2020: Year of Resolves and Transformation

Click here to go straight to my 2020 New Year’s “resolves”!

It’s an interesting revelation to realize well into your adulthood that you are pretty much unchanged, personality-wise, from when you were a child. If you were neat as a kid, instinctively putting your toys away after playing, you probably still find sweet pleasure in maintaining that cleanliness in your home. If you were a bossy kid, always telling the rest of the neighborhood how to manage the kickball league in the street, you’re probably just itching to become manager in your current department at work.

As a child, I always appreciated the quiet and intimacy that nature and my closest loved ones provided. For example, when my family and I lived in Illinois up until I was nine, my mother would take my older sister and I into St. Louis, where we would visit one of the city’s most notable landmarks, Forest Park. I couldn’t have been more than five or six at the time (I could still fit in my stroller, though goodness knows my mother should have kicked me out by then), but I remember the long strolls we took through the winding pathways beneath ageless trees. The inherent silence of the area (my mother preferred off-peak park hours) as our footfalls padded upon the wide pathways and the wind nestled into the lush crowns above our heads, created a sense of security that I wished could last forever.

At the time I began this post, I was sitting before an artificial fireplace with a cat dozing to my right and my older sister crocheting in an armchair to the left, and I found the sentiment rising in me again. Over thirty years have passed since I last set foot (or stroller) into Forest Park, but the silence of my current stance and the company kept have not diminished my adoration for quiet moments. No TV blaring in the background; not even the pleasing trills of music. Just…quiet and good company.

2019: Last Looks

Reflection into the past naturally brings me into reflection of this year alone. Though I did set a few resolutions to give me structure and a sense of stability, that is a far cry from having any control on the outcome. I can be a very emotional, stress-influenced person: if I don’t set a plan or a schedule on how my life is supposed to proceed, I freak out and shut down. This results in no progress being made, sending me further into a panic.

That’s why my primary resolution for 2019 was to spend time with the people I love. Though the emotional toils of 2018 drove this decision, it could have been easy to make this priority almost mechanical. Hanging out with friends and calling family on a regular basis seemed simple enough.

But when the lives of your friends and your family are just as real and complicated as your own, you can’t simply tuck time to talk to them in whatever gaps are available. I also learned that just hanging out or talking more didn’t make me a better friend or daughter.

And then, something else happened that I didn’t expect.

My own life started to break down.

And then I broke down.

For a few months in, I tried to ignore my own physical symptoms–the exhaustion, the lethargy, the insomnia, the anxiety, the brain fog, the migraines–and forced myself to keep going.

Keep working. Keep giving. Keep helping. Keep nodding yes.

When Winston Churchill said famously, “When going through hell, keep going,” I’d like to think that he didn’t mean until you physically can’t get up. I certainly don’t think he meant stand at your desk, take a look at the To-Do List–filled with tasks you’ve done over and over again for years–and burst into tears because your head has been throbbing for nearly six months and you’re just so sick and tired of being sick and tired.

It’s a shame that it took half a year and a point where I was dizzy and near-fainting before I realized why. I was paying attention to everything but my own well-being.

The Turning Point

By mid-summer, I was visiting doctors, counselors, and therapists at least three times a week to figure out what was wrong. I was on heavy medications and getting bloodwork and CTs to find a deeper meaning to my ailments than simply psychological. It wasn’t until September that I finally received some kind of answer.

“Surgery?” Numbly, I held the phone to my ear as the physician’s assistant provided me with the vague results of my head CT. “It’s bad enough where I need surgery?”

The PA wouldn’t expand on her original instructions. “Just come into the office. You can discuss the procedural options with your surgeon then.”

When I arrived later that week for my appointment, the surgeon explained that most of my symptoms were a results of increasingly severe inflammation in my nasal cavities that had been growing worse over the last year–“and probably longer,” he said. This was the reason for many of my physical symptoms: my brain and body were literally being deprived of oxygen it needed to function normally. “Sounds like you just only started feeling the severity of everything this last year.”

Since I was no longer responding to any of the medications they were giving me, endoscopic surgery was the next best solution.


One month later, I lay on my couch with gauze strapped to my bloody nose. I was fully congested but forbidden to sneeze, blow my nose, or even sniff. My mouth was parched from hanging open every night in my attempts to sleep through the pain. Sufficed to say, I felt like all my symptoms of the last year had multiplied tenfold.

But even through my recovery, my 2019 resolution rose to occasion on its own in a way I hadn’t expected. Though I had felt too miserable to remember to check on my friends, they had been kind enough to check up on me.

In fact, they did more than just check up on me. As I lay prone, eating nothing but rice, bananas and chicken broth every day, so swollen internally I could only breath through my mouth, my loved ones came to me. My father stayed with me for a few hours after surgery while the anesthesia wore off, taking the “day shift” while one of my closest friends (who had volunteered to drive me to the hospital) took the night between her shifts at work. Friends dropped off groceries at my front door when I was too sick to even text them.

On my birthday, while I was still too nauseous and dizzy to even wear my glasses, the well wishes poured in through texts and Facebook notifications. I held four-hour phone calls with my mother. I even heard from old friends I hadn’t spoken to in years.

By the time I returned to work, even my coworkers–some I hadn’t thought even noticed that I was gone–lit up in smiles when they saw me enter the office. This notion surprised me–I had spent years living under a radar and assumed that not many people noticed me. I assumed that even less of them cared.

Appreciate Them, Appreciate You

After seeing the amount of people who reached out as I dealt with not only physical problems, but mental and emotional ones, too, I was struck with the amount of damage my low self-esteem and dismissive attitude has possibly done. How many friendships had I lost by assuming that people didn’t like me? How many people’s opinions did I unintentionally disrespect because it was faster and easier to believe that they were just being nice instead of actually saying something out of love?

If I wanted to truly show loved ones how much they mattered to me, I also had to believe how much I mattered to them.

Sound a little self-serving? It certainly did to me.

But, think about it like this:

How many times has someone complimented you, your clothes, a solution you gave in a meeting, or who you are in general?

What was your knee-jerk reaction to the compliment?

Did you wave it off in embarrassment?

Did you say, “Oh, I’ve gained so many pounds; it’s not fitting like it used to”?

Did you defer it to another person: “Oh, Joey mentioned the word ‘bootstrap’ earlier, so he was really the brainchild for it.”

Why did you blow the compliment off? To sound humble? Because you don’t feel like you deserve it?

Look at it from another angle. Instead of questioning why you said it for yourself, recognize that you just blew off someone’s verbal positivity in your direction. Someone literally tossed you a lovely gift, and instead of catching it, you slapped it away. Or, you caught it and immediately began criticizing the gift itself. Or, you caught the gift and, right in front of the person who gave it to you, gave it to someone else.

Accepting a compliment isn’t just allowing yourself to feel good. It’s receiving the person’s kindness towards you, letting it sink in, and appreciating to the full extent.

2020 New Year “Resolves”

Which brings us–finally!–to my 2020 resolutions.

Or–as I have determined to call them–my 2020 resolves.

As I do every year after Christmas day, I consult with my family and encourage them to set goals as we all march into the New Year. Years ago, they didn’t take this ritual nearly as seriously as I did. I don’t know if I had a direct effect on their changed minds, but they have commented on how incredible and fun-filled my last few years have been–and how they seem to be getting better and more fulfilling as each new one rolls around. Though 2019 was…a smidgen rough, I certainly can’t fault it on the level of activity or the lessons learned.

Regardless of the reason, I was immensely pleased when, as the New York Square New Year’s clock chimed past midnight on the TV, my family nestled themselves into a makeshift circle and took turns sharing our resolutions and goals for 2020.

Since I felt I had to pause my progress halfway through 2019, I’ve decided to stay on the current path of internal work and well-being. Though I do have New Year’s resolutions (concrete goals like achieving the splits or taking a dance class or finally gaining a voice-over agent), my main focus will be on my resolves–adjusting lifelong habits, emotional hangups, and overall life perspectives into more positive, assertive, productive, true-to-self manifestations. Focusing appreciation on my loved ones will continue, of course; however, I am also going to focus on improving my own self-esteem, well-being and mindfulness.

Novel, ain’t it?

In summary:

#1: Take Yourself More Seriously

For years, I often felt like not much was expected of me. This I felt on both a personal and a professional level. When I was busy victimizing myself (which I applied throughout my adolescence and 20s), I blamed my parents, my teachers and managers for this point of view–everyone but myself. Even worse, instead of choosing to defy this stigma, I played it up. I was loud and bouncy and perky all the time. I bumbled and pretended I couldn’t do things well, especially not the first time. I laughed at myself and acted like a silly ten-year-old well into my twenties.

Until I thought–why?

Why did I keep selling myself short? Why did I act like some silly, ditzy little girl all the time? It wasn’t me–at least, not all of me.

It’s been a defense mechanism I’ve used for years, but it’s not one that I want anymore. It no longer serves any purpose. It’s not fun. It’s annoying.

I’m ready to start blaming the one person who perpetuated this behavior in me–and I’m also ready to hold her accountable so that she never makes excuses for herself ever again.

The way I want to truly be will require me to cut the crap–something that should have been said and done a long, long time ago.

#2: Self-aware, Self Care, and Self Prepare

Funny what you notice once you start feeling better mentally, emotionally, physically.

What are a few things I noticed after my nose surgery?

  • Huh. My house is really dirty.
  • When did I accumulate all this clutter in my house?
  • Why am I nearly 40 and still never had a long-term romantic relationship?
  • When did I gain all this weight? Why do I feel so old?
  • Omigosh, I cut off a LOT of my hair last year.

These are all small things by comparison, but when you’re trying to succeed in the world of “adulting,” it’s when all the little things build up that can really make you feel out of sorts. So, now is as good a time as any to begin sorting through it all–both with the internal work and the external work.

I’ll touch on a few of the changes in future posts, but in the meantime–changes will definitely, definitely be made.

Do what you need to do to feel good about yourself, that brings you peace of mind.

#3: You Have a Choice

As I said in my last post last year, it’s easy to go through life on autopilot, living each day in a reactive way. But what would happen if we lived proactively? Just because we’re used to waking up and climbing out of bed on the right side, doesn’t mean we can’t try climbing out on the left side for once. What about the art classes or the dance classes you always wanted to take but never did? The smile you chose not to give the cute guy or girl, because you assumed they were out of your league?

When you choose not to do something because you assume you already know the results, that’s just it. You are assuming. You don’t know for sure. You assume you’ll be a horrible dancer. You assume your art will suck. You assume you aren’t attractive enough and will make a fool of yourself. But you don’t know. And you will never know the actual results until you freakin’ suck it up and try.

You have a choice to live life exactly the way you want to live it. You entered this world with yourself, and you will escort yourself out. Don’t you two deserve to have conscious control with what you want to do with it?

I certainly do. After 37 years of ignoring myself and assuming I was not pretty, talented, smart, good enough to do or be anything, I finally had another thought.

“I’ve spent enough time feeling like I’m not worth the time or energy. How would it look if I spent less time focused on my endless ‘faults,’ and more time turning my life into one that makes me feel happy, empowered and fulfilled?”

I don’t know the answer to this. But it sure will be interesting to find out.

Happy flippin’ new year, ya’ll. 🙂


Want to recap on my 2019 resolutions? Read my old post below!

NaNoWriMo, Here I Come

I was talking with my friend Rebecca a while ago, who was telling me about a challenge she had undertaken at her barre exercise class. “The goal is to complete 45 barre classes in 30 days,” she told me.

I was no mathematician, but those numbers gave me pause. “Wait. That means you’re gonna have to do at least two classes per day sometimes.”

“Yep,” she said. I could tell by her determined, terror-stricken grin that she had come to this revelation long before that moment. As someone who worked full-time (and oftentimes double-shifts), as well as–you know–having a social life in other endeavors, adding that type of commitment would definitely force her to make some adjustments to her daily routine.

“Yep,” she said again when I voiced this, but this time her expression softened into a serious resolution. “I don’t know how I’m going to manage it–but Ima manage it!”

To my glee and admiration (and her own initial shock), she did more than that. She completed her challenge well before the deadline, even giving up some of her favorite pastimes temporarily to make the challenge a legit priority.

I’ve repetively told her how proud I was of her. I hadn’t doubted that she could do it; she is someone who is quite resolute when she plans out activities. In fact, her dedication inspired me.

Despite writing more in general (primarily personal journals), I have not focused any time on actually writing a novel itself (there are other reasons for that, but anyway…). Perhaps I’ll have a day of delight and bust out a page or two, but by the next day, the inspiration is MIA.

Seeing what Becca did with her challenge reminded me that sometimes, the key to success is just deciding to do it–and then, just commiting to it. So, that’s what I’m going to do.

And I’m going to do it by adding a resource that I never have before. I’m using the aid of National Novel Writing Month–also affectionately known as NaNoWriMo.

What is NaNoWriMo?

Well, aside from being really fun to say (and debate its pronunciation among others: “Am I saying it right? Am I–am I saying it correctly?”), and residing in the best month evah (*ahem*Scorpios of the world unite*cough*). NaNoWriMo is a non-profit global organization that promotes the creative drive of novelists everywhere. What started as 21 writers in 1999 has since exploded into a resource with sponsors, education programs, word-tracking capabilities, and more. Beginning November 1, novelists will blaze into a flurry of writing with the goal of getting out at least 50,000 words–a solid start to any novel–by the end of November 30.

Despite my love of writing, I’ll confess that signing-up the word-tracking “required” for NaNoWriMo intimidated me. As a child, my writing was my private safe haven. The most publicly I ever shared my works were in college, both in my creative writing classes and my slew of WWE wrestler slash fanfiction that I posted on an online, members-only private forum.

(The Rock and Triple H. Mmmm, those were good times.)

Timidly, I clicked the link to the NaNoWriMo site. The image of a typewriter and a bagel (half-eaten) lured me into its embrace, while the “sign-up” button beckoned me closer.

Scrolling down further granted me an excerpt of NaNo’s vision statement:

NaNoWriMo believes in the transformational power of creativity. We provide the structure, community, and encouragement to help people find their voices, achieve creative goals, and build new worlds—on and off the page.

From NanNoWriMo.org. LEARN MORE ABOUT THE ORGANIZATION

…They said my favorite word.  “Creativity.”

…How have I denied my urges for so long??

But NaNoWriMo doesn’t just promote writing and creativity–it thoroughly enforces it. Apparently, over 900 volunteers will organize “communal writing sessions” throughout the world during November, giving its attendees both a place and a sense of support that has never been seen before 1999.

Weighing the Odds…as They Crush Me

I continued to peruse the site, building hope and promise that maybe–maybe this could help me get on track towards finally getting over my fears of writing.

Why do I think it will work? Apparently, several novels were penned with the help of the challenge.

  • Wool by Hugh Howey was a fun, freaky scifi series book that I utterly enjoyed when I found it on Amazon.
  • Water for Elephants is another. Heck, that one was turned into a movie starting Robert Pattison, Reese Witherspoon and Christopher Waltz.

Though my goal to write was not to become a famous, popular author, it was nice to know that NaNoWriMo had served as a solid foundation for serious writers who, perhaps, just needed that extra boost of accountability and community support to keep going.

I scrolled down further on the front page, my heart lightening with each line–and then clenched as two sets of numbers suddenly rolled into view.

  • 798,162 active novelists
  • 367,913 novels completed

Welllll, son of a mother. That’s…a lot of writers.

The Game Plan

If I do Nothing, Nothing will happen.  If I do Something, Something has no choice but to occur.

–Anonymous

Just looking at those stats alone was enough to make me sway and bring back some of my original fears to start writing again. Out of such a high number of novels completed, there is bound to be a notable percentage of those novels that are actually brilliant, witty, emotionally life-changing, literary masterpieces.

That being said, I appreciated about NaNoWriMo (aside from the heavy promotion of nurturing creativity) is that it is not a contest. In fact, they make a point to say that this is a community, a place to support each other as everyone works towards our same, singular goal: to complete our 50,000+ word works.

During a time when physical ability has been a heavy strain, writing is one tool that makes me feel sharp and alive. That–and I can’t say this enough–I love to write. At this stage in my life, I want to do more than leave my random scrawlings in a handwritten notebook.

I have good ideas for novels. I know I do. And I want to share them with others to evoke the joy and delight that my favorite novelists and writers have done for me since I was a child.

If the initial goal is to write at least 50,000 words in 30 days, that averages to 1,667 words per day.

Is it possible? Well, sure. Many things are possible.

But there will be days when the desire to sit and type will wane. There will be days when the last thing I will want to do is stare at my dumb computer screen and paw through the slush that will be the first draft of this novel. There will be times when I’ll feel like I’ve written myself into a hole, and the hole seems a bottomless pit with no hope for landing.

And then, there will be those days when I just think: “This sucks, and I hate everything and what’s the point.” And then, I’m gonna run from my desk like Ron Swanson.

…But.

The very reason I’m joining this challenge is because…I have unofficially written for nearly 30 years, and I have yet to try and publish anything. My self-esteem and fear of producing boring, laughable crap has left me prone, stuck.

I have family and friends who have long since been writing and have successfully published. They were able to push past the inner fears and life struggles, bear down, and do what they needed to get their work to the masses.

I envy them. I admire them.

I want to grab them by the lapels and screech, “How did you do it?!”

But, more than anything…I want to join them. Maybe not in just publishing books, but also in the power of their desire.

I want to know their strength and their ability to commit to a project. I want to know what worked for them. I want to know what didn’t.

But…you know? I actually already kinda do.

I’ve talked with the family members, and I followed the blog of and occasionally chatted with an old friend as her books ranked higher and higher on Amazon.

I truly think I have all the tools I need. There is nothing left but the doing.

Final Thoughts

I don’t want live in excuses or fear anymore. I don’t want to procrastinate.

Committing to this challenge will allow me to hold myself publicly accountable for writing a novel for the first time. Honestly, I’m not even sure what the layout of the site is much beyond the sign-up button. Once I finish writing this post, though, I will find out.

If musicians can lock themselves in studios for 72 hours to get an album done, and my friend Rebecca can dole out multiple barre classes in a single day and still rush into work that same day, then I can sit, plug my ears, shove my insecurities aside, and freakin’ write.

…Wish me luck.

Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not: nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not: the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.

Calvin Coolidge

Any other first-time NaNoWriMo novelists out there? I’d love to hear what’s driving you this year!

The One Question I Never Asked (aka Finding Life Balance)

I’m more excited than I should be typing this, but I can’t help it. By this time tomorrow, I will be out of Atlanta and in the company of my sisters, my mother, and my nephew on the other side of the country. It will be my first real chance to step away and review the true status of my life balance as of 2018.

I’m extremely grateful that I have the option and opportunity to step away from everything, if only for just a week and a half–and literally just in body. But sometimes, that is all you need.

(Mystic statements aside–seriously, I hope that’s enough time. :|)

I won’t go into the details of how this year has been for me just yet. I’m going to save that for a huge and exciting New Year’s Day Extravaganza POST AT YEAR’S END!

What I will do for now is reflect on the impact that this year has had on me, in regards to my life balance.

New City, Old City

Since I moved to Atlanta ten years ago, I have been struggling to find my proper life balance. In 2008, I arrived with the usual 20-something stressors of a woman with a new job in a new place:

  • New, bigger, busier city–and me with zero social skills
  • Relocating with no furniture, no family or friends, and no money

It’s a lot to process for anyone. At the time, I didn’t know that some of my stressors were due to my introversion, my social anxiety, and my high levels of environmental sensitivities. I simply felt like a mess in every situation I fell into.

A person can live in a city for years and still consider it a stepping stone to where they really want to be.

And honestly? Until just a few weeks ago, that was exactly what I considered this city.

I was living in it. I wasn’t living as part of it.

My Life vs. “Their” Lives

I look at some of the friends I grew up with (thanks, FaceBook) and watch the progress they’ve made as the years have passed. Some of them are rising acting stars, playwrights, successful novelists. Some of them have been happily married for years. One or two have a baby on the way. A couple of them have several babies.

I look at their lives…and a pang hits my chest.

It’s not envy. I couldn’t be happier for my friends who have all obviously worked hard for the lives they wanted.

Still, it is human nature to look at someone else’s life that appears, for all intents and purposes, to be perfect; reflect internally on your own; and, just for a blink, think, “Why is my life not that awesome?”

Oh–you don’t do that?

Well…I do, dagnabbit.

Life Balance Revelation

I’d like to share a story, if I may.

At the end of 2017, one of my New Year’s resolutions was to dive back into daily meditation. I used to be a huge proponent for meditating in high school but had grown away from it as the years (and college and depression) passed through. Meditating has always made me feel better, but the time it takes to prepare a sacred spot can be time-consuming.

“Excuses, excuses!” I’d told myself on that first fateful December 2017 night, and thus lit a white candle and inserted some industrial-strength earplugs to help me maintain my focus.

I chose a visual meditation method in which I ascended to a plane where an ethereal group therapy session was being held (yeah, I don’t skimp on my imagery!). The facilitator, a black woman with short hair and deep purple robes, welcomed me, introduced me to the group, then asked me why I’d come.

Immediately, I released all of my emotional woes to her and the group. As I had “imagined” everything around me, I knew it was a safe enough place to tell them all of my frustrations and problems. I knew I wouldn’t be judged for “taking up too much time” or being whiny or just mind-vomiting. I knew that “they” were there to help me.

The Question That Changed Everything

Sure enough, the facilitator and company listened patiently, and asked questions appropriately to gain clarity of some of my concerns. Internally, I was rather impressed with my own imagination. I hadn’t gone this far into characterization in a long time; maybe one of my woes (could I still write fiction?) wasn’t as far gone as I thought.

Then, the facilitator looked at me, took a deep breath, and asked someone that I had never, ever considered asking myself.

Why are you waiting to be happy?

My real eyes POPPED open.

“…Huh.”

I don’t know why this was a question that I’ve never asked myself.

I don’t know why, despite the significant number of counselors and therapists I’ve had, I’ve never heard that question.

It’s a simple enough question.

And yet.

Shaken out of my meditation, sitting there in the darkness of my bedroom as I repeated the question to myself, I had absolutely no answer to give.

Making Life Balance THE Priority

If I’m watching everyone around me have such a great life, why am I not doing anything to enjoy my own life?

Seriously. Why am I not getting off my lazy butt and looking into all of the events and adventures and projects that will lead me to my best life ever?

I mean, will the steps I need to take to gain my life balance be difficult?

Heck. YES.

But, I want to be happy. So, I took a deep breath and made the effort to be happy.

And 2018 has been the absolute fruits of that effort.

But.

One thing this year taught me is that life balance does not stop with just getting out of my house more, traveling to other countries, and switching my fashion sense (I like skirts. So sue me.).

The last three months alone opened my eyes to a lot of emotional and mental damage that I wasn’t even aware of. Mentalities that I thought had made me proud, independent, and strong had in fact made me bitter, isolated, and standoffish.

I thought life balance was only about external forces: balancing work with play, sleep with physical activities, social interaction with time to yourself.

I forgot about building and maintaining relationships; understanding why I behave and react to events the way that I do, and taking time to check in on myself.

Because I wasn’t doing that.

But this year was making me realize I needed to. In more ways than one.

I’m still determining what my game plan will be in 2019. However, I do know that my focus will be on developing a fully realized life balance for myself.

And that will start with getting away from home to clear my mind–if just for a moment.

Adieu, Atlanta. I will see you again at year’s end.

Being Different Sucks–and I Love It

As kids and adolescents, we’re told that being different is a wonderful thing.  “You’re unique,” our parents gush, fluffing out the neon blue tutu we’ve refused to take off for eight days straight.  “You want to stand out from the crowd.  People will always remember you.”

What they don’t tell you is that, once you’re an adult, being different will make you stand out in both positive and negative ways.

Case in point: my Monday.

“Well,” said a voice behind me as I washed my hands in the restroom.

I turned around to find a woman I used to work with passing me a rather smug, though not unfriendly smile. “That was a brave question you asked at the town hall.”

I paused, mid-paper towel wipe, to stare at her blankly.  While I couldn’t deny the presence of a town hall that morning–I had attended, after all–I was a little bemused by her description of my inquiry.  “What do you mean?”

She shrugged, still smiling.  “I mean, no one else would have asked it, especially of our leaders.”

Confused, I erupted into a flubbed mixture of “I wasn’t trying to be controversial” to “The numbers seemed pretty obvious, so I just wanted to know,” and “It was the only chance I’d have to ask them!”

Being Different and Not Knowing It

The issue here wasn’t so much the question of what I asked, but that the question was something that everyone else was thinking but apparently too nervous to say out loud.  I, at time, had raised my hand without question and, other than a flinch at the sound of my voice over the speakers, had charged ahead.

It concerned me that I hadn’t noticed that it was obviously a delicate topic.  Why hadn’t anyone else?

Maybe it was because I was lacking in a couple of extra hours of sleep.  Maybe it was because, after six years in the same company, I’d finally felt comfortable speaking my mind over a microphone in front of my peers, my boss, my boss’s boss, and my boss’s boss’s bosses.  Maybe it was because, after a year of epic awesomeness, I finally felt empowered enough and, wanting to continue being different than the meek girl I’ve been most of my adult life, went for it.

I mean…if you can’t jump in with both feet and not realize how deep the well is until you’re sinking to pressure-crushing depths…what canyou do?

I confess:  I love being different.  In some practices, in order to learn more about myself (hmm–that sounds like a future blog post), I’ve purposefully tried different styles.  For example, right now I’m in the habit of dressing like a 1960s housewife, knee-length skirt and all.  It’s fun, it’s different, and it makes the workday go by.

But that’s just how I look. The way I act is a different story.

I don’t consciously drive myself to behave a certain way.  At least, not anymore.  The last incident of that occuring was in high school, when I emulated my older sister in order to be popular.

Being different often just seems to put myself in my own way.  It can be frustrating. When that happens, I will try to lessen what I believe are my odd mannerisms to blend in and hopefully remove any spotlights.

And yet, there are many times that I seemed to miss the memo of how to be like everybody else.

Speaking Different

Hola.  Ohayo gozaimasu!  These are how I greet friends and family.

Not too bad, right?

The dry cleaners lost my favorite designer gown.  I am not pleased.  My way of saying that I am royally pissed to all heck.

Yeah, a little stranger, but just a little bit.

Fiddlesticks.  Dagnabbit.  Flab-jabbit.  Apple cider vinegar.

This is how I curse.

No, not to cover up the more obscene language I use in my personal household. This is honestly how I curse.

Just this week alone, someone asked me how I was doing.  Do you know what came to mind?

Spiffy.  Dandy.  Just swell.

I’m 36 years old, people. No one I know of any age, race, denomination, or sexual/gender orientation even remotely talks like that.

I can hear you all now:  “Um, okay, sooo–stop trying so hard and just talk normally, then.  You can use modern slang and not make it a big deal if you really, really wanted to.”

No…I can’t.

Believe me–I’ve tried.

Creating Different

This last weekend, my stepmother invited me to take part in her family’s annual cookie-making extravaganza.

Oh, how the cookies flowed from the oven!  Chocolate, orange drop, tea cookies, red velvet brownies, conventional brownies and–the star of the show–sugar cookies.

It was the sugar cookies that were whisked to a separate table where contestants of all ages worked vigilantly with colored icing to decorate and submit their edible artwork for the annual contest.

At first, I resisted joining the decorating festivities.  I was tired, I couldn’t think of anything, blah, blah, blah.  However, after being aggressively cajoled to give it a try (by no less than four people), I conceded to sit down and go for it.

Inspiration struck me like a thunderbolt that had learned to slap.  I scanned the cookie tray, taking up two shapes that would work best as my blank canvases.

“Uh oh,” my stepmother said, “I think B’s got something.”

In the end, I was quite satisfied with my two submissions, especially my second one.

First, let me present the full spread of submissions from all contestants.  See one that stands out?

For those of you who don’t already know:

In The Mind of B, one does not–I repeat, does not–merely design cookie art within the standard boundaries presented.

A gingerbread man is not simply a gingerbread man.  Instead, he is a full mural of a delighted fisherman slinging his rambunctious catch out of turbulent waters:

And a Christmas tree cookie?  Oh, that is far from just being a Christmas tree cookie.

My current kick of general interest has steered me towards the very unique and astoundingly talented sculptor Jim McKenzie.  Just earlier the same day, I had watched a trailer of his debut show, “Lost Magic,” from 2016.  His art piece “The Nest” was especially haunting:

“The Nest,” by sculptor Jim McKenzie.  Image taken from Twitter.

So, of course, I’m gonna emulate this timeless look onto an evergreen-shaped sugar cookie.  It only seemed fitting.

I did a pre-tty good job, if I do say so myself.  I even had enough Christmas spirit to give it a holiday theme.

Sucka won second place amidst some competitive judging–which may have included my father in the panel.  But I can’t recall all the details clearly.

Bias, you say?

What bias?

Meh, who am I kidding?  Whilst people oohed and ahhed over all the other cookies, both of mine received a pause, a silent stare, and then a hasty, high-pitched, “That’s…cute!”

Yep.  They hated them.

But that’s okay, because they were mine, anyway. 🙂 And, delicious.

Loving Different

In the middle of October this year, I took an eight-hour flight to land for the first time in The Netherlands. My manager nominated me to attend a young leadership summit with approximately 1,800 of my peers.  The summit was literally life-changing, as it made me aware of not just the struggles that the rest of the world works through, but also my own realization that I want to help.  (More about this in a future post, I promise!) 

After the summit, I took the Eurostar from The Hague to London, where I flew back to the States after three days of “me time”.

For most people, one of the most exciting moments of their lives might be attending the summit with friends, visiting clubs on their off evenings, visiting historical pubs and museums in London, and taking the epic Harry Potter studios tour.

Those are all wonderful, and I would surely have enjoyed them.

However, almost nothing that I’ve done in my life affected me as much as navigating three hours into the English countryside to find myself in a village of 1,000 people and tearing up before the gravestone of a folk singer I would never meet.

A Perfect Moment

It was probably a plethora of experiences that had led to that moment–the culture shock of the OYW young leadership summit I’d attended; the overload of stimulation from meeting thousands of people, including a handsome stranger I’d asked out for coffee :); my fighting through a vitamin D deficiency that had kept me bedridden the day before.  Still, it was that very moment, which I never even dared to fantasize would happen, that invoked connection, emotion, triumph and an inner calm and peace that I never thought I’d feel.

Funny how that works.

Most would find the perfect moment in a concert, or at a mountaintop, or with a beer and within poignant conversation.  For me, chilled and silent and alone, kneeling in front of a grave in the middle of nowhere thousands of miles from home, I learned what I was capable of so long as I wanted it enough.

Connecting Different

Several months ago, as my small team at work was still acclimating to each other, one of my coworkers recommended that we perform a Trust Equation on one another.  In this assessment, we would calculate how much we trusted one another by scoring our credibility, reliability, and intimacy levels.

When I met with each coworker, including my manager, they scored me respectively well in credibility and reliability.  However, my scores in intimacy were a slap in the face.

Every one of them scored me low.

They were apologetic yet firm as they explained their rationale behind their numbers.  “You keep to yourself a lot.” “You close up,” “Sometimes, I’m not sure how to approach you.” “You know you like your time to yourself.”

I do.  I do.  I know.  I do.

I’d be lying if I said I didn’t notice how easily and naturally my teammates seem to interact with others.  How long they stand over each other’s cubicles to chat–about what?  What could they possibly be discussing for so long?

And why don’t most people stay that long at my desk?  For me, it’s ask the question, the awkward pause, and then the even more awkward departure.

Small talk.  Networking.  Opening myself up.  Making myself vulnerable to strangers, even if it’s just for a simple lunch date.  Those actions are not intuitive for me.

It’s like how most people are when they go to the gym.  It’s not always fun; you have to plan how to get the most from the situation; and you’re often in pain and exhausted when the session is over.

But then I see how much benefit my teammates, the cast from the radio show I’m voice-acting in, even my own family, have such an amazing connection in interacting for so long with one another, and I wonder–why can’t I get the formula down?  What am I doing wrong?

How do I learn it?

looking near camera

Proudly Different

Back to the town hall incident.

As part of my neuroses, there is still a part of me that laments about whether my question embarrassed my manager or our team.  However, I have to let it go–partially because my manager hasn’t acted any differently since then, and also because one of the very leaders told me it shouldn’t.

I ran into her in the break room and, upon her seeing me and recognizing me, she smiled.

“Thank you,” she said, “for asking that question.  It was a good question, and it needed to be said.”

I, in classic B ramblings, said things along the lines of “thank you for answering” and “I know it was the only chance I’d have to ask” and the like.  She, for her part, didn’t seem too mortified on my behalf.

A steadfast part of being different in my way is that I’ll probably always feel a little off from how everyone works.  But then, maybe I should continue to work towards being more “on” in how I work instead.

If I am sure of how I am–who I am–then maybe everyone else will be, too.  And then being different won’t matter that much to anyone.

Circling the Drain: When You Do Everything Except What You Want

I first thought of the phrase “circling the drain” when I was having lunch with a coworker sometime in the midst of 2017.  At the time, I didn’t think more of the phrase than how effective its analogy was for the point I was trying to make.  You know–some process wasn’t being done cuz so-and-so was dragging their collective feet:

“And they just keep circling the drain,” I finished, flopping back in my chair with the dramatic flair I adore so much.  My friend, to their credit, indulged my self-righteous tantrum with a grunt of sympathy.

“Circling the Drain” Gets Real

Later that year, while I was visiting my older sister during the holiday season, the phrase popped back into my head.  Her boyfriend at the time called to get advice on buying office furniture. She stepped out of the living room to take the call while I watched Superstore (good show, by the way.  Kind of like if Scrubs had been filmed Office-style…and set in Walmart.  But I digress.)

When she hung up and returned to the room, she looked puzzled.  “He found an office chair that he really wants,” she explained, settling down to continue crafting a model train she had received for Christmas.  “But it’s really expensive, so he’s not going to get it.”

“Oh,” I said.  I could kind of see his point.  It’s always daunting when you see a price tag you don’t expect.  “So, he’s just gonna wait and save up for it?”

“Nope.  He’s gonna get something cheap and smaller that is uncomfortable and hurts his back,” she declared.

“…Huh.”  It was the most sympathetic sound I could make.  

My sister shrugged with helpless exaggeration–full arm flail and big WTF eyes.  “All I know,” she said, “is that it took me years to find the dining table I wanted–but when I found it, I knew. And I didn’t buy anything until I did.”

Patience is a Virtue and Economical

My sister’s always been good like that–patience of a saint and the conviction of a…well, a saint.  I, however, have often been guilty of settling for something that was a mere fraction of the price of my true heart’s desire.

Because I really, really wanted it?

No.

Because I felt so much better leaving with something–something–rather than nothing.

Which means I’ve also run into the same problem as her boyfriend.  I’d buy the half-pricer that would not only look as cheap as it was, it would also break after a few uses.  Or worse, it wouldn’t work at the quality I desired (*gasp*), and I would resent the very site of it, leaving it to collect dust somewhere in the annals of my home.

So what would I do?

Since I’d already put out half the amount, I’d buy another cheap-quality item from another brand, hoping I would have better luck.  But often, it would also fail.

The pattern could go on a couple more times.  And then, miserable and frustrated when the fourth item fails, I’d have the most horrible revelation.

I’ve spent more money buying multiple cheap things than if I’d just bought the one expensive, high-quality thing first.

This phenomenon–afraid of taking the plunge into what you actually want, and instead finding lesser ways to defer the yearning inside of you–I have lovingly termed, “circling the drain.”

Taking the plunge–literally and figuratively–can help you escape the cycle of circling the drain and introduce you to adventure.

Ways To Circle the Drain

You don’t just “circle the drain” with material purchases.  This phenomenon is alive and well in many aspects of life.

Two of my lifelong loves are writing and singing.  I love doing both anytime, all the time. However, as I’ve grown older, I’ve found it necessary to narrow down what it is I actually want to do with both of these loves.

  • For writing?  I want to make a living writing and publishing fiction.  I have probably 5 fully developed plot lines running through my head.
  • For singing?  I want to create a band and perform for small venues, creating auras of warmth and intimacy for my listeners.  I love jazz and want to recreate the somber, intimate atmosphere that the genre’s heydays originally promoted.

Here’s the kicker…I made these revelations nearly 10 years ago.  Soooo…

Why are You Still Circling the Drain?

Well, that’s a great question.

Some common reasons for circling the drain:

  • Fear
  • Uncertainty
  • The work, time, and commitment needed to fulfill the goal can be overwhelming
  • Fear
  • Lack of confidence
  • Fear of failure
  • Fear of success
  • Fear
  • Fear
  • Fear.

They may not be the best reasons, but they are my answer.

For writing, I resumed this blog to help regain momentum and strengthen my fiction writing.  And I have a job as a technical writer. And I wrote a manuscript about 4 years ago that I’m still editing.

And as for singing, I joined a choir last year!  Yeah!

…I mean, I had to quit because of the strain on my schedule, but still.

Stop Circling the Drain and Dive In

“Okay,” I hear you all saying.  “That’s great. You’re doing what you love.  But, are these activities actually helping you achieve the goals that you really want?”

I can scoff.  I can stutter.  I can sputter.

But your question raises an excellent point.

I’m doing things that are nearing the ballpark of what I love–which is an improvement of how I used to be.  However, even as I involve myself in these activities, there is still the anxiety and and the pull in the back of my mind. The little disappointed voice whispers in my ear, slightly shrill yet frail from years of mumbling:

“But, you still haven’t fully let go.”

But you know? That’s okay for now.  At least I am fully aware of the choices I’m making at this moment.

Because I know I’m not going to circle the drain forever.

When the moment comes–and I’ll know it, just like you will when you listen to how you’re feeling at the time–I will release and dive in.

And that will be a fun day for everyone.

With risk comes great rewards…