Thursday, September 29, 2016

Thursday Thoughts Vol. 4

1. I decided this week to stop publishing my Sunday Sweats posts—after 90 weeks of posting them each Sunday (and a few Mondays). I know most people here didn't care much for reading them; that's not why I really posted them to begin with. I used them to journal my runs, but I was thinking about it, and I keep track of all my workouts in Garmin and my calendar anyway. I can write notes about them there. And I don't really want to worry about getting them up Sunday nights anymore. It was a weird thing that I felt super committed to, for no real good reason, and I'm all about cutting back on the never-ending list of things to do lately.

2. Which sort of relates to my general feeling of fuzziness lately. All during Mercury retrograde (which thankfully ended last week), I felt so ungrounded and like I was constantly in my head but not at all in the real world. On Sunday, as I pulled into my parking spot at home after teaching yoga I turned to David and went, "Did I lock the door to the studio?" Long story short, I ended up driving the 20 minutes back to the studio to double check (it was locked) and felt like a nut. Friday morning, as I left to take a yoga class, I was sitting in my car literally not sure if I had CLOSED my apartment door. I'm not usually this forgetful or panicked about this kind of stuff, but it was a weird few days. I don't know if giving myself less to do will help, but hopefully shedding away some of the things I'm constantly thinking about or organizing in my brain will help me feel more grounded in each moment. Fingers crossed.

3. I'm almost out of my third week in the new gig. It's going well—I'm reasonably busy (or, more accurately, assigned with tasks), I'm being paid a fair wage for my skills and work, and I'm not being treated like an idiot or lesser human. All in all, a huge step up from my last few roles! Because it is only a short-term initial contract, I'm trying to stay in the "one day at a time" mindset, and have a few different ideas for next steps in mind depending on whether or not my contract extends. But mostly, just trying to remain in the now and focus on the goals in my immediate future that I'm looking forward to crushing!

4. I'm thinking about hosting a blog challenge of sorts. More like a link-up with prompts, but a little bit different from anything I've ever seen before. My goal is to give my blogging routine a refresh and a new jump-start and hopefully give some others the same. But I think I'm too small for it. I'm probably going to do it anyway, so maybe be on the look-out for that.

5. I didn't watch Monday night's first presidential debate. You're horrified, I know. I can see it. The funny thing is, to people who know me in real life, this might be surprising because of my unrelenting political awareness, my personal campaigns to make registered voters of all my friends, and the way my political and social beliefs govern my day to day decisions, including where I shop. On the internet, this is a lesser-known thing about me because I rarely discuss it. Not because I'm afraid to be challenged, or because I'm not convicted in my beliefs. I'm not, and I am. But I tire of screaming about it all the damn time. When something needs to be said, I'll say it. But here in blogland, luckily there's Steph who always beats me to saying what needs to be said and I can't ever think of a point she's missed.

Anyway, the debate. Here's the thing. I know who I'm voting for. There is nothing that will change that, because my vote has been decided based upon knowledge of the American and global political system, the values and ethics that are most important to me, and the desire to protect my country and all the people in it. There is only one way to vote when those things are taken into consideration, as far as I'm concerned. To recognize the alternative as an actual alternative is to give it a dignity it doesn't deserve, and I can't believe that we let it get this far without the right people standing up and saying "ARE WE F^$*ING KIDDING HERE?!" And to be completely honest, I fly off the handle and become a very, very angry person (and that person takes a longer-than-comfortable amount of time to settle down) when I have to hear his voice, listen to him miss the point so obtusely, watch him degrade and disrespect people who have earned the base level of human respect, and just wholly and completely fail to understand the very point and gravity of the job for which he's applying. I wasn't up for that on Monday night, so I got the Cliff's Notes in print the next day. I'm satisfied with that.

6. I'll stay on this little soapbox just long enough to remind you to register to vote. Most of you still have time. Go here to do it, and then show up to your polling place on Tuesday, November 8, and stand in line for however long it takes to get to that voting booth and participate in this national institution, the right that was fought for on your behalf.

7. I wouldn't normally have said something, but the other day, my little brother posted this on Facebook. (Know that his spelling and grammar hits me where it hurts, too, but the sentiment remains ever as strong.)
He received beautiful, sweet, heartfelt comments, and when I shared the post on my page, I was touched by the number of comments and texts I received from friends, some of whom who wouldn't know my mom from Adam, asking about her and sharing positive energy our way. Luckily, my mom isn't facing anything terminal, but she's been in pain and severe discomfort (to put it mildly) and with major question marks hanging over her head for just too long. I shared some of these comments of concern with her and I know the positive energy is reaching her and doing wonders for her mental state right now. Bottom line: Never underestimate the value of telling someone they're special, or opening yourself up to loving words and thoughts.

Much as I hate to sign off on an odd number, I think I'm good for today. Linking up for the first time with Kristin & Joey!

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

I Don't Have a Five Year Plan

A few nights ago, David asked me about my five-year plan. (Our pillow talk leaves something to be desired.) And I told him a version of what I've told every employer for the last five or so years: I don't have one.

I don't remember how the question came about, but it had a particularly professional tilt to it. Where do I want to work in five years? What do I want to be doing professionally? Do I want to remain in this field, or do I see a career change happening? What future career plans would make me happy? What five-year goals do I want to chase?

The answer is that I have no answers to any of those questions. And given the fact that I asked him on a Tuesday whether our plans on the weekend allowed for me to run my eight miles on Friday or Sunday, and given the fact that I'm planning for an April 2017 Boston trip in September 2016, and given the fact that I have a list of 101 things I plan to do by March 2018, that might come as a bit of a shock.

Of course, I am "a planner." By that, I mean I'm a person who seldom agrees to "wing it." I do believe that spontaneity is good for the soul, but I also believe in not leaving most things up in the air without at least a semblance of an idea of what will actually happen. I plan my week in detail in advance. I've been known to put dates on my calendar up to 18 months in advance. I plan each day the night before, or that morning at the very latest. I plan my workouts, errands, meals, and sometimes even my freakin' hair washing schedule as far in advance as I reasonably can. (Of course, "reasonable" remains a relative term here.)

I believe in planned spontaneity. If I have nothing to do on a Saturday, I will plan to wake up that day and decide then what I will do. But if I know I have to be at a certain place by 3 p.m. on a Saturday, and know that I want to get something done before then or go somewhere after it, I'm not going to "just figure it out" on Saturday. I'll know before I wake up on Saturday what time I plan to leave, where I'll put my car (I hate not knowing a parking situation before I arrive someplace), what I'll wear, and you get the idea.

But for all this nitty-gritty, down-and-dirty detailed planning, I can't tell you anything about where I hope to be in five years—personally or professionally.

Life has never worked out the way I have planned.

I learned a long time ago that I cannot plan my personal life. I cannot plan my relationships. I can not plan my circumstances. I've made plans about what state, city, apartment I want to live in—and those made more than 30 days in advance have invariably fallen through.

When I was in college, I was certain I'd graduate and march myself right into a school as a Teach for America educator. I was also certain I'd go back to my alma mater and revolutionize the English department. And I don't mean that I sat around thinking these were nice ideas I thought might happen. I made plans. I made shopping lists. I looked at apartments and made budgets.

Before I began college, I was in a serious relationship. There were two of-course-I-will plans I had during those couple of years. One involved my transfer to a school in a different state halfway through college, and one involved marriage.

Of course, this should all scare me away from making plans about my current relationship, but in this regard, I'm deciding to be cautiously optimistic. As for the rest of my life, though, I've given up planning anything beyond what I know to be true:
I have signed a year lease on my apartment...and I know leases can be broken.
I am registered to run the Richmond Half Marathon in November...and I have been since November 2015.
I have a list of people to buy holiday gifts for, and a budget to stick to.
I have a list of races I'd like to run next year, a pipe dream about a visit to the Kripalu Center for a yoga retreat, and a few dozen handfuls of items on a 101 in 1001 list I can try to work into my day-to-day through the next several months.

Where will I live this time next year? I have no idea. What will my salary be? No idea. What relationships in my life will be the most important ones, the ones that will help me decide that's next, where I'm going, what my options are, and what I really want to nurture in this life...I have no idea.

I have no single, focused professional goal.

This is a weird thing to acknowledge, but it's something I've learned to accept and stop feeling embarrassed about this past year.

Professional goals I've had throughout my life include:
  • Be a kick-ass attorney and help children remain safe and protected during domestic legal matters
  • Be an elementary school teacher and have the most inventive, creative classroom in school
  • Be a high school English teacher and inspire juniors and seniors to appreciate language, cherish vocabulary and grammar, and continuously pursue a relationship with literature and words for the rest of their lives. (This one hung around the longest, and it's the one I revisit most now when particularly distressed about the state of my career.)
  • Be a stay-at-home mom.
  • Be an author of books that make people laugh, gasp, and cry.
  • Be a sports writer on the beat of the New York Giants for a major NYC-metro paper.
  • Be an essayist who rubs elbows with the likes of David Sedaris.
  • Be a yoga teacher who somehow manages to make an entire living solely from yoga instruction, which is actually basically impossible as long as I live where I live.
  • Be a travel writer with a major magazine. 
  • Be an editor with a major publishing house in NYC.
And yet, none of these things have occurred, nor have I reached a place of wanting to fully commit myself to the steps and processes that would make them happen. When I left my job at an educational publisher last year, I tacitly accepted the fact that my career would be at the mercy of other people if I intended to become a freelance writer. Skills and networking and hunting down leads are only part of the process. The other part of the process is what happens TO you. And I don't say that to be passive or to suggest I have no control over my life or career. It's just true. I am far from the only writer trying to make a living on the internet or in the NYC metro area, and it comes down—sometimes—to needing someone else to just pick me.

And in the last year of doing everything I'm supposed to do, everything I know how to do, and then just waiting to be picked, I realized that I don't really have all that much ambition in my career. And I should, I suppose, feel bad about that, but I think it's better to be honest than not.

The things I've felt most excited about planning have never been career-related.

Of course, I want to do good work. I want to earn a living and be able to support myself. I want to be respected in the workplace and do my part to make sure the economical landscape is friendly to women and girls now and in the future. Beyond that, though, I don't stay awake at night dreaming about being a CEO, or a this or a that.

I get goosebumps thinking about places I will go and things I will see. About having good friends and good relationships with my family members. About learning new skills and trying new things and enjoying my life. About teaching great classes that people benefit from, about crushing PRs and being strong in fun races. About being a good partner, and having a good partner to share life with. The only long-term goal I've ever kept is a simple one: be happy, be healthy.

For me, it's always been about the whole life. 

And work is and, as far as I'm concerned, has to remain just one facet, one piece, one singular element of a whole life.

I've always sworn that I would not live to work. I don't care much about money beyond it's ability to meet my basic needs and afford me some creature comforts, all of which fall well within the range of what's available to a person with a modest and appropriate five-figure salary. Money doesn't motivate me to do things that I wouldn't otherwise do. My last year as a freelancer has made me realize a lot of things that I don't want to do, and has helped me feel comfortable imagining more possibilities for my future than ever before.

Over the last five or so years, I've had a lot of fun opportunities that were never, ever a part of my plans. And I accepted them and largely enjoyed or benefited greatly from them. If I had a five-year plan for my career five years ago, my life would look nothing like it does right now. And though that life isn't perfect, there are things in it that I would miss if I didn't have them. Or at least, having them now, I know they are the things that are the most right for me.

When interviewers or employers or apparently my boyfriend ask about my five year plan, my answer is this: I could never have planned for any of the circumstances I'm in right now, and sticking to my former plans would have meant missing out on a lot of wonderful personal and professional experiences. So I can't bring myself to make a plan, about anything, because who knows what is out there waiting to happen to me, if only I remain free to receive it?

I don't know what my life will look like in five years, and I consider that a good thing.

I don't know where I'll live. What I'll do. Who I'll live with. What I'll look like. What my hobbies will be. Sure, I have an idea of what 2016 me wishes would happen. But I hope 2021 is more exciting, happier, more adventurous, and more beautiful than 2016 me can even dream up.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Thursday Thoughts Vol. 3

1. I wish beautiful handwriting came with beautiful grammar skills so every time I saw pretty calligraphy quotes on Instagram I could comfortably save or repost them—because obviously I cannot when they're riddled with errors. Can I volunteer to proofread cute quote cards for calligraphers?

2. I know this is probably a total #firstworldproblem, but I honestly don't care. I've been thinking about this blog post since I read it recently, and I have to say I completely, 100% agree with it. (Give it a quick read or even skim.) I've been on the Do Not Call registry for literally years, and I still get spam phone calls on a daily basis. DAILY—I'm not kidding. So no, I don't pick up the phone for unknown numbers. The only people who I'm okay with calling me without a heads up are close family, close friends and David. I don't pick up the phone when someone I don't want to talk to at that moment is calling me, unless I think it may be an emergency (I know it's weird to "anticipate" an emergency, but for example, when my grandmother was on hospice care, I answered every call from a family member. And if a friend who never calls and always texts picks up the phone, I'll answer if I can because of the departure from the norm.) because I don't owe people my time and attention the moment they demand it. That people consider that selfish or think it's an inappropriate perspective to have boggles my mind.

And if it's work-related? Schedule the call, please. Because if it's work related and you're calling me during work hours, you're most likely catching me in the middle of—wait for it—work, and forcing a stopping point rather than waiting until I can create one that makes sense and doesn't completely disturb my workflow or creative process. Maybe not everyone works in this way, but when I'm writing something that's going really well, the worst thing that can happen is an interruption that tears my train of thought from its tracks. I plug in and work efficiently so that I don't have to work 12 hours a day.

3. I need to make an announcement. Two words that are often said together do not automatically become one word. They're still two separate words; they've just become a phrase and you talk fast. Violations I've observed recently: sex life, bucket list, high school, grocery store, kind of. And of course, the ever-abused "a lot." Two separate words.

4. Slightly (only tangentially) related thing that makes me cringe so much lately: seasons are not proper nouns. It's not Fall, it's fall. And it's actually not yet; it's still summer for another few weeks.

5. I have a lot of grammar complaints here. Is it time for another Notes From Your Editor post? If so, give me your questions—what trips you up when you're writing with any degree of formality? What do you want to learn a memory trick or hear a new explanation for?

6. Last week I told Twitter that I needed them to let me know when Bath & Body Works was having their next candle sale, because not only can I not be trusted to get those emails delivered to my inbox daily, I don't want them. I've successfully unsubscribed from almost every marketing email and every extraneous one. Anyway, not a day later, both Michael and Dani informed me of a free candle with purchase promotion. I passed, knowing there would be a big 3-wick sale not far behind. Literally the next day, 3-wicks came on sale for $12.50 each (versus the usual $22.50). So I bought four, because totally normal. SELF-CONTROL IS FOR WEIRDOS. Also, then I tweeted about this and BBW tweeted me back so I felt like a rockstar but also totally justified in giving them my money.

7. I have no idea what the hell I used to blog about. There was a time when I'd be here three, four, five times a week—NOT talking about my workouts. What was I babbling about? What do I babble about now? I WANT to blog. I love this blog. I love you guys. But what am I supposed to be doing here exactly? I can't recall.

8. I'm still reading very slowly—just not making time for it like I used to be able to—so I only had 1.5 books to report on since last month's book day. So I didn't link up on Tuesday for Show Us Your Books. And I swear, I felt like the only kid in school who showed up on Halloween without a costume. (Except that I didn't show up here Tuesday at all, but that's neither here nor there.) I have such a struggle with this lately because I want to have moved onto so many titles that are waiting for me, but I feel little motivation throughout the day to spend time reading. I think I mostly just want to be a faster reader. I also want to spend less time staring at a computer screen during the day, which saps most of my mental energy before whatever book I'm in the middle of even has a chance.

9. As of this posting, I'm four days into the first new job I've started in over a year. I almost forgot how to do this. No, scratch that—I forgot how to do this! Luckily, this time around, I'm able to do it all from home, but am still held to a 40 hour/week schedule. I've trimmed away so many of my freelance projects that just weren't serving my needs, my goals, or my soul, but I've held onto a few because this new job is only a short-term contract, and I don't want to be left completely in the lurch when it expires.

Anyway, I'm slowly remembering what it's like to have collaborators and a supervisor and someone invested in my success (as my success contributes to that of the company). So far I'm really happy for the promise of stability and the huge corporation name I'll get to add to my resume for the next time I begin searching (ugh), even if I am just a tad resentful that morning meetings have kept me away from my favorite yoga classes this week ;)

10. As I type, I'm downloading iOS 10, because even though there are reported bugs and issues with it, I'm impatient as hell and my phone is three years old and half dead anyway, so I feel like I don't have anything to lose. Wish me luck. And also, if you already have iOS 10, please tell me I'm not crazy for ALREADY feeling overwhelmed by all the new iMessage features and stuff that I'm going to promptly forget to use...

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Sunday Sweats 89: Half Marathon Training Week 3

September 5-11
Sorry about the back-to-back fitness posts. I meant to get something else up last week, but it just didn't happen. I wasn't in the mindset to write good stuff, nor did I have anything good to say. Thanks for bearing with me! For something fun though, here's something I wrote last year that is still true and that I still love: Everything Changes in September

Now then. On to the sweat.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

So Long Sweet Summer

Just kidding. More like "Wake Me Up When September Ends," if we're talking in song titles. Which, let's be honest, when aren't we?

I won't pretend I'm sad to be posting my last "What's New With You" of the summer. As I opined recently, summer is just...not my favorite. At least, not anymore. Sure, there are parts of summer I enjoy—which are really just humanity's best attempts at making it bearable: the beach, ice cream dates, long days with plenty of time for adventures. But as far as the rank of seasons, it has slipped from the top spot it held in my youth and is neck and neck with winter now for dead last.

Still, I can't help but notice the passage of the seasons and assign symbolism to the unofficial end of summer that comes with Labor Day Weekend, which we're about to celebrate and which once felt like it would never arrive. I loved the post format Lauren used a few weeks ago, and am shamelessly borrowing it for my own catch-up, look back, review, and bid of good riddance to summer '16.

It was the summer of...

new romance
I realize I never blogged about David until we were basically together (and I fully acknowledge that that happened REALLY fast), because I didn't want to be all annoying and blogging about some guy who may or may not be in my life in a week. But four months later, in my life he is. We consider our relationship's official start date May 5th, and it's crazy to think we've just about wrapped up a whole season together. Not because four months is any real significant amount of time, but because a) I haven't actually called someone my boyfriend—or been called somebody's girlfriend—since I was 18 (Eighteen! Girls, don't be flattered when boys want to "just keep it casual" because "you're cool, you get it."); and b) it oddly feels like it's been forever and just a week at the same damn time.

Falling into a relationship with David has been electrifying, exciting, frightening, earth-shaking, and, in certain ways, life-changing. He's truly unlike anyone I've ever met, wholly different from anyone I've ever dated, and in most times that's a positive. We approach things differently, which often means balance in conflict-resolution and worldview that I'm not accustomed to and that I'm benefitting from. On the flip side, we're both pretty independent people who have spent years learning ourselves as we were and creating structures for our lives that revolved around that independence. Seeing our lives converge and, in other spaces, not converge at all, has been interesting and sometimes challenging but also rewarding.

searching for balance
There's a lot of talk about work/life balance (which I am also devoted to finding within my life), but I think there's something to be said for effort/results balance too. When you're putting in 100% of yourself, and then some, and not getting back what you need to sustain your life in some way or another, burnout is inevitable and self-destruction is certain. It was this knowledge, that I was maxing myself out and still struggling financially and stalling my career, thatwas a hugely emotional burden on me all summer.

This summer was the hardest period in my year of freelancing. I had to terminate the contract that gave me the confidence to go freelance at all, simply because they stopped holding up their end and I wasn't working. But I was teaching 5 regular classes per week plus subbing at every opportunity, sometimes up to 10 classes in the heat every week. I was writing for Time Out New York, Hello Innovation, and HeartGlobe (3 articles per week on that one, at times even more); working a few handfuls of hours per week for Bad Yogi; editing for Feather; and a few miscellaneous things here and there. I was applying for jobs every single day—sometimes just two or three, sometimes up to 10. And nothing was returning what I needed to support myself and keep myself afloat.

Among all that, in my personal life I was trying to be a good daughter, friend, and girlfriend and get in some running, knowing it DOES keep me happy and stable, and that I am looking forward to a race in the fall, and that giving up the things that make me my happiest me (including running and yoga) wasn't going to help anything. So... what balance? I tried to create it wherever I could, usually on the weekends with the help of David and friends, but in all, I felt mentally maxed out most of the time.

few books and many shows
Summer is usually when I get a lot of reading done, but this year I spent more mental energy on podcasts, articles and short reads, and, honestly, mind-numbing TV when my brain needed a break. I burned through all of Happy Endings, Seinfeld, Teen Mom OG and The Mindy Project this summer. Remember, I work from home and keep these things on as background noise!

small adventures
Dave Matthews Weekend in June, the Museum of Natural History, D.C., the Jersey Shore for 4th of July weekend, a beach blate in LBI, a wine festival, and traipsing about New York and New Jersey for food, friend meet-ups, and folly. No big summer travels, but so many fun days and weekends.

food, food, food
Dating someone in Hell’s Kitchen has one important perk: food. (It helps when that person has a taste for foreign cuisine himself.) This summer has been full of my stand-by favorites (Mexican and sushi) plus my first experiences with Thai, Indian, Vietnamese, falafel, and tapas. We’re not going to talk about how grateful I am that my daily attire includes nothing more waist-restricting than yoga pants.

patience and learning to trust
Despite all the good, summer 2016 was also really, really hard on me. (See above.) I had to blindly trust that eventually things in my work life would work out—because if I thought for too long about the reality, which was that I had no reason to believe things WOULD work out, I would spiral into fear-induced depression. I was filled with doubt, close calls, and unending efforts that never felt like they would yield results. I was cranky and scared more than I’d like to admit, defeated and desperate more than I’ll want to remember.

clearing space for the next chapter
But in the end, my faith was bigger than my fear. And then the last page of that chapter turned: I’m starting a new job next week, and I am breathing easier than I have in months. I’ll be working full-time in a remote contract position with a major software company on their educational programming branch’s web communications and content. The months—well, really, year-long search has finally landed me a position I can sink my teeth into and feel some security in, however temporarily (as is the case in contract positions).

So to prepare for this next chapter, I’m finally able to release myself from some of the contracts and classes I’ve signed on for over the last few desolate months, in order to make sure my mental energy and brain space (and actual calendar) are filled ONLY with things that serve my soul or my goals. I’m able to rid myself of a few “soul vampires” and I am already feeling lighter, happier, more myself.

You guys have listened to me wax fearful and borderline tragic over my employment status over the last months and I’m so thankful for all the words of support and encouragement you’ve extended to me. Thanks for cheering me on and always staying in my corner.

In the immortal words of Ms. Judy Blume,
"You can live a lifetime in a summer, especially when you're young."

What's New With You
Linking up with Kristen & Gretch for What's New With You. What's new with you?