Everything I Wanted

Note: Someone apparently found my blog with the search terms “cumberpatch oscars” this week. Huh. There’s that.

This is the year that many of my friends and I will mark our tenth year out of high school. I’ve heard some laments of, “Oh, I’m so old now! Where did the time go?” yet I can’t help but marvel at all that’s happened in the past decade.

I moved to the rainy side of the mountains, after enrolling in college. I met great people. I decided to take my major in a completely different direction. I had some adventures. Maybe I even fell in love. I learned to appreciate beer and 80s dancing. I was head cheerleader. I laughed, I cried, I deleted many photos off Facebook because I graduated from college and entered the “real world.” (Not that college wasn’t real–it was transformative, in fact.)

I lived on my own. I experienced depression. I stood crying on the side of the road on Christmas morning when I realized I was snowed in, but I used my distress to my advantage and still made to Wenatchee for Christmas. I decided to take my life in another career direction. My friends got married. I got dumped. I applied to grad school (and was accepted to six out of seven programs). I met someone new. I left the country. I saw places I’d never seen before. I rediscovered my love of airplanes. I learned how to take a subway and navigate countries where I didn’t know the language all that well. I came home. More friends got married. I was deceived and left alone again.

I moved to another state, which wasn’t quite as drastic as another country. I met new people. I learned new things. I worked. I chose partners who weren’t ready for someone like me, but we still had some good times. I lost my father, but I knew he would have told me to continue doing great things. I traveled to the opposite coast for a conference. I finished year one of graduate school. I traveled to another country, this time one with sun and blue seas. I came home and lived in my hometown for the remainder of summer. Friends kept getting married. My mom met someone new. Classmates had children.

I started looking for jobs. I created a portfolio of work. I immersed myself in internships and papers. I quit going to the gym. I spent too much time at Happy Hour, but “too much time” can’t be measured against the company I kept and the stories we shared (and the broken glasses and scolding words the waitress gave my friends). I defended my portfolio. I went to more conferences. I got my first higher education job. I moved to a city I admired. I met more people. I began to work with students in a full-time professional capacity. I received my Master’s degree.

I decided I was too fat, so I joined a CrossFit gym. I didn’t cry, but I couldn’t walk for several days. I traveled to different states. I tried online dating. I had a nice, straight-forward relationship. I realized we weren’t a good match. I broke up with him. I devoted more time to the gym. I visited my friends up north on weekends. I learned new skills. I traveled to more states. I had my first workshop accepted at a national conference. I came in second or third or maybe fourth in a dating race, and that was enough for me to swear off dating for several months.

I needed more time in Seattle, so I started looking for jobs up north. I deliberately spent the summer single. I did what I wanted, when I wanted. I found a new job. I left people I loved who I would visit on weekends as much as possible. I moved. I met even more people. I joined a new gym. I presented at that national conference. My friends and family members got married or had kids or got new jobs or bought new houses.

As for me, I’m not sure what happens next. I’m being forced to move into a new house, and the competition is fierce. I might be living on a couch for a bit. I might be looking at PhD programs, but not for a few years. I might be fighting Sallie Mae over my student loans, which aren’t even really that bad, but they’re enough that sometimes I feel ashamed, even though the work that I put in to both my degrees was priceless (and I do fully believe that). I want to travel to many more countries. I want to write more, and cook more, and spend more time in the gym. I want to meet even more people.

I finally let go of the loneliness that had plagued me since junior high and high school. I don’t feel the urgency in finding someone. I don’t graffiti my blog with sadness over being on my own anymore. I feel it sometimes, on cold nights especially, but it is not painful nor crippling; it is just my current state of being.

Somewhere in the last ten years, I became my own person, and I became enough for me. Everything I thought I needed was just something I was too afraid to do myself. The traveler. The writer. The fitness junkie. The cook. The person who appreciates great food and drinks. The funny one. Even the one with great hair and the one with a good smile. The smart one.

These weren’t partners I was searching for. It was me I was searching for the whole time; I had it wrong. Even though I don’t have the house or the husband or the shiny new car or the kids (or even the pets) that suit so many other people so very well–and even though my current situation is a little bit more turbulent than expected–I can tell you one thing about the last decade:

I learned how to be happy being me.

A Singular Sensation (Encore)

The holiday season is an interesting time of year to be acutely aware of my status as a single lady in her late twenties.

Then again, the holiday season is an interesting time of year to reflect on what it was like to not be single at this time last year.

We did all the expected things: I had Thanksgiving with his family; we went out to dinner and a concert on my birthday; we visited my friends in Seattle and did some shopping; we exchanged gifts before I left town.

And then, naturally, I decided we had to end things right before New Year’s–even though I would still end up spending it with all of our mutual friends. The book was completely closed several days after New Year’s, though, without a lingering, messy break-up. It was a clean break, with me telling him bluntly, “We are no longer together. Now go do what you need to do.”

It was calm, unapologetic, to the point, and completely necessary. The line was drawn. And in a way, it set the tone for the rest of 2013. I had several moments in which I later laid my emotions on the line, moments in which I could say, “I forgive you,” and, “You are still my friend despite everything; our friendship means so much.” These things were tough for me, someone who loves those annoying cryptic posts on Facebook and Twitter, along with passive-aggressive jabs.

I’ve never been fantastic at relationships. I used to spend a lot of time on my blog whining about being lonely. I also used to grasp desperately to whatever relationship did come my way. Being single for this year has been tough at times, but it has also brought me much more in terms of growth.

Yes, I still have many feelings. I still melt down often, and transitions always exacerbate both aspects. But even in times where I had to let people go, I knew it was what I needed– and even more so what they needed. I am getting over my manic pixie dream girl complex, the idea that I need to save those emotionally-burned men I fall for. I fall back on a different narrative–much to the dismay of my irrational side–of telling myself they need to learn and make mistakes and hopefully get their lives together without me. And in doing so, even though it still hurts my heart, I am taking the right steps forward in being a better-adjusted single lady.

I read something the other day which, as a whole, was not my cup of tea. I won’t bother linking it here because I found it condescending to single ladies of my type. But there was one part that stood out and that I could at least thank the author for, which I’ll paraphrase as:

Being single may be part of my identity, part of my status, but it is not my identity. It does not define who I am. It is an important part of me, and it is to be celebrated in this moment. Especially in what it can teach me about the rest of who I am.

I’m still hopeful that he’s out there, but I’m more hopeful that he’s learning great things, too. We will have many stories to share, I think, so I suppose I can create many more before we connect.

That would be a fine way to spend this holiday season, I think.

(And if an interested party happens to be reading this… first of all, thanks for making it this far, and maybe we should plan to make mulled wine and watch a holiday movie. Or go to a shooting range. Same difference.)

Twenty-Eight

I love my birthday. There is no doubt about that. Today celebrated an especially good anniversary around the sun on an especially good day.

Sure, I worked. And yes, I went to the gym like I normally do. But everything is so much more special on a birthday. There was a holiday party, full of cookies and good conversation; I, of course, insisted that the party had been thrown solely in my honor. And later, I set a new personal record for back squat–30lbs. heavier than my last maximum attempt in June.

During late dinner, friends from different walks of life joined me, ranging from a friend I’ve known for almost a decade to a brand-new friend from my new gym. It was lovely, that’s for sure.

This year has taught me so much about myself. I’m stronger than I thought, physically and mentally. I still have weaknesses to face. I can love fiercely, and I can thrive independently. (This was the year of #bestsummerever, after all.) I am curious and thirsty for new knowledge and new skills. And I am finally becoming confident and ready to stop holding back.

Here’s to 28. May it be the best year yet.

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The Evolution of Strength

In the English language, we use “strong” to mean many things, whether to mean physically strong, mentally strong, resilient, persistent, unrelenting, and so forth. Several years ago, following Stratejoy’s suggestion, I created a theme for the year. The theme that year was Beauty Through Strength. The main purpose was to remind myself each day to stay mentally tough, to accept obstacles and learn from them.

Right now, I’m reminded of that time in my life. Currently, I am processing a transition to a new city and new job, wondering how to appropriately balance where I’ve come from and where I’m headed. It isn’t smooth, and there are some jagged edges of which to be wary, and I have spent some time discussing and venting with several people.

One of my closest friends nudged me to think of this more as evolution, not vacillation. I am not floundering; I am trying to make sense of the new and the old, reconciling some of the development I did over the past three or so years with on-going development and contradicting thoughts that overlapped with the entrance back into the full-time working world.

I am also unlearning some “truths” about myself that are quite personal, but I can say that CrossFit and the people I have connected with through the community are largely responsible for this. It’s lovely, and it’s leading me to consider a more involved and dedicated position.

What I am beginning to discover is that I have been holding back (and hiding) from my true potential in many ways, and it will take nothing but strength and perseverance to reach all my goals. That is why I am making a slight shift in direction and focus here. Maybe I am not simply an adult in transition. Instead, I am a human being who is changing, growing, evolving, and I anticipate this to be the case forever.

And I love reflecting on my own growth and adventures in my blog, but I also love going out and challenging others to be their best selves, too. I don’t necessarily like to recount how I affect others because it seems unneeded and self-indulgent, but I like having those moments to connect and synthesize how challenges and successes, interests and weaknesses, all contribute to a fuller, more purposeful life.

I won’t lie in saying I think these revelations will take me beyond student affairs and education. On a broad enough spectrum, the world is our classroom. Well, actually, it’s beyond the classroom. And that’s the beauty of learning–that as long as people can engage and think critically, then we have opportunity to learn and grow.

For now, this space will still chronicle my journey, but I hope to develop this into something bigger. As always, stay tuned, and come along for the journey.

In Which I Admit Weaknesses

“…It’s me,” I stated aloud.

Two of us were talking about the frustrations of dating as a twenty-something, and I finally admitted what others have probably long suspected. And as I continue to process why it is that I remain single, I have to take accountability for many things. Now, it’s not to say that several folks from the last three years are off the hook for treating me like a Swiffer mop (that is, as something to help clean the mess temporarily and then tossed aside and forgotten), but it’s to really lay out what’s going on–and what needs to be processed.

Here’s the thing that I haven’t–until very recently–realized about myself: I’m flighty. During another conversation, my friend looked at me and asked, in all seriousness, “Is the reason you’re into guys who live nowhere near you partially because you always need a way out?” It didn’t take long for me to answer, Yes.

And as I thought about every relationship I had that had an “official” title, I realized that I was always creating a contingency plan. I thought about all the recent situations in which I found myself drawn to multiple persons of interest, and they were all “safe” in that they lived far away, or they obviously couldn’t commit, and even though all the building blocks were in place for yet another disappointment, it always gave me a quick exit. So why is it that I never come clean in the first place and say, “I’m the one we should be worried about. I don’t know what I want, and I know you’re really awesome, but at this point in time, I’m problematic. What I need right now is a friend, and can you be that, even if it means I actively have to push aside my feelings?”

Even with Portland, I had to leave. I found myself falling in love with a city, and I had to prove to myself that I could leave. I had to leave to see if it was real. It’s “if you love something, let it go.” But when it comes to me, I’m not letting anyone or anything catch me in the first place.

So… why am I flighty? Am I afraid that commitment equates stagnation, whether that’s in love or work or just life in general?

In the meantime, as I work through this, I am committed to working on my own interests, doing things not to impress someone else, but to accomplish my goals and reach new heights. I am pushing myself to speak my mind, to put my intentions out there, to say something when it needs saying. I am striving to be better, to realize that searching for the perfect partner will do no good if I cannot be in a place where I am ready to be an amazing partner (which stems from continuing to grow as an individual).

Roots will have to wait, but I will at least cultivate the field.

In the In-Between

I am having some blogger’s block currently. I am processing a lot at work and in my head. My heart is being annoying and emotional, as one can easily discern from latest blog posts. And I’m feeling like this might be another obnoxious SAD season, so bring on the light boxes and CrossFit.

In all actuality, I have had some revelations that must be shared with only a certain few. And I have a personal project that I am starting the very baby beginning stages of. These things are going to take up some time, but I hope to share as much as I can.

I am done traveling for awhile, and I get to spend this coming weekend in town. However, I will be busy–hitting the gym, updating my license, running errands. It will be nice, though, to get caught up. I need it so badly.

Tonight, I spent with a bunch of women from my Seattle CrossFit gym. It was a good chance to get to know folks a bit more, and there are some very wonderful and talented people at this box. I love any opportunity to share stories and laugh and, of course, drink a bit of wine (and a little whiskey a bit later!). I know these folks will continue to push me forward, to tackle my weaknesses, and continue to grow.

My eyes are heavy now; it’s time to sleep.

The Week In

I’m currently sitting at my dining table, drinking what might possibly be the best hot chocolate I’ve ever made. Coconut milk, raw honey, cocoa powder, and a dash of cinnamon all together in one warming concoction.

I’m also currently sitting at my dining table in my new rental in Seattle, WA. I am Ardith Laverne, the young woman who is from many cities in the Pacific Northwest, but most recently from Portland, Oregon, which I left to move back to Seattle.

I knew when I made the decision to move back to Seattle that it would be tough. There are many things in Portland that I love. However, I also know that Seattle is where I need to continue my professional development, as well as the place where I can round out the remaining years in my twenties.

Someone at the gym tonight asked me if I split my time between the two cities after I explained my situation. I thought about it only for a second or two, and realized that yes, I do. Portland and Seattle are both home to me. It’s kind of difficult logistically, although it really isn’t that difficult. After all, on a map, the two cities are only inches apart.

I think roots are going to have to wait. There are so many different factors that can come into play, and I’m feeling like a leaf in the wind instead of a tree. I think a big part of it will be how this whole partnering business goes, so I remain open-minded to lots of different scenarios. In the meantime, all I have to worry about is myself, and anything can happen. (Exhibit A: moving back to Seattle.)

What I’m getting at–just over a week into my new situation and routine–is that I’m staring down the barrel of uncertainty again, but this time, it feels good. When I started my job search in the Seattle area, I asked for friends to think good thoughts. One friend wrote her thoughts out and shared them with me; she sent a message to the universe and said, “Only let this move happen if it is for the highest good.” In other words, let any move be only because the right things have aligned.

As a storyteller, I’m curious to know how this all turns out so that I can look back and turn it into narration. I want to retell the lessons learned, and I want to see how I learn to navigate my relationships in Seattle, Portland, and even my hometown. I want to explore my new city because it’s changed and I’ve changed since the last time I lived here.

But most of all, I’m hoping that this new chapter defies convention in many ways. I don’t like “normal plans,” and I have high hopes for the next few years. I have high hopes of finding beauty in strength, and finding out nothing is impossible, and that second-guessing myself never did me any good.

And on a related note, I PR’d my front squat tonight. 125lbs. (for 3 reps!). That’s my own body weight. And I got there by listening to those three key themes I just listed in the above paragraph.

If believing in those mantras works for CrossFit, well, I think it’ll work out just fine in life.

 

Cheers to the unknown.