So, here’s the deal. I have a pretty tight squad.
If your eyes are on that picture above, I'm going to move from left to right: Heather is a painter with a thing for self-expression, Chelsy is a filmmaker who's super obsessed with the stories strangers have to tell, Colin is a musician with a keen sense of adventure, and Zack is a writer with a penchant for random acts of kindness. Oh, and that's me in the middle. My name is Jordan. It is so great to meet you, and I can't wait for the journey we're about to embark on together.
Here. Take my hand.
Together, in an effort to change my life in meaningful ways, my squad drew up a plan. They'd each give me a goal to achieve over the course of one week, with the hopes that, at the end, I'd be a smarter, ~*sWeeTeR*~, bolder, and more productive person.
THIS IS MY STORY. And these...are their challenges.
Take a wide variety of hip-hop classes.
Become a less self-conscious person and learn how to express yourself in a bold, new way.
Spoiler alert: I did not become Rihanna after my Dance Hall class. Hey, want another spoiler? I did not become Parker Posey in Party Girl after my House Dance class. OK, one more spoiler: I HAD AN INCREDIBLE TIME ANYWAY. After kicking my initial Haha OMG I am truly incapable of this thoughts, I found my groove.
Sure, my stomach did about 100 Taisuke Criticals (that's a breakdancing term) while riding the subway to Broadway Dance Center, arguably the premier place to take dance in New York City, but it's sort of hard NOT to leave whatever self-conscious baggage you have at the door when you're about to enter a dark dance studio, lit only by a psychedelic orange bulb. The fact is, you simply cannot dance unless you let everything go. It's physically impossible. And that knowledge made this experience all the more freeing...and funky!
Call up people you haven't spoken to since middle school or high school.
Listen to their stories and, in turn, gain a wider world view with a side order of empathy.
It's fascinating how two people who grew up in the same small Midwestern town, had the same teachers, rooted for the same sports teams, and ate at the same chain restaurants could have such different lives 10 or so years down the road. Alyssa and I were friends throughout middle school (the Golden Age of Strange Home Videos, as I refer to it now). Using her brother's camcorder, we brought some pretty classic skits to life, including "Cats Have Whiskers," "The Fashion Show," and "Elephant Gerald" about a genderless jazz singer who was also a pachyderm.
Today, Alyssa lives with her boyfriend in China, where they're both teachers. After another year there, they plan on traveling the world. Before China, Alyssa fought for the rights of teachers and schools in Chicago, where she taught in the city's underprivileged communities. That's where she met her boyfriend; her students set them up. "He's cool. You're cool. You guys should be cool together," was their logic.
She told me her worldview has grown exponentially, not just because of her travels but because of the stories her students would come to her with after school. They've opened her heart and her mind. And just hearing about Alyssa's journey did the same for me.
Offer to help friends with DIY or home improvement projects in exchange for absolutely nothing.
Become ultra kind and watch as your happiness grows by like a bajillion percent.
Sometimes I can be a little too tit-for-tat. I'm not the guy who insists on a dinner bill split down to the last penny, but if I do a favor for a friend, I won't shy away from bringing it up when I need help in the future. Still, I've read a ton of articles about "happiness" and how the key to happiness is being kind and selfless and doing things for people JUST BECAUSE without expecting anything in return. But up until Zack presented me with this challenge, I hadn't done much with that knowledge.
So, over the course of the week, I did the sort of infuriating furniture-building that drives people mad, and I did it expecting nothing in return. One friend ordered Thai food while I built and then made me pay. Thank you, friend. And the result? I SERIOUSLY FELT HAPPIER. I strolled out of each friend's apartment on a little cloud. Those articles were right — I was flooded with this endorphin-driven glee at the prospect that I could make someone happy, no strings attached. And I actually can't wait to commit a random act of kindness every week for the rest of my life. Yes, that's a promise.
Don't use the internet for anything other than work.
Improve your focus at the office, and up your relaxation game at home.
I went off the grid for a week, and I never want to go back on. My productivity skyrocketed at work, and at home I did strange and relaxing things like "read" and "talk on the phone" and "go for walks" and "cover my face in a hydrating vegetable mask." I still haven't turned my app notifications back on, and I don't plan to anytime soon.
My weekend was spent not looking for the perfect Instagram shot that would convey to my followers that I have a fun, eventful life. Instead, I went on an incredible hike with fellow squad member Zack and stayed off of my phone completely. Here's a photo of Zack and me, internetless and loving it.
Sure, there were times when I wished I could tell the world about my dance classes or post a screenshot of a video call between an old friend and me. But not doing that helped me realize the absurdity of presenting a manicured and curated life via your social media accounts. And now, I MAY NEVER GO BACK!
Chatting with old friends broadened my worldview and reminded me that behind everyone's actions is a unique story with ups and downs. My selfless home improvement favors taught me that it feels best to give gifts when you expect nothing in return. My internet ban helped me realize that life is better (and more productive) off the grid. And my house dance instructor left me with, perhaps, the greatest lesson of them all: "Relax and get low. You have to sit into house. You should never push it away. Sort of like life, right?"
Setting out to conquer the day's goals? Choose nutritious snacks like Dannon Oikos Greek Nonfat Yogurt. It helps to keep up your momentum, so you can stay ready for every challenge that life (and your squad) throws at you.