Tag Archives: relationships

Saying Goodbye to 2017 and Hello to 2018!

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Happy New Year, inspirNational! Throughout the first week of 2018 I have found myself reflecting about 2017 and the goals I have for 2018. I can say with confidence that 2017 was a tremendous year of growth and change for me. I learned more about myself and what I want in life than ever before.

Key highlights were my graduation from the USC International MBA Program, moving to Greenville, South Carolina to start my new career at Michelin, and traveling throughout the country to Detroit, Traverse City, Savannah, Seattle, Bellingham, Las Vegas, Zion National Park, Bryce Canyon National Park, Charlotte, Columbia, Nashville, Asheville, and Atlanta. Another highlight that sparked this post is that I read a few introspective books that have made a significant impact on my view of the world. I decided to organize my year’s reflections based on these books below:

The Power of Now (Eckhart Tolle). A common focus area for me over the past several years has been to focus on the present. Reading The Power of Now, which a great neighbor in Greenville gave to me, has put a different spin on “presence” for me. While I am almost always thinking about what happened in the past or what I’m planning in the future, I have realized that thinking about what is happening right now, in this moment, gives me a sense of peace and calm. It also makes me more in-tune with my inner thoughts and hopes – leading me in the soul-driven direction I would like to go. I am making a conscious effort to be more “now” focused than ever before.

I read The Power of Now at an opportune time when facing uncertainty in my previous relationship. The book helped me identify that I was in a toxic love-hate relationship where I was dealing with lies, sneakiness, and hurt. All of this was first of all, unhealthy and harmful to me, and second of all, holding me back from being in the “now.” My gut and my closest peers knew this all along, but reading the advice in a book is what hit me the most. I had an “aha!” moment, realizing I needed to let go in order to live in my “now” and achieve my fullest potential and destiny. This “aha!” moment and my willingness to share some parts of the story with you are inspired by the Time’s Up movement in Hollywood. I am proud of the celebrities who are standing up against harassment and abuse of women. I, too, feel the need to share my “aha!” moment as it has only helped me realize what threats women face and how we often feel stuck in toxic situations. Thankfully I felt empowered to leave and I hope to remind any of you who feel stuck that you are never truly stuck. There are always ways out, solutions, and people there to help you! Don’t lose faith! I am grateful that I have grown from my own situation and realized what qualities I am looking for in others, especially my future relationships. I can tell you with confidence that the number one value I have for people I bring into my life is character. My closest friends and family model good character, and I plan to only date those with good character in the future. By practicing being in the “now,” I will be more in-tune with my gut and will be able to identify more quickly people who should and should not be in my life. I highly recommend that you read The Power of Now, and you may also have unexpected realizations that help you grow as a person.

No Greatness Without Goodness (Randy Lewis). 2017 marked the beginning of my post-MBA career at Michelin. My first rotation in Michelin’s Global Leadership Program presented me with awareness about the challenges that people with disabilities face when trying to enter the workforce. A colleague at work gave me No Greatness Without Goodness, which discusses Walgreens VP of Supply Chain’s experience raising a son with autism and leading the initiative at Walgreen’s to hire employees with disabilities at its distribution centers. I am proud that Michelin is mirroring Walgreen’s efforts and has committed to hire people with disabilities at its distribution centers and beyond. In the fall, I had the opportunity to learn sign language and perform the National Anthem and Pledge of Allegiance in sign language at the Upstate Salute event in Greenville, honoring veterans. This experience at the beginning of my career at Michelin has inspired me to always seek opportunities for goodness as I develop into a leader. I aspire to be a servant leader, always thinking about how I can help others in my daily work and in my community. If you are looking for inspiration in your career, particularly related to helping others, check out No Greatness Without Goodness.

Toward A True Kinship of Faiths (Dalai Lama). I received this book as part of Michelin’s new Interfaith Group forming in 2018. The Dalai Lama shares his perspective of different world religions and how we can develop empathy for others who may be different form us. Empathy for diversity has been one of my passions, particularly since studying abroad in Spain and France. I strive to learn from others – the more different people are from me, the more I want to talk to and learn from them. Throughout 2017, I traveled to many beautiful cities throughout the United States from coast to coast, which made me realize the beauty in the diversity of the US landscape and people. What makes America so special to me is the variety of people (backgrounds, religions, cultures, perspectives, etc.) who can live and thrive in our country and who make the most of whatever landscape and environment that surround them.

While the year brought a lot of political turmoil and what the media portrays as division between people, I found through my travels that we are much more connected than we think we are. We are especially connected by our desire for community, as Mark Zuckerberg eloquently describes here. I was fortunate to have two incredible communities in 2017, first as a Gamecock throughout the beginning of the year and second as a resident in the best apartment complex in Greenville. I had an amazing experience cheering on the Gamecock basketball teams in the Final Four and attending Darius Rucker’s free student concert in honor of the Gamecock football team making it to a bowl game. I was reminded how important it is to me and how much fun it is to be part of a school with great spirit (especially now as both a Michigan and USC alumnus). Also graduating in the middle of a historic campus (USC was founded in 1807!) and attending the law school graduation was surreal. The next time you are graduating, I recommend that you also attend a graduation ceremony at your school – it is amazing to have the experience from both sides of the podium! My second community through my apartment complex was the best decision I made when moving to Greenville. I couldn’t be more grateful for the international community that surrounds me – at any given occasion I hear 3-4 languages exchanged! The almost weekly social events have introduced me to some awesome new friends who have helped me feel at home in Greenville as we have explored the town and often been the “newbies” together. As inspired by the Dalai Lama, I look forward to continuing to have an empathy for those different from me, especially when joining new communities in 2018.

 

Having reflected on 2017, I can now officially welcome 2018. An astrologist in Sri Lanka shared with me that 2018 starts the best 10 years of my life – and I can already feel the positive energy in the air! One of my best friends gave me a “love bell” that she bought in Greece where she got engaged, and as a slightly superstitious hopeless(ful?) romantic, I look forward to seeing what it brings for me in 2018. I also look forward to attending more planned runs throughout the year (hopefully the Charleston Bridge Run!) and I am committed to doing a push-up! My year of travel will be focused on some of my best friend’s weddings in Alabama and Chicago and also some exciting work trips (San Francisco and Montreal to start)! I will continue to share my reflections from my travels and daily life and bring new ideas to you. I hope the new year brings you much happiness, love, new experiences, travel, and inspirNational reflections!

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International Love

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How are love and relationships comprehended throughout the world? This has been the fascinating topic of conversation in my French class and with my host family over the past week.

My classmates throughout the world have been optimistic about love, saying that true love lasts forever and there is no such thing as a bad ending to love. We talked about the various types of relationships in France, including a civil union, a PACs and marriage. We compared our own customs (United States, Brazil, Uruguay, Scotland, Poland, Japan, and Germany) to those in France. Each of our home countries define relationships differently: some focus on the religious commitment, some focus on the financial benefits, some focus on equality for all, and others focus on how society is organized. While we found that the semantics and government benefits of relationships vary by country, we were comforted to know that true love unites us all.

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The unity of love made me more excited to learn about the French and what love lessons I could apply anywhere in the world. I spoke with my host mom about love and relationships over dinner this week. I told her I respected her opinion as she has been married for 35 years! My host mom made love seem so simple. She said the first important test to know whether your significant other is “the one” is: when you see your significant other for the first time in a while, how do you feel? If he/she makes you feel happy and brings butterflies to your stomach, you should be with him/her. She also said that in order to make her 35 year marriage successful she looked for 3 values in her husband: trust, esteem, and having fun together. She defined esteem as her husband being respected by others and therefore is an honor to be around. With these values and an overall sentiment of happiness with your significant other, my host mom thinks that your relationship can withstand time. I plan to continue the conversation about love and relationships, as I think they are some of the most mysterious parts about life. We can all stand to learn from others about how to find true love and have lifelong relationships. What other lessons about international love have you learned during your travels?

 

United by the Circle of Life

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After traveling across three continents and studying intensively in three countries, I am realizing that while it is easy to focus on differences between cultures, it is even more interesting to focus on similarities.

Religion, culture, language, and customs may divide us, but we are all connected by the core purposes of life: milestones, values, relationships, careers, memories of the past and hopes for the future. I am going to combines these core purposes of life and describe them as the circle of life. We are all united by the circle of life.

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Source: http://www.canstockphoto.com

I have been reminded of this unity recently while living with my host family in Paris. Almost every evening, we enjoy dinner together and have interesting conversations about life

The Joys of Being a New GrandparentOn Friday, my host family welcomed their first grandson into the world. My host mom discussed how excited she was to share in the “new grandparent” experience with her husband. She described that when women deliver their own baby, mothers and fathers cannot relate. The mother already knows the baby after nine months of carrying it. The dad meets the baby right when it is born. However, grandparents can share in the experience of just meeting the baby because it is new to both of them. This is an exciting time for my host family, which is relevant to any family throughout the world with new grandchildren.

Celebrating 33 Years of MarriageI had a dinner with my host dad one night and discussed the secrets of a lifelong marriage. He and his wife celebrated their 33rd wedding anniversary in December, beating the odds of only a 51% marriage success rate in France (very similar odds in the United States as well). He said, first of all, there are no secrets. You have to make your marriage work in your own way. He also described that communication is the most important part of a successful relationship- catching up on each other’s days, discussing successes and failures, and overcoming conflicts. He said he follows his dad’s advice to never go to bed angry. With the challenges of marriage throughout the world, I was intrigued to learn insights about successful marriage in France.

The Purpose of Strikes: Last week, Paris experienced another strike with taxis blocking the streets and requesting higher wages. I learned from my host family how common strikes are in Paris and how they are always related to money. My host family was frustrated with the strike’s disruption to the city and the corruption of Paris’ tax and immigration policies. While our conversation remained politically neutral, it was interesting for me to learn that debates related to social change, taxes, and immigration are present no matter where we live or travel. We are united by our societal challenges, and diverse in our responses and reactions to these challenges.

Stop Striving for Perfection: One of the most insightful life conversations we had was how people are striving for perfection in their careers and relationships. My host family emphasized that perfection is not realistic. There is no perfect job or perfect spouse. People are “job hopping” more now than ever before, assuming that the “grass will be greener on the other side.” In reality, there are no greener pastures, just greener perspectives of the situations we face. In the past, my host family said that they were just grateful to have a job and a steady wage. If they didn’t enjoy their job, they would focus their energy outside of work rather than letting their job consume them. My host family also described that people are also getting divorced too soon, giving up before giving it their all. Now people are expecting so much more and rarely feeling satisfied. I can attest to these sentiments from my own experience and that of my friends, especially those of us in our 20s. The post-college decade is full of uncertainty, change, and striving for the perfect life rather than focusing on the good in today. I posed a question to my host parents, asking how they think we can all stop striving for perfection. They said they didn’t know, but knew it was possible. My proposition is to first stop comparing our lives to others (which is easier today with access to friends and family’s life updates on social media). After, we should create our lives as we see fit, combining our upbringing with what we learn as we live and travel throughout the world.

Each of these circle of life conversations sparks thoughtful insights that we can learn no matter where we are in the world. What life conversations have you had during your travels?

Do What You Love, Love What You Do

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I’m so excited to share the story of Sigourney Seybert, one of my classmates and friends from the University of Michigan. She currently works as a Field Staffer at New Life Church Ann Arbor and as an International Missionary at Great Commission Latin America. She is one of the most inspiring people that I know, who follows her heart and faith to guide her in her career. She is making a huge difference in the world, particularly in El Salvador and the Ann Arbor community. She is positively influencing others to pursue their faith throughout the journey of life. Learn insights from her below!

My friend Brittany and I met while in undergrad at the University of Michigan in a social outreach class.  As you can imagine there are a lot of people in these types of classes that are passionate about community development, social work, and generally making the world a better place.  However, Brittany and I clicked and found ourselves soon dreaming and scheming about our futures and talking about the issues and people groups we were passionate about.
Fast forward to now and I have the privilege of writing a guest post on this blog!  It seems like not long ago I was a little freshman heading to Ann Arbor ready to make a splash, but little did I know I would be moving to El Salvador in 5 short years.  Going into college I knew that I wanted to do something to help others.  Like many hopeful freshman I thought I would go to med school and save peoples’ lives, but after almost failing general chemistry I threw those dreams out the window.  I sought out a church community my first few weeks on campus and settled into a church on campus that was full of young people.  In the spring of 2010 when the opportunity to go on a mission trip to El Salvador presented itself I knew I had to go.  I had no idea what I was getting myself into.
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We touched down in “the land of smiles,” as it is known, to find ourselves in the midst of a national emergency.  All our plans of teaching English, building houses, and feeding kids went out the window and our entire week was spent doing disaster relief.  We delivered clean water, food, and condolences to people who had lost their homes.  We heard countless heart breaking stories of families separated in the night as the water rose, houses washing away, and emergency evacuations.
Now I, Sigourney, grew up in a nice New England Parsons home set on ten acres in the country of mid Michigan.  Up to that point in my life I could think of few times I had felt uncomfortable.  This trip rocked my world.  I started asking a lot of deep questions like: Why do these people have to suffer while I live so comfortably?  Why do they have so little while I have so much?  Can I do anything at all to help?
These questions rang in my ears as I returned to school for my second year.  I cried, I became apathetic, I prayed.  I didn’t know what I could possibly do with my life to make a difference.  So like any logical person would do, I went back.
The second trip was less dramatic, but provided much clarity.  I realized that I could make a difference if only for a few people and I became satisfied with that.  I realized that what I had fallen in love with the year prior was the people.  They don’t have much, but they know what is important.  Relationships.
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So as I returned to Ann Arbor for my final few semesters it was settled:  I would study Spanish, so I could build relationships there, and Social Work so that I had a skill set to empower communities.  From 2012-2014 I would return to El Salvador four times.  Each time my Spanish a little better, my relationships a little deeper, and my heart more fully alive.  In the fall of 2012 I had made the choice to go on staff at the church knowing that half of the year I would move to El Salvador.  I would have the opportunity to love the 40 kids the church there feeds every day, to teach them about God, to help them with homework, but mostly just to love them and their families.  I also now have the opportunity to plan trips for University of Michigan students, just like I once was, that could change the trajectory of their lives.It has been a long road.  It has been a tough road full of pain and heart break, but also full of inexpressible joy.  In five short weeks I will board that plane and I will once again enter the land of smiles, not as a stranger in a foreign land, but as a homecoming.
So at this point you may be asking “How do you live in two places?  How does that even make sense?  Why would you leave your friends and family and comfort?”  These are all valid questions and the answer is simple: I desire to use this life I’ve been given to it’s fullest potential.  For me that means living in two places.  I believe that we are here to love and serve those around us and that to those whom much has been given much is expected.  I have been blessed with abundant resources and I feel that it is my responsibility to be a good steward of these resources.  Now you may be asking “How can I do that?  I can’t just move out of the country!”  This is exactly what I don’t want you to hear.  What I do want you to hear is that you have to power to make a differenceFigure out what you are passionate about and find a way to make your life about it.  My job didn’t even exist until I wanted it.  Do I make a lot of money?  No.  Do I care?  No.  My heart is so full and I wake up every day so excited and grateful for the job that I have that it doesn’t matter.  Maybe for you it does matter.  Well then go get a high paying job and then use your money to bless others in your free time.
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However, I would like to caution you from just giving money away.  I’m not saying it’s a bad thing, but I think you would be missing out on a huge opportunity to learn something.  I have learned more about myself, the world, and what love truly looks like by getting in the trenches with those who are different from me.  I have wept with my friends there, I have laughed, heck I stood up in a wedding in El Salvador last week!  Don’t just give to make yourself feel better.  Give deeply not only of your resources, but of your heart.  Engage with people that need to be seen, and feel empowered to impact others for good.

I will get off of my soap box now, but as you can probably tell I am super passionate about this.  I’d love to talk with anyone more about any of the things I talked about.  Please feel free to contact me via email at sigseybert@gmail.com!  Also, I have a blog of my own if you’d like to read more details or see more pictures about my journey and the work I’m doing now. Thanks for reading!

-Sigourney Seybert

Thank you, Sigourney, for sharing your amazing story and inspiring others to do what they love, and love what they do!