Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Reflections on Being a Quintessential Twenty-Something

I stumbled across an article a few weeks ago that I knew I must read – and comment on – but until now hadn't found the time to do so.

The article, entitled Semi-Charmed Life, was published in the New Yorker by Nathan Heller.  Take the time to read it if you have a chance.*  It's amazing.

Ok, you back (or still here)?  Good.

The article looks at twenty-something-ness as a unique phase in everyone’s lives.  It talks about how this phase in our life is special because it is so varied – all of us are doing so many different things, someone of us are doing it all at once, and somehow that draws us together.  Parts of the article stuck out to me as hitting a proverbial nail on the head.

As I draw much closer to the end of my 20s than the beginning, I've spent a lot of time thinking about where I’ve come from and where I’ll be in a few years. 

  • I entered my 20s a college student – over worked, over tired, over partied, over committed, overly single, and probably with a checking account nearly over drawn. 
  • My early-mid 20s were spent slaving away at a job I hated in order to pay the bills. 
  • I quit said job in my still early-mid-20s to go back to being overly broke and started grad school – I was again a full time student, working two full time jobs, and in a truly terrible relationship.
  • I spent most of my mid-20s focusing on my career.  My checking account was still over drawn half the time but I was working my ass off at something I loved and - too be honest - having way to good of a time.
  • With the recent move (and the entry into the definite late-20s of my life), I’ve refocused a little.  I’m still working hard, doing something I love, but I’m also focusing on my relationships more, building up that bank account, and losing the weight that comes along with having a good time.

It’s hard to think that all of that can happen in less than 7 years.  Harder yet to believe that all of my best friends could describe very different paths in their 20s and yet all of our experiences resonate with one another – we are all drawn together even if nothing about our lives appears to meld well.

At one point, Heller says that one of the most interesting part of everyone’s 20s is that “Where you start out—rich or poor, rustic or urbane—won’t determine where you end up, perhaps, but it will determine how you get there.”  This could not be more true. 

The article also mentions a clinical psychologist who observes that – contrary to the carefree attitude that people see in 20-somethings – as a whole we are horribly unsatisfied.  We feel that our lives are not what we hoped for.  I think my meandering path above demonstrates that I have felt the same way.  There are defining moments in that story – literal “wake up in the morning and realize something has to change” moments – where I was so unsatisfied that I was willing to give everything up to make a change.  And I did.  Multiple times.

So where am I going with all of this?  That is the ultimate question, isn’t it?  I may have almost 2 years left to my 20s but I’m already feeling the pressure to figure it out.  Thankfully, these days, the 30s are the new 20s so I have a few years to get there.  The article even addresses that fact.  In the 90s, the "it-girls" on TV were like Ally McBeal - late 20-something, desperate, single women.  Today, the "freak out timeline" focuses more on the Liz Lemon's of the world - late 30s.  As the article states: "There’s no shame now in being a twentysomething without imminent family plans, and there may even be extra power."

Near the end of the article, Heller makes this observation.

Twentysomething culture is intimate and exclusive on the one hand, and eternal on the other. We tout this stage of life, in retrospect, as free, although we ogle the far shores of adulthood while we’re there.

When I read those sentences, it suddenly all made sense to me.  Why this stage in my life is so special.  Why I feel the need to write about it on the blog that so few people read.  Why I strive to improve with each new step I take.

We live in a world where almost everything about it is readily available to virtual strangers.  At the same time,  we know more than ever about how to shape that intimacy.  That's what this blog is all about, isn't it?  Putting my thoughts out into the world in a way that truly expresses what is on my heart.  I am able to express myself - no one can take that away.  

I have the freedom every day to do what I want still.  I have no husband, no children, at home to answer to.  And yet, as I near the end of the 20s, I've come to realize that that "far shore of adulthood" isn't so far away afterall.  That maybe it's ok to be anchored down a little.


*Did you miss the post on my Facebook page with the link last week?  Make sure you like the page so you don't miss anything in the future!

Monday, January 28, 2013

Monday Reminder: Never Lose Faith

Never lose faith, never lose heart.  There is always something unexpected and wonderful just around the bend. -Unknown


Monday, January 21, 2013

Monday Reminder: Choose Your Own (Adventure)

It is so important to choose your own lifestyle and not let others choose it for you. - Susan Polis Schutz


Sunday, January 20, 2013

Musings on a Sunday Evening

  • I spent the weekend visiting my boyfriend.  It is beyond wonderful to see him every week, even if we're still  few hours apart and "every week" sometimes means "for an hour for dinner on a random week night."  This weekend we saw each other Friday, Saturday and Sunday so no complaints.  I also get to see him on Tuesday so I'm a happy girl this week!  

  • It is freaking cold outside in Wisconsin right now.  I'm handling the cold much better than I expected but my skin is like a lizard.  Disgustingly gross and dry.  If I'm handling the cold, my skin definitely isn't.  I have super sensitive skin so I have to be careful with some products but I'm open to suggestions.  Have you found anything that truly combats these nasty Northern winters?

  • The boyfriend gave me the official Ugg slippers for Christmas.  I can say that I would never have spent the money on them myself but they are amazing and I don't think I could go without anymore.  My feet are never cold anymore.  It was the perfect Christmas present - something I did actually need, but a nicer version than I would pay for on my own so it's a little bit of luxury too.  He did good.  What has proven to be your favorite present from the holidays?
 photo slipper_zps8a0b48b3.jpg

  • I am joining the YMCA tomorrow on a quest to get in better shape, lose some of the weight I gained while living in Kentucky, and simply get more healthy.  Oh and I have it in my head that I want to do a short duathlon this summer.  I must be crazy.  Any suggestions on how to stay motivated?
Is that the most random post you've ever read?  Probably.  Just some thoughts for you this evening!


Thursday, January 17, 2013

How I Became a Cat Person

After Tuesday night's anniversary post, I figured it was worth taking a moment to share Lady Bug adoption story too.

I've had Lady for almost 3.5 years.  Like I shared on her birthday last year, and it's true more today than it was then!, those years have been pretty full.  We've lived in five different apartments, in three cities.  We've traveled back and forth across the country a couple of times.  We adopted a second cat.  We've been through some pretty crappy relationships - both romantic and platonic - and had multiple jobs.

I adopted Lady after a very bad break up.

Or let me rephrase that.  I adopted Lady after I thought a really bad relationship was ending.  It dragged on for much longer than I care to admit after that.  But the first end to that relationship was definitely the catalyst to adopting her in the first place.

My apartment seemed so empty and I was looking for something to love - something that wouldn't cheat on me, that would be an asshole, that wouldn't tell me that every single things I did was wrong.  I was much more of a dog person - truthfully, I still am - but my apartment didn't technically allow any pets and you can't exactly get away with a dog in a complex like that.  Plus I was working about 80 hours a week and going to school full time.  Doesn't leave much room for a dog.

One morning not long after the breakup, my friend Megan and I decided to go to the Humane Society to see if maybe they had a cat for me.  I had in my brain that I was looking for a male cat, at least a year old, preferably all grey.  People kept telling me I would like cats, to at least give it a try.

I wasn't all that convinced at first but I came home with a kitten - not at all what I expect.  She was a female, four months old, that was grey and pink-ish.  In Tuesday's post I talked about how I chose Charlie.  In this instance, Lady Bug chose me.

We played with a lot of cats that day.  Kittens that swarmed us, purring and crying, that were quite adorable.  An older cat that really just needed someone to love her.  Cute little boy cats that tried desperately to fill the void in my heart that I was feeling.

None of them were my cat.

Just as we were leaving empty handed, we decided to stop in the kitten room one last time to absorb the cuteness.  When we first got there, a little kitten - at the time named Angel - had been sleeping in the corner, completely oblivious to the fact that there was a lady there who might want to play with her.

The second foray into the kitten room, she shoved her way through the slithering mass of kittens, climbed right onto my lap, stretched up as high as she could, and kissed me right on the nose.

I was hers.  Instantly.  Without a moment of hesitation - not at all realizing that my little cat was very, very gassy (trust me, it was gross) - I renamed her Lady - she was a prissy little thing and there's isn't an angelic bone in her body - gave her the middle name of Bug - it just suited her - and let her into my heart.

Within a week, she had charmed the football player next door, my best friend, and my family (even if she did run through a plate of chicken parmigiana at Thanksgiving that year).  That little thing was so incredibly sick when I brought her home.  But with a little bit of love, and a little bit of people food which she still steals to this day (what cat likes pizza, tacos, and spaghetti?!), she has grown into a rather-large, very-loving, kind-of-lazy cat.

So there is is.  I was never a cat person until I fell in love with Lady Bug.  It doesn't hurt that she's not a normal cat.  She has a lot of personality and she's way too smart.  She's leash trained (remember the PetSmart story from Tuesday?).  And as crazy as it sounds, she has impeccable sense when it comes to people's character.  I trust her judgement... except for when it comes to my sister.  My vet-school sister.  The only person on the planet Lady hates.

Now that I've aired all of my "I'm a Crazy Cat Lady" glory on the blog, we can get back to my (ir)regular posting.  I'm in the middle of a few different books right now that hopefully I'll finish over the weekend.  Keep an eye out for a review in the next couple of days.


Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Happy Anniversary, Charlie!

Here we are in the middle of January and I've written twice.  Ugh.  I say this a lot - maybe I should take that as a sign that I need to stop this whole thing - but blogging feels like a chore lately.

Today though, we're celebrating a special anniversary in my house and it's worth writing about.  (Nope, not a dating anniversary.  I honestly have no idea when that would be celebrated.  We are the worst couple ever.)

Two years ago today, I adopted this little fluff ball.

She was so cute and teeny...
A few days ago, a good friend of mine shared her "how my crazy cat joined the family" story and in that same spirit, I decided to share the story about how Charlie joined us.

Let's think back two years ago for a moment.  I had been living in Lexington for almost a year.  I still had about three friends total - and I use that term "friends" very loosely.  Lady Bug (the only cat I thought I ever wanted) and I had just spent 1.5 weeks in Green Bay with my parents, their dog, my sister, her now-husband, their dog and their cat.  Needless to say, Lady Bug and I were lonely.

Exactly two years ago, on a warm Saturday morning, I ran errands on the side of town that I typically avoided.  Because I was in the area, I dropped in at the PetSmart that I very rarely visited.  I was seriously was only looking for litter, food, and possibly a fish to cure Lady's boredom.  My house was a very strict "No-More-Cats-Than-People" house so it had never even crossed my mind to get a second cat.

I had been to PetSmart on adoption day about 100 times and never wanted to take another one home.  But that Saturday - at the PetSmart I never went to - I found this little teeny thing in need of a home.  She was a little ball of white and grey fluff who was too busy playing with her littermates to pay much attention to me.  I stood and talked to the foster lady for a while - much like I do every time without ever wanting to take a kitten home - but this time was different.

I stood there and stared at her for a good half hour before the woman finally convinced me to take her out of the cage.

As I lifted her out, a dog in the next aisle started barking.  The little tiny trembling ball of love curled into my neck and purred her little heart out as if to say, "It's ok.  I'm safe here."

I think my exact words went something along the lines of How much?

I technically left the store without a kitten that day.  I had to go home for my checkbook, I tried to talk myself out of getting another cat, and I needed to talk it over with Lady Bug... and yes, I know that sounds insane.

An hour later I got back to the store - Lady Bug in tow since she loved going to PetSmart - hoping that the dear little thing was still there.  Thankfully she was.  Less 24 hours later, Charlie and Lady were already inseparable.  We had become a two cat family.

Best decision I've ever made.  People who say pets need to come in pairs were right.  Having two little girls means that I never feel guilty leaving them home alone.  They take care of each other.  They play together instead of me always having to entertain them.  They snuggle together but still take turns snuggling with me.  The girls have very different personalities but they compliment each other.  I definitely got lucky - I hear horror stories every day about people bringing another animal into their home and it going horribly wrong.

Funny enough, I truly adopted a kitten - not a cat - that day.  Two years later, she's still teeny tiny.  She's never weighed more than 7 lbs.  She still cries like a lost little baby.  She's still got fluffy soft fur and a perfect pink nose.  She's still spoiled rotten, doesn't do anything for herself, chases things only she can see, wins over everyone who meets her, and acts like she doesn't have a care in the world.  At this age, most cats are adults.  Charlie still acts like a baby.

And she still snuggles into my neck after a long day.  It might take her 5 or 6... or 20... tries to get it just right but her favorite place in the whole world is draped across my chest, her head tucked into my neck, purring so loud that I can't hear the TV.

Happy 2nd anniversary, Charlie!  Thanks for letting me choose you.


P.S. As I write this, I realize that I've never told Lady Bug's "coming home" story.  Stay tuned!

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

One Word: 2013

I know this is really late but I think it's worth sharing anyway.

When I first heard about the One Word project, I knew I wanted to give it some thought and decide what word I could best use to describe what I want out of 2013.

If I had chosen a word for 2012, it would have been positivity.  It took me a while to think of something that could top that, but I found it.

I thought about going with trust.  I used to trust everyone without questioning.  After having that thrown back in my face one too many times, I've had a hard time getting back to trusting others.
I thought about going with happy.  I am truly happy right now and I want to keep it that way.
I thought about health.  I'm working on some things to get myself in better shape.
I thought about read or write because I really do want to focus on doing more of both of those things this year.

All of those things fell flat.  None of them really expressed what I wanted this year to be about.
The move back to Wisconsin was a chance for me - for once in my life - to follow my heart instead of my head.  To do what felt right instead of what I thought was right.  To put myself as a person - not as a student, employee, daughter, or girlfriend - first.  I learned very quickly that making this move and listening to what my heart was telling me made me a better everything.  I don't need to analyze everything.  Sometimes I just need to trust what my instinct is telling me.

Because of that, 2013 is all about heart.  It's actually going to be a tough one for me.  But I'm working on it and that's all living the one word is about.

Did you do a One Word post this year?  Link it in the comments if you did.  I can't wait to encourage everyone to live their word.


Monday, January 7, 2013

A Quick Review of 2012

Phew.  Now that the holidays are over and I'm a little more settled, I think I might have some more time to focus on the blog.  Maybe not because there never seems to be enough hours in the day but I'm going to try. That's all I can promise right now.

I haven't even had time to write my one word post even though I've chosen my word for 2013.  I haven't finished any good books even though I'm in the middle of three of them.  I never got Christmas cards out.  My tree is still up.  I have piles of laundry that need to be washed.  I've been busy.

I want to start this year by looking back at 2012, even if I'm a week late.  More specifically the last 6 months of 2012.

I started the year a little lost.  I had just been promoted at a job that I truly loved but that I knew I wouldn't be staying in much longer.  I spent the first part of the year trying to figure out how I could be happy in a place that simply wasn't home.  I started focusing on the positive in my life and finding ways to either cut out the negative or simply make it more positive.

I spent most of the summer traveling for work and driving back and forth from Kentucky to Wisconsin for weddings, parties, and family functions.  I moved into a wonderful studio apartment in Lexington just before the Fourth of July and then traveled home for my sister's wedding.

Let's be honest - for a variety of reasons, that wedding was the turning point in my year.

It made me realize that all of the driving back and forth was insane and that I really just wanted to be back by my family and friends.  I was missing things that I couldn't stand to miss anymore.  It was after the wedding that I started looking for the right job to bring my back to Wisconsin more seriously.

It was because of the wedding that I met the wonderful man that I am still dating.  Who knew that after all the crappy dates I've been on in the random states of lived in the guy that I really wanted to be dating was busy living with my new brother-in-law during college?

2.5 months ago, I decided to take a huge leap of faith.  I gave my preliminary notice at work, found someone to sublease my apartment, and applied for a job that I thought I might really like in a place I had never seen before that was only a few hours away from my family and friends (and yes, my boyfriend.)  I interviewed for the job, gave my actual notice, and got offered the job a week later.  I haven't looked back.  I have never once questioned my decision to move back.

It's hard to believe that I've been back in Wisconsin for 7 weeks already.  In some ways, it feels like I've always been here and that the years I spent down South are all a dream.

If 2012 was all about finding positivity in my life, I think I succeeded.  What does 2013 hold for me?  Check back Wednesday when I finally get around to revealing my word for the year!

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