Bullet Journal Day

I got to spend an awesome weekend with Banji – reconnecting, playing duets, enjoying wonderful food and excellent company, the works. I’d been missing my friends from college and earlier; this was just what I needed to feel whole again.

It seems whenever I hang out with Banji I end up learning about a new arts-related thing they’re doing; this time it was bullet journaling. It’s basically creating a customized planner using a notebook, pen, and ruler; you can add colors, drawings, quotes, anything really. People use bullet journals to keep track of appointments and tasks, make note of things they’re grateful for, track habits they want to develop (e.g. exercising regularly), brainstorm, any number of things. A whole community has emerged around it with people sharing their ideas, layouts, artwork, etc.

Video: How to Bullet Journal

Video: Beginner’s Guide to Bullet Journaling

I’ve been feeling overwhelmed with life, and I liked what I saw in various videos, so I decided to give it a try. I ordered a journal with dotted pages; it was supposed to arrive tomorrow, but instead it arrived today!!! So I decided to start setting it up with components I’d learned about from various videos (an index, symbol key, “future log” – kind of like a year at a glance, August calendar, list of appointments & goals for August, and my very first daily to-do list!).

I also did a kind of custom thing: I dumped all the to-dos that have been stressing me out on one side of a spread and got so stressed I felt the need to write “Fuck it all!” at the bottom. But then I re-organized (re-listed) everything into four categories: Personal, Green Party, Academic, and House. Each category has its own color. Separating everything just made me feel so much better; now it makes sense in a way it couldn’t before with everything jumbled together. It inspired me to draw a butterfly – something I definitely hadn’t planned, but I loved getting to draw and color with some awesome colored pencils.

Video: A Dude’s Bullet Journal Walkthrough

I sent Banji a picture of the spread; they told me that it’s Bullet Journal Day – the anniversary of when this officially became A Thing and the website BulletJournal.com went live. How amazingly cool is it that I get to start bullet journaling on the anniversary of its launch – particularly because the primary item I needed to make it happen arrived early?!

I think my favorite part of my journal so far is my August monthly spread. The left page has a typical calendar with appointments filled in, and a note about this past weekend being awesome. The right page is separated into four sections: Personal, Academic, Green Party, and House. Each section has a list of the tasks I want to complete by the end of the month: my goals for the month, you could say. I feel so much more focused now, having it organized like that. I was feeling stressed out about the House category so I added a quote by Agatha Christie: “The best time for planning a book is while you’re doing the dishes.” My hope is that will help me re-imagine chores not as a monumental life-stealing task but as smaller opportunities to invite creativity. … Whatever the actual result, I have the name Agatha Christie in my journal now and that makes me happy.

My next favorite part is today’s daily. I blatantly stole the layout from Boho Berry (video), including the adorable little weather indicator in the upper right corner. I added a quote: “You don’t always need a plan. Sometimes you just need to breathe, trust, let go, and see what happens” ~ Mandy Hale. It might seem a bit ironic to include a quote like that in a tool for planning, but one of the things I love about bullet journaling is that the journal itself isn’t (or at least doesn’t have to be) planned in advance. It’s a continuous creative work-in-progress – kinda like life.

But my favorite part of today’s daily is that I only listed the specific tasks I intend to complete today. One of the items will “migrate” to tomorrow, but the point is that today I only have to focus on today, and I actually can accomplish the (other) tasks I set for myself today. No worrying about tomorrow. No feeling guilty about the stuff I’ve been procrastinating forever, no being distracted by the things I “should” be doing everyday (those will go in a tracker on a different page, if I decide to do that. Maybe starting next month? That’s the beauty of this system, I can do things differently each day/week/month/etc. as I figure out what works best for me!)

It’s so empowering! I only have a handful of things to focus on today. They’re totally doable. It feels really awesome to check them off; little things I can celebrate. Even the color coding and the little cloud in the corner make me happy.

So, I guess we’ll see how this goes …

Do you bullet journal? What are your thoughts on it? Do you have any tips, designs you want to share, etc? Please share in comments! ❤

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Building Confidence Through Experience

I’ve been meaning to get back into blogging for a while now. There’s so much, I’m really not sure where to start. And there’s always the intimidation of a blank page… I’ve gone to start a new post many times, then backed out.

Nearly every time, this saved draft has come up. I’ve tried deleting it – I wrote it in early June for crying out loud! – but still it remains. I read it this morning and nearly cried at the end. I’ve come so far since writing this. I’m gonna go ahead and let it speak for itself:

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Redefining Beauty

I’ve been seeing a lot of great articles and videos redefining beauty – the means by which we measure a woman’s worth. The new definitions make it more inclusive: you don’t have to be extremely thin, you don’t have to have perfect skin, you don’t have to be white, you don’t have to be able-bodied. You don’t have to measure your worth based purely on physical appearance. You can include attributes such as compassion, intelligence, determination, physical & emotional strength, etc. – basically, any characteristic one may find desirable in a human being can be included in the definition of beauty. They’re all valid ways to measure a woman’s worth.

One thing I find especially beautiful – or, to be more specific, inspiring – about women is their ability to redefine ideas in their culture that, to an outsider, appear to be oppressive (and may be, at least the way they are defined by the mainstream of the culture). It is an indispensable means of self empowerment in a world where a select minority are far too keen on keeping all the power for themselves. I want to applaud the people (men included) who are working so hard to redefine beauty to the point where they’re essentially telling all of us: You have worth. Whatever characteristics you have, something in there is of value to society. Be proud of who you are. Nurture and love yourself. I hope people will continue to do this because it’s a message we all need to hear, as frequently as possible. You don’t have to conform to the standards of beauty you see in the mainstream media. You have worth.

I can think of 2 lines to complete that message. The more commonly accepted one is probably: You’re already beautiful. The one I resonate with, though, is: You don’t have to be beautiful.

In other words, you don’t have to measure your worth, and you don’t have to prove it to others. You can just be yourself. You may have characteristics that are undervalued by our society, or things you’re not so good at, or even things you want to change about yourself… and that’s okay. You can still be fully who and what you are in this moment – and hold yourself in high esteem. No one has the right to treat you as anything less than their equal. (You don’t have the right to look down on anyone else, either.)

Using the words “beauty” and “beautiful” oversimplifies the way we talk to and about women. It limits our ability to acknowledge the impact women have on ourselves and on society. If I call Lupita Nyong’o’s speech “beautiful,” all I’m saying is that there was something I liked about it – for all you know, it could be the sound and rhythm of her voice or even just her physical appearance. But what if I said she made me more aware of a privilege I have as someone with light skin, because that aspect of my appearance is held as a standard she – an Academy Award-winning actress! – could never hope to attain? What if I said she is encouraging girls of color to focus more on being compassionate than on their physical appearance, particularly the darkness of their skin? What if I called her someone to look up to? An inspiration.

We don’t have a nice convenient word like “beauty” to use when talking about men. We have to be more specific. He is very charismatic. He knows everything there is to know about computers. He’s a firm but compassionate leader. He knows a lot of good jokes and is great at delivering them. He is very dedicated to his family and takes excellent care of his children. He’s the best composer/musician/writer/artist/etc. that ever lived. He’s an openly gay professional football player.

By describing specific characteristics of a person, we acknowledge their ability to influence us, and by extension to shape social ideals. We make them the acting subject who can change the world.

In contrast, all calling someone “beautiful” does is let others know we have a generally positive attitude toward them. It objectifies the person; this vibrant, complex, active human being becomes the object of our evaluation… and all we have to say is that they do indeed have worth.

So I’m going to ask people to take the redefining of beauty a step further, to make the most of an awesome thing women around the world have been doing to empower themselves for centuries. Let’s define beauty as a means of evaluating objects – art, music, architecture, machines, etc. – and not people. Let’s make a commitment to describing specific characteristics of and actions by women whom we admire. And more importantly, let’s collectively decide that everyone has inherent worth and treat each other with compassion.