person. Along with mindfulness came the practice of gratitude. The two go hand in hand.
In the spring of my senior year, I had to produce a body of artwork for my senior show just before graduation. I gave myself the challenge of creating 1000 ceramic pots. I did the math and knew I had to make an average of 10 pots per day to reach my goal. This meant that nearly every day, on top of my regular homework, I had to be in the studio for somewhere between 2 and 8 hours throwing, trimming, glazing, mixing glazes, loading and unloading kilns, firing the kilns, and figuring out where to put all of these pots. I learned SO MUCH about running a ceramics studio that semester and it was SO COOL. I also had to push myself to keep working without burning out. Producing 1000 pots forced me to play with the medium way more than I ever would have normally and immensely improved my technical skills on the wheel. And I did it. In one semester of college, while taking a full course load and working several jobs on campus, I threw 1000 pots. It was something of a culmination of all the self-discipline I had built up until that point. I had to get up early. I had to manage my time. I had to be mindful of how I was feeling every day in order to get through the process without driving myself crazy. I had to be as patient with myself as I’d learned to be with others.
In May 2018, I graduated summa cum laude, Phi Beta Kappa from Gettysburg College. I never would have accomplished that without teaching myself to be disciplined. Then Bennett and I embarked on a 50 day road trip around the United States. This has nothing to do with discipline, it was just the most amazing 50 days of my life. After we got home, I started my “real job” as a developer. This job comes with a $500 well-being subsidy, where the company will pay for 50% of any well-being purchases we make, up to $500 every year. I finally got a gym membership and started going to the gym regularly this past July and have maintained the habit since then. I also started eating cleaner around that time, since I now have more free time to cook for myself, and I feel so much better when I eat clean.
I knew pretty early on that this job isn’t for me. I don’t mind programming, but I don’t think I want to do this for the rest of my life. I am independent. I thrive when I’m setting my own schedule and making my own rules. I need to be creative and be in charge. After spending a few months trying to decide where my life should go, I decided in early January 2019 that I should coach people in how to build the skill of self-discipline, and working on this on the side while also working my 9-5 development job is my next foray into building my own discipline.
My next step in my journey of intentional self improvement is learning to put myself out there and open myself up to criticism, rather than avoiding it. Currently, I find myself getting defensive and making excuses when someone doesn’t like something that I’ve done, instead of listening to their critique in order to do a better job next time. It’s difficult to make significant progress if I’m unwilling to accept and consider input from others, so I’m putting myself out there and opening my work up to criticism in order to learn to deal with it.
So that’s how I got here, and that’s where I’m headed. My journey in building discipline started about three years ago and will never end. I’ve built the discipline and skills to manage my time well, get up early every day, exercise regularly, be mindful and grateful always and meditate regularly, eat cleanly, be kind to others and myself, and set and reach my goals. My next goals are to build a community of people who support each other and want to learn and grow as people together, and listen to criticism, rather than deflect it.
So what does my day to day life look like after all of that? Most days, I get up at 5:45. I head to the gym at 6:30 and work out until 7:45. I take a quick shower and throw on my business casual and get to work at 8:30. Throughout the morning I drink a protein shake as my breakfast. I typically work through lunch, eat an apple or some nuts in the afternoon as a snack, and leave the office at 4:30. I get home at 5 and hang out with Bennett for a while. One (or sometimes both) of us makes dinner. Since it’s still cold out, lately I’ve been eating lots of roasted vegetables, especially sweet potatoes and cauliflower. The rest of the evening varies. I’ll usually write or watch Netflix with Bennett, but really, I just do whatever needs done or I want to do that evening. By 9:30, I’m in bed winding down for the day. Bennett leaves for the gym between 9:30 and 10 most evenings, and when he leaves, I meditate and go to sleep. Aside from my day job, I love my life. I’m excited to live it every day, but since I intend to never stop improving, here I am, looking for my next big adventure.