Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Life is in Session!

I've been meaning to write this post for a long time but just haven't gotten around to it because LAZINESS.

As you might remember, if you were around then, I had a few months in Palau that were . . . a little rough. I refer to January of this year as "the black hole of my existence," in fact. Not to be dramatic or anything.

There were a lot of things going on then and that was really a time I hope to never have to experience again. I got to Palau last October and sort of settled in through my shell shock for a month or two. When December hit, Palau started freaking me out. By January I was not in a stable place.

Palau was much different than I expected. In retrospect, it wasn't worse than I imagined. It was just different, and I wasn't really prepared mentally to handle it because it was SO unfamiliar and in ways I did not anticipate. I had never lived in a place that was so isolated. Never experienced living in a VERY small town. Didn't know what it was like dealing with constant blistering temperatures and insane humidity. I felt lost as to where my life would go next. And the whole time I just kept wondering why on Earth I left the life that I absolutely loved in Salt Lake City to trap myself in the middle of nowhere.

But what really made the above a big deal was that Daniel was not happy. He was generally adjusting better than I was to all of the things I just mentioned, but his job situation in Palau was, to spare you the excessive details, a complete disaster. And already at the beginning of December, he was looking for jobs online and trying to find flights to head back to the U.S. 

Daniel had decided multiple times that if things didn't improve by certain dates, he was going to leave. I cannot overstate how devastating this prospect sounded to me. And during that time, I was living with a constant ball of anxiety engulfing me. The thought of him leaving and forcing me to live in Palau alone, this place in which I was already feeling very lonely and isolated, for the next ten months was almost too much to bear.

Ok, this is not intended to be a serious post at all. I promise. I had to set that all up so I could tell you about this funny thing I've been meaning to tell you about for months. So stay with me.

One day in February, I was sitting in my office and having a particularly hard day. The violins were playing, so to speak. Something had happened, I don't remember what it was, and I felt like it was the final straw and I was about to crumble to the ground. Just then, one of you sent me this very sweet email saying that I had inspired you to follow some dream and go on an adventure. And when I saw this email I did that mock "HA" laugh and thought, "if only you knew the truth!"

And right as I thought this, suddenly an epiphany came out of nowhere and hit me upside the head. And I thought, "what in the Queen of Colors have I turned into?!"

I had never been this person before. So overcome with fear and anxiety. So helpless because of discomfort and being unsure about the future. And I had one of those empowering moments right then where I told myself to stop ebbing and flowing and start steering my own course again. Because Palau wasn't the reason I was unhappy and neither was Daniel's situation. They were my excuses but not my reason. I was the reason I was unhappy. Because I hadn't been brave enough to experience joy when excuses were readily available.

So I sat up and wrote myself a sticky note, which is still stuck to my computer, with a few simple statements that I had forgotten.

Daniel came by my office about thirty minutes later and when he did I looked like a meth-addict (not that I know what that is, mom) and emphatically told him, speaking 5,000 words per minute,


Daniel: Did you have your eyelids removed? Why are things going to change?

Eli: Because I wrote a note. With goals! Well not really "goals," I guess. But reminders! And I'm not going to be weak anymore!

Daniel: A goal is only worth something if you're not ashamed of it, Eli.

Eli: What makes you think I'm ashamed of it?

Daniel: What language did you write that sticky note in?

Eli: English. Why?

Daniel: Let me see it then.

Eli: Fine. Ukrainian.

Daniel: That's what I thought. You wrote it in Ukrainian so other people can't read it. Because you are embarrassed.

To prove that I wasn't embarrassed, I wrote it all out onto a piece of paper and taped it to the front door of the apartment (on the inside). And for the next few months, I made Daniel stand in front of it with me every single morning and read the entire thing in unison and in our loudest indoor voices.

Look. We knew it was cheesy. And we could hardly ever get through it without laughing. Especially the "Life is in Session!" part, which we had to turn and say face-to-face. And over the last few months, whenever one of us appears to be indecisive about something, the other will mockingly yell, "maybe you haven't heard that LIFE IS IN SESSION."

But you know what? Things got a LOT better after this. I can't tell you how many times throughout the day I would start to feel worried about something and one of these phrases would come to my mind and I would feel empowered and at peace again. And before too long, I started to love Palau, so much so that I'm actually sad that my time is dwindling down. I regret that it took me so long to get to that point, but hey. I got there.

And after the attitude adjustment, some of the things that caused the anxiety started to change too, including Daniel's job. Things haven't been perfect in Palau, and there are still days, even recent days, when I am ready to charter a plane and have it drop me over Manhattan. But Strangers, life is pretty good in the land of coconuts.

Anyway, it has now been about six months since I taped this note to the door. And we have gotten so used to it that we sort of don't notice it anymore. Until every single time someone comes over and we suddenly become SUPER embarrassed about it. And we don't want to go take it down while they're there because we don't want to draw attention to it. Plus, we put it up there in the first place to prove that we're not "ashamed."

But . . . we're TOTALLY ashamed. Especially when we see people staring at it with looks on their faces like they just found out that we're those crazy neighbors you had growing up who used to sing their outgoing answering machine message as a family.

Oh my gosh. We should totally do that.

"So leave a message, 'cause we're not home, and the butterflies fly away. Yea-ee-ya-ee-ya-ee-ya. It's a party--we'll call back today!"

~It Just Gets Stranger


  1. Just found your blog today, and it is definitely what I needed to help cheer me up!! :) Thank You :)

    1. You have an amazing adventure ahead of you. Look at the Snuggie Texts under the tab "messing with people"

    2. Lol I have pretty much ventured the whole site :p

    3. Read the Snuggies texts if you havn't yet, they're so awesome. So are emails with a Polygamist.

    4. And the Grandma Georgia emails. Don't forget about those.

  2. hahaha thats REALLY funny! I might be a little ashamed too, but those are actually some great daily confirmations to read to yourself!

  3. This post could not have come at a better time in my life. Things are weird and I've become unsure of many things, but now that I know "Life is in Session" I'm going to sort it out. Thank you. Tap, tap, tap, flip, tap.

  4. LIFE IS IN SESSION! I love yelling things and I look forward to yelling this on a frequent basis.

  5. This Paragraph:

    "I had never been this person before. So overcome with fear and anxiety. So helpless because of discomfort and being unsure about the future. And I had one of those empowering moments right then where I told myself to stop ebbing and flowing and start steering my own course again. Because Palau wasn't the reason I was unhappy and neither was Daniel's situation. They were my excuses but not my reason. I was the reason I was unhappy. Because I hadn't been brave enough to experience joy when excuses were readily available."

    Incredibly brilliant. Thank you for this.

  6. Everyone is embarrassed about something/most things/everything, at least you put it all out there and come to terms with it. That makes a whole lot of people feel better.

  7. Eli, you are the KING of catch phrases. Sometimes I write stuff like this on the bathroom mirror to encourage my children and my husband (who is chronically depressed), and this is just perfect!!

  8. Thanks for the this. The humor and the insight.

  9. Isn't it strange how we cringe at ourselves when we are empowering ourselves??? I feel that way when I read old diary entries...then I have to check in and be like "HEY! HEEEEY! stop cringing, you're RIGHT"...then I go downstairs and eat all of the kids snacks because why not.

  10. That is NOTHING to be ashamed of!! About a year ago I was going through some pretty difficult times too, and I did the same thing! Those cheesy little notes really do make a difference and DO make you feel better! They work. I along with the rest of the Strangers are so glad you're back to feeling like yourself!

  11. I'm so glad you found a way to be happy in Palau. Because it IS an adventure and it would be so sad to regret your time there.

    I laughed that you originally wrote your reminders in Ukrainian. Because I would totally write mine in French so no one could read them. In fact, I think I might do that right now...

  12. If you record that as your message, I'm going to need your phone number so I can hear it on the daily.

  13. Thank you so much for posting this! I really needed some perspective lately. Right now I'm faced with a lot of anxieties about finding an internship, registering for classes, my best friend in the entire world is on the verge of getting a girlfriend and I'm afraid that he would stop being my friend to be with her, etc. I am totally going to write this list and post it on my bedroom door and read is aloud every day before I leave the house. Thank you for this! :)

  14. That was all inspirational and crap, but I want more people getting messed with.

    1. You're just Mr. Complainey around here, aren't you? Maybe you should get out and go mess with people yourself if you want it so bad, jon.

  15. You are a very wise man Eli. I think it's completely natural to have "what am I doing here?!?" moments and to acknowledge the isolation, but to realize that YOU have the choice about whether you're going to find happiness in it, or choose to wallow, that is the greatest lesson we all can learn. So many people live their lives in a constant search to be happy and never realize that they had it all along, they just had to choose to see it within themselves. I hope to run into you more often when you get back to the SLC.

  16. "Maybe you haven't heard that LIFE IS IN SESSION!"

    I'm going to randomly yell that whenever I'm feeling insecure or unsure of my course...and when someone else is as well. Perfection. Thanks. :)

  17. I totally put a "life is in session" post-it on my monitor just now. It's in English, even! Now here's hoping I actually notice it every day amid the clutter. :)

  18. You should never feel embarrassed about finding the strength to get through tough times and not just give in, whine and be a victim. This quote from Albert Camus – printed out and taped prominently on my bathroom mirror – helped me through a terrible divorce, being a suddenly single mom to two small kids, and dealing with a mountain of financial problems my ex-husband created and dumped on me. I'm years past that now, but it's still one of my favorite quotes to remind me that I ALWAYS have the strength I need if I look inside myself:

    "In the midst of winter, I found there was, within me, an invincible summer."


  19. "Cheesy" phrases and thoughts really do make a HUGE difference in everyday life. One time, my mom read "The Secret," and I mostly though it was total crap. Except for the positive thinking part. I didn't feel like it affected me that much, but it does. Our brains are powerful things! I was laughing hard when I pictured you and Daniel reading that aloud and then facing each other. Too funny. I can't believe you kept this from us for so long!

  20. Happy for no reason is the deepest kind of happy.

  21. Hey, only be embarrassed if it said, "I'm good enough, I'm smart enough, and, doggone it, people like me."

    Oh wait, you're too young for that... old SNL skit...

    More power to you, Eli.

    Um... and can I get your note in the original Ukrainian? Maybe spelled phonetically? I bet it's much cooler to shout in Ukrainian.

  22. I write my goals in a notebook that I hide in another notebook, because I am ashamed and not afraid to admit it. Another thing I am not afraid to admit... LOVE your blog, always worth a chuckle and now the lesson in attitude adjustment has me inspired. Though I won't be taking my book out of my other book while people are around any time soon, lol. By the way- I read the snuggie texts, you are brilliant.

  23. Everyone knows the most life changing notes are FIRST written in Ukranian. Glad you didn't miss that step. VERY IMPORTANT!

  24. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qR3rK0kZFkg

    This little girl has the whole self affirmation thing down pat. I sometimes watch it in the morning just to hear her chant "I can do anything better..."

  25. This helped me so much! I seriously need to save this. I'm wanting to join a mini peace corps type thing next summer where I'd be visiting another country and volunteering for 1-12 weeks depending on what I decide. I was wanting to go for a month. But I get really anxious when I'm away from home for more than a week. But it's for a good cause and I feel like this will help me if I start to worry.

  26. I love love love love looooove this post. I am posting anonymously because I don't want "other people" to "know" that "my life is really hard." Because it's really not at all in some ways, and really incredibly challenging in other ways...anyway, this helped me a lot. I really appreciate it.

  27. I have struggled with depression most of my adult life. Even know when I am going through a hard time it is hard ti admit it. It helps to have a friend to help you through those times, a good friend like Daniel. :-) Blessings friend.