Invest A Little Something Day

Valentine’s Day.

Some people love it. Some people loathe it.

I’d say I generally have positive feelings towards February 14th. While some may think it’s a Hallmark holiday, I like to see it as a simple day; A simple day for people to take some time and pour some extra love and energy into their relationships. Whether the relationship is a boyfriend, husband, girlfriend, wife, partner, friend, parent, neighbor or second cousin twice removed, it is a gentle nudge for those of us who may not otherwise take time to recognize the people or special person in our life. Even if that person is you, yourself.

Yes, Valentine’s Day is commercialized. (I mean it’s a 20 billion-dollar industry). But there are ways to commemorate the day without making fancy dinner reservations or spending hundreds of dollars. Oh, and yes, I cannot forget the folks who say, “I don’t need Valentine’s day. I show the person I love affection every day, so I don’t need some stupid holiday to remind me.” I hear that a lot; and that’s great. I think we could all learn a little something from you about how to bring our best each and every day. But even if you fall in that category, if you show affection so well throughout the year, Valentine’s Day is just another great reason to wake up and invest in your relationships. Not to mention, isn’t it fun to simply mutter the words, “Will you be my Valentine?”

I have enjoyed Valentine’s Day through many different phases of my life. I see the day as an opportunity to simply extend thoughts, care and extra attention into the love in my life; whether it’s with myself, my husband, family or a friend. I’ve celebrated Valentine’s, Gal-entine’s and everything in between.

One of my first memories of Valentine’s Day was celebrating with my mom, dad and brother at about the age of 5, before my little sister was born. Our ranch style home was getting wood floors put down, so we huddled around in one of the untouched bedrooms and opened Valentine treats and cards on the square, beige carpet. It was simple, yet so fun. And, I always loved waiting to see what my dad brought home for my mom.

In Kindergarten, Valentine’s Day was the infamous day when my mom found out I kissed Kurk Schulte, while playing house during one of our play dates. Actually, I’m sure my mom knew long before, but she was waiting for the perfect moment to turn it into a life lesson of sorts. I came home from school with my hand decorated, white bag of Valentines, and I was saddened when I didn’t see one from Kurk. I let her know that my feelings were hurt, and somehow it turned into a conversation about how we don’t just go around kissing boys. It was almost another ten years before I kissed a boy again. God, mothers have a gift.

Throughout the rest of grammar school, I remember going to Walgreens with my parents and siblings and choosing a box of Valentines. They were always very trendy; Spice Girls, N’Sync, Rugrats, Lizzie McGuire, Lisa Frank (remember that?!), Hello Kitty… you name it. This may be where my love of writing notes started. I could not just sign my name on these fine little Valentines; I had to write individual messages to each, particular person as well. It complicated the whole process when it came time to pass them out in class, but I enjoyed it so much. I found such joy in seeing how someone would react to my message, and I especially loved getting home and anxiously awaiting to see if my crush of the month had remembered to personalize mine as well. (That was a hard no.) And the years I didn’t exchange Valentines with classmates were the years my family would go skiing with family friends in Wisconsin, and we would spend the day on the slopes and eating yummy, festive treats and homemade pizzas.

In high school, Valentine’s Day always brought the infamous carnation sale. Carnations would be on sale for students to purchase before and after school, as well as during lunch hour. On that day, you would try to look your cutest, which for me usually meant swishy pants of some sort – I had something against jeans during that period of my life – and you played it off cool, while secretly hoping some secret admirer would appear. A walk through the hallway meant seeing all the girls twirling their pink and red carnations and wondering if you would get one. After a couple years of no carnations, I decided I would get clever and simply buy one for myself. I totally played it off smooth too, and twirled that flower around in the hallway and placed it purposely across my desk so all could see and wonder who got it for me. And the next year, my girlfriends and I all just decided to buy carnations for each other. I like to think we were doing “Galentine’s Day” before it was an actual thing. Back then, Target certainly didn’t have a line of Galentine décor with cards, banners, plates and props.

Valentine’s Day also always landed around TWIRP, the annual dance where “The Woman Is Required to Pay” as well as do the asking. I dreaded it, as I was not the most forward when it came to boys. I believe I asked a guy to TWIRP once – Brad Bruno. It took all the courage in me to ask him. I was so excited when he said, “Yes,” at the beginning of the day. However, by the end of the day, he changed his mind. He showed up at the dance with Shannon, a tall, blonde girl who perfected the art of flirting at age 12. Each year after that, I either asked guy friends from other schools to go “just as friends” or went with girlfriends instead. No matter, I always had a blast.

College brought Valentine’s Day at an all woman’s college. Miss Tina in the cafeteria would make extra special Valentine cookies, and she would also sneak me a little ball of raw cookie dough. My favorite! (I know it’s bad, but I have been eating it since I was a kid and have yet to get salmonella) My girlfriends and I would also take someone’s car down the main road of South Bend and treat ourselves to Starbuck’s Cinnamon Dolce lattes; it was a splurge on a college student budget. Then, most years, my dateless friends and I would walk to “LaFun” at Notre Dame and get yogurt covered pretzels from the convenience store at the student union. We would just sit and chat and people watch.

My sophomore year, a couple girls and I went Speed Dating at Legends on Notre Dame’s campus. It was a hoot, and I remember it like yesterday. We sat at tables and had two minutes to talk to each guy. When time was up, the guys would move to the next table, and we had to mark on our sheet whether or not we would like to see him again. There were guys at every level of expectations that night; those from the seminary who just wanted to talk about my relationship with God and those who were in grad school truly hoping to find their future wife. Then, there were some like me, just there for fun trying to meet new people and having some laughs along the way. Thank goodness for a little liquid courage beforehand and positive spirit; It was my first taste of the more “adult” dating world. I learned you need take some of it with a grain of salt. I also learned that it isn’t possible to mesh well with everyone. As for our future suitors, well… one of the girls ended up going out with a guy she matched with a couple times.

Senior year of college I was looking forward to my first “somewhat-taken” Valentine’s Day. I guess I didn’t know if I was in a relationship or not, but I had every reason to believe I was. (Come on… who’s been there?) I was headed on a road trip to University of Illinois for Valentine’s Day weekend, but a few days before, I discovered my Valentine had been seeing (aka sleeping with) his neighbor for months. It was a hard blow, and my heart was quite shattered. So instead of gallivanting to Champaign, I spent the weekend with my four roommates doing all the things; crying, drinking wine, sipping Starbucks, watching chick flicks and eating a ridiculous amount of cheese balls. (Gosh, I love the crunch of those things!)  Thank God for girlfriends, right?

In 2012, I spent Valentine’s Day in Malaysia; A country where Valentine’s Day is not a thing. I was so excited to receive cards and letters from home, and I hung them on my bedroom’s wall, where I hung all my mail from home. Needless to say, my conservative, Islamic landlord was not on board with Valentine’s Day and removed my Valentines from my wall, never to be seen again. I cried and threw a little bit of a tantrum. So, my roommate and I made cookies and popcorn in our little kitchen and celebrated in our own little way; the only way we could in rural Malaysia. I was particularly grateful that I had my own Valentine that year, in the form of a confidant, friend and roommate.

The next year, soon after my return from Malaysia, I had met a guy while finishing my blog at the local Starbucks. His name was Nick. We had been dating for a couple weeks when I went to Vail for Valentine’s Day weekend to visit my brother who had been living there. My brother and I spent Valentine’s Day sipping fireball from a flask on the chair lift and skiing. It was almost a perfect day; but I ended up wasting time annoyed that I never even got so much as a text from Nick acknowledging Valentine’s Day. I was pissed; I was pissed at him and I was even more pissed at myself for letting him get to me like that. After that experience, I promised myself I would not let a guy, especially one I just started spending time with, get in the way of my good time and positive attitude.

The next few years I celebrated Galentines. One year I went to a chocolate café with my friend Carlie, and another year I made Galentine stationary with my friend Michelle. And, for a few years, I still lived at home and got homemade goodies from my mom & dad. I always went to bed feeling happy and special on Valentine’s Day, even if I was single and my Valentine was not in the form of a love interest. I really looked forward to it.

At the age of 25, I had my first ever Valentine’s Day date with my first official boyfriend. I felt like an ass before the night even started, because I got tipsy at a work event prior, which was held at a tiki themed speakeasy. I grabbed an Uber too late, and the traffic was so bad that I ended up meeting my then boyfriend at his place an hour late. We went for Thai food at a crowded restaurant, and we sat elbow distance from another couple. I remembered feeling a lot of pressure for some reason, but I also remember being so excited about the gift I made for him. I can’t even remember what it was now, but I was pumped! After dinner, he told me he got us tickets to a “show”; a burlesque show. I won’t lie; I had no idea what burlesque meant. All I heard was “show,” so I was looking forward to it. About three minutes into the show, I knew it wasn’t going to be my thing, and I was quite uncomfortable to say the least. I was thankful that I got to experience my first official Valentine’s Day date with someone I admired. However, that was the first time I thought that maybe Valentine’s Day isn’t what it’s all cracked up to be. Isn’t it ironic…

2015 was my first Valentine’s Day in San Diego, and (little did I know) my last Valentine’s Day as a single woman. I was 5 weeks into living in SoCal, and my new friend Ruki and I decided to go to Little Italy for a night of drinks and fun. We put on our best outfits, did our hair and embraced our “dateless” selves; we had an awesome girls’ night. And, coincidentally, we ended up meeting the same group of guys we had met while out the weekend before. We ultimately determined that Valentine’s Day is a great night for single girlfriends to go out, because it’s easy to spot the single group of guys, and vice versa. I also learned that whatever stage you’re at, you just have to own it; and own it with confidence.

By the next Valentine’s Day, I had met my now-husband, John. We had already been dating nine months. I was one month post-ACL surgery and still in a huge, unattractive brace, so he made me his delicious homemade lasagna and we spent the afternoon sipping beers, munching on chips and guacamole and eating lasagna. It was a perfect, sunny day. To top it all off, he wrote me a handwritten, Valentine’s Day card. Our second Valentine’s day was enjoyed with the same, blissful simplicity of our first, and John bought me adorable little ice cream bowls for our favorite evening snack; Tillamook ice cream! The weekend after we enjoyed a trip to visit friends in San Francisco and spent the weekend dressing up in Gatsby attire and making new friends across the Bay Area.

Our third Valentine’s Day was the first and only we celebrated as an engaged couple, anxiously awaiting our future together. We ate Giordano’s pizza that my parents sent on dry ice from Chicago, and he gave me the best Valentine’s surprise ever; I woke up to little notes all around the house. They were hiding everywhere; my toiletry drawer, the snack cabinet, my closet. Each one started with “I love you because…” I still have each and every note.

Looking back, it’s hard to believe how fast time truly passes. This year brought John and I’s fourth Valentine’s Day together, and our first as a married couple. It was a simple and special day, all in the same. I woke up to a beautiful rose bouquet, and wait for it… the Cards Against Humanity Expansion Pack! (I love that game so much) And, like each year before, we exchanged handwritten cards; this year made out to “My Wife” and “My Husband.” We enjoyed Costco lasagna, and we waited for my brother and his girlfriend to arrive from Michigan for their weekend visit with us. Just as with our three Valentine’s Days before, I was happy we commemorated the day and took another simple opportunity to express our love for one another. We say “I love you” each and every day, and we express our appreciation daily. In fact, thanks to the book The Five Love Languages, we continually reference our love tanks being full. However, it is nice to have a day to put a little extra emphasis on it.

To me, Valentine’s Day is about embracing the many different phases of life. Whether I have been a kid celebrating with my parents and classmates, an uncertain teen, a heartbroken college student, a confused and frustrated 20-something year old in limbo, a thriving and confident single, a woman in love or a wife, I have found a way to commemorate February 14th, in both elaborate and simple ways. You do not need permission to honor the day, and you do not need to write it off as a Hallmark holiday either.

No matter my phase of life, I have looked at it as “Invest a Little Something Day.” It’s a day to invest a little something into someone or some relationship in your life; It could be a friend, coworker, partner, sibling, parent, cousin, neighbor, or it could be a boyfriend, girlfriend, husband or wife. Each of us have someone in our life that we can extend a little something to on this day, whether it’s a handwritten note, a homemade batch of cookies or an ice cream bowl. There’s as much joy to be found in the simple things as the elaborate gestures.

And remember, a relationship with yourself is reason enough. Maybe it’s the relationship with yourself that you need to invest in. What do you need to invest in yourself? Do you need alone time? Do you need to buy yourself a carnation? Do you need a little pedicure? Do you want to read a new book? It’s up to you.

Valentine’s Day has meant a lot of different things to me over the course of my life, but in every season, I’ve embraced it and made it special in my own way. I’ve chosen to make it a day that feels just a little brighter and even just a little bit commemorative than February 13th or 15th.

I encourage each of us to embrace the season we are in, even if it means finding one thing to make this day at least a hair of an inch different than the days before and after. Identify that relationship you can pour just a little bit more into on February 14th (and every day after), even if it’s yourself.

30 Things I’m Glad I Did Before 30

30 Things I'm Glad I Did Before 30A decade ago, I was a young, American girl ringing in my 20th birthday over vino in Rome, Italy during a study abroad semester. I rang in my twenties chowing down enough cavatappi arrabiata to last a lifetime and purchasing bold, red, “big girl” lipstick at a Roman Sephora.

I have spent the last several weeks trying to get into the head of that blissfully enthusiastic young woman. I wonder what she had hoped to accomplish in her twenties and where she thought the next ten years would lead her. She likely thought by the time she turned 30 she would have life fully figured out and she’d by “old.”

Well, I’m definitely not “old,” (at least, I don’t feel that way!) and I certainly don’t have life figured out. (Who does?)

But I think it’s safe to say that girl from ten years ago had no idea what lied ahead. Quite honestly, I don’t think that girl could have even dreamed up the possibilities that were available to her, and if that girl was dreaming, I’m not sure it was big enough. But, I think she’d be pleased to see where she ended up.

Several weeks ago I was shopping at Target for a baby shower gift. I was searching the book shelves trying to find a baby book that my husband and I could sign as a card. Instead, I came across two self-help books aimed at twenty-something/almost-thirty year olds. (I won’t name the exact titles here). I felt like encountering these books was a sign, especially with my 30th birthday just three weeks away. The encounter set me off in search of similar books and online articles around the same topic. The variations I found were numerous; all aimed at lessons people should learn in their twenties, how to “adult,” and long lists of things people should accomplish before thirty.

They’re cute and fun reads, and I enjoyed them. But, I don’t necessarily want to go vegan nor start a compost in my kitchen. And, in order to check off the sheer number of festivals and concerts I should have seen or places I should have traveled to would have required every cent I have put into my 401k over the past six years. I also would have likely lost my job with the ridiculous number of days that would have been required to explore so extensively. Not to mention, the recommendation to take off and live in a quiet place in a foreign county to “find yourself” is not for everyone. I’ve done it. It’s not everything it’s cracked up to be and definitely not for the faint of heart.

So, I set off in search to make my own list. Only, this list is not about you. It’s about me. This is a list NOT about what YOU should do, but rather a list (in no particular order) about what I am glad I did before 30. Perhaps it will strike a chord with you or someone you know. Perhaps it will inspire you to build and share your own list.

And let’s not forget, milestone birthdays are not required in order to do some self-reflection. 31? 40? 65? 23? What are you glad you have done? What would your list be? Everyone has something to share and something to contribute. Who knows how your ideas and lessons could inspire others.

Keep learning. Keep exploring. Keep growing. Keep journeying.

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#30before30withRachaelMichelle #threadedcrossings

  1. Explored my own country. From small towns to big cities, I have seen so many facets of the USA and have gotten a flavor for the different ways Americans live. This includes those so-called “fly over states.” From the rural towns along Route 66 to the hustle of Manhattan, exploring the miles that connect this Nation vividly reminds me how diverse our own country can be and how much adventure is in our own backyard. Every town, every city, every community has a story to share and every neck of the woods has a treasure to offer. If I cannot find it on my own, I ask the locals for it. (39 states down; 11 to go!)
  2. Invested in positive relationships. I found the people who fill my tank. Some are old relationships that have stood the test of time and others are newer friendships that provide me with joy and such love for life. Relationships are a two-way deal. Life can get crazy and sometimes quite a bit of time and distance can separate friends. But at the end of day it’s good to know whose got your back and vice versa. Everybody needs their tribe. I am blessed to have mine.
  3. Learned new languages – 4 to be exact. And while I do not speak them fluently, these languages allow me access into a whole new world. I, for one, love being able to say “Hello” in Korean to the lovely lady at my neighborhood dry cleaners or have a brief exchange with the adorable, old Italian man at my favorite restaurant. I have always loved foreign languages. For me, it’s the key that allows you access to new doors and new connections. It is truly a wonder of the world.
  4. Became a regular. I love having “that place;” that place where you walk in and everyone knows your name. It has a way of warming your soul. Whether it’s the local Starbucks in my hometown or my favorite restaurant/bar in San Diego, having “my spot” has a way of making me feel as if I am part of something bigger.
  5. Lived abroad. Three times in three different countries. From Rome to Seoul to Malaysia, living in a foreign place, versus just passing through on a vacation, is an immensely humbling experience. Some days are a dream, and others, such as many of the days I had in Malaysia, are a true struggle. The opportunity to live abroad is a gift, one that can be a joy and heartache all at once. Living abroad requires grit, a dose of stoicism and real, mental stamina.
  6. Saw quite a bit of the world. And, I saw it on a budget. I traveled throughout Europe, Eastern Asia, Southeast Asia, in addition to much of North America. I’m glad I was essentially broke during all my travel in my early twenties, because it forced me to be creative and step out of my comfort zone. Funny enough, I didn’t even feel broke or deprived doing it. (Except one time when I had to eat popcorn for three days) Traveling on a tight budget meant I was eating at the affordable, local hole in the walls and sleeping in communal hostels. I ended up meeting some of the coolest people from around the world and got to see places that no travel guide nor brochure could ever highlight. Even if I could go back and do it differently, now that there is money in my bank account, I wouldn’t.
  7. Respected and appreciated my Country and where I come from. My mom has a recipe book with a quote, “A wise traveler never despises his own country.” – Goldini. I could not say this better myself. I have seen and experienced so many different parts of this beautiful world, but no matter where I go, I will always appreciate and respect where I come from. And, I always look forward to coming back home.
  8. Changed something about myself. Remember that quote, “If you don’t like something about yourself, change it. If you can’t change it, accept it.” Yeah, it’s kind of like that. I changed something about myself that I was unhappy and uncomfortable with; I changed it because I could. And, it was easily one of the best decisions I have ever made.
  9. Moved across the country and built a community for myself. When I was 26, I moved from my hometown of New Lenox, Illinois, where I was living with my parents, to San Diego. I knew two people; my friend and her husband. Living somewhere new on my own forced me to go out on my own, make friends as an adult, get involved in the community and get out of my comfort zone.
  10. Learned the importance of #adulting. Also known as managing credit and a budget, filing taxes, having insurance and being educated on my benefits. I was quite overwhelmed by finances for most of my twenties thanks to a hefty credit card balance, student loans and the feeling that I couldn’t have both a social life and get ahead financially. Who knew blowing out an ACL could blow my savings OR that I may owe on taxes instead of receiving a return OR that credit card interest can really kick you in the ass OR that even a reimbursable move across country would rack up additional, significant costs? It took several years to develop a rhythm to my finances. Heading into my thirties, it is refreshing to feel financially fit, and I am glad I learned some tough #adulting lessons in my twenties.
  11. Said “no” and set boundaries. I mean this in a variety of different ways. I have said “no” to things that I may have really wanted to do, but simply couldn’t due to budget or other life reasons. I have also gotten better about saying no to things that I don’t want to do. (Someone told me, “If it’s not a hell yeah, it’s a no.”) Of course, there are occasional exceptions. Most important, I learned to say “no” to situations I was not comfortable with; and it’s saved me from some tough, potentially regrettable situations. I used to think “no” was bad, but I learned that it helps you (and your sanity) set boundaries. Boundaries are important.
  12. Dated. I dated a lot in my twenties, and I am so thankful I did. Dating is what prepared me to meet my now husband and what allowed me to be ready for marriage. Through dating I figured out what I could and could not compromise on. By the time I met my husband (married 7 weeks at the writing of this!), I knew the values and qualities that were important to me in a partner. I also knew my “non-negotiables.” I am thankful for every person that was part of my journey, even the heartbreaks, because it was through those experiences that I was equipped to meet who I was met for all along.
  13. Ran marathons and half marathons. Training for and running a marathon on two different occasions is the closest thing to an out of body experience I can think of. Over my 13.1 & 26.2 mile stretches, I have come to understand the meaning of mind over matter. Running long distance does take physical strength (and incredible amounts of Body Glide- I don’t have a thigh gap), but I believe it requires even more mentally. It’s amazing to see what the human body is capable of, and whenever I start down any path of body shaming, such as expressing frustration at my love handles, I think of the miles its carried me and decide to appreciate my body instead.
  14. Cultivated mentors and coaches. An old coworker of mine called it a “Personal Board of Directors.” In my twenties, I actively sought out individuals who possessed skills I desired and qualities I admired. Once I built a relationship, or friendship in some cases, I made it a priority. For that reason, I have strong mentors and coaches to bounce ideas off and talk through decisions with on both a professional and personal level. I’m excited to see who joins my Personal Board of Directors in the next ten years!
  15. Held all sorts of different jobs, AND accepted and changed careers. My first two jobs were in food service; first as a phone girl at a local pizza place and second as a barista at Starbucks. Those part-time jobs taught me the fundamentals of everything I needed to be successful for internships and my future career. Since that time, I built a career in the insurance industry and most recently moved into regional sales for an e-commerce company. Over the past 15 years I have learned that no job is beneath anyone and that who you work for early in your career can have a profound and lasting impact. I also learned that it is okay and healthy to move on; I just need to move with purpose.
  16. Quit something that made me miserable. Dreading Monday thru Friday and hating the idea of getting out of bed in the morning isn’t right (and not cool). I assumed most people felt that way or that it was a “normal” part of being an adult. My support system called “bullshit!” on that and challenged me to shake things up. I learned that I had the ability to change my life; I just had to have the guts to do it. Whether it’s a job, relationship, living situation or routine, I hold the reigns. And, it is important to remember that just because something made me miserable does not make it bad; it just was not right for me.
  17. Sought counseling for an issue I needed help working through. We have coaches for sports, fitness, careers and a variety of other outlets, so it only makes sense that sometimes we need one for life. It’s great to lean on friends and family; But sometimes we need outside counsel. And let’s not forget, some of the world’s most successful people have advisors and life coaches. Sometimes life’s greatest work and lessons beckon for it.
  18. Got real with myself about what mattered most to me. Easier said than done and sometimes scarier than expected. When I started to realize what mattered most, I actually had to begin demonstrating authenticity; this requires me to make decisions about what to let go of in order to make room for more of what my soul desires.
  19. Wrote handwritten notes. I wrote hundreds, if not thousands of them. Words are so powerful and not many people take time to translate them to paper with pen these days. Giving and receiving handwritten notes is one of life’s greatest gifts, and it makes an impact.
  20. Recovered from an injury. My injury put life in perspective. For me it was just an ACL; there are people battling tragic and debilitating injuries and illnesses. When you are not “yourself” for a period of time, you learn that a great deal of life has to do with your mindset and how you see the glass (half full or half empty?). My injury was a small reminder that no matter what I have planned and no matter how independent I am, life’s situations can change in an instant. We see it in others’ lives often, whether big or small. It reminded me that when I think something sucks, someone always is dealing with a much bigger and far greater battle.
  21. Married my adventure buddy and best friend for life! I am so thankful each and every day for my person. In my early to mid-twenties, I wondered if I would ever find the person whom I felt was made for me (and me made for him). It was only propelled by how amazing my own family is; I wondered if anyone would truly fit with my favorite human beings. Flash forward, I moved to San Diego from Illinois for a job opportunity. Four months later, I met my now husband. There were weird incidences from the very beginning with us; Now I just see it as The Big Guy’s way of making sure I was right where I needed to be, when. It felt like magic and early on I knew he was the person I was intended for; that doesn’t mean it is all rainbow and butterflies. Every relationship has its challenges and obstacles – it’s how individuals navigate them as a couple that matters most. My husband and I complement each other in infinite ways, and he makes life so joyful. I look forward to a whole lot of life together ahead.
  22. Invested time in creative outlets. I learned that my creative outlets allow the rest of my life to flourish. No time spent pursuing hobbies and interest is wasted. My creative outlets happen to be baking pretty cookies and writing. I spend countless hours baking and posting the after photos on Instagram, and I spend many hours every year attending writing workshops and seminars. Am I being discovered and does anyone care? I have no idea, and I don’t care. Why? Because, that’s not the point. My creative outlets are purely a way for me to express myself in my own little corner of the universe.
  23. Actively participated in my family. We don’t choose our families, but we can choose how we interact with them. There’s a difference between having a family and actively participating in one. I chose to show up for family functions and I chose to show up for my family members, even when it may have been inconvenient. As years go by and miles separate us, it may take a little more effort; but it’s effort that is well worth more than its weight in gold. I have never gotten too old or too cool for family vacations nor family movie nights, and I am glad I didn’t. The memories made are irreplaceable and created roots that run deep. With every passing year, I only appreciate my parents and siblings and relatives more, and so, I participate.
  24. Learned to be agile. Life throws curve balls. Life presents surprises. I learned to laugh at them and own them. It’s comical how many situations I can think of in my own life over the last ten years that speak to this; Situations that would cause most people to freak and head into a deep dark circle of negativity and all around bad vibes. Yes, sometimes when things don’t go my way, I cry (like any normal human being). I cry for a set, specified amount of time and then I force myself to snap out of it. I’ve had curve balls, but I have a hell of a lot of stories too. Stories that literally make me laugh out loud, and stories that make the original, expected plan seem, well… just a lot more boring.
  25. Put time into self-care. My college graduation photos show a puffy, 22-year old trying to hide behind a cardigan and over-sized black graduation gown. I functioned on 3-4 hours of sleep a night and instant meals with enough sodium to go around campus. I thought my chaos and lack of self-care meant I was kicking ass at more important things, such as running student government and trying to be a good student. What I learned after graduation was that my self-care was perhaps the most important thing of all. To give my best to the many endeavors around me, I had to feel my best. Feeling my best isn’t a “weight” thing; it’s about treating my body as a machine and putting good fuel in, so it runs long and well. Sometimes I still struggle to find a balance, but in general, I am aware of my well being and acknowledge it. These days, when I feel “blah,” I can pin point why, and I can adjust. People juggle a lot of priorities these days, but I would argue our self-care is perhaps the most important of all. When I’m “off”, the other components of my life are too.
  26. Believed that life is a boomerang. You get back what you give. I believe the more love you give and the more smiles you provide, the more will come back to you. It starts with being open. It’s tough sometimes; Yes, I sometimes find myself on early morning flights for work with my noise cancelling AirPods popped in just trying to keep my eyes open. But, generally, I try to make a conscious effort to engage with whatever the universe provides to me that day whether it’s a person or experience. I try to spark conversation with my Uber drive, say “Hi” to the person in the elevator and ask the cashier at Starbucks how their day is going. And what’s amazing; it is entirely rare that I have a bad interaction with someone, whether it’s a customer service rep at my insurance company, a TSA agent or the tenant at the gas station. I firmly believe if you put good vibes into the universe, they’ll come back.
  27. Explored faith & leaned on God. I was raised Roman Catholic and went to an all woman’s Catholic college. I challenged my Catholic faith heavily during my college semester abroad in Rome, Italy and discovered aspects of Catholicism I did not agree with. Meanwhile, I have attended non-denominational services from Singapore to Michigan and California. I have embarked on a Buddhist temple stay in Korea and have lived in a conservative, Islamic community in Malaysia. I have taken time to explore other faiths and spirituality. I’ve learned that it isn’t about finding an organized religion that is a perfect fit. For me, it’s just about believing in something bigger than myself and knowing there is something or someone up there watching over me, guiding me, and directing my steps. For me, that person is “God.” But it’s a lot of different somethings for different people around the world. And, hey, I think that’s pretty cool.
  28. Made decisions; sometimes very quickly. I learned that I have to be able to think through choices and ultimately make a decision. And sometimes, we do not have the luxury of having time. In those moments, we have to take action. Someone once told me, “The opposite of perfection is done. The opposite of done is perfection.” Sometimes we just have to roll with the information we have; we do not always have the opportunity to spend weeks sketching out multiple drafts of a pro/con list or checking off every item of detail we feel we require before moving forward. Sometimes you just have to take a deep breath and make a damn decision.
  29. Adopted (and borrowed) a few of my own life philosophies: 1) If you are going to do something, you might as well do it well. Otherwise, just don’t do it. 2) Shut Up. Sometimes you just have to shut your mouth and stop talking. 3) Listen; Actively. 4) Everyone thinks they are busy, so don’t tell people you’re busy. No one actually cares. 5) Actions really do speak louder than words; You can talk all day or actually do something. 6) Focus on my “why” 7) “Life’s all about the journey; not the destination.”
  30. Developed a relationship with myself. It’s likely for the 29 reasons above that I was able to become an actual friend to myself. I can be on my own. I can travel on my own. I can go see a movie by myself. I can sit at a table at a restaurant by myself without scrolling through a phone. It’s a good feeling. I have taken time to deliberately be on my own and think for myself, and I am thankful that I have taken time to step away from noise and status quo to sort out my own thoughts. I genuinely enjoy spending time with myself. This is perhaps the biggest accomplishment of my twenties; I am not certain I could have developed so many wonderful relationships and opportunities without being a rock and companion to myself first.