an uncomfortable self-investment

Every personality assessment I’ve ever taken has called out the fact that I don’t like change or ambiguity. While I prefer to spin this as, “I have a preference for stability,” I recognize it’s a part of who I am.

Lately, circumstances have caused me to spend more time operating outside my realm of comfort, playing up on this area where I so often struggle. It’s been exhausting, and leaves me wiped at the end of each day.

But I’ve began to notice that the longer I’m forced to function in the space beyond my typical comfort zone, the less uncomfortable the process becomes. It’s probably overkill to compare emotional struggles to physical ones, but in the same way the body physiologically adapts to pain, the mind can apparently become desensitized to adverse conditions.

I, for one, am thrilled to have more real estate in this area. It’s an uncomfortable self-investment, but one that ultimately supports productivity and growth. And I think it’s a buyer’s market.
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hysterical and amazing and terrifying

For as long as I can remember, I’ve always craved the feeling of being safe and secure above anything else. Wrapped up tightly and sheltered from the world. I find this in quality hugs, sleeping bags or in my bed with the covers pulled over my head*

*An automatic response to my alarm clock.

I’m not sure what this says about my upbringing (can one be over swaddled?) but even as an adult, it’s heaven for me to be somewhere cozy and quiet at the end of a long day or if I’m upset. It’s actually the reason I look forward to winter every year – so that I have a multitude of opportunities to snuggle and be snuggled. I think I was a stuffed animal in a prior life.

I assume this is normal … or at least not entirely abnormal, but the amount of sheer joy I find at having alone time in a quiet place is probably a little weird. I guess it’s part of being a introvert. The more I socialize, the more solo time I need to re-energize.

Right now I’m sitting atop a magnificent bed in a hotel room in Washington, D.C. I’m just now sitting upright after spending 20 minutes laying on my back and studying the ceiling, while texting, instagraming and talking to my mom. There’s crazy intricate crown molding up there, and I couldn’t tear myself away. If there’s anything I like to stare at (besides Ryan Gosling) it’s antique molding. True story.

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This room can only be described as a perfect. I feel like a little girl in a princess suite, where everything is lacy and white, wonderful and serene. They – the magical staff – left me slippers, chocolates, cookies and classical music while I was out this evening. You complete me, dear hotel. I told my husband tonight that I want to stay here for a week and never.leave.the.room.

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This wasn’t supposed to be a post about swaddling withdrawals or hotels though. I actually sat down – well – sat up to write after pondering how absurd it is that I am where I am at the moment.

I’m by myself in the nation’s Capitol. I just had an inspiring dinner conversation with a colleague I hardly knew before today. Tomorrow I’ll attend an event at the Chamber of Commerce addressing potential connections between education and careers for young adults.

It’s one of those moments where I have to pause and remember that I’m no longer 15 and am, in fact, playing the role of an adult in this week’s episode of life. I’m very aware that I’ve been alive and mostly conscious for the greater part of everyday of my life, but where did the the time go? How does this happen? One day I’m looking for a prom dress and pleading for a later curfew, and then somehow I’m transported through time to be on the cusp of my 30th birthday traveling the country alone, for work. Work where I wear pantsuits, no less. That’s a punchline waiting to happen.

It’s hysterical and amazing and terrifying. But mostly amazing.

I feel so lucky to have this life, full of incredible people, places and problems. It’s not just the big trips and milestones that make life so fulfilling, but the everyday things, too. There’s a well known analogy about this – something with a vase and rocks and sand – am I right? Big rocks can’t completely fill up a vase without the sand to slide into empty spaces and make it truly full.

At any rate, I’m making a more concerted effort to write about what I think and feel everyday, even when mundane, and this is what spewed out tonight, from my fingertips to your eyeballs.

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choosing generosity

Generosity is a characteristic I’ve always been drawn to and marveled at in others.

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I don’t consider myself selfish, but I also don’t think I’m instinctively generous. Meaning: it’s not something that comes naturally to me without hesitation, but it’s a trait I want to explore and embrace. Any time I witness someone being truly generous, particularly in a spontaneous way, it  takes my breath away. That people can be that good.

So. My New Year’s resolution this year was…

…to give money to every person, cause and collection that asked. This includes strangers panhandling, friends fundraising for different efforts and donation jars in check-out lines (among other things). I decided that even if I can only give a dollar at a time, I’m going to say ‘yes’ to all of these offers, at least for the year.

It’s been so fulfilling.

I no longer divert my eyes when I’m stopped at an intersection and see people asking for money. I look forward to helping someone; reaffirming that people are intrinsically good. That no matter what, someone cares.

And it feels so good to give money to friends running races and collecting money for different organizations they feel passionately about. To have another person validate your commitments is inspiring.

I’m not spending a ton of money doing this. It’s $1 to $20 at a time, which is (sadly – but honestly) the amount I spend on trivial things everyday.

There’s no way to determine if any of the people I’m supporting truly need the money. But who’s to say? My determination is, if they have made the decision to ask me for it, then they need it. More than I do.

I love the idea that even on a very, very small scale, I’m bringing some happiness to different people this way. Being the change. Sharing positivity, even if it’s fleeting.

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Intangible Patience

As kids, we’re taught to be patient. To wait for things without anxiety or complaint because the reward will be worth the wait.

We learn about patience while waiting for specific things – a birthday party, trip to Disney World or the start of summer vacation – but what about when you have to wait for things that are way harder to achieve?

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve started to recognize that patience for intangible things is a lot harder to master. It’s a more gradual and challenging process, marked by the lack of a defined end.

When you can’t mark days on the calendar off with a red X, it’s harder to feel like you’re getting any closer to something. And being stuck in a feeling or situation you’d like to depart from can be absolutely miserable.

Take grief, for example. We know time is the only thing that can help ease this kind of pain, but when every minute is painful, it’s hard to be patient for a reprieve. And what about forgiveness – it’s something we know comes in time, when the anger and hurt feelings diminish – but it can be a real bear to wait for this transformation.

There are probably endless ways to master different levels of patience, but I think one of the most important parts of the process is simply recognizing that it will be hard, and slow, and not delivered all at once.

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Things my kids will never say

1. It’s Saturday, I’ll get the mail.
2. I have this tape.
3. I’ll save it onto a floppy disc.
4. Let’s look it up in the phone book.
5. We should rent a movie.
6. What’s your pager number?
7. I need to get this film developed.
8. He’s not home, I got the machine.
9. Did she put an away message up?
10. If I get lost, I”ll stop for directions or buy a map.

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To my 16-year-old self:

There are hundreds of pieces of advice I’d love to bestow upon my 16-year-old self.

Let’s be honest though, what fun would it be to coast into adulthood without several years of hormonally charged adolescent turmoil, to remind us how far we’ve come?

But GOSH. The things that defined our teenage years with such intensity – the highs and lows and loves and losses – they really weren’t what we thought they were. I suppose it’s all relative.

If I could travel back in time to leave myself a treasure map of wisdom, here’s what I’d emphasize:

1. It is highly unlikely anyone is as critical of you as you are to yourself. No one notices your smudged eye liner, non name-brand jeans or what you eat for lunch. And if they do, laugh at them.

2. Driving a clunky old car builds character. Kids who get new Civics on their sixteenth birthdays miss out on a gnarly rite of passage.

3. Do not aspire to have an as-seen-on-tv love life. There are no real-life boys who look or behave remotely like Freddy Prinze Jr. or Leonardo DiCaprio.

4. Any time you swear you’ll ‘never talk to her again,’ you are grossly mistaken.

5. The further you progress through life, the greater the disparity between who was most popular and who becomes most successful.

6. No matter how bad it gets, hang in there. COLLEGE WILL BE AMAZING.

7. In the grand scheme of things … Time you spend on the phone < Time spent of homework and sleep

8. It’s usually not easy or cool to do the right thing, but making good decisions is always worth it and will save you more trouble than you can imagine.

9. While hard to believe, there will be a lot of moments in your life when you’ll look back and long to be living at home with your parents again.

10. Keep a journal, take lots of pictures and stay in touch with old friends. Don’t be in such a hurry to grow up.

… I can only imagine what I’ll be hypothetically writing to myself in another few years.