How To Make Sure You Never Forget How Old You Are

Wow! I remember my WordPress password. So now that I’m here, let’s write a blog, shall we?

People often ask me if working on a college campus keeps me young or makes me feel ancient. I always tell them it’s a little of both.

I work directly with students and sometimes they actually like me. They stop by my office just to say hi, compliment my outfit, or friend me on Facebook. Now and again they might even “like” one of my status updates. And that small click is “fountain of youth” worthy! Feeling young doesn’t mean I’m their best friend. I don’t have the desire or energy to feel 19-years-old again. It’s more like the cool aunt who because I am slightly younger than their parents, I am deemed acceptable to have a conversation with devoid of eye-rolling or texting. It is on these days when I think to myself, “Caryn, you are still hip!” I give myself a little high-five, pop up my collar, blast some T-Swift, and so very quickly, any youthful vibe is erased (but that liked status update lasts FOREVER).

But lately I have just felt old. Like “maybe I should take down my diplomas so they don’t see the year I graduated” old. Thinking back over the years of my career in higher education, I have pinpointed the following reasons why this may happen:

Pop Culture Differences

Every generation has their Beatles, their New Kids on the Block, or their Justin Bieber. And I love talking about who or what was popular “in my day” with students because sometimes they have heard of Nirvana or watch The Cosby Show on Nick at Nite. But everyone now and then, there is a disconnect that will leave you deciding that since you don’t even remember the 2.5 years you spent in the seventies, you will just tell people you were born in 1980.

I’ll never forget discussing the demise of Saturday Night Live with a student a couple of years ago. Generations have been having this conversation for decades, so there is nothing new here. And I felt a commonality with her as she lamented that she missed the “classic” seasons when the show was groundbreaking and funny. I thought, wow, here is a teenager who gets it and understands the legacy of sketch comedy people like Gilda Radner, John Belushi, Eddie Murphy and Dan Akroyd created. And then she added, “like when Will Ferrell was on it.” Okay, we’re done here.

Blank Stares

The Blank Stare is an important signal that you are about to feel like your grandmother. It is not uncommon for one to say something to a college student on any given day that will be met with an expression of concern that you may have just suffered a stroke because the words coming out of your mouth made no sense.

In a few weeks, I am taking a group of students to New York City for a study trip. I couldn’t wait to tell them that I had secured tickets for us to attend a taping of the Late Show with David Letterman! And there was plenty of excitement. But all I could focus on were the couple of Blank Stares in the crowd. “Who is this David Letterman of which you speak”, their faces said to me. Geez, it’s not like I said we were going to Jay Leno. (That would be less cool, right?)

Similarly, a classic story I like to tell is when, as a career counselor, I was explaining to a student the importance of using LinkedIn. I told her it was like an online rolodex. What’s a rolodex, she asked? Enter my own Blank Stare.

Memory

Assuming it has nothing to do with an action item I may has assigned them, the memories of these kids are amazing. They can tell me in detail about their weekend, semester-long study abroad, or four years of high school (and I’m glad they do, I love hearing their stories!). Meanwhile, this morning, I spent a good five minutes in the shower trying to remember if I had already shampooed my hair or not.

Look, I am nowhere near ancient. And I think one reason I enjoy my work so much is because I am youthful and can relate to students, developing relationships with them that allow me to feel like I might actually make this transitional time in their lives just a tad bit easier, more enjoyable, or supported. And if I am being honest with myself, the times when I do feel old, I am really feeling a twinge of jealousy. For the unique friendships they are forming, the new experiences they are having, and the adventures ahead of them.

Luckily, we all have new experiences and adventures awaiting us at every stage of life, and if we can go after them with the same zest and energy that college students tackle theirs, I think we are in good shape.

But first, a nap. I’m exhausted and I think I need to wash my hair again.

What Makes A Great Professor?

Well folks, it’s been an amazing summer, but as the bell tolls for August 24 today, the literal and figurative honeymoon is over.

With the advent of the back-to-school season and the signs of life on campus, it has become very real that in, um, three days, I am teaching a college class for the first time. Call me Professor JB! (But actually don’t, because I don’t have a Ph.D. and people are really weird about that “professor” title).

But however you name it, someone has deemed me acceptable to welcome new freshmen into college life and stare into their “when will it end?” eyes every Tuesday morning for an hour. This will be one of my biggest professional challenges in my career and I want to do it right.

I’m not striving to be the coolest teacher in the building. Or the most inspiring one who gets mentioned as changing their lives when these students win their Nobel prizes or whatever grand award that business people get (ohmygosh, how am I teaching a business class??).

Basically, I don’t need to be the Dumbledore of the university. Though that would be awesome. Especially if I was a wizard and had wizardry. And a pensieve so I could go back in time. And do business teachers read Harry Potter?! THIS IS WHY I GET CONCERNED!

But anyway, I do want to provide value to my students through this one-hour class. I want to challenge them to work with their peers, contribute to a class discussion and connect with the personal goals they want to achieve while in school and beyond… you know, all those college-y things. While doing this, I want the students to walk away from this class feeling like they have built a strong (or at least middleweight) foundation for their business education and their college success. My biggest fear is that their evaluations at the end of the semester will read: “The instructor was nice and tried hard, but I didn’t really learn anything.”

Honestly, that one line of text that has yet to be written by anyone keeps me up at night!

So here is where I need your help friends and readers! Besides knowing the course material (which I figure I still have a whole weekend to learn, right?), what made your favorite college professor so powerful? What did they do to make an impact on you in class? Any tips are so appreciated!

If you’re a student, teacher, parent, or just have to start driving through school zones again, happy back to school!

UPDATE: I asked my friend’s 11-year-old nephew today what he believes makes a great teacher and this was his response: They are nice, patient, and don’t just call on the people who always raise their hands, but get the whole class involved. I thought it was so sweet and insightful, so I wanted to share. I appreciate everyone’s feedback!

Closing Ceremony of Olympic Blogging

Psst…. the Olympics have been on for the last two weeks.

And as I get ready to settle in for a night of Closing Ceremonies from London, I realize none of the ideas I had for posts about the Olympics came to fruition. But I don’t want my little blog to miss its time in the sun (or rather the overcast, in honor of our host nation). So a few concluding thoughts:

No Silver Lining?

The silver medal pouting and whining has been well-covered throughout the games, most hilariously in this Tumblr blog: http://mckaylaisnotimpressed.tumblr.com/ and most scientifically in this article. It’s easy to understand the disappointment a silver medalist feels at missing the gold and the euphoria a bronze medalist feels at making the cut.

But seriously, from gymnastics (which personally I felt there was way too much talk from commentators about how “emotional” the gymnasts are) to track to diving, I can’t remember ever seeing so much sulking when being named the second best in the world. Perhaps I don’t relate to this as the closest I have gotten to this level of competition was when I placed second in headline writing at Texas’s annual statewide UIL competition for high school journalism. And I was freaking ecstatic!

I can only imagine that our mandate to identify “overwhelming favorites” in each sport and competition is as much a factor of this as the athlete’s own goals. I hope that all of the Maroney’s, Komova’s and Bo’s leave can leave London with a feeling of pride in their amazing accomplishments. I’ll even share my UIL medal.

Olympic viewing

While I would love to pour over every story, competitor profile, host nation factoid and ageless Bob Costas smirk that comes around only every two years with Olympic coverage, I just don’t have the time. Especially if I am also going to stay up to date with Big Brother and Bachelor Pad (not to mention working, eating and sleeping).

In this Olympic period, I perfected watching a five-hour broadcast in 45 minutes and did not feel like I missed anything. For future reference, choosing from the following short-cuts can be effective if you are pressed for time:

  • No back stories. (This is difficult as these human interest pieces of the athletes are just as much a part of the games as the competitions, but use your judgment — do you need another story on Michael Phelps?)
  • See Ryan Seacrest, fast-forward immediately. Same with Mary Carillo. It’s the only way.
  • So much time is spent on the athletes getting to their starting position or replaying the race THAT JUST HAPPENED five times. This is especially true in swimming and track. So I say you can watch Usain Bolt win, but not celebrate his victory for 15 minutes. Use your time at work the next day to watch highlights online.
  • No medal ceremonies. Unless the gold medalist is crying.

Lasting Images

I’m too scared to post actual images for copyright reasons, but some things that I will remember as the London games come to an end are:

  • The eventual 400m men’s winner Kirani James from Grenada switching racing bibs with South African double amputee Oscar Pistorious after Pistorious didn’t qualify for the final race.
  • Anything involving Pistorious. He’s inspiring, humble and hot. And has that great South African accent. But mostly for the inspiring part.
  • NBC keeping the camera close to Lebron James and Kobe Bryant during the Opening Ceremonies. You know, because we never get to see how they react in a major sporting event.
  • The random appearance of Bob Costas’s awesome Harry Potter glasses.
  • Allyson Felix. How adorable is she? I will buy all 214 items that she will soon be sponsoring.
  • Any Bela Karolyi interview. I like to guess at what he might actually be saying.
  • The P&G “moms” commercials. And all of the parent reactions.
  • William, Kate and Harry. Swoon.

And so much more! But now it’s time to wrap these games up. As a whole, I like the summer Olympics more than winter, but the winter Olympics have figure skating, so on to 2014 in Sochi, Russia!

What were your favorite moments of these Olympics? Are you ready to go to bed at a decent time again?

Finding Your Inner Font

It’s a Saturday afternoon and I have nothing to do.

As with most people, I don’t experience this total lack of time commitment often. I have already gone to the gym, watched the Olympic gold medal trampoline competition (bouncy!), and written my daily goal of wedding thank-you notes (two, because I need an instant feeling of accomplishment). Although it’s beckoning to me, if I watch our recording of Bachelor Pad before JB gets home from golf, our brief marriage might be in jeopardy. And running errands just doesn’t sound appealing since it’s 212 degrees outside.

So I sit, with no excuses left to avoid confronting my writer’s block of the past months. Since getting married, I had hoped that I could re-focus all of the time and energy that went into wedding planning back to my blog. I have felt so inspired to write, with ideas running through my head at all times and the unfinished drafts of posts to prove it. I kept starting, but quickly lost the motivation to finish, unimpressed with anything I had written and all of it sounding like I was trying too hard to be witty or deep or both.

But after much soul-searching and reflection, in this afternoon of idleness, I think I finally identified what has been holding me back: FONT. SELECTION.

The idea of writing yet another post in Times New Roman was how I imagine an Olympic swimmer feels when they get out of the pool and see reporter Andrea Kremer waiting for them. Please, not you again! And while I can’t upgrade broadcasters, I can upgrade WordPress themes.

You noticed, right? Look again. Yeah, baby! I think we can all agree that the Balance Overload experience has been revolutionized for blogger and reader alike. (I also updated my “About Me” page, which has been another source of discontent for a while.)

You might be thinking that all of this focusing on the aesthetic aspect of my blog is really yet another distraction to evade the deeper question of what do I really want to accomplish with this site? What is my voice and what do I want to say?

And to that, I respond…. look at this new photo collage site I learned about from Leah’s Thoughts! It’s a great distraction enhancement for blogging! And it’s a great to excuse to showcase wedding pictures. I thought it only fair since all of you have followed me on this wedding journey. (Yeah, I know, who am I fooling, it’s totally for my own amusement.)

Wedding photos courtesy of Tim Hord Photography and printed with permission from JB

while he’s napping.

Look, I know I just wrote a whole blog post about changing my font and then gratuitously threw in wedding pictures. And if you read it and thought to yourself “WTH is she doing wasting my time with this crap, some of us actually have things to do this afternoon”, then please know, I appreciate it. It is said when you have writer’s block that you just have to write. About anything. Get the juices flowing again. So this is my attempt. I’m hoping my font change is just a signal of a new start in blogging.

PS: My new upgrade also allows me to change the color scheme of my blog. If my writer’s block continues, things could get all-out crazy.

How do you handle a lack of motivation, whether in writing or anything else?

It’s Time To Get Hitched!

When I first blogged about getting engaged, I promised Balance Overload wouldn’t become a wedding blog. Luckily, we had nothing to worry about since it just ceased being a blog altogether!

But such is life. And regular blog postings or not, the wedding week has arrived! When JB and I got engaged back in July, it was hard to imagine that an actual event (and yes, most importantly, a marriage) would happen at the end of the planning. It seemed so far away. And it was.

At the time of engagement, I had just started my new job. I worried about not finding the community I had at my former employer or making friends. Now it’s wedding time, and last week 14 of my colleagues showed up for a surprise lunch/shower thrown for me and JB. I couldn’t even get words out I was so touched.

A few other updates from wedding planning. First, the exercise. All was going great. My arms even had these things in them that my personal trainer called “muscles.” And then my trainer left for a new opportunity. I was worried this would deter me, but by that time I had learned enough from her to feel comfortable doing the workouts (to a lesser degree no doubt) on my own. I have also become quite the Zumba-holic. When I first started Zumba, I resented the women who knew all the routines. Between hip rolls and shimmy shakes, I told them (silently, in my head) that if I had the time, I could know all the routines too. Losers.

It turns out, I am such a loser! I can barely brush my teeth without busting out some Zumba moves. There are unfortunate consequences of this, such as almost liking Pitbull songs, but in Zumba, I have found a cardio workout that gets me excited to go to the gym. Combined with a day of weights, I am confident in continuing this plan even when there is no wedding dress as an incentive.

Oh, and the contact lenses? Yeah, they aren’t happening. I tried. Sort of. Once. And it was just too much. So I dropped it. I’m going naked on my eyes down the aisle. I will see JB clearly once I’m up there with him and it’s probably better for my nerves to not be able to make out all the faces anyway. Once the reception starts, the glasses will be back on. I might even clean them for the big day! Much like my decision to not fake tan, the glasses, like my pale fair skin, are who I am.

And that brings us to right now. JB assures me that for someone who has a tendency to freak out under stress, I’ve been a relatively calm bride. But this last week has definitely been full of emotion. And despite my claims of not being that stressed, my body has certainly tried to prove me otherwise.

I went to the doctor last week for an ache in my side that has persisted for the last couple of weeks. As the doctor poked around on my belly, he stopped in his tracks and told me to listen. He tapped my stomach and said it sounded like he was beating a drum. And then he called it “impressive.” Blushing, I was getting ready to thank him and tell him that it’s simply a combination of eating right mixed with crunches and some oblique twists when he said, “You are full of gas.” Oh. So I guess you don’t want to hear about the Roman Chair lifts I’ve been doing?

(I also foolishly let them draw blood despite knowing my body’s reaction of bruising to this. Hopefully JB’s family and friends will be thrilled to know he’s found a nice little heroin addict to settle down with).

But overall, it was my body’s way of telling me to chill out. So that’s what I have been trying to do. The ribbons are on the programs, the tables are assigned, and the lists have been checked over and over again. As JB and I said to each other on the way to dinner this weekend, it’s time to enjoy and make every moment of this week count. As everyone reminds us, it will be over in a flash.

I can’t thank all of our friends and family enough for their support this last year. JB and I know the real meaning of this weekend is to start our life together and we’re super excited for that and everything, but in the meantime, LET’S PARTY!!

Search Stories

Often times, when I’m really busy and have important deadlines to meet and to-do lists that are four pages long, I stumble upon the biggest time wasters ever.

This week was no exception. I’m putting the finishing touches on a 7-day itinerary for a Spring Break trip I am leading for 14 students to Washington D.C. and New York City. And what do I find… Google Search Stories Video Creator.

I haven’t done a lot of research on it as I went immediately to playing, so I don’t know if it’s new or if I am the last person to find out about it. But either way, I couldn’t step away from it.

These 35-second clips are nothing more than a promotion for Google and a method for forcing users to set up YouTube accounts. Creating a YouTube channel is a little out of my comfort zone. I feel I should start making covers of music like this video I am currently obsessed with. And don’t even get me started on the data “they” are collecting on me.

But when I find something like this, my distraction from immediate priorities knows no bounds and my will must be done. You just input your searches, what Google method you want to use (Images, Blogs, News, etc.) and choose your music.

While I definitely plan to make 1,054 more of these for absolutely no reason other than my own enjoyment, I do actually think they would be great for quick marketing purposes for those with no budget and with no technical skills. This could be useful for us higher education professionals and student organizations to promote events and programming. You could get very funny and creative with these. And they are already online and easy to share. Again, no technical ability needed.

I created two “search stories” about the areas I’m most engulfed in right now.

Perhaps it’s just the need for procrastination, but I am hooked. At least until the next distraction comes along.

What are your favorite time wasters?

Wedding Gut

When it comes to my gut, I’ve never really listened to it that closely. I mean, there’s the gut that tells me that even though I ate the equivalent of two entrees at the Indian restaurant (plus naan) I still have room for frozen yogurt. I listen to that one.

But that other gut, the one that deals with instincts over appetite, we don’t really communicate. I’ve never considered myself “intuitive.” Wedding planning has changed that.

I have a lot to be thankful for, including being able to plan a wedding where I can explore options and try to create the day I have always dreamed about, thanks to the generosity of my parents.

But what I have noticed is that my “dream” wedding is, in reality, very different from what I had once thought it would be like.

Take location. “Every hotel ballroom looks the same.” That was a popular refrain of mine during the days/months/years of planning my hypothetical wedding. Once wedding planning became no longer just for the “One Day” Pinterest board, it was time to secure my hip, non-hotel downtown location.

“What do you mean that price doesn’t include linens?” This — and similar variations — became my new refrain. Downtown just wasn’t working. We were *this close* to signing at my dream downtown venue when JB and I went to Ohio to visit his family. As I showed his parents and others the location, it just felt… wrong. It was beautiful and what I had always envisioned, but quite frankly, it was going to be a pain in the ass. Not to mention, in the wallet. I called my parents on my way home from the airport and it turned out they were feeling the same way, though were tying to make it work for my dream and all. I think we all felt like a huge weight had been lifted.

Resigned to looking at hotels, my sister visited one in a Dallas suburb that puts other suburbs to shame with how much of a suburb it is. But it was PERFECT! The date, the price, the ease for our guests, the staff.  The skyline views aren’t there, and honestly, the ballroom is a hotel ballroom, but it has always felt right.

From the very first decision, the tone was set for wedding planning — just about everything I’ve chosen from dress to invitations has been different than what I thought I wanted — and for a new way of thinking. In that one decision, and after 34 years, I think it finally hit me: When you have that nagging feeling (good or bad) and you listen to it, you feel contentment, peace, and confidence with your decisions. When you ignore it, you maintain anxiety and unease. Not very complicated, obviously, but I have spent my whole life basically disregarding it. I have become more attentive to this gut and what it’s telling me at work, with friends, and just life in general (though sometimes still ignoring it because I’m stubborn like that).

And when it comes to wedding planning, I guess it’s the same gut feeling you get when you know you are with the person you want to marry. And in the end, that’s the only gut that really matters.

In what situations do you rely on gut feeling?