deep and serious thoughts

Resolutionizing: 2019

2019! Hi, holy cow, I can’t believe we’re here. How did 2018 go so fast? Am I officially aged into that category of people who routinely states “This year is just flying by!?”…

It’s that time of year - I, being basic, am naturally a longtime maker of resolutions and traditionally really enjoy the exercise of sitting down, evaluating where I’ve succeeded in the year past, and where I have room to improve. For some reason, I feel really good about 2019 after a lot of angst, illness and stress in the latter half of 2018…nowhere to go from here but up, is how I’m choosing to see it.

Last year’s resolutions ended up being a bit of a mixed bag, success-wise. I truly knocked “explore more of the Bay Area” out of the park, due in large part to old friends visiting and new, local friends knowing just where to go - a combination that really enriched my life last year. “Try harder at dating” was a sort of rollercoaster - there was definitely dating, and I definitely tried harder, with widely varied results, largely TBD at this point frankly. “Do more yoga” led me to commit to practicing three times weekly at work, a habit I now cherish, find so rewarding, and will absolutely continue in the new year. And finally, “Write more” was just a truly epic fail - hence its inclusion in this year’s list for the third year running, ugh.

My big intention was to “be open,” and I think that set me up last year to stand up for myself a little more, to say what I think a bit more readily, and to, in general, accept and embrace experiences and people as they are. That said, I am still a people-pleasing doormat who internalizes to a fault, a fact that has proved detrimental to my mental and emotional well-being at various points over the year, and will be a focal point going forward.

With that little look down memory lane, here we go: the chosen Lizzie format of a few small resolutions and one big intention/theme…

1. Cut back on social media.

You guys, I spend SO much time on my phone. Some of it is essential/unavoidable - responding to emails on the fly, texting, or calling family and friends. Some of it is value-added - I read a lot on my phone, although that should drop off with the purchase of a Kindle, and I manage to-do lists, my calendar, and fitness tracking through apps. The vast majority of my phone time, however, is social media - particularly Twitter and Instagram - and it’s just in no way justifiable to be spending as much time on apps as I do.

I’m going to focus on keeping my phone put away during the workday to stop the brain drain of playing on social media while I’m working, and I need to try harder to keep it out of sight/out of mind while I’m home in the evenings. Hopefully this will lead to a perceptible uptick in spending more time reading, writing, cooking, working out and actually engaging with and focusing on my friends - even without sharing it to the Gram, oh the horror!

2. Spend more thoughtfully.

Dave and I have had a lot of conversations lately about our skewed spending priorities - we’ll look at price per oz at the grocery store, lament the cost of goods like eggs, gas, etc, and yet have no problem dropping money at our favorite breweries, on eating out, or entertainment. Add to that the fact that I have a fairly expensive wine habit and love to shop, and you’ve got an arena where I could benefit from a more intentional, focused approach.

I’m planning to skip wine club shipments for at least the first half of the year (or maybe to divert them to my family?!), and to cut back as much as possible on the breweries/eating out aspect of my social life - it’s gotten really out-of-hand and excessive lately. As for shopping, I think focusing on whether I’m buying things because I need/love them, or because I’m bored, will be beneficial. All in all, I’m definitely financially secure, but want to focus on making 2019 a year that’s a bit more rational and a bit less hedonistic in the financial arena.

3. Write more.

I CANNOT BELIEVE THIS HAS TO BE A RESOLUTION FOR THE THIRD YEAR IN A ROW. Ugh, mortifying. Looking back at 2018, I wrote a lot at work and very little outside of it, for myriad reasons - I maintained a very busy social life, I spent a lot of time on other activities (reading, Netflix, apps BOO), and I suffered a lot from writer’s block/a general lack of desire to write last year.

This year, I think I just need to actually take last year’s resolution to heart: “I plan to stick to a more stringent writing schedule this year, and to be better about chronicling things - even if it's a "quantity over quality" exercise from time to time.” I calendared out my blog for the next month or two, and hopefully that will be helpful in holding me accountable. Further, I need to schedule writing time into my day just like I schedule in cooking, commute, work, gym, et cetera - treating it as something I have to do, not something I just choose to do, should make it more of a habit and part of my daily routine.

4. Do a better job of staying in touch with friends.

I found myself really burned out in 2018 by extending effort to maintain friendships with people who really didn’t put in as much effort on their end, and unfortunately that leaked over into a general battening down of the communication hatches, a battening that negatively affected my very dearest, truest friends. Couple that with the fact that I am terrible about talking on the phone and generally don’t enjoy texting, and it makes it difficult to stay in touch, especially with my friends as scattered across the country as they are.

This year, I resolve to completely stop wasting my energy on those who don’t return it or add value to my life, and to be more considerate of those who do - with regular check-ins via text, phone or even, ooh, snail mail. I also love sending little things “just because” - so much more special than waiting for big occasions. Hopefully this focus on quality over quantity will do wonderful things toward continually strengthening my relationships with the sterling people in my life!

And the big theme for 2019:

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Treat myself better.

Really, this statement could be interpreted in any of a variety of ways, and I think that’s why it’s the perfect theme for this year. I was really down on myself toward the end of 2018 - insecure in my body, unsure about my personal happiness, and doubting a lot of things. Then I ended 2018 with a dramatic hospitalization, and realized that I was really just in general not taking good care of myself - physically, emotionally, mentally, you name it.

At the very basest level, I need to take better care of myself physically. My recent health scare is really putting into perspective that I’m getting older - 30 is right around the corner, and I’ve let myself justify bad habits for far too long. I’m already off to a solid start in 2019 of cutting down majorly on alcohol, working on eating better (and ordering in/eating out less), and making sure to hit the gym daily. I’m being proactive about seeing the specialists I need to see, and about the regular appointments too - eye doctors, dermatologists, dentists, even laser hair removal ooh OOH! I was scared enough by my recent issues to really commit to this, and while I’m disappointed in myself that it took that extreme a situation to prompt an overhaul, I truly think this will galvanize me to actually see a lifestyle change through.

More deeply and intuitively, however, I need to be kinder to myself. I finished 2018 really feeling depleted and downtrodden for numerous reasons. Fundamentally, I expend a lot of energy on other people - building them up, being there for them, ensuring I’m a good friend/sister/daughter/lover/employee, what have you - and I tend to leave myself very little at the end of all of that. I often feel like I don’t get that level of commitment back from others in return, and it frustrates me, especially when I realize I’ve spent so much energy on others that I can’t be there for myself. Further, the amount of negative self-talk and general self-loathing/negativity I’ve allowed to leech into my life is immensely damaging - I would legitimately never treat someone I cared about the way I treat myself. I am truly my harshest critic and own worst enemy, and that engenders spirals of shame, self-doubt and insecurity on a regular basis.

With that in mind, I’m going to do something that I’ve historically maligned this year, and put myself first for once. I’m going to speak up when others let me down, hold people accountable, and, most importantly, stop making excuses for others’ bad behavior. Even more so, I’m going to hold myself accountable to, as my mother so aptly puts it, “practice self compassion.” I’m only human - I’m flawed and I’m failing, but I try damn hard every day to be a good person, and I need to remember that when I get down on myself for not finishing a to-do list, for trusting people who don’t deserve it, for being unattractive or nerdy or awkward. Remembering that I am worthy and valuable and loved, and treating myself with love and care and compassion on a daily basis, is going to be the key to so many good things this year - I can already feel it.

Check out past resolutions here: 2018 - 2017 - 2016 - 2015 - 2014, and stay tuned for progress reports over the course of the year. Happy 2019, campers! Let’s make it great.



Let's try this again...

A few weeks ago, I was talking to Dave about a whole variety of angsty, annoying, stressful things, when all of a sudden I interrupted myself mid-thought and said, “Also, I think my blog died. Or maybe I killed my blog. I might be done writing.”

His immediate reaction was an effusive, comical “NO! You can’t do that!,” which led us down a wandering rabbit hole of conversational tangents and sidetracks. As we pulled into our garage, his always-sage advice put a nice, neat period on the end of the conversation: “I think you should just try it again. Write a little bit, a few times, and see where it goes and how you’re doing, and just give it another chance.” As usual, Dave was a voice of reason in the shitstorm of my over-analytical, Type-A control freak mind…and so here goes.

In the weeks (months, really) that I’ve been away/checked out/off the blog grid, I:

  • had a brutal year-end at work

  • served jury duty (a disappointment of epic proportions, ugh)

  • dealt with car issues

  • took an off-the-record weekend trip

  • moved

  • threw several unwarranted tantrums

  • lost 15 pounds (mostly due to stress/lack of regular eating)

  • and now have my annual mid-October brutal head cold.

I’ve been kind of a nightmare to be around, frankly, and haven’t really been myself for awhile. The circumstances above have conspired to make me doubt a lot of things - why I’m here in California, what I’m doing with my life, how others treat me and what I deserve from them. I’m actively trying to live up to my oh-so-failed New Year’s intention for the year - “be open” - and realizing how hard that is for me.

Do I miss writing? Sometimes. A lot of the time, actually. I’ve been doing a lot of writing off the blog, mostly for me as I work through some of this self-analysis. But I miss the records I’ve created of the beautiful, positive, memorable things I do here. When I look back at the sparseness of the blog over the last year, it’s bittersweet - I know so many wonderful things have happened and I’ve done so much, but not seeing it here is both a testament to how full my life has been and an indictment of my own laziness and lack of effort. I’ve been writing here for five years now (as of last Sunday, actually!), and this has been my longest dry spell since the six weeks immediately following breaking up with Jon back in 2014, the infant days of Minneapoliz. So here we go - let’s call this a recommitment to, as Dave so aptly put it, “just trying it again.”

Thanks for sticking around, campers - more soon :)

A year in California.

Exactly a year ago today my mom and I drove the last seven hours of our epic cross-country road trip - from the Stockmen's Casino in Elko NV, where you cash your chips at the same counter where you check in, to San Francisco.

We celebrated our Bay Area arrival with cocktails at the Palo Alto Anthropologie (of course), I ruined a wall in my bathroom trying to hang a towel hook, and cried my eyes out with excitement and relief and apprehension about what was coming next. Part of it was shell shock, I think - driving 33 hours in two and a half days would do a number on anyone. Part of it was the sense of being truly unmoored, the finality of arriving at a destination that, for months, had felt like a hazy, surreal leap of faith. And part of it was a delirious sense of awakening, of starting to open this gift I hadn't even known I needed to give myself. 

Hackneyed clichés aside, that arrival in California 365 days ago started a period of my life that has marked a true sea change in me. I spent two weeks settling in before I started work - the first chasing around wine country and the city and the peninsula with my mom, stifling a bit of panic every time I got behind the wheel of my car, making more trips to Target than any self-respecting person has a right to make. Watching the Tonys in our hotel room over Sprinkles cupcakes with face masks on. Eating Stacks for breakfast twice. Losing our minds over Chandon's American Summer display of Em's designs. Laughing and freaking out, sometimes at the same time, and relying so much on her to keep me steady.

That week ended, of course, with me sobbing silently and uncontrollably as I drove her to SFO to say goodbye. I spent that next week waiting - waiting for my movers to show up, waiting in lines at the DMV, waiting for blistering migraines to abate as I adjusted to lower elevation and air that felt different than home. Waiting for my job at Stanford to start, waiting for Dave to arrive, waiting to make friends, waiting for this new place I lived to feel like home. 

A year later, it does, and for that I am constantly grateful. California has held so many surprises for me, and has changed me so much in ways I really needed to change. Stanford has forced me out of the complacent professional comfort zone where I had lingered for so long, challenging me most days with its sheer scope and breadth and complexity. Dave has become one of my best friends, and has opened up his world of friends to me with a generosity and complete lack of selfishness I've rarely seen in others (a generosity I don't thank him for often enough). Together with Drew and Laura, our madcap little apartment has been home to laughter and tears, parties and puking, messes and houseguests and hangovers and heartache; these experiences have made it a home for me in ways that pictures on the walls and monogrammed towels never could. 

I have found favorite restaurants, and wineries, and coffee places. I have learned to just never go to the Redwood City Safeway between the hours of 4:30 and 7, and have figured out that the 101 is faster to go to work in the mornings but to always take 280 home. I can drive to Napa without needing Google Maps (this says quite a bit about my priorities, given I still need it to get around campus from time to time). I have taken classes in opera, museums, Shakespeare, wine, and jazz, fallen for the San Francisco Ballet, experienced a deep-house club, and cultivated a burgeoning obsession with IPAs. 

I still get shivers every time I drive across the Golden Gate Bridge (although, secretly, the Bay Bridge is my favorite), but I've discovered that I actually think a lot of San Francisco is really gross. I struggle with the disparity between privilege and need here, which is so much wider and far more dramatically apparent than in Minnesota. I have gone out with a tech bro, a sommelier, and a guy who works for a venture capital firm, among others - and all three have absolutely lived up to the assumptions and stereotypes the Bay perpetuates about their respective breeds. My circle of friends ranges widely - doctors and data scientists, consultants and professors, architects and wine marketers and innovation strategists - and the conversations I find myself having are similarly diverse and challenging and eye-opening. 

I am asked, perhaps not quite as constantly as in my first few months, but still regularly - "Why did you move here? How long do you see yourself staying here?" For the first time in my existence, I am operating without a long-term plan, and I am comfortable with that. Rather than benchmarking myself against my peers in the Twin Cities - job, promotion, serious relationship, engagement, dog/house, wedding, baby - I find myself focused on a new project at work, weekend day trips, a bucket list that grows by two line every time I check off one. I know that this place will not be my home forever, but that's about all I know for sure. Whether I'm here for another three years, five, ten - I'm okay with being unsure about that. As for why I moved here, though, I think the experiences and people and adventures of the last year speak for themselves, and I hope that the next year only brings more of the same. 

...that said, I'm really glad I never have to go back to the Stockmen's Casino and Lodge. Leaving that in the last year is completely fine by me. 

A Monday giggle.

I had the BEST weekend with my parents celebrating my birthday (MUCH more detail to come soon!), and am correspondingly in the happiest, sunniest mood today. What's not to love about a weekend that combines the Olympics, wine tasting in Napa, eating Michelin-starred food, and tourist-ing all over my home with my two favorite people? Nothing is not to love, I tell you. Add to that the fact that I've got a vacation coming up on Thursday and I am feeling pretty grand about life in general. 

Maybe that's why I find this so giggle-inducing: I'm reviewing a memo that one of my colleagues drafted about a very technical valuation process, details intentionally vague. The memo kept referencing "morality tables," and it took me a couple seconds to parse out that the item under discussion was actually a "mortality table." For those of you who aren't hopeless, helpless nerds, a mortality table is used to determine a person's statistical probability of death. They are, in a word, morbid, but are hugely significant in industries like insurance, accounting, and planned giving (ding ding ding!). 

I got the giggles when I started thinking about what a morality table would actually look like - some kind of chart that tells you how to be a good person? A sliding scale of how moral an action is relative to situation, agent, and recipient? A scatter plot of the judged morality of a person on an x-axis of, let's say, age and y-axis of, hmm...privilege? A "moral brightline" as the mean in a scatter graph of moral judgments? I sat there musing on it for a solid few minutes, sort of laughing to myself and sort of actually contemplating how interesting and revealing it would be to actually create a morality table for myself. 

And then, because I've got sh*t to get done today, I control F'd "morality" and replaced it with "mortality," and that was that. 

Happy Monday! 

Being right and humble pie

A few thoughts from my Saturday...

"Would you rather be right, or effective?" Every time I meet with our controller, those words stare me in the face from the wall of her gorgeous, light-flooded corner office, and I find myself fixating on them. I don't know why they just popped back into my head, as I sit here on our patio staring out at the palm trees, but they're stuck in my mind so I'm going to word-vomit out some thoughts. Hold on tight! 

I'm the kind of person who has a bad, bad tendency to need to be right. In seventh grade English, we were having an organized class debate about some reading or other - I don't even remember what - and I could not stop arguing my point. I was right. I was right, I WAS right. No form of emphasis can capture how utterly confident I was in my certitude that I had taken the correct side of the argument, and I was willing to die on that hill, status and popularity and other classmates' feelings be damned. Needless to say, my team "won" the debate, and after class, my teacher pulled me aside and suggested I talk to my mother about joining the high school debate team. As a thirteen-year old. Ummm, right. 

I did, eventually, join that high school debate team, and I was a damn good debater - undefeated as a novice, successful on the national competition circuit, and consistently placing high in my first and early second year. At a few tournaments, I made my opponents cry...an achievement of which I remain dubiously proud, even to this day. 

That sort of half-ashamed pride in my argumentative ability trickles over into my personal life, too. I am far too reluctant to back down - famous in my family for needing to get the last word in, to prove my point, or to twist the knife. I am vicious when confronted unjustly by friends or partners, gifted with a colossal vocabulary and cursed with the kind of temper that stays dormant or suppressed for far too long and explodes out so violently as to be near-cruel. My family has a name for these sorts of flare-ups, after an incident in high school when I eviscerated a close guy friend, over the phone (while they all eavesdropped on another phone, of course), for falsely accusing me of being dishonest about some prom drama, of all things. Now, when I go off, they call it "John Doe'ing" someone (name, obviously, redacted to save that poor guy's dignity a decade later). Since that high school lash-out, I've only John Doe'd a half a dozen times, but each one lives in my memory: distinct moments of mingled shame over losing it and satisfaction in my ability to stand up for myself in my own righteousness. 

I ramble so terribly, yikes - let's bring it back to that statement on the wall. "Do you want to be right, or effective?" I've been mulling over my desire to be right, and I think it stems largely from the fact that being right, being correct, traditionally earns one praise, accolades, gold stars and merit badges. I am a junkie for pleasing people and achieving highly - always have been, always will be. You have to be right to get high test scores, to pass pop quizzes, to clear audit review notes or adhere to finance policies and procedures. Doing things right is a source of comfort, of safety, of success. But there's a difference between doing things right and being right, and I often don't adhere to that brightline. 

Of late, my job has really hammered this point home, as has my personal life. Long story short, I John Doe'd a bit a few weeks ago on someone who was being hideously unfair, and the residual anger and sense of irreproachability has lingered. Professionally, I'm working with a few people at work who are not subject-matter experts in what I do, and who remain reluctant to admit that. All of these smaller situations have combined, I think, to make me feel like I'm right more often than not - and I am right, in these specific situations. 

Moral of the story though, in order to be effective in these scenarios, I'm going to have to put that in my back pocket and shut the eff up. I'm right, yes, but I don't know it all and I can't control others' response to the fact that I AM right. And in these scenarios, it's better to serve myself up a double helping of humble pie, acknowledge that there are other ways to get where I need to go, and bite my tongue rather than proving my point. This, for me, is anathema, which I've touched on before here; I take pride in my intelligence and grasp of what I do, and not using (let's be honest, flaunting) that expertise is hard for me. That said, it's a lesson I'm trying hard to take to heart, and hopefully having it down on "paper" here will help me adhere to that principle as effectively as possible. 

Wish me luck, I guess?!