<![CDATA[Ilana's Piece--<br />Nourishing Mind, Body, & Soul - Introspection]]>Tue, 16 Feb 2016 21:01:31 -0800Weebly<![CDATA[Here's What...]]>Fri, 17 May 2013 00:10:43 GMThttp://ilanaspiece.weebly.com/introspection/heres-whatI'm sad. I'm angry. I'm frustrated. I'm mad. I'm depressed. I'm grieving. I'm upset… that my whole life has changed, and not really for the better. I sit for hours thinking about the way things used to be, reflecting on a time when I was the girl everyone wanted to become. I had so many circles of friends and guys lining up, just waiting for the serious relationship I was in to crumble, so that they felt enabled to take a chance on me. I truly thought I met the guy I would marry and I experienced what might be the most amazing intimacy of my life.

I reflect on where I am now and none of my reality resembles that cherished past. There are no more circles, no more lines…those relationships are merely memories that with time continue to fade and become less relevant in the grand scheme of this life. 

This is why I am so on edge. This is why I remain on the verge of tears. This is why I go through cycles of reverting back to old habits and turning to food, attempting to numb the inexplicable pain these feelings and thoughts cause. The physical pain I create for myself, and the guilt I feel for feeding my body such toxic crap, which goes against everything I believe in, is all a distraction from the harsh yet true reality that has become my life. So here I am back to the start of this pathetic yet huge roller coaster, all over again…it's shameful and embarrassing, but practically impossible to conceal. 

I used to be involved in so many various activities and organizations while also a full-time student. Now, I feel like I merely have the time and mental/emotional energy to go to work and sneak in a few hours of unrestful sleep. I believe that I am great at my job on most days yet it frustrates me that those who work the hardest and possess the most important qualities, receive the least amount of respect and compensation for their work. I graduated at the top of my class, composed of thousands of students, but I am now in a position that leaves me feeling trampled on and yearning for more.

This is why I have been the way I have…these are the demons that haunt me, these are the internal thoughts that I stew upon and from which I am so overcome with emotion and hopelessness. I peaked years ago and I wish that would have been the end because I'd rather a few short years of amazing memories, relationships, and positive impact, than years and years of feeling miserable and totally alone.  I can't remember the last time I smiled and it was truly genuine. I'm not sure the last picture I took where I was completely authentic. I'm afraid for tomorrow. I'm afraid for my future. I will never be someone's maid of honor, I am no one's "person." I may never be someone's wife, I may never feel completely, inherently loved nor experience full orgasmic pleasure. I may never be a mother and know what the feeling of carrying a life is like nor holding something that is a piece of me. I may never have a lasting impact on this world, I may never be remembered. ]]>
<![CDATA[Leading, Not Living, My Life--an Evolution]]>Fri, 13 Apr 2012 02:56:17 GMThttp://ilanaspiece.weebly.com/introspection/leading-not-living-my-life-an-evolution
Although it feels as if it were a lifetime ago, I can vividly recall the day my ninth grade class ventured over to the high school we would be attending for orientation. During the various speeches given by faculty members and current students, the importance of becoming involved in many organizations and taking advantage of the large variety of clubs was repeatedly stressed. I was told that colleges wanted to see that you held leadership positions and were invested in more than just academics. So I seized this advice and spent my high school career not only participating in, but also taking on leadership positions in theater productions, choirs, honor societies, and community service organizations. All of these activities were enjoyable, rewarding, and certainly established quite an impressive looking resume to submit with my college applications; however, it was not until college, that I began to develop the mindset of a true leader. I had discovered and exercised certain aspects of a great leader in high school yet my experiences at Penn State and through the Presidential Leadership Academy have helped me to refine my perspectives and ideas and to add to my abilities.

My wish was to attend Northwestern University, but my Dad discouraged me from applying, as he did not want to see me rejected. To this day, I wonder if I would have been accepted and regret not going against his advice and taking a risk. He felt Penn State was a wonderful school that could offer me everything I wanted and more and so that is where I chose to reside. Despite all of my "leadership" experience, I was unable to take a stance and follow my own vision. Instead I concentrated on pleasing him and adopted the attitude that I would make Penn State a wonderful, memorable experience. My first inclination was to take time to look beyond my books, get involved, and make him and others proud of my proactive "success." Yet quite an evolution has occurred, as there have been a couple huge events and decisions that with acquired knowledge and maturity, provide a sharp contrast to these initials actions and have enabled me to actually begin leading my own life.

I began investing my time in Penn State Hillel, PSN-TV, THON, Tikkun Olam, and Centre County PAWS.  While I established many friendships and was making wonderful memories through these organizations, I noticed that as my junior year approached, my enthusiasm and passion began to fade. Being a true leader was about more than possessing the titles of Vice President, Audio Manager, Event Coordinator, and Adoption Counselor. Certainly those labels sound great and provide a lot to boast about, but if they are not meaningful and igniting my soul, then I am doing an injustice to myself and all those involved. I have learned that being a leader means acknowledging the perceptions others have, but not working to simply appease and impress them.

With great fear and anxiety, the fall of my junior year, I grabbed the reigns and took lead of my own life. Although I held many reservations about disappointing my Dad and various organizations I was committed to, I took a stance and decided I needed to take a semester off and tend to my health. This decision conveyed enormous growth in my leadership skills because not only was I able to overcome disheartening thoughts of how others might perceive me, but in addition, I was able to ask for help, which is a critical ability for any leader to possess. I recognized that reaching out for assistance when feeling unequipped with the proper resources and abilities is purely a sign of strength.

I have ascertained that a great leader focuses not solely on the product, but equally values the process. They must rise above the paralyzing fear of failure and take risks. My decision to go away for a semester did not signify I had failed at handling certain issues on my own, but it conveyed maturity and ambition in that I was willing to do whatever it took to conquer them. This focus, determination, and faith helped me to jump from the darkness and know that I was going to land or learn to fly. Yet no matter the outcome, I would take it one day at a time and try my best to reap the benefits of the overall process. Upon my return to Penn State, I have continued to struggle immensely, but view the experience as invaluable. For every time one takes the lead, regardless of the outcome, useful knowledge and experience is acquired, which will impact future perspective, decisions, and interactions. That is what must be recognized and treasured.

After assessing my process and engaging in a great deal of introspection, I took lead of my life yet again this year. Despite opposition from my Dad, and the more subtle, but still lurking and uneasy feelings of failure, disappointment, and fear, I decided to return to my original plan of one major and one minor and to graduate on time, this Spring.  As a rising leader, I was able to identify my strengths and weaknesses at this time in my life and tailor my course of action to best cater to the present circumstances. I have found that this flexibility and openness to adjusting for unexpected events and feelings is critical in leading effectively. It is not about what will look great or seem most impressive. Rather, a true leader focuses on what will be the best resolution and lead to greatest fulfillment and zeal for those involved, and develops a plan of attack around those ideals.

Now a senior, on the verge of breaking through the boundary lines and immersing myself into the real world, I am ready to do more than reflect on my leadership development. I want to put all I have learned into action! I am ready for change. I am ready for new and different challenges that will require me to ignite the skills I have developed that lay dormant, awaiting an opportunity to shine. As a busy student, I find myself stuck in the same sort of routine, day in and day out. This makes it difficult to appreciate all that I have become because in a way it feels underutilized and distant. I am so eager to employ and rediscover abilities and characteristics I possess through new environments, social interactions, and difficult endeavors. Only then will I be able to assess my development as a leader in its fullest, richest capacity.
<![CDATA[A Relationship Revitalized]]>Fri, 24 Feb 2012 14:54:34 GMThttp://ilanaspiece.weebly.com/introspection/a-relationship-revitalizedThis year's Valentine's Day may have been void of roses, chocolates, and a handsome beau by my side yet I still managed to feel some love. I happened to meet a friend and mentor of mine for coffee that day, who I had not seen in quite sometime. Our conversation began to flow in the direction of my struggles with feelings of sadness and current tendencies to isolate. Though a simple statement, his words resonated with me greatly: "You can't just live online." While I've maintained connections with people via social networks on the Internet, I am in need of more face-to-face interaction; I'm existing, but not living. Reconnecting with him was a great first step and inspired me to go home that evening and be proactive. So instead of feeling even more down due to not having a hot Valentine's Day date, I composed an e-mail to a person whom I have deeply missed and thought about often over the past few months:

Dearest ­­­­­­­                   ,
I'm not sure where even to begin so let me start off with an apology. I want to say that I am deeply sorry for not staying connected to you in these past few months. You are a person that I value greatly and of whom I have the upmost respect for yet unfortunately, in what has been an extremely trying time for my emotional and physical health, I have chosen to isolate from those in my life who have meant the most and who truly I am in dire need of. I hope that you can find the smallest flicker of forgiveness in your heart to enable me back into your life. I am embarrassed I let so much time pass without communicating and talking to you. I began writing an e-mail to you about three weeks ago yet could not muster up the courage to hit send because I just felt so ashamed. Please know that I think about you (and your family) on a daily basis and care about you deeply. I would love to meet for coffee sometime to talk about life, like back in the old days...I miss my second Momma.
Love Always, Ilana 

I received a response almost immediately that could not have been filled with more love and warmth. She emphasized that there was no need for an apology or to carry any feelings of shame, as it had also been a rough time for her. She closed the e-mail by saying that I would always be loved, especially by her. That sentiment truly made my day. After a couple more messages, we arranged a time and were able to meet and catch up yesterday afternoon. I had missed her so much and it literally felt like we had just picked up right where we left off a few months ago. Her words were so uplifting and reassuring; she restored a bit of faith in myself and I found great comfort in her presence. I cannot believe it took us this long to reconnect, but I am elated that we finally did and intend on seeing her often throughout the remainder of the semester. She is someone with whom I want to remain in contact with for life. Although just one person, it is a small step to restoring happiness and intimacy in my life and for that I feel proud. 
<![CDATA[At War with Myself]]>Wed, 25 Jan 2012 12:16:15 GMThttp://ilanaspiece.weebly.com/introspection/at-war-with-myselfI want to be very upfront and disclose that the following post is a bit dark and deep. If you are someone who is already feeling overly emotional after this week's unfortunate events involving Joe Paterno, I would suggest waiting to read this until another time.

There is only a small group of individuals with whom I have divulged some of my most personal struggles and experiences; however, I have recently had an even more difficult time than usual. Since I have alluded to these personal issues in previous posts, and this blog is meant to encompass my individual opinions, ideas, and emotions, I decided it would be a reasonable outlet to allow myself to vent and stream my current, pervasive thoughts.

Lately, I have been feeling so overwhelmed with emotions. Thoughts are constantly racing through my head...I am extremely stressed due to all of my class work, sad that so many highly-valued friendships and activities have disintegrated or taken an extreme back seat due to the depression and anxiety I have been experiencing, frustrated and angry that I've battled with my issues for so long, nervous about finding a fulfilling and rewarding job, and absolutely ashamed of how I look. I just feel like I've truly lost the vivacious, passionate, beautiful person I once was.

I've been battling since the tenth grade...going on eight years now. I've seen multiple therapists, physicians, and even took a medical leave last spring to focus solely on restoring my well-being. Yet despite all of that, I am still struggling. Every day I continue to be at war with myself. Clearly, I recognize that I am physically and emotionally walking a very fine line. In no way am I in any sort of denial about that. I just feel so overwhelmed by everything that at this point, I am simply trying to do what I need to in order to function and persevere through these final courses of my undergraduate career. At times my thoughts and emotions are so intense that they literally become debilitating and it feels hard to breathe. I want more than anything to escape these horrendous feelings and to once and for all feel liberated from my own mind. I tell myself that graduation marks the start of a new chapter of my life when things will begin to improve and the old me will be restored, but I am not sure that I necessarily believe that...As for right now in this moment, I am sighing with great relief, as another day is coming to a close. I survived the internal battle until tomorrow, when it may begin again.

I cannot seem to rid myself of the all or nothing mentality. The Academy has taught me how to dissect and discover the grey areas in the world, but where the heck is it in my own life? Why can't I live in that realm, let alone even grasp it for more than a moment in time? Although the deep issues I have revealed here still remain somewhat ambiguous, they are my truth, my reality, and I feel scared and hesitant to publish them. Yet I have learned that communication is a key to success and through openness and honesty with others, and myself, I am more accountable and might receive a new piece of wisdom or helpful form of support. Cooking has become one of my passions, but in this instance, I've been following a recipe for failure and need to change my ingredients!
<![CDATA[Personal Epiphanies Through Cultural Immersion]]>Wed, 02 Nov 2011 02:33:29 GMThttp://ilanaspiece.weebly.com/introspection/personal-epiphanies-through-cultural-immersionThis semester, one of my education courses that is geared towards teaching English language learners, has required me to explore a particular cultural group found here in State College. I chose the Russian Baptist community and upon immersing myself into their culture, my original intent was to focus on the topic of family. Yet when I began writing about the experience, my ideas diverged into a different direction. As I allowed my thoughts to flow and continued typing, I suddenly found deep and profound personal insights and reflections emerging organically and naturally through my fingertips. While these personal epiphanies may not technically be a relationship of pure causation from my encounter with the Russian Baptist community, they were certainly instigated and impacted by the experience.

My Mom was visiting the weekend I had chosen to attend the Church service, so I had the pleasure of diving into one piece of this cultural experience with her by my side. She has been my best friend, my rock, and the person who has kept me grounded through what has been a difficult few months. This experience was a subtle reminder of just how blessed I am to have her as such an integral part of my life. So that Sunday evening, as my Mom and I pulled up to the Russian Baptist Church, an overwhelming sense of relief and calm enveloped me. No, this was not due to the fact that I had actually found the facility located on West College Avenue, but rather because this immersion experience was occurring at a time of huge life changes (the day I decided to pursue only one major)! I became acquainted with the Russian Baptist culture with a refreshed spirit and eyes that were slowly becoming renewed. We walked through a grand entrance way and I was slightly embarrassed, as I felt quite underdressed and knew my face was puffy and red from all of the tears I had produced in the previous 24 hours, as I was sorting out my life. Yet the people were kind and welcoming. A young and handsome man immediately approached me. Do not get excited, as he was not interested in attaining my phone number. Rather, he offered my Mom and me headsets so that we could comprehend what was being discussed throughout the service.  Due to the fact that so much had occurred in such a short period of time and I was inundated with various emotions, I honestly was unable to focus on the details of the sermon.  As the fall harvest was being discussed and words such as "bountiful" and "fruit" flowed through my earpiece, my attention became focused on the various people in the room.

The space was very warm and filled with families, generations of women and men from infancy to elderly. Small children wandered in and out of the pews and those who were a bit older helped lead the congregation in prayer. The bright gazes from their families and other onlookers were very moving.  Observing these Russian Baptists helped to solidify the enormous decision I had made that weekend. Looking around, I recognized that a fulfilling and successful life had nothing to do with the number of degrees one possessed. Life is not meant to be spent constantly stressed and overwhelmed by schoolwork. For all I know, everyone in that room could have been college dropouts or only high school graduates yet that was irrelevant because what was illustrated as highly important were family, love, and a connection to something greater than oneself.  That is what the people there lived for and why they were not just surviving, but thriving.

The woman sitting next to me was cradling her daughter tightly and looked over at me several times throughout the service.  I was not certain why and assumed that she might have been upset by my presence, as it was quite evident that I was "an outsider" unable to speak the language and dressed differently than other young women in attendance. However, she turned to me and said, " We keep faith in G-d, even with obstacle." It was so sincere yet a bit eerie because that statement was so relevant to all I had been experiencing lately. I have always been a very spiritual person and looked to G-d for strength. Yet recently, I have been somewhat angry with Him and wondering why I am being burdened by such deep and dark emotions. Yet this experience reminded me that in all cultures, prayer is like the voice of the heart. When I am experiencing a setback and feel as if I can speak to no one, G-d is always there to listen. Visiting the Russian Baptist Church during this tough time restored faith in my own G-d.

I thoroughly enjoyed this immersion experience, as it yielded introspection that I never imagined. The warmth and love exuded by the people, the topic of the service, and the ideals employed by the Russian Baptist community were powerful and so relevant to my own life. I realized that my resulting perspective was inside of me all along and the experience opened my heart, enabling its unveiling.
<![CDATA[Lead (Not, Live) Your Life: Part II!]]>Sat, 15 Oct 2011 02:28:53 GMThttp://ilanaspiece.weebly.com/introspection/lead-not-live-your-life-part-iiAs I stood before hundreds of people at Hillel's Kol Nidre service last week, chanting a prayer that is bursting with powerful emotion, I somehow still could not fully connect with G-d. I was so focused on looking confident, sounding beautiful, and keeping my stamina up for the growing intensity of the ten-minute plea, that I lost touch with what I was intending on communicating to Him. While numerous people approached me after the service, commending me on the incredible job I had done leading and chanting, I felt quite disappointed. I had presented myself well and performed the task as needed, but had not felt fulfilled or satisfied. This experience was the beginning of the most reflective and life altering Yom Kippur holidays of my life, whereby once again I took lead of my own life, dissected my personality, and redirected my life's path. 

I recently completed a Myers Briggs Personality Test, which indicated that I was an "ISFJ" type. It is said that these results are never set in stone and I am an example that they have a tendency to shift throughout time. All my life I have loved performing for and interacting with people. Up until about a year ago, I would have described myself as an absolute extrovert. After all, I am majoring in Broadcast Journalism because one of my strengths has always been communicating with others. Lately, this has not been the case. I have felt extremely depressed and have chosen to isolate myself from others, as it feels more comfortable to be alone. I now realize that this "I," or introvert, trait is in many respects actually an asset because it has allowed me to focus my attention on my most inner thoughts and feelings and to deeply evaluate the present. By exercising such introversion over the last few weeks, I came to recognize that pursuing a second major at this time is not the right path for me to follow.

This brings me to my next letter "S," which indicates I am the "sensing" type. I like to focus on the present, the reality of a situation. Looking ahead at the two additional years of course work I had left to complete in order to attain an Education degree was completely overwhelming. It was as if I was crawling through a narrow tunnel without any light at its end. For me, glancing that far into the distance without a clear and concrete vision caused great distress. Initially, I added the education major with the idea that down the road when I one day start a family, the hours and demands of a teaching position would be more conducive in comparison to working as a reporter or producer. Yet the reality is that my goal is to enter into the Communications field when I graduate and I can earn my education certification through a one-year program, if and when the time comes that I want to make that transition. I had to redirect my focus back to the present and determine what would be most effective and efficient for my well being at this point in time.

The next letter of my reported type was "F," which stands for "feeling." Clearly, I am a very emotional person and I find great meaning in reflecting on my emotions. I tried for a while to convince myself that it logically made the most sense to continue my education for another two years because I had already started working toward the degree and acquiring credits. However, my heart is lacking passion for Penn State and this student life I am living. As I frequently do, I also began to consider the thoughts and feelings of my family and mentors in deciding what course of action to take. I knew that they would support my decision because it was in the best interest of my health, happiness, and let us not forget in my parent's case, their wallets! I opened my mind, heart, and soul and discovered that a change of plans was critical during this time laden with despair.

The final and strongest trait reported on my evaluation was "J," or "judging."  I find that I have a strong, inherent need for stability and consistency.  Whether it is in setting a long-term goal or just looking ahead to the next day, I am someone who always takes a planned and organized approach. For example, every night I create an agenda for the next day that hour by hour indicates what I need to accomplish. I like to feel a sense of control, as it is empowering and provides security. While I had mapped out a plan to earn a second degree in Education, it had no definitive end and in moving forward to achieve that goal, I began to feel out of control in other aspects of my life. This quickly conveyed that a change was needed to restore order in my life and to revive my spiritual, emotional, and mental health.  

Personality is how you present yourself to the world; it is how people see you. This public persona is the means for either attracting or dissuading others. In order to be an effective leader, one must strengthen this outward image so that others feel confident in following. The trick is that it must remain true and genuine to whom you are and not become simply a façade. While there is no perfect formula for the personality of a great leader, the key is to embrace and emphasize the qualities you possess by molding them to your advantage. I am utilizing my current trait types of introversion, sensing, feeling, and judging by allowing them to guide me in making life changing decisions and in taking the lead of my future.
<![CDATA[Kol Nidre]]>Thu, 06 Oct 2011 02:37:02 GMThttp://ilanaspiece.weebly.com/introspection/kol-nidreOn Friday evening, I will help to usher in Yom Kippur by partaking in the first service of the holiday, known as Kol Nidre. Hosted by Penn State Hillel, it will be held in the Pasquerilla Spiritual Center at 6 p.m. Even if you are not an observing Jew, I encourage you to come indulge in the cultural experience. The name of the service is derived from its pinnacle prayer titled "Kol Nidrei," which is what I will be chanting before a room of about 400 people. While some individuals may find this task a bit daunting, I do not view it as any sort of performance, but rather as another opportunity to stand before G-d and make a vow with the addition of many onlookers to hold me accountable. 

The prayer is chanted three times, with each repetition growing louder and with stronger intent. Its translation boils down to the idea that all personal vows one has made to G-d in the past year that have not been fulfilled, will be considered null and void from this point forward. This prayer empowers the individual because by relaxing the absolute commitment to keep every promise, the person becomes liberated and enabled to honestly appraise their actions and experiences of the past year. Yom Kippur is a whole day devoted to this task, it is the Day of Atonement, and the Kol Nidrei is sort of the overture that sets the stage for the deep introspection that lies ahead. 

Lately, I have felt somewhat disconnected from G-d, which greatly saddens me because at my core, I know my passion for and value of Judaism is immense. However, I seem to be stuck in a rut, trapped in a cycle of negative thoughts and void of hope that I will ever fully conquer my inner demons. While I should look to G-d to help me through this difficult time, I have instead recently shut Him and many others out. At least I am well aware of this behavior of isolation that I have been imploring and my hope is that chanting this intense declaration on Friday night will be the first step in opening myself back up to G-d, restoring optimism and strength within me for the coming year. Additionally, I believe the presence of so many others in the room serves as a way to hold me accountable because they are witnessing the establishment of this reconnection. While I have made great strides, there are many obstacles I have yet to overcome. There is always schoolwork to be done and other responsibilities that make it very easy to become distracted from tackling those challenges; therefore, I intend on taking full advantage of this 24-hour period of reflection and repentance to regroup and determine the best way to work toward fulfilling the potential and plan G-d has in store for me. 
<![CDATA[Lead (Not, Live) Your Life!]]>Fri, 16 Sep 2011 02:26:31 GMThttp://ilanaspiece.weebly.com/introspection/lead-not-live-your-lifeUpon arriving at Penn State, I was thrilled yet overwhelmed by the immense amount of organizations in which I could potentially become involved. Since my interests were so varied, but my course load was heavy, I knew it would be necessary to be selective with what clubs I decided to make a commitment.  I put my passion for theater and dance on the back burner and chose to dive into my love of Judaism by joining Penn State Hillel. This organization quickly became my home away from home. After actively and zealously participating for several months in numerous events and services, I wanted to see the organization continue to grow and potentially impact other student's lives, the way it had mine.  I decided to run for a student board position. Other organizations I chose to participate in included the Centre County PAWS Animal Shelter, a Jewish community service organization titled, Tikkun Olam, and a spiritual discussion group called Ayeka. This involvement and the many leadership titles I acquired seemed to create some depth to my existence. Aside from attaining high marks in my classes, I began to validate who I was by everything I took on and led.

Last fall, I gained some powerful insight while leading my usual Friday night Shabbat service at Hillel. The room was filled with over 40 students and as I led them in prayer, I realized the passion and enthusiasm I once had was slowly diminishing. The leadership roles I had taken on in several organizations, paired with all of my schoolwork, had become too much; however, I believed by outwardly admitting this, it would be a sign of weakness and I would let way too many people down. Yet if my mind, body, and spirit were deteriorating, could I be a great, effective leader? I felt like I was going through the motions and simply putting on a performance, something I had plenty of experience with throughout my childhood. I lost touch with the vital components of strong leadership and was in dire need of some restoration.

By taking time to repair my own mental, physical, and emotional health, I believe I exercised many more critical traits of a leader than when I held the titles of Vice President of the Hillel organization and Program Coordinator of Tikkun Olam.  A leader must be courageous. They must have the perseverance to accomplish a goal regardless of the obstacles off in the distance that seem insurmountable. Never in my life had I been more courageous than when I signed the papers to take a medical leave and journey to a far away facility to restore my health. I was well aware that it was going to be a difficult experience, but I recognized that it was something I had to do in order to ensure a fulfilling future. No one had approached me about seeking treatment or forced me to step down from my positions. Rather, I looked inward, recognized that change was necessary, and conducted my own research to discover the best course of action to take. A leader takes initiative.

A leader must possess integrity. My inner values and outward actions were no longer integrated. What I was feeling did not coincide with how I behaved and as a result, I was not being honest with myself, nor those around me. By taking time to rediscover who I was at my core, when the titles and grades had been stripped away from my identity, I was able to rid myself of the deception that had been present for quite sometime and restore pride in all that I encompassed. This helped me to gain another important characteristic of a leader, assertiveness. I found my voice again and my beliefs and values were no longer immersed in a fog. Without feeling uncertain, defensive, or aggressive, I could stand up and state my thoughts while conveying maturity and intellect.

A leader finds strength in human connection, recognizing that asking for help is most definitely not a sign of weakness. For so long I had wanted to resolve my health issues and accomplish all of my goals alone. I viewed reaching out for assistance as a sign that I had failed at the given task. Yet by nature, humans are wired to need one another and I began to realize that requesting support was a positive and powerful course of action. As the saying by John Donne goes, "No man is an island entire of itself." A person, who believes that they can lead alone, will fail to make critical connections and may experience hostility from others who feel detached and dismayed. The moment I opened up to family and close mentors about the severity of my issues, the gate of doom had been lifted and a whole new landscape of resources appeared before me.

While I have acquired knowledge and experience to better my leadership skills through campus organizations and courses such as this one, I attribute the most valuable learning experience to be one completely unrelated to an academic institution. After stepping back from all I was involved in and examining my own reality, I developed a true understanding of what makes an effective leader by taking lead of my own life. When I made my well being a priority, I was able to uncover courage, initiative, integrity, assertiveness, maturity, intellect, and human connection that had been lost in a sea of distracting commitments and overwhelming pressures. For now that I am grounded and have transformed my vision of a healthier life into a reality, I can lead by example and show the way in conquering all of the challenges that I may encounter along my personal and professional journey.  
<![CDATA[I am a Tree of Life...]]>Fri, 26 Aug 2011 00:37:31 GMThttp://ilanaspiece.weebly.com/introspection/i-am-a-tree-of-lifeIt's hard to believe that it has been eight months since I've written a blog. You may have noticed that I was M.I.A spring semester. Unfortunately, I allowed the stresses and anxieties of my academic and personal lives to get the best of me, so much so that it greatly impacted my health and there were issues that arose of which needed immediate attention. I returned to State College in June to resume classes over the summer.

Upon completion of summer session two, I traveled to Chicago to visit relatives. I must say that I am in love with this city, as you can do absolutely everything and anything there! In just three short days, we went to the zoo, strolled on the beach, attended an outdoor concert in the gorgeous Millennium Park, bowled, saw a fabulous comedy show, and explored the city streets. My last night there, I had a bit of a breakdown while conversing with my Aunt and Uncle. The realizations that my quick vacation was coming to a close and I was about to immerse myself into another semester hit me hard. I became upset and anxious thinking about how sick I became last year at this time unable to cope with the various pressures. They asked to see my schedule and after viewing it, looked at me like I had five heads. They told me that I was setting myself up for failure, as it was just too much, especially after all I had been through. They made some very valid points. By taking 19 credits, whom was I trying to impress? What was my hurry to graduate in exactly one year? They, nor my exceptionally bright cousins, never exceeded 15 credits a semester. Instead of allowing Ms. Perfectionist/Overachiever to run my life, I had to exercise leadership and take control of my well being by lessening the load. Now with 16 credits, I am still extremely busy, but not nearly as overwhelmed as I would have been.  Thank you Aunt Marlene and Uncle Barry for knocking some sense into me!

I was recently asked to think about the meaning of my name and discovered it is a perfect metaphor for where I am in my life presently. In Hebrew, Ilana Michele translates to "Chiya Malka," or "Tree of Life." Grounded by the roots of my past, I am looking upward towards the future. I may be surrounded by rocky, challenging terrain yet it is important to always recognize the beauty that still exists and the growth and evolution that are occurring. I like the quote by J. Willard Marriott, which says, "Good timber does not grow with ease. The stronger the wind, the stronger the trees." I have been presented with several obstacles in my life, especially in the past several years. Yet I have persevered and continually work to overcome them, becoming a more empowered individual in the process. I have a great deal of hope for the coming semester and look forward to sharing my journey with all of you. 

<![CDATA[Still Hallow...]]>Mon, 29 Nov 2010 03:39:14 GMThttp://ilanaspiece.weebly.com/introspection/still-hallowI recently had to write a short essay on my most meaningful achievement up until now. Here is what I came up with:

As I walked across the stage last spring to receive the USA Today Student Leadership Award, I was overwhelmed with feelings of surprise and excitement. This honor was awarded to me by Penn State University for my contributions and dedication to the foundation for Jewish life on campus, Hillel.  Beginning my freshman year, I became very involved with the organization and was the first person to ever challenge the Executive Director on program ideas, marketing campaigns, and the structure of Friday evening services.  During the time I served on the student board as Secretary and most recently, Vice President, Hillel's attendance at weekly social events as well as religious gatherings had nearly tripled. I have been in close correspondence with many alumni and after hearing about my personal connection to Hillel as well as the direction the organization is headed in, I managed to raise over 3,000 dollars. Hillel has provided me a home away from home and I wanted nothing more than to give back by becoming a leader and spokesperson for the group.  Although I was overjoyed and extremely proud to win an award for the role I have played, I also experienced a sense of emptiness.

Throughout my life, I have always been a go-getter.  Often times, I find it difficult to actually sit down and just relax as I always feel I should be doing something more productive. On top of the various organizations I am involved with including Hillel, Tikkun Olam, The Presidential Leadership Academy, and Centre County PAWS, I added a second major to my plate this year. Yet the more that I take on and the more people I reach out to and touch, I still feel that there is some sort of void, which must be filled. These activities I love participating in and the courses I have taken thus far, enhance my leadership skills, sense of responsibility, focus, and communication abilities, which I will benefit from for the rest of my life; however, I am sad to say that they have no effect on how I view myself as an individual.

This semester I came to a huge realization that while I am passionate about everything I do, the more I take on, the more I am burying what is a huge problem in my life, my eating disorder. Up until now, I thought that the more I did, the less time I would have to think about and deal with my anorexic and bulimic behaviors. Yet the deep emotions began to intensify and I could no longer conceal my disease under achievements and awards. Everything I have ever set my mind to, I have accomplished, with the exception of learning to love myself. I feel so proud for having earned the Freshman and Sparks Awards in lieu of a grade point average of 4.0 and co-founding a Jewish community service organization on campus; however, these challenging endeavors can no longer define me.

I believe my most meaningful achievement occurred just one month ago when I contacted an eating disorder treatment center out west and inquired about an inpatient program. While this was not in my original plan, it is a huge investment in my future. I have plenty of time to finish my degrees and pursue my career goals yet without my health none of that will come to fruition. Once I remove the many layers covering up deeper issues of lack of trust, guilt, perfectionism, etc. and stare my eating disorder straight in the face without any distractions, I can begin to fill the void I speak of with self-esteem, self-respect, love, and joy. I will see the world through a whole new perspective. It took an enormous amount of courage and strength for me to recognize that I had hit a wall and to reach out for help.  While this rehab facility is a huge, scary step, it is also a huge relief because I feel like there is finally some light in the dark, narrow, and frightening tunnel in which I have been traveling.