Not-quite-a-newsletter about growing up and beyond by Nicole Michaelis
|Sep 5||Public post|| 1|
It was a fine late August morning and I was biking to work. A painfully long commute, prolonged even more by fellow bikers, trucks on the bike lane, and those damn e-scooters laying all over the place like the world doesn't have any rules. I was concentrated on surviving, while listening to the Goop podcast (hello, cliché). I glanced to the side and noticed my reflection in a shop window. I actually looked...happy.
Even though I had a full workday ahead of me that I was only partly looking forward to, I felt pretty great. Good things were happening all around me. Friendships tightening. Fun projects developing. Dreams coming true (like literally, did you hear I'm publishing a book yet?). The present and the future looked bright. I felt excited. And even the small things that went wrong, barely clouded my mind's blue, blue skies. I was genuinely looking forward to what was coming. Wait...did this mean...I had become an optimist?
Shock. Disbelief. A wrinkled forehead. I, Nicole, an optimist? No friggin’ way. Except yes.
Life’s pretty great, I’ve come to realize. Especially if you make it through hardships. It’s all about letting the right people in, doing things you care about, and being…you know…you! And trust me, I know that’s not always easy. But this month’s newsletter is about that. Being happy to be you. So maybe you too, will end up finding your inner optimist.
It took me almost 30 years to train my mind to be more optimistic. Here’s what worked (and what didn’t).
First of all, I want to shoutout all my super optimistic friends. I’m really happy that you’re happy, but telling me to stop looking at stuff so negatively has probably been the most annoying thing about this entire journey. We all have reasons for looking at things the way we do. No matter if it’s depression or other mental issues or if we’re just generally going through a hard time. Sometimes things suck. And sometimes even ok things appear to suck in someones head. Be cool with that. Besides that, yes please keep telling us how much better things are on the optimistic side. We may seem annoyed at first, but your positivity will find its way into our cold, cold hearts eventually.
Things that helped me be more optimistic
I’m pretty awesome. You know me, I’m extremely honest. So I’m not gonna lie: it helped to be super successful. Yup. I said it. I have no problem admitting that things have been going well for ya girl and if things go well for a while, you start seeing the world in brighter colors. But I’m not here to rub in that your life maybe sucks if stuff isn’t going well for you right now. I want to mention it because I’ve also been there: shattered, lost, scared, no idea in hell what I was even doing (and why), and I made it through. It took time and dedication, but I did make it. So you can too.
Chasing summer. Living in Scandinavia but really anywhere you have proper winters means you’re gonna have a shit time for a couple of months, usually between November and March. I personally get extremely affected by darkness so here’s what I do: before taking a new gig/job, I already tell the employer that I won’t be available on-site for at least four weeks during winter. This gives me the time to book a trip somewhere warm and sunny. And it made all the difference for me the past two years when I actually left to go somewhere sunny for 3+ weeks. Good news, most employers actually did let me work remotely and were very understanding. So just make it part of your plan and go chase some sun. Sun = more optimism. It’s science.
Be brutal with your focus. It’s hard to stay focused on the things that really matter when you’re living in a society that constantly bombards you with things to want, do, create. You may have gotten that promotion you wanted, but you still can’t afford that thing you crave or that fancy Bali vacation. You may have written a great poem, but what if nobody every reads it? You may have gone to the gym four times this week, but Dolores still looks so much skinnier. The point is: there’s always more to do, make, want, create. It’s capitalism, baby. How I beat it? Disciplined goal setting at least three times a week. I take my notebook, I sit myself down, I write down all the things that I kind of want and then I reflect on their importance and rank them. Surprisingly enough, while writing down often more than 10 things in the beginning of the exercise, I’m rarely left with more than two that actually matter in the end. This is a powerful way to set focus. If you’re just getting started with this, I suggest this as a Sunday evening activity. How it works? By focusing on things that truly matter, you actually achieve them faster and also don’t care about all the things you may not be achieving. It basically tricks your FOMO and helps you focus on the successes. Great, eh?
Stop comparing yourself. Get off of Instagram or Linkedin or wherever you go to fuel your hate for yourself. We’re all different and that means everybody’s journey is different. Repeat after me: it doesn’t matter what X does because X is not you. You are you.
Stop following the news. I deleted all my news apps, including Twitter, on New Year’s Eve. My husband is now my source for weather updates. This sounds scary, but has impacted my ability to be optimistic by tenfold. Yeah, I rarely know what’s going on but I also care less (and get to focus on the things I actually can affect). Nine months into no news I can honestly say: they make everything worse. Horrible images paired with constant panic making — it’s a great way to manipulate us but it’s a bad way to live. Get rid of the news.
Sleep better, sleep more. I’m deeply passionate about sleep. Improving my sleep quality, made me happier and definitely makes optimism easier. Read more.
Cut yourself some slack. I mean it. You’re doing fine. No matter how it looks in the books. No matter what your mind may be telling you. If you’re being kind to others, you’re good. Be a bit kinder to yourself, will you?
And that’s all. Optimism is hard, but you can get there if you let go of most of the crap and focus on what you truly care about.
Should artists be humble?
Are you (a) creative? Then you’ve probably pondered this question before. Being humble is a virtue many believe important, but does it really make sense for artists and other creatives?
A short-story about that chair we all have, you know the one that has all the not-quite-dirty-enough-for-laundry clothes?
Book of the month
The German title of this book is Hobos, Zen, and High Mountains, which I personally find about 31 times better than the original English title The Dharma Bums. But title aside, this is a slow, relaxing read. Jack Kerouac, who of course is famous for challenging how society chooses to live and advocates for a simpler, more zen life (he basically was me if I would practice what I preach, but no, here I am ordering a 200€ necklace from some online store…), takes the reader on a journey across the US. Very little happens, but there’s a lot of hidden philosophy in between the nothingness. The perfect read for a sunny park bench in the early autumn.
The silence was an intense roar. - Jack Kerouac, The Dharma Bums
Thanks for reading!
Never truly yours,