I have a quote calendar that was a gift at work, and this is one of the pages I pulled out to hang up at my desk. In a way, it’s been the mantra of my life this past year brought on by a courageous leap out of a job I had for ten years into all new territory. And this past year, as I’ve embraced growth, I have come to fully understand that it really is uncomfortable–and that’s okay.
It’s uncomfortable to step out of your routine and to let go of a vision you thought would carry you through the rest of your life. It’s uncomfortable to start over and have to make new friends. It’s hard to see your old friends less and to feel like you’re missing out on their daily adventures and lives.
It’s hard to learn new skills, a new way of thinking, and a new routine. It’s hard to shove down self-doubt and to climb out of the box you didn’t even realize you put yourself in. It’s hard to believe in yourself enough to take the leap.
Still, almost a year into this growth journey, I’ve gotten comfortable with being uncomfortable. I’ve come to understand that life opens up tenfold when you shred that box, when you shove the routine aside, and when you have the courage to stay open to whatever new thing is coming your way. I’ve embraced the fear that comes along with making a change.
That ability to step outside of my comfort zone has transformed into all aspects of my life. I no longer am afraid of what people are thinking when I walk into a room or when I wear an outfit I’m not sure others would like. I got my first tattoo, something I NEVER thought I would brave up and do.
The thing is, once you choose growth over comfort, you gain confidence in yourself you didn’t know you had. You realize that it doesn’t matter so much what your routine is, where you work, where you go, or even so much what you do. What matters is who you are at the core–and once you unlock that, you realize the rest is all just accessorizing your life. When you appreciate who you are at the deepest level, you understand that you really can do whatever you want to do–the sky isn’t even the limit. It’s just the beginning.
So take the leap. Close your eyes if you have to and just jump. Move to that new location. Take the job that you feel underqualified for. Join that new class. Adopt the dog. Travel the world if you want to or move from the country to the city. Paint the picture. Write the script. Run the marathon or go back to school or start the non-profit. Take the risk. Take the leap. Choose growth.
Because what’s scarier than being uncomfortable or afraid as you grow? Staying exactly where you are for the rest of your days and realizing you haven’t tried out living at all.
Can we all try something collectively? Can we stop waiting until we lose those five, ten, twenty pounds to feel beautiful? Can we stop judging how confident we feel by an arbitrary number on a scale? Can we stop letting sagging skin or a puffy stomach or cellulite marks detract from the faith we have in ourselves?
Let’s stop saving that special outfit for when we feel skinnier. Let’s stop thinking that beauty only comes in one specific size and shape. Let’s stop telling ourselves we would be better if we stopped eating so much. Let’s stop sucking the joy out of every bite of food.
Let’s set down the guilt around food that many of us were raised to buy into, especially as females. Let’s start leading with our heart, with our sense of joy, and not a social media filter. Let’s take the picture and stop eyeing the parts of us we don’t like. Let’s smile when we look in the mirror and celebrate the body that is, not some made-up image we have of what we should be.
Let’s remember that confidence comes from within. It doesn’t wait for a certain size number on your tag or a frizz-free hair day. It’s a glow from within that comes only when you realize you are worthy, you are beautiful, and you are free to pursue the life you deserve today, right now, no change necessary.
Let’s take time to just be, right now, exactly as we are.
It’s no secret that animals are close to my heart and a big passion of mine. If you follow me on my personal page, you know that I am constantly sharing lost animals, adoptable animals, and posts supporting our local shelters. I think rescuing an animal is one of the most selfless, kind things you can do–but I also want to say this. Sometimes rescuing that dog (or cat) rescues you, too.
If you haven’t had a dog or its been a while, I think it’s worth contemplating that yes, adopting a dog is a lot of work. I’ve shared how Edmund has cost me a lot of tears and gray hairs. But the thing is, I wouldn’t trade him for the world. Yes, he gets me up early. Yes, housetraining and obedience and feeding him and vet bills are trying sometimes. Yes, it would be easier to go on trips or to take a nap without him.
But still, I recognize that in so many ways, that dog has rescued me, has taught me, and has just made my life better.
As an introvert and perfectionist, I sometimes have a really hard time connecting with others. Friendship has never been my strong suit, in truth. I get in my head a lot, I overthink, and I prioritize independence. But when I come home from a day where I feel alone, isolated, or aloof, Edmund is there with the biggest tail wag; I’ve never seen someone so happy to see me. And that, alone, makes it worth it.
It’s more than that, though. It’s the companionship when I feel like the whole world doesn’t get me–he does. It’s the unconditional love and loyalty in a world that sometimes feels backstabbing. It’s the fact that I always have a built-in friend ready for adventures. It’s that he teaches me how every single day, even just a boring Wednesday evening, can be fun. His joy for the simple things like walks in our neighborhood or an evening in the backyard remind me what really matters.
It’s the way that when days are dark and I don’t think I can get out of bed, I know I have to because he depends on me. When I lost my mastiff, getting out of bed felt impossible. But having Edmund made me get up, keep moving, and keep going even when I didn’t think I could.
It’s in the big moments with him and in the very small ones that I remember what a gift he is in my life. Even on days when he challenges me, he reminds me that you can always grow and learn. He is, in short, my best friend, my confidante, my walking buddy, my couch potato buddy, and everything in between.
So the next time you see a post about a dog needing a home and you’re tempted to talk yourself out of rescue because it’s too much work, I challenge you to also think about the benefits. Because yes, it will be work. Yes there will be days that are trying. But there will also be plenty of moments that you realize what that dog has brought to your life.
To love a dog is to live a fuller life, truly.
You stare at the photograph from ten years ago and realize with frustration you don't look the same.
Your skin is looser, your stomach is bigger, your legs are chunkier. Your arms are thicker now, and you wouldn't dare squeeze into an outfit like that. Maybe the scale says you're heavier. Maybe you can't fit in those jeans anymore. You are not the same, and it irks you to the core.
So you do what the media has taught us to do. You say no to the birthday cake when you want to say yes. You cut calories so you go to bed hungry. You make yourself dizzy, all in the sake of calorie deficit. You deny yourself any joy when it comes to food. Maybe you try a diet where you cut out a certain group of foods altogether. Starvation is your new mantra, even though life feels joyless. You are not the same.
Maybe you start counting your steps obsessively, and even when your body screams for rest, you push it anyway. You lift weights until your shoulders ache. You skip fun dates or time with your dog or dinner with friends because you can't miss the gym. You take up running even though you dread that alarm clock every single morning because of it. If you didn't sweat enough, you're not worthy. You have to earn rest. You are not the same.
You cover your body everywhere you go. You change your outfit twenty times because of the way your shirt clings to your stomach pooch or your leg cellulite shows in those shorts. You are not the same--and that is your deepest, darkest secret you hide at all costs.
You worry about what others think as they peruse your social media. You're terrified of being "that girl" who let herself go, who looks bloated and chunky compared to who she was.
You are not the same.
But you know what? You're damned right you're not the same. Because after all these years, you really shouldn't be. You've lived life. You've had successes and failures. You've fallen in love, dealt with heartbreak, lost, loved, lost again. Maybe you've had babies. Maybe you traveled the world. Maybe you learned new skills or took up new hobbies. You've made new friends and taken new jobs. You've survived. You've failed. You've conquered. You've learned.
You've done that thing you never thought you could do. You showed up when you didn't want to. You made life better for others. You saw that sunset that you can't forget about. You got on the stage, you stood up for what was right. You had surprise after surprise, some good and some bad. You lived through countless days of wonder.
You've grown in so many ways in the past ten years that no, you're not the same. You've outgrown that girl you used to be in all the best ways. You are wiser now, smarter, more mature in some ways. You are more open-minded yet also more grounded in who you are and who you want to be. So of course, you are not the same. Isn't it crazy we would expect you to be?
You are not the same--celebrate that, not just emotionally, but physically, too. Stop seeing the changes in your body as something to hide. Celebrate who you are, right now, today. Celebrate every beautiful inch of yourself. Stop hiding. Stop trying to "get back" to the size or shape you used to be. Stop looking back.
I think the sooner you learn to love yourself, to love the skin you're in right now without comparing yourself to yesterday--that's when life opens up. That's when true joy settles into your bones. That's when you can exhale, live your best life, and be truly, 100% healthy.
Stay Safe and Be True,
“Those who succeed do what others won’t.”
An awkward haircut, an uncertainty about where life was headed, and a Jansport backpack accessorizing my ninth-grade self, I walked into the biology class rumored to be a nightmare. The teacher, Mr. Stevens, was known as being very stern, tough, and a no B.S. kind of guy. I was always the studious type, but I knew that Honors Bio was going to be a challenge.
I was right.
Looking back, that class was probably harder than most of the college classes and grad school classes I would take years later. Mr. Stevens pushed us to the limit of our academic abilities. On a Friday, he’d assign a chapter that we would be tested on less than a week later. Words like mitochondria and photosynthesis floated in my fifteen-year-old brain; I would look at those chapters and wonder how I would ever succeed. I cried. I worked hours and hours on weekends. It was no joke.
But through it all, Mr. Stevens always reminded us of the sentiment: Those who succeed do what others won’t. He always pointed out that the last word was won’t, not can’t. In other words, those who achieve their goals put in hard work, something most people won’t do.
And here’s the thing—that class changed everything for me. First, I realized I could do it. I could be successful with dedication. Now, over twenty years later, I still think of those words and those lessons I learned. I might not remember the full photosynthesis process or every bone in a frog. But I do remember that when things feel impossible, I’ve been there before—and I also know I’m capable.
Mr. Stevens gave me something I think we don’t value enough in today’s education system and in society in general—the chance to work hard and challenge myself. Through that hard work that sometimes made me cry, I learned grit, tenacity, and most importantly, confidence. If you’re never pushed past your limits, you’ll never know what you’re actually made of.
And finally, he taught me that to get where you want to go, you have to be willing to make sacrifices. You have to sometimes do what others won’t.
You have to get up at 5 a.m. so you have time to work on that book.
You have to turn off Netflix to study for that degree you’re chasing.
You have to plan ahead so your meals don’t get off course when you go out with friends.
You have to sweat a little, sacrifice a little, and be willing to get knocked down.
You have to do what others won’t in order to live the life you want.
I’m so thankful that twenty years later, Mr. Steven’s words still ring true for me, still inspire me to chase greatness. Most of all, I’m thankful that the tough-love teacher (who probably would be scolded today for his tactics) came into my life when he did so I could learn the true value of hard work and also my own capabilities.
How a Neck Wrinkle Taught Me to Start Living
By Lindsay Detwiler
I was a few weeks shy of my 35th birthday when, staring into the mirror, my eyes landed on a prominent neck wrinkle and saggy skin that I hadn’t noticed before. Chest tightening, I ran my hand over the skin to find it droopy, dry, and scaly—the dreaded turkey neck, the epitome of aging signs, had appeared, and much earlier than I ever was prepared for.
Promptly, I studied photos from the past months to see if I had been living in some state of oblivion, blind to the fact my neck had become a blinking sign for my elder millennial status. I squinted and studied, trying to find the exact month it had happened. Then, my Enneagram 3 personality kicked into high-gear as I tried to conquer the situation. I read about neck creams, perused reviews, and ritualistically slathered on potions that seemed to make it worse. I spent so much time staring in the mirror for several weeks that the “You’re So Vain” song seemed to be my mantra. I Googled whether turtlenecks were spring and summer appropriate.
And then, one day last week, I asked myself: Why does this bother you so much? Because let’s face it, I am nowhere near celebrity status or a catwalk. And how many times do you actually notice the status of someone’s neck skin? I’m willing to bet rarely—unless you’ve recently become attuned to your own sagging situation. In the scope of things, a neck wrinkle does not matter. But to me, it did. And I know exactly why.
The neck wrinkle, the aging skin, it was a sign that my denial of the birthday cake candles tell in recent years. I’m getting older. That, in itself, isn’t a terrifying thing. But do you know what is? Realizing you’re getting older and you haven’t really lived the vibrant kind of life you want.
There it is. The truth haunting me—but I suspect it’s plaguing many women my age, too. The realization that you did all the “right” things and kept your head down. You sorted through until you could find a relatively stable life, if you were lucky. You got to a place where you can exhale because the choices have been made and roads have been followed.
This is where you’re supposed to be, that voice inside tells you as you put in the top knot to do laundry on Sunday mornings before your required steps on the treadmill to hit your watch’s demand. And then, you look around at your Live, Laugh, Love plaque and the carefully organized utensils in the kitchen. You study your filled calendar of things that even sound mundane like “Tax appointment” and “Vet check-up.” You stare out the window while you do dishes for the fiftieth time this week, studying the dead grass, the abandoned lawn chair, and the view that never would make it to a postcard. And you ask yourself: Is this it? Is this the epitome of living?
I think for me, the neck wrinkle was a wakeup call that life is going by—and I haven’t gotten around to the exciting stuff yet. Where was the sense of wonder, the sense of adventure? Where were the once-in-a-lifetime moments and exciting new sights and smiles worthy of Instagram? Or the unexpected surprises, the cocktail hours, the big wins, the monthly escapades to new locales? Staring in the mirror at that neck wrinkle, I felt a little shortchanged. At 35, my life wasn’t a bold, fun adventure worthy of a travel blog. It was taking out the trash on Thursdays, showing up to the office with coffee, my lifeblood, in hand to trudge through the workweek. It was figuring out what was for dinner and getting the mail and walking on the treadmill to try not to get too out of shape. It was surviving, in so many ways.
But when we’re faced with this revelation, the question becomes: What can we do about it? There are bills to pay, and flights are expensive. We have responsibilities of different varieties and only so many PTO days. And while giving it all up to travel the world or start the bakery or Eat, Pray, Love it sounds wonderful (and some have inarguably pulled it off), for many of us, it just doesn’t feel like the right choice either. I’m all about bold choices, about chasing big dreams. But a girl’s gotta eat, too. And although I love the van turned home in theory, my Great Dane is a bit too big to squeeze in there along with my shoe collection, cats, and bookshelves.
So how do you find the balance? How do you live a life that supports your dreams and excites you without giving everything up? How do you find a way to bring joy and passion back to your life so you don’t have nightmares about the regrets you’ll have in thirty or forty years?
I don’t know that there’s an easy answer to this question, but I do think it’s possible to find a sense of adventure, a sense of living boldly, without whisking away to a private island or disappearing into the wilderness like an explorer. At least, I’d like to believe there is. I’d like to think there’s a way to find a sense of magic, of wonder in a somewhat mundane life without having to do something worthy of turning into a Netflix movie. I’d like to think, in theory, there’s hope for all of us with our rigid morning routines and dinner schedules and budget Excel sheets.
After stepping away from the obsessive studying of the neck wrinkle for a few days, I’ve come to believe that for many of us, we need to sit back and ask ourselves: What really would light us up? Because maybe it’s not even as extreme as converting the van into a travel home or splashing in a waterfall or seeing a rare bird on another continent. Maybe it’s taking a ballroom dancing class we feel silly signing up for or that pole class that makes us turn a little red at the thought. Maybe it’s taking up a new sport, even if we might suck at it. It could be changing up our wardrobe and working in the dreaded crop top or making Sundays a day off from the morning routine we’re obsessed with. It could be joining a new group or going to a new coffee shop to explore. It could be going a town over and wandering around aimlessly on a weeknight, something you never do.
In short, I think part of the answer is just letting ourselves be free from the routine, just for a while. It’s about searching for what makes us excited and being willing to try new things we normally wouldn’t. It’s about getting away from what we should do or have to do … and doing something just for the sake of doing it. Those are the moments that we remember. Those are the times that we understand in our bones what living is all about, big and small.
I don’t think you have to spend a million dollars to live boldly, to live a life you’ll be proud to look back on someday. I think you just have to get out of the routine sometimes. You have to take the Curling Class at your local ice rink or get the tattoo you’ve been putting off. You have to say “yes” to that festival your friend wants to go to that you think might be strange, or sure to that jacket you love but think people might hate. You have to get a little wild in your choices, a little out of the norm. You have to break free of the mold society tries to put on you in order to break free a little bit. I think that’s where life really begins. These small changes, these tiny steps, can help us build the courage to perhaps, if we feel called to, take the bigger, riskier steps toward a life of passion. The job changing kind of steps. The new house or new purpose kind of change. But until then, the tiny swaps in our routine can be enough to bring the spark back and to help us realize that aging isn’t the end of excitement, not by a long shot.
I’ll be honest with you—I still study my neck from time to time in the mirror and in photographs. But lately, I don’t have as much time to peruse it and analyze it like I once did. I’m too busy going to that new bakery a half hour away on Sunday and signing up for a horseriding session. I’m too busy taking my dog to a different park and trying that coffee shop that’s out of the way but seems fun. I’m busy on Pinterest looking for a new outfit I never would’ve dared try out before and painting my nails a color way too loud for the office. I’m busy living my life, in essence, turkey neck and all.
It started with sagging, drooping skin on my neck and a wrinkle I hadn’t seen before. But that’s not where it ends. Not if I have anything to say about it—which I’m learning, I do.
L.A. Detwiler is a USA Today Bestselling author who lives in Pennsylvania with her husband, rescued cats, and Great Dane Edmund. Learn more about her books on Amazon.
Some people will read this and call me old-school or disgruntled. Some might say I was a bad teacher and the educational system is lucky I left. Some will say I’m stuck in the “back in my day” mentality and don’t have a clue about modern society.
I’m not here to argue with any of that. But I am here to say this--our educational system is failing in big ways. It’s failing teachers, which is why I left. But it’s also majorly failing students, whether we want to admit it or not.
During my ten years as a teacher, I knew there were problems, especially in the last few years. But now that I’ve left, my vision is even clearer. More than that, my voice can be louder in ways it never could be when I was under the scrutiny of the public education system. So, for all the teachers out there who can’t raise their voices because they’re still in the heat of it, I write this article to spread awareness of the beliefs so many of us hold but no longer witness in the current state of academics. These are the beliefs that made me go into teaching in the first place—and their absence in the classroom is what made me leave.
I know that what I mention isn’t the result of the school I taught in. Instead, it really is an epidemic nationwide in failing public schools across all states. I hope when you read this, if you’re a teacher, you know you’re not alone. And I hope if you’re not a teacher, you realize that we MUST do better. Somehow, someway, we need to do better.
1.Accountability for actions is a good thing.
One of the main reasons I left teaching was because of the lack of accountability for students. Talk to any teacher these days, and they’ll tell you that discipline has gone out the window. This shift happened before the pandemic, but COVID-19 definitely had a negative effect on students’ accountability for actions. It’s not the only reason, though. A permissive school atmosphere, pressure from parents, and a warped state of the educational system has annihilated the accepted moral that actions have consequences.
Most days, it feels like the classroom has become an excuse factory for behaviors as well as a blame-game for educators. A kid swore at you? Well, what did you as the teacher do to provoke it? Students are violent, acting out, threatening you? Well, they must just be bored or frustrated. They don’t pay attention in class? It’s not their fault.
I can’t tell you how many times as a teacher in my final years I heard the excuse, “Well, this isn’t fun for me.” We’ve somehow taught students that if something isn’t fun, it isn’t worthwhile and means they don’t have to follow rules. We’ve also taught them that teachers deserve zero respect, a fact they tout frequently in the classroom—and use as a valid excuse for their behavior.
It also hardened me to see how the lack of respect and downright toxic behaviors toward teachers really leads to a sexist atmosphere, too. In the past few years, I’ve witness numerous male students being horrible to female teachers, verbalizing egregious sentiments in front of the class and using the direct statement that they just don’t respect female teachers as adequate reasoning. Somehow, to my sheer horror, that seems to be acceptable in the world we live in. I’ve even had parents cite that their child just doesn’t respect women, as if that excuses the degrading sentiments uttered to me, the flippant attitudes, and the unwillingness to follow rules.
One of the scariest aspects of this, I think, is to think of all the female students witnessing vile treatment of a woman in charge. What are we teaching future generations about the power and worth of women? And really, what are we teaching generations about the treatment of humans in general? Things that are spouted to teachers in the classroom or violent behaviors that are treated as nothing more than an insignificant outburst are behaviors that I wouldn’t accept anywhere in this world to any human being. Yet teachers are being subjected to violent behaviors, physical altercations, demeaning statements, and scathing lies daily—with seemingly little or no repercussions.
Sure, you can say we signed up for this. Admittedly, a large portion of education courses involve classroom management discussions. None of us expect perfect children sitting with hands folded and only mannerly words every day. We understand that when you work with humans and especially teenagers, there are going to be conflicts. What we didn’t sign up for, though, is to be belligerently mistreated, discriminated against, belittled, and even threatened on an hourly basis by students who then have little to no consequences. We also didn’t sign up to go on the witness stand anytime we deem that consequences are necessary, yet that has become the trend in schools across the country. We are constantly having to gather evidence that being called a “bitch” in the classroom or having the stapler thrown wasn’t the result of something we did or didn’t do.
Somehow, as a society and a system, we’ve taught our kids that certain behaviors are acceptable if they have the right excuse. We’ve taught them to blame everyone but themselves and that culpability doesn’t apply. This dangerous game we’re playing in the education world isn’t just leading to impossible environments for educators and students to learn in—it’s resulting in kids who don’t understand how to take responsibility for actions, which is a dangerous game to play in the adult world that doesn’t take away detentions because you were having a bad day.
2.Most teachers are qualified for their job and deserve to be treated as such.
Now that I’m out of the classroom, it boggles my mind to see how teachers are questioned, interrogated, and mistrusted for doing their job. Are there bad teachers out there? Certainly, just like in any field. Yet it seems like the harder a teacher works, the more education they receive, and the more qualified they are in their area of expertise, the more they’re questioned, berated, and forced to prove their worth daily.
I am a USA Today Bestselling author with an extensive resume of published works. Still, I was consistently berated by kids and parents for my writing assignments, editing suggestions, and methods of teaching. I was told my methods of teaching writing were ineffective. I was told I wasn’t qualified to grade a paper by students and parents. I was told I didn’t know enough about writing to teach it.
Despite all the impressive accomplishments on their resumes, most teachers are treated as less than worthy of standing in front of a classroom. Gone are the days of teachers being seen as experts in their content area. Instead, they are constantly deemed by the Google era as insufficient at their jobs and knowledge.
I didn’t realize how much this wears on your psyche until I left. Now that I’m gone from that toxic environment, I understand my worth. I understand I deserve to put my skills to use somewhere where they are appreciated, not where they are constantly questioned and undermined.
Google can only go so far. It’s time we understand that yes, teachers are qualified to not only understand their content area, but to provide ways for others to learn it. We need to stop being so adversarial toward the teaching profession and understand that teachers really do have skill sets, ideas, concepts, and learning to offer.
3.Academics should come first.
I’ll be the first to say—there are things that are more important than school at times. A family crisis, a mental health crisis, the loss of a loved one. There are all sorts of challenges students face because they are human. We all have our days, our seasons of life that are valid reasons to not give something 100% of our attention.
Still, I grew up believing that education and academics were the key to success. Learning was how you figured out who you were and how you opened up doors for yourself. Education was the way to open up more possibilities so you had the choice to pursue what you really wanted.
This doesn’t mean you have to go to college to be successful, and it doesn’t mean that learning will guarantee you an easy, successful life. This means, though, that not just in school, but in life, learning is crucial to advancing who you are as a person and understanding how the world works. It means that the more you know, the more opportunities are within your grasp because you have the knowledge you need to pursue your goals. You have the ability to find the information you don’t have. You have the ability to make connections, to understand how you fit into the scheme of things, and how to continue to grow.
In modern education, though, it feels like academics have taken the backseat. We let students slide through so our school doesn’t show any failures. We give students who have done zero work half credit so we don’t ruin their confidence. We give students chance after chance after chance to try, and when they don’t, we blame the teacher for not working harder to motivate them. We teach them if they sit back and do nothing, someone will come along to make it all better, a concept that works nowhere else in the real world.
We promote sporting events, extracurriculars, and social media over learning. We tell students it’s okay to do this, that being well-rounded matters more anyway. We tell them that they only have to do work if they want to, another concept that doesn’t always fare well in life after high school.
As a former band nerd who was in all of the ensembles, I know the benefits of extracurriculars. I do. But I also think that when academics take the backseat to everything else, we fail to teach students the real value of learning. We strip them of the intrinsic value of an inquisitive mind, of exploration, and of knowledge. We teach them that they don’t need to care about history or know basic math to be successful. In a growing world full of challenges, it’s a disservice for our kids, no matter where they end up, and it’s a disservice to society. The fundamental knowledge that helps create revolutionary thinkers, dreamers, inventors, and doers has taken a backseat. We’ve taught our students that learning doesn’t matter—and in a world that provides endless opportunities and needs for daily learning, this lost skillset will certainly have an impact.
4.Cell phones and technology are killing the education system.
Sometimes, it feels like the school system is trying to be the cool mom from the movie Mean Girls. Truly. You want to play on your phone all day? Cool, cool. We’ll allow it. You want to play games on your laptop? Yeah, cool, we’ll just say it’s for educational purposes but give teachers zero potential to monitor it.
A big shift in our education system happened when cell phones were accepted into classrooms. Sure, you can argue they were always there. Ten years ago, students were sneaking on their phones during class. But it wasn’t as brazen, as accepted, and as impossible to fight. Now, not only are teachers fighting the war to teach students who are told academics don’t matter, their actions are someone else’s fault, and learning is irrelevant, but they have to do all of that while fighting for their attention against social media. Additionally, bullying during school has reached new heights as the phone in everyone’s hand makes social media attacks on each other possible all day long—even during time in the classroom.
We’ve taken away the boundary of fun and school, which sure, teenagers love—but at what cost? We’ve taught them that you don’t need to focus and that social media takes precedence over any hard work. We’ve taught them to rush through their work for the sake of getting it done so they can hop on Snapchat or the next big thing. We’ve taught them how to stay so wrapped up in the warped world of social media that they never come up for air.
And because of that, we’ve taken away the value of learning, the simplicity in a true discussion, in reading, in exploring content to better one’s self. We’ve digitalized the educational experience—and taken all of the creativity, analysis, and discovery from the process of learning. I am terrified of what this will mean for our world as a whole, if I’m being honest. Because for a generation with information at their fingertips, more than a few can’t tell you how many letters are in the alphabet or any prominent historical facts. Few can tell you what a noun is or remember to use capital letters in a professional document.
I’m not dissing this generation—I’m dissing the system that allowed this to happen. Because when you take away the value of learning, add distractions willingly to the classroom, tell them that teachers have no value and that learning doesn’t matter, how could you expect otherwise?
5.You learn the most when you are challenged.
In ninth grade, I had the most difficult teacher of my life for biology. Students avoided taking his class because he was notorious for excessively high standards, his booming voice of authority, and his huge workload for his students. That class was hell on Earth sometimes. I would spend weekends crying over projects only to have points deducted for a crooked line of text, and I would have a week to memorize all the bones in a frog. It was grueling.
But you know what else it was? A great preparation for the real world, which isn’t easy. In that class, I learned what I was capable of. I learned that hard things weren’t impossible. I learned that I was smart, capable, and strong. I learned the value of determination. I learned how to prepare for a life of not only college, but of life in the “real world,” where there always hard things to face. He prepared me for success. Now, when something feels impossible, I remind myself that I can, in fact, do hard things.
These days, I see so many posts online and often heard in the classroom why challenging students shouldn’t be our goal. We were forbidden from giving too much homework to our upper-level students and then encouraged not to give it at all. If students were struggling with a challenging project, we were told to consider how we could make it easier for them. In essence, I felt like we became an excuse factory. You didn’t do the project because you were tired? Bored with it? Didn’t feel like it? Okay. That’s completely okay. You don’t have to.
As an educator and a lifelong learner, the idea that we need to make school easier for students is disappointing. Not because I wanted to watch kids fail. On the contrary. I wanted to see them succeed. I wanted to prepare them for what I knew would be a challenging road ahead. Because when is adult life easy? There are all sorts of obstacles in life that you have to learn how to handle in order to find your best life. It isn’t about knowing all the bones of the frog—it’s about knowing that when things feel impossible, you are capable of handling it. That confidence doesn’t come from dumbing down curriculum or excusing students to step back when the bar feels too high. It’s about pushing them to find what they’re capable of—instead of coddling them until they feel comfortable.
The Bottom Line
The bottom line is this—whether you believe it or not, the education system in our country is in trouble. Teachers are leaving the field right and left, and for good reason. As a former educator and as a lover of learning, I am heartbroken at this realization that our academics are falling short.
Still, until we understand as a society that what we’re doing isn’t working for teachers and certainly isn’t working for students, the system will keep crumbling. I’m afraid when we finally wake up, there will be nothing left.
To the teachers still fighting the “good fight,” know that it’s okay if you deem the fight isn’t possible right now. It’s okay to prioritize yourself, to pursue a better environment, and to put yourself first. Most of all, know that you are not alone. Just because people are afraid to talk about it doesn’t mean they aren’t experiencing it, too. I hope if nothing else, this article gives you the confidence to know that you are not a bad person for feeling frustrated, hopeless, and angry at a system that is failing.
L.A. Detwiler is the USA Today Bestselling author of The Widow Next Door with HarperCollins UK as well as twenty other novels. She formerly taught high school English for over ten years and is currently a Communications Specialist at a local corporation. She lives in Pennsylvania with her husband, their cats, and their Great Dane.
Standing in front of a classroom of teenagers feigning interest in Shakespeare and commas, I steadied myself with a hand on my desk. I’m going to pass out, I think to myself while smiling through and pretending all was fine. I sent out a silent prayer to the universe and any higher power listening that I wouldn’t faceplant in front of a room of judgmental, Tik Tok savvy teenagers.
It took eight weeks of intermittent fasting for me to realize the truth: No matter how many influencers swore it was the best way to feel energized and lose weight, it wasn’t right for me. Eight weeks of feeling dizzy, of feeling moody, and of fantasizing at unnatural levels about food, I learned that what everyone said would work just wasn’t it for me. So I changed it up.
As a chronic self-improvement addict and goal chaser (I’m an Enneagram 3, if that means anything to you), perfecting my routines and trying to live my best life is a habit of mine to a fault. I’m always looking for ways to be better, do better, and live better. Especially since turning thirty, living the best version of my life has become an absolute focus. But one thing I’ve learned these past few years is that if you’re going to try to find a life you love, you’re going to mess up. You’re going to mess up a lot.
Intermittent fasting isn’t the first or last failed effort on my part. Yoga, seed cycling, learning the violin, learning to cook, and many other endeavors are on my growing list of “failures.” These were all choices I thought would heighten my life and lead me to happiness. Instead, they just didn’t turn out. And you know what? That’s okay. That’s more than okay. Because by crossing out things that don’t work for me, I’m more apt to find things that do.
We live in a world of constant access to resources and ideas, which is a wonderful thing. However, it’s also a dangerous thing when we start to feel like all ideas are equal. It’s a harmful thing when we believe that just because something works for everyone else, it will work for us.
When you’re seeking your happiest version of yourself, you’re going to try things that work for everyone else and fail miserably for you. You’re going to implement tried-and-true tactics that make you miserable. But that’s part of the journey. In order to find your best self, you have to be willing to first explore and then to mess up. You have to be flexible enough to try new things and also let go of things that don’t suit you. Finding happiness isn’t about perfection, after all. It’s about being adventurous and flexible enough to try a different way–and perceptive enough to self-reflect and realize if it’s a good fit for you.
This willingness to fail isn’t limited to health journeys, either. It applies to love, hobbies, careers, and everything in between. From that new haircut you think will make you feel amazing to the new job you hope will change everything, the key to happiness, I think, is to be willing to take the risk in the first place–and then to be honest with yourself as to whether or not the thing you chose is actually making you happy.
Most of all, I think we all need to remember there is no formula for success or happiness. It’s a journey, one we go on alone at the end of it. It’s a journey without road signs or stop signs. It’s a journey that requires turning inward, not outward.
And, most of all, it’s a journey that will require you to fail sometimes.
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Zoo by James Patterson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
"There is no soft living now."
This dystopian, scientific thriller is not usually my kind of read, but I found myself flying through it. Essentially, all of the animals in the world have gone mad with some sort of virus or illness that causes them to attack humans in droves. Will the protagonist, a scientist named Oz, be able to make the world listen to reason, or are things too far gone?
I loved the premise of this book. It was exciting and also felt realistic in its portrayal. It wasn't too science-y to be boring but also felt grounded in intellect. The main character was likable in his flaws and his strengths. I also enjoyed that the book covered a span of years in an effective way. the chapters are super short, which makes it perfect for a busy person who still wants to fit in an exciting read. I also found the ending satisfying.
I really didn't have a knock for this book. Some will argue it is unbelievable or unrealistic. However, I enjoyed the sort of out-there premise. Fans of Hitchcock's "The Birds" will love this modern, updated, and arguably enhanced story of animals leading to the downfall of man.
View all my reviews
Sweat beading on my forehead as my stomach sank, I bolted awake and tried to wipe away the nightmare. But those thirty candles flickering on the cake were not some unrealistic phantasm of my imagination–they were a fast-approaching reality. The nightmare was coming for me, and at twenty-nine, I feared those candles more than any monster that could prey on me while I slept.
My fear of thirty potentially started with Jennifer Garner’s appearance in the movie Thirteen Going on Thirty, where a thirteen-year-old girl wishes she could be thirty, flirty, and thriving. When magic happens and she wakes up as a thirty-year-old, she realizes her life is nothing like she could have wished. Her thirties were not, in fact, thriving because she’d made all the wrong choices. The movie infused my then teenage self with terror.
Maybe, too, my fear stemmed from a social standard all around me–and the women’s magazines I used to steal from my mom. They made your 20s look like a wild cocktail party while your 30s, in contrast, were about settling down. Your 20s required, according to the magazines, a lot of sparkly, work to after-work looks, while your 30s just required a smart blazer and a great appetizer recipe. Talk about game over.
Regardless of where the fear started, in my late 20s, I found myself terrified of turning the big 3-0. I would jolt awake night after night, thinking about how I was going to be that troubling age soon. I was terrified of the prospect I had hit my peak–and, to be honest, I wasn’t that impressed with the peak of my life if that was it. I dreaded watching my body age and of having to have life figured out when I still felt like a teenager on the inside.
I sit here now just days away from turning thirty-five, half-way through the decade that haunted me.I won’t lie–it hasn’t been a perfect or easy decade in any way. I suffered a lot of loss in the past five years, including the loss of my soul dog, Henry (our mastiff). My husband lost his job, and we spent a few years in financial scarcity. I lost my passion for teaching, my career, and switched jobs, which has been wonderful but also tough. It’s been a decade, so far, of change and fluctuations, of questioning and soul-searching with few concrete answers.
Remembering that twenty-nine-year-old’s panick, I wish I’d known then what was really to come with those candles. I wish I’d understood what turning thirty meant and what it didn’t mean, for better or worse. So, whether you’ve already hit the milestone of thirty or you’re getting ready to face that warped birthday song, I hope you’ll glean some understanding about your own journey in your thirties from what I’m sharing below.
1. Yes, your body does change in your 30s.
Recently, I saw a study that mentioned how metabolism doesn’t change as she ages. Other scientists argue that it does due to fluctuating hormones. Regardless, I’m here to tell you on a purely anecdotal level: your metabolism is going to shift. I swear on the skinny jeans that stopped fitting in my thirties, which are still balled up on the floor of my closet.
As soon as I turned thirty, even looking at a cookie added a pound. I found that I had to clean up my eating habits to stay healthy–and not from a size standpoint but from an energy standpoint. If I threw fast food and sweets into my mouth with the wild abandon from my twenties, I would not have the energy to power through my day. Also, those glasses of wine I liked to toss back on the weekends suddenly seemed to lead to a migraine-inducing, comatose state the next morning like I’d never experienced.
In short, your body will change. Your metabolism will change. I’d like to put a positive spin on this and tell you it’s all okay–but in truth, I really do miss those cookie-eating, wine guzzling binges of my twenties that didn’t seem to have any effect.
2. You still won't know what you want to be when you grow up.
There’s this myth in our society that your 20s are for exploring and sorting through who you are. They’re for adventuring and switching jobs. They’re for figuring it out so you can be set in your 30s and stable.
But I’m here to tell you that you still might not know what you want to be when you grow up in your 30s–and that’s more than okay. There is no cutoff to career happiness or to finding what fulfills you. Also, what makes you happy in your 20s might not fit you anymore in your 30s. As you change, perhaps your dreams will, too. I think the best gift you can give yourself is to cut the deadline for “figuring it all out” and to be flexible with what sets your soul on fire.
3. Society will tell you that you've peaked. You haven't.
There’s this tendency to see thirty as an endpoint, both good and bad. Society tells you that you’ll have your shit together by thirty, but also that you’ve lived your most exciting moments by then. They are wrong. Wow, are they wrong.
There’s a new glow that comes when you reach thirty, mostly because of #4. When you learn to stop living for social standards and for others’ validation, your life begins in a new way. You walk differently through life. You seize new opportunities because they light your heart up. Sure, you might still fumble. You still might have doubts, and you still fall prey sometimes to questioning your worth. But overall, your thirties will bring a newfound sense of confidence that comes with experience, with maturity, and with aging.
Once you understand that, you understand the most important truth: It really isn’t about the candles at all. It’s about your inner confidence. Once you can own that, you can own any age.
4. You'll learn to validate yourself. It's freeing.
The same way a switch seems to be flipped in your metabolism when you blow out those thirty candles, I think an “I don’t give a shit” switch is also flipped. I’ve found that in my thirties, I just don’t care as much about what people think of me. So my side part and skinny jeans are out of style? That’s okay. I love them. So you think I dance weird or that I’m too quiet or too loud or too bossy? Okay. I’ll sleep just fine. You hate the career path I picked? Luckily, it’s mine to travel and not yours.
I can hear my twenty-something self reading those statements and audibly gasping. There was a fatal flaw with my twenty-something self, though–she cared a heck of a lot about the opinions of others. She was worried about image, about living right, about others’ validation. The beautiful gift your thirties can bring if you let them is that you’ll learn to live for yourself and validate yourself–and more importantly, you’ll understand that it’s not selfish to do exactly that. If I’d have understood that at twenty-nine, perhaps I would have had more well-rested nights.
5. You won't survive--you'll thrive.
Like any stage of life, your thirties won’t be a cakewalk. You’ll shift friendships and relationships. You’ll struggle to prioritize. You’ll spend a lot of time wondering if you’re living out your purpose. You’ll stumble and triumph. You’ll move mountains some days and barely get out of bed others. You’ll face all sorts of hardships, successes, challenges, opportunities, and experiences. But you know what? Just like your twenties, you’ll find a way to not only survive but thrive. Your thirties aren’t perfect, but neither is any other decade. Still, turning thirty should never keep you awake at night with a sense of dread. Instead, your thirties are a way to showcase who you are, how far you’ve come, and to set yourself up for the next part of your adventure.
So whether you’ve already blown out those thirty candles or are just getting ready to, I hope you can not only come to terms with your thirties but really value the magic they can bring to who you are.
So blow out those candles–all thirty, forty, eighty, or one hundred of them–and know that every decade has the possibility to be magic, pure magic.
L.A. Detwiler is the USA Today Bestselling thriller author of The Widow Next Door, The Diary of a Serial Killer's Daughter, and numerous sweet romance novels. She is married to her junior high sweetheart and works as a Communications Specialist. She lives in Pennsylvania with her husband, their rescue cats, and their Great Dane, Edmund.
USA TODAY Bestselling Thriller author with Avon Books (HarperCollins), The Widow Next Door, The Diary of a Serial Killer's Daughter, and other creepy thriller books