How Did I Get Here?

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You know the Talking Heads song, “Once in a Lifetime?” I’ve been thinking a lot about the lyrics for pretty much the entire last year, because I often ask myself, “well how did I get here?” And logically, like stepwise, I know exactly how I got here. But when I zoom out, I am still stunned, and a little confused, at where I am. A little over six years ago, I was a single grad student who was a year from turning 30, cobbling together an income so I could live in a rowhouse in Columbia Heights with 3 other people, trying to date and find my person among a lot of self-important consultants and Hill staffers, and figuring out what exactly I wanted to do next. Would I stay in DC? Would I work for a big company? A nonprofit? Would I settle down with someone? Become the cool aunt? Should I meet friends for drinks or actually work out after my 8pm class ends?

Fast forward to now, and my life looks very different. I’m a married homeowner, I’m a freelancer for a large PR agency (formerly a Director, but…COVID made me re-evaluate a few things), and I HAVE A CHILD. I’m not going to pick up and move, I’m with my person for the long-haul, clearly I already committed to the kid thing, and if something starts after 8pm, there’s no way I’m going. Those big questions I ask myself are fewer and farther between. But once again, I am trying to figure out what I really, truly want to do for a living, how I want to spend my time and energy outside of my family.

So while I barely know how I got here, I also don’t know where I’m going. 

But here’s the thing – as much as I want to feel like I have a unique perspective, I know that this feeling, this sudden rocketing forward into adulthood and then standing still, bewildered about how you got here and what comes next is really common. Many millennials spent most of our 20s trying to make the best of a bad situation, taking the jobs we could get in a not-so-great economy and trying to find love (or whatever) on dating apps. We worked hard, paid our dues (and the minimum payments on our student loans and credit cards), and laughed when anyone we knew talked seriously about buying a house. All while hearing how much society hated us and how self-involved we were in pretty much every major media outlet. People talk about millennials and our delayed adolescence, our earnestness, and our eternal quest for comfort and coziness, but we also have lived through our share of not-so-great historical events (and now two recessions, cool), so can you blame us? 

That’s all we see and hear about, though. The flaws of millennials and how we can’t just grow up – even though there are a lot of us who are very grown up (some of us are almost 40!). We don’t hear about or see in popular culture the millennials who struggled hard in our 20s, and remember it keenly, but suddenly (at least it feels sudden to me) find themselves thrust forward into what looks like legit adulthood, all the while panicking that they are about to be found out. The ones, like me, thinking, “wait wait wait, what is this place? Do I belong here? Where did my entry-level job, my crappy apartment, and my questionable dating choices go? Is this my real life?” The ones who are incredibly fortunate and happy with where they ended up, but still feel a little lost. 

I’ve struggled to find a perspective like my own, in what I read and watch – I don’t identify with the messy 20-something love stories involving either angsty artists or people about to make partner at a law firm at 25 (how? in what universe?) or the GenX 40-somethings going through mid-life crises. Where are the 35-year-olds who seemingly have their shit together, but are internally screaming because time is moving so fast and they want to make a decent living so they can pay down student loan debt but are also inundated with “follow your passion!” messages on a daily basis? Or if they do appear, why are they so often the annoying side characters, who are written to contrast the main character whose life looks a little messier from the outside? Where are the main characters who have finally passed the “just getting by” phase of their lives, who then start having existential crises about it? Look, this isn’t me starting a crusade to see representation of the millennials who made it after having a weird time in their 20s. I get that that might not always make for riveting story lines. But sometimes, I just wish I would see someone like me, who was the messy friend a few years before but now finds herself blinking in disbelief at the life she finds herself in now, the life with fewer material struggles than in her 20s, and more nebulous ones. I just wouldn’t hate having a guide is all I’m saying.

Like I said, I don’t know how I got here. I don’t know how I became a fairly successful corporate person with a happy, stable marriage, a child, a mortgage, and a financial planner today. It feels like I went in fast forward, like I got on a speeding train without knowing its destination. And then when I got off, no one would tell me how long we’d been traveling or where we’d landed. I like it here, but also…how did I pick this line, and when did I buy a ticket? This metaphor is getting pretty strained, but… I think you get it. How did I get here? How did any of us?

Stand Up, Sit Down, Fight, Fight, Fight!

You know the fun little icebreaker, where people ask you to say something unexpected about yourself? I usually tell the group something about how I got to sing backup for a favorite mom crooner in college or how I randomly went to Vegas two days before Thanksgiving my junior year of college (I was very straightlaced and my parents were shocked and unhappy!).  But one thing I always forget to mention is that once upon a time, I was a cheerleader. 

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While some might not be super surprised if they met me only at one point or another in my life, friends who have known me for a long time understand why this might make them laugh. But alas, the awkward pictures of 13-year-old me sitting amongst the blue and gold pom poms do exist, so despite the fact that it was a short-lived phase, and I wasn’t all that good at it, there is no escaping that it happened.  

I was always an athlete (and I very much consider cheerleaders athletes, this post is no shade to them), but I was more of an individual sports kinda gal. Swimming and track were my chosen athletic pursuits for most of my life, because I got to be by myself and, aside from relays, no one directly relied upon me for their own success. I was a pretty decent swimmer, but still, not having that external pressure was part of why I enjoyed it so much. I also was incredibly shy for most of my adolescence, and talking to new people or being the center of attention made me blush and stutter. While I did end up being a theater/choir kid later in high school, that felt so different – I was either playing someone else or only the center of attention for the length of a solo I had practiced and practiced for. 

Now, growing up, I always had friends, but I was never what you might call “popular.” These days, I’m pretty thankful for that, actually, but in middle school, I desperately wanted to be cool. Sixth and seventh grade in particular were tough as friends all around me were growing up at different rates – both physically and emotionally – and it felt like there was a major reshuffling of the social order. Being smart and having niche interests were no longer cool – but being able to do your hair, talk to boys, and make the latest Limited Too fashions fit into our Catholic school dress code were, like, the coolest. So my bespectacled, late-to-the-puberty-party self, who was terrified of the opposite sex but the proud winner of all spelling bees despite my classmates’ rolling eyes, didn’t know where she fit anymore. 

In seventh grade, though, I had the chance to become a cheerleader. Blame all of the 90s teen romcoms we all watched, but I thought that this was my chance. I could reinvent myself, get the boys who played football to pay attention to me, and officially become cool. Friends, try to act surprised here, but that was not to be. I was still me, but now I had to wear a short skirt that only emphasized my knobby knees as I was thrown into the air (and dropped a fair amount, if we’re being honest) in our more impressive stunts, which made me even less confident about speaking to aforementioned football players on the sidelines. It was…not what I imagined it would be. I kept it up, since – often to my detriment – I refuse to quit things I hate, but I decided that cool just was not in the cards for me. I settled for simply making a few new friends before high school and continued on my nerdy way outside of cheering, winning spelling bees and showing off in English class.

Sometimes I still think about how I was sure certain things in high school and middle school were going to change my life, or at least my social standing, and I get such horrible secondhand embarrassment for teen me. Like cheerleading, like asking a boy I barely knew to freshman year Sadie Hawkins (he said no), like rolling my eyes at people in my honors classes who I genuinely thought were nice and interesting, just because the rest of our grade deemed them “nerdy.”

I don’t know why I was so convinced I needed to change (and I am really glad my “AP class mean girl” schtick didn’t last long), because I was fine where I was, the way I was. I wasn’t an outcast, but I marched to the beat of my own drum a lot of the time, and it just wasn’t everyone’s cup of tea. Few actively disliked me, but I was sort of a benign curiosity to folks outside of my friend circle. I was an athlete who was weirdly obsessed with 60s fashion, got good grades, and surprised everyone senior year by trying out for the musical and getting a lead role (“what’s that girl’s name? The one who can sing but I didn’t even know went here?”). In short, there was good, there was bad, but ultimately, it was all just fine. I didn’t have to endure the trauma of being mean-girled but also, sometimes people in my homeroom (that we shared for four years) forgot my name and called me Megan. And I wish I would have known that it was all fine then – that I was just who I was meant to be at the time. That I didn’t need to try so hard and that I could just like the things and people I liked. Maybe if I had known all of that, I wouldn’t have tried out for cheerleading and bruised my tailbone so many times. 

Red

I think we were all kind of hoping for a fresh start in 2021. But, uh…that certainly didn’t happen, huh? I think with COVID numbers soaring, unemployment numbers continuing to look pretty bad, and an attempted coup on our government, we’re all feeling a little unmotivated, worried, and ready for a change. Living in DC, especially, I have been anxiety spiraling pretty regularly, so needless to say, not a whole lot of writing has been happening over here. However, I recently connected with a virtual writing group for a little inspiration, and we’re giving each other writing prompts, which has already been extremely helpful. Today’s post is inspired by such a prompt.

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When I think of the color red, I think of special occasions. More specifically, I think of getting dressed up. I like fashion and beauty, but I can’t say they’re really driving forces in my life. But for every fancy occasion I can remember, where I can recall exactly what I wore, every event I’ve felt really beautiful, red has been there. 

I think my first instance of feeling like red made things extra special was Sadie Hawkins my sophomore year of high school. Off the top of my head, I don’t remember who I went with, but I do remember that I wore a red fringed mini dress with matching red strappy sandals (ah, what 15-year-olds think is appropriate footwear for winter dances in Michigan). I was one of few girls to wear a short dress that year, and I felt like a star – despite the fact that barely anyone outside of my honors block classes knew I even existed. But newly free from my orthodontia, and creeping a little closer toward puberty every day (I was an extremely late bloomer, to say the least), in my little red dress, I was full of sass and confidence. 

My love affair with red continued throughout high school, especially as I became obsessed with early 60s glamour and Jackie Kennedy. Senior year homecoming featured a black, tee-length, tulle dress, a couple strings of pearls, and red lipstick to match the fake red rose pinned to the hip of my dress (Macy’s early 2000s fashion, you know?). I was really committed to my chosen esthetic, so despite being annoyed that a junior girl was wearing my same dress (again, Macy’s, not exactly known for exclusivity), I felt every bit the old Hollywood starlet. 

And then there was the coat. Toward the end of high school, my friends and I got very into thrifting, and would spend hours going through the racks putting together “looks.” I cringe every time I think of the t-shirt I ripped the sleeves off and paired with torn up jeans and a silver metal belt, the texture of which I can only describe as a cross between chainmail and fish scales. But the coat was different – it was a true diamond in the rough. While searching Goodwill one weekend, I came across a knee-length, bright red, funnel-neck, wool coat for $10. While I did appreciate the price (as a 17-year-old using the rapidly dwindling funds saved from her summer lifeguarding job), I really fell in love with the rich color and the way it made me feel. As soon as I saw it, I knew it was for me. Its clean lines, strong shoulders, and high collar made me feel powerful, and it fit like a glove. From then on, I knew that coat would be my “fancy” coat. And it absolutely was…until I left it at my sorority house one summer in college, and it was thrown out while they remodeled. 

I still think about that coat sometimes (OK, literally every winter when I look for a new coat that might come close), but I also think about how it made me feel, and how I want every other important piece of clothing to make me feel. If I’m actually spending money on something for a special occasion, it better make me feel like a more powerful, more self-assured version of myself, who lifts her chin a little higher when she walks into a room. Whether it’s a killer pair of boots, a dress cut just so, or the perfect lipstick, I want it to make me feel the way that coat did, the way red does.

Cool Friends

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We’ve all got those friends, right? The ones with an interesting POV or who always know the best thing to eat/wear/read or who are always out doing something incredibly exciting (in the before times) that you never would have heard of. The ones who seem 100% confident in their opinions and comfortable in their own skin. Do we think they know how cool they are? I’m sure some do, but I often wonder if some of my friends realize their level of cool.

I’ve been thinking about this because I have some really cool friends, and even though my communication hasn’t been great in 2020, they are still seemingly happy to hear from me when I do reach out. One friend has impeccable taste, and a witty, wry sense of humor I can only aspire to. Another is an author a few times over, and always has the best recommendations for making your home your favorite place to be. Another has such energy and zest for life, constantly completing athletic feats and randomly appearing on national TV on top of her full time job, that I really don’t know how she fits it all in. And that’s just a few of my cool friends! Yet, when I text or email, all of them respond with enthusiasm, expressing excitement about when we can get together in 2021 (fingers crossed!) or asking to make plans to Zoom.

To be clear, I am not a bad friend (at least usually, but who hasn’t had a not-great period of time or two?), or even the token weird friend, and this is not a post where I am going to wonder aloud, “wait, what if I am also the cool friend and I don’t know it?” I think it’s important to know yourself, and I am not, have never been, nor will I ever be, the cool friend. I am many things, but “cool” has literally never been a word anyone has used to describe me. Maybe fun, or thoughtful, or bookish, or talkative, or sometimes athletic, or easily excitable about kind of nerdy things, but, again, never “cool.” Which is why I think I’m still so surprised that cool people want to be friends with me, ya know? Sometimes I even want to ask them, “do you know how cool you are? Do you know how surprised I still am that you still want to be friends with me?!” But, of course, in the spirit of playing it cool (see what I did there?), I don’t.

Can I Tell You How I’m Turning Into My Mother?

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Can I tell you how I’m turning into my mother? 

I remember weekend mornings, my mom the first one up. Carrying a mug of coffee from room to room, her hair not quite in place, wearing her terrycloth pink bathrobe over flannel pajamas, almost year round, as we figured out what to do for the day. As we got older, Saturdays and Sundays were more scheduled with swim meets and tennis matches and dashing off to see friends, but the image of these weekend mornings at home is seared into my mind. 

Nowadays, since we never leave the house, every day feels like a weekend, and I feel myself slipping more and more into that memory. The other day, my son asked me to play and we sat on the ground with blocks, him with his water cup, me with a mug full of no-longer-hot coffee. We built a train and pretended to race it along an imaginary track, as I breathed my coffee breath his way while we giggled. 

The other day, I ordered my second pair of flannel PJs for the holidays, after slipping into the first pair early, in the midst of my election anxiety, and discovering what a comfort they were. I also ordered a plush bathrobe for myself for Christmas (which my husband has agreed to wrap so I can pretend to be surprised and delighted in December), though mine is chenille and gray, because the idea of donning what amounts to a wearable blanket, during these months of endless, dayless days, sounded pretty good. Maybe Mom had the right idea. 

As much as I’m looking forward to a return to normal (whatever that will mean), with activities and restaurants and daycare, I’m trying to soak these mornings up, where I feel at least a little like my mom, and wonder if she felt like me, watching her children grow and figure things out as she sipped her coffee before really starting the day. 

I don’t know if this is just the circle of life doing its thing, or if I’m turning into my own special iteration of my mom, but I’m holding my lukewarm mug of coffee and these memories close.

Five Things I Have a Hard Time Following Through On

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As a person who constantly overcommits, and then probably underdelivers (mostly to myself, since professionally, I unnecessarily beat myself up about what I’m achieving and who I might be letting down while still usually producing a good final product), I can tell you that I really wish I were better at following through. I set very lofty goals, and then when I fail to meet them completely, I struggle to stay motivated. This is definitely related to my all or nothing personality/outlook, but here we are. Below is an incomplete list of things I have not been able to stick to that, honestly, just hang over my head all the time. 

  1. A regular exercise routine. For a former personal trainer, I sure am lax about my fitness. Don’t get me wrong, on most days I move my body in some way – I do at least 15 pushups and squats almost daily, and I take my son for two walks around the neighborhood a day, weather permitting. But beyond that? It’s pretty hit or miss. I keep starting routines (full body workout, MWF! Two runs per week!), but the second I’m derailed by something like a busy day or a minor illness, it feels like I have to start over.  I’m constantly battling between two selves: the one who has been type A and very regimented all of her life, and the other who wants to live and not lapse back into the unhealthily strict behaviors that plagued her throughout college and a good chunk of her 20s. Would I like to improve my cardiovascular health and feel like I could do 50 jump squats without being out of breath? Sure, but I also really would like to read this book while I have two hours of peace while my son naps, so….
  2. A consistent writing practice. When I left my full-time job, I said I would set up a schedule to write every single day. But… it didn’t work out like that. Sometimes when my son was napping, I needed to get stuff done or run errands that I couldn’t do when he was awake. And sometimes, I just wanted to read and decompress for a bit while I had a break. And almost every day, I needed a minute to switch over from mom mode to writer mode, so I didn’t have the full amount of time I expected to have. I have journaled almost every day for the past year, but while I’ve gotten a few exciting ideas from jotting down my thoughts or daily happenings, sometimes it felt like I was simply going through the motions and not really writing the way I thought I should be. I have been able to write here a little more consistently lately, which I’m proud of, but I’m still working on what an ideal writing practice would look like. 
  3. Good sleep hygiene. I have always been a night owl, but I also really love sleep. Now, with a child and a job and a partner I want to spend time with, sleep has been less of a priority, even though I know getting more of it will improve my life pretty much all around. But I am always trying to squeeze in more hours to my day after we lay our son down to sleep at night, which results in me going to bed much later than I would like. I try to set up goals for myself, like “in bed by 10!” but then I get in bed and stay awake reading for two hours or looking at TikTok until I drop my phone on my face. To be fair, I haven’t tried the more extreme things like putting my phone in another room, but that’s probably where I need to go from here. 
  4. A long-term career. To anyone who has met me in the last couple years, I seem to have a career. I work in health communications and PR, and I’ve steadily moved up the ranks, even as I’ve had a child and gone into freelance mode a couple times. But this is not my first career (or even my second), and I don’t think it will be my last. I’m hoping I can make one move transition smoothly into the next, without having to start over, but I really have no idea what my “career” will look like five, ten, or 20 years from now. Knowing myself and my curious nature, I don’t think I’m ever going to feel like I’m in the one right career for me. But as I write this, maybe I’m OK with lacking follow through here. 
  5. Keeping up with friends. I feel like everyone feels this right now, though, right? We’re all socially (and physically) distanced, so our normal methods of seeing one another, whether it’s a couple times a year or a couple times a month, are not available. I had hoped, though, with the pandemic that I would find time to catch up with friends I had previously felt too busy to reach out to, since we were all suddenly video chatting and calling and texting more. And that happened for a bit in March and April, but then…we all got Zoom fatigue, and as we learned that the pandemic wasn’t going to be over anytime soon, I (along with a lot of people) started to retreat and turn inward. I felt like I had done that so much in my early and mid-20s, thanks to a long bout of depression (more on that another time), that I didn’t want to repeat it. But this pandemic is tough, and putting more pressure on ourselves for certain things isn’t worth it – it still bothers me that I wasn’t able to follow through on this one, though, because I miss people! 

I’m not writing about this because I am asking for solutions (but hey, if you’ve been there and have tips, I’m open), but because I figure, aren’t we all struggling to follow through on one thing or another these days? And as much as I feel like I struggle with following through on certain goals and commitments, I’m proud of the things that I’ve been able to follow through on: a solid relationship with my husband (despite a pandemic, a toddler, and stressful jobs); my dedication to my role as a mother, even though I never felt a super maternal pull growing up, and I sometimes I take a few extra minutes when I run upstairs for “one quick thing”; and for taking the time to remember that I am a whole person, who is always curious and thinking of ways to bring more creativity to my everyday life.  

Where do you struggle with following through? Or are you one of those people who meets all of your goals all of the time? (If so, what is your secret and are you human?)

Just Keeping Swimming?

Have you ever had a specific memory resurface, from years ago – one that keeps looping over and over – and you can’t figure out why?

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Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about this one specific memory from high school. It’s at the Big 9 Championships (I think?) in Michigan, and I am about to compete in a swimoff to get into the finals (I was at the bottom of the top – high-end mediocre has been my life’s motto since I can remember). It’s me and one other girl from a local high school, and she’s the cousin of one of my good swim team friends, and also someone I’ve swum with on club teams for years. I’m wearing a racing suit that isn’t our team suit, and my gangly self is probably jumping up and down by the blocks to stay warm and amped up for the race. It’s evening, a late fall indoor meet in Michigan, so the pool deck is a little less brightly lit than usual. 

After that, I remember being in the water for this 50-yard showdown, kicking and pulling as fast as I can, breathing as few times as possible. And I win. I hit the pad fractions of a second before my competitor. I win. My team is so excited and everyone is jumping up and down, screaming that I had brought us a victory (for the semi-finals at least). The other girl probably calls me a bitch in a friendly way while we commend each other on a good race, and then I get out of the pool to a towel wrapped around me and lots of hugs. And then we all go home, because we’re in high school and we have another meet the next day.  

I also remember a picture from this meet that was taken on the pool deck with one of my friends – I couldn’t tell you if it was before or after the race. It was taken on a disposable camera of course, since it was 2001, so no way to tell what it’s going to look like. But my hair was slicked back, I had no makeup on, and I was grinning widely and squeezing my friend like I was having the BEST time. I remember after she gave me a copy of the photo, her telling me how pretty she thought I looked, and I laughed, thinking that this was definitely not the most flattering picture of me. But looking back, I did look pretty! Not because I am a stunner immediately after taking a swim cap off, and not just because I was young and unlined (though, let’s be real, that helps). But because I was really happy and un-self-conscious, and in that moment, I was just glad to have a team and friends who came to watch our notoriously boring swim meets. 

For some reason, as I’ve been listening to and watching a lot of media nostalgic for the early 2000s, this is the memory (and the associated picture) that keeps coming back to me. Not prom or graduation, not heartbreak or excitement about a crush, not even the much bigger state swim meet I went to. This memory of a regional meet, in which I had to re-race someone to get to the next day is the one I keep circling back to. Do I miss this level of competition in my life? Am I wishing for a simpler time, when all I had to do was swim my heart out and study hard? Perhaps it was the unabashed joy I felt at winning and seeing friends and the lack of concern about running around a pool deck in a literal Speedo. Or maybe I just randomly remembered this memory and now my anxiety won’t let it stop looping in my brain, won’t let me stop swimming laps in my mind.

I had hoped writing it out would bring about this moment of clarity, that I would be struck with some sort of wisdom I could share. But…it didn’t and I wasn’t. I have nothing to share with you except this memory I’ll probably keep trying to dissect. Thanks for coming along?

Why I’m Not a Mommy Blogger

When talking both about my writing and about things I’ve learned about parenting, I’ve had a few friends say to me, “OMG, you should be a mommy blogger!” I do love to talk about motherhood, including birth stories, nursing/feeding, sleep schedules and tricks, and the weird things that kids love to play with that are not toys. I’ve recommended tips, tricks, and products that my friends who are parents or parents-to-be have reported back on, saying, “this saved us! Thank you!”

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But I am not going to become a parenting blogger. A few reasons:

  1. My kid has been (so far) pretty easy. I do not say this to brag, but really, in his whole 22 months of life, he has had maybe 4 weeks of really bad sleep. And with the exception of when he is teething, he eats like a champ and is pretty happy. We have some toddler meltdowns over here, but they really don’t seem like anything out of the ordinary, and once he lets it out, he’s back to playing happily. He has not yet faced any developmental issues, and he has been on track (if not well ahead of the curve) on growth milestones. I’m not saying he’s perfect by any means, but with the exception of the funny things he has started saying or doing, or the dumb parenting mistakes we’ve made (ahem, being smug about how easy your kid is? IDK), it’s not that interesting! He eats, he sleeps, he poops, he says funny things, he’s fine and pretty delightful! But what I’m more interested in writing about is how parents’ identities (especially moms’) change when they welcome a child into their lives, and the conflict there, not what I fed him for breakfast (oatmeal, for the 243rd morning in a row).
  2. I’m not a “stuff” person when it comes to my kid. This child outgrows things in mere weeks sometimes, so we tend to not buy him a lot if we can help it (hand-me-down clothes and toys have been our saving grace here). This is not to say I don’t like stuff. I am not immune to the high that comes with the perfect new pair of booties or the random kitchen gadget you didn’t know you couldn’t live without (that my husband makes great use of). But I can probably count on two hands the number of things that I felt were must-haves for my son in the past almost two years of his life. Will I maybe do a roundup of those things at some point? Sure, why not? But could I talk about a product or service I liked for my kid every week or even multiple times a week? Probably not, and I don’t want to force it, when there are so many people who are already good at it and who do it genuinely. But for those curious, I will say: Taking Cara Babies, Peanut changing pad, and maternity leggings worn well after your baby is born for those who hate nursing tanks but also dislike being cold.
  3. I want to write about other stuff. And not have to tie it back to being a mom somehow. When I’m writing, I first and foremost think of myself as a writer, as a person who tells stories and works through things with words. And sometimes, those stories are about my son, or I work through my complicated feelings about motherhood in my writing. But my writing has never been about one thing, and now that I’m a mom, I don’t want that to change. So while I have huge respect for the women who have carved out a niche for themselves in the parenting space (and I have benefited hugely from your recs and experiences!), that is likely never going to be me. I will write about being a mom, but I will also write about high school and college memories that I’m excavating and examining later in life and about the struggle to determine what exactly I want to do with this life I’ve been given. For some parenting bloggers, writing about this one, somewhat broad topic is so freeing and life-affirming. For me, it’s limiting. Both are OK.

So being a mommy blogger is not for me, despite being a writer who happens to be a mom. But bless the moms (and dads!) that can write about parenting and their kids every single day, when I can barely get out a post a week about whatever the hell it is I think about on a daily basis.

5 Things I’ve Learned About Myself at 35

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The cliche thing to do here would be 35 things I’ve learned about myself by 35, right? But let’s be honest – no one wants to read through a list of 35 things unless it’s a “35 Ways You Know You’re a Millennial” on Buzzfeed (dunkaroos, dial-up, and Delia’s). Plus, it would probably get a little repetitive. So here is a non-exhaustive list of things I have come to know about myself at the age of 35 (and some change)

1. I am not funny

Sure, I say a funny thing or two occasionally. I have brief flashes of wittiness. And I can be very goofy and downright weird, which might elicit a laugh here or there (however uncomfortable). But I’m not generally funny, and I am OK with that. I don’t think that not being funny makes me any less intelligent or fun to be around – you just won’t bust a gut laughing when we hang out. I think timing and the ability to not completely overthink things are key to being funny, and I don’t have either, at least never at the same time. So you can be the funny one, entertaining the group. I’ll just be over here having unnecessarily serious conversations with one person at a time. 

2. I like flexibility but need routine

Having done a little freelance work in the past, and now trying to start that back up, I will say that I love not having a full day of meetings and immediate client needs. I really enjoy being able to do things when the mood strikes or when they make sense to me. Working out at 2pm? Sure! My son is napping. Am I struggling with the motivation to write in the afternoon? No problem, I’ll just shift my day around a bit and write before bed when I’m feeling really inspired. 

However, I still need a routine, and by this I mean, I still need to know I am going to do something every day or a set number of times per week in order to keep up any sort of momentum. When I was on maternity leave last year, I started a few simple habits in order to give my days some sort of structure. I told myself that all I had to do was do 10 squats, 10 pushups, and write a half-page in my journal every single day. In total, these habits probably took 10 minutes out of my day, but they made me feel like I had accomplished something. But I found that if I missed more than a day, I was totally thrown and would feel a little less in control. When I got back on track, I was much calmer, thanks to the consistency, no matter when I did those things during the day. (Side note: I also tracked these habits, and still do, thanks to my friend Rachel’s book “Dot Journaling—A Practical Guide: How to Start and Keep the Planner, To-Do List, and Diary That’ll Actually Help You Get Your Life Together. Highly recommend.) 

3. I’m an introvert

In college, I would have told you that I was tooootally an extrovert. I loved going out and meeting new people, I lived in a house with 72 other women, and was in no less than four extracurriculars at a time. But as I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized that this is not the case and that I need downtime by myself. Even when we have guests whom we love staying with us, I need a little time to sit by myself with a book or go for a walk alone. And I do love meeting new people and having conversations, but it’s usually one-on-one, and rarely two days in a row. 

For a while, I thought that perhaps my personality had changed since college and high school, but looking back, I think the early 2000s were just an era of extroversion – being a loud party girl was a sought after “personality,” so that’s what I tried to claim as my own. But in all honesty, while I did love parties and making new friends, I tended to gravitate toward one or two people and hang with them for most of the night. And if my ode to sitting alone in coffee shops didn’t make it clear, I’ll say this: I really, truly hated studying in groups, whether it was at the library or in a cafe. Even when friends would stop by to say hello at one of my regular study haunts, I felt like my private space – my sanctuary! – was being invaded. How did I miss this very obvious aspect of my personality? 

4. I will likely never be early

Look, this isn’t one I’m super proud of, but I’m also not terribly ashamed either. I used to be VERY late to everything, and I came from a family of folks who were chronically late. It was never malicious or an intentional disregard for others’ time; rather it was a very skewed sense of time borne out of optimism. For most of my life, I always thought things would take me wayyy less time than they actually did, and that I could get far more done in an hour than I really could. So then, I would be racing toward the predetermined hour, either just getting out of the shower or frantically attempting to finish the time-intensive project I had started. 

Over time, I’ve gotten a lot better about this. Having lived in two large cities where I relied on public transit, I’ve learned that all travel needs a buffer. And as the years have gone by, I’ve increased those buffers, both on the travel and getting ready side. Whereas before, I would leave exactly 25 minutes before I needed to be there because that’s what Google Maps said, these days I give myself at least 30 extra minutes in order to account for getting lost, Metro mishaps, and parking snafus. (I would also be remiss if I didn’t give my husband, a very punctual person, a little bit of credit here, but I really was working on this on my own before we met and he kind of sped up the process.) I probably will never be the person who gets places 10 or 15 minutes early, but now I am generally on time for most things I attend.

5. I will never be satisfied

This is not a Hamilton thing, nor a commentary on how driven I am. Really, it’s just understanding that I will always want for something. A little more time to perfect something I’ve written. Another piece of cake. A chance to go back in time and do more traveling, taking advantage of the fact that in my 20s, I had friends who briefly lived abroad and a back that could handle broken down pull-out couch mattresses. 

But me never being satisfied doesn’t mean I can’t be happy with the life I have. It just means I have to be OK with sending things I’ve created out into the world before I’m 100% ready, accept that most times one dessert is plenty, and acknowledge that traveling in your 30s when you have a little more disposable income and/or work pays for it is way better anyway (helloooo, business class seat to Madrid for a medical meeting). 

So some stuff I wish I had learned sooner, and some things that I’m continuing to learn about myself. I’m pretty happy with my level of self-awareness these days, but I know there’s no end to the learning about oneself. Maybe in five years, I’ll have a list of 40?

Dear Me

Recently, I started a 100 Day Project, and I decided to go way out of my comfort zone and write short poems every day. While I don’t think I’m winning a Pulitzer anytime soon, it’s been fun to stretch myself, and it encouraged me to break out my old poetry textbooks from college (and they say an English degree isn’t useful). 

As I was flipped through one of my anthologies, I started to take a closer look at the notes college me had scribbled in the margins, and I have to tell you, I was…a little impressed? I read her notes as she interpreted, questioned, and identified with poetry spanning a century. I was amazed that she had these opinions and insights, and that she shared them so freely – aloud and in writing – and without worry that they were right or wrong. Even now, I can close my eyes and remember sitting in a seminar in Angell Hall, telling my fellow students what I thought of Wordsworth and Plath and Eliot, and asking questions about poetic form and word choice, entirely unembarrassed by my curiosity and excitement about our reading for the day.

That brief time travel was both heartening and a little sad. This young woman was really cool (even if she didn’t think so at the time), and I wondered where she had gone, or if, maybe, she was still hanging around somewhere. And then I started thinking about all of the things I admired about the me of yesteryear, and what I wish I could tell her. 

From the ages of eight to at least 13, I constantly told people that I was going to be a Diva when I grew up (VH1 Divas Live was huge at the time). I had gigantic glasses, terrible teeth, frizzy bangs, and didn’t hit puberty until I was a sophomore in high school, but damn, if I wasn’t confident in the fact that I would be a singer. But then in high school, when I put myself out there and my peers and teachers recognized that I actually could sing, I started to shy away from taking myself as seriously. I scoffed at a girl in my class for trying out for American Idol (I was jealous, let’s be honest), and rolled my eyes when other kids in choir would show off, singing down the halls. As I had earned a reputation as the smart kid by this point, I told everyone I was going to be a doctor when I grew up, laughing at suggestions of attempting music as a career or even a course of study. Even in college, when I sang in an a cappella group, and a few of the musical theater kids in my dorm asked if I was studying music too, I laughed, said no, and secretly told myself I wasn’t special or talented enough to even think about something like that. I wish I could tell the earlier version of me that I admired her gumption and her confidence, and that if she really loved something, there was no harm in trying. 

For 20 year-old me, writing was (and still is) the passion. As I’ve mentioned before, I really loved holing up in a coffee shop every weeknight in college and digging into all of the reading I had to do for class. I loved taking notes, absorbing information, and scribbling down my interpretations of theories and essays and poems. I lived for it, and I felt so alive as my head was overflowing with ideas. And when I got to write, especially creative essays, I felt like I was doing what I was always meant to do. One of my professors told me that she thought I should seriously consider a career in writing, and I remember glowing for the rest of the week. But then I got scared, and I didn’t even apply to write for the college newspaper, didn’t show anyone but my classmates my work, and didn’t seek out any internships except for a local alternative newspaper in my hometown, where there wasn’t a ton of competition for the summer arts writer job. I made (and sometimes still make) excuses that I couldn’t pursue writing in and immediately after college because I couldn’t afford to do unpaid internships in big cities or didn’t have the connections many of my classmates did. While privilege is a very real factor in getting started in certain industries, today’s me knows that 2007 me was just really, really scared to try. 

I wish I could tell college me, and 20s me, (and sometimes early 30s me) that my insights and opinions and whatever amount of talent I had were worth sharing, that being scared of trying (and I mean really trying, not starting two blogs and abandoning them just when I was starting to gain a following) was never going to get me anywhere. I want to tell younger me that avoiding rejection was not protecting me, but setting me up for future disappointment. That opportunities were meant to be seized, even when it seemed a little scary to take them. That while doing what you love seems hard now, it’s a lot harder when you have responsibilities and other people who rely on you. 

The point here isn’t to tell you (or past me) how talented I was and how much potential I squandered (I’m doing fine), but to tell us both that fear can really do a number on you. And that I wish I hadn’t let it hold me back the way I did. I guess I just really want to tell younger me that she needs to be scared but still try. Not just try at the things she knows she’ll be good at, but at the things she could fail at, but that she genuinely loves. I’m not a big proponent of the “your career must be your passion” philosophy, but I do think that having something you’re excited about – at work or in your free time – makes it a lot easier to get up in the morning. And I want to tell her to hang onto that, even when things seem like they’re not going anywhere or there’s no point, or it’s not what’s paying the bills. I want to tell her to hang onto those things that make her HER.  

Reading my old notes and journals is sometimes incredibly cringey, but sometimes it also feels like a perfect distillation of me. Things I still believe, along with things I know better about now. While I wouldn’t change where I am now (I have a great life with a wonderful partner and really cute kid in a city I love), part of me would love for younger me, in another universe, to go off and do the things I never did, to see where it landed her. To give things a go that I was too nervous to. To say yes to unlikely opportunities earlier than I started to. To just…try and see what happens. At 16, at 22, at 35.