Monday, November 17, 2014

30 before 30

Today is my half birthday. 
I’m now on the downhill slope from 29 to 30. 
But if I've learned one thing in the past 29.5 years, it’s that time is only going to go faster.

I mentioned in my last post that I was working on a list of 30 things to do before I turned 30. I finished it and then left it to collect dust in my drafts folder for 4 months with about a hundred other blog entries. Oops.

So here is the official list, with commentary:

  1. Complete a GRE Test Prep course. This is to help Hannah prepare, and also because I’m a total nerd.
  2. Take a BYU class. One work perk I’m ashamed I haven’t taken advantage of yet.
  3. Complete Spanish 101-102 Workbook. It’s sad how much I've forgotten. Also: Again, nerd.
  4. Health goals. I have some specific plans here, but I’ll leave you to use your imagination.
  5. Stop being a dating hater. Ugh. This one is hard. But I’m committed to being more open and vulnerable in this area. Including reversing my stance on blind dates. Hint, hint. (;
  6. Train for ½ marathon. Also sign up for another one. But specifically train because I've never actually finished training before race day…
  7. Giveaway-a-day for a month. This means get rid of one piece of junk every day for a month. Because one man’s trash and all that…
  8. Passport stamp. I already finished this one but I’m up for more travelling anyway (:
  9. Plan 52 letters of thanks project. This is one of my NYR for next year but I need to do some prep work for it ahead of time.
  10. General Conference blog. This is an idea from my friend Tyler that I really like. Details to come.
  11. Organize photos. I have about a million GB of photos scattered over at least a dozen devices. Gotta rein in that chaos.
  12. Photo collage. This is a crafty project I’m depending on Taylor to help me with.
  13. Pay off 1 loan. I've been chipping away at my student loans, time to pick up the pace.
  14. Get a bike. I've wanted a bike for over a year. I think that puts it officially past an impulse buy. This may be a birthday present to myself or part of my tax refund.
  15. Personal history – 1 entry per week. Because I miss writing. And am still terrible at journaling.
  16. Inbox zero every Friday for a month. In an attempt to control my wildly out-of-control work email. I currently have 4000+ emails so this will be intense.
  17. Create and practice budget. I half-finish this one all the time. Time to seal the deal.
  18. 100% visiting teaching. Because I’m the worst at this.
  19. Temple habit (2x month). My life was so much better when I had this habit.
  20. Take a last-minute trip. Just for funsies.
  21. Complete Mr. Downs/other reading list. I haven’t settled on which list yet but I want to get back to the classics.
  22. Finish listening to all episodes of this American Life. I do this when I exercise, so I’ll have to exercise a lot. Two birds, one podcast.
  23. Start a quote of the day/week. Probably an Instagram project. My kind of craft (:
  24. Start a book club. For how much I love reading this shouldn't be as hard as it seems!
  25. Look into contract work. Another way to pay off loans faster.
  26. Cancel subscriptions. I spend a little money in a lot of places unnecessarily.
  27. Facebook-free February. I really liked doing this last February.
  28. CWP. Mine’s expired.
  29. Finish quilt. From Christmas 2012…
  30. Learn to drive stick. Seriously, how is this still a goal?!?

The next 6 months are going to be BUSY!

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Strike That. Reverse.

Ever since my birthday I've been kicking around the idea of doing a “Thirty by 30” project over the next year. I like the idea of having some middle-term goals to work towards and lists and even numbers are appealing to me. But having a “What do I hope to accomplish in life?” conversation with myself is distinctly unappealing for probably obvious reasons: the odds of my getting married before 30 are pretty slim, and the chances of my having a kid before 30 are days away from being a biological impossibility. It's very depressing to think about, so I tend to try not to. And this idea stayed just an idea.

But last Sunday I went to a fireside where I had the epiphany was prompted by the Spirit to stop focusing so much on things I cannot control and spend some time improving areas that I do. (Side note: The Church is true, guys.) I started making a list that night, but it turns out that thirty things is a LOT of things, so I started Googling some other lists for ideas. And as I looked I was struck by how many goals other people made that I've already accomplished. And how many dreams other people had that I've already fulfilled. And I felt a little bit of the worry about the future dissipate in the wake of a strong feeling of gratitude for the life I've already lived so far. So instead of a “Thirty by 30” list, I started working in reverse and made a list called “Twenty-nine by 29”. Twenty-nine popular accomplishments that I've already achieved -- some I was already proud of, and some I had never thought of before as noteworthy:

1. Fly on a plane
2. Buy a car
3. Move away from home
4. Go to college
5. Go to grad school
6. Get a passport
7. Travel to a foreign country
8. Live in a foreign country
9. Pay off credit card debt
10. Run a half marathon
11. Fall in love
12. Survive a heartbreak and come out stronger
13. Go skinny dipping
14. Get a real job
15. Quit a real job
16. Touch a snake. Voluntarily.
17. Sing karaoke. In public. While sober.
18. Win a championship
19. Live alone
20. Climb to the top of a mountain
21. Sleep on the beach
22. Hold a spider. Voluntarily.
23. Win a contest
24. Get something published
25. Volunteer
26. Learn a foreign language
27. Go on an epic road trip
28. Present at a conference
29. Hold a Guinness World record

I am actually working on my “Thirty by 30” list now, to help me progress into the uncertain future, but I keep this list to remind me of the past that gifted me my present. And at the end of the day, I wouldn't return it for anything in the world.

Saturday, March 01, 2014

Facebook-Free February

It's March 1st and my sister Lauren just texted me the password to get back on Facebook. One of my resolutions this year was to go a month without it and I picked February because it's the shortest. Plus, hey, alliteration! Before jumping back on the bandwagon I decided to take a few minutes to distill this experience on paper, at least in broad strokes. Mostly for my own benefit, but maybe for others' as well.


  1. I had a lot more time on my hands. I rarely parked on Facebook for long periods of time, but I would check it in spurts of 30 seconds to 5 or so minutes many, many times a day. So at first I had just these small windows of time on my hands. I used them to read other things: links on Twitter, blogs and articles in my Feedly, actual physical magazines and books. Later I would use the breaks to take short walks around my building at work, and in my neighborhood at home. Later still when I stopped unconsciously navigating to only to come to awareness when confronted with the login screen (this happened with depressing regularity for a lot of days), I would plow through those windows, instead grouping those small breaks into bigger and bigger sections of time. I took long lunches, longer walks, bigger book breaks, earlier bed times. It was awesome.
  2. I spent a lot of time alone. While this was also the biggest "con" (see below), it was also very good for me. I learned just how much I depend on the validation of others and then learned how to depend on it less. I'm under no illusion that this is a complete or even permanent state of being, four weeks is only four weeks after all, but I used to be a lot more comfortable and complete with only my own company and approval and having lost my way from that for the past year or two, it feels good to be making my way back in that direction. I was also able to do more of the things I loved to do. I read a lot of books. I went to bed earlier and had better sleep. I went to museums and art galleries and lectures. And lest you think I've become completely insufferable, I also binge-watched the entire second season of House of Cards in a day and a half. Then I watched more of the Olympics than I ever have before as well as every single YouTube clip of The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon and the bulk of Brooklyn Nine-Nine. Love.
  3. I remembered Dunbar's Number. The basic principle is that there is a limit to the number of people with whom you can develop deep, meaningful, ongoing relationships. The research indicates a range of between 100 and 230 people with 150 being the most common conclusion. The recent rise of social media has opened a lot of questions about this idea and in fact I was first introduced to Dunbar's Number in 2010 by a boy who didn't have Facebook precisely because he believed that being "friends" with hundreds or thousands of people would be detrimental to his relationships with those who fell within the limits of his Dunbar's Number. At the time I thought his idea had some merit, but believed (and still do) that there are benefits to Facebook that outweigh those risks and we moved on to other things. During February, however, I thought a lot about this idea. I think most people, if asked, could easily list the 100-200 people who are most important to them. There would probably be a lot of family, friends from various phases of life, maybe mentors, teachers, heroes. But how recently or frequently do we actually interact with these people in any meaningful way? Has social media been quietly eroding these relationships? For me the answer was yes. Deep, meaningful, ongoing relationships require action. You must seek out ways to connect with those you love. They need not be time intensive, but they need to be genuine, sincere, and fairly frequent. I found that I knew which of my closest family and friends were getting married, having babies, losing loved ones, getting new jobs, getting laid off, going on vacation, proud of their kids, worried about life, having a hard time, or celebrating a good one. But for the most part,  my sharing of these moments extended only so far as a "like" or maybe a short comment, or worse, just a brief act of voyeurism as I scrolled through the newsfeed. I wasn't really talking to very many of the most important people in my life at all. It was an epiphany.
  1. I spent a lot of time alone. For the first several days, this was excruciating. I was desperately lonely and felt completely cut off from everyone and everything. ( Reading this, I realize I may have been a little overly hysterical.) I realized that while I have a lot of "friends", I don't really have a lot of friends. At least not the kind that you can call up at a moment's notice because you're bored or don't have plans. A better person than me would of course have taken the initiative to seek people out and as the month progressed, I did get a little better at that, but part of the problem was my discovery that I'm not actually as good a friend as I could be (see below). Another aspect of this excess of time by myself was that I foolishly wasted a lot of it. For example: At the beginning of the month, I put together an admittedly overly ambitious schedule of exercise. Ask me how that went. (Pro tip: Don't. It will only end in tears and guilt-chocolate.) While I did spend a lot of time doing good things, I'm pretty disappointed in myself for neglecting some of the better and best.
  2. I'm less-than-impressed with the quality of my friendship to other people. One of the books I read during the month was The Color Code. I don't know how I'd never taken the test before, but I hadn't. It turns out I'm very Blue, with nearly equal amounts of White and Red, and next-to-no Yellow. I found the description of that color type to be eerily accurate and was fascinated to read about it and all the other types in detail. I understand a lot more about myself and others. One unpleasant discovery, however, was in how it revealed flaws in my character in regards to friendship. Blues are motivated by altruism, and this true for me. I like to do things for other people. I like to be useful and helpful. I worry about my friends a lot more than they probably even think about me. But Blues also need to be remembered and appreciated. And I've discovered that my altruistic nature may not be that altruistic after all. Because I wasn't on Facebook, I wasn't as aware of the needs of my family and friends that I could help with and that was very hard for me. But I also didn't hear from very many family or friends at all during the month, and that was very hard as well. And in the end I didn't do much reaching out to others. There was a hodgepodge of reasons: I'm an introvert and initiation is hard for me. I easily feel rejected (another Blue trait) and think that if you're not talking to me, you don't want to hear from me. I'm not at my emotional best in January and February and didn't have a lot to offer others.  I was eventually enjoying being disconnected. But at the end of the day, if I'm really honest it boils down to the need to be remembered. Validation. If you don't remember me, I won't remember you. Very Law of Moses, no? And very stupid. Because I am still remembering you because I care about you and worry about you and love you because you're important to me. I'm just selfishly choosing not to do anything about it. So I just get bitter and miserable. Which doesn't help you and really hurts me. Definitely something to change.
So that's basically it. More Pros than Cons means it was a good thing, right? I think so. I feel refreshed. I feel like I've straightened out my priorities and have clear, actionable areas of self-improvement. Am I getting back on Facebook? Of course. Will my activity rise to its earlier levels? Probably. But I hope to continue to use those windows of down time for other things as well. I hope to maximize the time I spend by myself doing as many of the best things I love to do and need to do and minimize my waste of time. I'm committed to actively working on my relationships with those who fall within my Dunbar's Number. I will stop being so selfish, start being more giving and try to be better at initiating (no promises). 

But I will also work to be a part of the lives of those not so close to me. Because that is the beauty of social media. We can relate to many people in many ways, and if I can engage, enlighten, or encourage anybody, even if it is briefly, sporadically, or superficially, I want to do that. Heaven knows many, many people have done the same for me.

I get by with a little help from my friends. And my "friends" too.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Recalculating: A Story Of My Life

On Sunday morning I plugged an address into my GPS for a church building in Spanish Fork where a friend was giving his missionary homecoming talk. It was an estimated 20 minutes away and at about minute 18 I saw the telltale white steeple come into view and turned a corner to see what I thought was my destination on the left side of the road. According to my GPS, however, this was not the place and rather than turning into the parking lot, I was directed to keep driving. I looked from my phone out my windshield in surprise: The road I was on did not continue very much farther. In fact, it ended rather abruptly at a dead end  in a field pretty much in the middle of nowhere:

Perplexed, I pulled to the side of the road and reentered the address, sure that the church I was seeing was where I was supposed to be. But the GPS returned the same results, so I slowly drove down the road. To my surprise and relief, just as I reached what I thought was the dead end, a small road -- a path, really -- branched off to the right. As I followed the next set of directions and turned onto it, another steeple came almost immediately into view. Reassured, I continued on my way to my final destination in perfect time to hear my friend speak beautifully on the challenges of this life: "Because He loves us, God will not leave us sitting where we are", he said, "He will move us to where we need to be. Or, more correctly, he will move us to move."

I was reminded of the experience I had just had getting to the church building and was suddenly struck by the overwhelming relevance it has to my life right now.

  • I wanted to go to church that morning. I knew it was where Heavenly Father wanted me to be and I also had a strong desire to make it there. 
  • I found a church building I thought was the right one. It wasn't. There was nothing wrong with it, I'm sure I could have gone inside and learned wonderful things; but it wasn't where I was supposed to be.
  • I was instead being pointed in what seemed an impossible direction. From my perspective, the road I was on ended. There was no progress to be made, no satisfactory end in sight. 
  • Instead of continuing on down the road, I pulled over and sat in the car, doubting the directions I was receiving. Not moving in any direction.
  • When I finally decided to continue with the directions and see what happened, it wasn't very long before I saw that my perspective had been limited and that, in fact, there was a way to where I was supposed to go -- where I wanted to go.  
  • The GPS had a bigger, more complete picture of my destination that had been sitting just out of my sight all along. I just had to trust it to see the destination for myself.

Ever since I finished grad school and moved back to Utah, I have been struggling to find purpose in my life. I no longer have tangible, measurable goals to prove I am progressing. I have desires that are unfulfilled. Dreams that are deferred. But more than the disappointment of these is the ache of not feeling useful. Necessary. Needed. Over the past several months, this lack of purpose that has been viciously corroding my sense of worth. Over the past few weeks, it has left me hollow. 

I reached a point in my life where I thought I was supposed to end up. I was heartbreakingly incorrect in that hope. But I am not moving on. I am parked on the side of my life with a view of where I wish I was, but where I know I don't belong. Yet as I look ahead of me, I can't see anything to suggest that a better destination is ahead. From my perspective there are only dead ends and empty fields in my future. 

I believe in God. I believe He loves his children. I believe that because of that love, He has a plan for them so that they can return to Him as their best selves. But I find I am lacking the faith that God, His love, and His plan apply to me.

Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Follicular Ruminations

I found my first gray hair when I was twenty-five. It was summer and it was traumatic.

I'd come home to surprise Ian for his high school graduation and my hair, used to the cool, damp climate of London, was freaking out. After an intense battle, I was finally able to beat my bangs into submission by dutch-braiding the heck out of them, like so:

The battle won, I leaned in to inspect my handiwork when what to my horrified eyes should appear but a silver hair making itself exponentially known by snaking in and out of the braid across my entire forehead. I may or may not have screamed and immediately shaved my head. Just kidding. But I thought about it.

Every few months since that summer another gray hair pops up in exactly the same place. A little bit back from my hairline, just to the right of my part. And every few months I pull it out and lament again the loss of my innocence.

Tonight I found another one. Only, I’m pretty sure I found the last one on Christmas Eve, so I think they’re coming faster.

The time has come to just admit and embrace it:

I've gone Rogue.