On turning 30

My 30th birthday came and went without too much of a quarter/mid-life crisis. There were definitely freakout moments, mind you, but it helped that there were lots of reasons to celebrate the new decade I’m entering.

I’ve been surprised at how frequently I hear that your thirties are often considered the best decade of your life. That’s (supposedly) when you get a lot more clarity about who you are and what you want out of life, and you aren’t afraid to set boundaries to live that vision out (or so I’ve been told). I almost get the sense that you get past the superficial view of how your life should look and instead appreciate what is.

In that respect, I’m excited to start my 30’s. It seems to go hand in hand with what my  “create” year is all about. I’ve recognized how important it is to cultivate attitudes, habits and a mindset consistent with who I want to be. It’s high time I stop wearing my busy badge all the time and calling that a life.

A couple weeks ago (on a day when I really needed to hear it) Liz Gilbert posted this fabulous message:

LG quote

I think it struck me because a lot of my twenties were spent trying to be someone who could handle everything (or as I liked to call it, being “well-rounded and dependable”). I wanted to be Superwoman because I thought it meant having a fulfilling/satisfying life, or at least that I wouldn’t miss out on opportunities. It seemed like a surefire way to make my mark on the world and embrace life to the fullest.

Not so much.

At times it was certainly rewarding and it looked pretty good on paper (again, that superficial stuff), but it also came with a lot of exhaustion and resentment. In fact, I think that’s why Gretchen Rubin’s secret to adulthood that “you can choose what you do, but you can’t choose what you like to do” resonated so much with me. I was spending time and energy on things I wasn’t really designed to do or that I even enjoyed doing.

And this is apparently the stage in life when you start figuring that out. Perhaps not coincidentally, just yesterday this blog post articulated a similar message about turning 30 and reinforced Gilbert’s post. How are you going to spend your life? How do you shift from doing everything to focusing on the key things that bring fulfillment and joy?

What’s interesting is that I progressed on my 30 Before 30 list, I found myself picking up on that. It mattered less that I hit an arbitrary number of books and was more important that I read books that inspired me or changed my perspective on something. Whether I got to visit a new state or not didn’t matter. I was more excited about my travel companions and our shared experiences.

In some sense, it became more about the intangibles. Case in point: my new board of directors role. It’d been on my list to join a board, but before signing the dotted line, I attended two board meetings, had a meet-and-greet with the director and went to a fundraising event to make sure it felt like a good commitment. I didn’t just want to add something to my resume or cross an item off my 30 Before 30 list. I needed to be sure it was value-added to my life (and thus far it’s definitely been that).

That seems to be how my sisters approached planning my birthday weekend, too, which helped me focus less on my milestone age. Through some long-distance planning between the middle and the little, the celebration was more than I could have ever imagined. The sisters planned out three days of activities consistent with my “create” theme and full of events, people and canines I love.

Among other things, I got to go to the “I love my dog” expo with Hurley, managed to get through an escape room (which I’d never heard of before) with five minutes to spare, experienced a fabulously made drink at the speakeasy, got a pedicure, and went to Bottom’s Up, a yoga class offered at our favorite brewery in town. (Not bad googling for the little out on the east coast!)

birthday weekend

The weekend, and other celebrations throughout the month, were really about being in the present and spending quality time with people who love, support and motivate me.

That, my friends, is how you bring on 30.

Although there’s still a bit of apprehension, I think I’m actually ready to take on the new decade in life. Let’s see if it lives up to the hype. 😉

(For those who are curious, there were five on-going goals on my 30 Before 30 list that I started but didn’t quite complete. And based on the content of this post, you probably guessed that I’m more than okay with that.)

Four months to go…

My old college roommate had a blog post last week about being six months away from turning 30. It hit me that my milestone birthday is only four months away — a good reminder to check in with my 30 Before 30 List.

I was a bit relieved to find that 21 are officially done. Even better, the remaining are at least in progress. Not that it would be a huge deal or disappointment if I didn’t fully cross those off the list (there might be one or two where I don’t meet the full goal, like number of new states visited). Really this was just my way to not be so overwhelmed at the prospect of turning 30.

Although I have to admit I’ve still been feeling a bit uneasy about this next birthday. In some ways I don’t feel like I’m where I’d like to be as I approach the big 3-0. I’m not married or even in a relationship, I don’t own my own house or have kids on the horizon. But lately I’ve been trying to focus on the silver lining.

Screen shot 2015-10-18 at 7.27.31 PM

I’m not necessarily where I envisioned being at this stage, but I’ve made immeasurable progress in recent years and when I look around, life is pretty damn good. My career is heading in a fantastic direction, I love the activities and organizations I’ve been able to participate in this past year or so, and I’m (clearly) crazy about my furbaby.

And in the meantime, there’s still lots more to accomplish and see in the world. Who knows — maybe I’ll even end up creating a 35 Before 35 List. Then again, maybe not….

Career
1. Explore the options for becoming a certified life coach In progress…I’ve got an excel file with my options and met with a life coach to talk through them
2. Publish in some capacity DONE!
3. Volunteer with a new nonprofit DONE! 
4. Find a work mentor DONE! 
5. Obtain a new job, ideally public health related DONE!
6. Reach out to nonprofit consultants to chart a path to get to that career DONE!
7. Join a professional organization DONE!
8. Look into joining a board of directors for a nonprofit I’m passionate about In progress…attending a panel discussion followed by a board matching event in a couple weeks

Health
1. Train for and run a 5K DONE! And did a second one, too!
2. Learn to meditate In progress…attending a class on Nov. 5
3. Buy a bike DONE!
4. Get a full physical / health assessment DONE!
5. Log 2,000 miles DONE! Hit my final mile for it on 10/17/15

One Time Events
1. Take a community education class DONE! And still taking quite a few
2. Adopt a dog DONE! By far the best accomplishment on this list ❤
3. Have a technology-free weekend DONE! 
4. Watch a movie in a theater by myself DONE! About to do this for a play, too
5. Donate blood DONE!
6. Do one random act of kindness for a stranger
7. Go to a non-work related conference DONE!
8. Type up my baby journals and publish into a book DONE!
9. Create and maintain the quotes/life lessons journal DONE!
10. Host a dinner/holiday party DONE!

On-Going Efforts
1. Read 90 books In progress…20 more to go
2. Find a way to permanently store/organize all my photo and mementos In progress…it would help if I would stop taking photos
3. Keep a gratitude journal for 30 days DONE!
4. Visit 7 new states so I’ll have visited 30 states total In progress…three more go visit
5. Write and send 30 homemade cards to family and friends In progress…9 more to write and send
6. Participate in a book club In progress…the one I was supposed to join in October got postponed
7. Hit 500 blog posts DONE! My thankful Thursday post on the leadership institute put me at 500

Busy badge

I have to admit that I hate the busy badge, and yet it’s something I seem to wear constantly and with pride. My standard response to “How are you?” is “Busy, but good.” Who doesn’t claim to be busy in this day and age?

To some degree it’s about perception. On a more personal level, though, it very much relates to this blog post I read last week about being busy:

“If I’m being honest, I like staying busy. It’s comfortable to me. I’m happiest when I have my nice little to-do lists organized neatly on post-it notes, with tiny little tasks I can efficiently check off. By the end of the day, I feel so happy and in control, like life is CRAZY, but I have totally CONQUERED it. “

Preach it! Who doesn’t like that feeling at the end of the day?

But busy doesn’t always mean productive or meaningful, and that’s the part that’s been making me question my busy badge tendencies. This mindset shift actually started a couple months ago when I had a call with my leadership institute director, and when similar messages start popping up in my life, I know it’s time to start paying attention.

Part of my struggle in being busy is that I often go into autopilot mode (which is a fantastic descriptor I got from the leadership director). At the beginning of the day or week, I recognize I need to get X, Y and Z done, so I structure my schedule and tasks accordingly. Given my Type A, people-pleasing personality, there’s often not a lot of deviation from that plan.

It’s not bad, necessarily, but it often means I’m a product of my schedule and, to some degree, other people’s needs or requests. It’s less about being in the moment and more about crossing something off my list so that I can move on to the next task, be it a work project, volunteer assignment or something as simple as mowing the lawn or walking Hurley. That’s not how I want to live.

As I mentioned in my post about the sisters trip, a focus we had in some of our conversations got back to priorities, schedules and meaningful work. Am I making time for the things that matter? At the end of the day, it’s not about whether the work got done but whether the right work got done.

That’s why, when I saw this as we shopped in Cape Cod, I damn near bought this bracelet. Talk about driving the message home.

enough time

In each day and throughout our lives, we have just enough time for the important things. How am I stacking up?

I was probably more apt to notice those given the book I’ve been reading this month –  Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less. (I’ll be honest that I won’t quite finish it since it’s due at the library and I can’t renew it since someone else has it on hold.) This is one of those books that I thought I would just skim but instead got hooked right off the bat:

“There are far more activities and opportunities in the world than we have time and resources to invest in. And although many of them may be good, or even very good, the fact is that most are trivial and few are vital.” (pg. 5)

Let that last sentence sink in for a second. Trivial? Not vital? I was half tempted to jump into defense mode.

But it makes sense.

There are so many causes and organizations and activities and work assignments and DIY projects and…you get the picture. How do you choose what’s really worth investing your time, resources and energy into? And what is it that only you could bring to the table? My role with the Alzheimer’s Association, while great, could easily be done by dozens of people in the community. Is it vital that I’m in that position? What draws me to the opportunity in the first place?

What I loved about the book is that it was quick to drive home that it’s not about taking on less or simplifying your schedule. Rather, it’s about taking an honest look at your life to see if you’re committing to the right things. If the Alzheimer’s Association is important to me, than I should certainly keep that in my life. But do I need to accept every meeting request or social invitation? Can I nix a gym class or two to take my dog on a long walk instead, particularly while the weather is nice?

That brings up the other struggle with busyness. As the blog post I referenced earlier pointed out, busyness is a choice we make — often as a crutch. It’s the need to feel as though we’re more in control (ding ding ding!) and valued than we may feel on the inside. It’s even worse for people pleasers. What will the volunteer coordinator think if I don’t show up to a meeting? Everyone else seems to juggle it all, why can’t I?

But what I’m learning is that it’s not about doing it all. It’s about doing the things that are important to you, which is a decision only you can make. When everything is a priority, nothing is.

What goes on my schedule for the day or week should be dependent on me, and I’m finally reaching a point where I’m not saying “yes” to everything. I’m weighing the pros and cons. Is my input needed at this meeting? Do they need my skill set for this project? Will it take time away from Hurley, and would I be okay with that?

That’s what my year of being intentional is about – diving into those hard questions. What are the negotiables in my schedule and how can I scale back on those to focus on what really matters, both personally and professionally?

Quite frankly, I’m tired of going a million miles an hour, fueled on caffeine and stress. I have just enough time in life for doing the things that are important to me and/or allow me to utilize my unique gifts, talents and skills. It’s time to start being more accountable to myself and setting up those boundaries.

The funny thing is, I think if I were to make the shift, I’d feel much more fulfill and in control than I do when I’m “busy.” Ain’t that something.

It’s going to be tough, but I think it’s time to ditch the busy badge, one stitch at a time!

Learning to hit pause

It always surprises me that, at least for me, health is generally the first thing to fall to the wayside once stress hits. It generally means half-assed (or no) workouts, lack of sleep and, perhaps worst of all, resorting to quick and often unhealthy meals. And all of this only makes my stress/attitude worse.

I knew I was approaching a particularly stressful time with work. I’ve got two big evaluation deadlines on August 14, and unfortunately my schedule is also packed with trainings that take me out of the office — including 6-day one in California next week. You know it’s bad (though incredibly sweet and touching!) when co-workers start leaving you chocolate because they know all that’s on your plate… (Random side note: it was pure coincidence that they got me the same type of chocolate!)

chocolate

So like I said, my health tends to fall to the wayside (though dark chocolate is healthy, right?!). I’ve been trying to avoid these pitfalls with lots of planning, particularly when it comes to meals. Last week I kicked off my Monday with a one pan cheesy chicken broccoli rice recipe. It wasn’t overly time consuming and I had nearly everything on hand, which is always a bonus.

I swiped out the white rice for brown, and the extra sharp cheddar cheese is the way to go. It was a perfect blend, plus the broccoli cooked perfectly. It was so delicious that I ate all my leftovers throughout the week, serving it’s purpose quite nicely.

broccoli cheese skillet

Unfortunately I still managed to eat out almost every day last week, in part because I was at a two-day training where lunch was on your own. One dinner, however, was entirely worth it. I lucked out in that one of my college roommates was having a quick family getaway to Omaha, a mere 50 minutes away!

liz and kayla

I can’t even tell you what a kickstart that was to my week and attitude. Like she mentioned on her blog, we were laughing the second I got out of my car. It was amazing to me that despite how much has changed in the last seven years, we still had similar mannerisms, attitudes and depth to our conversation. Plus I got to meet her adorable baby boy!

What’s also been fantastic, so I’ll put in a plug for this, is that we write handwritten letters to each other. A few years back when I was doing the happiness project, I made it a goal one month to reach out to people I’d lost touch with over the years. Thankfully this fabulous lady was totally on board for exchanging letters. Not only is it a great way to stay connected, but it also gets me to slow down and reflect on my life. Certainly sending an email or facebook message would be much faster, as would just keeping up on one another’s blog. But I’m telling you, there’s so much value in writing a legit letter.

I’ll get off my soapbox now…

I used the weekend to regroup a bit, including more meal planning. Wanting to start the week off right again, last night I made a Korean beef quinoa bowl. I almost didn’t make it because my mind and body were shot after spin…but when I saw it only took about 20 minutes to make, I knew I could suck it up.

It probably isn’t technically Korean beef given I used ground turkey, but I think that’s the only modification I made. Throw in a side of veggies, and I was set within 25 minutes. I’m happy to say it was very much worth the effort — and now I’ve got relatively healthy leftovers for the week, too!

korean beef

I will say I added in a bit more soy sauce to better mix the quinoa and ground turkey, but otherwise the leftovers worked really well.

Although I can’t say I’m even close to creating a good work-life balance during stressful times, I’m definitely making more of an effort than I have in years past. Speaking of balance, though, I’ve got an adorable yellow laborador who’s ready to distract me with a walk and exciting game of tug. If nothing else, he’s a big proponent of striving for that work-life balance — and makes it easier for me, too!

Intentional goal setting

It’s time to switch gears from recipes again for a more life chatty post.

One really great thing I’ve done for myself this year as part of my focus on intention is get a life coach. Crazy, right?! But I figure if I aspire to be one, it wouldn’t hurt to go through the process to get a better understanding of it.

The larger reason for getting one, though, was to help me be more purposeful about the direction of life. I had a lot of life changes last year, many of them fantastic. I moved so that I’m much closer to family, I’ve got a fantastic furbaby, I’m finally in a house instead of an apartment, and in some ways I have the dream job I’d been working toward for six years. And yet I couldn’t help but think, “Now what?” It’s hard to be intentional about how you spend your time, money and energy when you don’t really know what’s next or what you’re working toward.

It’s a question that’s led to many interesting conversations. I’ve been so fortunate to find the life coach that I have. Typically sessions are supposed to be 45 minutes long, and I have yet to have one that’s less than an hour because of our rich discussions. We’re so similar in personalities (further confirming for me that becoming a life coach is a goal of mine) that she keeps imparting this advice to me — it’s okay to be comfortable and content for awhile. It’s something that’s taken her years to learn because, like me, she always felt like she needed to be working toward something bigger and better.

The most recent conversation was about those larger goals. I’m better learning to distinguish between what I actually want and what I wish I wanted. Do I want to be a mover and shaker in the community because it’s something I really aspire to, or in reality, would working toward that goal just exhaust me as an introvert with a relatively full plate already? Sometimes I have to recognize and accept that those goals are better suited for other people.

Earlier this week Liz Gilbert (who you all know I love) published an article almost about this very thing but with a slightly different take on it. Instead of striving to be perfect, we should accept that we’re going to stumble and fall. But it was this paragraph in particular that resonated most with me:

Let’s just anticipate that we (all of us) will disappoint ourselves somehow. Go ahead and let it happen. Let somebody else be a better mother than you for one afternoon. Let somebody else go to art school. Let somebody else have a happy marriage, while you foolishly pick the wrong guy. (Hell, I’ve done it; it’s survivable.) While you’re at it, take the wrong job. Move to the wrong city. Lose your temper in front of the boss, quit training for that marathon, wolf down a truckload of cupcakes the day after you start your diet. Blow it all catastrophically, in fact, and then start over with good cheer. This is what we all must learn to do, for this is how maps get charted — by taking wrong turns that lead to surprising passageways that open into spectacularly unexpected new worlds. So just march on.

That’s exactly what my life coach is trying to teach me. Let others take on those roles and goals (the ones that I just wish I wanted) instead of me. Or in the plain words of the little, “you do you, booboo.”

It’s hard not to feel a bit of jealousy when you see others around you aspiring to great goals — training for half marathons, joining a board of directors, purchasing a house, starting a business. And it’s hard not to be inspired by their energy and want to jump on that band wagon.

My life coach’s advice? Let them do their thing. Be excited for them, but don’t force that upon yourself unless it’s a craving you have for your life, too. It also helps to recognize that perhaps the person training for a half marathon has had this goal for years. Or it may signify something big in their life, a battle that they’ve overcome. I shouldn’t force myself to train for a half marathon just because others view that as a measure of success for themselves.

All of this is easier said than done, of course, but I’m making much better strides at looking at my goals and being honest about what I want to pursue and what’s perhaps not suited for me. Not only that, but I’m less likely to beat myself up for not having those goals for myself as well. It may seem like common sense, but it’s taking some great life coaching to be a more natural acceptance for me — finally!

Beauty in Books #6

I promise the lack of Beauty in Book posts doesn’t mean I’m not reading. Some books haven’t warranted a full post, and I’ve got another two on deck to write posts about in the near future. Sometimes there just aren’t enough hours in the day…

Thankfully, my travels last week gave me solid, uninterrupted blocks of time to read (one of the perks of flying). I started The In-Between on my second flight to Atlanta and finished it on the way back. It’s been a bit strange reading writers who fall in the same pack, if you will. The forward was written by an author I’d read recently, the book was mentioned in Packing Light. It’s like they’ve got their own writing clique of sorts.

But that’s neither here nor there, other than to say they deliver similar messages. I don’t know if it’s because my life has calmed down pretty substantially on an emotional front and I’m more open to the message or if the universe is trying to tell me something.

Regardless, it’s a message I didn’t mind hearing again.

Just this morning, I opened my laptop to check email, and as my messages began to download, I opened a web browser. While that loaded, I checked Twitter on my phone. Incapable of wasting a single second, to simply sit still and soak in my surroundings, I must always do something. I must squeeze the most out of every moment, unaware that this leaves little left to savor. I blame TV for what it’s done to my brain, the Internet for how it’s made me impatient. But the truth is, I’m the one who chooses to be restless, the one who gives in to temptations to find the next thrill, while refusing the joy of what’s in front of me. (pg. 25)

I’m pretty sure I’ve written about this concept before (and probably will again…). I think what helped is that I was traveling, thus giving me an opportunity to put it into practice. Instead of pulling out my phone while waiting for another session to start or while the cab driver was taking us to our next location, I observed. I looked a beautiful buildings, brightly colored trees and a variety of people. I took in the sights and sounds, reminding myself of how fortunate I am (did I mention my career fangirl moment?!).

My hope is that this appreciation and stillness, for lack of a better word, can carry over into my everyday life. I wrote just a couple days ago that finally my life had some sense of normalcy. But what do I find myself doing? Trying to find new community education classes to enroll in, reaching out to new organizations for volunteer opportunities (more on that in another post) and scouring the meetup group website to see if any social outings catch my eye.

I feel like I need to constantly be making the most of my time and on the go, not realizing that sometimes the best use of my time is slowing down.

A life filled with movement, with constant motion and no rest stops, isn’t a life at all. It’s tourism. Life’s mundane moments – ordinary times of TV-watching and breakfast-eating – can be embraced as a slow, deliberate, beautiful way of life if we pay attention and see what’s really there. (pg. 39)

I love that concept, in part because it’s so true. Granted, I’m still going to chase those thrills and attempt to make the most of each day and week. And that’s okay. Essentially the concept of the in-between was to realize and, perhaps more importantly, be okay with the times when it feels like life isn’t progressing – at least not in the way you might want it to or at the pace you want. It will eventually. Change is inevitable, and those pauses in life allow us to catch our breath.

Last fall and winter I was smack dab in the middle of that in-between stage. I felt stuck, frustrated and despite every attempt at making progress, nothing changed. But let me tell you, it’s a hell of a time for some good self-reflection and introspection. Fast forward not even a year, and my mundane moments of reading while Hurley snoozes next to me is as beautiful as life gets.

As enticing as it may seem at times, I don’t want a life filled with constant movement. I read this book at a good time in that it reminded me that I don’t have to be a tourist in Lincoln. I don’t have to pack my schedule full of social activities, networking functions, volunteer opportunities and more. I can just enjoy this new in-between stage of sorts and take things as they come. It might not be at the pace I normally like to go in life (read: top speed), but at least this way I get to better appreciate all the beauty and joy around me.

Another life lesson

On Saturday morning I stumbled upon a Thought Catalog article about what you’re “supposed” to do before you turn thirty. Given my 30 Before 30 list (what’s on it as well as the general motivation behind it), I was intrigued.

This read came at an interesting point in my life. In fact, this particular quote is something that I’ve been grappling with the last few weeks: “… it’s so easy to feel like everything I’ve done only means something to me. Like I have yet to be impressive, yet to make an impact.”

Does anyone else feel me?!

I’ve been having lots of conversations lately about how, although I’m busy and feel like I’m leading a fulfilling life, I also feel like it’s very me focused. Working out. Spending time with Hurley/family/friends. Exploring Lincoln. Blogging. Reading. It feels like what I’m doing isn’t that substantial. Even my volunteer work doesn’t make me feel like I’m giving back to the degree that I can and should be (though I’ll have more updates on that later!).

So I did exactly what the author suspected:

If you’re anything like me you’re sitting there beginning to list your accomplishments, heroic moments, and obstacles you’ve overcome in the last year. Stop. Here’s the shocker. No matter what schools and business tell us about how important a resume is, we shouldn’t have to make a mental list of our accomplishments to remind ourselves we’re doing well in life. Living shouldn’t be about making a wonderful resume of life experiences; it’s about what you get out of them.

I admit I fall in that trap all too often. It feels like I need to be adding more accomplishments or life experiences to that list. Travel the world! Take more community education classes! Attend more meetup groups! It starts to feel like a lot of pressure, albeit internal, that doesn’t result in much satisfaction. At least not right now when I feel like my plate is rather full.

But our twenties are so far from being the end of it all, so let’s not wear ourselves out, or drown in bank account debt because of what we’re “supposed” to be doing. Sometimes I learn more sitting with a mug of tea talking to my girlfriends than I could meeting crazy strangers and traveling the world.

It’s also important to remind myself that everyone craves different life experiences and priorities fluctuate. And different doesn’t mean better or worse. It’s just different.

In some ways it boils down to the notion that comparison is the thief of joy. (Even though I know that, it’s not quite engrained in my head… Still working on that one.) I’m quick to feel jealous of the people who were profiled for all their meaningful work in the alumni magazine I got last week and of those with fantastic traveling/wedding/baby photos on Facebook. It starts to feel like my life isn’t much to write home about.

But the bottom line is that I like my life as it is now. I’ve gone through a lot of struggles and hard work to get to where I’m at, and at the end of the day, I’m happy. Who cares if I don’t constantly or routinely advance my resume or list of life experiences? I fall asleep with a sore body (love me some BodyPump!), a happy dog and a tired mind. Does it really get much better than that?

(Although I suppose that’s kind of like listing accomplishments. Like I said, it’s something I’m still working on…)

Beauty in Books #2

I can’t even remember what drew me to Carry On, Warrior: Thoughts on Life Unarmed but I’m rather surprised I hadn’t come across it before now. Within the first couple chapters, I just kept thinking that this was a memoir form of everything Brene Brown talks about in Daring Greatly. How could I not love it?

There were about a dozen quotes I picked out but I couldn’t figure out how to connect them or how to articulate what I really took from the book. Then yesterday as I was leaving work, it dawned on me: just show up.

Although it’s not overly optimistic or particularly moving, this is the one quote I kept thinking back to (in part because the sisters are two of my In Case of Emergencies, as is the case for the author):

I learned that in these disasters, all we can do is tell our In Case of Emergencies that their grief is real, and if it lasts forever, then we will grieve with them forever. As fas as I was able to tell during those two years, there was nothing else worth saying. It was not going to be all right, ever. Everything doesn’t happen for a decent reason. I was Sister’s In Case of Emergency and I couldn’t fix her emergency. (pg. 43)

I love that. Absolutely love that. Despite my love for the written word and life chats, I never know what to say when someone is grieving or having a meltdown or panicking. But I can show up.

In my own experience, that in itself makes a world of difference. My In Case of Emergencies (and it goes beyond the sisters) deserve medals for the second half of last year. The little sent a Hot Box cookie delivery to Lindsay’s, who let me crash with her for a few days. The librarian showed up with plates for me to smash my anger away after another job rejection. They didn’t offer words of wisdom or advice or start bashing/lamenting my situation. They were just there, letting me grieve and be pissed off at the world.

That’s all we can really do in life — be there for one another, particularly in our vulnerable moments. In some ways, that’s what my blog does for me as well. Even if I don’t get into specifics or details, it helps me embrace all the parts of me and realize that navigating this twenty-something life isn’t easy for anyone. It’s something the author and I seem to have in common.

I mostly love writing. It serves me, heals me, and satisfies the creative cat constantly clawing at my insides, trying to get out. It helps me make sense of things and holds me accountable to myself. (pg. 193)

Making sense of things and holding myself accountable is also how I show up for myself. Life isn’t always easy, but I love that this author has a fierce determination to showcase her true self and not let the world break her. It’s actually something I hope to emulate. She reminds readers that although life is hard and scary, it’s also beautiful. And what I particularly liked is that she didn’t try to convince people to be zen or in the present to notice the beauty like so many authors and articles tend to do. In fact, I found myself relating more to her sentiment toward the whole carpe diem approach to life:

But I have finally allowed myself to admit that it just doesn’t work for me. It bugs me. This carpe diem message makes me paranoid and panicky. … Being told, in a million different ways, to carpe diem makes me worry that if I’m not in a constant state of profound gratitude and ecstasy, I’m doing something wrong. (pg. 111)

My hope in navigating the good life is to show up, to do my little part to make the world slightly better for others and to let people be there for me. I also want to show up for myself. Whether I’m having a moment of that profound gratitude or a moment where nothing seems to be going right, I’ll feel slightly better knowing that I’m not experiencing it alone.

Embracing the good life

Three years ago to the day, I started this blog (hard to believe, huh?). While initially I hadn’t intended to revamp my blog on this specific date, it did provide a good deadline to actually make the switch…

A couple months ago I wrote about changing the concept of my blog. Although the content wouldn’t change much, the theme of navigating life after school didn’t seem to apply anymore (seeing all the recent Facebook posts/photos about finals and then graduation very much reminded me of that). Plus I wanted a layout that seem a bit more bright and bold (mission accomplished!).

The struggle was trying to find a new theme or concept, particularly since the content would be more or less the same. How are recipes, DIY/craft projects and life chat musings summarized in a creative or witty way? Nothing jumped out at me. I did find some inspiration from Dwell on Joy and Lizzy Writes, and while it seemed comparable to what I blog about, it almost seemed too professional and structured for me. Sometimes it feels like there’s no rhyme or reason in the topics and life ponderings I blog about. I guess I’m just not as settled, for lack of a better word.

Throughout the searching, though, one idea was always in the back of my mind. A day or two after mentioning I wanted to change my blog name, Lindsay suggested making it about the good life. Since I was moving to Nebraska (where the state motto is The Good Life), it seemed like a good fit in embracing my new surroundings and life. And undoubtedly, I’ve been able to capture new DIY projects for my house and love showing off my fur baby.

It didn’t seem concrete enough until I ran across this article. (It’s Are You Making the Most Out of Life? Here’s How You Can in the event the link doesn’t go directly to the article.) Mistake number two sold it for me — you can’t put the good life on hold.

That captures what I’m trying to embrace now. You really can’t put happiness or your health or experiencing life on hold. Despite knowing that, it’s still a struggle for me (which is partially why I made this year about daring myself). My mentality has always been “first I’ll do this [finish a project, save money, workout, etc] and then I can enjoy (fill in the blank).” I’ll travel when I have more money. I’ll take that class when I have more time. I’m generally one to play it safe.

But as the old saying goes, if you wait for the right conditions to do something, it’s probably never going to happen.

Case in point: Hurley. I’ll be honest that I didn’t feel entirely ready to take on a dog of my own (particularly since it happened in a 72-hour window). It requires time and money that I hadn’t adequately planned for and it felt rushed given I’d only been in Lincoln for a month. But had I waited for the right conditions, I wouldn’t have my baby bear. He brings a level of happiness to my life that I absolutely couldn’t get anywhere else and he’s been the perfect addition to my life (and my doggie niece’s as well).

And really, it works because I’ve been able to find a good balance. That’s why I loved that the article’s summary point was that “the Good Life is a balance, and must be, because there isn’t a finish line.”

One of the big aspects of navigating life after school was realizing that, for the first time, there wasn’t a finish line in my life. I wasn’t working toward the end of a semester or degree. And when I tried to have self-imposed finish lines through goals, there wasn’t the sense of fulfillment I thought there would be. You accomplish the goal (like getting a dog), but then what?

That’s what my blog captures — the “then what” part. It’s my attempt to find balance and meaning, to embrace and enjoy the life that I’m incredibly fortunate to have, whether it’s through cooking or crafting or a Thought Catalog article I can’t help but share. Goals will always be important to me (and no way am I going to ditch the 30 Before 30 list!) but I also recognize the need to stop putting life on hold by hiding behind those goals and having a more well-rounded life, if you will.

So although it technically started two months ago, I’m officially embracing the good life! With my Type A tendencies that are heightened by all my coffee consumption, of course.

And my new word is…

I’d been really struggling to figure out what my word for the new year would be. I toyed with “reclaim,” but something about it just didn’t seem right. It wasn’t empowering in the way that I wanted and needed it to be.

Then when I was driving to the middle’s two weeks ago, the song “Dare You to Move” by Switchfoot came on and tears started welling up in my eyes. Then I got goosebumps when I came across the meaning of the song:

“It’s me talking to myself and I think a lot of times I feel stagnant and stuck in the same place,” says Jon. “And ‘Dare You to Move’ is kind of a song for myself to get me up and get me moving and tackling a new part of life.”

That’s exactly what I need this year (coincidentally enough, the little knew it would be that song when I told her I found my inspiration from my iPod). Plus it instantly made me think of Daring Greatly, and it’s no secret how much I took from that book last year. The daring concept just seems like an empowering “take control!” type of mentality that I need, particularly given the year I just had.

My only hesitation was that I didn’t know how to approach it. I struggled with what  exactly the expression should be. And do I dare to do something new each month? Are there specific areas in which I wanted to be daring through the course of year? It didn’t seem as simple as embrace, where I could throw the word embrace instead of a concept or goal.

Instead of worrying about that, I’ve decided to make this a year of daring myself.

Given the theme, I doubt I’ll outline 3-7 monthly goals like I did in 2013. I want to re-focus and key in on the things that are important to me, that I need to pursue with fierce passion (think consulting and life coaching). While I enjoyed my year of embracing, I also think I used my goals as a way to fill voids and feel like I was making progress in something, anything. And that’s fine and dandy, but it didn’t light a fire under me. It can also take time away from the goals that I really want to accomplish. 

That’s not me or how I want to live life. Last year I played it safe. I don’t want to go through the motions when I could really challenge myself. As I mentioned yesterday, I hit my fair share of rough patches last year but the silver lining is that it started the process of asking myself where I want to go. This year is about fine-tuning that and taking the steps to get there. Less talking, more doing.

I haven’t quite decided what my daring concept looks like or even crafted specific goals. What I do have, though, is the energy and excitement to start tackling the new part of my life. It’s scary, but I’m absolutely up for the challenge. It is back to being an even year, after all!

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