What have I done in one year?

whiteboard

 

A week ago was my one-year anniversary since arriving in California. When I stepped off the plane, I was excited to spend a few months in Central Coast’s wine country with my parents before diving into being a writer and consultant full-time. I figured I would end up in San Francisco, and life would be somewhat similar to what it was in DC, but with enough changes to suit my needs.

Talk about a change of plans.

A month in, I wondered if I was crazy for leaving a city I loved, a great job, and many friends. Three months in, after a visit back to DC, I was more comfortable with my decision, but wasn’t so sure about the plan to write full-time. Six months in, I had become a bit of a red wine snob, read more books than in the previous two years combined, and still had no idea what I wanted to be when I grew up.

That’s when I threw all plans out the window.

My parents and I started going stir-crazy at the same time, and as a family, we decided to move to San Diego. They had lived here for two years previous to Paso Robles, and I had enjoyed my visits, so I said, why not? Nothing else was calling to me, and it made the most sense. Who could turn down beaches and consistent sunshine?

So I’m here now, and still not quite sure what’s next. Sure, I’ve been writing, doing a fair amount of consulting (I still need an income), and still running and reading more than ever. But what’s next? There are days when I look at this past year and wonder what the hell I’ve been doing, and where I’m going. There are many days when I wonder if I’ll make friends like the ones I had before, and others when I realize I may not quite want all the friends I had before. I question why I can’t figure out what I want to do, and wonder if I’m making it too hard.

And yet, it’s easy to get comfortable. It’s easy to become okay with being stuck, to not make any movement, because it’s not as scary as making things happen. Which is what got me here in the first place, right? If I had stayed in DC, doing what I was doing…would I have grown? Would I know what I know now about my relationships, about my interests, about what and who makes me tick? Probably not.

My biggest weakness is still my fear of things not happening in the way that I imagined them for so long. The fear of turning 30 and still not having met the love of my life, of still living with my parents and not figuring out my career, and of starting over. But then I remind myself that my parents essentially did this very thing (for the most part) – they changed careers, they found love again, they moved and started over. A few times, in fact. And they made it work, far beyond what they ever imagined.

So it’s been a year and I haven’t figured it out yet. My ideas and feelings and passions are a bunch of sticky notes on a whiteboard. But what have I done? Run hundreds of miles, read dozens of books, written thousands of words, reconnected with people from my past, and imagined a few new ways to live.When you look at it that way, I’ve done a lot.

Here’s to year two of my new life. Surprise me.

Honing in on my soul mission

Miraval

A few weeks ago, my mom and I were guests at a spa resort at in the Arizona desert called Miraval, known for its focus on mindful living. My mom had been a few times before, so experiencing this place she loves with her for the first time was long-awaited—not to mention, everything I expected and more. The food, the staff, the destination and the activities were all incredible. It really was the perfect mother-daughter bonding trip to start the new year, and the timing was perfectly on point. It was a nice, lengthy pause to reflect on all that I’ve done in the last year and to think about all of the great things to come.

As I’m inching my way toward my next steps in this journey I’ve been on since I moved across the country in May of 2013, Miraval’s emphasis on wellness in mind, body and spirit really resonated with me. I returned home with a few things to think about; things that I think are worth sharing for anyone practicing mindfulness and doing some soul-searching.

1. What you’re good at isn’t always what brings you the most joy.

This may seem obvious, but many of us gloss over the distinction between our talents and what Miraval’s wellness guru Tejpal calls our gifts. There are things we’re really good at, perhaps so much so it’s a job, but that doesn’t mean it makes us happy. And so goes for the things that we may not be that good at, but it brings us joy and inspires us to give back.

Our gifts and our talents may overlap a little, but to really find the answer, Tejpal suggests an exercise ofjournaling for 40 consecutive days, honestly asking ourselves, “What is my gift?” I have some ideas, but I’m going to start it this week and get to the heart of it.

2. Fear and uncertainty are a part of all unknown adventures. Acknowledge and embrace it, then move through it.

I’ve always loved adrenaline-inducing activities like skydiving, zip lining and roller coasters. But my mom’s not a big fan. While I’m having fun, she’s often terrified of the speed and the heights and the sheer uncertainty of it all. At Miraval, we participated in some group challenge activities and talked through our fears and how we hope to learn and grow from them.

For me, I think I often yearn for those big physical risks to counter my fears to take leaps in the rest of my life. I was reminded during those activities that the anxiety, exhilaration and breathlessness that I feel in quick succession is not unlike what it feels like to let go and swing when going forward in discovering our passion.

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Revelations on the journey to what’s next

Stopping to take a look around on the journey
Stopping to take a look around on the journey

I was in DC this weekend for a friend’s wedding, for the first time since I moved away two months ago. On the one hand, it felt like coming home, back to the place I had lived for six years. It was the city where I got my first three grownup jobs, where I ran my first races, and experienced multiple heartbreaks. It was where I learned to love sushi and wine, and that sometimes it takes four different forms of transportation to get home after a late night baseball game. It’s the place where I made friends for life, people that have seen me evolve from a naive, young college graduate looking to make my mark on the world to a (hopefully) wiser, stronger, more experienced woman… looking to make my mark on the world.

I visited favorite restaurants and bars, caught up with friends, and celebrated my friends’ marriage, but I realized that just two short (some days it felt long) months later, DC wasn’t my home anymore. And despite the fact that my parents’ house is only my temporary home, I already had that “I’m ready to go” feeling after a few days. Going into my visit, I knew I would be looking at it as a gauge on if I wanted to go back — because the thought had crossed my mind more than once in the time since I left. But as I walked around what had been my city, I realized that although I miss the people, and I’ll always go back to visit, I was indeed ready to leave and try something new.

And so what does that mean at this point? Although I don’t have all the answers yet, I feel like I’m a lot closer than I was when I got out here. I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about my needs and wants, my priorities, and what it will take to make me happy in my career, in my passions and hobbies, my surroundings, and in my relationships. The most important thing I’ve realized in all of this (thanks, Dad!) is that it’s absolutely okay that some of these things have changed, multiple times, even since May. Because, really, this is not the time to settle. There were moments in life when I settled, for a job, for a guy, for friends. But now, when I have my health, and family, and really, no troubles or worries, this is the time to make choices that are only for me, and right for me — not just what’s good enough, or what works.

As I look at the opportunities out there, I may get intrigued for various reasons, but I can’t jump at the first thing that comes my way. As I think about where I want to live, I can’t just go to the place that’s nearest, or cheapest, or easiest. As I meet new people, I won’t just befriend them or date them because they’re there. It’s time for purpose, and intent. And I certainly have time on my side (at least for now).

In the last few weeks as I have wavered over some of my decisions, or felt silly as I admitted feelings and desires out loud to myself, I’ve felt myself becoming more confident in this process, more content, and more excited than I was before about what lies ahead. It may end up being completely different from what I envisioned two months ago, but I’m on a path to really knowing myself and getting to where I belong.

Adjusting the journey is part of the process

writingI’ve been in California for nearly a month. Some days it feels like I left DC ages ago, other times, like I just left yesterday. These are the times I’m grateful for technology like social media, where I can check in to see what’s happening with my friends and in my former city. And I’m grateful to the friends that have been so great about keeping in touch in these first few weeks, texting me, emailing me, reminding me to stay strong and that things will all work out the way they’re meant to.

When I made the decision to come out to California and start this journey, even though I knew the first few months would be a transition, I was already running all the scenarios in my mind of how to immediately get consulting gigs, and how to get my writing published. I’m a planner, always have been. And it honestly scares me to think of not having a steady income after being so fortunate to have one since I’ve been out of college. It scares me to think that I could sit and write every day, all day, for years, and nothing ever come of it. As my dad said, I was looking for the silver bullet, and couldn’t stop planning, as opposed to just using this time to do what I wanted to do, which is relax, write, and reflect.

And yet, in the last several weeks, as I’ve split my time between part-time work for my job in DC, writing, and spending time with my parents, I’ve realized a few things about myself that I guess I didn’t think would be so important and immediate.

For one, living out in the country with my parents is a great way to spend time with them, to focus, and have some solitude. But it’s not for me in the long-term. And I’m not even sure I’d be ready to move to the nearby city of SLO … which means that I very likely may end up in San Francisco, where I can be around more people, more things to do, and more variety. And that’s okay. As my aunt said in a lovely note to me, I’m at a different place in life than my parents, and what’s right for them right now may not be right for me. So if what I need right now is to be in the city, that’s okay.

Another thing I’ve been thinking about of course is what I’m doing out here and what I want to be doing. As I’ve been outlining themes to write about, one common thread kept popping up  — connections with people. Whether it’s through food, health and fitness, technology, or family, all of the things that interest me and make me feel fulfilled involve interacting with people directly and either helping them do something they love, or telling their stories. It’s one of the reasons I enjoyed journalism so much several years ago, and why I loved meeting supporters for the campaigns I worked on at my second job. That personal interaction is key for me. And once again, my dad helped me sort through some scenarios; and I always chose the one that involved people, rather than writing in isolation.  So what does that mean? I crave being around people more than I thought I did, as much as I do cherish my time alone. It means that I need more structure to my day than I imagined, and that maybe writing isn’t the end all be all, maybe it’s just a priority, rather than the priority.

And that is okay, too.

There are lot of different routes I could take – I could do teaching, or coaching, or mentoring, and I can figure out how to incorporate writing into any of those.

I spend a lot of energy (too much!) trying to prove to others and to myself that I am capable of something, or that I will follow through based on the original plan. But life doesn’t work that way, and people don’t work that way. If I’ve changed the context of what I want to do a month after getting here, so what? I’d rather do that and be true to myself than force myself to make something work that I’m just not feeling. If I’m more suited to live with my parents for a few months and then move to the city instead of sticking it out here, so what? I’m still near them for frequent visits, and if I need that for my heart and mind, then that’s what I’ll do.

A friend of mine told me to think about things I wanted to accomplish while I had this time. Whether it’s reading 10 books, or trying 10 new recipes, or writing 10 blogs, if I focus on that, then the other things will fall into place in time.

And that is okay.