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Wordless Wednesday: Adulthood is Surprising

Personal Best

Recently I started running.

I have never been really interested in “running” in my life. Previously I had only considered running valuable if I needed to run away from something or someone, or if I was playing in a soccer game. In those cases, there was either a utilitarian purpose to running or a recreational one.

A few months ago, I was talking to a good friend of mine about his journey as a runner. He told me the story of how he started running: he just started off by running five minutes, and every day he increased his time running by one minute. Eventually he was able to run a 5k, followed by a 10k, followed by a half marathon, and now he has run many marathons! He once told me, “It isn’t about how far you run, or how fast or how long. It is about achieving yourpersonal best.’”

The idea of ‘personal best’ struck me as a meaningful philosophy for not just running, but all of life.  So, I made it a goal to live every day to my personal best.

For me, achieving my ‘personal best’ manifests in all aspects of my life: in my professional life, my academic life, and my personal life. This doesn’t necessarily mean that I always succeed, or that every day I am operating as my best-and-brightest self (though I hope most days I am). What it does mean is that in every situation I try to do the best that I can for what I am capable of in the moment. [*]

[*] That doesn’t mean I don’t still make mistakes, the goal is to learn from them so I can be wiser the next time!

I have been doing it pretty well in my professional life, I think. I work hard, I support my colleagues, I stand up for things that I believe in, I keep a positive attitude, I learn from every professional development challenge I face. Every day that I wake up for work I am happy because I believe that, in my own small way, I am an advocate for kids who are facing some really daunting emotional and mental health challenges. This job — and the great team I work with — are a personal best for me.

In my academic life, I am going to be striving for my personal best to finish my exhausting thesis and my MA!  Once I finish that, even if I never go on to a Ph.D. program, I will still strive for continued personal bests – even if it is just learning a language or acing a math class.

In my personal life, it seems harder to be strive for ‘personal best.’ I have taken up running, and it is really nooooo easy feat to transition from “non-runner” to “runner.” This morning, with the encouragement of Marathon Friend (mentioned above), I ran 2 miles!  In the morning! And tomorrow we are going to run again, until I can enter a 5k, then a 10k, then a half marathon. (Marathon Friend is training for another marathon, of course.)

This brings me to my next point.

Personal best is about surrounding yourself with people who support or inspire or push you to be your personal best. For me this is a host of people. My mom, of course, who encourages and inspires me every day. My brothers who, without fail or complaint, always offer to carry my heavy loads. And my great friends — new and old — who support me and cheer me on despite my silly antics, my crazy schedule, and my hair-brained schemes (like my mission to eventually run a half-marathon). For me, personal best also means being compassionate and respectful to others, even if you feel they don’t always deserve it. It means showing love and gratitude to my friends and family, and telling them warmly and often just how much they mean to me.

I have also learned that I want my next relationship to be with someone who I can be my ‘personal best’ with — and someone who I can support to be their personal best too. This, I think, was missing with my last relationship (though my former beau did make me a better and kinder person in so many ways, for which I will always be grateful.) I know he and I are both moving on from our relationship to find that person who will be “our personal best.” It isn’t about how fast or slow you find the person, or how far you go, it’s about not stopping the run until you find your personal best.

My question to you, Adulthooders:

In what ways are you striving for “personal best” in your lives? When is it easiest (and hardest) to be at your best?

Ruminations on these questions, or any other thoughts, are welcomed in the comments!

*Photo via Hiddenloop on Flickr.

50 First Dates: Epic Love

I have surpassed the “50 dates” marker [*], but I haven’t felt very compelled to blog about any of these dates, for various reasons. But what is worth noting is that I have learned something really significant during my months of singledom. That is: dating is pretty easy. What is hard is finding someone you like. And even if you do find someone you like, it doesn’t mean they are the right person for you or that it’s the right time to know them. Such is the conundrum of the single life.

Maybe I am too much of a hopeful romantic (I don’t like the term “hopeless” as it takes on too much of a passive damsel-in-distress connotation), but now that I’m wise enough to know who I am and what I want (and what I don’t want!), I am realizing that my standards are pretty high. And despite my optimism toward romanticism, these days my heart feels extremely defensive and skittish, so dating casually is ideal for me right now.

I read once about a girl in New York City named Jessica Delfino who posted an ad on Craigslist for a suitor. She listed all of the qualities she wanted in this person, all of the attributes she wanted them to have: everything from education status, to height and eye color, to interests and hobbies, to favorite movies, to sense of humor, to income requirements. She then invited men to “apply” to date her. She promised to respond to every applicant, but she would only meet men who matched every single one of her requirements. Sure enough, one man matched every detail, she agreed to meet him at a coffee shop in Midtown, and they were married one year later. Go figure.

Maybe this girl had the right idea. Perhaps I’m really going about this whole dating thing the wrong way by dating lots of people casually for the sake of good food and (sometimes) good company. Maybe I should take a lesson from Jessica Delfino and set strict guidelines for my suitors and then only date ones who meet the standards. […]

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Guest Blog: Aftershocks

We toasted to things like ‘doing regrettable things because you might later regret that you didn’t.’… And at the climax of all this mirth, suddenly my pocket vibrates. It’s her.”

I’m really excited to share our latest guest blog with you. I like that adulthood is about processing — thinking about people and events and what they mean for our continued evolution of self.  This guest blogger shares some perspective on life after a break-up in a really thoughtful and nuanced way, filled with imagery of dark bars and lascivious innuendos woven into an expert narrative on self-exploration and evaluation.  When I first read his piece, I kept thinking about it many times during the day because I found it so interesting and compelling. Our guest blogger is actually a professional writer in Arizona, and thus has given me a pseudonym of “The Vernacular Assassin” to preserve his professional ethos.  This is his first foray into blogging, and I hope he will continue sending us guest posts because, my goodness, this boy can write! 

Aftershocks

By The Vernacular Assassin

It was about two weeks before the end when my breakup sensors started going off. She was picking fights about little things.  My foot was spending more time in my mouth than in my shoes.  Bedroom moments had become tainted with exasperation from interminable arguments. Spooning had virtually ceased.  After protracted exit negotiations on a recent Sunday morning, we indulged a final time in that one thing we had no disagreements about, and I gathered the last of my belongings. “There are two books of yours in my nightstand,” she said.

“No, I already took them,” I replied.

 “When?”

“Yesterday morning.”

 “Yesterday morning? Why did you think you had to take them without mentioning it? I wasn’t going to hold them hostage!” she said.

“I know, but I could smell the smoke in the breeze,” I told her.

Driving away, that familiar feeling of “what now?” struck me. I thought about how I dealt with the last breakup, which was a soul-shaking 9.5. My id, suddenly unrestrained, was unleashed like a tsunami: two full months of happy hours that ran until 2 AM, long nights with dreary postmodern novels (“a screaming came across the sky”), hundreds of chicken wings, dubious hookups with tattoo-covered women, making a drunken ass of myself in public on the regular.  But this breakup was a 4.5, tops—and hadn’t I grown up a bit? Yes, it’s a new day—this time would be different.

When I got home, I cleaned the house and did laundry. I reached out to friends I had been blowing off. I frenetically texted old flames and hookups. I went to the gym.  And in my perspiration it hit me: I might be a grown-up now, but forget this, I need to get drunk.

I can’t explain why breaking up sends me into a self-destructive rampage, but I’m not the only man who does it. However, this time I knew it was a choice, and that made it fun. On Monday morning I didn’t feel guilty about the hijinks of the night before—and after work it was “three hours of sleep be damned, let’s go to Mill and shoot some Jameson!” We toasted to things like “doing regrettable things because you might later regret that you didn’t,” and of course, that already tired-out meme of “winning.” I acted a fool in front of random women and laughed at myself heartily. And at the climax of all this mirth, suddenly my pocket vibrates. It’s her.

“I hope I’m not bothering or interrupting you.  I’m just used to talking with you around this time, so I just wanted to see how you’re doing.” Over the sounds of laughing women, breaking glasses, and Irish folk songs, I sheepishly tell her that everything’s fine—but that I don’t have time to talk. “Well I’m really happy we’re still friends,” she replies. After we say goodnight, I feel wistful and order another double. Hearing her voice was the best moment of the night.

Later, I let my friend drag me to a strip club, and as we walked in I was reminded of why I’d never gone back to one after my first time seven years ago.  I felt miles away, slouching numb and intoxicated in a chair, meta-analyzing the sociological undercurrents of the room, when a woman suddenly sits down on me and says, “This is courtesy of your friend.” She planted my hands on her waist—I gave a squeeze but something felt off. I noticed that her breasts were too large and her hair was blonde, not jet black. Her perfume wasn’t Mont Blanc. She didn’t have that tattoo I liked. Her movements were adept, but so unnatural and calculating, as if she were trying to arouse me at gunpoint.

I couldn’t ignore it—I missed her.    

What I realized under the black lights was still true in the light of day, but there’s nothing I can do but let go and let my feelings for her subside. My queasy stomach and piercing headache tell me that this really is a new day, and perhaps there are better ways to deal with this bit of heartache. So I go into work, clean-shaven and pressed. A younger me would have called in sick on a day like today—but that lingering taste of liquor, cigars and shame somehow invigorates me to keep on marching.

Photo via Jetalone on Flickr.

April Fools’! Nope, it’s no joke – It is my SITS Day!

 (Can’t view Welcome to Adulthood in all its glory? Nope, it isn’t a April Fools’ prank. We are best viewed on more current versions of IE, Firefox, Safari, Chrome, etc. Or try clicking here.)

*

When I received an email about my SITS day, I was at work. Suddenly, my voice rang out over the silent sea of cubicles, “APRIL 1 is my SITS DAY! YIP-YIPPEE!!” And then I danced and twirled and jumped for joy.

My cube mate swiveled around quickly in her chair to face me. Bewildered but amused she asked, “Your SITS Day? You need a whole day to SIT? Wait, I don’t get it. Why are you jumping up and down right now in the middle of the office?”

I explained to her (as well as to the handful of other heads who had bobbed above the cubicle walls to witness my excitement) just how special of a day this was for me.

I told them about how I joined this great community of about 8,000 sassy ladies (and some men) bloggers who had the right idea: support each other. That means by reading other blogs, by engaging, by commenting, by writing, by networking.

“And it is called SIT??” my colleague asked again.

“No, SITS. The Secret Is in The Sauce. But, it’s what the name really represents that counts.”

I told them how I went to Bloggy Boot Camp last year with my bff Nicole (of The Fickle Nickle), and how excited we were to meet so many awesome, intelligent, motivated bloggers from around the country. To be chosen as Featured Blogger on this April Fools’ Day is unbelievable. (I did think it was a joke at first!) Are you all really here??  This is the luckiest April Fools’ Day to date!

One of my favorite things about being an adult are the moments that are so special that you know you will remember them forever. The moments that feel so good that you want to prance, spin, sing, laugh, leap, hug, and YIP-YIPPEE with your hands in the air! This, my friends, is one of those moments for me. What have been those kinds of joyous adulthood moments for YOU? Share in the comments!

I am happy to meet all of you!  To hear your stories! To read your blogs! To celebrate and commiserate all things wonderful or challenging about adulthood together in this neat little community! If you want to stay involved with everything happening on Welcome to Adulthood, please feel free to subscribe, explore, bookmark, or better yet, submit!

I’m inspired by all of you. And here, among the many meditations on adulthood, I hope that you find something that inspires you too!

(If you want to leave a comment and say hello, click on “Read More.” I promise I will get back to each and every one of ya’. Hooray for new friends!)

Photo via CLSPeace on Flickr.

Coming Up on Adulthood

It’s all happening!

* Tomorrow is my SITS DAY!! Adulthood is small surprises. Stay tuned!

* Saturday I’ll post a really provocative and thoughtful piece featuring a candid male perspective on a single man’s life post-heart break. This is a new guest blogger you won’t want to miss!

Wordless Wednesday: Adulthood is Clever

 

 

Photo of “iCake” via Janetmck on Flickr.

Friendship, My Forever-Favorite Shoes

 

As an adult, I have learned some lessons the hard way. One of those lessons is that some friendships run their course. A friend may be in your life for a long time, or a little time – you serve a purpose to them, and they serve a purpose to you. Then, at some point, the friendship just…expires. Or does it?

At some points in my life, I would take this supposed-“expiration” pretty hard. I would personalize and think “how could they do that to me?”

I like to think I am never the one that “expires” the relationship. That I always try my best to be the greatest friend ever. But truthfully, I have probably done my share of expiring of friendships (though perhaps accidentally.) The reality is that adulthood is busy (and complex) and it is often hard to keep in touch, even if we may want to.

All in this week, I serendipitously reconnected with three old friends, who were all from different “eras” in my life. One was a friend from 1st grade (see photo above — that is really her!), and although she and I live in the same city, we are both busy and have not kept in touch. The second old friend I reconnected with was my best friend from high school, who moved many cities (and now states) away, and we have also not spent time trying to connect. A three-hour phone call later and we are high school girls again, laughing at old jokes and waxing nostalgic about midnight 7-11 runs (slushies!), and blasting 80’s music in her ’90 Ford Tempo. The third friend was a girlfriend from my early twenties — during our era we drank too much, dated the wrong guys, and really thought we were “adults.” Now, we laugh because we realize how much we had to learn….

When I reconnected with each one of these friends, I realized how easy it felt. How it felt like no time had passed at all. How we settled comfortably into our conversation like an old pair of my favorite dancing shoes! It felt so natural and fun to prance around for a few hours in those great shoes!

So maybe instead of thinking about friendships “expiring” (though I think there are some that do expire – those are usually the toxic ones, like spoiled milk) it is better to think of friendships like fabulous dancing shoes. You may not wear them for a while, but they are always with you in your closet, and when the time is right, and the outfit is right, and the mood is right, you dance your heart out like no time has passed. You spin around and around, and the pain that the shoes may have caused you at some point (darn blisters!) have long since healed, and all you feel is joy and gratitude to have such wonderful shoes!

Wordless Wednesday: Adulthood is Tough Decisions

Photo via i_yudai on Flickr.

Adulthood and the Forever Friendship with…YOURSELF

 

“The person I am is forever with me.” – Louis Hay

When I was in elementary school, my mom would pick me up from school and ask me two important questions: 1) How was your day today? 2) What was one new thing you learned today?

These questions (though my answers were simple as a 7 year old) are still really fundamental to my life. So much of my blog (and my life!) is dedicated to recalling back on each day (“How was your day today, Mara?”) and then thinking about one new thing I learned.  

I remember one day in second grade when my mom picked me up from school and I was crying. “How was your day?” she asked in a consoling tone.

Between sobs I replied, “Baaa-aaddd! Melissa and Nicole wouldn’t play with the ball with me today!” I guess I was very upset that my two little elementary school buddies didn’t include me in whatever they were doing that day.

My mom, always wise and insightful, said, “Well, people aren’t always going to want to play with you, and that’s okay. Tomorrow why don’t you bring your own ball and you can play with it.”

The next day, I brought my own ball. I remember that day well. I was embarrassed to play alone with my ball, but I did it. And I did it the day after that, and the one after that, until it got pretty easy to play by myself (because it was actually fun). Luckily, Melissa and Nicole must have eventually played with me again (we are still best buddies 20+ years later), but in the recalling this little childhood experience I am able to learn a lot about adulthood. That is, no matter who plays with you, always be your own best friend.

This means, even during the worst times, be able to love and console yourself unconditionally. Be able to give yourself positive self-talk to remind yourself of all of your great attributes, and all of the awesome things you have to offer to the world.

This idea of “being your own best friend” came up yesterday with one of my girlfriends. This particular friend, a smart and beautiful twenty-something, was voicing concern about wearing her bikini in front of her serious live-in boyfriend during a vacation they have planned for the summer. “As strange as it sounds, I have never worn a bikini in front of him, and I really don’t know if I would feel comfortable.”

This is an instance where being your own best friend becomes invaluable. So, I gave my friend a challenge: “Every day tell yourself five positive things about yourself. Maybe things like, I am healthy and active. I am beautiful. I am smart and funny. I am a great catch. I love my [insert favorite body part here.]”

My friend wrinkled her nose at this challenge and blushed, “I’m going to feel silly saying that! Especially about my [insert chosen favorite body part here]!” (…)

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