Archive | Self-improvement RSS feed for this section

The Marathon Recap Pt 1

23 Oct

“Is there a wait for a table for 5?”

“Not for a marathon girl.”

I glanced down at the medal around my neck. Marathon girl. Me.

Even now, over a week later, I am still amazed by the fact that I did it. I ran an actual, full, freaking marathon. I can call myself a marathoner. Whoa. You may have noticed that I haven’t been blogging for ages and ages. Life is super busy when you’re training for a marathon, working full time,  in grad school, and completing a residency. Life is still as busy as ever, even with the marathon over, but I hope to blog more than I have been lately. I digress…

It all started with a post from Liz at One Twenty Five about running a marathon, specifically the Chicago Marathon. I’ve been following Liz for a while now – seeing her adventures, following her running story. This marathon, by the way, was her 4th full one. Color me impressed! I had been so in awe of her dedication and accomplishments with her previous marathons. In fact, my New Year’s Resolution for 2012 was to run a half marathon. At the time, 13.1 miles might as well have been to the moon, it seemed sooo far. And then around February of that year, I was laid off. And let me tell you something, having no schedule, no job, no actual reason to change out of pj’s in the morning, made for one reeediculously lazy me. And despite having all the time in the world to train, somehow that 13.1 mile race never did happen. I should have tackled that goal with no pesky schedule to get in my way. I know, I know, turns out, I’m a little insane. Eventually, I was hired, and got out of my slump. Despite not loving my current job, and complaining about a lack of free time, re-hashing my unemployment experience is a good reminder for me that I do seem to thrive on schedules.

Reading the post about running the Chicago Marathon lit a fire under me. I decided to sign up. I remember sitting at my desk at work, feeling a nervous excitement, texting Kris, emailing my mom, and then really deciding. I still had a month or so before the registration opened, but I knew I was going to do it. And come Feb 19 I was ready at 12pm CST to actually sign up. And then I couldn’t. And couldn’t. And couldn’t. Turns out, this year so many people wanted to sign up for the marathon that the server crashed. I was so anxious about actually getting signed up. How sad to decide to commit to something so huge, and then not be able to simply because I couldn’t sign up. After a call to my mom she was able to put me through with her iPad…twice. Luckily it wasn’t too difficult to get the duplicate entry’s refund back. I was just thrilled to actually get in.

After a few hours, Marathon officials opted to close the registration. Those like myself lucky enough to get in were in. Whew! But there were several thousand who found themselves without a registration. The reminaing 15,000 entries were handled on a lottery system. Unforuntately, not everyone interested in the marathon was able to get a registration. Chicago, up until now, was the only World Marathon in the United States to have registration on a first come, first serve basis. This very well may change next year, and who knows how they’ll arrange it. For me, not having to have a “qualifying time” was one of the appeals of this particular marathon. From registration, my only goal was to finish in time to be counted. From what I understand, many marathons have a cut off time of 5 hours and 30 minutes. Chicago’s is 6 hours and 30 minutes which totally benefits pokey people such as myself. That being said, I simply wanted to be able to count. To run this thing in under 6 hours and 30 minutes. To many  probably all marathon runners, that is practically running at a snail’s pace, but still, for me, it seemed like a big challenge.

This book helped me a lot. It added humor to this giant feat I placed in front of myself. I mean, just look at the cover. Hilarious. It called to me. I also joined a marathon training clinic through a store called The Running Room. It’s a Canadian company, but there are a few stores in the twin cities and one in West Des Moines for all my Iowa friends!

The 16 week training program put me with a small group of runners who all were better and more experienced than me. I had never even done a half! I remember being sooo nervous at work before the evening of my first session. What was I doing? I signed up for a MARATHON? Holy shitballs. It got super real that day. And here, for your viewing pleasure, is a lovely picture of myself after that day’s first run. Which was, ahem, only 3.5 miles. It was a HARD 3.5 miles, and at that point I knew I was in for a lot, a lot, a lot of work.

RR1

Week after week we had sessions from everything from nutrition to injury prevention, each session concluding with a run. Being the slowest member of the group could be really disheartening at times. At one point I almost quit the group, vowing to continue on my own. Fortunately, I came to my senses and did not quit. As difficult as it could be sometimes, I was conditioned to push myself. It can be easy to back off on runs when alone.

Another huge challenge I faced was what was diagnosed as neuroma, which is honestly just a compressed nerve that made my feet numb when I ran. Running with numb feet was so discouraging. Being aware of every step, the tingling, sometimes painful throb on the pavement. I ended up getting (holy, expensive!) custom orthotics, which are these solid inserts that fit into my running shoes. They keep my feet stable, which prevents the nerve from getting compressed. These took some serious getting used to. Because on the one hand, while they keep my feet stable, the transition to running without your foot being able to move was quite painful. After some time, this did get better, but especially on my long runs, I would come home with achy, sometimes bruised, feet.

Photos from Running

Leading up to the marathon, I was so anxious. How would it go? The worst part for me was feeling like I didn’t have a sense of how the day would go. I was filled with a mix of dread and excitement leading up to Chicago, and though I feel as though I didn’t train as much as I needed to, given my schedule, I was as ready as I was going to be.

The Internet & Me: Why I Need to Participate Less

16 Jul

Like almost any human being on the planet these days, I don’t know what I would do without the internet. There is so much awesome stuff I wouldn’t know, so many wonderful things I wouldn’t have seen. This doesn’t mean I’ve learned anything of value -far from it -but good golly Miss Molly, I have been entertained by this medium beyond comprehension. I am information-addicted, and when my web browser has ten tabs open, it actually means that I need to find more SNL videos/NPR Code Switch articles/meaningless Top 10 lists to fill it up with. I can’t help but feel enriched when I can watch a special about Titanoboa from the comfort of my bed. However, I also can’t help but feel a bit old when my Internet reference-laden vocabulary is unfamiliar to those younger than me. The other day I started talking like the Teen Girl Squad, and called something a betch, and my four years younger roommate had no idea what I was talking about. It’s devastating when the viral videos and memes of yesteryear are abandoned for something like twerking (<–not linked for a reason).

Though I love the internet, and it loves me, there are some ways that I interact with it that need to stop. I mean make like Joey Gladstone and Cut. *Scissors* It. *Index Finger* Out *Backwards Thumb*. Why, whhhhyyyyyy do I still bother to read the comments on articles –and why do I comment on them?? Comments are for trolls and people who have developed an opinion off of one badly researched CNN article. It never gives me any satisfaction or any feeling that I’ve actually contributed something to an actual conversation.

Since I haven’t yet stopped commenting on articles, the universe gave me a reason to just yesterday. I had of course commented on the soon-to-be Pulitzer winning Rolling Stone article, “The Dumbest Band Names of All Time.” Don’t ask me why I still read stuff on Rolling Stone. It used to be my dream job to work for them, and now they are basically one notch above Buzzfeed in terms of quality. Still, I shared my opinion, which I’m sure the world was waiting with bated breath for:

A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius

A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius

I had completely forgotten about making the comment, as one tends to forget about trivial, meaningless things, until I got an e-mail saying that someone had replied to my post. Since I hadn’t put up anything polarizing or inflammatory, I couldn’t guess why someone would actually want to interact with my milquetoast observations. This is what I got:

Idiot Stick

OH MY STARS –someone find me this adorable little devil stat so I can marry him and carry his child. Not to mention the fact that he is about as witty as they come. But seriously folks, I really need to stop doing this kind of thing. Especially on Twitter . . .

I have had a Twitter account for approximately three years. I’ve maybe posted something on an average of perhaps one post per three months, if that. Honestly, I think Twitter is a sack of garbage most of the time, except for stuff from seriously funny comedians like Mindy Kaling who are putting up solid gold pretty much constantly. Somehow I was hired as a social media guru this past year without letting on about my grumpy, grad school grandma distaste for tweeting. The only reason I took to my Twitter this past weekend was because of the ruling in the George Zimmerman case. I got home late Saturday night, and made the mistake of checking the news before I went to bed. Big mistake. Huge. I found myself feeling incredibly angry and worked up over the whole thing, which is not good, because that’s definitely when my foot-to-mouth syndrome comes into play. I went on Facebook and was about to post something angry about privilege and being very, very anti-gun and anti-violence, when I suddenly knew what would happen: my dear mother would ask me about it later on the phone, and would tell me that it was very immature for someone my age to let spew on Facebook. I knew she would be right. So I took to Twitter instead.

When I got there though, I was like an unstoppable machine. I somehow thought that because I don’t think Twitter matters, everyone else doesn’t either, which is so very wrong, especially when it comes to future employment. I put up my post, but was of course then prompted to see what other people were saying about the whole ordeal. Why did I do that? Naturally, the first neanderthal I saw who had said something betraying his ignorance, racism, sexism, I felt the need to pounce. Though I want to maintain calm and have conversations that actually get us somewhere, I have to admit that if I see or hear someone saying something ignorant (*cough*Ann Coulter*cough*), a very small (narrow-minded and size-based definitions) vengeful part of me wants to throw a rabid animal in their face. However, instead of chucking a salivating raccoon at this guy, this “conversation” ensued:

Twitter Fucker

I’m sure the world is a better place for this exchange (please note my deep sarcasm here). This went on for a couple more posts, but here’s the takeaway: I wasn’t going to make this guy a better person, mostly because I don’t think this kid had IQ enough to understand my 140 character messages. Yes, that’s me bashing him again, but what was I going to achieve? I had no chance at all. Ultimately, I had to just quit and try to go to sleep, which didn’t happen because I was still, of course, angry. I think I had to find a YouTube video of soothing nature sounds to get there.

All in all, I really need to disconnect more (she writes as she types on her blog). I went home for a visit about a month ago, and since I don’t have a smart phone and my parents’ internet service is somehow worse than the service I get from Comcast, I just went offline for over a week. It was actually incredibly easy and wonderful. I couldn’t bear to do it constantly, but it is doable. I also think I should make you a promise: I do so solemnly swear to stay away from article comments, social media rants, and anything that might lead to an awkward situation in any future interview. I’m making it sound like a freak out online on the regs, but I promise that this is not the case. I think it will pay to be overly cautious.

In closing, I would like to share with you one of my favorite things that the internet has produced: cheap scam ads. You know the ones. They have some ridiculous message next to a picture that in no way connects to said message? I’ve amassed a pretty great collection. Have a looksee:

Baby Mortgage Hate

Baby Mortgage Hate

Ever been arrested -for over-plucking?

Ever been arrested -for over-plucking?

He better hurry up and buy.

He better hurry up and buy.

Or it will turn into delicious banana bread dough.

Or it will turn into delicious banana bread dough.

So many ridiculously easy tricks, that he forgot the simple idea of not going out in a cartoon thunderstorm

So many ridiculously easy tricks, that he forgot the simple idea of not going out in a cartoon thunderstorm

Osmosis linguistics!

Osmosis linguistics!

If you are, you better put this thing on so you don't wake up your significant other in the meantime.

If you are, in the meantime you better put this thing on so you don’t wake up your significant other.

More like "Woman Looks Covered in Spray Cheese."

More like “Woman Looks Covered in Spray Cheese.”

Oh man guys, you have no idea how long I’ve been holding on to some of those. No seriously, it’s kind of embarrassing. I only want what’s best for you internet . . .

If Only They Paid Me To Do This

29 May

And speaking of “Moving Forward,” it’s been two weeks since I graduated with my master’s (yay!) and two weeks since reality hit me like a ton of bricks (the pain …). I’m in that wonderful little world right now where I’m trying to get the career that I want, but some steps still lay ahead. I want to get my teaching license and take some certifying classes so I can become a literacy specialist, but that’s still a little way off. Right now I’m trying not to think about the nitty gritty too much, otherwise I’ll just start randomly screaming. What I’m trying to think about is all the awesome things I can do now that I don’t have to read things I don’t particularly want to read, and write stuff that is, I’m sorry to say, mostly pointless.

One thing I’ve been reminded of is how much I like having projects, and how much my constant homework load was preventing me from doing many of the things I enjoy. One project I finished just today is for my future nephew (due September 8th! -that’s JTT’s birthday . . . and the Virgin Mary’s, purportedly). His name is going to be Nolan, and I was curious as to whether the name had any cool meanings. It turns out the name means “noble” or “noble one,” and I wanted to somehow incorporate that into a homemade gift. I wanted to use the book Where the Wild Things Are too, since it’s obviously the greatest, and there is also a picture in the book that fits well with the “noble” theme. Observe:

Nolan: Noble One

Nolan: Noble One

I know. Freaking cute, right? I bought a used copy of the book and took out some pictures, and I plan to give a new copy of the book as part of the gift. Here are the rest of the photos I did, and one grouping of them all. I think they would look the best hanging up, but they look cute in a cluster too.

Beginning the rumpus

“and the walls became the world all around”

Mischievous

Mischievous

IMG_3515

Just right for a surely adventurous boy

Just right for a boy who will surely be adventurous

I hope that these will be a mainstay in his room for a while. Amazing what a little bargain hunting for frames, spray paint, and determination can do.

Something Kenz and I may have mentioned in this little blog is our hobby of reading/making fun of/parodying romance novels. This began several summers ago (it would make me feel too old to say how many) when Kenz and I were living in Chicago for a summer during college. The train station in the suburb where my parents lived had a “Take a Book, Leave a Book” shelf that was mostly populated with cheap smut, so we naturally took the opportunity to give ourselves a good laugh. And laugh we did –maybe too much for the liking of other train passengers, but thus, a tradition was born. We ended up reading at least four of these “novels” that summer (cut us some slack –we were poor college kids looking for entertainment). At one point we even got the idea to write one for ourselves, because really, how hard could it be? Sadly, we only got so far as to name the characters (obviously over-wrought, non-real people names), pick the setting (the Australian outback!), and decide on a body part to fetishize (seriously, this is something that these books always seem to do). One way the tradition has continued is by Kenz sending me these amazing postcards that feature the covers of romance novels, which can often be the best part of the book, if you ask me. Here are some of the postcards I’ve received so far:

Speech Bubble No. 1: "I stare because I have no thoughts." No. 2: "Wake up, you iiiideot!" No. 3: "I stop cats with my hand!"

Speech Bubble No. 1: “I stare because I have no thoughts.” No. 2: “Wake up, you iiiideot!” No. 3: “I stop cats with my hand!”

The Classic Overswoon -He's just kissing your cheek, for God's sake

The Classic Overswoon -He’s just kissing your cheek, for God’s sake

You might not see it, but there is totally a voyeuristic posse of creeps on the ridge behind them

You might not see it, but there is totally a voyeuristic posse of creeps on the ridge behind them

Romance cover, or PSA for avoiding electrocution?

Romance cover, or PSA for avoiding electrocution?

The bangs. Dear Lord, the bangs!

The bangs. Dear Lord, the bangs!

I of course treasure these postcards with all my heart. Our hobby has become well-known to many of our friends, who think we’re insane, but love us anyway. One of them must have given me a romance novel as a joke at some point, because as I was cleaning out my overcrowded bookshelves, I came across this:

Wow. What a "deep" title.

Wow. What a “deep” title.

I don’t remember who had the fabulous idea to give this to me, but I’m thrilled that they did, because it has provided me the opportunity to take the hobby further. After reading literary theory for the last two years, this book has been a welcome reprieve, but I haven’t stopped my habit of writing in the margins. However, this tendency has made this book one of the most fun projects I’ve had in some time. I write commentary about the characters and the horrendous writing, correct grammar errors, play Mad Libs with the most erotic scenes, and generally just make the book approximately 110% better. The book centers on the characters Rhea and Gustavo (*snicker*) who meet on a plane to Brazil. Gustavo is from Rio, and Rhea is a photographer for a swanky magazine -something you cannot tell from the cover, since the models look like PDA-loving parents at a high school football game in Anywhere, USA. Once I am finished with it I will send it to Kenz, who mayhaps will write a review of the whole experience of reading it? Perchance? 🙂

By far the best thing so far about being done with school is being able to go up to my boyfriend’s cabin in Northern Colorado and not having to read one thing (except, of course, when I would sit in the rocking chair on the porch and giggle while making notes in Everlasting Moments). This past weekend was the first time I’d experienced that area during the summer, and it was wonderfully picturesque.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The reason the bf decided to build a cabin there was to have access to the many private lakes. He loves to fish, and I really like it too, so it was pretty amazing when we got to devote an entire day to just fishing, napping, and attending some Memorial Day parties. He started to teach me how to fly fish, which I’m not terrible at, but I am a whiz at getting basically any fishing pole to tangle horrifically at least once before an hour of use. Luckily, he’s very patient.

Adorable fisherman

Adorable fisherman

We ended up catching quite a few. Unfortunately, we didn’t think ahead very well for taking the fish back that we kept, so we ended up transporting one of the fish I caught, Todd, back to the cabin via plastic packaging for some air filters, and another one, Ted, via the top of a (new, clean) garbage can that sat on my lap. The bf loves to fish, but sadly, doesn’t particularly like eating the fishies, so we’ve been trying to come up with ways to make them more palatable. We hadn’t thought to bring up any of the makings of a good fish batter, so we ended up eating them straight off the grill. More accurately, I ate about 3/4 of them, and the bf tried valiantly to eat a few bites before switching to sweet corn as most of his meal. We’ll do better next time.

Todd

Todd

The next several months are going to be weird, interesting, and probably a bit of a roller coaster as I try to successfully move forward with being a post-school adult, but I am ecstatic about having time to write, read, take photos, and generally have my goofy hobbies again. Sweet freedom!

144 Days

22 May

I’m giving these next 144 days some serious side eye. Why is that? Oh, you know, just this little thing called The Chicago Marathon. My training really began this month, well at least the most consistent training since I signed up. Some days I feel so excited and other days I wonder what the f*#! I was thinking to sign up. Because 26.2 miles is a lot. A lot. A lot. I don’t think my trepidation is going to go away until I cross that finish line.

I’ve been nervous as well because for the past couple years, I’ve noticed this slight problem that when I run, only after about 2 miles, my foot (or feet!) fall dead asleep. My whole foot is filled with a tingly, yet numb sensation with every step. It’s getting to the point that it’s really un-ignorable and is effecting my training. I’ve gone on to all kinds of online forums and have read that I need to loosen my laces. Weeellll… that trick is not so much working out. So on Tuesday it’s on to my first ever podiatry appointment where I’m sure the doctor will be quick to point out all my genetic flaws – wide feet, high arches, second toe longer than my big toe, probably getting bunions. I’m afraid by this time next week, I’ll be walking around in nude color grandma orthopedics. Sad. But if I want to keep up this training, keeping this appointment is an absolute must. I can only hope and pray that this problem is fixable and non-costly. I really hope.

In some of my training material, I read that I need to have one super, amazing, purposeful reason for training for a marathon. It has to even be better than “I told everyone I’m doing it and how embarrassing for me if I quit!” So I’ve been thinking and thinking on it. What is going to push me to continue when my whole body hurts, when I have to spend a precious day off on a long run instead of horizontal on my BFF, Mr. Couch? What will be my reason? I think back to 12-13 year old me. I didn’t feel very good about myself at that age. Not good at all. I felt out of place and awkward (well, because I was). I don’t think I had enough self worth to believe in myself enough to accomplish a goal this huge. And now I do, or at least I’m trying like hell. I need to prove to myself that even though I can’t get everything in my life perfect, this I can do. This I can do. And 12-13 year old me would be amazed, utterly amazed, at me now. This one is for her and all the rest who don’t feel good enough. You are.

So that’s my reason. There will be ups and downs, sore muscles, tears, and praying. So pending some disastrous podiatry news next week, I’ll see you in Chicago on Oct 13 laces tied (not too tightly) ready to run.

Age Appropriate

3 Apr

Going off of the theme of Kenz’s last post, being in your late 20’s as well as your early 30’s forces a lot of realizations about yourself, your family, your friends, and just the world in general upon you. It’s only natural that people in this age range feel overwhelmed, and I will fully admit that this feeling is coming a little late for our generation. I think the generations before us probably had to make these adult realizations at a younger age than we do now, but for better or for worse, we have been given a bit more carefree time. When I was a kid, I was naturally terrified of growing up since the thought of not having my parents to do everything for me was traumatic. Of course, I grew out of that stage (probably early for my generation) and now I’ve reached the point where the excitement of taking care of myself and making my own choices is SO ten years ago (I was a very independent 17-year-old). Now as a 27-year-old, I can say proudly that I’ve proven myself to be mostly an adult, but there are still some immature things that I absolutely cling to that have been particularly hard to shake. I’ve also noted some other habits of people in my peer group that have made me realize that there are some things that are essential to grow out of. Of course, not every immature thing is something to grow out of -but don’t worry, I’ll get to those too. So here is a general list of things I believe that me and my fellow late-20-somethings and early-30-somethings should try to achieve to earn our adult merit badges.

Create Mature Facial Expressions
I know how weird that sounds, but I seriously have a problem with my expression sometimes. It was really bad when I was in my teens and was a bit more introverted (I had a lot of personality waiting to come out, and sometimes it came to the surface). These days I notice it the most when I’m at my computer at work. My face twitches and responds to everything I write and read, and people must think I’m insane. I’m very grateful that I currently have a desk at one job that faces away from most other people in the office, and at the other job I’m in a side room facing away from the hallway. Last week put this habit into harsh perspective since I was using a different desk and more people could see me. I swear my face was squinched in some unnatural and Picasso-esque way pretty much 90% of the time. I had to constantly look around to make sure no one was staring. Maybe everyone does this, and they’re too busy worrying about their own face to notice everyone else. Either way, I’ve really got to stop since I just caught myself bobbing my head in agreement to myself as I wrote this.

Say Words Clearly Even If You Hate Them
Truthfully, I am mostly having this problem with one word -“boyfriend.” I hated that word when I was single and, let me tell you, I like it even less now. When people ask me what I did over the weekend and it involves the boy I’m seeing, I find myself telling a story about how me and my “befren” went on a hike or we had another failed attempt at getting him to like fish. Maybe I just don’t want to sound like one of those people who are always talking about their significant other all the time. I feel like when I say “boyfriend” I should be twirling my hair on my finger and saying the word like this: booooyfriend! We hold hands and everything! I’ve obviously just been single for a long time and need to get over it, but I’m really having a tough time with this one. If anyone else feels the same way, I completely sympathize. I wish instead of “boyfriend” I could substitute some less fluffy sounding word like “chug,” or something Seussian like “sneetch.”

Don’t Get Nostalgic All the Time
Yes, I know how fun nostalgia can be, but if I see one more Buzzfeed article about foods from the ’90s you can’t buy anymore, I’m going to throw Gak in someone’s face (because you can buy that again now!). It’s fun to reminisce, but I feel like that whole trend has gone way, way, waaaaay overboard. I think it goes back to what I said above: our generation is leery to grow up, and we want to keep pretending to party like it’s 1999. I’m sorry folks, but it’s not. Even Prince would tell you so. There are plenty of good, fun things going on now that you can get nostalgic about when you’re off at some raisin ranch eating liquified foods with the caregiver who wipes your bum for you. I don’t want to remember 2013 as the year I constantly remembered how obsessed everyone was with Titanic in 1997.

Know When To Talk, and When To Keep Your Mouth Shut
I will be the first to admit that I am a fast-talking, outspoken person. I have many things that I believe in, and there are many things (and people) in this world that I find stupid, worthless, ignorant, and just plain trashy. Do I need to call those things out all of the time? Trust me, I often want to, but what good will it do? This is the question I have begun to ask myself before voicing my opinion on something. If I am going to be hurting my cause by opening my mouth (or potentially starting an argument with someone I care about), I keep it shut. If I have valuable information to pass on in a well thought out and constructive way, by all means, I go for it. I don’t want people to disregard my ideas because I spout off at every turn. Not that I’ve done this many times, but I’ve experienced saying something that I really shouldn’t have. No fun at all, folks. No fun. It only made me more hesitant to speak out when it really mattered. I suggest everyone edit themselves in their daily conversations, e-mails, and especially social media postings (you know who you are). I won’t say “quality over quantity” here; speak as much as you want, but the quality is important. Gone are the days when you can just shout whatever is on your mind at any time you want. You’re not in a freshman year liberal arts class anymore.

Don’t Believe All of the Junk You Hear
If there’s one thing that we’ve learned in the age of the internet, it’s that there is a lot of blatantly false information flying around. We all pride ourselves on our ability to throw the BS flag, but honestly, I’ve seen far too many very smart people repeat information or share an article that even the tiniest amount of Googling would discredit. Remember how we all hate stupid people? Well you’re making them stupider. Those dullards will believe anything -especially if you have a reputation for being intelligent (NOTE: Please don’t try to make a zombie mob with this tactic.) But this believing of just anything isn’t limited to the internet. Sometimes you hear something about a friend of a friend from another friend, but this information turns out to be false. Maybe you’ve spread that information. Maybe that information was about a co-worker, and you are about to be fired. I’m just sayin’. The stakes are higher when you’re older, and we have to be even more aware of the consequences. Having worked at an institution that was absolutely riddled with gossip and whispers, I can tell you now that, even if the information is partially true, spreading it is a great way to get people to hate you.

Don’t Get Annoyed At Everything
There are a lot of annoying things in this world. And yes, sometimes they need to be acknowledged. However, we shouldn’t always be looking for situations that we can complain about, or finding people to be superior to. I’ve owned up to my own superiority complex, and I still find myself rolling my eyes at the ineptitude of others, but I have begun to check myself at just what I get annoyed at. Take for example the other day on the bus (I find my attitude gets about 150% worse on buses). When I boarded, the driver had some very fuzzy radio station on at a decibel that would have been uncomfortable even for Helen Keller. I found myself sitting and stewing about what an idiot the driver was to not realize how uncomfortable he was making the riding experience. A few minutes in though, I checked myself and decided to let it go. I had an iPod after all, and my ride never lasts over 10 minutes. Certainly not something I should let affect my mood. And knowing my face, I’m sure my annoyance was out for everyone to read. No one likes a sour puss. However, I do find that I can correct many annoying situations with staring. Undergrad in the library with music on too loud? I stare. Someone talking too loud in a public space? I stare. People whose kids are being allowed to run crazy and wreck the world while I’m trying to enjoy a meal? I stare. It may not work all the time, but I just can’t let everyone get away with this shit. They must be stopped.

Say “No”
Some people have always been good at doing only what they want and need to do. I have not ever been one of those people. I like helping people, and helping is something I want to do, but it took me a very long time to stop feeling like I needed to bend over backwards for everyone. I wanted to be the person who got stuff done and who people could rely on. It took about 25 years to realize that I could still be relied on to get important things accomplished without being stepped on or used by opportunistic folks. Ultimately, saying no to something you really don’t want to do shows self-respect and honesty. If you say “yes” too often people will either suspect you just like everything, or that you’re just a pushover. I doubt you’re a pushover, so stop it.

Be Done With Drama
Let’s play a game. I had a friend tell me that she was at a party where a few peers of ours were intoxicated and hanging out. Two of these peers were in a relationship, but were having trouble. The friend of one of these peers started hitting on their friend’s significant other. One half of that couple started screaming, freaking out, and carrying on, ending the party with tears, vomiting, and general unhappiness. This situation occurred A) When I was in high school. B) When I was in college. C) Just after college. D) Two weeks ago. If you guessed D, go get yourself an Oreo and commence feeling sad about the state of “adulthood.” Granted, two of these peers have just finished college, and one has been a graduate student for many years. Still, the behavior in this scenario is just generally unacceptable, even for just after college. Stop being that girl. Stop being that boy. Be a woman, and be a man, for crying out loud.

Don’t Find Yourself In These Places
If you’re in your late 20s, you are free to be anywhere. HOWEVER, there are some places you just shouldn’t be. Just . . .no. One of these places is a bar that has a reputation for catering to the cougar/older creeper crowd. You aren’t 21 anymore, but you certainly aren’t a 50-something divorcee. You also shouldn’t be at any bar where 21-year-olds are braving creepers more in their age-range to get a specialty shot that anyone with seasoned drinking habits wouldn’t drink for all of the microbrews in Colorado (and there are a ton!). As far as clothing, I shouldn’t catch you at Sears/Coldwater Creek or at Vanity (or Hot Topic, or Wet Seal, or Maurices). Oh, is my snob showing? Trust me, I don’t have much money, but I can be thrifty and still look better than I did in high school. Kenz could show you too. (Look for that future blog post!) And as for concerts, I would like to prevent you from attending anyone in the Taylor Swift/Carly Rae Jepsen/Miley Cyrus family, but I can only go so far. I know you’ll do it anyway, just like you drank in high school even when you told you told your parents you didn’t. I promise I’ll still love you, kind of.

Just Have Some Confidence Already!
I am very fortunate to know many cool people whose coolness partially comes from the fact that they don’t give a flying fudge if people think they are cool or not. Part of the beauty of this age is that all of the things that you might have been insecure about when you were younger are now probably traits you would never give up. In my experience, some of my favorite things about me were what made me an oddball in high school and slightly beyond. However, I am always amazed to find people who are still worried about how “cool” they come off to others. It is a widely known fact that worrying about your coolness is the least cool thing you can possibly do (see: every movie ever where the dumb sidekick friend cares too much). Everyone since you were a kid has told you to “be yourself,” and it’s actually really great advice because you are bound to feel awkward and out of place at some time during your life (if you haven’t, I just don’t understand you). As long as you are being yourself, you are not being a fake, a follower, or just a goon. And trust me, all of those things are worse than being uncool. Self-Respect: Just Do It. (Sorry to get nostalgic there with that ’90s Nike tagline).

In general, I have compiled this list to help you feel confident in your role as an adult, but truthfully, it is also to help you successfully blend into the adult world. Most of these habits or tendencies I’ve listed are worth shedding anyway, but there are some things you should never, ever stop doing. However, you might have to acquire some extra skills and finesse to maintain them. Never fear though, I am the master of maintaining the habits that some adults consider “juvenile” (or as I call them, fun).

Don’t Give Up Your Snark, Get Better At Hiding It
I know how it feels to have a witty comment or hilarious thought, but not be able share it because of my environs or the people I am with. It’s absolute agony to have your genius go unnoticed. So what do you do? Well, why do you think any number of electronic communication gadgets have been invented? Text a friend, e-mail them (NOT on work e-mail!!), keep a running list of scenarios and your reactions to them, start a semi-anonymous blog . . . Anything that gives you that gratification, but doesn’t put you in a bad position with the people in your life or your job is just fine. You certainly shouldn’t chastise yourself for having these thoughts. Celebrate your snark! What would the world be without it?

Maintain Your Hobbies, Loves & Guilty Pleasures
I know that sometimes the tendency for people to be nostalgic stems from the fact that they yearn for a time when they were free and encouraged to do all of the things they loved (college, anyone?). However, in the midst of graduate school, new jobs, bad jobs, evolving careers, new relationships, and more responsibilities, you really should prioritize doing what you like. There’s no downer feeling like when someone asks you what you’ve been up to, and all you can say is that you’ve been in a rotation of school, work, etc. Isn’t that the lifestyle we always said we would avoid? Don’t make excuses. If you really like something, you’ll find a way to do it, and you’ll be happier for it. And let yourself have those guilty pleasures too. I know I gave some of you Taylor Swift/Miley/Carly fans a hard time back there, but if it makes you happy, you have my consent. I will always have my Presidents of the United States of America CD to rock to (Kick out the jams!!) In a crappy economy, and in a time when the plans that you had made may be starting to take another direction, this is where you have control, and it can make you very happy. You may not always make your money doing exactly what you love, but as long as you’re doing it, you have made yourself accountable for your own happiness.

Doing Voices
So maybe doing impressions and accents isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but it’s definitely mine. As long as you’re not offending anyone by being sexist, racist, etc, it can be a fun way to lighten moods and give people a laugh. Back in my old job as an advertising representative, I really solidified my relationship with one of my co-workers by doing a Yogi Bear impression (I think he was mostly happy that I even knew who Yogi Bear was, but still). Even if it’s not doing voices, let yourself be funny -it makes things a lot more interesting and enjoyable. Don’t be the office stiff.

Be Open To Others
While it is harder to make friends once you get out of college, it is not impossible. Since college, I have made several friends who I absolutely love. There have also been some people who I hung out with, but later found to be not the best. Ain’t no thang. Unlike the school environment when you might constantly come in contact with these people, in the real world, you have more say about who you want in your life. It’s a good policy to always be kind, but don’t put up with people you don’t like because you think you have to. Most people have their group of friends who will always be there for them, but you should never see yourself as being “set” on friends. You don’t have to like everyone, but you never know who you might miss out on if you don’t open yourself to the people around you.

Goof Off
Some of these other categories could generally be put under this header, but I feel like I need to emphasize it. Never. Stop. Goofing. Off. Think of how much better the world would be if everyone were a little less serious. Even with my personality I find myself acting way too serious for no apparent reason. At that point, I have to ask myself what’s up my rear end, and find a way to stop it (stop being up my rear end? Don’t read too much into that). Again, don’t go getting yourself in trouble at work and blaming me, but find ways to make your environment better, or at least more tolerable. You should also goof off in big ways, like planning a weekend trip on the fly, throwing a random costume party not on Halloween, have a Pee-Wee Herman-themed movie night. Whatever you’re planning on doing, make it less mundane with a touch that will make it more memorable and more enjoyable.

In closing, you are no longer the responsibility-less spring chicken you were a few years ago, but you aren’t dead yet. Our life expectancies keep getting longer and longer; do you really want to spend 75% of your life being lame? If there’s one thing you should take away from this, it is that you should never use the “old and lame” excuse. If you’re telling your friends about how old and lame you are, and you’re not even old enough to legally be president, it’s your own damn fault. WAKE UP! You’re still in the prime of your life.

Some Hatin’ on Datin’

20 Jan

I am a romantic.  I feel like I should tell you this off the bat because the experiences I am about to share with you would leave most people assuming that I am a cynical old hag.  No indeed.  Not only am I a true believer in romance, but I find it quite amazing that, despite my nightmarish dating experiences, I continue to press on with this wide-eyed outlook.  However, my attitude does come with with an artillery of self-defense to ward off the goobers, emotionally-unavailable hipsters, self-proclaimed “asses”, and most of all, any personal feelings of unworthiness.  They are the enemy.

To put you in the right mindset, I have to tell you the story of the first time I was asked out by a boy.  I was 11, and I was working at a middle school wrestling tournament that my school hosted.  My job was to use a rolled up towel, held together by some duct tape, to slap the back of the ref when time had run out in the match.  In this case, the ref was my dad, and I was having a gay old time running over and smacking him across the back as hard as I could.  Good fun.  This merriment was considerably quelled when I was approached by a boy from another school as I was standing to the side of the mat.  He was a wrestler, so you can imagine the embarrassing view I was getting of him in his very tight singlet.  Our conversation went like this:  Him: Be my girlfriend?  Me: No, thanks.  And that was that.  The best parts of this encounter were not only his blush-inducing singlet package, but also the fact that he hadn’t even taken out his mouth guard to ask me out, and that my father (who was on a break) had witnessed the whole thing.  These themes of discomfort and general awkwardness are what has permeated my dating life since the beginning.

I got into dating a bit later than everyone else in my age group.  My mother had taught me that I should just be friends with everybody, and that having a boyfriend wasn’t important while I was still so young.  I took this a little more to heart than I should have, because I pretty much shunned all dating until I was 17.  Not that I didn’t have crushes on people, oh no, I crushed with the best of them.  I fell for the smart boys, the class presidents, the runners, the guys who were good at music -I was into the cool nerd from Day 1.   However, my response to being asked out by any of these types was something less akin to enthusiasm and more like a schoolmarm’s light scolding, “You’re really nice, Adam, but I don’t think we should go out since we probably won’t get married.”  Yep.  That was always my reason.  And while it wasn’t entirely incorrect, I’m sure I wounded some pride and did zero for my popularity with the boys I liked.  This attitude paired with my reaction to the one time a boy called me to tell me I was hot (hanging up on him and running to my room crying) made me something of a dating pariah.

When I began my very first relationship at 17, I was astoundingly ill-equipped to deal with not only having feelings for someone, but them actually having feelings for me.  I didn’t have the faintest idea of how to make a relationship work (but then, what 17-year-old does?).  However, despite having to go long-distance most of the time, this first relationship lasted two years and I was the supreme of first-love bliss.  My boyfriend was kind, loved to surprise me with romantic gestures without reason, and was actually a big fan of all of my quirks.  I have to give teenage-him a long distance shout out for giving me the confidence in romance that I still maintain.  I also want to shake him violently for giving me very high expectations for every other guy I’ve dated.

I know what you’re thinking.  “Ali, if he was so great, why didn’t you stay with him?”  I’m glad you asked, because this brings up another theme in my dating life: awkward last words.  Now when I say “last words”, I don’t mean the last thing someone says to you, I’m talking about that dealbreaking phrase that comes out of their mouth and annihilates your future with them in a matter of seconds.  For my first boyfriend, it came in a conversation where he started getting into “future talk” and marriage was being brought up in vague terms.  This was terrifying enough, but the line that did it was, “My grandma just asked my sister if it was okay if she left you her china instead of her.”  Allow a moment for reflection . . . . . . . . . . . . now SCREAM!  Nothing scared me more than realizing that someone was planning my future for me, but not with me.  Even 19-year-old me knew that it was a bad sign.  While this was definitely the most earth-shattering of last word revelations, it was by no means my last . . .

The last words I have encountered have ranged from minor, irksome statements, to all-out “how have you survived life?” flubs.  Some of my favorites are these:

The Modest Braggart “I like to do really great things for people and not tell anyone about it.” – I don’t think I need to tell you why this one annoyed me.

The Meathead  Me: “You’ve been to Israel? Oh my gosh! How was it??”  Him (with stupid smile): “It was pretty sweet.” – Nice guy.  Personality of a doorknob.

The Quarter-Life Crisis Hipster “I don’t know what to do! I just hang out and play in a band, but my dad was already DEAD when he was my age!” – I considered the meals he bought me as payment for these therapy sessions.  I also considered this guy a complete waste since he had initially gone for me after I had done my Pee Wee Herman impression.  It’s very important to me that any guy I’m with thinks it’s awesome.  Nee, it’s crucial.

The Goob-Maker: “You’ve changed my life.” – Mackenzie and I have been talking a lot about goobers.  This guy was a perfect example of one: wide-eyed, naive, too willing to like me before knowing me.  This line came on our third date.  I’ve never come closer to cartoonishly whacking someone in the face with a frying pan.

The Hypochondriac: *I scrape my leg on a branch while running and it begins to bleed* Him: “Oh God. Do you have your tetanus shot??” – Throughout our dating, or whatever we were doing, he also diagnosed himself with ADHD, hepatitis, and scarlet fever once for about five seconds.

Super Dad: “I can’t wait to be a stay-at-home dad someday!” – For the record, this guy broke up with me.  However, this line (said at about two months into our relationship) put a pretty bad taste in my mouth.  Nothing against stay-at-home dads, but I think this information would have been more relevant sometime after we’d shared what our favorite colors were.

As you can tell by these examples I’ve had some duds in my time, but I’m sure you also note my tone of sarcasm here.  This sarcasm doesn’t come from me being annoyed by these guys, it comes from me being annoyed by myself for letting them in.  While I was initially really excited about some of these guys, a lot of them I knew were doomed from the beginning.  Recently I’ve had to ask myself “Why?”  I could go into our human need to feel wanted and all that jazz, but really, I don’t think I gained anything for myself by being with them -nor them from being with me.  The change I’ve decided to make in my dating life is to be clear about the signals I’m putting off.  I tend to act very friendly and jovial around guys who I actually DON’T like.  To me it says, “I already think of you as a brother (aka, non-sexual entity)!”  To him it says, “Girl. Girl digs me. Girl. Girl. Girl.”  Doesn’t matter that I’m any particular kind of girl.  No, I’m just a girl who likes them. And for a lot of guys, that’s enough.  But really, can you blame a guy for thinking it’s a signal?  I realize now that I have to change this habit.  Another problem is the signals I send to guys I really DO like.  I tend to either get on a roll with my glittering witticisms until I can’t stand how clever I am, or I have trouble forming words clearly and have the feeling that I’m constantly in danger of falling over.  Neither of these is ultimately very attractive.  I know that, in order to attract that special someone I really want to be with, I’m going to have to keep myself in check to make sure he’s getting the message I want him to get.

The situation that caused me to re-evaluate how I act around guys is actually a very fitting story since it happens to be my most recent dating experience.  It was a turning point in my attitude toward dating because, though the guy was one of the biggest failures of all, he made me realize that I’m the one who needs to make a move to create a better romantic situation for myself in the future -I’m like my own version of Smokey the Bear for my dating life: “Only YOU can prevent goobers.”  I met this guy at a concert soon after I moved to Colorado.  In talking to this guy and his friend, we all discovered that we were recent transplants to Colorado and began talking about getting together to hike sometime.  Since I was new and eager to meet people, I thought this was a grand idea.  The guys also told me that they had another friend, a girl, who was also new to the area and liked to hike.  All-in-all, I looked forward to meeting up with them and getting a chance to explore my new state.  Fast forward to the day of the hike, when I receive a call at 8 AM.  Of course, it’s Soon-to-be-Failure letting me know where and when we should meet.  As you may have guessed, the ridiculously early call rubbed me the wrong way, but I made myself adjust my attitude to get ready to meet the group.

As it turned out, “the group” didn’t exist.  While pulling up to the trailhead, all I saw was this guy.  No one else.  He just hadn’t brought them.  A normal person would have said to him, “Hey, where’s everybody else?” or, “I thought this would be a group thing.”  Not me.  I said hello, felt weird and uneasy, and decided to go along with it.  Of course the potential danger of the situation occurred to me -it would occur to any normal person.  But let’s look at this for what it was: I was more willing to die in the woods than have an awkward confrontation.  This moment defines why I knew I needed to make a change in my approach to life if I ever want to be with someone awesome.  However, let’s get back to the story and another very important fact: this was NOT supposed to be a date.  Sadly, that was not the view of this sneaky little goon.  He gave me the big, hopeful eyes, he kept going on about he was “so glad he had met me”, and the worst part: the elbow.  For some reason he was too chicken to take my hand, so his hand ended up coming to rest on my elbow.  Again, another good reason why I need to be more upfront.  Did I shake him off and ask him what he was doing?  No.  I pretended that I had had a horrible biking accident as a child and had no feeling in my elbow from the fall.  I just ignored it.  Both of us at this point deserved to be slapped.

At the end of the hike, this idiot revealed that he had brought a picnic lunch for us to eat next to the mountain.  (Don’t get sappy on me here, folks, remember that this guy tricked me into a very uncomfortable situation)  As we were eating, I happened to let him know that my parents would be visiting me in a few short weeks and that our hiking spot would be a great place to take them.  This was where he revealed his Last Words to me, “Oh! I wish I was in town then.  I could be their guide while they’re here!”  If you’re wondering, yes, this guy was already sunk because of his trickery and inconsiderate behavior, but to me, inviting yourself to meet my parents after only meeting me twice is the ULTIMATE dealbreaker.  I was appalled.  After I finally got home, I knew I would never talk to this guy again.  He didn’t feel that way, apparently, since he continued to text me until November (our “date” was in August).  I never responded to him.

Of course this guy and others I’ve dated could stand some advice on how not to act, but all I have control of now is me (and I’ll get to a post about what you man-folk can do to improve later).  If my dating life so far could be summarized in a picture, it would be a picture of me, alone on the floor with a non-romantic movie like Star Wars playing on the TV, on the phone with someone (probably Mackenzie), beating my head against a wall.  It is a picture that depicts that, while the world of dating will make you feel alone, you are not alone.  I plan on changing this picture from now on -except for the part about Kenz and Star Wars.  Those parts are awesome.