This is How We Fun

Bill stood in the middle of the trail staring at the side of the mountain. We were at the part of the trail that broke off from day hikers into the wild. As we approached, he started talking, but never broke his stare at the slope.

"Man, that'd be a great run," he said with a smiled sigh, his tanned skin creasing into deep rivers. 

Ski daydreams.

"Isn't this just such a great place to be?" Gratitude leaked out of every word, inhale, stare. Bill was my kind of people. His eyes lit up like a child's with excitement. "I need to get out here more. It's such a recharge." We smiled broadly looking at each other. That's exactly what we call it. Before we parted ways, Bill talked fast about his plans to hike Mono Pass to Lake Thomas Edison. "They have a ferry for hikers that takes you across the lake to a prime rib dinner!" He was the last person we saw until late next morning.

After leaving the Mount Rose Trailhead, we saw tons of people all the way to the Galena Waterfalls.

Galena Waterfalls

Galena Waterfalls

Then Bill. Then no one. We headed west. The climb was gradual, but the pack made it intense. Adding 25+ lbs. to my hiking was really hard. The views served as medicine. We reached the highest peak on the Tahoe Rim Trail, 5 miles from the trailhead. I felt like I had conquered a whole country. It was a rush.

Atop Relay Peak. Atop the world. Relay Peak, 10,338'

Atop Relay Peak. Atop the world. Relay Peak, 10,338'

Adrenaline pumping, we talked fast about the next backpacking trip.
"Why don't we do this every weekend?" we said, like dummies.
The best of times! Look at that lake!

And then our source of water ended up being bone dry. The next two lakes on the map, puddles. No water until we would reach civilization the next day. The realization that half our food for dinner needed water. The thirst that came with hiking 12 miles with lots of weight. The worst of times.

Fortunately, we conserved our water until we were certain we had a water source and packed more food than we needed. Our tired weathered bodies finally stopped for the night, nestled underneath Rifle Peak, about 12 miles into our 20 mile journey. We set out to find our campsite: somewhere flat enough to sleep with a tree tall enough to hang our bear bag.

Our campsite for the night

Our campsite for the night

As the sun set over the lake, not one single soul for miles, we looked out atop our mountain perch and couldn't believe our view. It was ours. Unbelievable beauty. We found a rock that served as a perfect sunset-viewing chair. A panoramic view of the lake and a pink-orange-blue sky. The best of times.

An incredible view. One of the best sunsets of my life.

An incredible view. One of the best sunsets of my life.

There isn't much sleep involved in backpacking. This was no exception. Our "flat" spot ended up being a slight incline, and we spent the night in our little backpacking tent trying not to roll over on each other. Side sleeping made for numb extremities. Back sleeping hurt my back. Every sound startled me and I spent most of the night making mental notes of what the wind sounded like and compared it to any other sound. 

Our stiff bodies rolled out of our tiny orange cocoon at dawn, sleepy, crabby, craving donuts and pizza. Once we moved around a bit, our stiffness subsided and we drank in the pink sunrise, only slightly dwarfed by the memories of our sunset. 

Eating up most of our food, wearing our warm clothes on a chilly morning and running out of water, our packs were significantly lighter. We were on our way by 7 a.m., looking forward to an easy 8 miler, mostly downhill to our Jeep.

All morning, we talked about food. What would be our first meal? I could make out Tahoe City from our view and pointed to our favorite restaurant. "There. I want that." The morning was fueled by BBQ daydreams. We stopped halfway, consuming the last of our water and two apples. The closer we got to the trailhead, the more people we'd run into. The day hiking tourists started wide-eyed at our packs and couldn't stop asking us about bears. The fellow backpackers would stop and idly chat about the trail ahead. 

The euphoria of hearing the road for the 1st time in 24 hours is incredible. It's jarring and foreign at first as your wild ears only consumed the wind and low grunt of bears in the trees. But the you realize you're about to finish a really hard thing. The relief and sense of accomplishment makes your tired face burst into wide smiles. I just hiked 20 miles with 25 lbs on my back and slept at 9,200 ft. in the wilderness. I just did that. On purpose.

After a light nap, an ice cream bar, a ton of water and a nap, we made the decision to section hike the Tahoe Rim Trail before summers end. A 165-mile, twenty-four inch, single-track trail that encircles the lake. Three day hikes and five backpacking trips. Three down, five to go.

Sometimes I don't really get why I love it so much. I go out of my way to carry lots of weight up mountains for miles and sleep uncomfortably on rocks. Every part of me gets tired and the hunger is unbelievable. But it's quiet. Miles away from what I'm used to. In the discomfort, it's comforting. It almost feels like I find a piece of me that has been missing. A new quiet that somehow awakes the wildness in me. It's addicting.

On every backpacking trip I've been on, and there have only been two, things fall apart and then come back together again in the craziest ways. It's a microcosm of life: you may work with a really difficult person, you may have spilled coffee on yourself pre-interview, but there is an epic sunset, a home cooked meal, a hug in your future that makes it all melt away. And just knowing that makes the falling apart a little easier. 

Mount Rose Wilderness, just passed the Galena Waterfalls

Mount Rose Wilderness, just passed the Galena Waterfalls

Just after summiting Relay Peak in the Mount Rose Wilderness

Just after summiting Relay Peak in the Mount Rose Wilderness

The last bit of sunset Saturday night

The last bit of sunset Saturday night

Day two, headed to Brockway Pass

Day two, headed to Brockway Pass

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Happy Birthday, Happy Life

July 17th used to be the highlight of my year. I've written about what this day signifies over and over again, and my battle to balance my mother's birthday legacy and honoring myself by chilling out. For 31, I (sort of) succeeded and (epically) failed, again. 

My mother was a larger than life part of my story that has been missing now for 10 birthdays. Every year, I flop around like a fish out of water trying to figure out how to heal. July 17th is about what my mother brought into this world and what she left behind. Pancake breakfasts with candles. Giant Mickey Mouse "Happy Birthday" signs. Hours of special birthday shopping. Ice cream dance parties to Queen. And then radio silence. The silence haunted me for a long time. I needed to make a lot of noise so it wasn't so profound.

The noise was always in the shape of showering myself with tons of friends and food and booze and multiple day plans and multiple birthday outfits. But it never came close to what she gave me. 

For a few years, I resolved to be like a lot of people and not do much. That just brought back the silence. 

So this year, I did both. I bought birthday outfits. I planned a night out and a day out. I let Paul plan. I attempted to carve out some rest and relaxation. It all became a big mess of confusion and fun and exhaustion.

But it also represented my life at 31. I am just now learning how to listen to myself. The part of me that says, "Okay, one glass of wine is enough," or "You're tired. Go back to bed."

The part of me that loves myself like my mom loved me.

Sometimes I listen. Sometimes I'm too excited to sleep. Sometimes I value other's wants and needs over my own. And that's just not a way to celebrate the day of your birth. 

What I really want is to finally give myself permission to own July 17th. I want to let go of the birthday legacy.  I want to start over. 

I want to be outside. I want cake and a candle. I want to shop for a birthday outfit and wear it in September. I want to go to bed early. I want to honor what being 31 is for me. I just don't know how to do that yet. And just like every lesson in life, I'll keep repeating it until I figure it out.

What did I learn from 31? That it can take years to figure out what you want from this life and even more time to figure out what you need. 

That's okay. 

And sometimes it takes an even longer amount of time to convince yourself that you deserve to get what you want and need. And that it's really up to you to make all those things happen.

Sometimes the best days of the year aren't on birthdays, or holidays, or Saturdays. They're the days that fill in your hollow spots when you least expect it. The days that make you full. They make you feel gratitude in ways you never thought possible. Pancakes for breakfast on a Tuesday. Spontaneous sunset picnic with your best friends. A quiet much needed moment with yourself where everything is peaceful and perfect. 

Honoring what you need has nothing to do with being lame and elderly; it has everything to do with getting smarter and stronger and having a much better, more fulfilling life. I thought a return to my younger years each year would keep me young and less sad, but in reality, doing whatever I want, like I love myself enough to take care of me, is the best idea. Making choices that prolong my days instead of cutting them short. Honoring my mom in a way that would make her proud.  

31 is an incredible age. I love 31. I no longer feel the need to focus my actions around others reactions. I have let go of feeling "old" and feel better than I did 10 years ago. 31 is powerful and beautiful and I am beyond grateful to celebrate the gift of another year of life.

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Let's not give up celebrating our life just because we're getting older. Let's celebrate better: less booze more belly laughs. Less birthday blues, more cupcakes. Less feeling old, more gratitude for getting to be on the planet a little bit longer. Less waiting for vacation and more celebrating exactly where you are.

So here's to a million more moments, and a million more mistakes, that give us all a chance to pause and love life a little bit more. We're really, really lucky to be here.

Family Trees

My Grandpa Smith was a giant. Not only was he tall, but his presence was profound and asked gently for pause. When I was younger, there was an excitement around ringing the doorbell. Grandpa was going to come alive. He would throw the heavy wooden door wide open. His tanned leather face would light up and his exclamation of "Sarah!" always made me feel like royalty. His wide massive arms would swing me around until I was dizzy and giggling. When he returned me to the earth, I would crane my neck up to him to see his smiling face and hear his silly jokes. He was my giant redwood tree.

A few weeks ago, we went to visit the redwoods at the very top of California. In all the preparation I did for our first 4 day vacation by ourselves in at least three years, meal planning, camping accessories, road trip snacks, I did not plan on having wild dreams of my future or feeling new connections to old roads. Upon returning and laying Oatmeal to rest, what started on vacation has seemed to continue. It's been quite challenging to quantify, explain or analyze. But you know I've tried.

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Sleeping underneath 400 year old trees is a spiritual experience. It felt like I was constantly in the company of my elders. I felt safe and couldn't help but completely revel in their massive presence. It was a sacred space.

It made me reconsider my focus. My whole life has always been about what's next. Everyone focuses on money but not your purpose. Being loved but not giving love. Speaking truth but not hearing truth. Failing to find the lesson in difficult people. We are all afraid of being alone and poor and unsuccessful instead of being afraid that we don't ever really get around to living.

What if I did something wild and crazy and focused on living? The trees don't worry about their bills, their success, their tomorrow. They stand tall and let it come. They waver slightly when the wind blows hard. They fall when it's time. 

Stout Memorial Grove. They shot scenes of Star Wars here, nbd.

Stout Memorial Grove. They shot scenes of Star Wars here, nbd.

After Oatmeal passed away, we hung a map of the U.S. where his cage used to be and several times a week, we stare at it, wonder about weird little towns we've never heard of, measure 8 hour drives from our driveway. It's fitting we do this where Oatmeal used to be. Beginnings and endings. They need each other.

In some ways, I feel like the trees were able to give me some peace and connect me to myself. A house will come. A better job will come. Kids will come. A new place will come. Without my interference or planning or anxiety. I've come to realize why Paul and I love the forest so much. I used to think it was because it was quiet and without people. Now I feel like it's a way to visit our friends, a way to come home again, to feel connected to the earth, to remember our family trees and the many people we lost that still reside in our roots, if we let them. We are never alone. And the more we trust ourselves, get to know ourselves again, the easier it is to find home when you're far away.

We could all learn a thing or two from our elders, and from the trees. 

"Stay patient and trust your journey." 

Running with Mom

I started running in 5th grade. I joined this "long distance" community ed class that just had us running "indian runs" which meant running in a single file line with three to four other kids. You would then take turns leading the line. I took it with my friend Allison and we were really excited to run every time, but one of our teammates was a certified sand bagger. Every time he lead, he slowed down to nearly a walk, smirking. We, in turn, sped up way passed a comfortable pace when we lead, smirking. It wasn't the first time I fought back against entitled boy-idiots. Three years later I would memorize the rap names of each member of the Wu Tang Clan because the leader of the most sought after choir picnic committee said I couldn't join until I was able to name all members. I still remember, Mike Cartell.

I've had a sordid relationship with running ever since 5th grade. My perfection always had me wanting to be better but I would get frustrated by not being able to go fast, right away. My mom's only experience with running was having to take the police fitness test for her job as a private detective (grocery and department stores). Yet another reminder of how totally rad my mother was.

"Inhale through your nose, exhale through your mouth," she would say. "And think of something silly." It had nothing to do with running better, but it calmed me down when I was trying to be perfect. 

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8th Grade Bronco, 3rd String Relay!

By middle school, I joined track and field with my friends, but spent the majority of the time in the athletic trainers office for knee problems. I was told I had "weak knees" and was given a set of exercises that I found to be even more painful than running. Being a 3rd string relay member was kind of humiliating and the only time I ever got a good run in was after icing all practice. I ran for fun in high school, especially when I began dating a cross country runner. I kept it up in college intermittently but the freshman fifteen came unexpectedly and I developed shin issues. Someone (I was dating) pointed out to me that shin splints happen when, "you're running flat or you're running fat." I had top of the line running shoes with great arch support, so..

Cool. Not helpful.

I moved to Chicago when I was 20 and spent most of my friendless free time running by the Lincoln Park Zoo. I lived in a studio apartment by myself where I wrote, did homework, drank too much coffee and did yoga every night. I just wrote and ran and was fortunate enough to not have to work. I had this strange view of a dentist's office and I would write stories about their interactions, setting myself up for exponentially loathing the dentist. It was a magical 6 months and the only way I could live in a big city by myself without having anxiety attacks every morning. Running has been and continues to be an incredible anxiety reliever.

Somewhere in 2012, my friends asked me to run a marathon relay with them. The word "relay" conjured up being a giant dork in middle school, so I was hesitant. My leg of the relay would be 5.95 miles. I had about 4 months to get in running shape and although I never really felt "prepared" it was an incredible time. I found out I was so much more capable of what I thought I was. And going through training with friends was a good time.

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2012 Glass City Marathon Relay, 4th Leg, Turtle-Slow.

So when my friend Whitney asked me if I wanted to run a half marathon this year in June, I said yes without hesitation. I ran with Paul while he was preparing for a pack test to be a wildland firefighter last spring, but I got frustrated really fast. The lack of running for at least two years and the change in altitude had me quit before I could even finish a mile. And it didn't help that I had this lumberjack of a husband casually jogging with 45 pounds strapped to his back, barely breaking a sweat. But since January, I've started small and gave up feeling like I need to go "fast." I've just focused on distance. I've slowly felt stronger, able to run upstairs without feeling out of breath, my hiking has improved immensely, and although I don't feel like I'm ready, I feel like I'm on the road to getting somewhere.

Just like skiing, running is so mental. I have had weeks in my training where I'll run 4 miles easily, and two days later, barely finish a mile. This last weekend, I set myself up to run 6 miles, more than I've ever attempted to run, and way more than I've attempted in three years. 

I struggled to get past the 4th mile and I wanted to quit. There were unexpected hills and I felt like I was failing. I kept freaking out about my time, how slow I was going up the hills, how I started feeling pain in my shins again (am I flat or fat?!). But then it just came to me. My mother's advice for breathing when running, mainly, "Think of something silly." I thought about when Oatmeal sticks out his tongue. It makes me laugh so much. And I ran the best mile since I've been training and simultaneously nearly falling over with gratitude and love and tears. 

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Not Oatmeal, but you get the point. Hilarious.

When my mom passed away, so many people always tried to comfort me with, "She's with you." And I just always rejected that because it's hard for me to feel that. Because I can't see her. I can't talk to her. I can't laugh with her. The mom I knew isn't with me. But now I think I realize what they were saying.

For the motherless children out there, and unfortunately I know many, don't ever forget that she's with you always. Because you are her. She is you. That's how the parent/child thing works. And I truly believe I wouldn't have been able to finish that run without her.

That 6 mile run was brought to you by the amazing memory of my mother. And Rich Homie Quan "Type of Way," a filthy song my mother would be horrified that I listen to. 

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Me and Mom in those FILA days...

Why I Quit Adulting (And Why You Should, Too)

In so many places, society rewards "hard workers" and everyone pretends to be one. It's not okay to miss work because you need a day to be a human. You have to be sick, but not just casually sick because that would imply that you could work through your sickness. You have to have one foot in the ER and one in the grave and your doctor has to make a really concerning face and tell you not to go to work for a week. That's how sick you have to be: one day doesn't do it. You need a week. Or you have to die or lose a limb. I remember when Grams died, one of my co-workers thought it was "strange" that I took three days off, not knowing that I had to make food for the showing, organize my entire family, go through her belongings. I was sleeping maybe three hours a night and I could've easily taken a week off and still had things to do. But work should've been more important. I should've taken one day and got back to it. And people reward that behavior with, "Wow you're so strong! You're so tough! You're such a hard worker!" That's the mentality and it's nuts. Kill yourself emotionally and physically for a job. It's more important than family, friends, fun, and health.

Look, I can work hard. I'd just rather bounce around and eat ice cream. I don't think that makes me lazy. I think that makes me really smart and brave for saying that out loud because that's what you want, too.

Everyone says "work hard, play hard" but I disagree. I think everyone really could work medium and play way more. Playing extra hard doesn't mean "going up on a Tuesday," it just means that framing your life around play is a powerful concept. Follow me yet or do you think I need to grow up and get a real job?

It's okay. Sometimes I find myself thinking the same thing. But the thing with this unlearning process is that I am constantly yelling at that part of my brain.

Get a real job. I have one and it's becoming a better human!
Make more money. Do I really need more money? And when I get more money, will that be enough then? Or are we all just addicted to idea of more money?
Have a kid! You're getting old! No. Maybe someday but not now. And I'm not old! I'm younger than I've ever been.
Buy a house. You're thirty and wasting money renting! Do I really need to own a house? Do I really want to pay for a new water heater when it dies? Do I even know where I want that house to be? 

So my journey right now is attempting to prioritize playing outside, and making that the best thing I can do as a human. Working just supports that. Think about what would happen if everyone prioritized a simple, wildly fun outdoor activity. 

Remember when you dreamed of adventure as a kid? I wanted to go to space. I had absolutely no idea what that entailed, I just wanted to float around and eat that astronaut ice cream. Not a lot has changed. But for a long time, I thought it had to.

It's taken me years to get to the place where it's okay to prioritize fun. I used to fold myself into this business casual person that tried, but really didn't attend to the wrinkles in her trousers. There was that Ann Taylor version of myself that I had held for my thirties that never really stuck. I tried. But it always felt like a costume.  

Costumes can be fun. But playing dressup only suits me when it's my choice and it doesn't happen often. When I have to dress up for work, I feel like I'm playing a character. Like I'm totally Dagwood Bumstead. 

Genius.

Thirty meant something when I was twenty. I had all these preconceived notions about what thirty would look like, borrowing heavily from my mother's life. Being twenty something was about "finding yourself" and then you find you! And then you buy a house, have some kids, pay attention to the quality of your shoes and carve out a nice little life and be in the same place long enough to know your neighbors.

Except I am nowhere near living the life of my mother. And I think that's probably okay.

But what I cannot forgive is that I'm thirty and I'm just now facing all these crazy questions and I'm letting myself struggle with them. What am I supposed to do with my life? And an even scarier question: Will I ever get to the point where I will definitively know? And if the answer is no,  is it okay to be okay with that? And if the answer is "exactly what you're doing: enjoy every breath," and has nothing to do with my occupation, how long will it take to actually accept that answer, unconditionally?

It is so easy to start piling up adult responsibilities so I don't have to face these questions. These questions are hard. They take courage to face. Sometimes I want to quit, buy a house and think about stock market stuff. "Adulting" is easier socially because it's fitting in with what thirty year olds are expected to do. Settle down. Have a baby. It's an easy diversion and what is expected and completely great and wonderful if that's truly what you want. And I'm not sure it's what I want. But it's what I always go back to when I'm unsure and scared and way too focused on the future.

But my friend Willie Nelson told me, "Time will take care of itself, so just leave time alone," and I think it's time I start listening to that man.

Sometimes I feel like the best thing I can do is have fun, laugh a lot, make sure I'm really enjoying every minute I can, and other times I feel unfocused, like I'm wasting time, like if I sat down for a second and updated my resume and really gave the job search a good college try, I'd be in a better position. But sometimes there's nothing better than having that feeling of a never ending good day outside on the slopes, playing softball, hiking with good friends, not even having a thought about laundry, 401Ks, presentations or groceries. It's all about fun. And it's possible until you die.

When I waver on "work sometimes, play always," it's because I let that old mentality of working hard and being professionally successful as being the number one ultimate goal thing creep in. But who is that profiting? So I can pay down my perpetual student loan sooner? Who cares? Since when did we willingly give up belly laughs and all day smiles to be more financially "responsible"? Since when did we give up playing outside till dusk when the streetlights came on so we could sit in our armchairs and sulk about how rough Monday is going to be? We traded in our grass stained jeans to iron our work slacks and for what? How does this make sense?

I get that you can have both. I get that having a house and kids can be a great source of fun and happiness. I get that jobs can be fun, that you can have a job that you work hard at and also have a lot of good times. And maybe I will get there someday. But right now, I'm not focused on that road, and I refuse to do something I'm expected to do instead of doing something that I really really want to do. And I've met people that seem to have lost the ability to enjoy anything. I was that person and I never want to be that person again. It's death while still being able to breathe.

Don't grow up. It's a trap. It's a costume. It's an act. Protect the right to be silly in the grocery store on a Tuesday afternoon. Wear socks with bears on them. Watch cartoons. Perfect your nose spoon game. Play outside till dark. Sleep in and do laundry later. Take a mental health day and call it a mental health day. Be irresponsible once. Or twice! Set a precedent of taking care of yourself, in whatever way is necessary, instead of glamorizing "busy" and "working hard." Have a real day of nothing and don't feel bad at all. Brag to your friends about how much fun it was to do nothing, or everything! instead of complaining about how busy you are and that you have no time. That's your choice, you know. I work hard everyday, but I'm working on my spirit and my health before anything else in this world. And so far, it's been the best few years of my life.

The Life Audit

After weeks of trying to figure out why I've been quite emotional without blaming it all on my 30 year old wild hormone party, I have come to the conclusion that I am restless. I am attempting to allow myself to feel this way, however uncomfortable it makes me feel, cautious to offer a remedy that doesn't fit. I look for jobs and don't apply because I know they aren't right. I spend time with new people and (try to) focus on silence and listening because I'm not really sure if I want to invest. I focus on enjoying where I'm living, running outside as much as I can, trying not to say "no" to new opportunities to explore, trying to stay in the moment when the faith is tested. I try to rely heavily on hope and past lessons that have always shown us that everything always works out. Everything is going to be okay, always. Really.

Lindsay, the only non-family member who has known me for 20+ years, said something to me years ago, how much of my unsettledness stems from "not being easily amused." I am so that person. Being on autopilot ruins me. I don't want friends, I want family. I don't want a mindless book, I want something that makes my brain hurt, stretch, grow. I don't want a "job," I want something that makes me feel excited to plug into on Mondays. Man, I want to like Mondays. I've gone from being an avid anti-Monday drone to being pretty neutral about Mondays. But it would be great to like them.

My anxiety has come back in a different, stranger form. It used to be a large group of strangers that would set me off. Now, it seems to be a smaller group of acquaintances. I saw my acupuncturist about it and she mentioned that maybe I'm creating more room in my consciousness and maybe I'm an empath that needs to guard her energy. I tend to love big and deeply and maybe I need to reel that in. I always know. Sometimes I ignore. Now is not the time to tell your gut to shut up.

In writing to my friend Brandon about how things are going, I warned him that my week recap was going to be depressing, but it was pretty eye opening.

"I feel like the world is spinning by and I'm stuck in concrete watching."

I'm feeling super disconnected lately, my own creation. Alone. Old. Stuck. Weird. All of the feelings. Anxious. Insomniac. Eternally bored.

Running has taken the edge off, but yesterday, I felt particularly unplugged from being a human. I was waking up super early to get to running in the afternoon with sun. Not really eating enough. Not hydrating enough. Being an emotional monster. So I decided to do this life audit that I've been wanting to do since Moon Highway posted it on their Twitter.

How and Why To Do a Life Audit

It starts out fairly simple: write down 100 wishes. Sounds easy, but I stalled at 30 and let the rest kind of trickle in. Reading further, I was encouraged to really dream "big," crazy big dreams from my childhood. I was shocked with how hard that was. Why wasn't I allowing myself "big" wishes? When did I shut that part off and why? (Tune in next time for "Why I Quit Adulting.")

My life audit pointed out how I spend my time, what I want to do with my time and where my priorities lie. My three biggest areas of wishes were in spiritual work, education and creativity, meaning my priorities are working on myself spiritually, learning a ton of new things and harnessing my creative power. It was slightly interesting to see how my priorities have shifted: three years ago I was really concerned about my relationship with Paul, my career and my connection to others. Although these are all on the list, they pale in comparison to the former areas, which showed me that at the heart of things, it's not my job or my connections that need an intervention right now. 

Another great exercise was writing down who you spend your time with and who you want to spend more time with. I prioritized and planned more texting/phone calls/letter writing to a lot of great people that are unfortunately far away now. I used to write a lot of letters, held my same editing criteria to each word and it was a wonderful writing exercise. Multi tasking.

I also sorted out my wishes by three areas: what I can do today, what wishes are aspirations (go to the Germany/France border) and what things require a few steps of planning or preparation. This was incredible as I saw a lot of the fulfillment of certain wishes can start immediately. They don't require planning, just a bit of mindfulness. It's easy to get stuck in "waiting for the day" and I used to think that I was waiting for the universe to hand me the next thing. Maybe that's not my patience lesson. Maybe it's being patience while also being in a really good space, working on my shit. 

It's really easy to blame your unhappiness on things that are out of your control. It's kind of like you're blaming the weather because you can't do anything about it. It's an external factor and it's not your fault. 

But sometimes when you dig deeper, you realize it totally is your fault. You are "driving" this crazy train and a lot of things are in your control. This life audit showed me that my unsettledness isn't because I don't like my job or that I miss my friends (I do miss my friends) or that I need to figure out how to stick to a budget. What I'm searching for is internal understanding and acceptance. I long to understand myself, why I'm so empathetic, why I love so deeply, how to harness that, how to universally accept that, how to love that, what to say yes to, what to say no to, where to invest my precious free time, and what kind of activities and people are going to help me understand and unpack all of these things. It feels like there's a ton of garbage in the way of getting to the next step, and there IS, but it's not because I have the wrong job or I'm in the wrong place with the wrong people. Feeling like I want to "run away," feeling disconnected, feeling manic, anxious, depressed and completely ungrounded, is just a manifestation of being uncomfortable with this emotional digging. It's a lot of hard work. You want to deflect it and name it as something you can't control because it's hard. You have to face yourself and figure out why you're making yourself miserable: why you're so addicted to feeling that way and how to change it. It's scary and hard and so worth it.

In the meantime, and in an effort to start the process of reclaiming my happiness, I'm committing to giving up most of my TV "couch" time that I spend idly staring and spend more time writing, reading, getting outside, listening to music with Paul and creating, whether that be crocheting or playing the piano again or baking treats for my family.  That doesn't mean I'm giving up the couch, just what I'm doing when I'm sitting there. Mama earned that lounge.

It almost feels like we are both on the verge of something. However, the "verge" may not be something that "happens." I'm starting to believe that it's something we discover within ourselves.

And I may just feel unsettled until I get the hang of this. Maybe I need to move into "unsettledness" and make feeling unsettled my home and see where that takes me. 

 

 

Awkward with a Coffee Cup

My grandfather and I had an excellent tradition of "The Christmas Outfit." We'd go shopping for a whole day to find an outfit, head to toe, hat to shoes, and then open it on Christmas. It was an amazing tradition and every time I shop, I miss him the most. He was an artist, painting was his medium, and had such an eye for the color and shape of things. He always had me looking like a style icon, at least one outfit-worth.

When my mom passed away and I was faced with the prospect of junior prom, my grandfather took it upon himself to help me find "the dress." I was visiting him in Florida and we took to the mall first. We went into a super fancy store where you come out and stand on this podium to look at yourself in seven differently-angled mirrors. The saleslady "ooh-ed" and "ahh-ed" at me standing on this box while I tried to soak in the princess moment in this $400 dress. I felt like a giant cupcake and got real hungry. Knowing my face, my grandfather took me to a less fancy place, a consignment shop, where I found the most perfect vintage dress and matching diamond earrings. I loved things with "souls," things that felt like they had their own memories or reminded me of my own. I was also slightly obsessed with old movies and desperately wanted to look like Audrey Hepburn. (I also really loved Margot Tenenbaum, so trying to mesh the two was often times tragic.)

Prom selfie

Prom selfie

Being 30 has brought its challenges. The acne, hot flashes and the constantly nagging notion of "Wait, shouldn't I have health insurance?" don't ever go away. I'm also constantly trying to figure out how to dress myself.

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I got real excited last winter when I found a sweater in a thrift shop that had real gnarly silver spikes on the shoulders.

Before I had a chance to wear it to work, an eighth grader showed up with the same one. It was a Forever 21 brand sweater, which when you really think about it, being "Forever 21" sounds like a prison sentence. A very close second to "Starbucks for Life."

Conversely, I feel like I need a real good 401K to shop at Banana Republic. And now that I'm no longer in need of "business casual" as I am on track to work from home full time and live in flannel/beanie world, am I now free to wear my donut pajamas to work? With how much I talk about cartoons, that feels like I'm growing "down."

Pinterest helps not. "Women's Fashion" has a lot of outfits with cut off heads. How am I supposed to know if my head matches that outfit if I can't see theirs? Also, my body doesn't make sense for a lot of these. I'm fairly certain that dress would make me look like the leg lamp from The Christmas Story.

Also bags? I haven't carried a "bag" in two years.

And don't these women deserve heads? #yesallwomen

So what combination of words do I search to see people that look like me? Invisible Fashion for Sarah? 

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I have yet to wear top or bottom out in public. But someday...

I have yet to wear top or bottom out in public. But someday...

So then I embrace the West Coast mentality that you can do whatever you want and be whoever you want to be! I went to Junky's Clothing Exchange, a popular Burning Man outlet, and let myself live.   

I also became a human trophy figurine.  

I don't really know what's appropriate anymore. I kind of feel like an awkward teenager that doesn't know where she fits in.

I visit home in less than two weeks. Small town mountain life to midwest suburb/city life where I will inevitably see everyone I went to high school with at the mall. This shocks me brain. I feel like packing for Christmas Break means trying to figure out who I'm supposed to be in the "city" so I don't have to deal with the stares, the "what are you wearing?" raised eyebrows that make me want to hide behind a very large object (note: there aren't a lot of boulders in Ohio/Michigan). 

Most days I look like this.

Most days I look like this.

And after years of agonizing over outfits, highlighting the contours of my face, buying three different curling irons and the right kind of hair gel, I came out to this small town where none of that matters and let it all run out. And sometimes I feel like I've "let myself go" into this messy mountain woman that only cuts her hair once a year, that runs out of foundation and doesn't buy more, and the only time that makes me feel bad is when I'm back in the city where people spend lots of time and money on everything I've let go. And I ask myself this question: is this growing up? Accepting a paintless face, grownup zits and all, and embracing the tomboy you've always been before you let the world change you? 

Do not get me wrong. I love to play dress up. And I believe everyone should feel free enough to do whatever they want. But doing what I want in daily life involves a ponytail, jeans and a tshirt. Paul loves that Sarah the most. And so do I. (Oatmeal likes me with sweaters so he can try to chew on the sleeves. Weirdo.)

I think selfies are a way of testing out your face before you show it to the world. I get it. Face dress rehearsal. And I'm real bad at it. 

I think selfies are a way of testing out your face before you show it to the world. I get it. Face dress rehearsal. And I'm real bad at it. 

So here is some advice that I don't know how to take. 

  • Live your life, whatever it looks like.
  • Be brave enough to be drastically different than everyone around you.
  • A coffee cup is a much more practical accessory than a bag you can't take on a hike.
  • You're only as weird as you let others make you.
  • Go ahead and mix those metals, girl. Silver AND gold. Embrace the duality.

 

 

 

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P.S. These are my new style icons. Antlers and flower crowns. WHAT ELSE DO YOU NEED TO KNOW?