Dear Ardith 2020,

May 30th, 2010

Blast from the past! It’s 24-year-old Ardith! Ten years ago, in the year 2000, I wrote a letter to myself. I just got 14-year-old Ardith’s letter. I thought I would try and do the same thing for you.

I just wanted to check in and see how you were doing. Are you still believing in the impossible? Are you still trying to balance work and life?

I hope you’re incredibly happy with life. Maybe you’re having a bad day today, but I hope you’re overall satisfied with what you’ve accomplished and the lives you’ve touched.

Yesterday, I got back from a two-month trip in Europe. Do you remember how you felt when you left? I was so intimidated by the prospect of leaving the USA and living abroad. I did fine, though. I made new friends and visited old ones. I fell in love with Madrid, and Germany, and London. Maybe I even fell in love, I’m not sure, but whatever the consequences are– you had an amazing partner at the time. I think I used the words “never been happier” to describe our relationship.

But I digress.

In the fall, I am moving to Oregon to pursue my Master’s in College Student Services Administration. I look forward to the experience and the challenges that will come with it. I sincerely believe this is my calling. However, I have no idea where I will work once I am out of school.

Last time Past Ardith wrote to Future Ardith, she was smart enough not to ask about marriage or family life. I am curious as to your situation now, mostly with how your family is doing. Dad’s been having some health problems the past few years, and Mom has been bravely taking care of things. Through it all, I’ve become closer with other members of my family, and it is truly amazing to understand the bond we all share.

I don’t care if you’re married or not. Part of me hopes you are, but I really want you to understand that life is a journey and I hope that you are still continuing to adventure as much as possible.

You’re awesome. Don’t forget it.

Love always,

Ardith

Bride-to-Be, in Perpetuity

A dark-haired woman looks off into the distance with a slight smile on her face. A man, looking down, stands behind her with his arms around her.
John & Ardith, forever and ever… and ever…

I can’t say that I ever dreamed of my fairy-tale princess wedding when I was a little girl. Sure, I went pretty far down the rabbit hole of dreaming of an apple- and orchard-themed wedding around the time some of my best friends were engaged and we were in the middle of wedding planning for their big days. But other than that, I didn’t have much of a vision of my wedding day prior to John and I becoming engaged.

What I can tell you is that I didn’t expect for all of our plans–nearly sixteen months of saving and planning–to be upended by a global pandemic.

On one hand, wedding planning seemed a little too easy for us. We got our first choice of venue. A former colleague of mine is an amazing photographer (peep Karen’s work here: https://karenleannkirsch.com/). I found my dream dress at a sample sale. We got all outstanding RSVPs in before our deadline.

And then CoVid-19 hit.

Cancellations from our friends and family started to roll in. Emails and texts and push notifications pinged me every few minutes. The r/weddingplanning forum started to tailspin from dress pictures and “How do I deal with my FSIL’s boyfriend?!” posts to, “What the Hell do we do now?” The news stories escalated.

I cried. I couldn’t get out of bed. And the guilt–how dare I feel sad about a party!

Even now, it still hurts. John and I could have decided on a small wedding, about twenty people, but we decided early on that we really wanted to bring together his family and both extended sides of my family and all of our friends from all of our different eras for one big get-together. I had a client tell me several months ago how surreal it was to have all of his family and different friend groups converging for one event; that’s what we planned for, too.

We were three weeks out–after a nearly 500-day engagement–from making it happen.

And then we pulled the plug, to be cliché.

We called off April 4th, 2020. Our venue kindly offered us September 12th, 2020, and by some miracle, all of our existing vendors could make it. We made the decision right before our governor tightened down restrictions again, capping gatherings at 50 people before ordering Washingtonians to “Stay Home, Stay Healthy” shortly after.

We let everyone know about the change. And for a moment, we could breathe again.

April 4th came and went. It was a mild spring day, dry and just warm enough that we could have had the ceremony outside. Instead, we ordered dinner and cake from DERU, and Zoomed a few friends for a virtual cheers.

Now, two months after initially deciding to reschedule, we’re making the call to re-reschedule, to September 12th, 2021. There’s no possible way that we expect large gatherings to be advisable nor for people to feel comfortable traveling by air or attending a large event. Everything is still too uncertain and too raw.

Will we elope on September 12th, 2020? Perhaps. We can plan for it, but there’s no way of knowing whether a second wave will keep us at home again.

Regardless, we intend to keep September 12th, 2021 as a special day. I plan to save my big dress–my unicorn sample dress–until that day. We’ll send a new round of invitations and make some changes (and additions) that we ran out of time for originally. And we’ll probably wonder and worry if the world will right itself enough in time.

On the bright side, this extra time spent together and navigating the lows together has solidified my choice to spend the rest of my days with John. (I believe he feels the same way about me, too.) We are blessed and also privileged to be in the position we are, and I’m at least happy that we can give some more attention to doing our part as contributing citizens in the immediate future.

So, as it has been said, the wedding may be postponed, but love is not cancelled.

Fingers crossed that the third time’s a charm. We’ll see you in September 2021.

Daily Corona-bride Musing

If we postpone the wedding again, at least there may be a chance that I can save enough for fillers and Botox to counter the worry lines that have cropped up.

(We have postponed from April 4th, 2020 to September 12th, 2020, but with a large guest list and significant numbers in the vulnerable group, we may be pushing out the date even further. Of course. It wasn’t enough to wait ten years after the majority of my friends got married. Haha, oh, The Universe–you continue to play jokes.)

Stay home. Save lives. Pray for our scientists and the frontline and essential workers and all affected.

On Being a Fianceé

I like to think I’m okay at this. Let me tell you some short stories about engaged life.

The Proposal

I didn’t know he was going to ask me on December 1st, 2018. I knew I was hungry, and galavanting onto the seawall at Children’s Pool in La Jolla was not my first choice in activity. But we walked to the end, he handed off his phone to a stranger for photos, and then he managed not to drop the ring into the sea and asked if I wanted to be his wife. Of course, I said yes.

What I didn’t do was clasp my hands over my mouth and say, “Oh my God!!” What I did do was hold my purse awkwardly and wonder, “What do I do with my hands?”

All of our engagement photos prominently feature a big, teal bag, consequently. Oh well. I wasn’t about to let it get swept off to sea by a freak wave.

The Party

“How did you choose your wedding date?”

We worked around peak salmon season and my busy season. We also did not choose winter because I don’t particularly care for the cold. We also eliminated the times of year where Daly travels for seafood expos.

That left us approximately two weekends to choose from in March and April, and one of them was Easter, so… there you go.

Venue hunting was just as methodical. We researched a number of venues in Seattle, Chelan, and Leavenworth. We contacted many of them and started to set our tour plans.

Ultimately, we toured two, one of which was experiencing a power outage, and the other which was simply exactly what we wanted.

The Expo

Here are the take-aways from the bridal expo:

  • Free donuts
  • Free cake
  • Some good deals if you’re ready — we got our DJ and MC signed that day
  • A relentless set of follow-up phone calls from some tour company that seems just a bit off

I will 100% go back for more donuts next January.

The Dress

I found my dress at a sample sale. I almost didn’t go–it was early, I had no gas in my car, and the shop was in Seattle proper. But I did go, and I was bride #13 in line to try on dresses. I grabbed three or four dresses off the racks, only paying attention to material and sparkle–not really much else.

I made some light conversation with the woman in line ahead of me; she was there only with her future father-in-law. I was there by myself, and we chatted about all things wedding. When it was her turn, she asked if I wanted to try on dresses with her, since the line was long and our respective parties were small.

Dress #2 was it, her FIL agreed, she agreed, the attendant agreed, the shop agreed, I agreed.

Cha-ching.

Side note: He doesn’t have a suit yet, and my dress is too long and will cost my first-born and a bag of chips to alter, but it’s all going to work out.

The Weight

Currently walking around at 60kg with a broken hand. I’d like to cut weight to 56-57kg once my hand is healed properly.

Why 56-57kg?

  1. That puts me comfortably in the 59kg weight class, and within a water cut of the 55kg weight class.
  2. Weightlifting is priority here.
  3. The camera definitely likes to add weight to my face.

I have it on my checklist to cut from November through end of January. Doable.

In the meantime, I’m seeing how many shrimp chips is too many.

Other Stuff

We are more than halfway through our 16-month engagement, and we’ve got a good deal of the foundation in place, which feels good.

r/weddingplanning has been my forum of choice, and it’s been helpful to get other perspectives and advice throughout.

All in all, even though I play it down a bit, I’m very much looking forward to our wedding day and our marriage.

Oh! I nearly forgot…

Chivari Chairs and Shoes

I’ve only had slight meltdowns over these two things.

Chivari chairs: I spent at least two hours researching how much those buggers cost before I remembered that I literally can’t recall a single chair I’ve ever sat in at a wedding reception. The money we save on chairs will go to a photo booth, you’re so very welcome.

Shoes: I bought a pair of gold heels, then decided to get gold wedges instead but also keep the heels because they were cute. I revisited the shoes months later and realized they are actually way smaller than I had convinced myself, and thus, worthless. So down another rabbit hole I went, until I found a pair of lace heel booties. I had to order them in a half-size bigger than normal, but I guess they run small, so what do you know–they actually fit me.

Now comes the part where I buy all the gel inserts to doctor them up.

Anyway, like I was saying, very much looking forward to it all, even though I’m going to be doubting my choice to forgo the Chivari chairs.

*shakes fist*

Okay, friends. Good night.

Hello, Old Friend.

IT LIVES.

 

In fact, it’s doing quite well.

I’m not sure what this block editor is all about, but hey, it’s been almost two years between posts, so why not try it out?

I’m stopping by because I have a lot on my mind lately and needed to write something down:

  • We bought a house and finally get keys today after a sixty-day rent-back period by the sellers.
  • It’s gray and rainy out.
  • Weightlifting is still fun but I need to do more cardio for my hEaRt HeALtH
  • What kind of snacks do brides pack on their wedding day? (We’re engaged and getting married in April, and there’s just a lot that I don’t know about throwing a wedding.)

Today, I’m mostly wondering about snacks. I guess I should think about bringing along some Epic Bars and Hi-Chews, some sparkling water, maybe some Cheez-Its.

Either way, I bought a tote bag that says “Bride” on it, so of course my inclination is to fill it with snacks. More to come…

Checking In…

It's time for another progress report on my "30 Before 30" list. Regarding the deadline, let's just say I keep asking for and granting extensions. 23-year-old Ardith is thankful for the more flexible time constraints, I like to believe. (That could be Present Me projecting.)

First, the last update from 2015. If you remember, I whittled my definitive list down to a handful of items. Below is the progress made since then, along with some notes where necessary.

The List
1. Visit theItalian town my Italian ancestors are from (Monastero di Lanzo)

2. Visit Australia and New Zealand

3. Visit Kauai, Hawai’i – Completed in February 2017

4. Learn to swim

5. Learn to ride a bike – Completed as of July 2017 (Well, my three class beginner series ended, and it ended with me being able to successfully ride in circles in a single gear! The learning continues.)

6. Learn more Spanish and Tagalog 

7. Meet my cousins and family in the Philippines – Finally completed as of April 2017 (And I plan to go again. Coincidentally, I returned to SE Asia a month later on a business exchange to our Vietnam office.)

8. Travel to the Oregon Coast again

9. Get my CrossFit Level 1 Certificate Change of plans: Completed my USAW Sports Performance Coach certification in June 2017

10. Visit Iceland – December 2015

11. Have the BEST 30th birthday celebration w/ my closest friends somewhere far away – See #10!

Giving me a little bit of extra time seemed to be the trick to ticking off more of my pared-down dream list.*

To be honest, this check-in was inspired primarily by my bicycling milestone. Can you believe this 31-year-old learned to ride a bike in three Sunday sessions? My goal was to be able to ride a bike at a reasonable speed on reasonably level ground, and I'm tickled that I met it. Now, clear the road and get out of my way–mostly for your own safety, because I'm still not fantastic at riding in a straight line.

*Full disclosure: I have a list of 100 dreams I created during a challenge issued by my work. The 11 items here are just a sliver of the whole. I would also be lying if I said most of my 100 dreams aren't travel-related… More to come.

Why I Stayed

I log in, after scribbling a few bullet points on professional hopes and dreams in a notebook.

The button reads, “Write.”

Click.

That brings us to now. (I told you I wasn’t leaving.)

Several months… okay, almost two years ago, I wrote about my departure from higher education and student affairs. Almost two years later, I am still with my “new” employer, and I continue to build upon the foundation set by my learning and experience in student affairs.

I have also learned a fair amount about myself, about how to be more honest with what I want and what I need. Recently, I have been having conversations about what comes next for me; this requires multiple conversations and layers of unpacking, as I cannot seem to travel down a linear pathway. In my world, linear pathways just don’t exist.

I’ve learned that, while I certainly have a propensity to gravitate towards service roles, working with customers, students, and clients directly, there are strengths and interests I need to tend to and cultivate. I miss research and writing–activities nearly exclusive to my undergraduate and graduate career; I miss those hours spent synthesizing disparate sources to compose and share knowledge, and to create further questions and learning for myself and others. I have not had the space to be as intensely passionate (oh dear, I used that word) as I was about spiritual development or identity development or even the idea of how a concept as abstract as “trust” plays into the development or lack of relationships. I crave it.

Today, I shared with another person a sliver of my dreams, and as soon as I had a moment to start to elaborate on an idea I had, about a topic I thought I had a remote interest in, I found myself speaking without taking a breath, engrossed in elaborating on the questions I wanted to know more about. That spark I knew I still had is very much alive, and it’s up to me to continue to stoke the fire. Somehow, somewhere along my recent professional journey, I didn’t allow myself to truly pursue that which gave me energy because those things were “scary” or because I believe myself to be woefully unqualified.

Now, this isn’t to say that I’m bad at the jobs I held or what I currently do. It isn’t to say that I don’t enjoy what I do or the organization I’m at. In fact, everything I process in my head and put down on paper confirms that I am exactly where I want to be. Because of that, I also have the ability to finally allow myself to pursue ways in which my dominant strengths will flourish.

So what if I don’t have an MFA, nor have I ever held a position in which learning and development or training or writing were a significant component. Do I possess the skills to excel in roles that might demand these things? Sure. Do I possess an amount of confidence in myself to continue to learn, explore, and make positive impact on the community around me? Of course.

Am I committed to cultivating a mindset for success?

Well, I sure hope so. The only way to know is to stay long enough to find out.

Routinely

I haven’t gone.

I used to tend to this blog regularly, making time to write and record my thoughts and musings several times a week. Without too much hesitation, I let you all in on my vulnerability, shortcomings, and loneliness; my excitement, achievements, and humor; and sometimes, just my nonsense.

Then I decided to put my energy elsewhere. I moved, I changed jobs, I met someone, I traveled, I adjusted my workout priorities, I traveled some more–in other words, life happened, and I had more time to spend being present rather than being reflective.

I miss writing, and it still feels good to put things down in written words, but things are good. They aren’t perfect. There are still days where I stress about what to do with my life, but as my colleague said yesterday, maybe the question I should be asking is, “What’s next?”

My life has been anything but linear and predictable. I still stress about uncertainty and the future, but that’s who I am. I still lament about being athletically talentless, but I’m having a fine time working on my weaknesses.

Also, I love my partner very much, but I leave my disastrous dating stories up here if only to serve as a reference for others who might be feeling the way I once did. Maybe it will help someone, after all.

I leave my projects and artifacts here to showcase where I came from as a graduate student and as a professional. I currently do not work in higher education, but that doesn’t take away from the fact that I’m able to research, analyze, compose, and assess.

I still dream of traveling, and I’m sure I’ll still recollect my journeys in one way or another–through writing or photos on various platforms. There’s so much to see and do still.

This all makes it sound like I’m closing down the blog. It’s not going anywhere, but I might, and I might not record it here. I’m not sure what’s next for my personal record-keeping. Maybe it’s just a layout change; maybe it’s a new site. We’ll just wait and see.

In the meantime, don’t wait up for me. There’s a world out there to explore.

 

2017

I don’t have “one word” for 2017. I don’t have a theme. I don’t have transformative resolutions, or a “New year, new me” mantra. I am perfectly fine with this.

It feels as if I’ve finally settled into who I am. I’m no longer “in crisis,” as I was several years ago. That is not to say I’m not still turbulent in some ways, and I am critical, wanting and demanding more from myself, and being forgiving where possible. At the same time, however, I feel more level-headed and clearer about what my priorities are.

I know where I could get better in my professional and in my personal life. I know where I want to grow. Instead of wishing, I’ll write it down and track my progress. I’ll use my voice to see things through.

I will not quit trying to improve my health. I probably will never be elite-level in CrossFit nor weightlifting, but that isn’t a reason to quit trying. However, even the best intentions for a super-fit 2017 won’t matter if I don’t focus on taking care of my shoulders and honing in on weightlifting technique. I could say, “I want to snatch the yellow plates,” as much as I want, but that won’t happen if I don’t make an active decision to focus on the details.

In a nutshell, setting intentions isn’t just for yoga, and I feel free enough now to set my intentions outside of arbitrary parameters.

So, I suppose in 2017, I will strive to push boundaries and live intentionally.

That seems just fine.