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This post was written by Sharon Lynn Porcoro, a recipient of the CUNY School of Professional Studies ACE Scholarship.

Food, Fitness, and Fitting School into My Busy Life
I do some of my best thinking while sitting on the E train heading home from work. For many the commute home can be daunting, but for me, it is a time for reflection and preparation. It is here that I often plan out my evening and the following days ahead. I add tasks and events to my calendar, make lists of things that need to get done at home, at school, and at work, and I read and begin to write up some of my schoolwork assignments. My busy schedule has forced me to look at my life in a different manner. I no longer fly by the seat of my pants, not planning or preparing, but rather just living. With a full-time job, a fiancé and two daughters, and school to consider, I need to keep my priorities straight. I also have to consider my health, since without it none of this is even possible.

The reason why many people decide to attend classes online is for the freedom of working at your own pace. I know that this was one of the main reasons why I chose to attend CUNY School of Professional Studies. I have a full-time job and a family that demands my attention so the freedom allowed by working at my own pace is not only helpful, it is a necessity. I knew that I would be spread very thin once classes are in session. Some things like hobbies and spending time with friends would fall by the wayside but there are certain things that cannot be ignored like my job, my family, school work, and my health.

For me, the key to staying sane while juggling all of these responsibilities is to prioritize. The reality is that I can only really focus on three, maybe four, aspects of life without spreading myself so thin that things begin to suffer. So since this is the case, I have to think, what 3 or 4 things are the most important? For me, that is family, school, work, and my health. Also, in recognizing those important things, I have to find ways to make them run as smoothly as possible. This is helpful in keeping my sanity. So I stay organized, plan out my calendar, prepare meals ahead of time, make to-do lists and stick to them, focus on the task at hand, don’t procrastinate, and try to stay positive.

Besides the vital responsibilities that come along with family, work and school, my health is also very important to me. Whether this means setting aside time for me to mentally decompress, to go the CrossFit to work out, or prepping a week’s worth of healthy meals, I make sure that I make myself a priority. Normally on Sundays, after stocking the fridge with essentials, I take some time to cook and prepare meals for the week. I find it helpful that after a long day at work I have a healthy and delicious meal already prepared. I also use my slow cooker at least once a week so that I can come home to a hot, home-cooked meal. I have included one my favorite recipes for pulled pork below. Setting aside 5 minutes in the morning to throw things in the slow cooker helps to ease the stress of a hectic evening.

Crock Pot Pulled Pork

5 pound Pork Butt (bone-in or out)
3 Slices of Bacon
1 Tablespoons of coarse sea salt
6 peeled cloves of garlic

Trim any skin or excess fat from the pork butt (not really necessary). Place the bacon on the bottom of the slow cooker. Poke the pork butt with a knife and push the garlic cloves in the cuts. Sprinkle the pork with the salt. Put the pork on top of the bacon in the slow cooker. Cook on low for 10 – 14 hours. The meat should be able to shred with 2 forks. Don’t use the liquid, it will be way too salty. Serve on a salad or in corn tortillas with some lettuce, avocado, and lime juice.

Sharon Lynn Porcoro is a recipient of the CUNY SPS ACE Scholarship, a scholarship program designed to support high-achieving undergraduate students Achieve College Education (ACE). She will graduate from the Sociology degree program on May 31, 2017.

As I helped my 4 year old son with his homework on a recent evening, I kept on insisting that he “stay within the lines” as he colored in his assignment.  This scene repeated itself for several minutes, as we both grew increasingly frustrated with each other.  My son could not understand why I did not acknowledge how beautiful he thought his coloring was, all I seemed to see were the “mistakes.”  I finally caught myself and realized what I was doing.

Sometimes we do the same thing when we think of our lives.  I’m sure there are moments when “staying within the lines” is important; take for instance respecting the limits that laws place on our behavior or even just staying in our lanes when we drive.  Moving beyond these sometimes literal ways of “staying within the lines,” what happens when we live our entire life that way?  Always focusing on what is wrong?  Or never reaching out for more because we can’t see beyond the limits we place on ourselves?  We miss out on how beautiful life can be when we don’t take chances and when we can’t see a lesson in what may seem like a mistake or failure.  I learned from that short moment with my son that our lives don’t have to be perfect to be good.  What we perceive as an imperfection may be what makes our lives that much more beautiful.

So, this is a reminder to focus on the good, savor your life, and don’t be afraid to try something new.  You’ll hold up your picture one day and be surprised at how beautiful it is.

Stephanie Perez is in her final year at CUNY SPS, majoring in Sociology. When she is not busy joining her four year old son on his daily adventures, she likes to spend her time reading, cooking, and dancing to her favorite music. After graduation she hopes to pursue a career in human rights law and advocacy.

What does it mean to be successful? What does success mean to you? As I prepared over the summer, for what will be my final semester towards my BA, I reflected a lot on what success meant to me. After all the effort it took to get this far, how will I use what I have been given? What is my next step?

Earlier in the summer, as I listened to the radio on my way home from work, I heard a playback of an interview of a well known American jazz musician, Charlie Haden. Haden described in his interview what a remarkable life and career he enjoyed. Although his accomplishments were many, what really stood out to me wasn’t so much what he did, it was why he did what he did, the motives behind his work.

Like any young professional, Haden struggled to make ends meet in the beginning of his career. Feeling guilty because he was not able to provide for his family, he decided to start recording commercial music. Although he was still working at creating music, creating commercial music was not something he believed in. In his own words, he said: “It isn’t what I want to do. I have a very clear picture of what I want to do and what I feel is important as far as my contribution or my appreciation and respect for this life that we’re living, and to try and make it better. I can’t feel that I’m making it better playing commercial music, and I never could and never will.” Listen to the full interview here.

What does this comment have to do with success? Well, Haden focused on producing work that he believed in and could feel proud of. It had real substance.  The feeling behind his work was what really resounded with me. It made me ask, why do I do what I do? What is really important to me? As I begin to take my first steps in my chosen career, how will I use my gifts and abilities? What will my contribution to society be? How will I be remembered one day?

Ultimately, I think I will have achieved success if I am able to produce work that I can stand behind of proudly. My journey up until this point has been a long and winding road. I feel like I scaled a huge mountain and am now at the top, gazing at the horizon. Looking ahead, beyond graduation, I want to strive to work hard at things that I believe in. I’m not sure where this journey will end, but I can’t wait to get started!

Stephanie Perez is in her final year at CUNY SPS, majoring in Sociology. When she is not busy joining her four year old son on his daily adventures, she likes to spend her time reading, cooking, and dancing to her favorite music. After graduation she hopes to pursue a career in human rights law and advocacy.