Where Is Mallie? The Off-Road Millennial!

Hey everyone!

This blog is not being abandoned, it’s just being temporarily…well, abandoned I guess. As is The Irrational Mind. While both of these are awesome personal projects, I realized I really needed to hone in on a blog focus to make any brand/financial progress on my solopreneur journey.

Come hang out with me over here!

The Off-Road Millennial

I’m running a podcast (I just posted episode 17 today!), still writing a blog, and offering career design services to people who feel as lost as I did when I quit grad school two years ago. I’m really combining my passions and talents into one freedom-based business.

Feel free to stick around here for more personal life stuff as well as my eventual prophesied return to the severe weather community…..

3 Basic Stress Management Techniques (From 10-Year Old Mallie)

Back in a time before the internet was actually useful and safe for a child to explore unsupervised (pre-parental controls in the 1990s), I liked to read encyclopedias and other reference books for fun. I admire little Mallie’s patience and concentration, as the thought of doing that today is incredibly boring, despite my preference for non-fiction books.

My parents had a medical reference book that taught how to treat various minor aches and illnesses at home. Even as a child, I was drawn to the stress management section. In retrospect, I suppose this should have been a red flag about my chronic anxiety issues that weren’t discovered for another 15 years, but I was a generally curious kid.

I’ve learned a lot about stress management from various workshops and literature I obtained in grad school and in therapy…oh, and from the internet. But these basic techniques that I integrated as a child and teenager are still relevant and effective today.

1. Deep Breathing

Have you ever taken a yoga class?

Most often the class will start with a focus on your breathing. In through the nose, out through the mouth. Breathe deeply.

Scientifically, there is a link between controlling your breath and controlling your otherwise involuntary sympathetic nervous system, which impacts things like your blood pressure and digestion.

When you get anxious or nervous, your body begins to react the way it was designed to: tensing up, producing shallow breaths, sweating, etc. This was a great result when we got nervous because we were being chased by a mastadon thousands of years ago, but now it’s often an overreaction (physically, at least) to a heavy workload or stressful situation at home.

It’s more difficult to control all these responses at once than it is to control your breathing. As your breath calms, it communicates to the rest of your body that everything is ok, producing the proper neurochemical signals to relax the muscles and lower the heart beat.

2. Progressive Muscle Relaxation

Wait, weren’t we just talking about how difficult it is to relax your muscles?

In fact, it is believed that the reason for knots in your muscles–you know, the ones you need deep tissue massages to get out?–is an inability of those muscles to relax and deconstrict.

Awareness is an amazing thing. The idea behind progressive muscle relaxation (steps included in that link) is that by making your body aware of the tension, you allow the muscle to relax.

Obviously this will only work for muscles that you can control (I, for one, can’t wiggle my ears or tighten my ankle muscles), and it will take some time for your body to adapt to this mix of physical and mental therapy.

3. Mindfulness Meditation

I feel like I talk about meditation a lot on The Irrational Mind. But I don’t think I talk about it nearly enough here. Meditation is beneficial to everyone, not just people dealing with mental health issues.

Think this is new age gobbledygook? Think again! Google “meditation science” and look at all the results. Hit up the Google Scholar search as well, and see that meditation is an active area of research in the scientific community.

There are so many forms of meditation, but mindfulness meditation is likely one of the least intentionally spiritual methods and the most straightforward. Of course, there are also multiple forms of mindfulness meditation as well, but let’s keep things simple for now.

Ready for your instructions?

  1. Sit
  2. Breathe. Focus on your breath entering and leaving your body.
  3. Notice your thoughts
  4. Don’t dwell on any one thought, just acknowledge it and move on
  5. Notice your body
  6. Release any tension you notice
  7. Get distracted? Refocus on your breath.

Bam. You just meditated. No need to sit cross-legged, clean your chakras, wear yoga pants, or find a serene beach.

This isn’t something that you need to commit half an hour a day to; research has shown that even 10 minutes of meditation each day can be beneficial to how your brain handles stress and anxiety.

What other simple stress mediating techniques do you like to use?


Creating My “Solopreneur” Path

As many of you have seen, earlier this week I launched my professional services site, which will allow people to reach out to me for solutions in various areas: scientific communications, writing and editing, speaking and training, and personal development.

I’ve been playing with self-employment for almost a year now, but I assumed (incorrectly) that, in order to properly market my brand, I had to pick one niche and stick with it.

Then I realized: I am my brand.

We’re moving into a new work world, one filled with non-traditional careers that no one could have dreamed of before the advent of the internet. Solopreneurs are working from their laptops all over the world, selling their talents under umbrellas of varying sizes.

What’s the difference between an entrepreneur and a solopreneur?

An entrepreneur is often growth and income-focused, trying to grow a company that sells specific solutions to a specific problem. In an entrepreneur’s ideal work world, they may start and sell websites, ideas, or companies for thousands (or millions) of dollars. They may establish a start-up with investors and a small set of employees. They may open a small business selling their wares downtown.

A solopreneur is also income-focused, but is more interested in flexibility. She works primarily alone, maybe outsourcing some of her administrative duties to a virtual assistant. She is selling herself and her skills to companies and individuals who may be disenchanted with corporate solutions and are looking for a personal touch. Her work can be done almost entirely remotely.

While an entrepreneur may hire a marketing, accounting, and administrative expert/department, the solopreneur wears the hat of content creator, marketing department, accounts manager, and administrative staff.

What I love about reading other solopreneurs’ stories is that they have all made their own path. No one’s story reads like anyone else’s, but they have managed to make a living doing work they are passionate about.

As I continue to create my path, I invite you to follow along on this blog. My regular weather/self/body acceptance posts aren’t going anywhere–they are part of the package I’m selling: me.

Of course, if you know anyone who may be in need of my services, please pass along my name. Your referrals are invaluable as I grow as both a person and a business.

Anniversary of Beginning the Job I Quit

One year ago today, Martin Luther King Day 2013, I began work at my first corporate job. My immediate team members were kind enough to come in on a day that everyone else was working from home. I had a nice orientation session with the group, and I immediately felt comfortable with everyone, including my supervisors.

Not everyone is so lucky to (1) find a job in this economy, (2) like their coworkers, (3) like their bosses, and (4) work with a team that actually values teamwork. I was grateful, yet nervous.

I had reservations accepting the job in the first place. I received a phone call with an unofficial offer a few hours after my interview. I saw other candidates leaving as I came in, so I know I was not the only interviewee. Matt had taken me out to dinner to celebrate the interview, and now we had even more to celebrate! Dog walker and nanny no more! I was a real person!

“Are you going to take it?” Matt asked me. It’s nice to have a husband who doesn’t pressure me into situations.

I nodded, adding “We’ll see what the actual offer is tomorrow and then I’ll make a decision.”

I shared my hesitation with him, uncertain if the job would be fulfilling. I would also be joining the D.C. commuters to Tyson’s Corner, the land that public transportation forgot. Still, I had come home with mostly positives on my list, so what was my hang-up?

I’ll likely never know why I was so hesitant to take that job. Among the many things it taught me about the business world, government bureaucracy, and editing skills, it also taught me to trust my instincts on big decisions.

I knew before the end of my first month that I wanted to quit, but I also knew we needed the money with our wedding approaching. I also feared that leaving a job after a month would look really bad on future applications. Matt told me I could quit whenever I wanted to, although I felt the hesitation in his response. I kept changing my quitting date: tomorrow, one more month, right before the wedding, right after the wedding….

I eventually decided that I would look like a real jerk if I quit right before or after our wedding, especially since my bosses had been very accommodating about my vacation time with respect to bridal showers and such. The pressure point came when I received an email that it was time for my 6-month evaluation. Yikes. It wasn’t that I feared I’d been doing poorly at work (although I’m sure my lack of enthusiasm was beginning to show), it was that I didn’t want to go into a performance review to talk about my future goals when I knew I intended to leave. It would have been a farce on my end and a waste of everyone’s time.

While I felt bad leaving, I knew that it was the best decision for me at the time. I’d been applying to jobs my entire time there, and a spur-of-the-moment application to a tutoring company tipped the scales in my favor. I received the offer from PM while I was at Starbucks interviewing someone for the USA Today article I was working on at the time.

This time, it all felt right.

Matt and I discussed it and agreed that I should pursue this writing/editing/teaching path that was opening up for me. Now, despite a declaration that I would never work another corporate position, I am working as an associate editor for another corporation–but the work is entirely on my time and done remotely. I’ve committed hours to tutoring every week–but if I decide to go on vacation, I just tell my clients I’ll be out those days. I’m in early talks with USA Today about doing more freelance work for them this winter.

All in all, things are going about as well as we could have expected at this point. I took one career leap leaving graduate school and then another into this part-time employment situation.

When I was in my freshman year of college at Mary Washington, I changed my major almost every week. Never officially, but every time a friend saw me they’d say, “Hey! What’s your major this week?!”

I would laugh and joyfully respond with my latest passion. As I stood outside the dorms waiting for a ride from an upperclass friend one afternoon, I began chatting with dormmates about classes. Leighton laughed, “You know, Mallie, I can’t wait to see what degree you actually graduate with.” I chuckled as well, “Me too.”

Nowadays, with two degrees under my belt (neither from Mary Washington, another unexpected turn), people ask me what I’m doing with my life, once again amused that I’ve still not figured it out. No one ever really figures it out, but many people at least settle in somewhere happily.

Today, I’m happy not having it all figured out. I’m feeling the same rush of excitement that I had as a 17-year old freshman with all the majors at my fingertips.

I can make my own path.