Twenty-Five

Life, Musings, Uncategorized

Today I am 25 years old. Last night, I celebrated with friends (pizza, booze, and Cards Against Humanity were all involved). My friends conspired with my hubby to make a birthday cake from scratch as a surprise. It was delightful. While I was chatting with another friend who’s also turning 25 next month, we joked about having a quarterlife crisis. “The next big birthday is 30, and that’s really scary,” he said. “Thirty sounds so adult. Like, by then you really can’t afford to make any more big mistakes. Really the only perk of turning 25 is that we don’t have to deal with those dumb fees when renting a car.”

25 Signs You're About To Turn 25

This is the year you officially cross the line and relate more to Squidward than to Spongebob. Via Buzzfeed.

It seems like we’ve been primed to freak out by turning 25. There’s lots of advice out there about lessons learned and things you apparently should have done before 25. But the more I thought about it, I realized that turning 25 isn’t all that scary to me. It’s effing awesome.

Honestly, my early twenties were plagued with insecurity and doubt. After graduation, I spent a lot of time worrying about the future as I tried to make the right decisions. At work, I took every little criticism as a sign that I just couldn’t hack it. I cried a lot. But I got through it. I married the best man I’ve ever met, gained experience and confidence in my abilities, and generally calmed down about things.

Now, this sounds cheesy even to me, but I feel like 25 is going to be the best year. Not because I know what’s going to happen, but because I’m finally okay with NOT knowing what’s going to happen. I’ve put that lingering teen angst and insecurity behind me, and I’m ready to have some adventures and generally enjoy what I’ve got. And maybe even make some mistakes, because I think that’s okay at any age.

So, here’s to being a quarter of a century and not freaking out about it.

2013

Uncategorized

Every year, I find the temptation to sum up and reflect on the past 12 months just irresistible. I’m not sure why. It’s an arbitrary milestone. I often find New Year’s Eve faintly anticlimactic. I don’t believe in New Year’s resolutions because you can resolve to do things anytime, and probably with greater success later in the year. So, why the need to mark the turning of the year in writing?

Well, even though I’m embarrassed by my earnest, yearning, and overwritten teenage blog posts (like this one), I sort of love them too. They make me feel tender towards my past self and I want to read this in five or six years and feel the same way. This year was also particularly eventful. I started it in Mexico on my honeymoon, and then around my 24th birthday in February I found out about my mom’s cancer. I spent a lot of time driving to my parent’s house. I grieved over the horribleness of cancer and its treatment. I finally felt like I hit my stride in my job. I started a book club. I traveled here and there. I supported my husband through the end of his master’s program. I got my own health insurance. Today marks my one year wedding anniversary. I finally feel like a Big Girl (perhaps even a Woman), which means I’m primed to have a quarterlife crisis when I turn 25 in February. Ha.

Really, though, I think I can’t help doing this because I need to tally up and reason how these things add up to another year — the years slip by faster and faster and I need to remind myself how every eventful they really are, if I pay enough attention. So, I suppose if I have a goal for the entire year of 2014 (not an actual New Year’s resolution, mind you) it’s to pay better attention to now, instead of obsessing about the future.

I’ll be back in January with a fresh set of monthly goals, of course, but for now I’m only going to focus on celebrating my anniversary (one year of marriage, but almost six years together) and ringing in the new year with some of my best friends.

December Cheer

Musings

At my house, it feels like a fever has broken. My husband just submitted his last grad school assignment today. His makeshift office in our living room is dismantled, and he’s starting to relax. It’s been a mad, stressful whirlwind for weeks, but now we get to celebrate his graduation. While I wasn’t the one racing to meet deadlines and grappling with complex problems, his stress seeped through the whole house. I did a lot of things by myself while he was busy. But no more grad school widow here! And just in time for us to shop, clean, and decorate for the holidays.

Candles

Click for source.

In case you haven’t guessed, I’ve decided to take this month off. Partly because December is the busiest month and partly because I’m content with trying to focus on enjoying the good parts of the holidays. Lighting Advent candles, singing hymns, decorating the Christmas tree, baking cookies — little rituals that brighten the shorter, colder days (I’m still getting used to walking out into darkness at 5:30 p.m. when I leave work). And, of course, time with family and friends. I’ll update as I can and start fresh with new goals in January.

In the meantime, what traditions brighten your holidays?

Thanksgiving

Community, Food, Gratitude, Musings

I love Thanksgiving. Yes, it can be stressful. Yes, I think the Black Friday hoo-ha is awful. Yes, that whole spiel about pilgrims and Indians seems kinda icky and colonialist when you actually learn some more U.S. history. But I still love it. I love the cozy feeling of cooking and eating and relaxing with loved ones — ideally, for me, Thanksgiving hits pause for a few days during all the craziness of this time of the year. I also love pie and Thanksgiving is the ultimate pie holiday.

Pumpkin Pie Slice

(Click for source.)

This year, I have a great deal to be thankful for. I’ve been fretting about money a lot lately (health insurance and student loan payments are both really expensive), but this morning I sat down and wrote about all the things I do have, instead of the things I don’t. It feels so cheesy and forced to try and work yourself into a state of gratitude, and sometimes that applies to Thanksgiving as well. But I’ve learned that cultivating gratitude takes work, and even when it feels cheesy, it’s worth it.

One of the reasons I started this blog is because my mom was diagnosed with cancer earlier this year, and that has a way of turning all your priorities upside down. She just finished her treatment this week. After a long, hard year, she’s on the road to being well. In fact, she will be just fine. Better than fine. Words cannot begin to convey how thankful I am to have her in my life. I can’t wait to celebrate with her and the rest of my family. Really, I say this without sanctimoniousness, but what is a tight budget compared to that? I have a home, a job that gives me time off for the holiday, a wonderful husband, and a loving family. I am thankful.

I hope you all have safe, warm, happy Thanksgivings.

Spontaneity and Middlemarch

Gratitude, Life, Musings

So far, this month has been the anti-goals month. Or rather, it’s been a more spontaneous month.

I did spend an hour drawing this week. The drawing turned out … okay, but I enjoyed myself. Did I hit my goal of three to four sketches? No, I did not. But I did start reading Middlemarch by George Eliot, a sweeping, substantial Victorian novel often praised as one of the great masterpieces of English fiction. I spontaneously decided to undertake this epic reading project thanks to The Toast, which is hosting a virtual Middlemarch book club. And, you guys, I am SO excited to read this book and talk about it online because I never did finish it during my undergrad Brit Lit survey (the shame).

So, I forgive myself for reading this book instead of sketching more. Just like how I forgive myself for not writing in my journal some mornings because staying in bed and cuddling with my husband for those precious 20 minutes before we absolutely have to get up seems worth it. I’m still learning to balance things. And I’m also learning not to fight my natural whims. I set a good goal, but it wasn’t “filling the well” the way I thought it would, and so I’ve let myself take down time and start other projects. And it’s okay,  because this month I really do feel grateful to have time to relax before the holiday whirlwind, to have time to tackle this book, and to have time to spend baking and chatting with my new friend. I need these antidotes to work stress and the last few (completely insane) weeks of my husband’s graduate program. So, I suppose I’ll try to make time to draw again this week — but maybe I’ll just read instead.

Today I’m grateful for: this amazing marbled pumpkin gingersnap tart recipe from my Smitten Kitchen cookbook. I know what I’m making for Thanksgiving.

Learning to Subtract

Uncategorized

Every so often, I like to have a day where I stay in all day. I pick a Saturday or Sunday to wear my pajamas and putter around. I read. I drink lots of tea. I admire the view from my living room windows. I might tidy up a little. Sometimes I bake. Mostly, I just do whatever I want, whenever I feel like it.

Slow Down

Click for source.

Yesterday was one of those days. It felt wonderful. And yet, here I am, fighting off guilt.

I had a busy, productive week. I went to the office every day. I packed healthier lunches and took long walks over some of my lunch breaks. I took a restorative yoga class. I journaled every morning. I helped a friend edit a story.  My husband and I had dinner with another friend and finally saw her new house. I went grocery shopping. By the end of each day, I was so tired that I crawled in bed at 9 p.m. to read and drift off to sleep. Why am I feeling guilty?

Well, I didn’t do the one thing I set out to do. I tried to draw one night, but I was tired and impatient. I didn’t get far, and then didn’t pick up my supplies again all week. And I didn’t draw yesterday, even though I wrote it down on my “to do” list.

Lately, I’ve made an effort to add things to my life and it’s been undeniably positive. I’ve added more exercise, made more time for friends, gotten more involved at church, and started writing every day. My life has been improved by these things. I’ve also been impressed with my ability to juggle them all. But that’s where the dark side sometimes asserts itself. I start to get competitive with myself. I start to think that even though I’m doing better, it’s still not enough. I could be exercising more, after all. I could be eating better. I could give more time to friends and family. I should keep my apartment cleaner. And so on. My creeping sense of guilt comes from the belief that I’m not making the most of my time, not setting the right priorities, not living up to my own expectations. Why set goals if you’re not going to stick with them?

Yesterday, though, I think a deeper, wiser part of my brain understood that I needed to set all that aside. That my goals, while noble and fruitful, had to be ignored for a little while. That it was actually good for me to be unproductive for a day, after a long week that was indeed busy and productive, just not in all the ways I’d planned. After all, how do you stay balanced and sane if you only add and never subtract? I’m still learning to subtract because the art of paring down is difficult and delicate. It involves discerning your priorities, setting personal boundaries, and not measuring your sense of self worth against a set of check marks on your “to do” list. But I do know that, even though I failed to meet my goal this week, sitting in my favorite chair yesterday with a hot cup of tea and ignoring the clock as I read for as a long as I wanted was the right thing to do.

Today I’m grateful for: hours spent around a bonfire with friends, lots of laughter, and piping mugs of hot cider.

Holy smokes. It’s November.

Gratitude, Musings

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My blogging output declined this month in proportion to my other writing. But that actually means I stuck to my goal pretty well this month. After a rocky beginning, I started getting up half an hour earlier every morning so that I could write three pages in my journal every day. (This means I’ve actually started getting up before 7 a.m. every morning, which really makes me feel like an adult.)

I write mostly about day-to-day things. Work. Weather. Things That Irritate Me. But in the middle of a whirlwind month, I’ve been grateful to have a few quiet moments to myself every morning. I’m attached now to my ritual of getting up, making a cup of coffee, and writing.

It’s helped me process some big events, such as my husband’s 26th birthday (him moving beyond 25 seems significant somehow, partly because it finally forced us to get our own health insurance), and a dear friend and coworker preparing to move back to California to be near her family (so bittersweet). I also made some new friends this month, and hosted more successful book club meetings. I struggled to make it to the gym. I had an epic Halloween that involved dressing up as Sonny Bono along with my boss who did her best Cher impersonation. We sang “I Got You, Babe” in front of the entire company.

Now it’s November, my favorite and least favorite time of the year. I love the transitional feeling of fall, but it makes me melancholy. I love the holidays, but they also stress me out. Time keeps slipping through my fingers, and I keep falling back on poetic cliches to describe how I feel. My heart is heavy. I’m a little jealous my friend who’s driving across the country next week. She is brave enough to uproot herself so that she can orient her life according to the things that matter to her: being near her family and finding work that she’s truly passionate about. I want to be like her.

I’ll keep up my new writing routine, but I’ve found that it doesn’t feel like a creative outlet so much as just a dumping ground. Putting my tangled, anxious thoughts on paper grounds me, but it’s pretty mundane stuff. In high school, I loved to draw, but dropped it in college. So, this month I’m going to dust off my art supplies and challenge myself to do at least three or four sketches a week. I’m also going to try and hunt down Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain and work on some of those exercises as well. If they aren’t too horrible, maybe I’ll post some here.

Happy November.

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Today I’m grateful for: the leaves finally bursting into color. The trees outside our window fill our living room with golden light.