“This is (not) who I am.”

Reflections for 2022

In my family, every other Christmas is our “personal Christmas,” instituted when my siblings and I began to have other requests for our holiday presence and Mama Menanteau (a retired teacher who thrives on order) wanted to ensure we all got on the same page.

I like to use these “personal Christmas” years for an international Winter Holiday. This year (despite much consternation), I decided to forge ahead, undergo the testing protocols, and travel to Belgium. The trip recharged my batteries because it spoke to my essence: I am an adventurer and a connector.

Let me explain . . .

In another life, I must have been was a funky art historian. I love to immerse myself in art collections — large and small, institutionally-sanctioned and community pop-ups. The sociologist in me is excited to learn history, customs and belief systems through art. The educator in me loves adapting these learnings into stories to share with my nieces and nephews. The researcher in me infuses art inspirations into my research engagement exercises.

Brussels’ Magritte Museum left me thinking about identity. (An aside:  Regrettably, today when we speak of identity, our minds immediately go to identity politics. It pains me that such a natural and supremely personal human need to explore, clarify, and declare identity should be politicized.) Surrealist René Magritte’s famous 1929 work “The Treachery of Images” (a.k.a., “Ceci n’est pas une pipe”) has puzzled many. This is where I feel in his surrealist rigor, Magritte was encouraging us to look at this piece using the KISS Principle* (*keep it simple, stupid). Simply, the painting is a representation of a pipe, not a pipe. So true. 

Similarly, in the time of Covid, many may utter, “this is not who I am.” We may find ourselves not being the best version of ourselves, or we may yearn for our old lives and our old selves. (Pauline Boss’s concept of ambiguous loss fits aptly here). How can we take life by the horns (my theme for 2022, BTW) and forge forward to regain the “I” we feel we’ve lost due to our new reality?  

As an adventurer and a connector, I’ve continued to safely forge forward in small and big ways and to hold onto what makes me who I am. Even if it’s just taking a Friday afternoon to visit the Museum of Fine Arts in St. Petersburg or attend a community theatre production, it fills the soul.

How about you? What are your “essence words?” Or, what is your theme for the year?  Or, how do your passions inform your work? The connector in me would love to hear! ❤

WANTED: Wellness!

We are living in a wellness culture. More than ever before, we are people focused on living a life that considers our health to be much more than the absence of illness – it’s a holistic sum of our physical, emotional, intellectual, social and spiritual health.  According to the Global Wellness Institute, the health and wellness industry has swelled to a staggering $4.2 trillion.

TREND: Generation Z says “We’ve got this!”

In a recent How America Shops report, WSL Marketing reveals that 80 percent of Gen Z (the oldest of which are 22 years old) feel they already know how to live a healthy life. 63 percent say looking better makes them feel healthier, and 50 percent of Gen Z women purchase products that make them “look healthier.” (Note: Millennials lead in spending on wellness trends, but the confidence expressed by GenZ-ers stood out to me. It’s like they’ve got it all figured out!)

I recently spent some time in France with my nephew, Victor, and his friend, Hannah, two of my favorite Gen Z-ers. Ever the researcher, I asked them what wellness meant to them.

  • For Victor, wellness is “having the physical and mental freedom to enjoy life however you want to.” They both go to the gym to support their wellness goals, and Victor says he focuses on staying hydrated and including necessary vitamins in his diet.
  • Hannah says, “I notice that I’m in better spirits after the gym and that it gives me an overall better mood. I will also spend money on myself doing my nails or a little retail therapy. If I feel out of sorts I’ll usually take time to myself to relax and get away from the world.”

As a Gen X-er, I’m right alongside these generations in their pursuit of wellness. Work and life have me fully challenged and stretched. But all this ‘stretching’ gets exhausting, so, like many of us, I aspire for balance. Yoga, kick-boxing, running and cycling are a part of my routine… always a challenge with a moderator’s travel schedule!

I realized recently that what I wanted was to find a benchmark of where I’m at so I can challenge myself to achieve the next level — whatever that may be.

So I embarked on a 10-day summer adventure where I cycled 50-70 km/day through France’s Loire Valley, hiked the rugged shore of Corsica and even tried my hand (and feet) at a little rock-climbing. And you know what? I surprised myself!

I felt whole, challenged mentally and physically, and I discovered I could certainly up my game physically. And what else can I do? I’m still figuring that out, but the possibilities are endless!

What have you wanted to just try out? Beyond work, how do you want to stretch yourself? I say JUMP . . . and you may surprise yourself, too.

Here’s a peek at my summer wellness adventure…