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240731542552026114_Yb4YysjJAhhh! Interview week!

It’s totally bittersweet for me, but I think this was my most favorite week of the whole season! It was so much fun to see the questions my fellow Season 7 rockstars came up with and I had a blast answering them.

You may learn a few things about me that you didn’t want to know and for that I don’t really apologize…I’m quirky and I’m told its a pretty lovable trait. ENJOY!

Where do you see your self (or hope to be) 6 months from now? A year from now? 

In 6 months, I’m hoping to have a new job as a wellness coach {preferably working from home}. I will have the Elevate retreat, BiSC and a trip to the NC beaches under my belt and be reveling in all the magical memories I’ve made in 2013. I’ll be feeling connected to my authentic self and be fine-tuning my life to reflect that.

In a year, I hope to be feeling settled in my new career, and fresh off of another successful Holiday Council. I’m hoping that next year I’ll be feeling ready for a year filled with peace and enjoyment following all the changes I’m making in 2013. I imagine that participating in Elevate this year will push me well beyond my comfort zone and into that sacred zone of authenticity I’m seeking. So anything I do in 2014 and beyond will just be that much more awesome because it’ll be coming from a place of authenticity and fierce self-love.

What’s the best book you read this year? 

Well since I’m completely addicted to erotica – I’d have to say that Bared to You and Reflected in You by Silvia Day were my favorites. But the Fifty Shades trilogy was a close second. Try as you might, you will not get me to admit how many times I’ve read each of these books, but it’s a shameful amount! {Maybe these should be listed for the guilty pleasure question too!}

Do you feel like blogging about your life made you look at it differently?

Absolutely! I think I benefitted immensely from having to actually articulate my thoughts. While I’m not as good at it as some of my fellow bloggers, I did manage to stumble upon some realizations that I would never have made if I hadn’t been writing for an audience. Knowing that people were reading and possibly identifying with my transition made me dig a little deeper than I might otherwise have done.

Which current living celebrity do you think you’d be best friends with in real life?

I mean, I’m pretty amazing so I think they would all love me. But I have a thing for adorable southern girls. I’m just so fascinated by them and completely enthralled. So I think a spunky southern girl like Miranda Lambert, Kellie Pickler or Jennifer Nettles from Sugarland would be my ideal celeb bestie.

Did anything happen during the season that surprised you? 

Several people that I know in real life contacted me mid-season to say they had been following my posts and really identified with them. I hadn’t expected that! At all.  If I’m being honest, I was surprised when you lovely internet friends commented or tweeted me because I half expected most people to not relate to my self-perceived problems. So surprises all around!

What quote best summarizes what you’ve learned during the season?

“Your journey has molded you for your greater good, and it was exactly what it needed to be. Don’t think you lost time. It took each and every situation you have encountered to bring you to the now. And now is right on time.” – Asha Tyson

What is your guilty pleasure? What is it that totally lights you up that you’re afraid to admit to? 

Well I’m not sure some of you can handle anymore guilty pleasure admissions from me…BUT since you asked – I have a thing for really juvenile romantic comedies. Movies like A Cinderella Story, Freaky Friday, What a Girl Wants, Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants {1 & 2!}, 13 Going on 30, The Prince & Me, The Princess Diaries, Son in Law, Uptown Girls – all in my DVD library. I’m not sure whether this or my smut addiction should be more shameful. But you can bet I’m not losing any sleep trying to decide!

What is the biggest change you’ve noticed in yourself since we started blogging for Stratejoy?

I’m happier. I’ve relaxed my expectations of myself a bit and tried like hell to lose the guilt. I’m enjoying what I have in the present and not pinning all of my happiness on some future date or accomplishment. It’s fabulously liberating!

How did you fit blogging into your life? – Did you have a routine? Did it add joy or stress? Did you think about it over the week or just sit down and write? Etc.

I have a really random writing process to begin with and I knew it would be a bit of a challenge going into this adventure. I found that some weeks I was really inspired to write and others I was letting all the shit in my head get in my way. All those voices that say I’m not a great writer, no one will identify, my problems aren’t big enough for anyone else to care – they can all overwhelm me and leave me with the worst writer’s block. Add in the health problems I had in the fall and the plague that my little one and I both had twice and you can see why some weeks were more of a challenge. Thankfully, the completely adorable and wonderful Katie is a loving blogger momma and she put up with my incessant tardiness. {Love you sweet Katie!}.

I’d say overall the experience added joy to my life though. While I did struggle at times, the need to write something that seemed worthy of sharing was a great motivator to look more closely at myself and inspired some awesome discoveries! I am forever grateful to Molly for allowing me to be a part of Season 7! For the small amount of stress it caused – it added 10 times that much joy. So I’m pretty sure that’s what winning looks like.

How did people you know react? – did you share it openly, were family and friends supportive, did you censor yourself, etc.

I’m the kind of person who worries what other people think about me and I wasn’t sure how anyone would react – so I didn’t tell everyone I know in real life. As the season progressed, I found myself sharing with more people than I originally did. I didn’t have a single person judge me negatively – everyone had a positive reaction. I was honestly amazed that so many people could relate to my issues – which seems ridiculous to write because the whole premise of Stratejoy is that we all have these things that we struggle with and it brings us together to love and support each other and then realize we are all NORMAL. Why I didn’t think this same premise applied to the people I know in real life seems a little silly now.

Did you dig as deep as you could and open up as much as you could?

The simple answer is no. There just isn’t enough space for me to share all the chaos in my head when I’m limited to 500-1000 words per week. But I shared openly and honestly about the transition I’m going through. I share even more about myself on my personal blog so feel free to visit if you just can’t get enough of me!

When you’re curled up on the couch reading with a mug of something warm, what’s the book and what’s in the mug?

I drink a ridiculous amount of coffee {though I’m strictly drinking decaf now} so I’m sure I’d have coffee in my mug. I’m either reading some of the smut I mentioned in a previous question or some story about a group of girls that travels and has fabulous experiences. Because apparently my life is fueled by coffee, sex and wanderlust! Win!

What’s on your bedside table?

A hair tie, one earring, an iphone dock, a picture of me and the little person when she was a baby and a water bottle. Clearly I need some lessons in styling!

What were you like in high school?  What parts of you have remained the same?

Hmmm…high school. This is a tough one. I feel like high school was a bit of a blur. I went to a really, really small school {like 40 people in my class small} and we were all obsessed with having long-term boyfriends. Mine was older so I spent the vast majority of my time from sophomore year on with people who had already graduated. I didn’t partake in all the fun high school things. I rode a Harley with my boyfriend and watched his band play gigs in bars and whatnot. I was waaay too cool for high school. Of course, looking back I can see I was just a lost girl looking for somewhere to belong.

I didn’t really share my innermost thoughts with my peers. I was nice and had plenty of friends – I was even voted Miss Senior and was on the prom court junior and senior years. But I was more concerned about graduating so I could get married and have babies. I’ll go ahead and insert all the lyrics of “Unanswered Prayers” by Garth Brooks here because THANK GOD those prayers were not answered! I’m not sure I can say that I’m anything like my high school self, but then I’m an old lady. 2013 marks 15 years since I graduated. Wowza, where has the time gone?!?!

Who are the top 5 people on your “list”?  (You know, the list…  Those 5 people you could sleep with if you magically met them and your partner would have to be okay with it, because damn! You just slept with Johnny Depp!) 

Oooh, such a naughty question! I love it. And maybe I’m just boy crazy, but I hardly think 5 covers it!  So…

Sam Seaborn – {West Wing-ers tell me you agree!} He’s pretty much my ideal man. Be still my heart!

Chace Crawford – I don’t even care that he smokes pot. He’s beautiful.

Channing Tatum – Hi, did you see Magic Mike? Gah!

Bradley Cooper – Back off ladies! I get him first!

Ian Somerhalder – Those eyes, that jaw, the smile, OH MY!

And honorable mentions for Patrick Dempsey, Josh Lucas and Gerard Butler. I mean, I’m not going to turn them down or anything.

If you could give yourself 5 months ago one piece of advice, what would it be? How about you 5 months from now?

Worry less. Don’t lose sleep or sanity about things you can’t change. And stop caring what other people think. Make yourself happy and let the rest go.

In the movie of your life, which actress/celeb would play you? 

If I get to choose, then I totally pick Blake Lively. I mean, could she BE any more gorgeous? And that hair. We’ll pretend like the slight resemblances we have {i.e. long blondish hair and blue eyes} make her the perfect choice. Great, it’s settled. Nice to have you on board!

There you have it. If you have a great answer to one of the questions, I totally want to hear it in the comments below!

Guilty pleasures or “list” candidates anyone???

NicoleBioBadge

Image via: Pinterest!

 

p.s.  The 3rd Stratejoy Essay Contest is open for entries!  Ready to win the $500?  Be featured here at Stratejoy?  Yes!  The theme: “How has a transition revealed a more authentic you?”

p.p.s.  The next Book Club/Tribe Chat Fest is going to be about marriage and partners.  Juicy, juicy. We’re reading Elizabeth Gilbert’s Committed: A Love Story and will be jamming about it on February 13.

The last few weeks I’ve experienced quite a range of emotions – from soul-aching sadness to heart-melting happiness. It has been quite a ride, but I’ve never felt more alive than I do right now.

I would imagine some of you watched Danielle LaPorte’s Goals with Soul video this week {if you haven’t, please DO IT!}. I couldn’t watch live, but I watched the recording the next day.

I cried through much of it. It spoke to my soul. It moved me. It inspired me.

This video she plays of women from all over the world sharing how they want to feel is powerful. Pure, raw emotion. So many beautiful, strong women who just want to feel good. Whatever their version of “good” is. And so many of us aren’t feeling these things that we crave on the most basic level.

I’m so incredibly grateful that we have such beautiful souls in Danielle LaPorte and Molly Mahar to share this gift they have with the world – I honestly believe they are changing the world, one woman at a time. I know my life is forever changed because of them and I’m willing to bet many of you reading can say the same.

Last week I was listening to Molly’s first Holiday Council call and she was talking about releasing the bad things from 2012. We did a visualization where we let the list of bad things go. I had tears streaming down my face. I was so overcome by the pain and sadness I felt in that moment.

But also, I could almost taste the freedom as I was watching the tiny pieces of paper soar down over the edge of the cliff in my mind.

I cried the next day too – some because the pain and hurt from this year were still lingering with me. And some because thinking about my year brought up those raw feelings from losing my sweet puppy, Emma. I laid in my bed and sobbed and sobbed until I had no tears left. I honestly lost track of time.

Instead of feeling weak or silly for crying, I let myself off the hook. I felt my feelings and they made my soul ache.

Since that day I’ve been feeling happy. Unshakably happy. I can’t explain why exactly, but I just feel more confident, more secure in the knowledge that I’m going to get there. Wherever I’m meant to be.

Of course, this was Molly’s intent in having us do such a visualization – we released the bad to make space for the good. I just didn’t expect it to affect me this much.

I was still feeling that happiness and sense of peace as I sat down to watch Danielle’s recording. Then my world was rocked in a major way.

After I finished watching, I jumped in the shower, my mind definitely still reeling. I put Boyce Avenue’s version of Just the Way You Are on repeat because it has been inspiring me this week – I thought it was because I’m a hopeless romantic and it speaks to that kind of overwhelming love I‘m enamored with.

But as I was standing in the shower thinking about my life, my desires, how I’ve gotten to this point in my life –  I began to weep {again!}. I had tears streaming down my face in this deep soul-cleansing crying. I vaguely remember hearing Alejandro Manzano’s voice  amping up – saying:

“Girl you’re amazing. Just the way you are. The way you are. The way you are. ‘Cause girl you’re amazing. Just the way you are.”

In that moment it came to me – I finally believed it. I am amazing. Not because someone loves me so much. Not because I’m beautiful and my hair is perfect. Not because my laugh is sexy, but because I’m me.

I’m amazing. Just the way I am. 

This is one of those life-changing revelations. I’ve been hearing Molly say this for months – on the Fierce Love recordings, the Holiday Council recordings and several other videos I’ve watched. She always says some version of “You aren’t broken. Nothing is wrong with you. You are enough.”

Each time it moves me {usually to tears}. It’s like she’s speaking right to my soul. I’ve tried like hell to believe it. I’ve hoped and prayed that it would sink in. It just hadn’t yet.

But today it did. I stood there in the shower, crying and smiling and dreaming about all the ways I could make this amazing light I have inside of me shine out into the world.

Much like the women in Danielle’s video, I have these cravings for my life.  When I imagine my ideal life or my ideal self – I want to be self-assured. Comfortable in my own skin.

I want to feel beautiful and feminine and sexy no matter what my pant size is or whether I straightened my hair or put on mascara.

I want to delight in the little things. I want to be present in the moments of my life. Connect deeply with my friends and family and truly enjoy the few precious moments we all have on this earth.

I want to feel vibrant and alive and like a life force that can’t be extinguished.

I want to feel powerful. Competent. Courageous. Like I can do anything I want to do.

I want to be spiritual – and not the way I grew up. I need fresh spirituality. A kind that fits into my life and the person that I am now.

I want to take adventures. Stand at the foot of mountains and marvel at the beauty and the massive size of them. I want to experience things that are bigger than myself.

I want to visit places, partake in experiences, engage in spiritual practices that make me realize I’m but a small part of the greater world around me. I want to appreciate the beauty and complexity of the world.

I want to be inspired and then inspire others.

I want to be a force for good. For health. For balance. 

I want to help my daughter grow into a confident, passionate woman who knows what she wants and isn’t afraid to go after it. The best chance she has at living that life is if I model it for her.

So that’s exactly what I’m going to do.

Image via: derekskey

I’ve noticed something since my little person started kindergarten. At first I was emotionally overwhelmed. I couldn’t stand the fact that she was going to be away from me for the better part of the day. I’m used to being with her pretty much all the time.

Once I got over the initial OHMYGOD, MY BABY IS IN KINDERGARTEN shock, I’ve settled into a more relaxed acceptance of the whole situation. I think all the time we were spending together was making us both a little crazy. {Well me, for sure!}

I have a tendency to be overly emotional, I have impossibly high standards and I know I expect too much from others. When my expectations aren’t met, I can be kind of a pain in the ass.

I work really hard to remain calm and fair with the little person, but that is exhausting! I didn’t realize how much energy it was using up to control my natural tendencies.

Now that we have less time to spend together, I’m enjoying it so much more!

I know that sounds terrible, and before you start judging me – just hear me out. I love my little person more than I could ever articulate to you. I love to see her discovering all about the world – she’s so full of pure joy and delight.

But {yes, BUT!} we had gotten to the point where we weren’t filling our days with joy and delight. I was having all these feelings about what my life was missing and how that could affect her or my parenting. I would worry and berate myself for being selfish and then spiral down into general ickiness.

Mixing an overly sensitive, anxious momma who fears she is royally screwing up her child with a little person who is opinionated, independent and learning to push the limits to the very edge can make for some really difficult days.

Add in the long, cold days of winter or the long, hot days of summer and we spent quite a bit of time in the house. Together. Alone.

We got stir crazy. We got bored, We got sick of each other. And then I felt guilty for feeling like I needed a break from her.

Aren’t moms supposed to be wonderful, nurturing caretakers who always find joy in attending to the needs of their children? I can assure you that not every day looked like that at my house.

Since we’ve settled into the school routine, we’ve rediscovered that joy and relaxed play time that we had been struggling with the past year or so. I have less anxiety about her being away from me all day and I’m less worried about making sure she knows enough to start school.

Her teacher tells me she is right on target for her grade level and I’ve noticed her language, writing and drawing have accelerated dramatically since she started school.

I can’t help but feel a little sad and sentimental when I can see my baby growing up right before my eyes, but I’m so proud of the sweet, enthusiastic little person she is.

I have to admit that I’ve felt guilty for not talking about her more in my posts. I was chosen for Season 7, at least in part, because I was transitioning from full-time momma to the next phase. Naturally, that should include talking about said little person some of the time.

But I crave things that are mine alone. I don’t want being a mom to completely define me. I want to figure myself out so I can be the focused, passionate, fun-loving momma she deserves. {Hopefully you don’t think I’m rude for making this more about me!}

When I was thinking about how much Kaitlyn has grown up in such a short time, it struck me that I’ve had a transformation of my own. I’m nowhere near done with my journey of self-discovery, but having time apart seems to have benefitted us both immensely.

I can’t even express how excited I am about all my recent discoveries. I really hope I can continue on this path because I finally feel like I’m on the right one. Such a great feeling!

I’m still working on losing the guilt. I don’t know how I got to this place where I feel guilty about the way I behave. I’m a good momma to the little person. She is well taken care of, she knows she is loved. Maybe it’s the perfectionist in me or maybe I’m letting perceived societal pressure get to me – whatever the reason, I really want to stop with the guilt already.

I would much rather set an example of a strong woman who boldly chased her dreams instead of hiding my authentic self away in favor of being a stepford mom.

Image via: ME!

A couple weeks ago I crossed an item off of my life list – I traveled my happy little rear end to Chicago and ran in the Color Run  – well actually I walked because of my whole chest pain saga, but that’s just a minor detail. My color walk was still so freaking awesome!

What made it even better is that my brother flew in from Texas and my sister and her husband drove up with me to pick him up. We all stayed the night and then got up bright and early Sunday morning to join all the other color runners for the most amazing organized run I’ve ever done.

It really is the Happiest 5K on the Planet!

It had rained the entire night before the 5K, and the ground was seriously wet in the morning. But for those couple of hours we were wandering around downtown Chicago – the weather couldn’t have been much better.

Going through the color zones was just fun – you couldn’t help but smile and get caught up in the moment. We were covered in color from head to toe {even inside of our clothes and shoes we discovered!}, but we were like little kids in a sprinkler or something. So carefree and joy-filled.

Of course there were parts of the trip that didn’t go as well – like the near constant rain, the insane tsunami-like storm that hit while we were lost in downtown Chicago, my annoying chest pain and subsequent 8pm bedtime after we arrived. But those minor hiccups were offset by the many more good parts of the trip.

I can’t begin to express to you how much I love my siblings – they are awesome!

It’s amazing that we get along as well as we do, really. I’m 32 and they are 21 and 22, but somehow it works. We laugh at inappropriate things, act completely ridiculous, make fun of each other nonstop and just generally have a good time.

During the week after the trip, I got to thinking about the weekend and it hit me – these are the moments that I have been missing in my life. I don’t plan many of these trips because I inevitably feel guilty leaving the little person at home, or tell myself I shouldn’t spend too much money on selfish things.

Even though I had been trying to do more things for myself, I was still allowing myself feel guilty about them – like I didn’t deserve to have fun if she wasn’t with me. But not this time! I can honestly say that I had a fabulous time in Chicago – sans guilt!

If only you could see me right now – doing my little happy dance. Granted, it would probably look more like reckless limb flailing, but I assure you it’s dancing!

I’m so excited to discover that I’m giving myself permission to be myself. To have fun and enjoy my life for me and not solely as a momma. I make plenty of memories with my little person – exploring the world, sailing off to far-away make believe lands, and doctoring up more sick stuffed animals than I could ever count.

But the Color Run was for me. Every powdery, colorful, skin-staining minute of it!

I feel like I’ve inched ever so slightly closer to living a life I love. I hope I can continue moving in this direction!

 Image via: ME!

INTRODUCING MARY:

“I am making a few transitions currently like learning how to be a step mom, losing weight and working for myself, but my major transition is learning how to live in the now.”

 

I am afraid to die. Terrified.

I am not actually worried about what happens after you die because from what I can tell, it’s pretty awesome if you’re not an asshole. I am basing this assumption on what I have learned from watching the show “I Survived: Beyond and Back” and from a psychic I talked to three times (my dead grandma told him that I am addicted to pizza. 100% legit).

It’s the actual end of my life that I am stressed about. I like to plan everything and I like to plan it as far in advance as possible. My entire wedding was booked two years before it happened and three months before I even had an engagement ring on my finger. Death freaks me out because I can’t plan it. I accept that I will eventually die, but if I don’t know when, how will I organize how the rest of my life is going to play out? Do I space out all of my goals and ambitions over the years or do I cram them all in to one big happiness fest?

WHAT IF I NEVER GET TO MEET BRITNEY SPEARS?

This fear has resulted in me planning “big” events like my wedding or becoming a freelancer, rather than stopping for two seconds and realizing how lucky I am in every day life. With my mind constantly on the future, I know that I am missing out on the present. I find it so ridiculously hard to just chill out, be thankful and embrace happiness.

I am making a few transitions currently like learning how to be a step mom, losing weight and working for myself, but my major transition is learning how to live in the now. My life overwhelms me so much sometimes that many days, I spend my free time sitting on the computer doing anything except face reality. I am trying to learn how to manage my feelings, step away from the glowing screen and get out of the house.

When my brain started to short circuit two years ago, I knew something had to change. I found Stratejoy in my online travels and immediately clicked with that season’s bloggers. As soon as I realized I wasn’t crazy and there were (a lot of) people out there just like me, I was relieved. Instead of being completely confused, I knew that it was possible to take steps to allow things to make sense again.

I have done a lot of self discovery in that time. I ordered a lot of books, took a lot of tests and spent a lot of time just thinking. I finally got myself to the point where I was able to fearlessly quit my job to begin freelancing. I’m not scared because I know I’m ready. I’m also really happy that I no longer have to explain to my friends and loved ones why I “can’t hold a job.” I absolutely refuse to stay in situations that make me unhappy, and that can be tricky to tell people without them looking at you like your career aspirations are not based in reality.

Well guess what? Shit just got REAL.

I’m beginning to feel more in control of my life than I have felt in a long time. And while I can’t control when I’m going to die, I can control how I live my life at this very moment.

Contentment is just around the corner…I can feel it.

 

PS: If you know what movie my blog title is from, I want to be your new best friend.

 

]Two nights ago I watched the moon die, it’s vermillion body stretching itself across the black sky and sinking into the cityscape’s sea of man made stars. I find myself moving towards the setting of these vast bodies, of moon, of sun, and of my old being watching them as they give way to new beginnings. Sometimes we must shed the old layers. They help us grew, they help us become who we are, but we are forever changing, taking remnants of our journey with us as we become our present selves.

A few months ago, I mentioned that I’m yearning to make this move from Connecticut to Oregon because I’ll have time to think and create what I want from life in my mind’s eye. Writing this first draft I’m sitting on my friend’s couch in Columbus, Ohio, and now I’m by the poolside at my mom’s house in Santa Fe my mind reeling around lessons that have delivered themselves to me.

I’ve been blogging for Stratejoy for several months now and it’s been a great experience. I’m so grateful for being surrounded by Arielle, Caiti, Jill, Rachel,  Cassie, and Sarah and for their gorgeous thoughts gracing the interweb and storing themselves in the crevices of my mind. I’m thankful for Molly and Katie for sharing this incredible opportunity and for all the ridiculously hard work they’ve done and the support they’ve given that has been unending. Thank you all.

I regret not being as consistent with my blogging in the last month as I was in the first few. It looks like I still need to find a better balance with my life and making sure I can do everything I want to the best of my abilities. I admit, I applied to be a Stratejoy blogger on a whim and I’m glad that I did. I’ve learned that there are other folks out there like me who are still figuring out how we shall exist in this vast universe. I’ve learned that I have the support of others and honestly, I think that’s one of the most critical elements in getting through life. I’ve discovered that I still have a ways to go before I’ve shifted from my chaotic pseudo-organization to just being organized. I’ve realized how much I love women spaces. Being a part of Stratejoy and being surrounded by women’s voices is absolutely stunning. Once upon a time a couple of years ago, I worked at a place called The Pink House, a women’s space alive with talk of what it meant to be a women, having consignment clothes and hats galore to try on, and being in a space where it was comfortable to be female. Sometimes I need that. When I move up to Portland, I need to find a place where I can make girlfriends and just hang out.

I’m scared to be moving though. I admit it. I don’t know where Geoffrey and I will be staying or what type of job I’ll end up getting. This completely new experience terrifies and excites me. The past several months have been leading to this moment… to moving west, to getting married (which will happen on Saturday), to dealing with stress, fears, love, family, caring for others and myself, and developing even more as a person which is really just a continual process. I’m worried that I’ve taken Portland to be some sort of Eden and that everything will be perfect there. I know it won’t be, it’ll just be what I make of it but who knows if I’ll be sorely disappointed.

I’m looking forward to the wedding. All the festivities really begin today as families and friends arrive, dinners with my family and Geoffrey’s family commence, and as the final pieces are woven together with all the love that everyone has shown. Seeing so many people come together and be supportive is riveting and though I already consider myself as being married to Geoff, it’ll be nice to have other people join us in celebrating us as a couple.

Then of course the other thoughts stirring around in my little noggin come in the form of lessons I’ve learned that just keep emerging.

That man is the rain which is me: Once upon a time I was sitting with my friend on the Plaza in Santa Fe watching people strolling about and it began to rain. Our middle school selves were talking about life and the world and she said that she believed that in essence, the man walking by us was also the rain, which in turn was us. Everything is interconnected and sometimes it’s easy to forget that we’re all part of this same universe breathing and existing… each of us with our own thoughts. It goes along with the whole theory of Ubuntu- I am because you are. We depend on one another and exist because of everyone else.

That is very well said Candace, now let us cultivate our garden: In the town of Amarillo, there are many quirky signs making their appearances in backyards and on street corners. This has always been my favorite. It’s how my grandfather essentially responded when my father came out to him as being transgendered. He said “I’ll always love you Peter, now let’s go bale some hay”. To me it speaks of how life moves on. Regardless of the circumstances, we can’t stop things, we can’t pause them, we can only move forward with the momentum that exists. Life happens and you work with it.

You have to love yourself before you can love others: My mom always used to say this to me. To have a healthy relationship you need to cherish who you are and understand yourself. You need to have a relationship with yourself. It has been difficult for me at times to love myself and treat myself  right, it still is sometimes, but it has to be done. That’s why I love introspection and journaling because that’s where a good chunk of my revelations come in. I remember in high school sitting in English class and thinking you know, the only thing I can ever be best at being is myself.

So here’s to new beginnings, to dying and being reborn, to allowing my skin to shed being changed by the past and growing into the present. Here’s to life.

**A Note From Katie: Oh, Camila, you gorgeous girl you. I know it’s been a hectic few months for you. Life isn’t always easy to keep up with. You’ve done an incredible job of learning how to balance life and everything else.

The next chapter of your life is just beginning and I know you’re going to take it one step and a time and everything is going to work out just the way it should be. I have no doubt you’re going to make a drop dead beautiful bride. (Don’t forget to send photos!)

I wish you the absolute best in everything, and don’t forget to take time out for yourself. Also? Keep on breathing.

xo-Katie

I have a tendency to make wishes on the night’s first star, birthday candles, eyelashes, and coins tossed into fountains.

One particular evening in high school, meandering through downtown Santa Fe with my friends, I came across a large fountain. Of course, I threw a penny in, bestowing my wish for love into it’s being. It bounced out. So I tried yet again, making the same wish, and again it missed the waters tumbling over the ceramic rim and onto the flagstone nearby. I tried one last time casually wishing “please let me have an interesting life” and my coin went plunging quickly to the bottom.

That whole “interesting life” plan has worked out so far. As my siblings can attest to, it’s been one hell of a life. One “interesting” thing after another comes and taps me on the shoulder. Some of these taps have been difficult. I dealt with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, Anxiety and Depression throughout much of high school and I still have my moments trying to push them away. I’ve lived in at least 12 homes, attended 9 schools, and my parents divorced when I was 19 so I don’t really have a permanent home base unless you count my family’s ranch (and trust me, I do). My father came out as being transgendered when I was 19. That was perfectly fine. What made it difficult was keeping it a secret for so long. And then there’s living in poverty for the past two years trying to pay off bills, student loans, and still finding a way to have fun with very little money.

Then of course there are the wonderfully “interesting” instances like journeying with my whole family throughout the country,  being kidnapped into being a bridesmaid at my friend’s wedding in Ireland, meeting several Nobel Peace Prize Winners, travel ling in Italy solo, visiting Haiti to do independent research on folk art, and having the first person I met in Connecticut become my fiance.

Now though, I’m beginning to realize that it’s not so much this “interesting” life I want. It gets utterly exhausting having obstacles confronting me at every other turn. I’d rather have more of those lusciously interesting moments amidst a continuous stream of joy. That would be my best life.

I mean, I don’t mind a sprinkling of difficult moments every now and then because I’ve grown from the ones I’ve encountered. I just want to appreciate life more without craving the drama. I want to dance to Ace of Base in the kitchen with my kitten. I want to sit in the same room with a friend reading a good book and sipping tea. I want to embrace the moments I have before work waking up next to my love. This is what it means for me to live life authentically.

Being in the moment is just something I have difficulty with. Sometimes I’m just thinking about what my next step is going to be or how I’m going to get everything I need to get done in the day. While it’s important for me to keep my life plan (or lack thereof) in mind, I need to focus more on fully taking part in every second of the day.

So why now? Why do I now feel so compelled to live this kind of life, embracing the little moments? Right now I feel like I’m in my life’s first big intermission. I’m no longer in school. I have no obligations to stay at my job a specific amount of time.

I feel like I’m in a ropes course and I can vaguely see the platform I’m trying to reach, I just can’t quite figure out how I’m going to get there and it’s scary.

When I first heard about Stratejoy a couple of years ago from my friend I was pretty content with my work but I was unsure of where I was headed next. Sure I would have the occasional wine drinking, hookah smoking, life planning nights with my roomie but it wasn’t until I was introduced to Stratejoy and the begin reading the words of the Bloggers that I began to realize that this was a fairly common issue for people my age, and that I was not alone.

That’s why I’m here. That’s why I’m sharing my life and this tricky labyrinth of my Quarter Life Crisis; because I’m trying to make sense of it all myself and frankly it helps knowing that you’re not the only one who doesn’t know what the hell you’re doing.

 

The past five months have gone by entirely too quickly! It’s still a little mind-blowing to me that I’ve been on the road for nearly four of those five. A lot has happened during that time, and while the big things are obvious, I think the smaller changes are going to take another five months to process. And that’s okay! I want to keep growing and transforming as I continue working through my QLC and settling into my new life. I’m still so honored that I’ve been able to share this journey with all of you!

What are you obsessed with at this exact moment?

Zotter chocolate, yoga, mochas, getting my etsy shop up and running, visiting my OddDaughter in England, my impending gluten detox. (I’m gluten-intolerant, and I have not been careful during my travels.)

You can time travel but only to the past! What time period/ historical event do you go and experience?

This is an easy one! Every time I talk about Coney Island, I tell people that I want to go there during the early 1900s, when it was “America’s Playground”. Coney Island is literally one of my favorite places on the entire planet, and I’d love the opportunity to experience Luna Park, Steeplechase Park, and Dreamland in their heyday.

If you could be any animal, which animal would you be and why?

A tiger. I find them mesmerizing; they’re so strong, and yet still graceful.

Any person dead or alive, who would you have dinner with?

David Lynch. I think he’d be an utterly fascinating dinner companion, and boy, do I have some questions for him!

What is on your life’s soundtrack?

I planned my final yoga class at my old studio around the theme of overcoming fear. This was the playlist for the class, and I think it’s a pretty accurate soundtrack for my life as well:

In addition to that playlist, I’d add these songs that I can’t live without:

I’ve linked to as many of the songs as I could, so hopefully you’ll go forth and enjoy some new music – and if you like it, support the artists!

If you could be anywhere in the world right now, where would you be?

If I could clone myself and simultaneously be with my friends in NYC, Seattle, Minneapolis, Raleigh, St. Augustine, San Francisco, Vancouver, Edmonton, Oxford, Graz, Vienna, Rabat, Melbourne, Sydney, and Okinawa – well, I’d do that. Since that’s not going to happen, I think I’ll stick with wanting to be where I as I’m writing this: Barcelona!

Who has been your biggest inspiration throughout your QLC?

My yoga kula (community): the ladies who completed teacher training with me and several other friends/mentors. They inspire me every day with their passion, bravery, and love.

If money, education, time, or location were not an issue, what would you be doing for work in life?

It feels pretty awesome to say this: I’d be doing exactly what I’m doing now/about to be doing (teaching yoga, writing, taking photographs, traveling)! I just wouldn’t need to worry about my bank account so much in the process. 🙂

What was the biggest mental shift you’ve made from 5 months ago to now?

Over the course of my last few weeks in New York, I was seriously doubting my decision to leave and my ability to keep myself afloat financially and emotionally without a 9-to-5 job. Now I feel certain that I did the right thing, and that I can make this all work.

What’s changed? List 10 little sweet things.

  1. I gave up my cozy Brooklyn apartment for a transient lifestyle.
  2. I don’t really mind wearing the same clothes four months in a row.
  3. I’ve developed and renewed so many amazing friendships.
  4. I miss good tacos and bbq.
  5. I’ve learned, once and for all, that my yoga practice – the reading, the āsana, the meditation – is crucial to my well-being.
  6. I drink coffee!
  7. I’ve visited 13 countries (six new ones and seven return trips).
  8. I’m learning to be less afraid of making mistakes.
  9. I’m a pro at navigating new European cities where I don’t speak the language.
  10. I don’t think I ever want to go back to the 9-5 world.

What’s one thing that you’ve learned – in general or about yourself – over the past five months?

I’ve (re)learned just how important it is for me to have a community. I am fortunate to have amazing friends scattered around the globe, but what makes a place feel like home for me is having some of my people nearby.

What would you have done differently on your Stratejoy journey if you were starting today?

I wish I’d put more time into soul-searching (writing morning pages, completing The Joy Equation, etc.) at the beginning. I feel like I’m only now beginning to tackle some of the really big, deep stuff! At the same time, I think that I needed space to get there, so maybe it’s all worked out for the best.

What song(s) will remind you of the past five months?

What is your favorite thing about YOU?

I am so proud of myself for doing things – from minor items to major life changes – even when they absolutely terrify me.

Name 3 things you absolutely love about yourself.

  1. I love that I’m my quirky self; I rock diverse interests that range from the badass to the absurd, and everything in between.
  2. I love that I’m not afraid to cry.
  3. I love that I don’t need a lot of stuff to survive and thrive.

How are you living life on your own terms?

I quit a steady job to travel the world and move to a new country to start a less traditional career path. Despite the concerns of my family and my slowly dwindling bank account – which will be pleased when I arrive in Sydney and also begin selling my photos – I am overall the happiest I’ve been in my life. Even when I get scared (and it definitely happens), I feel like I made exactly the right choice for me, and I love that I’m listening deeply and following my heart.

[photo credit: me!]

It’s been over two months since I left New York and a “normal” daily life behind. When I was there, I dealt every day with the stresses of my job and commuting – the high level of hostility emanating from people on the subway and the streets really got to me sometimes – and so I had particular self-care tactics that I used regularly to keep myself sane.

Now that I’m living one of my dreams, traveling Europe, and spending my time doing things that I love, my self-care system – and any routines, really – have fallen by the wayside. I eat my meals according to what’s typical in the countries that I visit, and it’s not necessarily the most balanced diet. I occasionally take yoga classes, but haven’t been practicing at home. I don’t talk to – or email – my friends and my family with any regularity. And sleep schedule? What sleep schedule?

I hadn’t thought much about it for my first six or so weeks; it didn’t really bother me. And then, I visited Fes. I loved Morocco, Fes, and the medina. Loved. The medina – or old, walled city – in Fes is the largest contiguous car-free area in the world, and it’s a giant maze of trinkets, delicious food, and stunning handicrafts. My friends and I spent two days exploring, bargaining, taking photos, and eating. It was a beautiful and fascinating sensory experience.

And that’s when it all caught up with me.

We stopped at a shop to buy scarves, and after a long sales pitch from the proprietor, my friends picked theirs out. I, on the other hand, froze. I couldn’t choose. The owner of the shop was saying how sad he was that I didn’t see anything I liked, and he kept putting different scarves around my neck. It took everything I had left not to burst into tears on the spot. (As a side note, if you want the price of two silk scarves to drop by 100 Moroccan dirhams – the equivalent of about $12 or 10 euros – look like you’re going to cry.)

All I could think about for the next few days was escaping. I was desperate to find a city where I could go and get a reasonably-priced hotel room with free wifi. My idea was that I would go to that place and camp out in the hotel bed for a few days, leaving only to find delicious, inexpensive food. I even asked facebook and twitter for suggestions about what that city would be.

Then I realized: I didn’t need to go somewhere special. Sure, I might miss some of the sights in my next stop, Barcelona, but who cares? Isn’t my health and sanity more important?

I spent the morning before I left Madrid looking for yoga studios and nail salons in Barcelona. I found a few different studios with reasonable prices and good class times, as well as a place to get a pedicure. I did some yoga before breakfast. I picked up some healthy snacks at the Mercado San Miguel later that day, so that I wouldn’t be tempted by gluten-filled train station food the next morning.

And you know what? Just the action of recognizing that I didn’t have to run around trying to do Barcelona made me feel a little better. That acknowledgment helped remind me that this – exploring and experiencing Europe – is my life now, and that I get to choose how I do that, and when to take a step back.

Look, I’m not saying that having shiny purple polish on my toenails fixed everything in my life, but it sure as hell reminds me every time I see them that this is fun – and that taking care of myself wins over seeing all of the sights.

[photo credit: me!]

The day that my friend Emily and I left Morocco, we were on a very tight schedule. We had 3:05 p.m. train tickets from Algeciras in southern Spain to Madrid, so we had to plan the Morocco end of our travel around that. Missing that train wasn’t an option: if we weren’t on it, Emily wouldn’t make it back to Madrid in time for her flight the following day. We opted to depart from Rabat at 6:42 a.m. on a train that would put us in Tangier around 10:30 a.m., leaving us with merely half an hour to catch our 11:00 a.m. ferry to Spain. (Is this starting to feel like a strange math problem to anyone else?)

We had settled on this plan simply because the alternative was a 2:00 a.m. train from Rabat, and arriving in Tangier at 6:30 a.m. seemed…unappealing. We already knew that the train station there was far from welcoming, and getting a bit of sleep seemed like a good idea. Perhaps our initial priority of maximizing our time in Morocco hadn’t been the best one, but there was no way to change that now. We needed to make the best of this new, rigid schedule.

When we boarded our train in Rabat, our assigned carriage had the lights off and a man sleeping, so we decided to sit in the next carriage that had open seats. We passed the first few hours of the ride napping and chatting with each other. About an hour before our arrival, the older Moroccan woman sitting across from us asked us about the henna designs on our hands. So began a conversation with her – in French – about our time in Morocco, her experiences in France, and politics. With the help of the other girl in our carriage, who spoke both French and English, we carried on a lovely and lively multilingual dialogue.

As our train pulled into the station in Tangier, Emily and I nervously eyed the time on our cell phones. We had under 30 minutes to get to the port, purchase our tickets, and board the ferry. Things didn’t seem promising, and if we missed that boat, there was no way we could make our train. Our new Moroccan friend saw our concerned looks and asked about our ferry. As we climbed down the stairs of the train, she signaled for us to follow her. My hopeful assumption was that she was going to help us get a taxi, and I knew that transaction would go much more smoothly – and be less expensive – with her assistance.

When we exited the station, she led us through the hoard of taxi drivers trying to get fares and found us one off to the side. She told us to get in the back, and she hopped into the front seat. I heard a flurry of Darija (Moroccan Arabic), and we were off. She asked which ferry company we were using, and we told her the name – and also that we still needed to buy tickets. More conversation in Darija followed.

Ten minutes before our ferry’s departure time, we pulled up to the ticket seller, thanked her profusely, and hurried up to the counter. She watched until we were in the process of purchasing our tickets before the cab drove off.

Every day of this trip, I am thankful for the kindness of strangers. Without this woman’s help, we never would have managed to find the ticket counter and make it to our ferry in time. I wake up every day full of gratitude for the life I’m leading right now, for the amazing people I’ve met and the experiences I’ve had. I hope that someday, I’ll be able to offer the same generosity to others that I’ve received: the places to stay, the rides, the shared meals, the companionship.

For now, I’ll continue giving thanks and not taking all of this for granted.

[photo credit: me!]

Over the course of my life, I’ve made some pretty poor choices about friends. At a very young age, I had a friend stab me in the back of the head with a pencil. (Okay, that was an accident that happened while she was hugging me to thank me for the pencil, but still. It should have been a sign. Years later, she ended a coffee date early to go do her ironing.) In high school, two separate groups of friends stopped speaking to me for no apparent reason. (Fortunately, only one of those groups decided to compose mean songs and poems about me.) In college, one of the first close friends that I made decided that we got too close too soon, and then I never heard from her again. (It was probably all for the best, as she lived in one of the dorms all the way on the other side of campus. Still, it was strange. I mean, don’t all early college friendships begin with fast bonding over something random?) These days, it usually works that a close friend starts dating someone, and then suddenly, I’m no longer needed as the partner-in-crime/adventure buddy/confidante. (Admittedly, I’m pretty sure I’ve done that to people, too – and yet, it still stings when it happens.)

Now, I’ll be the first to tell you that the friends I’ve got are the most amazing people in my life. They’ve stuck with me through: cross-country and cross-city moves; poor dating/relationship choices; job transitions; joining and subsequently retiring from roller derby; starting a business (and then determining that it wasn’t the right time); and obviously, my current travel adventure. My friends have had many a long discussion with me about all of those decisions, and I’m a lucky lady in that regard. And of course, there have been all of the fun times, too!

I always expect that those two scenarios will balance out over time, and yet, in the end, it’s often easier to get stuck in the mode of remembering the bad things that have happened. Enter: trust issues. The type where I feel like if I obsess about one more decision out loud to my friends, they’re going to tell me to get over it and stop being so self-absorbed. The sort that lead to difficulties opening up to people. The kind that make it hard to ask for help, even from those who know me best.

My time in Iceland challenged all of that.

I expected to be spending my two weeks there alone, save for a few interactions with my CouchSurfing host and the farmers. I figured I would learn about sheep and producing jam for sale, struggle with Icelandic words, and spend my evenings reading and knitting. I suspected I would excitedly await my time in England, when I’d finally get to be with friends who were fluent in English and wanted to hang out with me.

Things didn’t exactly work out that way.

When I arrived at the farm, there were already two other volunteers there. This turned out to be a very good thing, as I soon discovered that the farmer was a teacher and thus not home all day. I wouldn’t have known where to find anything or what to do if not for them – and I also wouldn’t have learned as quickly how little work there was to do. And I most definitely wouldn’t have decided to hitchhike to another farm further east that needed extra hands harvesting before the first snow.

Before this year, I probably would have stuck it out on the farm alone, even though my compatriots were leaving for likely greener pastures. I would have assumed that hitchhiking wouldn’t be safe enough to try, and that I might get stuck in the middle of nowhere – or worse. (Americans don’t really hitchhike much, at least not in my experience.) If I decided that the farm really would be too sad and lonely, I would have paid for an earlier flight to England and high-tailed it out of Iceland to a safe space with people who know me well.

I chose to try something different.

In one of my first posts, I talked about realigning my life to reflect my values, and one of those is trust. After spending two days hitchhiking about halfway around Iceland, I think I can safely say that I’m learning to live that one. For two days, I traveled with two people I’d met less than a week earlier, trusting that they wouldn’t abandon me somewhere along the way. I relied on the kindness of strangers driving past, who were giving us rides in exchange for nothing other than conversation with an American, a Belgian, and a German (and sometimes cookies, which I’d baked without a recipe before leaving the first farm – and I must say, they were a big hit). I needed to trust that our lifts would be safe drivers on winding Icelandic roads; it’s a small enough country that I didn’t need to worry that they knew where we were going. I hoped that once we got to the junction nearest the farm, that the directions we’d received from the farmer would be clear enough that we’d easily find it as we walked at dusk with all of our bags.

Two days, 600 kilometers, six lifts (including a member of an Icelandic punk band and a former Icelandic Olympian), two dozen cookies, an unexpected stay in a village called Kirkjubæjarklaustur (seen in the above photo), three kilometers walking from the main road to the farm, and countless hours waiting by the side of the road and at petrol stations, we made it. And I’d do it again in a heartbeat.

I haven’t even touched on the people that I met on the other farm or my two CouchSurfing hosts, both of whom turned out to be really rad. I haven’t talked about the connection I formed with the two other volunteers with whom I was traveling, the silly inside jokes we developed, and the ease of our time together. I haven’t shared any of the farming experiences I had and what I learned about herding sheep and harvesting turnips. All of those things were a bit part of my two weeks in Iceland, too.

What I’ll remember the most, though, is how letting other people in and trusting strangers can lead to adventure and magic, and that I’m ready to do that a little bit more than I was before.

[photo credit:  me!]

Money’s been on my mind a lot lately. Long-term travel plans will do that to you, I suppose. I’ve got a variety of fears related to this trip, but the one that’s most consistently present is the fear of running out of cash. I touched on that in my post about my travel/moving plans, but I think it’s worth a closer look. I’m pretty sure I’m not alone here, and I suspect this fear is what stops some people from following their dreams of traveling, opening a business, and more.

My parents raised me to make very practical choices about money. My family is solidly middle class–perhaps even upper middle class in the economically-depressed area where I grew up–and they taught me from a young age to save. I’ve never been the type of person to accumulate a large sum of credit card debt, and while I was employed, I was putting money into a retirement account. I decided to leave my job in Seattle to do AmeriCorps partly because the paychecks were sometimes uncertain. Even though I wasn’t going to earn a lot of money during my AmeriCorps year, at least I was able to plan for that.

Point being: my nature is to make reasonably intelligent financial decisions and save money.

What the fuck was I thinking when I quit my job?!

I was thinking that I’d spent a few years automatically transferring 20-30% of my earnings into a savings account every month. I knew that someday I’d use that money to do something awesome, and that time had come. When it wasn’t in my checking account, I didn’t spend it. It was like magic when I looked at the savings balance later!

I was thinking that I was tired of earning my keep in a way that drained me. I was doing so many things on the side that I enjoyed–teaching yoga, blogging, taking photographs–and I wanted more time to explore those options as a potential sources of income.

I was thinking that life is short, and that I’ve never really bought into the idea that we should wait until we retire to follow our dreams. A former coworker once said to me: “It’s hard to dance when you have a walker, but it’s easy to sit at a desk and type.” I don’t want to wait my whole life to do something that I’m excited about now. I don’t want to spend my whole life saving for something that might never happen.

I’m not advocating racking up debt to fund crazy plans and diving into things with reckless abandon. That’s not my style. I am suggesting that if we want to do awesome things, we need to make those a priority. I was able to save the money for this trip by living what some people saw as a spartan lifestyle. I spent money on the things that mattered most–travel and food, including eating out with friends–and I was cautious about the rest. There were certainly times that I missed living alone, but I saved hundreds of dollars each month by having a roommate. I rarely bought things like clothes, books, and other random items because those weren’t in my budget.

My dad said to me a few years ago that he and my mom had a hard time understanding me because they saw my brother buying things (new tv, car stereo, etc.), and I wasn’t like that. I like to spend my money on experiences. That’s how I choose to live my life, and that includes the financial side of it.

All of that doesn’t take away the fear of running out of cash. You know what’s scarier to me, though? Planning around a someday that might never arrive and living a life that isn’t authentic.

Of course, I’ve still got a semi-meticulous travel budget. It’s not like I can get away from my upbringing that easily.

[photo credit: me!]

I’ve come to expect any or all of the following questions when I tell people that I’m moving to Australia:

It’s not that I mind answering them; I’ve come to terms with the fact that they’re going to come up, and clearly, I like talking about myself. The catch is that I don’t really have answers to any of those questions…

…and I like it that way.

People don’t seem to know how to react to that. It’s not that I blame them; after all, I’ve had six months or so to come to terms with my decision and how I’ve (not) planned things. At first, their responses made me uncomfortable. I stopped wanting to talk about my travel plans for a while, because I didn’t want to deal with the shift in tone of voice or odd look when I didn’t have concrete answers. I’ve been learning to come to terms with the fact that I’m not crazy for doing this, and I’m making a valid choice and can have faith in my decision.

Here’s the thing: with the exception of my AmeriCorps year, I’ve spent the past eleven (!) years working in event planning in some way, shape, or form. I can research options, create schedules, manage logistics, and coordinate people with the best of them. I love a good to-do list, and for the most part, I don’t shy away from spreadsheets. (In fact, I’ve got quite a few of them to assist with some unavoidable moving and travel logistics.)

After planning out all of those details for so long, I just don’t want to do it anymore. After living by a relatively rigid schedule–elementary school, high school, college, 9-to-5 jobs–I want to step away from that for a while. I want to reclaim my time, explore, and see if there’s a better way to structure my life. I’ve created the opportunity for myself to do just that, and I’m going to run with it as best I can.

Since I’m really excited about my globetrotting and my move, though, I can tell you what I do know. I’m spending about three months traveling, with the intention of arriving in Australia shortly before Christmas. When I initially started planning this trip, I was going to take a week in Seattle and a week in England (or maybe a week in England and a week in Austria–who can keep track at this point?) before heading down under, and then somehow, the trip kept growing. Not that I’m complaining!

The next three months will be filled with new adventures, friends old and new, good food, and quality time with myself. I’m in Seattle now with one of my dearest friends, and then heading to Europe for a mix of solo travel and journeying with friends. I’ll volunteer on farms in Iceland and Italy and celebrate my OddDaughter’s first birthday at her home in England. I’ll take a solo train ride through France and Spain en route to meet up with friends from my knitting circles in Morocco. I’ll gather with another group of kamarádky for Thanksgiving in Prague; my heart starts to beat faster when I think about walking those familiar streets that captured my heart during my study abroad. I’ll head to Austria with some of my Prague travel companions to spend time visiting with them in their home. I’ve got a very loose schedule for the solo parts of the journey, and a little more structure when other people are involved.

It’s going to be awesome.

And then: Australia. That’s where I really don’t have answers. I’m planning on teaching yoga, yes. I have some job leads, yes. I have friends and family who are willing to house me, at least for a little while, so I won’t be homeless when I arrive. (And realistically, I could always stay in a hostel if I needed. I wouldn’t be without shelter.) And I’m okay with this.

I was going to say that I’m completely, 100% okay with this. That would be a lie. Of course there’s a part of me that’s terrified. I’m moving to a country halfway around the world, with a dream of teaching yoga full-time and a vague idea of where I’m going to live. Who wouldn’t feel some fear? In the end, though, I’m more afraid of being stuck where I’ve been.

These days, when people ask those questions, I give my nebulous answers. And every time, I remind myself of two things:

1. My dream has been to travel and move to Australia. I’m doing that. No matter what happens once I get there–even if I end up working odd jobs to pay the bills, or coming home after a few months–I’ve succeeded. I left my job to follow my dream, and it’s happening.

2. I have many homes, and I’m choosing not to live in them right now. One of my greatest fears is that I will end up running out of money with no place to live. That will never happen, because I have friends who will always, no matter what, let me spend weeks–or even months–on their couches or air mattresses or spare beds until I figure things out. I will always have a home–many homes–to return to.

Even though the answers aren’t always complete enough for most people, they’re perfect for me.

[photo credit: me!]

I love lists. Like religiously. Lists for shopping, lists for goals, lists to keep track of everything. I’m not OCD, but I do like to track progress. Checking off each little box makes me warm and fuzzy inside.

Last year, on January 3rd, 2010, I started a list that would change my life. It was called 101 in 1001. The idea is you choose 101 things of varying difficulty and complete them in 1001 days. That’s not so long it’s impossible to see the end of, but it also gives you more leeway than New Year’s Resolutions. Count me in.

One of my more outlandish tasks on the list was “Use a productivity system for 30 days.” (So much for not appearing OCD.) A productivity system would help me get my crap in order, and hopefully, my life would follow suit.

Enter GTD (Getting Things Done). I bought files and a box and got to work. But soon, I realized it wasn’t a good fit for me. (Too many files and far too many rules.) I began to look again for a new system to try. That’s when I found ZTD (Zen to Done).

 

That’s when Leo Babauta and Zen Habits entered my life. I started diving through the archives. He wasn’t just talking productivity. He was bringing simplicity into every aspect of life. That’s when I entered the blogosphere, first as a reader, then soon as a fellow contributor.

One of the movements Leo was advocating was minimalism. I started reading about other people trying similar life experiments, and I was shocked. I couldn’t believe there were other people like me so dissatisfied with the the consumer culture that appeared the only option. But they were doing something about it. Many of them were living with 100 things or less!

That was insane to me. It reminded me of a few years back when I had moved to Texas with what would fit in a suitcase. And I had loved it! So I made the decision to do it. I started going through my things, making Goodwill trips, and downsizing.

Then, it was my daughter’s turn. Everyone thought (read: still thinks) I was crazy for doing it, but what do babies really need? Clothes and toys. Who needs more than 100? (She seems to be just fine, thank you.)

While I was doing this downsizing, I had also started blogging about it. The fact was nobody was writing about what radical minimalism looked like with kids, and I felt like I had something really worthwhile to talk about. It turned out other people felt that way, too. Within two weeks of starting my blog, I’d guest posted on my favorite blogger’s site (when she wasn’t taking guest posts) and taken my niche by storm.

I was in love. After feeling so isolated since I had my daughter, here were all of these people who understood what I was going through. Here was this wonderful community willing to share and discuss and be vulnerable. Out of the blue, I found friends, mentors, and more than a few adventures. And how could I forget the passion I felt for writing? The words flowed like water. It was beautiful. My calling stumbled into my life when I was just looking for new things to keep me from remembering my QLC.

Since then, it’s been a wild ride. I’ve released several ebooks, turned my blog into a business platform, and now I’m here pouring my heart out at Stratejoy. I found Stratejoy in an unconventional way these days – I met Molly in person! We found each other at a karaoke bar during the World Domination Summit this summer, and after hearing Molly’s story, it wasn’t long before I was diving in and out of her archives.

When I saw apps were being taken for new Stratejoy writers, it was fate. With my blog being so business-like, there’s a lot a I want to share that no longer fits that audience. I am so ready to share the stories that make us who we are. It’s an honor to have the opportunity to connect with such an amazing group of women. Here’s to another year of beautiful words, broken stories, and creating incredibly rich lives.

 

INTRODUCING: KAT

“I can admit now that I was afraid to be alone.”

 collage of kat

Five years ago: My AmeriCorps year with Habitat for Humanity was ending, and I had no idea what I wanted to do for work. I loved that job—the manual labor, the opportunity to teach, the people—and I didn’t know what type of job I could find to capture those things. I fell into my current non-profit desk job because that was familiar (it was how I made my living before AmeriCorps), I needed an income, and I wasn’t sure how to find something else. I considered moving back to Seattle; however, I decided to stick with New York City and the more traditional type of job that my parents wanted for me.

Three years ago: I was still thinking about leaving New York, still wanting to be somewhere else. This time, I was considering Australia. I could get a work visa, and I’d been interested in living there since I first visited in 1997. My job was boring me, I couldn’t get the promotion I wanted—and believe me, I’d been trying—and I was feeling very stuck career-wise. Then I met a guy and fell—hard—and I chose to stay to see where things that went, even though it didn’t feel quite right. I can admit now that I was afraid to be alone.

One year ago: I’d moved in with my boyfriend and finally gotten promoted at work. Saying that sounds like life was great, except I felt like a shell of myself. Every little thing had me on edge; I would literally cry over spilt milk. It was awful, and it got even worse when just before my 29th birthday, my boyfriend started saying completely horrible things to me. I cried, sobbed, and screamed, and finally, I told him to move out. I was left with the overwhelming desire to get rid of everything I owned and leave New York for good, except I knew that at that point, I couldn’t be happy anywhere. I needed time to rebuild myself first. I breathed. I stayed. I proclaimed on my 29th birthday that the upcoming year would be my year of courage.

Let me tell you: when you make a declaration like that, you’d better be prepared for what’s coming.

Six months ago: Three important events:
1. a management training for work, which led to the realization that I didn’t want my boss’ job;
2. the beginning of my yoga teacher training, which helped me find myself again; and
3. finding a (fortunately benign) lump in my breast, which reminded me that I want to be living life on my terms.

Those three things finally propelled me to acknowledge my quarterlife crisis, to make the type of change that had been on my mind for the past few years. When my boss asked me in a meeting if I was happy at
my job, I simply replied, “No.” That startled both of us, and I knew then that I needed to go for it. I realized that there would never be a perfect time; this was the moment to say yes to myself and figure out the details later.

One month ago: I turned 30, and declared it my year of flourishing. I don’t know what’s coming; all I know is that the traditional path—the desk job, living longer-term in one city, settling into a relationship—hasn’t worked for me. In five days, I’ll no longer be employed. In two weeks, I’ll leave my apartment in Brooklyn one final
time. I’ll head to Seattle and then Europe, traveling for several months, and eventually making my way to Sydney—or maybe Melbourne—to be a photograph-taking, gluten-free pie baking, knitting, tattooed
yoga teacher and blogger.

Watch out, world. I’m coming for you!

Somehow over the last six months, I learned to connect the dots.  Somewhere between the Czech Republic and Australia, I learned to fix the broken pieces and repair the damage.

It’s hard to believe that this is the last time I will write for Stratejoy.  What an incredible journey its been.

Six Months Ago…

I was broken, damaged, depressed, and spiraling into a scary black hole.  I had just lost my comfortable Corporate job and didn’t know what the next step was because no one prepared me for a devastating job loss.  I decided that the only way I could save myself from an unhappy lifestyle was to leave it.  So I packed my bags, said goodbye to friends and family, and moved to Prague to get certified to teach English as a second language.

There, I met 23 wonderful people from all over the world and discovered a new passion for education and for life.  I struggled with language barriers, culture shock, and the stress of lesson planning, but I created some priceless memories in Prague that outweigh any negative feelings of the experience.

Of course, little did I know that that certificate would open so many doors for me and lead me on a journey of a lifetime.

Now…

I’m living in a 4-bedroom flat in Sydney, Australia that I share with three other men.  I’m teaching private lessons and taking on more freelance writing projects.  I’ve created a good friend-base in Sydney, connected with a blogger from back home who has been living here for over a year, and reconnected with some friends from America whom I haven’t seen in a few years.

I went sky diving, discovered forgiveness, and uncovered loneliness in the Land Down Under.  I learned to cover the scars and open wounds with new adventures and experiences full of love, passion, and gratitude.  I gained confidence in traveling solo.  I shattered comfort zones and crossed boundaries.  I struggled with language barriers and culture shock.  But most importantly, I found happiness in Australia.

What’s Next…

I’m going bungee jumping in New Zealand in a few weeks and celebrating my 28th birthday in September in my new home with my new friends (and some old ones).  I’m going to Cairns to see the Great Barrier Reef and this summer (or winter for all of you folk in America), I’m going to learn how to surf.

I’m planning trips to South Africa and South America in 2012 and I added “build a language school in Africa” to my life list.

I’m taking life by the balls and running with it.  Wherever it takes me and whatever it throws at me, I’m going to face it all with courage and grace.  I’m going to open my heart up to extraordinary possibilities and never look back. 

Some Advice:

Life doesn’t always turn out the way we want it to, but that’s no reason to stop living for the moment.  I know it’s hard, I know it can become overwhelming, depressing, and stagnant at times, but you have to keep pushing through it, figure out what you want to do with your life, and then go do it.

I won’t lie, it’s fucking scary as hell to leave everything you know and start over, but it’s even scarier to know that you never tried to make a change, chase your dream, quit your job, or travel the world.  Stop settling for a mediocre life.  Stop making excuses.  Stop complaining about not being able to do certain things with your life.  You can do whatever you want, but you have to have the will to try.

Start living with passion and intention.  Start making a list of all of the things you want to do with your life and then go do them. Tomorrow is promised to no one.  We only have today and we only have one life to be happy, live passionately, and smile intently.  So, go out there and live your best life.

Thank you to all of my readers for supporting me through this amazing experience.  Thank you to my Season 4 Sisters for letting me share this experience with you.  Thank you to Katie for all of the brainstorming g-chat sessions and ‘behind the scenes’ stuff that you do for Stratejoy.  Thank you to Molly for creating Stratejoy, letting me be a part of Season 4, and empowering women to fight the QLC and take control of their lives.

Sending you all mad love from the wonderful world of Oz!

 

Australia has been a very healing place for me.  I came into this country with a lot of unanswered questions, unresolved issues, a broken heart that still hadn’t fully healed, an emotional void constantly being filled with alcohol, and a burning desire of wanting something more.  That’s a lot of baggage to carry around from country to country.

In six months I found the courage to start over.  New career.  New city (and country).  New friends.  New relationship.  But there’s still something missing; I still feel this sharp pain deep in my heart and soul.

Buried beneath all of the happiness, excitement, adventure, and newness is deep, painful loneliness.

I’ve been struggling with loneliness for a couple years now, though I think this is the first time that I’m actually admitting it. I don’t know where it stems from.  Maybe partly from losing my parents at such a young age (and not being raised in that tight-knit family dynamic) and partly from the unhealthy relations I had with nearly every man back in America which created this dangerous feeling of inadequacy.

Traveling solo surely doesn’t erase this feeling of loneliness though.

Choosing to create a new life in Australia is certainly a monumental tipping point for me, but it does come at a cost.  I had wonderful, supportive, genuine friends back home.  I had two brothers who would drop everything and come running to me if I needed them.  I had a therapist who saved my life and helped me work through my emotional demons.  And I chose to be selfish and leave it all behind to travel the world solo and find my happiness.

Now I’m on an island, miles and miles away from my closest friends and family, trying to find a way to build a new foundation full of happiness, love, and gratitude.  I’m trying to become a successful ESL teacher, a genuine friend, and a loving girlfriend.  It’s not as easy as it sounds.  Life Down Under isn’t always rainbows and butterflies; it’s an emotional roller coaster of fleeting happiness, painful loneliness, drops of stratejoy, and moments of feeling homesick.

Being an ESL teacher in Australia is very challenging, for obvious reasons.  I’m teaching private lessons to International students and Backpackers, but it’s not steady, guaranteed work every day.  Some days I teach eight lessons, other days I won’t teach at all.

Most of the friends I had when I first got here have traveled out of the country, and it’s been tough to organize nights out with the remaining friends that are still in town.

It’s emotionally challenging to be in a relationship with a man who’s constantly surrounded by his friends and family and I’m on the other side of the world from mine.  I miss that kind of social environment and I miss being around people who really know me.  I don’t want to become co-dependent on him, but it’s tough when he’s one of the reasons why I chose to stay.

How do I make the loneliness of starting over in a foreign country, thousands of miles away from everything I know and love, go away?

I don’t know how to work through it.  I don’t know how to just sit with this feeling and be okay in the moment.

Starting over is scary.  Though I never thought I’d ever start my life over in Australia, I certainly don’t regret this decision.  This country has changed my life.  But I think that honeymoon phase of being here is officially over and now I need to start digging deep and working through this loneliness and the other emotional affects of living abroad.

{photo credit: Vermario}

 

Guess who has two thumbs and just graduated from her TEFL course?!

THIS GIRL.

Yep, that’s right, I just completed one of my goals.  I am now certified to teach English as a foreign language and it feels effing awesome.

For anyone who is interested in teaching English as a foreign language, I highly recommend getting certified.  Sure, the four weeks of class will no doubt be the most intense four weeks of your life, but the reward will certainly be worth it.  The certification is not required in every country, but most of them are now only hiring TESOL/TEFL certified teachers.  Also, schools in Asia pay significantly higher salaries to certified teachers than non-certified ones.

So, what did I actually learn these last four weeks?

I learned that teaching English will ruin my life (in a good way).  By the second week of class, I was analyzing every sentence I read (whether in an email or in an article) for correct grammar structure.  Now that I know what second conditional, reported speech, and past perfect continuous are, I analyze every sentence to figure out what tense it’s in.

Another [annoying] thing I do now is read an article online and find a way to incorporate it into a lesson plan.

I learned that there are certain words that should never be back-chained. So, back-chaining is when you break down a word by syllable, and you drill it to the students backwards.  For example, the word languages can be broken up into three syllables: lan-gua-ges.  So when you back-chain that word to students, you start with the last syllable and proceed until the entire word is drilled as a whole.  When you back-chain languages guess what the third syllable sounds like?

Go ahead, sound it out yourself.  I’ll wait…

Um, yeah.

One of my classmates back-chained the word ageism and he stood in front of a handful of Czech students saying “gism, gism, gism, gism” repeatedly.  I can’t make this stuff up if I tried to!

I learned that gestures mean everything in teaching.  Sometimes I feel like I’m Italian when I teach.  Cause you know, Italians gesture constantly when they talk.  Gesturing while teaching English to foreign students is crucial because sometimes it’s the only way they will understand what you want them to do (like when one of your students is from Azerbaijan and doesn’t speak any English and you have to spend 15 minutes of your lesson gesturing at them). Even when I talk with my classmates, I find that we often use gestures at each other.

I learned that the best English teachers are the ones who are most prepared. It took me about six hours to write my very first lesson plan because I had no idea what kind of activities to give my students, and what kind of warmers and fillers I wanted them to do.  I think at one point, I just stared at my lesson for an hour, dazed and confused.  The key to executing a lesson is to plan it well and be prepared.  Grammar is by far the most difficult thing to teach foreigners, and if they don’t understand the form and function of the grammar by the end of your lesson, then you failed at teaching it to them.

I learned that silence can be deafening in a classroom.  I watched one of my peers teach his 45-minute lesson to three Pre-Intermediate students (who barely talked) and when he directed them to work on an activity, the silence in the room could pierce your ear drum.  Sometimes, you just need something to kill that silence.

I learned that countries drawn on a whiteboard can look like phallic symbols. Case in point:

(sorry for the glare.  A classmate drew a picture of the UK on the whiteboard, and it looked like a penis.)

I learned that moving to Prague and getting certified has changed my life. I know I’ve only been living in Prague for one month, but my life has already changed in so many ways.  Moving to a new country builds character.  Fighting through a language barrier shows strength.  Teaching English as a foreign language takes creativity and patience.

I came here with no expectations.  I graduated from this course with 23 new friendships, a new perspective on the world, and a new love for teaching.

Now, it’s time to celebrate.

Na zdravi!

This week, we all came up with questions for each other; here are my answers:

1.    What do you miss most about being a child?

The freedom of long summer days, running barefoot in the grass, creating universes out of my backyard, jumping and splashing and tumbling and swimming, un-selfconciously, entertaining myself easily and, when the stars came out, collapsing into an unworried sleep in the comforting arms of my mom or dad.  Simple, loved, joyful.

2.   What’s on your bedside table?

A glass of water (always), my phone, a holiday scented candle, a cute tile coaster from a set my cousin bought me, and two books: “The Highly Sensitive Person” and “A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius” – yes I’m reading both.  Also, sometimes my keys, deoderant & purfume live there for a bit when I’m too lazy to put them away.

3.    When was the last time you were giddy with happiness, lost in one of those can’t-hold-back-a-smile kinda moments?

A cute guy I met sought me out & showed up unexpectedly a week later to ask for my number.  I couldn’t stop smiling for at least an hour.

4.    What are you most looking forward to in the next 6 months? (Besides reading awesome Season IV Bloggers!)

My movie coming out, my new & improved website launching, and whatever awesome adventures come my way this year!

5.       What’s your hell like?

Hell is sitting in creeeeeeeping traffic on the 405 freeway, on a 100+ degree summer day, behind a stinky, brakes-squealing semi, no A/C, no water or food, the only radio stations I get are smooth jazz elevator music and Mexican mariachi bands, I’m dressed up for a big audition, which I’m seriously late for, I’m sweating like a whore in church, my phone’s dead, and I have to pee – bad.   (Anyone else been there?)

6.       What’s your heaven like?

Heaven is waking up to the person I most love in the world, laying in bed laughing for what feels like hours (but no time has passed),  then wandering like a backpacker, with the wonder and in-the-moment awareness I feel most often when traveling, all the while constantly running into people I love & sitting and talking with them over unimaginably good food and drink.  There’s a soundtrack of Jon Brion/Sigur Ros/Animal Collective -inspired-type music, it’s a sunny 80 degrees with no humidity, I’m 20s/30s young in a sundress, and I feel light and happy.

7.    What’s the biggest lesson you’re taking away from the past 6 months with Stratejoy / how has the experience changed you?

I learned that there’s a community of women out there, incredible, strong, intelligent women, who I inspire as much as they inspire me.  It’s given me confidence in my writing & made me feel like I really DO have things to say, and ways of saying them, that are important and relatable and that people besides my parents actually read!

8.    What song lyrics fit your life, right now, at the beginning of this brand new year?

“The dog days are over / the dog days are done”  – Florence and the Machine.  Because things are only getting better from here on out.

9.     If you had a time machine, what place and time would you travel to and why?

Assuming this machine was mine & I could use it as much as I wanted, I would go all over the place – the Original Woodstock, the Old Wild West, 1800s London, ancient Greece; I’d watch Stonehedge and the Pyramids get built.  There are so many times in history I’d love to be a part of, or at least a fly on the wall, to see how life was really lived.

10.  What is something that not a lot of people know about you that you wish more people could know?

Honestly, I’ve been thinking about this for 2 days & can’t think of anything.  I wear my heart on my sleeve, y’all; if I need you to know it, I’ll tell you.  🙂

11. What surprised you the most about 2010?

Getting cast in a movie.  It was completely out of the blue and a-freaking-mazing.  As were all of the big adventures of 2010, and there were lots!

12. What’s the best present you’ve ever received?

This is tough… I guess my last computer (my first Mac & first laptop); not a very exciting answer but the truth.  🙂

13. Dream Job?  Dream Home?  Dream Vacation?

Dream job:  Actor/Writer – steadily acting in interesting films and writing not only articles, but novels.  Making a living creating, but still feeling balanced in every aspect of my life.

Dream home:  A little old craftsman-style bungalow with a thriving garden in a residential area of a city.  It’s within walking distance to a main street with shops & restaurants, in a safe area.  I’ve updated it to use solar energy & be green; it’s small enough to feel cozy but large enough to have lots of parties.  I have a studio in the backyard behind an old tree.  There’s lavender planted in front of most of the windows so on a warm day with windows and doors open, the whole house smells amazing.

Dream vacation:  Around the world.  I want to go everywhere & see everything; it’d be so amazing to travel for a year or two & city, country, continent hop.  If I have to choose one place, for right now, I’ll say Bali/Thailand; I want to expore the jungles & sit on the beach & see monkeys like stray cats everywhere.

14.  Imagine your life was being made into a movie. What would the title be? Who would you pick to play you? What would the theme song be? How about the little trailer blurb for the advertisement?

Voiceover:  “Just when she thought she had it all figured out, life stepped in with a plan of its own…”  Montage set to “Swim Until You Can’t See Land” by Frightened Rabbit:  Nikki Klecha (wait, what? I can’t play myself?  Oh, ok.) Rachel McAdams bored at a desk, hiking a mountain, crying on a plane, laughing with friends, freaking out in anxiety, freaking out in joy, on a film set, grieving, celebrating, unsure, ending with a romantic moment cliffhanger then… fade to black and on the screen:  Learning to Float.

[photo sources: book, Me on the red carpet in ’09, dream house]

I have a really good friend who went through a typical Quarter Life Crisis and yet still maintains the QLC doesn’t exist.  He was in grad school for and making money in his chosen profession when he realized it just wasn’t for him, quit school, quit his job, moved across the country and started over.  He’s now a professional musician and lives one of the most enviable, inspiring lives of anyone I know.

I remember when he was going through his QLC, partially because I was on the cusp of my own.  We used to call each other, frustrated and unsure, comparing the messes of our love lives, the unfulfillment of our career lives, and the fears that were plauging us.  We bonded over a shared ickiness.  Classic QLC, right?

The difference between him and most people I know who’ve gone through a QLC (including myself) is that he refuses to call it a crisis.  Even when he felt icky and frustrated and was not making enough money to live on, he saw his life as an adventure and this unknown stage of it as just one somewhat frightening, giant decision between many thrilling options.

To quote him (thanks, Facebook!):

We have this amazing opportunity (unlike previous generations) to do whatever we want with our lives but we tend to spend so much time and energy talking about how hard it is and getting angsty because we “don’t know what to do with our lives.”  …These are opportunities! Amazing, wonderful opportunities!  …I wish more people our age perceived it in such a manner.

Wise words, no?  It makes me want to take action, any action, try and fail and try again.  It’s all ok.  It’s all part of really living life.  So inspiring!

I get it, though, we all know logically that this is a time of exciting possibilities, but it’s hard to keep that in mind in the middle of it, while it feels like the life you know is crumbling around you and everyone you look up to is looking down on you disapprovingly.

We have so many more options and comforts and safety nets than the generations before us, and the freedom they give us is both exhilarating and overwhelming.  But add to that the fact that we’re bucking the norm in a society that has always expected people our age to put our nose to the grindstone, get a job, start a family, stop “goofing off” and grow up already, makes it a lot harder to see that freedom as a good thing.  We’re swimming against the current, and that can be exhausting.

I think that’s really where the “crisis” comes in.  It’s a crisis of understanding and communication.  It’s the difference between generations, and it’s always existed, ever since the first teenager argued with the first parent.  With each generation we’re evolving as a race, and we have the luxury to find our happiness, which our grandparents, and parents, didn’t have to the same extent.

It can be difficult feeling like you’re not living up to expectations, you’re letting the people you respect down, you’re “behind” on the timeline of normal life.  It can be frightening feeling like you have no role models and you’re forging your own path through the uncharted wilderness of creating the life you want, a life you’re scared to think is even possible.  I used to feel that way ALL. THE. TIME.  …until Stratejoy.

You ladies are my role models.  Molly especially.  All my fellow writers and all the commenters and all the blogs I’ve found of women making it happen on their own terms show me that I may be forging my own path, but I’m doing it right alongside other amazing people, and it’s not so scary.

It’s time for a paradigm shift.  Forget what other people think, forget societal “norms” (we’re changing them this very minute anyway!), forget what you thought you wanted or where you thought you’d be; take stock of the incredible freedom you have right now, and all the opportunities you can take advantage of in your life.  This is no crisis!!  This is the BEST THING EVER!!

So I’m with Lindsey, I think we need to come up with a new name for the QLC.  Quarter Life Celebration, Quarter Life Exploration, Quarter Life Speedbump, Quarter Life Fuck Yeah!

What do y’all think?

Meanwhile, I’m going to follow the example of my inspiring friend and take action.  I’m just gonna go for it and drink up what life has to offer, say yes to all opportunities, and find exuberant joy in the unknown.  Life isn’t a race to the finish line of “adult benchmark goals,” life is meant to be explored and enjoyed.  This time of my life is amazing, not a crisis.  And if I make a few mistakes, well, that still won’t make it a crisis.

We’re strong, we’re smart, we’re free, we’re young — let’s do this shit.

[photo credit]

2010.  It sounds like the future, doesn’t it?  Twenty-ten.  It doesn’t sound like a real year to me, and yet, it is, and very soon, it will be a real year in my past.  Unbelievable.

The holidays are here and with them comes the end of the year and inevietably, self-reflection.  Preparing ourselves for our winkingly optimisitc new year’s resolution, we look back on our year to see where we went wrong, what we want to do better, what we want to change in the clean slate of next year.  While I’m all for that, and a big fan of positive, purposeful change, I think part of why we all break our resolutions (and SO soon – most years, I don’t even get through January!!) is that we’re forming them from a negative place.  We resolve to eat healthier because we feel fat.  We resolve to work harder because we feel unsuccessful.

What if, instead of focusing on what we didn’t do in the last year, we focused on what we did do, what made us feel happy and alive, and resolved to bring more experiences like that into our lives, so that our ultimate resolutions were to have more of those good feelings, spurred on by happy memories instead of guilt and disappointment?

I’m gonna try it.  2010 has been a freaking ridiculous, cry-until-my-eyes-won’t-open, laugh-until-I-can’t-breathe, terrifyingly joyful year.  There are a lot of things I could resolve to change in my life and be more healthy, more productive, more stable.  But when I think about those things, I feel bad; noticing the lack of them invalidates the amazing year I’ve had.  So, instead, here’s a reflection on my past year and some truly positive intentions/resolutions for 2011.

I intend to trust with an open mind & open heart.

The biggest thing 2010 has taught me is to let go of control.  My whole life, I’ve always had a plan and tried to control how that plan unfolds.  I held on too tightly to the things I thought I wanted and I pushed the things I didn’t think I wanted away too forcefully.  It led to confusion, frustration, and, interestingly, left me feeling powerless.  2010 demolished all the plans I’d made for myself.  It swooped in under the fireworks at Airlie Beach, Australia, picked me up & started running, like I was a football under the arm of the quaterback, and that dude is way too burly to fight.  2010 gave me what I wanted when I didn’t want it; it gave me a job when I was about to leave, an apartment when I was furniture-less, an adventure when I was getting settled.  But, as terrifying as it was to be plowing along headfirst down the football field, it was reassuring to remember I’ve got the QB on my side, and the less I resisted, the more fun it became.

I couldn’t have predicted even a third of this year; it knocked me off my feet & onto my ass more than a few times, but I’m so glad I went along for the ride.  It brought more amazing things than I ever could’ve planned for.  Being open to the unexpected things that pop up in life makes life less of a struggle and more fun, and makes me a hell of a lot happier.

I intend to seek out new experiences.

I started the year across the world from home, living with a family that took me in the first week they met me, taking a road trip with a boy I’d known less than a month.  It continued with a planned move across the country, a road trip to see  the US, which, in the blink of an eye, changed to 10 days roadtripping California with my momma and a month of crashing on friends couches.  I acted in a major feature film.  I moved in with strangers.  I took 6 weeks to fly around the country & see cities I’d never been to and friends I’d been dying to visit.  I started a new job, and got thrown right into the thick of it immediately.  I started writing for Escape Hatcher and Stratejoy, and found this amazing community of people on the internet.

Not every year will be as full of major adventures as 2010 has been, I realize.  If they all were, I’d probably end up having a mental breakdown just from pure exhaustion!  But I want to keep in mind that experiencing new things on a fairly regular basis keeps me from getting bored & feeling stagnant.  Even if it’s just taking a Saturday to explore an LA neighborhood I haven’t been to, or learning something new just for fun, I need to create adventures for myself to keep myself feeling fulfilled & creatively challenged.

I intend to be patient & remember that my path is specific to me.

Most of the anxiety in my life comes from me comparing myself to other people.  I look at my friends lives, especially those that are married with career-type jobs, and I feel like I’m not where I “should” be.  But when I was traveling this year and really in the moment, I felt so happy, and really felt a clarity that I am exactly where I need to be and everything is unfolding in its own time.  If I’d forced myself to have the life I thought I was supposed to have, I wouldn’t have been able to take most, if any of the opportunities that came my way this year.  Not to mention, I’d probably be miserable!

It can be hard to hold onto sometimes, but I will keep reminding myself of how it felt to scuba dive the reef, to cruise down the CA coast, to kayak Austin, the thrill of having no idea what’s next or who I’ll meet – to combat those days of low-down-dirty shoulds.  I’ve never dreamed of a normal white-picket-fence life, and even when I do have a career & a family, it will be my way, because it’s my unique life.  I’m exactly where I need to be, right here, right now, and it’s incredible.

2010 has been what I needed it to be and I trust 2011 will be too.  It’s been a year of feet on the dashboard, toothy smiles and too-loud laughs, sing-alongs, hammocks, looking down on the clouds, long hugs, dreams fulfilled, anxiety and excitement, new friends, old friends, take-offs and landings, Skype calls, ridiculous parties, nesting instincts, nomadic whims, writing and writing and writing.  It’s been a year for me to wander and a year for me to sit still.  2010 has made me grow and made me think; it’s prepared me for the hailstorm of joy & productivity that 2011 will bring.  And I can’t wait.

[photo: new years 2010 in Australia – I’m far right]

I am 10 years old and it’s 4am.  After hours spent imagining my Christmas tree’s bounty, laying with eyes wide open straining for the sound of reindeer on the roof  to prove classmates wrong (please, please let it be real!), I finally giggled myself to sleep and now wake with a start.  It’s Christmas.  The air is cold and my anticipation is electric, buzzing in my chest.  My bare feet smack the wood floor and then calm themselves and pad quietly to the door, around the corner.  I must be the first one up; I am afraid to breathe, nervous that someone else will be awake & ruin the magic, worried Santa might’ve forgotten us & the tree will be depressingly bare.  My heart pounds.

I silently, stealthily turn the corner, and there it is, our tree in all her glory, filling the room with her warm glow, presents spilling out from under her like candy from a too-full bag, doubled in the window and the dark early morning sky.  My eyes widen and I slowly inhale as if trying to drink it all in – this beauty, this stillness, this moment that is all mine.  I am reverent, awed by the childhood sacredness of the lights, branches, brightly-patterned paper and half-eaten cookies.

Then the excitement hits.  I quench a rising laugh and slide manically over the floorboards to my brother’s room.  I whisper, “Alex, Alex, wake up,” I get my face right next to the pillow and his 4 year old chubby cheeks, “it’s Christmas.”  Immediately he’s awake.

“He came?”  His little blue eyes are filled with wonder and trust, reflecting my joy.

“He came.”  Alex shrieks as he disentangles himself from the sheets and crawls out of bed.  We giggle unchecked to the presents, where we can’t help but pause, drawn to inspect every one – which ones are mine? – but are overwhelmed by their giddy promises and have to move on for fear we’ll rip them all open in a delicious frenzy.  We burst into my parent’s room, a cannon of screaming confetti, and clamber up on top of their no-longer-sleeping forms; they groan but smile.

The most wonderful day of the year has begun.

Last year was the first time in my life I wasn’t with family for Christmas.  I can’t really complain; I was in Australia, eating pig roasted on a spit, drinking in the sunshine, swinging in a hammock, swimming under the stars.  But it didn’t feel like the holidays; I just felt like it was some summer party, a fourth of July maybe, until I skyped with my family and realized what I was missing.  My cousins lovely in holiday sweaters, my aunt & uncle’s festive house, my grandma, who cried at the shock of seeing me, knowing I was half the world away.  My heart broke a little.

But it’s inevitable.  One Christmas had to be the first on my own.  Things change as you get older; there was a first Christmas my brother woke up before me, a first Christmas our parents had to wake us both up, and a first Christmas we started opening presents after getting coffee.  This year, my brother’s girlfriend will probably be there & my dad probably won’t.  Things change.  It’s bittersweet.

My family will never again be what it was when I was 10 and awestruck by the beauty of the Christmas tree.  It makes me sad (there are actually tears as I write this), but I know this is just the nature of life.  There are no endings, just an ebb and flow of people growing and circumstances changing.  I know my family is tied together by the strong bond of love, no matter where each of is us.  And I know I carry that love with me, every day, not just on Christmas.

Last year, as I made our family’s traditional Christmas Eve pierogies for the first time on my own & from scratch, in a hot Aussie hostel kitchen, surrounded by strangers & 2-week old friendship, I felt a new kind of Christmas spirit.  Not the childhood magic, not the teenage celebration or the adult anxiety, but a personal sense of Christmas.  Much like standing in the stillness of the lit tree’s early morning glory, I felt a light calmness that was mine.

There will come a first Christmas where my brother stays with his new family and a first Christmas I stay with mine.  There will be first Christmases in new cities and first Christmases without loved ones.  That’s life.  Through it all, I will carry my calmness and my joy; I will carry my family’s love and my childhood wonder.

And the little girl inside me, still believing, wide-eyed, in magic, will always seek out those early Christmas morning moments in life, to stand awed by something beautiful.

[photo source]

Lately, I’ve been spouting off a lot about TRUST.  How I’m trusting that I am where I need to be and that where I’m headed is the right direction.  I’m trusting that things will work out and I’m trusting that all these opportunities I’m saying yes to will somehow come together to form this great big lovely life I want.  When people ask what I’m doing, I say, “trusting,” and they don’t know what to say to that because it makes me sound like some guru-level wise woman who sweats patience and benevolently chuckles at their ant-like scurrying.

But I am sooooo not.

It’s damn hard to trust.  And what am I trusting, anyway?  “The Universe” isn’t like some shady boyfriend; you can’t check it’s phone for guilty texts and it can’t prove itself by maintaining eye contact when a miniskirt struts by.  I can sit down and have a talk with it about how I want to be treated, but it’s a one-sided conversation.  How do I know that I even should be trusting?

Well, I don’t.  And it freaks me out sometimes.  When I slam into a figurative detour sign on the road I’m speeding down (which has happened a LOT lately) I flip.  I get nervous and anxious and start to question myself and where I was headed.  But then, I choose to trust.  I could figure out a way around the detour sign or ram it down with my car, but I choose to believe that it’s there for a reason, and follow it.

I don’t know where I’d be if I HAD run over the detour and kept on my merry way, but I’m pretty happy with where I am now; I can’t think of much – if anything – in my past I would change, and therefore, my faith has never led me wrong.

I believe in a higher power.  You can call it God (I do) or Yaweh or Jesus or Buddha or Elohim or Allah or The Universe or Frank.  I don’t think it cares what you call it, I believe it cares that we live with love and positive intention.  I don’t mean to offend anyone who thinks differently; there are many religious views I disagree with and I expect to be disagreed with on mine by someone.  It’s ok, we can still be friends.

The God I believe in created us all, loves us all and wants us all to love each other.  The Universe I believe in is the way that all things are connected under God, and it responds to my energy because it is part of me.  When I do good and feel good, I get good in return.  When I am negative and angry, I get that right back too.  I see this manifest in my life and so I believe it.  I feel the presence of God in every moment of gratitude and in every good thing.  When I feel secure, when I feel loved, when I feel happy and my gut instinct is singing a tuning forks perfect pitch, I feel that God is with me, so I believe.

Simple as that.

I could be wrong.  I’m only human.  My idea of God is only what I’ve experienced & a lot of people experience it differently.  But I figure, even if I am wrong, it’s led me to live a life of joy, kindness and calm.  I try to do good and feel happy, and help others to live the same way, and there’s no amount of religious dogma or rational argument that can convince me that’s not the right way to live.

So, when I trust, I am trusting in God’s wisdom and love, The Universe’s safety-net web of intention & connection, and my own gut instinct, guided by both.  When I trust, I release my idea of the outcome in order to let better things in.  When I trust, I can enjoy each moment.  When I trust, I am taken care of.

And I don’t need some dude’s text messages to tell me that.

[photo source]

I might be the poster child for Perfectionism.  I was that Straight-A kid whose worst crime between the ages of 0 and 18 was rolling up my shorts in the 4th grade.  No really, I didn’t even go to a party in high school.  Remember that suicide attempt when I was 14?  What pushed me over the edge was the D in Geometry that appeared on my mid-term report card.  I was then convinced that I would never get into Harvard and that my perfect dreams of a perfect life had come to a crashing end.  Whenever I did something, I wanted to do it with finesse.  I wanted to impress.  I had to be perfect.

I’m quite certain that Perfectionism is closely tied to Control.  I moved around a lot as a child and it wasn’t always my choice.  Even though I tell people that it was a good experience (I saw many different types of people and places) my nomadic childhood definitely played a part in my need to control everything in my life.  I don’t play risky games.  In fact, I refuse to bowl because I’m afraid I’ll suck at it.  I know it sounds ridiculous and I wish it weren’t true.

When I had children, I fully intended on keeping my Perfectionist ways.  I wanted to be the perfect mom: the cleaner, the baker, the expert diaper changer and awesome play date host with the happiest children on the block.  I wanted to stick to my regular cleaning schedule:  vacuuming three times a day and scrubbing toilets twice a week.  Yeah.  Right.  Now when “Perfectionist Alisha” tries to come out (which is still way too often), I have some arsenal on hand.  Here are my four ways to combat Perfectionism.

Affirmations.   I write them, sometimes two or three times, at then end of my morning pages every day.  They are uplifting and get my mind and heart on track.  They are my battle cry.  They are the mantras that help guide my choices and thoughts throughout the day.

Journaling.  Sometimes I just have to write it out.  The root of (my) Perfectionism is fear—the fear of not being in control, the fear of not being loved.  When I write down all of the thoughts that are haunting me, I am better able to identify the true source of those feelings and beat them down.  Then I feel empowered—and in control.

Glory Board.  I originally got this idea from Danielle LaPorte of WhiteHotTruth.com.  She suggests that you write down anything and everything you have accomplished in your life that made you feel really great.  Then my creative coach, Rachel, helped me turn this into a daily activity.  At the end of the day, instead of focusing on everything that went wrong (or was imperfect), I focus on everything that went right.  It is much easier to sleep when you feel like you conquered your day.

Call a good friend or find some on Twitter.  I have a few good friends who always have encouraging words; they help me find the silver lining, see the big picture and tell me when to suck it up and when to let go.  Twitter is also my new favorite hangout spot.  I have been fortunate enough to befriend some really amazing and supportive people.  I know I can always depend on my Twitter family.

Over the last few years, this is what I have learned: Perfectionism is fear.  Fear that love is conditional.  I learned that a Perfectionist is fake.  A Perfectionist is lonely.  A Perfectionist is a tortured soul.  A Perfectionist is boring.  A Perfectionist is perpetually exhausted.  A Perfectionist will never be happy.

I’ll always be a recovering Perfectionist.  But as each day passes, I remind myself that life doesn’t always go as planned. I remember that I will never be perfect—because it’s not possible.  Will I always try to be the best version of me I can possible be?  Of course.  There’s nothing wrong with my wanting to be a walking bowl of awesome-sauce.  I just no longer fool myself into thinking I will always walk a straight line.

(photo: Etsy art by cREaTebyRET found via Michelle Ward)

The last two weeks have been a little rough on my end, as if you couldn’t tell by my most recent two posts [Found here. and here too].

The awesome Molly sent me an e-mail after reading my scheduled post for last week and asked if I needed to talk. The first thing I thought to do was to apologize for the negative posts and offer to write something else a bit more upbeat and cheery. Basically I was offering to put my feelings on the back burner because I was ashamed of them.

Yeah, brilliant idea for someone who is struggling with self-image and self-worth, right? Convince myself that my feelings were shameful, and I shouldn’t feel that way.</Sarcasm>

In falling back into a depressive state, I was challenged.  I was challenged to keep my head on straight, function every day, and hide a lot of my feelings until later in the day when I was alone. It was very similar to being violently ill all day during work and not being able to go home.

You’re miserable, exhausted, and just want your bed, but you have to work all day long.

Two weeks later from the onset of my near emotional collapse, I’m feeling much better. I’m not as hopeless, and emotionally crazy as I was two weeks ago. The “bad case of the blues” passed much quicker than it typically does, and this is absolutely due in part to a list that I made of things that I was going to focus on. If you’re anything like me, having things down in a list is a magical thing.Staring those “to-do”‘s in the face gives me the drive to complete them. I wanted to share a few of the things that I did in hopes that if you find yourself having a tough week or even day, that these things may work for you too.

Schedule in some “Feel Bad” Time

There’s only one thing for certain when you’re feeling depressed/sad/mad – and that’s that you’re feeling depressed/sad/mad. Denying that is not only lying to yourself but it’s also not allowing yourself to feel what you want to feel.

“Just get happy” doesn’t work. At the same time, many of us have to put on that happy face for our jobs or even family members. This is completely fine, but make sure you allow yourself an hour or so later on in the day where you allow yourself to sit with your feelings. Whether you want to talk them over with a friend is up to you, but give yourself the permission to feel whatever emotions your heart wants to.

Don’t wait for clarity – Create it.

I’m the kind of person who revels in moments of complete and total clarity. These anticipated moments come at random times. Sometimes it happens when I’m sitting in a noisy bar with friends. Other times, it’s right before I fall asleep. It’s happened while seeing the Center City skyline at night. In these moments, I feel clear and at ease. I could sit with myself and that feeling forever, but it often fades when I come back down to earth.

One of my problems recently, is that these moments haven’t been occurring. I’m always worried about something or someone, and that moment of clarity…it just isn’t coming.  I got angry waiting for it. That anger did absolutely nothing for me except ruin my mood even more. That’s the thing with life, sometimes these moments don’t come willingly. Sometimes, you have to create them.

Practice creating clarity by manually clearing your mind, instead of waiting for your mind to clear itself. Personally, I visualize all of my problems circling my head as if my brain is juggling them. One by one, I flick each one away from my head, and when the final problem is gone, I just sit with that feeling of being free from worry. Even if it just lasts a few moments, it’s enough to get me through and reset my mind a bit.

Write. Write. Write. Write. WRITE

I sometimes avoid writing when I’m feeling yuck-tastic. Mostly, because I’m afraid of what’s going to come out. Recently, I’ve been pushing myself to start writing when I’m feeling crappy. Sometimes, all that’s come out has been “I have absolutely nothing to say, I’m feeling horrible today.” I go back, read that sentence, and I find myself asking “Why do you feel horrible?” At which point, I fill in the blank with an answer. “…I’m feeling defeated. The project that I was banking on was given to someone else. I really thought I had it in the bag, but apparently I wasn’t good enough, and the other person was better.” 9 times out of 10, I end up putting myself in a third-person position, and I inspire the hell out of myself without even realizing it. Before too long, I find my brain turning to think as if I were giving someone the advice and forgetting that it’s actually me.

Maybe this won’t happen to you, but at the very least, you get these feelings out into the open. It’s kind of like throwing up after you’ve drank so much. You have all of that toxic stuff inside of you, and once you get it out, you feel so much better. Throwing up or writing about your issues isn’t the easiest thing, but that yucky stuff is often better out than in.

If Nothing Else – Treat Yourself

These haven’t been the easiest last few weeks. It’s really taken a lot out of me, but I’m recovering well. I’ve been very kind to myself, and given myself extra treats (like concert tickets to see Maroon 5 and Dave Matthew’s Band).  I’ve let myself sleep an extra hour in the morning and take a little extra long shower. I bought a case of soda, which I’ve been trying to give up on, but have been craving.  I’m forgiving myself for little mistakes that I’ve made, and being gentle to not put myself in situations that I know will be uncomfortable.

I’m focusing a lot more on myself, and I feel a bit better. I think my mind and body really were just begging for attention. Boy are they getting it.

When you’re feeling down and out, what do you do? Treat yourself to anything special?

*photo credit: [via]


I catch myself doing it all the time. “I’ll be happy when I have more money” or, “I’ll be happy when I’ve traveled all around the world,” or, “I’ll be happy when I’m in better shape” or, “I’ll be happy when I publish a book.” When, when, when.

There always seems to be a “when,” doesn’t there? A point in the future that when you pass it, you’ll definitely be happier than happy.

Except what happens when you do get there? What happens when you look around and realize that you have everything you ever thought you wanted, and yet you feel like you still want more? When does ambitious become greedy?

When does chasing a dream turn into chasing a mirage?

Maybe this is what the Quarterlife Crisis is all about: learning how to be happy. Maybe being an adult means learning how to not get stuck in the agonizing cycle of the When Syndrome and appreciate what you have while setting challengingly realistic goals for the future.

I don’t know.

But, what I do know is that getting stuck in the cycle of “when when when” is one of my biggest fears. I’m constantly trying to assess what I want to understand where it fits among the puzzle pieces of everything else that makes up my life, and I’m terrified of wanting so much that I’m constantly doing the “when” thing and am never just wholly satisfied with where I am at any given moment.

Part of the fear, I think, comes from feeling that if I let myself be satisfied with where I am, I’ll get lazy. I worry that, “I’ll be happy when” will turn to, “Oh, I don’t need to pursue anything more because it’s fine the way it is.” And yes, even as I say that I understand how ridiculous it sounds. I get it. I get that like most every situation, there’s a middle ground between the two unwanted extremes; I just can’t seem to get there.

I think, really, that the heart of it is that I don’t know how to just let myself be happy.

I don’t know how to live so that I’m simultaneously content with where I am and proud of what I’ve accomplished while also staying focused on my big dreams. I’m much more comfortable operating at one of two ends of the spectrum, either being deliriously happy with what I have and not needing/wanting more, or being completely dissatisfied and struggling to change.

How is it possible for people to feel a combination of both of those at the same time?

Do people actually feel this way?

photo credit: Pink Sherbet Photography

Life is full right now.

Full of planning for the future, including a wedding and the beginning of a marriage.

Full of savoring the present (spinach soup cooked by the Big Man, clean sheets, talking to my mum on the phone).

Full of building my business and my coaching practice (yay for new one-on-one clients this month!).

Full of girls trips to Mexico and burlesque lessons and checking things off my life list (I’m the one in the leopard hat! Door babe at the Moisture Festival.  Life Goal #29: check!).

Full of unknowns, and not-quite-to-ready-to-share adventures, and how-the-hell-am-I-ever-going-to-get-it-all-done-in-this-lifetime anxiety moments…

I’m in awe of the fullness.  Scary as it is, it’s also delicious.

And it’s new.  I’ve spent a lot of time feeling “empty” as my Quarterlife Crisis challenged my sense of identity, my purpose, my sanity (!).  The work I’ve been doing the last three years to conquer said Quarterlife Crisis — the seeking, learning, examining — has left me feeling a bit tender, a bit vulnerable.  I scooped out and trashed so many false beliefs and old expectations that it left me feeling hollow.

It’s just now, in this past year, that I’m starting to fill up the empty space with true desires. Essential beliefs about myself and the world I live in.  Authentic longings for adventure.  For simplicity.  For creative expression and freedom.

It’s incredible exciting.  And I’m trying hard to enjoy each distinct moment when I connect with that “I am totally alive!” feeling. I’m trying hard to love and savor “what is”.

I love that I’m pushing myself to grow as a coach, writer, and performer, even when it’s hard.

I love that YOU are out there.  Reading, learning, teaching, agreeing, disagreeing, traveling your own Quarterlife Crisis journey, being my comrade in arms. And in the spirit of learning, I’d like to share a strategy of joy today!

Savoring is one of those happiness techniques that I’ve learned in my studies and attempt to practice in my day-to-day.

“When we truly savor something, like a fine wine or a well-cooked meal, we consciously take in our surroundings and experience our emotions with a powerful sense of appreciation for what is happening in the moment… Savoring has profound consequences and people who are adept at savoring have been found to be happier, less anxious, more grateful, healthier, blessed with more friendships, and even more persistent in the face of obstacles.” –Caroline Adams Miller

My challenge to you?  See if you can practice savoring in it’s three distinct forms this week! Here’s what it looks like for me…

SAVORING IN THE MOMENT

Take mental snapshots of moments you love.  Really soak them up in the exact moment you are experiencing them. Savoring the physical experience, as well as the feelings that arise.

My example: *Shutter Open* Right at this moment, I’m sitting at my kitchen table/work space drinking coffee out of my Wheat Montana mug, wearing my pink cardigan with sparkly buttons, writing a blog post for my business.  Sunshine is streaming in my window.  U2 is playing.  I love that I am providing for myself through a business I built with hope and hard work and incredible support of women near and far. It makes me feel proud and all smile-ey. *Shutter Close*

SAVORING IN ANTICIPATION

Practice savoring the upcoming happiness of a vacation, special date, start of a new class.  When you expect that good things will come your way, you’re more likely to act in a manner that will make those good things happen!

My example:  I love that the Big Man and I are planning a small wedding-on-the-river-in-the-garden and that we’re doing it together.  August 28th is going to be an amazing first day of our marriage.  I know that all the small details will work themselves out and that my family and friends will love celebrating with us!

It’s going to be a joyful day: the sun will shine, the food will be delicious, the drinks will flow, the singing will impress, the dancing will rock. I’m savoring the anticipation of our quirky country chic wedding.

SAVORING IN HINDSIGHT

Replay your happy moments to yourself, either by writing them down in a journal or simply replaying them in your mind. Reminiscing can also be done by scrap booking, reconnecting with the other people from your memories to story tell together, or displaying photos of great times.

My example:

Safari at the Zulu Nyala Game Lodge in South Africa, November 2007.  One of the highlights of our trip around the world, despite the torrential down pours.  The Big Man and I were laughing our heads off taking these pictures the entire week.  Of course, we took gorgeous and serious shots as well, but the “holding of the animals” still remind me of all the fun we have together.

What will you savor this week?   How will you love “what is”?

INTRODUCING KATIE

I had a moment that changed the way I think about everything

I was blindsided by the Quarterlife Crisis, but in retrospect, I can pinpoint moments as far back as high school when I could have realized it was coming.

When I was 17, when everyone else was studying and prepping for college, I was working full time hours and had a much older boyfriend. I met him at work, he gave me the attention that I always wanted, and he had me at “you’re adorable. I love being around you.”

From there, it was a tumultuous 5 years filled with some ups, mostly downs, cheating, and financial ruins.

After I finally let that relationship go, but not enough to say I was ‘over it’, I dated a man closer to my age, without any experience. Anywhere. (Catch my drift?) He was into Psychology, and loved to analyze every hair on my head. I was interested in psychology and I liked to analyze him right back.  He was a student, he had a car, he had a job, he had a future planned that at times would include me.

I loved him, but had a difficult time showing it. Eventually we got tired of fighting, and we broke up. After a brief rekindle, we broke up again for good.

This breakup rocked my world, and not in a Michael Jackson kind of way. It was more of a “put my tender heart in a blender” kind of way.

2 months later,  last December, I got hit with a layoff.  The job that I was content with, at best, decided that they weren’t content with me, and let me go. The economy was horrible, I had no education, I was getting over a breakup, I was alone.

Everything had fallen apart, and I had no relationship, job, or education to lean on.

Super freakin’ Duper.

I lived the next 6 months in a depressed spending-haze. Unemployment checks would come in, and I’d head right out and buy things that I surely can’t remember or show you now. It felt good in the moment, but as with all unhealthy things, it ends up being something you lean on for support, but it doesn’t really do you any good.

As I spent those days, months, weeks, and years in emotional confusion and turmoil, I really didn’t grasp how much time was passing. Living for the moment worked for me, but I think I relied on that too much, for I didn’t make anything of those moments.

I gave up on opportunities. I started projects and never finished them. I accepted my depression and figured I’d just live with it forever.

I had a moment about a month ago that changed the way I think about everything. I was driving past my old high school, and each time I do, I do a little math in my head and think of how long it’s been since I “graduated”.  I realized it’s been 7 years.

7 years of feeling sorry for myself. 7 years of making excuses of why I would never make it. 7 years of unwillingly sabotaging myself of having a life that I deserved. In that moment I realized that it was time to not only live in the present, but to make the best of every moment.

So, here I am. I’ve made the realization, and am now trying to figure out what I want. I’m learning to be a little bit more selfish and a bit less selfless at times. I’m learning how to find my inner-most desires and making them happen. I’m learning to let go of the past, in order to make a happier future.

I’m learning to be me.