Personal

30 for 30

Hello 30I recently spoke with a good friend of my from grad school, and she said something along the lines of how she can’t believe how much I’d changed since the first day she met me. I had to agree with her. I’m the same person at my core, and I have the same sense of humor, ambition, and value for friends and family, but everything else has become more nuanced, elastic. I love to write, and I process things better when I do, so a birthday blog it is! I mentioned I get introspective around this time, remember? Anyway, while this list is not comprehensive, in any particular order, and maybe not interesting to anyone but me, it covers some things I’ve learned and ways I’ve changed in my first 30 years on this planet.

  1. I’m still learning about myself.

I think this is the most important point to keep in mind. Everything on this list is true now, but if the past proves its way to the present, in another 10 years (or 10 minutes) I could self-assess my way to a new mental place entirely. Cheers to challenges, learning, and the ability to change one’s mind.

  1. It’s okay not to get married.

Growing up you think everything will fall into place. You’ll meet someone, you’ll fall in love, you’ll get married and live happily ever after. Crushes are heated and uncomplicated. You could never fall out of your feelings, because they were just too strong. Nope. Never.

Fast forward to now. You’ve seen friends get the marriage thing right, and you’ve seen other couples fall apart. You’ve heard horror stories. You realize deep down you’re pretty afraid of commitment, and you tend to like men that don’t like you that much for, quite possibly, this reason. You still want a partner, but it’s getting harder and harder to picture the kind of mutually satisfying, long-term relationship that makes sense. You like living by yourself. You don’t want to be trapped, and you don’t want to hurt anyone. You realize maybe this single thing is your destiny. At 30, you’re open to whatever happens, and you hope you can move past the fear of whichever option that comes to you. (Oh, and you read this article and feel a bit less alone.)

  1. Friends come and go, but the ones that stay are really important.

When I was younger, I often worried about losing friends. I didn’t want to fall out of touch with anyone I’d ever loved that way. It felt like defeat. Now I know that some friends are in your life at that particular time for a reason. When they drift away, it isn’t necessarily a reflection on either of you. Life just moves people differently. For each of us, though, there will be those sticky friends – the friends that you can call up after a month of zero talking and pick up where you left off. The ones that know you so well you don’t have to worry about time or distance. I’m grateful for all of my friends – even those built on impermanence – but I love those that stay. To quote Mindy Kahling, “A best friend isn’t a person. It’s a tier.”

  1. People reading is a great gift…

I’ve always been very good at reading between the lines with people. If I can’t figure out someone’s motivations quickly, I’m frustrated. Yes, I like being challenged, but I also like being able to tell generally what someone will do and why they’ll do it. This also helps in meetings when two people are saying different things and they think they’re saying the same thing (or vice versa). I can mediate (for small, inconsequential encounters), y’all. 

  1. … and so is gaydar.

Yes, sexuality is nuanced. No, I don’t typically use the term “gaydar.” However, you don’t accidentally date gay men without learning a thing or two about dudes who may not be interested in what you have to offer. I’m glad my naivety got the best of me when it did, though. A relationship with an ex has turned into one of the longest, best friendships of my life. It’s a beautiful thing.

  1. It’s good to care a little less.

I’ve found that one of the best things about getting older is the confidence you gain from knowing yourself. I’ll always hate conflict and I want to be liked (to a degree), but ultimately I’ve noticed a great downward trending shift toward caring less. Now, I don’t mean caring less about life, people or work. I mean caring less about what people think of me specifically. You don’t agree with me politically? Fine, but don’t expect me to stay quiet about my opinion. Loose clothing isn’t flattering and men won’t be into it? I’ll wear sack dresses every damn day, because I love them. You don’t like my jokes? I’ll laugh at them myself (too loudly and too often). It’s about finding yourself and sticking to it no matter the situation, even if it makes you uncool. This isn’t high school.

  1. It’s fun to curse.

    I’ll (mostly) refrain here, because who knows which of my parents’ friends are reading this (thanks for reading!). However, I used to think of cursing as last resort for someone lacking in vocabulary. Now I know just how useful and satisfying a few four letter words can be.. 

  2. Sexuality is not shameful.

    I’ve had friends who waited till marriage for sex, and I’ve had friends who were sexual revolutionaries from the get-go. I, personally, grew up signing faith-based abstinence cards annually and listening to lots of shame-based rhetoric. This kind of sexuality/shame tie is not helpful. 
    In the same way that we shouldn’t be ashamed of sex as part of the human experience, no one should feel shame or fear to profess the gender of the person they love. I’ve several close friends come out over the years, some with better experiences than others. I hope we’re moving to an age where this doesn’t matter to anyone else but the two people in the relationship. Let’s hope together.
  1. Siblings can be your best friends.

My sister, seemingly opposite in (some) interests and appearance, has truly become the person I like the most. I’m so thankful my parents decided to have her. She’s my favorite birthday present. (Where’s your 26 for 26 list, Kelsey?!)

  1. Attractiveness is not measurable on a scale.

I’ve never been heavier, and I’ve never felt more attractive. Gathering less important, external criteria, I’ve also never been hit on quite so much or gone on so many dates. I’m over feeling weird about my individual snowflake of a body. 

  1. Therapy is good.

I finally started seeing a therapist, and it’s amazing to talk to someone who doesn’t know you, really. An outside perspective is really essential. She’s already helping me with anxiety coping mechanisms, and she’s helped me through some life changes already. She’s great. Go CBT!

  1. Talking about your issues outside of therapy is important.

That said, you still need to talk to your friends and family. Be open about your mental health. Hiding it doesn’t help anyone. The stigma is a huge part of the problem. See #13.

  1. Honesty really is the best policy.

In conjunction with the caring less thing, I’ve decided honesty – especially in my personal life – is the way to go. I wish I’d adopted this philosophy years ago. It would have saved me a lot of time and mental energy. These days, if I like a guy, I tell him. If I’m concerned about something, I talk about it. I ask almost any question that pops into my head. Maybe I over-explain to a fault, maybe it’s unromantic, but it works for me. It’s better this way.

  1. An attraction to smart men is a double-edged sword.

The only – and I mean the only – common denominator among my past boyfriends and crushes is a high IQ. (If those men also have any of the above: dad bods, beards, glasses, and/or cats – bonus!) However, sometimes smart men can be overly confident. They can be challenging and frustrating. I’ve realized, though, that no matter how many times I get my heart broken, they’ll always be my type. Come at me Mensa men.

  1. Being in charge is difficult.

I never thought I’d be in charge of an organization at 29. That’s not bragging – I really didn’t think that. I honestly never thought I’d be in charge of an organization, period. I’m still not sure that being a capital Boss is for me forever, but I love what I do, and the things I’m learning give me great respect for everyone I’ve worked for in the past. Power (even a little power at a small organization) is a heavy burden to bear. It’s the scariest, most rewarding thing I’ve ever done.

  1. Recharge time is important.

I learned a long time ago that after hours spent with other people – no matter how much I like them – I need time alone. Such is the way of the introvert. My best example is when I went to Buffalo, NY, to help host my best friend’s wedding shower. There were parties, there were people around me the whole weekend, and most of those people, aside from my friend, were extroverts. I didn’t take a day off from work when I got back. Big mistake. I was extraordinarily grumpy and unpleasant to be around. Sorry, friends. I’ve learned my lesson.

However, starting my new job this year took some trial and error. I find it very difficult to turn off my mind, especially when it comes to work. How do you stop working when there’s always more to do? My first 2-3 months in my position, I would check email when I was at home after work and on weekends. I felt a small ping of stress every time a new email flag would pop up on my phone. Finally, I had enough. I’m not a doctor or lawyer or therapist – my job isn’t life or death (I hope). I could take a few hours away from the office, and I felt, and continue to feel, better for it. Resting outside of work helps my productivity and morale at work.

  1. Unrequited love makes music better.

I’ve always loved sad music, but sometimes you need to get your heart broken to really appreciate it. Punch that heartbreak card and those melancholy feelings will really hit home.

  1. Spending money on books is never a mistake.

We all have buyer’s remorse from time to time. I’ve never felt it from a book spree. 

  1. Kids aren’t for everyone.

People tend not to believe me when I say I don’t want to have children. I’m a nurturing person, and I like to take care of friends and family. However, wanting to care for other adults is very different from carrying, giving birth to, and changing my life by bringing another person into it. 

  1. Don’t believe everything you think.

This is pithy, and I heard it from my therapist. It’s true, though. Living with anxiety means your thoughts often spiral into the negative, and learning not to believe them is key to management. Pay attention to feelings? Yes. Believe them automatically? No.

  1. Unanswered questions are okay.

    I’ve been reflecting a lot on the things I believe – about religion, relationships, what I want out of life, etc. I’m much more flexible than I once was about all of the above, and I’m trying to enjoy this time of uncertainty instead of forcing myself into new boxes of belief too quickly.

  1. Black clothing is the best clothing.

Wearing black all the time is boring and morbid? Nope, I think it’s chic and easy and everything matches. Navy is the preppier cousin that wishes it could be the color black. If a piece of clothing is available in black – give me!

  1. Dresses with pockets are proof of God’s love.

Like my statement about black clothing, if a dress has pockets, I want it. I can leave pants behind, be comfortable in a dress, and have a place to put my cell phone? Sold.

  1. Red lipstick makes almost any day better.

I guess I’m including my fashion choices all in a row? Red lipstick looks like confidence, and some days you just need a boost.

  1. Ambition is good, but persistence is key.

I made a career change into my field of dreams at 29. I could have stayed in the job I was in forever. It was fine. It had great benefits. I could have not looked. I could have listened to the many, many, many rejection letters I received from probably every hiring arts organization in the country (except Florida or Alaska – gross). You can have all the ambition in the world, but you have to have follow-through, too. You have to believe in yourself enough to continue trying on days when you feel like giving up.

  1. Bacon and burgers are too delicious to live without.

From about freshman year in high school to 2012, I didn’t eat red meat. That’s no burgers, bacon, pork chops – nothing. Bacon is the gateway meat that brought me back. My cholesterol is higher, but my life is better.

  1. Moving is an adventure.

To use Tinder speak, my path looks like this: Greeneville, TN > Jefferson City, TN > Savannah, GA > Greeneville, TN > Chattanooga, TN > Nashville, TN > Waynesville, NC. Moving is always difficult and always rewarding. The process sucks, but I love getting to know a new place. It’s like getting to know a new friend.

  1. Crying when angry is the worst.

This is the thing that most annoys me about myself. Any strong emotion, especially frustration or anger, makes me cry. Romantic comedies? It’s rare I shed a tear. Someone pisses me off to the point of no return and I have to engage in conflict that I hate? I’m bawling my eyes out. I look like a weak baby instead of the powerful, verbal barb-slinging badass that I want to believe I might be someday. I rarely get angry, but know that if I am, I will be crying. It’s serious.

  1. “What’s your Myers-Briggs type?” is the better “What’s your sign?”

Except for the fact that Mercury is a terror when in retrograde, I believe very little to do with astrology. Myers-Briggs I believe in. Most of my close friends are introverts or introvert-compatible extroverts. I wish people walked around with their types on name badges so I’d know who I should avoid or befriend.

  1. I’m hitting my stride.

Once upon a time I thought that turning 30 would be scary. It’s not. I feel like I’m finally in a job that I love. I’m dating. I’m learning more about my beliefs. I have friends and family I love very much. I have a great cat. I’m practicing being vulnerable and honest. I have my anxiety (mostly) under control. I’m growing a great streak of gray hair. I like who I am. Thirty feels pretty damn great. Let’s go.

Three years later

therapyIt’s been two years since I wrote and shared the following essay about my 2013 – the year I found out I have an anxiety disorder. At the time, I was still struggling with talking to people about my anxiety. Would I seem weak? Would people think I was crazy? Was I crazy? The answer to all three questions was, resoundingly, no. I learned that I was not alone.

Often when I see posts about mental health and other struggles, I find myself wanting to know more. How is the person coping today? What techniques might help me or others? Well, at the bottom of this post I’ll share an update about where I am today. Spoiler alert: I’m in a much better place than I was in 2013.


The transition from one year to the next traditionally brings with it a time of reflection. For me, 2013 was relatively uneventful – no job changes, relationships, big purchases, etc. Internally, however, it was a year of unrest. I’m calling 2013 my year of fear.

The symptoms started weeks earlier; almost a year ago exactly. I didn’t realize what was happening at first, but most episodes started behind the wheel of my car. I would be driving along, no blatant triggers to speak of, when my face began to tingle from a lack of oxygen. After the tingling stopped, there were dizzy spells. All of these symptoms caused more anxiety, which only made everything worse.

At the end of January 2013, I had my first full-blown panic attack. I’d heard about them. I’d joked about them. I had no idea what it felt like to actually experience one. To give you some idea, it started in the car, as per my usual. I began thinking about my symptoms (as yet undiagnosed anxiety) and what they might mean. I thought of an impending thunderstorm. After arriving at home, I worked myself into a frenzy. I couldn’t breathe. I called my parents multiple times, hoping their calm voices would settle me. I called my best friend, who came over and sat with me. He left, but I didn’t feel better. I thought that if I fell asleep I would literally die. I called my parents in the middle of the night, telling them I thought my heart was stopping. I drove to my friend’s house in the middle of the night. I made him feel my heartbeat over and over to see if it was steady. The night was fitful, to say the least. By morning, I felt physically sick, but otherwise normal.

I was fortunate that the night in January was my only major attack to date. I continued having pre-attack bouts of nervousness,  especially while driving. (A weekend of Atlanta traffic could do that to anyone, though, am I right?) While I felt most anxious in cars, the context of my anxiety became largely health related. I was so worried about health issues, it became difficult to tell which symptoms were real and which were psychosomatic. For example, after one appointment with my doctor (that should have been comforting), I became convinced – for a couple of hours – that I could have multiple sclerosis. I was also watching lots of The West Wing at the time. This was coupled with a year when I did have real, odd, but (thankfully) minor health issues. Anyway, health obsessions are a “classic” anxiety presentation. Nothing feels classic or normal when you’re scared for no reason. I even worried about getting worried.

Given all of those issues, and agreement from my doctor, I decided to begin taking a low-dose anxiety medication last summer. Though I resisted this route for months, I don’t regret it. I know this approach has some stigma, and it doesn’t work for everyone. And I’m not without nervous days, of course. Overall, however, I feel like myself again.

I realize my experience is not unique. I’m lucky to have a great support system of close friends and family. I’m even lucky to have such “minor” anxiety symptoms. What I’ve realized this year, though, is that there’s value in all levels of experience. Though this is difficult for me to write about, I’ve taken comfort in talking with family and reading other bloggers’ posts and photos about their struggles with anxiety and/or depression, including Kendi Everyday and designlovefest.

Perhaps most importantly, last year taught me that shame and embarrassment are completely counterproductive when trying to live with anxiety or any other mental issue. I felt ashamed that I couldn’t control my own mind, and, except with my closest friends and family, I tried to act as if nothing had changed. Things did change, will continue to change.

So, in 2014, I resolve not to let anxiety define my life, yet I will no longer deny that it’s a part of it. This is me saying goodbye to my year of fear. Good riddance.


Fast forward to now, 2016. I haven’t had a full-blown panic attack since 2013 thanks to my medication. I still have days where I feel the strange creep of an anxious fog even with it, but I’m thankful these days aren’t as often as they once were.

Now I’ll share a couple of things that have helped me in the past three years. It’s funny the things you learn about yourself when things that shouldn’t induce panic do.

  • Cut out caffeine. Seriously. I love, love, love coffee, and I’ll occasionally grab a decaf, but it is a major trigger for me. I stick with herbal teas most mornings now.
  • Switch out car audio. I used to jam out to fresh playlists every month, singing with abandon (to the chagrin of my passengers). However, given my travel-induced anxiety, I learned that trying to sing like Adele does not help me maintain normal breathing. Plus, I’ve always been very moved my music, and the emotional toll can be a little much. Thus, 90 percent of the time, I’ve got podcasts or NPR on in the car. This works for three reasons: 1. Stories provide a good distraction for me. 2. I’m not singing, thus I’m breathing in a normal-ish way. 3. Calm voices = calm(er) Lindsey.

Also, I just started therapy in January. I’m learning Cognitive Behavioral Techniques (see the fun worksheet above). My therapist is helping me see my triggers not as warnings to continue my path to freaking out, but as reminders to draw attention to needed behavioral changes or distractions. A non-judgmental outside party is super helpful, too. Sometimes I have catastrophic thought patterns so scary I don’t even want to admit them to myself for fear of jinxing my life (see plane crashes, health scares, and other simple, daily life things taken to the scary extreme). Opening up isn’t easy for me, especially with strangers, but I feel like I can admit to most of them in the safety of a therapist’s office. Plus, it’s great to have someone to unload on besides my poor family members and friends. (Love you, Mom.)

That’s the end of my update for now. I hope this helps someone else who might be struggling. Talking about mental health is so important, especially for those who may not know what their symptoms mean or who feel a shame stigma because of how their mind works. Life is weird. We have to stick together. Anxiety is still a part of my life, but, true to my resolution, it does not define it.

Farewell, Nashville

by Lindsey

You may have noticed that I haven’t written in a while, readers. (If you haven’t noticed, that’s okay, too.) Things have been busy in my neck of the woods. In early May, I applied for a job and completed two interviews. I accepted the position in June, went to my first board meeting, and found a place to live (in my new little Stars Hollow-esque town). I’m thrilled about this opportunity, but I’ll save that for another post. For the past three weeks, I’ve been finishing up things at my old job and packing up my life. Tomorrow I’m saying goodbye to a place I’ve called home for more than four years.Nashville Skyline

If you’ve ever visited Music City, you know there’s a lot to love about Nashville. It offers shopping and amenities (aside from an IKEA, but no place has it all). Culturally speaking, Cheekwood and the Frist have been treats to visit during my time here. As one might expect, the opportunities to see live music are plentiful. My favorite Nashville concerts include Death Cab for Cutie, Fiona Apple, Josh Ritter (twice!), and, the folk queen of hearts herself, Patty Griffin.

I think I might miss the food most of all, though. Next time you’re in town, grab a non-dairy latte from Crema or a cortado con leche from Eighth and Roast. Get tacos as Mas Tacos Por Favor, sushi at Peter’s Sushi and Thai (their number is saved in my phone), grits from B&C, everything at Silly Goose, and eat a Marathon veggie burger (the best I’ve ever had anywhere) and truffle fries from Burger Up. Think of me fondly as you do.

Though this has been the longest I’ve lived in one place other than my home town, I have moved several times since graduating from college. My trajectory went like this: Savannah, GA –> Greeneville, TN –> Chattanooga, TN –> Nashville, TN. It’s funny to look back and think about each place you’ve lived. I miss Savannah like an old friend. Her charm seeped in deep during my short time there. Greeneville is my hometown, so it’ll always make me feel a little claustrophobic and a lot nostalgic. Chattanooga was a pretty little bump in the road, but I’m happy to say I got a couple of wonderful friends out of that deal. Nashville was an answered prayer: a way out of a job I didn’t like and into a place already home to several friends and family members.

Of course, not everything has been biscuits and gravy. As much as it pains me, I’ve realized that now is a good time to leave. People have been slowly trickling out of my daily life since I arrived. It happens so slowly you hardly realize. First, a college roommate gets married and moves away, then a friend finishes grad school and gets a job elsewhere, and others find serious relationships and drop away into coupledom. It happens. It’s natural. Naturally, it was bound to happen to me.Lindsey with the "I Believe in Nashville" sign.

In addition, the traffic truly, truly sucks. I mean, it’s not Atlanta, but it’s still pretty bad. I started having panic attacks while living here (largely originating in said traffic). My apartment flooded in a freak pipe accident a couple of years ago. I had a live bird stuck in my apartment wall over a long weekend. The city sees lots of severe weather, though the @NashSevereWx Twitter account helps us all through.

I know I talked about the food a lot, but what I’ve come to realize in the last few weeks is that it isn’t the city of Nashville I’ll miss. You’ve heard it said that it’s the people that make a place home, but those are not empty words. Even with all the changes and people leaving, etc., that still holds true. It’s the people I hate to leave behind.

The other truth in all of this? I’m really looking forward to an exciting new job, living in the mountains, and small town traffic. Good and bad, it is difficult to leave any place one has come to call home. I’ll look forward to visiting, and I’ll take comfort in knowing I never really leave any friends behind. FaceTime is a beautiful thing.

 

 

Tough Days

by Kelsey

Greetings All — I’ve been mostly silent for the past few months due to some trying times that have left me uninspired. We all have these spells or bad days (or series of bad weeks) caused by work or personal issues or those times where you just seem to drop everything (physically or literally). You feel me?

The point is that sometimes life is rough, and it’s hard to shake it off. But here are a few tactics that I’ve found useful during tough times —

Treat Yourself Self care is important, Kids. And especially when things aren’t great, it’s totally acceptable and healthy to treat yourself. I bought myself a waffle cone after a tough day last week. I made myself cookies today because I wanted them. You can probably sense a pattern here, but not all of my treats are food. Get a massage. Let yourself get lost in a novel. Take a nap. You do you.

Exhibit A: Treating Oneself AKA: "Stacks on stacks"

Exhibit A: Treating Oneself
AKA: “Stacks on stacks”

Optimism It’s easy to let yourself wallow when you’re feeling down: listen to sad music, eat sugar, and watch other people’s perfect lives on Instagram. But don’t do it. And definitely don’t watch Breaking Bad or the Pianist. Heavy things are not what you need right now. Watch Parks and Rec. Watch Ellen. Light/optimistic/funny. Go.

Exercise I pretty much want to slap anyone that tells me this, so I completely empathize if this is your reaction. But from personal experience, exercise does make you feel better, and it does have a profound effect on your mood. I’ve started working out in the mornings before work, and it improves my day. By the time I walk into the office, I’ve already done something positive for myself. Start small.

Sleep The only thing worse than a rough patch? A rough patch while you’re also sleep deprived. Go to bed early. Get enough sleep. Things always seem better, even marginally, in the morning.

Gratefulness  Things could always be worse (Murphy’s Law, anyone?). Be grateful for what is going well. Write down anecdotes from your day. Show appreciation to those around you. Be happy with what you have in the present moment.

Focus on the Long Game You may not be where you want to be physically or emotionally/personally or professionally, etc. But focus on the long game. What can you do now to get you to where you want to be? This is not to encourage not being present, which is also important. But be proactive, make moves now. It will make you feel better. Promise. Good luck out there. High-five, Champ.

Growing Older

by Lindsey
Husk Nashville for birthdays 2014!

Birthday weekend 2014 at Husk Nashville

It’s birthday week here at the Left/Right. That’s right, our birthdays are three days apart on the calendar, Kelsey’s on the 25th (Golden birthday for sister! Yaaaaay!) and mine on the 28th. We’re celebrating together in Nashville this year with lots of great food, factory tours (Yazoo Brewery and Olive and Sinclair Chocolate), kitten visits at The Cat Shoppe, cake, and Netflix. Good times, ahoy!

I don’t know about you, but I tend to drift toward the nostalgic and turn more introspective around birthday time. I think about where I was on my best birthdays (hard to pick, but the surprise scavenger hunt in college was memorable) and worst (alone in my apartment during a tornado warning in Savannah). I consider the year I’ve spent (not terribly eventful) and how I’d like to spend the next one (making positive changes in health and career). I’m leaving my golden birthday and entering the last year of my twenties, which is scary and exciting.

Yes, I did use the word scary to describe my birthday. Like most people, I have things I wish could have accomplished by now. I worry about the future. I’m not immune to the “What am I doing with my life?!” sense of unease. However, I love birthdays. Love them. I don’t understand people that aren’t excited about them. Are you one of those people? Let me share my birthday joy with you.

I love that we celebrate growing older. Some people are uncomfortable with days where they’re the center of attention and think it’s selfish to celebrate yourself. I don’t agree. The world is a dangerous place, and you should enjoy the life you’re given and the amount of time you get to spend with the people/places/things you love. I know I may sound preachy, but so many people don’t get to grow old. Be proud of your age. Plus, you can celebrate your birthday however you want – ask for donations to charity instead of presents, sit home alone and enjoy a day of nothing, have a blowout party with everyone you know, or spend time with friends and family. It’s the attitude of, “Yay! Another year!” that is mandatory.

I also feel like I get to know myself better and (for the most part) like myself more with each passing year. I don’t mean this in a narcissistic, “I’m awesome” sort of way. Self-discovery is important. I still remember feeling not myself in middle and high school, because I didn’t yet understand who I was. Those awkward growth years are tough on everyone, as I’ve yet to meet a person that came out of the womb self-actualized and ready to live life to the fullest. It’s true that some people achieve that awareness and self-love earlier than others. Just look at those people who only ever have one career in mind. Like, you knew you wanted to be an OBGYN from birth? I don’t understand you, but congrats?

For me, it’s been a longer journey, but, as I’m the only person I’ll be with every day for my entire life, I’m glad I’m continually moving toward self-love. At 29, I’m more comfortable with who I am – the space I take up, the beliefs I hold – than ever. My industrial strength thought filter that keeps me from speaking my mind is growing weaker with each passing year. At this rate, the 70 year old me will wander around talking about nothing but politics, religion and money. It’s kind of exciting.

More than anything, I’m trying to be happy where I am in my life. I listen to people talk about how they wish they had their body from years before or they wish they’d gotten married earlier/later or their career path was gnarled and scary. Well, I’m sure we all have stuff like that. There’s no use wishing I could be young(er). I don’t have a crystal ball to let me know where I’ll end up. It’s not an easy thing to do, but I hope to practice being present in my life – my life right now, not 5 years ago or 10 years in the future.

I’ll stop babbling and end with this great bit of wisdom Kelsey found in Relevant Magazine (which can be churchy, but this is pretty universal advice). Let’s all print it off and keep it on the inspiration board above our desks as we work toward a happy, healthy year. (I’m not kidding.)

This is the thing: When you hit 28 or 30, everything begins to divide. You can see very clearly two kinds of people. On one side, people who have used their 20s to learn and grow, to find … themselves and their dreams, people who know what works and what doesn’t, who have pushed through to become real live adults. Then there’s the other kind, who are hanging onto college, or high school even, with all their might. They’ve stayed in jobs they hate, because they’re too scared to get another one. They’ve stayed with men or women who are good but not great, because they don’t want to be lonely. … they mean to develop intimate friendships, they mean to stop drinking like life is one big frat party. But they don’t do those things, so they live in an extended adolescence, no closer to adulthood than when they graduated.

Don’t be like that. Don’t get stuck. Move, travel, take a class, take a risk. There is a season for wildness and a season for settledness, and this is neither. This season is about becoming. Don’t lose yourself at happy hour, but don’t lose yourself on the corporate ladder either. Stop every once in a while and go out to coffee or climb in bed with your journal.

Ask yourself some good questions like: “Am I proud of the life I’m living? What have I tried this month? … Do the people I’m spending time with give me life, or make me feel small? Is there any brokenness in my life that’s keeping me from moving forward?”

Now is your time. Walk closely with people you love, and with people who believe life is a grand adventure. Don’t get stuck in the past, and don’t try to fast-forward yourself into a future you haven’t yet earned. Give today all the love and intensity and courage you can, and keep traveling honestly along life’s path.

True Story: I Finished the Whole30

by Lindsey

There’s a great episode of This American Life called “The Seven Things You’re Not Supposed to Talk About,” in which Sarah Koenig (yes, that Sarah Koenig #SerialForever) hosts an entire show about her mother’s rules for conversation. One of the seven forbidden topics is diet. Normally, I would agree. As annoying as I find people who constantly talk about how they aren’t eating gluten or refried beans or whatever, I hate being that person even more. I was a semi-vegetarian (no red meat; bacon got me back) for about ten years, and I was always a little uneasy when someone would offer me something I couldn’t try or I pretended to eat a pork chop at a dinner party.  I just wanted to eat what I wanted without having to explain myself or inconvenience others by trying to accommodate my choices. I take a quiet, libertarian philosophy when it comes to many things, including dietary choices.

So, with that, dear readers: leave now if you don’t want to hear about what I’ve been eating lately. I won’t blame you.  Just know that I’m writing this because 1. my blog, my choice, and 2. I’ve felt very encouraged reading the stories of others on a journey to healthier habits (especially updates from Diana of Our City Lights). If you want to stick around, I’ll share a little of why I decided to go this route, followed by things I’ve learned. Ready? Let’s go.

First things first, I love to eat. Every vacation is built around trying the local fare, including as much ice cream and as many doughnuts as I can stomach. Kelsey and I still cry about missing Salt & Straw when we were in Portland. (We tried to find it and got very lost, but that’s a story for another day.) Anyway, as you may recall from my body image post and our New Year’s resolutions list, I hit a health hurdle last year. I started a medication that helped me gain around 30 pounds in one year. Because of that, my cholesterol shot up. Yikes, right?

I’ll admit that I wasn’t too keen on trying to change my habits. First, I didn’t want to sacrifice mental health for physical health when it came to my medicine. And I was scared to switch medicines, because I’m an anxious person. It’s a vicious cycle. Then, as someone who has long struggled with body image, finally embracing who I am – curvy shape, extra pounds and all – it was hard mentally to go back to the place of needing to change something about myself. To fix my cholesterol, I needed to lose weight, but trying to lose weight felt like giving up my principles about embracing my perfectly imperfect body. In the end, I decided health means more than principles. I switched my medicine over Christmas break and decided to go for it.

Thus, armed with a medical reason and new resolve, I started the Whole30 Program. A friend mentioned this program to me last summer, and I’ll admit that I thought she was crazy. You have to give up ALL grains, dairy, legumes, added sugar and alcohol for 30 days? Ridiculous and impossible, I thought. I read some of the It Starts With Food book that explains the program, and I remained skeptical. No one is ever going to convince me that whole grains, dairy and legumes are inherently bad for me. I’m a believer in whole foods and moderation (even when I don’t quite practice what I believe…mmm…doughnuts). In the end, I chose the Whole30 because it seemed like a good, cold-turkey, jump-start to health.

I’ve now reached the end of my 30 days, and I’m really glad I chose this route. Most importantly, it showed me that I have the discipline to make real changes in my daily habits. Aside from taking communion twice (“What Would Jesus Eat?”) and eating bacon/ham with added sugar, I didn’t break protocol that I know of. That’s not to say it’s been easy. My first day of the program, my generous coworkers offered me cheesecake, a cupcake and gourmet flavored popcorn. In one day. I felt like I was going through some kind of temptation scenario with the devil, even though it was communion that broke me. Go figure.

Anywho, I’ve been thinking a lot about what I’ve learned during this month, and I thought I’d share my top seven takeaways.

  1. My favorite thing about the Whole30 is that it really made me think about what I was eating. Because I had to look for added sugars, I learned how many foods feature added sugars. Not eating whole food groups had me rethink staple, fallback meals. Fast food was off the table, thankfully. (Except for Chipotle. Until they stopped carrying carnitas. Sigh.) I hope to continue this type of thoughtful consumption over the long haul.
  2. It reignited my cooking habit. Before I moved to Nashville, I worked at a job that paid about $23,000 a year. I had to really budget, and that meant I had to cook my own meals basically all the time. Since moving, I’ve done very little cooking. I’ve gotten lazy, eating sugary cereal for dinner or grabbing a sandwich and fries on my way home. The Whole30 forced me to cook my own meals and try new recipes. My favorite meal was this salmon with roasted potatoes and broccoli. CheckCilantro Lime Salmon and Veggies out my Pinterest page for plenty of Whole30 recipes (and desserts I’m currently lusting after). Oh, and it is possible to bake brownies without licking the batter or tasting one hot out of the oven. (Cue 98 Degrees’ “The Hardest Thing.”)
  3. The Whole30 is hard, but it’s not that hard. A coworker was talking just yesterday about a “cleanse” he did for 10 days where all he “ate” was water with lemon, cayenne pepper and maple syrup. Now tell me, how is that healthy or sustainable? Detox, shmetox. I’ve been eating healthy, whole foods for 30 days. Yes, I complained about a lack of chocolate, cheese and toast, but I didn’t starve myself.
  4. I’ve always been one of those people that gets really hungry really quickly. I would have those times when I had a sugar drop and felt like I needed to eat everything in sight as quickly as possible to make up the deficit. Surprisingly, I did not experience that on this program. By eating less sugar overall, my blood and appetite felt more stable. It allowed me to think before eating and better evaluate hunger without getting to an unstable, hangry point.
  5. Trader Joe’s is heaven. Yes, it’s crowded and you’ll spend 15+ minutes looking for parking, but it is truly a lifesaver if you’re trying to eat healthy without spending your entire paycheck at Whole Foods. Some of my favorite finds included: packaged ghee (pan fry some sweet potatoes in it, and you’ll be so happy), freeze-dried fruit (amazing snack), almond butter (relatively cheap and necessary for my kind of Whole30) and coconut products (coconut cream, coconut flour, etc. etc.). Just make sure to avoid the Cookie Butter. Walk away. You can cry in the car.
  6. Though overall health is the point, I have started losing weight. Currently, I’m down about 10 pounds, which I feel like is a great start. I’ve started exercising more consistently, too. Take that, high cholesterol!
  7. I’ve seen stories about people on the Whole30 suddenly being cured of skin diseases, sleeping better, etc. I don’t doubt their good fortune, but I don’t have any drastic news to report on these fronts. For me, it would never call it a miracle program, but it is one that has helped me become a more mindful consumer. I feel good, and I’m grateful for that.
  8. A lifestyle change doesn’t stop at 30 days. If you’ve read about the program, you know there’s a food reintroduction phase. You learn how different foods affect your system, and work from there. For example, I’ll eat lots of legumes tomorrow and see what happens. Come at me peanut butter. Post putting foods back in my life/body, I’m planning to transition to a more Mediterranean/whole foods diet, which includes plenty of whole grains. Sorry, Whole30. I have to find what healthy eating means to me. Next on my reading list is Michael Pollan’s In Defense of Food and the 100 Days of Real Food blog to keep me motivated toward whole, clean eating. I’m also going to try the whole, “If you want it, you have to make it” philosophy of junk food. Want cookies? Break out the chocolate chips at home. I hope it will help me think through how much I really want to eat certain foods. Do I want it bad enough to take the time to make it? Maybe, maybe not.

The final moral of the story? I’ll see you soon, ice cream. I just won’t see you as often.

I hope some small part of this has been helpful or enlightening. Whether you choose the Whole30 or another dietary program/lifestyle change, here’s wishing you health and happiness, friends.

2015 “Resolutions”

by Kelsey (and a little Lindsey)

Happy 2015, Kittens.

Before we move on to the Resolutions, here’s the thing —

Spoiler Alert: I don’t believe in new year’s resolutions.

If one isn’t likely to begin doing something on any of the other 11 months of the year, there’s nothing about January that will solidify one’s lamentable will power. It’s just not going to happen.

Plus, now that the Christmas season is over, I am fully planning my descent into the veritable Swamp of Sadness (if you caught that reference, we could be friends) a.k.a. January by stocking up on sweatpants and discount-priced Reese’s Christmas Trees. There is nothing about January that makes me want to do anything but watch Netflix.

But that said, I am likely somewhere in the world’s 90th percentile of list-makers and Post-It users (don’t worry, I recycle). So here are some “resolutions” that I’m currently working on or have on my to-do list:

Watch Buffy the Vampire Slayer Series

Clearly we’re starting at the easy end of my list. I’ve heard great things about this series for years, and I am all about shows/films with a strong female lead. Lindsey has also been on my case to watch it. I’m almost through with the first season, and I have no regrets. It also has a surprising lineup of one-liners that make me laugh, which I wasn’t anticipating. Also, it was made in the 90s, so have some understanding in the special effects department.

Stop Comparing Myself to Strangers on the Internet (via Emily McDowell)

This print and mantra is on the top of my 1) to purchase list and 2) to do list. It’s just so true. I follow so many friends and also inspirational designers/writers/creators on Instagram/Twitter/Blogs etc., that it’s easy to be discouraged comparing what seems like my meager existence to all of these rock stars. Things are never really what they seem: STOP. IT.

Be Grateful

I am a pessimist. This is often projected as a predetermined setting, which vindicates all culpability for one’s own perspective. I don’t really think this is true, but I also know that changing something so deeply ingrained is difficult and lengthy. And although I also don’t think that all pessimists are deeply unhappy trolls of sadness, that mindset does not lend itself to one of gratefulness (or health/happiness). Thus, one of my biggest current undertakings. How to go about this? See some tips/more info at FastCompany and NYTimes.

Mindfulness Meditation

I have a meditation book on my Kindle that I’ve restarted about 3 different times throughout the past 2-3 years. I know that meditation has amazing benefits (via FastCompany), but I find it very difficult to do. That said, mindfulness meditation is again making its way to the top of my agenda. See also FastCo’s other articles for people who hate meditation here — a look at the evolution of mindfulness in modern culture here — and as a combat for anxiety here.

Reading Bedtime

Guys, screens are bad for us (she types, staring at a screen). Recently I’ve been trying to set a “reading bedtime” for myself, where one hour before I plan to go to sleep, I shut off all of my screens and read. If you have an issue with falling asleep while reading at night, I might suggest not reading in bed (check out that underutilized couch/chair instead) or go to bed earlier (9:00 PM goal for this lady). And it’s so much easier on my brain to check-out when I get home from work by watching Netflix. Largely due to this committed relationship with Netflix, my reading game is getting behind. Reading bedtime FTW.

Learn to Code

With the plethora of resources (many free) at our disposal these days, there is no excuse for not getting out there to gain some coding skills. And ladies, we’re behind.  And the benefits are many, from website building to career advancing.

Now, I’ll turn this over to Lindsey for a couple of her current goals…

Get Healthy

Yes, I realize everyone and their mom (literally) wants to lose weight, blah blah blah after the holidays. I’ve been that person. This year, however, I’m trying something new for health reasons. As I mentioned, I put on a lot of medication-related weight this year. As a result, my cholesterol isn’t the greatest. Thus, I’m starting January with the Whole30 (basically really strict paleo) challenge and an exercise routine. I’m not one to follow fad diets, but I figure a hard switch to veggies and such should help me initially lessen my junk eating habits. I turn 30 in 2016 (aaarrrrggggghhhh!), so now is a good time to get healthy for good, don’t you think?

Planner Time

I’ve been a slacker when it comes to writing down life’s moments and keeping organized. I bought my old stand-by, and I’m ready to start filling it up.

Floss

You know those people who only floss a week before the dental appointment (out of fear) and a week after (out of fresh motivation)? That’s me. I always say I’ll do better, and then lazily brush and go to sleep. Well, I’ve got a pack of those flosser stick things, and I’m ready to show plaque who’s boss.

Whatever your resolutions (or lack of), we’re hoping great things for 2015.