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Note from Liz: This is a guest post by Katie Benedetto. Katie Benedetto Jones is a former Ph.D. student who left the world of mathematics to become a web developer. She now develops Critter.Co, a fun personal growth tool and game. 

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Once upon a time, I was a Ph.D. student in mathematics at a top tier university. With a publication, several internships, teaching experience, and a shining resume, I had a bright future ahead of me. And then I quit. It was the best career decision I ever made.

After college I had no freaking clue what I wanted to do with my life. But coming from a “public ivy” liberal arts college where I’d been a successful, ambitious, highly involved math student, it was really easy to pretend to be passionate about mathematics research.

After all, I had had a ton of fun in the math department. I was the girl who flounced around handing out mathy cookies to all my professors, cracking up about how funny it was to see ‘-e^-i*pi’ in pink frosting. I managed the department’s website. I started a mathematics honors society.

So I did the convenient thing, the step you’re supposed to take next,and scored an acceptance to another public ivy’s PhD program. And I accepted it.

Why not? [click to continue…]

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If I wanted to get to know you, I would get you to tell me your story.

Rather, I’d ask you to tell me all the stories that make up your life.

Your life is, in essence, an accumulation of stories. There’s a story of childhood. A story about how you got your first broken bone. There’s a story about your first kiss.

There might even be a story about how much trouble you got into for making your brother laugh so hard at the breakfast table that milk sprayed from his nostrils.

Perhaps the reason storytellers are so revered is because they capture a tiny fragment of someone’s present, allowing it to become one of your moments as well. It’s another story in your life arsenal you get to tell.

That’s significant because when all is said and done, at the end of it all, there’s one thing that can’t be taken from us: our stories.

So if you haven’t thought about it yet, maybe now is the time to start thinking about racking up on stories to tell because one day, that may be all you have left.  [click to continue…]

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judgementSearch youtube for ‘babies dancing’ and you’ll see video after video of children moving to the music in the only way they know how: to the beat of their heart.

There’s not one child postering or monitoring his movements in the mirror. You won’t find any video’s of kids apologizing for their horrific dance moves. All you’ll see are naked souls set free by music. Souls that don’t yet know enough to be self-conscious. Souls that haven’t learned to fear judgement.

But then, something tragic happens.

At some point we become ashamed of the nakedness of our souls and so we start to cover them up.

At some point we become afraid of judgemental eyes, furtive whispers, and hostile snickers.

At some point, we lose the ability to be free in ourselves because the fear of being un-liked, unwanted, unattractive, or unworthy is too great to overcome.

We learn the rules of engagement for socialization and we start to judge and accept judgement from others. Negative judgement is a death sentence to our self-esteem. Better to be invisible than judged negatively by our peers.

You foster this fear every time you say ‘no’ when you really want to say ‘yes,’ because you don’t want to look like an idiot/a crazy person/silly/etc.

You nourish this fear by hiding who you are to avoid embarrassment.

If you’re like most people you want to be able to walk around without fearing judgement. You want to ‘not care’ what people think, but you just can’t seem to bring yourself to do it.

You don’t feel brave enough. You believe you just weren’t blessed with that kind of DNA. You think you aren’t that courageous.

It’s hard to believe, but you don’t need to be born audacious to stop fearing judgement. You don’t need to be exceptionally brave and courageous. You just need to make a few small changes in how you see the world and how you interact with others in it.

If you want to stop enabling the fear of judgement living inside of you, read on because this article is just what the doctor ordered.  [click to continue…]

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Yesterday morning I was hit with a severe case of procrastination, so I decided I would surf the internet for a while.

While looking for a source of motivation in the places I would definitely not find it, I struck gold: a post about lessons learned from a year of blogging.

‘A year,’ I thought to myself. ‘Good for them. That’s a long time.’

And then a flash of lightning hit me in the face, the clouds parted and a heavenly cherub descended from the heavens and planted a thought into my head: I should see how long it’s been since I started my own blog.

As it turns out, I’ve also been blogging for a year now.  [click to continue…]

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Imagine walking into a room and seeing nothing but a sea of smiling faces. They’re happy to see you.

They’re all smiling at you because they like you and what you stand for. They like what you stand for because it’s what they stand for as well.

This is how I spent all of last weekend: saying hi to friends I’ve always had but never got around to meeting.

There’s a little conference called The World Domination Summit, and I was lucky enough to snag a ticket for this year’s event. I didn’t know what to expect but I knew that with the kind of people who attend, I was in for nothing short of the time of my life.

I was not disappointed.

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BeYourselfNavigating the treacherous landscape that is social interaction is an incredibly complex tast.

It’s almost guaranteed that, at some point, we’re going to run into another human and we have to know how to interact with them so we emerge from the other side emotionally and physically unharmed.

There’s a lot of rules to remember:

  • Don’t interrupt others while they’re talking.
  • Smile.
  • Let others go in front of you.
  • Say please or you’ll look rude.
  • Say thank you or you’ll seem ungrateful.
  • Hold the door for others.
  • Don’t say anything that could come off as offensive, derogatory, critical, presumptuous, assuming, pretentious…as a matter of fact it’s best to try to refrain from speaking altogether.
  • Don’t dress in a way that draws unnecessary attraction to yourself.
  • Don’t make any movements that might draw unnecessary attraction to yourself.
  • Avoid eye contact with the homeless. If you do happen to make eye contact, pretend you always intended on giving money and smile about it.
  • Try not to do anything that will make anyone upset with you.
  • Apologize even when you’re not sure what you’re supposed to be sorry for.
  • Just to be safe, try to feel sorry all the time, even when there’s nothing to be sorry about.
  • Don’t do anything that might embarrass your family.

The list goes on and on, it’s a wonder we can get anything done while trying to remember everything we’re supposed to do when interacting with another human.

It’s no surprise by the time we reach adolescence we’re afraid to make a move for fear of social repercussions. It’s true that most of the points above are simple ways to show respect for mankind. But is it possible that we take it too far? We’re so busy placating everyone around us we forget that we are people too. We also exist don’t we?

Mastering the intricacies of polite social interaction is essential, yes; but so is mastering the art of being you.

It’s too easy to forget that you have the same rights everyone else does. You spend far to much time serving others at your own expense.

So long have you gone without recognizing your own presence on this Earth that you don’t even know who you are anymore.

You are whatever others say you are or expect you to be. That’s how you’ve survived. That’s the way we are taught to live.

I’d like to offer you a different way.

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piggybank

“I really want to quit my job, but I just can’t afford it.”

“If it were only me, maybe I would take the risk, but I can’t subject my children to that kind of uncertainty.”

“What would I do about health insurance? I really need the benefits right now.”

“I don’t have enough money in savings yet.”

The world may revolve around love, but I’d be lying if I said that money wasn’t important.

Money is important. Money is how we can objectively trade value for value without resorting to bartering.

Mo’ money may mean mo’ problems, but most of us would rather have more of it than less of it, and I imagine that anyone reading this knows what it’s like to not have enough for what you want to do.

You’ve got bills to pay, mouths to feed, people to medicate, addictions to feed (I’m talking about cheese of course), and countless other little necessities that somehow add up to more than you’re worth. At the end of the month you’re left wondering where the hell it all went. (Ever done your taxes and think about what you have to show for tens of thousands of dollars?)

So when some jackass like me comes around telling you to quit your job and follow your heart, you want to drop everything you’re doing and punch me in the face with the force of all the practicalities weighing down on you.

I know the feeling.

I’m not a financial expert. I can barely figure out how much change I’m supposed to get back when I pay for something, let alone manage a portfolio of finances.

However, I do know what it’s like to be a regular person with little to no money.

I know what it’s like to want for more. I know what it’s like to quit a well-paying job with no prospects, a poorly formulated plan, and not enough in savings.

I also know what it’s like to be alright, regardless of all the forces against me, regardless of the odds. I know what it takes to make it happen.

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I’m an engineer by trade.

I believe in what you can measure or feel with your senses. I trust science, facts, proof and, above all else, math.

So, when I stumbled upon the world of the subconscious mind and intention I nearly had an apoplectic fit over the blatant ignorance of that entire school of thought.

The principle as I understood it at the time was as follows:

Think and you shall receive immediately and without effort. 

Pardon me?

magicYou mean I can just think myself into fortune?

Well why didn’t anyone tell me that before?!

Bring on the lawn chairs and hippy costumes!

Queue the gongs and someone find me a dozen or so school children to sing a hymn for me while I conjure material objects out of thin air.

Oh and don’t forget my magic wand.

It was ridiculous to me. Frankly I was insulted by the presence of such primitive thought in my reality.

However, being the enlightened human that I am, I tolerated it. I smiled patronizingly down at the poor souls trying to turn lead into gold with their alchemy.

The problem was while I was sitting all high and mighty on my solid chair of fact and science, those fools were sitting in lotus position on clouds and excelling at life in a way I’d only planned for.

I may be logical and stubborn, but I wasn’t stupid enough to stick to principles that obviously weren’t working for me.

So although it pained me dearly to retract my opinions about this woo-woo voodoo magic thinking, I decided to give it a try.

After all, if what I was doing wasn’t working, what’s the worse that could happen by trying it a different way?

Most importantly, what’s the best that could happen?

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Shame

Disclaimer: The following content consists of my own experiences on the subject matter of sex and choice. Every individual is different. Sex is a mental activity even more than a physical activity. If you are under the age of 16, it is highly unlikely that you are ready to deal with the mental consequences of having sex. Additionally, if you are knowingly having sex with someone under the age of 16 and you are over the age of 16, please stop.

Everyone has that one thing about their past they could never bring themselves to tell anyone. Or, if they have, maybe one or two people ever.

It’s that one thing you don’t know if you could ever forgive yourself for. It shames you.

Just thinking about it makes you feel uncomfortable. You look around furtively to see if anyone else noticed your discomfort and you seek escape in a different task or a sudden urgent thought. Something else to distract you.

Anything but that. Anywhere but there. You don’t go there. Not ever.

A place of peace exists for you, but only if you’re brave enough to cross the bridge you can never seem to bring yourself to approach.

That’s where I want to take you today.

I want to take you on a journey that’s going to make you feel very uncomfortable. You’ll want to navigate away from the page. You’ll want to ignore it. You’ll look around to see if anyone can see the shameful article you’re reading on your screen.

First I’m going to tell you a true story about myself. It’s raw, real, human, more common than I ever thought, and it’s going to make you feel.

What you feel depends on who you are, but I know that you’ll feel something, and that’s what I need from you.

So at the risk of alienating many of you, here’s the story of that one thing I regret but have forgiven myself for. I tell you this story, not because I want you to know. I would prefer that no one knows. I’ve dealt with it on my own, and I don’t need a release. It’s very personal and it feels unnatural to put it out there for the world to see.

I tell you because, in the spirit of this blog, I need to give you something real. Something as dark as anything you might have to deal with. I don’t fluff. I don’t beat around the bush, and I sure as hell don’t sugar coat the reality of this beautiful life.

I would be doing you a disservice to tell you a story any less heavy than the one I’m about to share. The article would be useless. I would be just another girl giving you meaningless advice about how to overcome simple problems. You’d wonder what I knew about what real regret feels like.

Well, I promise you won’t wonder what right I have to offer advice about regret after you read my story. That’s for sure. [click to continue…]

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