Get Confident, Stupid! or How I Learned I Was Not Alone In The Sea of Suckage

In my circle of friends, I’m totally the weird brother in-law from The Hangover.

My friend, we’ll call her, “Jolene” (because that’s her name) and I spent a truly nightmarish amount of hours together while we were in school. We saw each other more then we saw our families for probably three months. Because of this, people seemed to think of us as a single unit. A woman in the student life office said, “In my mind, you guys are best friends, live in the same house, cook and do everything together!” So…she thought we were married? To each other? Maybe this is why that guy implied I was a lesbian in a job interview.

But the funniest was when our student group advisor wanted to talk to Jolene and I, but got pulled into a meeting. We’ll call him, “Dave” (that’s really his name, I’m bad at this pseudonym thing). Jolene and I had to leave, so I sent him an e-mail that said, “We had to go, but we’ll talk tomorrow.” A little later Dave calls my cell phone. I told him I was on my way home, but what’s up. He said, very seriously, “Is Jolene with you?” I giggled and thought, “Jesus Christ, do people really think we live together?” My inner smart ass became my outer smart ass when I said, “Now, Dave, Jolene and I do not actually live together.” Silence. Um…okay. Clearly Dave was not in a very Beth place that afternoon. I straightened up and put on serious businesswoman face. “No, she’s on her way home, too. Do you want me to tell her something for you?” For the record, he recovered and found me hilarious again the next day.

A visual representation of trying to find myself in the world after school was out.

I thought of this story when one of my friends was lamenting how much longer he had left in school and I gladly offered to change places with him because I loved school and miss it almost every day. He said he couldn’t relate, but asked why did I miss it? Honestly, no one had ever asked me that before and aside from, “it was awesome,” I didn’t know how to answer. Thinking about it for a while, it boiled down to being in a kind of insulated, supportive environment. Even on bad days, I knew there were a bunch of people who had my back and that I could turn to when things got rough. If nothing else they were there say, “Guuuuuurl, I know.” Then they’re just gone. Suddenly it feels like you’re floating alone in this big sea of suckage where no one gives a shit about you.

But then I started thinking, is that really true? I mean, just because I feel like it’s true doesn’t mean it is. I believe a lot of stupid shit, plus feelings are kind of dicks and lie. A LOT. Can I call up those same people, get advice, share victories, or just vent and would I do the same for them? Absolutely. I do it all the time (much to their dismay). They’re the people I want to do everything with and if we could move into a compound and hang out all the time, I totally would (no, I wouldn’t) (yes, I would).

So, just because we aren’t forced to be in a teeny room with each other for an ungodly number of hours every day doesn’t mean that there is less support. Yes, people get busy and have to do their own thing, but I know that I’ve got an awesome support system around me. I’m sorry it took me so long to realize it.

Losing 91 Pounds It’s Not What You Think (Or At Least What I Thought)

chloe

Chloe’s expression is my internal life when ever something good happens to me

I have a hard time believing things. I started a new job about a month ago and I refused to believe I actually had the job until then end of my first day. That came and went and I still refused to believe I had it until I got paid. Pretty much every time I walk in I’m surprised someone doesn’t say, “Didn’t so-and-so talk to you yesterday about not coming in any more?”

When I started this latest round of the weight loss merry-go-round, I didn’t really believe the numbers on the scale as they went down. Every week I’d weigh in and sarcastically record the numbers. “Minus 5 pounds. If you say so.” But over time, it became hard to deny that it wasn’t the scale playing an elaborate joke on me. It was actually happening. Then the day came when I not only weighed what my driver’s license claimed, but that’s when my bad at math self realized that meant I lost a grand total of 91 pounds off my highest weight.

Maybe it’s my reluctance to believe things, but I didn’t celebrate. I thought, “We’ll see what the scale says next week.” Like it was going to change it’s stupid scale mind and I’d say, “I knew it!” But I think I had all these wrong ideas about losing weight, like my life would fall into place (ha!), I’d get the ideal job (still working on it) be anxiety free (did you read the first paragraph?), be making millions (I’d settle for hundreds), and Ray LaMontagne would release his hit song, Beth (keep hope alive). But I just lost weight. That’s it.

Don’t get me wrong, being smaller is great! Going from a size 22 to a 12 is something I can’t even explain. I can walk into almost any store and buy something off the rack now. I’ll curl up in a chair and I’ll realize I couldn’t have done that while heavier. Several times I haven’t recognized myself in photos. But they’re all fleeting victories in the grand scheme of things.

You know that saying, “Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels”? Maybe it’s because I”m not skinny (I’m still a good 15-25 pounds away from where I’d like to be and I still won’t be skinny), but let me tell you, that saying is pure, unadulterated, first class bullshit. Being a healthy weight is a good thing, but as good as really gooey pizza on a fall day? As good as a big plate of cheese fries? Nachos? Caramel apples???

hellno

Food is DAMN GOOD. When you lose weight, it’s still DAMN GOOD. There’s this misconception that all thinner people are health nuts and desire nothing but salads and fruit at all times. Wrong. They’ve just decided they want that healthy weight more then they want those cheese fries. All the healthier weight people are shaking their heads or thinking, ‘Well, no shit.” Yeah, trust me, it’s not that obvious to everyone. At least it wasn’t to me. I always thought that if I dieted long enough, that a switch would flip and I would instantly be purified from wanting less healthy foods. If that happens, I will totally tell you, but I’m not holding my breath anymore.

Cheese fries in a taco shell bowl! Where can I get this deliciousness???

Cheese fries in a taco shell bowl! Where can I get this deliciousness???

Being very overweight you get drafted into a club you don’t even know you’re in. When you see another overweight person, you automatically know at least a portion of their struggles and have this unspoken link. Going somewhere new, I would always think, “I hope there is another big person there.” Why? It’s not like we were going to hang out. Maybe if the healthy weight people decided to form a shame circle Twilight Zone style or stage an impromptu intervention, I’d have someone to go through it with? Being a part of that club was a huge part of my identity and I didn’t realize it until, just like I got drafted in, I got quietly booted out. I have this urge to tell people that I used to be heavier, to say something in a hushed conspiratorial tone. “You know, I get it. I’m down with the struggle, man.” If they didn’t think I was trying to sell them drugs and actually managed to figure out what I was talking about, they’d think I was a braggy dick. So this is one area I generally keep my big yapper shut unless it comes up and it usually doesn’t. I’m not even sure how it would come up. “Hey, did you used to be fatter?” is generally not something you ask people.

My Worst Job Interview Experience

Cafe at Ohio Street Beach Chicago

Cafe at Ohio Street Beach Chicago

If you ask me how it went after an interview, I’ll usually say, “I think it went pretty good,” because early on I had an experience that really raised the bar so high for what constituted a “bad” interview so that nothing since has come anywhere close.

About a year ago I was contacted by a Chicago company looking for a graphic design intern. This was maybe two weeks after school ended. I thought, “Damn! This graphic design thing is going GREAT! I don’t have to do anything and the jobs are coming to me!” Yeah, May 2014 Beth was kind of an idiot. Phone interviews went great and a week later I went in to meet with the rest of the creative team. “Awesome! Job searching is THE BEST!” Shut up, May 2014 Beth.

Fast-forwarding through the start of the interview, I met with 3 of the firm’s creative team members. It wasn’t going all that awesome, but it wasn’t horrible. Just odd. I had the feeling I was being sized up as to whether I was worthy enough to hang with them. Then the forth member of our party walked in.

mean girls lunch table

“You can’t sit with us.”

I went over my background and he waved off looking at my portfolio. He started on a lengthy monologue telling me how their employees are born, not made and “it’s in the DNA to work with us or not” that was liberally sprinkled with profanity. Okay, I LOVE swearing. Half the titles in this blog have swears in them, but in a job interview? However, it just kept getting weirder.

When I told him my ultimate career ambition was to be a creative director he made an expression that can be called the, “Good Luck With That, Lady!” and launched another monologue about how I obviously didn’t understand the creative director’s role. It’s more then “making pretty pictures” and “throwing up a logo”  (sounds like it would rip up the esophagus something fierce) and I need to reconsider. May 2014 Beth was kind of stupid, but I knew I did NOT want to work for this guy. I don’t have time for people who shit on someone else’s ambitions.

Remember the profanity laden, “It’s in the DNA or it isn’t” monologue from 2 paragraphs ago? Well, he wasn’t finished. Let’s join the scene already in progress:

Douche McGee: Here at Jack Ass International (I maybe altered their names), we believe it’s in your DNA or not. You’re either one of us or you’re not. There’s no learning to be one of us. So, what I would like is to get to know you a bit better. What makes Beth tick? What sort of thing gets Beth going?

May 2014 Beth: Um…what are you asking? You want to know my hobbies?

Douche McGee: Well, for example, I see by your wedding ring, that you’re married.

May 2014 Beth: (thinking) Do I tell him it’s against the law ask me that? Eh. Just go with it. I don’t want to work here anyway.

May 2014 Beth: Yes, I am.

Douche McGee: Kids?

May 2014 Beth: (thinking)  WTF? Seriously?? I’m gonna get DNA tested and make sure I’ve got nothing in common with this guy.

May 2014 Beth: Nope.

Douche McGee: (pause while he unsuccessfully stifles a giggle)

Douche McGee: It’s a man?

May 2014 Beth: What’s a man?

Douche McGee: You’re married. It’s to a man? (giggling at his own cleverness) You’re married to a man?

May 2014 Beth: (thinking)  OH HELL NAAAAAAAAW. I wish I was married to a woman, because I’m pretty sure my awesome lesbian wife would totally kick your ass for disrespecting her lady.

May 2014 Beth: Um, yes. My husband is a man.

I’ve found when you ask someone about their sexuality it tends to grind the conversation to a halt, so thus concluded our interview. It was so completely absurd that I skipped right over anger and burst out laughing when I got into the elevator. Since then, really as long as people don’t insinuate I’m gay, I consider the interview a success. My “success” barometer might need to be adjusted. But it makes for a great story and taught me to be ready for just about anything in an interview.

A little housekeeping, I taught myself some basic After Effects and made this little intro video for my website. So if you’ve got a burning desire to hear my voice, now is your chance!

Little Beth, Beth Brousil, Self-Promo from Beth Brousil on Vimeo.

There Is No Switch

lightbulbOccasionally I think the alternate name for this blog could be, “Sometimes I’m an idiot,” because I share a lot of things that are new or revelations to me and imagine people thinking, “Yeah, no shit, dumb ass.” This is one of those weeks. It starts out weight/fitness related, but it it applies to everything in the end.

So the other day I was logging my exercise and reading a fitness/nutrition forum. I can’t even remember exactly what I read, but it was something like, “Of course I want junk food, too, but I want health more.” I could feel the lightbulb over my head. I guess I thought that there were Healthy Eaters and Everyone Else. The Healthy Eaters didn’t even want Doritos or cookies and were content with their sprouts and whatever the hell else they eat and were just born that way. I think I also thought if I forced myself into that Healthy Eater box, that eventually a switch would flip, (this is starting to sound like a particularly odd Twilight Zone episode), I wouldn’t crave junk and healthy eating would be effortless. Honestly, it just never occurred to me that the Healthy Eaters would want junk, too. Oh, I’m sure there are those freaks who are like, “Oh, no! Not me! I would rather have this big bowl of cinnamon flavored air then that big plate of nachos!” But they are the exception.

I don’t think this is solely an issue related to fitness and is true of all goals. We go around thinking a magic switch is going to flip that is going to keep us constantly motivated, give us unwavering commitment, and make us laugh in the face of obstacles. When that doesn’t happen and it’s still a struggle, we figure something is wrong with us and give up. But there is no switch. There is no big moment where we stop wanting to take the easier path. The only difference between those who achieve their goals and those who don’t is that those who achieve have figured this out already. They know the road that leads to the final destination is not flat, perfect pavement, but full of potholes, cracks, u-turns, construction, “bridge out” and “slippery pavement” signs.

It kind of sounds like bad news, but it’s really not. It takes away any invisible barriers we have put up that hinders up from becoming a goal achiever. There’s no difference between us and them. There isn’t really an us and them- it’s everyone. We’ll still crave Doritos, the hardest part of working out will still be putting on our shoes, and it will always be easier stay with the familiar then to venture into the unknown. It doesn’t make us defective or destined for failure. It just makes us human. Keep your eye on the prize, keep moving forward, and realize you’re stronger then almost anything that can come your way.

It’s The Little Things

IMG_20130530_202330

Drawing in progress

Remember a couple of weeks ago when I kept whining about not having an internship? Well, guess who just finished her first two weeks at her shiny new internship? I don’t want to give out too many details, because while I know all my readers are as sane as they are good looking and smart, there may be a few lurking crazies. But what I can tell you is it’s at a non-profit (yea!), unpaid (boo!), and I get to do a little bit of everything (yea!). I think it’s going to be great.

Throughout this whole internship search, I kept running across the quote by Joseph Campbell:

We must be willing to let go of the life we planned so as to have the life that is waiting for us.

I know that should have told me something, but far be it from me to actually pay attention to the signs around me. You know how I live for coincidence? Now you do. Well, in a previous post I told you about how my friend who passed away inspired me to go back to school. When we wouldn’t want to tell customers our real names, we would give them fake ones (I have a tendency to bring out the silly in people). My friend’s fake name is my new bosses real name. It wouldn’t be weird if her name was Mary or Brenda, but it’s something not at all common. Weird, right? Okay, just humor me.

Speaking of inspiring people, whenever I write these posts I’m pretty much writing them for me. I figure if they make me laugh, motivate me, kick me in the drawers, what have you, that they will probably do that for someone else, too. Plus it’s really powerful when you are at a low point to go back and read your own words. But I never think of myself as inspirational. Trust me, if you saw the stack of junk on the coffee table, the sink full of dishes, or the laundry that needs to be put away, the only thing it might inspire you to do is clean your house. So the other day someone sent me a message on My Fitness Pal that said something like, “Your story is so inspirational! I hope to get to where you are someday,” I seriously thought she sent it to the wrong person. It didn’t help that I had just got back from the gym and was sitting on the couch in my underwear eating cheese while watching Dr. Phil (sadly, no part of that is made up, it was super hot and I was hungry).

But it made me think about who we admire and why. We tend to put those we admire on a pedestal and think everything they do should be inspirational. “They way they took out the trash was a triumph of the human spirit!” That’s where the saying, “Don’t meet those you admire” comes in. People rarely act like we expect. I follow artist and author Austin Kleon on Twitter and one day he posted something like, “Is there any great artist who WASN’T a philandering douchebag? #disappointed” I’ve heard rumblings that Ray LaMontagne had a particularly disappointing meeting with his inspiration, Bob Dylan. We have to give each other room to be human and realize that our inspirations, just like us, don’t always have it together. We all fall short of our own expectations at one point or another. But I think we also cannot forget that it’s the small acts of kindness that sometimes mean the most to people. You never know how a smile or hug or some sincere words will effect someone.

Wouldn't this look awesome on a t-shirt?

Wouldn’t this look awesome on a t-shirt?

Okay, so you know how the Mumford & Sons song, “The Cave” has inspired me over and over throughout the last few years? Well, they are having a contest to design a t-shirt for their summer tour. Now, I know as a designer I’m supposed to be all against spec work and blah blah blah, but, hey, MUMFORD & SONS! In addition to getting your design on a shirt, you get $1000 and I am poor so that would be awesome. I was so excited when I first saw this contest, but then I totally forgot about it and had to repurpose a design and format some type quickly. Allegedly voting starts sometime today (5/31) and is open only for a week. You don’t have to register for anything, because it looks like you can only vote using Facebook and Twitter. If you could spare a moment and vote for me once voting opens,  I would so appreciate it. There are some excellent designs and competition is going to be fierce. Vote here

UPDATE! Voting is now open and you can use Facebook, Twitter, or text 9S88MZ to 75572.  

Beth’s Guide to Weight Loss…or Something

underweight

I realized I’ve lost 70 pounds. You would think that would be a little hard to miss, but if you’ve read here before then you know I’m not always on speaking terms with obvious. What made it less obvious is that it was slowly over a lot of years and had many stalls and restarts and twists and turns and jumping off one path and on to another…and I’m still not done. I’ve got about 30-40 pounds to go. But slowly is better then never and time is going to pass regardless.

I’ve always been somewhere between chubby and sideshow fat lady (with my Greek genes I’m just glad I’m not the bearded lady) and have tried just about every weight loss plan known to man, both healthy and not so healthy. Really, if you want to know how to lose weight, ask a fat person, because we’ve tried them all- for a few hours at least.

If I could impart one bit of wisdom to those who want to eat healthier or lose weight it would be this:

WRITE DOWN WHAT YOU ARE EATING. 

Most of us are eating way more and way more junk then we realize. When I first started this whole thing, I went to Weight Watchers (which is a great program) and the weeks that I had the biggest losses were weeks that I religiously wrote down every single bite that went in my mouth.

I’ve recently been using My Fitness Pal, which is a website and app that helps you record your exercise and calories/food to achieve your fitness goals. I was only using it to track my exercise and one day thought, “Hmm…I should put my food for a few days just to see.” Dear God! No wonder I haven’t lost any weight lately! Low carb/high protein works best for me and I was hardly getting any protein and my carbs were TWICE what I thought they were. Now I’m trying to kick my 2 a day Kind Bar habit because I was getting a ridiculous amount of carbs from that alone. I guess it shouldn’t be shocking- the good ones are all coated in chocolate. See what I mean about me and obvious not always getting together?

Another little bit of wisdom I wish someone would have told me years ago:

Just because you are working out, don’t expect to lose more weight. 

Maybe it’s just me, but when I exercise my weight loss slows to a crawl. I have no idea why, but it happens to me every single time. But take heart! There is a way to still see some progress without using the scale. Take measurements! Waist, hips, chest, calf, arm and thigh- or any part you are interested in and measure every one or two weeks. Since I’ve started doing the weight machines, I’ve already lost an inch off my waist and a half inch off my hips. Considering I don’t have much of a waist, that is huge for me.

My last little bit of wisdom:

You can only get what you want by moving outside of your comfort zone.

I am so guilty of this and I know I am not alone, because I see it all the time in the gym and life in general. We only go so far and then it’s like we hit an invisible barrier. “Eh…that’s good enough” and stop. Some book I read said something like the most effective leaders are the ones who are comfortable going into the unknown. Because that’s what it’s about really, isn’t it? That fear that we might fail or, God forbid, succeed and then what? Will people cheer us? Or abandon us? Or maybe they’ll expect us to always succeed and what if we can’t live up to our own new standard? So it seems easier to remain where we are. But if you really want something, the only way to get it is to tell those voices to cram it, push forward into that unknown and take it. It’s hard, scary and takes commitment, but if you want it bad enough then that’s what it takes. It is the rare person who is handed everything they want with no work. Besides, you don’t want to be that person, because everyone hates those people and we like you!

Have a great week!

The Gym Is Not Always Torture (But It Sorta Is)

Juvenile-Harrys-Ladder-to-Learning-66I love my gym. Oh, I still hate working out about 75% of the time,  but my gym is non-stop entertainment. It’s as if Wal-Mart had a gym. In general I try to keep my head down, avoid eye contact  and be as completely unassuming as possible. I figure I don’t want to anyone judging me, so I try not to judge anyone else. We’re all there for the same reason, because we want to workout and are poor and/or cheap. But sometimes it’s hard not to notice the, um, “eccentricities” of the other exercisers.

I always wonder if the world is full of weirdos, if I just notice all the weirdos, or if eventually we are all the weirdos. Yesterday when I was using the torture chamber known as the overhead tricep extension machine (seriously, look at this thing, why did I think it was a good idea?) and repeatedly hitting myself in the head with the handles while trying to adjust the weights, I’m pretty sure I was the weirdo. But at least I wasn’t the guy who never uses any equipment, wanders the entire perimeter of the gym (in jeans) over and over while swinging his arms like a windmill on the loose during category 5 hurricane. I can’t take my eyes off him because I keep trying to figure out if there is a pattern to his flailings and he’s on to some new super arm workout that the rest of us haven’t caught on to yet. I don’t know how he hasn’t knocked anyone unconscious.

My gym is divided up into four sections, which I’m guessing is probably the same as most gyms: the cardio area (treadmills, ellipticals, etc.), strength training machines (lat pull, thigh abductor, etc.), free weights (dumbbells, weight benches), and a big open area for things like kettle bells, those big stability bouncy ball things, and whatever other lunacy personal trainers are inflicting on people these days.

Until recently I never ventured out of the cardio area, which has it’s own form of crazy. Like the girl who runs on the treadmill in flip flops, the guy who randomly yells out, “WHOOOOOOO!!!!” on the elliptical machine (and looks like a forgotten member of an 80’s glamrock band), or the guy who cranks the treadmill speed up to 15 mph, lifts himself up on to the side rails and just touches the belt with his tippy toes. Closely related to him is  the 75 year old lady who puts the incline up to 900% (approximately), the speed up to 88 mph (approximately) and then hangs on for dear life like she is going to shoot off through a hole in time and space. I wouldn’t even have noticed her except for the fact that she glares at everyone like we were trying to steal her man. I accidentally made eye contact with her once on the way to the locker room and she gave me such a, “Bitch, what is your problem?” look that I was both horrified and impressed.
workout-gym-losing-weight-breasts-cry-for-help-ecards-someecards
I’ve lost over 50 pounds (it’s not as impressive as it sounds, I’m still chunky) and need to firm up. So, I broke out of my cardio comfort zone and into the strength training machine area. This doesn’t sound like a huge deal, but if you’ve been reading here for any length of time, then you know that I am scared of everything new. But I psyched myself up and did it and actually love it (I blame all the blows to the head from the tricep extension machine). I’m an Amazon who puts muscle on fast. In old-timey days, I would have been prized on the farm (my parents could have got 6 cows, a spinning wheel AND a goat in exchange for me) and if I were born on the East Coast or was smart enough to go to an Ivy League school, I’d have been perfect for a rowing team. I guess strength training should have been an obvious fit, but sometimes it takes me and obvious a while to hook up.

In the process of venturing into a new area, there’s a whole other world of odd. Like the man who does one rep on every single machine or the lady who wore a full prairie skirt, poncho, Olivia Newton-John “Let’s Get Physical” headband, and metallic silver high tops on the thigh abductor. By the way, how absolutely awesome a name is “thigh abductor”? It’s like it’s going to steal your flabby thighs and leave nice toned ones in their place, like a super fit Santa from Heaven.

Anyway, I’ve noticed that this strange phenomenon of people sitting on the machines. I don’t mean resting between sets, I mean just sitting there like it’s a loveseat at Costco. If it were only one person I’d think they needed a longer rest, but over the last few days I’ve seen about 6 people, who, unless we are working out at exactly the same pace, are just sitting at the machines, not using them at all. What are they doing? I can only check Facebook and fake text so many times and after about 8 seconds I’m out of things to do between sets.  Nothing that calls itself a “seat” at the gym is comfortable (they all seem to be designed to go up your crack and/or correct spinal alignment), so I can’t imagine sitting there when I don’t have to. There is no view of the TVs or even really anything except other machines.

We can see the free weight area a little, but if there is any spot I try to avoid even looking at, it’s the free weight area or as I call it, “The Yard.” There are a few guys who I am pretty sure honed their physiques at the finest correctional institutions and, based on the faces and noises they make, should add more fiber and water to their diets.  On the rare chance I see a woman over there I think she is either a super tough chick like in a Quentin Tarantino movie and could kick all our asses five ways till Sunday or needs to be rescued and I should secure a safe house. So, barring anymore strength training machine blows to the head or daring rescue attempts, I’ll be staying out of The Yard.