Belated Birthday Thoughts

I turned 28 on the first of this month. You might think that the realization that the “big” 3 – 0 is just 2 years away might make me freak out in my current situation: totally single, living with strangers bereft of most of my stuff and still hunting for a full-time job. But it didn’t. Instead, I have entered this new year with more confidence and satisfaction than the last 4. I think 28 is going to be a great age because I am finally okay with me again.

Joseph Campbell said, “We must be willing to get rid of the life we planned so as to have the life that is waiting for us.” As many of you know, I’ve struggled a lot to mentally let go of the plan that I had for my life and fully embrace the life that has been waiting for me.

When my birthday rolled around, I decided to do something different than usual. Instead of comparing my life to what I expected it to look like at this age, or who I thought I would be, I took a step back to just look at what I have accomplished and who I have become.

These are a few things I realized:

I pack A LOT into every year. In just the last 10 years since graduating from high school, I’ve earned 2 degrees. I’ve lived in 4 states, and 10 different towns/cities for varying lengths of time. I’ve spent a summer abroad in Oxford, England and I have made multiple trips down to Florida, Alabama and Ohio. I’ve executed or assisted with the execution of at least 50 events—ranging from concerts to large scale sampling events that involved hours of food prep all with hundreds of attendees—at more than 20 locations. I have won sales contests from 2 different companies. I have led dozens of workshops and training sessions. And I have managed multiple teams of people. No matter how diverse or surly my staff has been, I have always been able to earn their respect and successfully lead them even when I have been their junior by many years…And that’s just the highlights reel.   

I can’t help but dance to the beat of my own drum. I’ve never set out to be different but I can’t really resist following unexpected paths from pursuing a degree in Philosophy (instead of the English degree I had planned to get) to leaving academia to pursue an unconventional career as a jane of many trades (event management, training, promotional marketing, copywriting/digital marketing, and blogging-being the most prominent).

I am equal parts extrovert and introvert (also known as an ambivert). I grew up thinking I was an introvert because I can be incredibly reclusive and task oriented. Most people who meet me assume that I am extroverted because I obviously thrive on social interaction. I have learned that I need an equal balance of both social interaction and alone time to stay energized. Too much of either drains me.

I value having challenging, varied and meaningful work over a stable or lucrative career. Even though I sometimes envy my friends and family who have more defined careers or are more driven by money, I have to accept that I am who I am. What makes me leap at a job isn’t money or stability, it is the challenge of wearing many hats, or sharpening my communication or interpersonal skills in new ways, or helping someone else succeed.

I will never date that much. Though the comic quality of so many people’s dating stories appeals to me, I don’t have the patience to go on random dates with lots of duds. Nor can I convince myself that it would be a reasonable investment of my time to bother trying. I’ve dated more in the last 4 years than I did during 6 years of college and grad school. That’s still not saying much but I’m okay with that. I am not at all ashamed of the fact that some of my weekends look a lot like this. When quality men enter my life, I give them a chance and that’s good enough for me.

When I meet a man that I want, there is no reason not to pursue him. Last year, a lot of my friends pointed out to me how strange it was that I wasn’t more aggressive in my romantic life since I’m so bold in most areas of my life. I realized that I was a little gun shy. I gave myself permission to pursue a guy I was kind of interested in. Though ultimately it didn’t work out romantically, it was a great experience. I learned that a) I enjoy being the pursuer as long as my interest in reciprocated  b) I’m freaking adorable and quite winsome when I pursue.

I will never be without great relationships. I never guessed that one day I would have more good friends than I can count on one hand but I do. I’ve maintained friendships from high school and college and grad school while also gaining new friendships through my work. My friends aren’t all always actively involved in my life, and vice versa, but we know that the other is just a phone call or text message or Facebook message away. Part of what defines a good friendship to me is its ability to endure distance and time and being in different stages of life. I love how, even after years of silence, I can reconnect with a friend with renewed caring and understanding. It is amazing to me, with the wealth of friends that I already have, that I never seem to stop making new ones.

All in all, I am very happy with the life I am living and I am finally ready to say, “This is who I am and I’m okay with that.” I wouldn’t trade the complexity and challenges of my life for someone else’s or give it up to have the life I had planned.

Do you evaluate your life whenever your birthday rolls around? Have you ever felt like you needed to let go of the life you had planned?



An Unexpected Blessing from a Nomad’s Journal

A couple weeks ago, I told you a little bit about the adventure I’m in the midst of or the unusual homeless summer that I am having. How I threw all of my stuff into storage—besides a few bags of clothing and necessities—at the end of April and flew out to New Mexico to spend a couple of weeks with my best friend Nichelle. From there, I flew out to the east coast to attempt to start a new life out here.

I touched down in Newark, NJ in mid-May. Since then, I have moved around quite a few times. I started off staying with a friend in Stamford, CT then rented a room for a week in West Haven, CT and now I am renting a room in New Brunswick, NJ with a couple of grad students from Rutgers University.

This last month has been an emotional roller-coaster that I’m not quite ready to write about in detail. There is a story that I’d like to share with you that has been on my mind again after visiting church yesterday.

The room that I rented at the end of May through airbandb was in the home of a Christian family from Indonesian. When I came down for a quick lunch on the last day that I was there I ended up chatting with a pastor who was staying with the family. He invited me to eat with him because he wanted a chance to practice his English since he spends most of his time in the U.S. with people who speak his native language. I was happy to have some company before a long trek out to Jersey by myself.

We spent most of our conversation talking about his travels. Eventually, he asked me what brought me out to CT. I told him that I was out on this coast looking for a job because I had been laid off. I had chosen to stay in West Haven that week because I had been hoping to start a temp-to-perm in a nearby CT city that, unfortunately, didn’t end up panning out. He was sympathetic with my unemployment. I was touched when he said that he would pray for me. I didn’t realize that he intended to pray for me right then until he bowed his head and closed his eyes.

I was so surprised that I didn’t close my eyes immediately. Then I kept them open because I was captivated by how he prayed. Even though he was sitting in a chair, I was reminded of when I’ve seen Muslims pray because he seemed to put all of himself into it. He emphasized his words with his whole body moving his head and hands the most, raising them to heaven or toward me. It was incredible to see someone that I had just met pray over me with so much sincerity.

Though he spoke in a language I couldn’t understand, I knew that what he was saying over me was more of blessing than a prayer. After he said Amen and translated the sentiment of his prayer into words, he confirmed my conviction.

While I have had countless remarkable interactions with strangers, this one stands out as being the most moving. I’m reminded of how John Ames talks about blessing in Gilead: A Novel: “There is a reality in blessing…It doesn’t enhance sacredness, but it acknowledges it, and there is a power in that. I have felt it pass through me, so to speak. The sensation is of really knowing a creature, I mean really feeling its mysterious life and your own mysterious life at the same time.” This is the closest approximate I can find to what I felt that afternoon though I was the one receiving the blessing, not having it pass through me.

After he finished summarizing the blessing/prayer he had said for me, he looked up two passages in the Bible on his phone. He found them in his language and then had the app translate them into English for me. The first was Lamentations 3:19-25 and the second was Romans 8:28.

What he couldn’t have known is that these passages have been following me around since I was laid off. I read Lamentations 3 during lent which began just after I was let go. Romans 8:28 is a verse that I have had memorized since childhood. Both keep cropping up in sermons and in my mind (Romans 8:28 was used again in the sermon I listened to yesterday). That afternoon, I needed someone to read them to me because I was feeling deeply discouraged.

I felt incredibly alone during that week in West Haven. I have never had a time in my life during which I have been so untethered–to people, a place or a job–as these last few weeks since I left my friend’s in Stamford. There have been some incredibly hard days and nights. The trek out to Jersey that night was a ridiculous nightmare that maybe I’ll tell you about another time. The kindness and concern of that pastor—who drove me to the train station that night and had even offered to drive me all the way out to Jersey though I couldn’t bring myself to accept—helped bolster my spirits. He reminded me, just when I needed to hear it,  that everything will eventually work out well. Even if it seems hard to believe.



My Nomadic Spring

What do you do when your lease is running out and you are out of a job? You embark on an adventure. Well…that’s at least what I decided to do.

In mid-February, as the experiential marketing company I worked for prepared to close their doors, I was laid off. If you follow me on instagram you might remember this selfie from my last day. I was awash with a chaotic mixture of emotions: resignation, sorrow, fear, excitement, confusion… With only 2 weeks notice before I was laid-off and lots to do during those last weeks, I barely felt like I could catch my breath–let alone start thinking ahead–until my first jobless weekend.

As a long-time believer in signs, I felt that my lay off was a pretty strong sign that it was time for me to leave Michigan. All my friends there knew I hadn’t stopped missing the east coast. Even when I was happy, I still struggled with the feeling that moving back after graduating from Fordham had been the biggest mistake of my life so far (yes, I am that dramatic). My feeling that it was time to leave was confirmed further as my job hunting efforts in Michigan were consistently met with silence. During my last 2 1/2 months, I tried to see as many friends as possible while simultaneously trying to figure out a low-budget exit strategy as the end of April approached.

Just a couple weeks before I needed to move out, everything fell into place. My favorite former client reached out to me with a new freelance copywriting project–perfect timing since it’s hard to collect unemployment when you don’t have a home address. Two of my best friends–one in Farmington, New Mexico and the other in Stamford, Connecticut–invited me to stay with them for a while. One of my aunt’s offered to take my car, which is nearing the end of its usable life and quickly declined this winter so that now it’s only roadworthy for driving around town, off my hands. Then I found a dirt cheap plane ticket from Detroit to New Mexico and then from there to the east coast.

One month ago today, exhausted and sleep deprived from packing up my apartment, throwing most of my stuff in storage, and struggling to fit everything I couldn’t part with into suitcases, I boarded an insanely early flight headed to Albuquerque, NM. This last month homeless and jobless has been quite an adventure. God keeps surprising me with little blessings almost everyday. I’ll tell you more about all of that soon.

For now, I’ll leave you with some of the pictures that didn’t make it on Instagram.

To keep up to date on this adventure, feel free to follow me on Instagram.

What If Impossible Physical Standards of Beauty Aren’t The Only Problem?

“There is nothing more rare, nor more beautiful, than a woman being unapologetically herself; comfortable in her perfect imperfection. To me, that is the true essence of beauty.” Steve Maraboli

I stumble across this quote on the internet pretty frequently. It’s impossible not to be taken with this definition of beautiful. While it sounds so empowering, I think it is an unhealthy standard to strive for.

Yesterday, I read the post “Are you beautiful? I asked 100 men what ‘physical beauty’ is and the results shocked me” on Rozanne Leigh’s blog Life is Rozie. What she discovered through her conversations and surveys is that women are far more critical of our physical appearance than men are. My favorite quote was, “Most [men] could hardly tell the difference between girls who were a size 10 and a size 4 – except to say whether they looked healthy or not.” That same statement cannot be made of most women. I can’t say that I was as surprised by her results as she was. I’ve noticed this in my conversations with the men in my life. It is easy for me to look around and see men who are deeply in love with women who don’t fit into our culture’s narrow definition of beauty. While I enjoyed her post, I was unsatisfied by her conclusion that what makes us beautiful is our confidence in our own unique desirability. And especially her conviction that we can love ourselves without the validation of others. As nice as it all sounds, it is still an idealistic notion of beauty.

Objectively speaking, I believe I am beautiful. Even while my confidence in myself in other areas has wavered, I’ve grown rather sure that I am desirability. But does that mean I feel beautiful every day? Of course not. No one does. There are days when I feel unstoppably seductive and there are days when I feel like I need a serious makeover to be even slightly presentable. Though I’ve grown to see the beauty in my body at many sizes, I would be lying if I said that I don’t still regret that I can’t offer a lover a more perfect body without the war wounds from my battle with obesity.

Ugly days (okay, sometimes even ugly seasons) are a part of life. We all have to learn to love our bodies through sweat and tears (quite literally in many cases). This is a process that can take a life time. Do you know what is incredible? People love us anyway. They desire us even when we can’t possibly see any reason why they would. And on our ugly days, their kind words are what can help us get out of our heads and see ourselves more clearly and kindly.

The biggest lie we believe in our culture is not that we have to meet impossible physical standards of beauty to be lovable; it is that we have to achieve any standard of perfection at all to be loved. Even “perfect imperfection.” Just as men fall in love with women of all shapes and sizes, men fall in love with women who are deeply insecure as frequently as they fall in love with women who project perfect confidence. Men fall in love with women who don’t have their lives even close to “together” just as they fall in love with women at the height of their success. While confidence and health are undeniably sexy, there is also something attractive about the need to see ourselves graciously reflected in the eyes of others. It is this very need that drives us toward each other.

No matter how unpopular it is to say, we need the honest feedback of others to gain confidence in our attractiveness. Of course, feel free to ignore the haters but that doesn’t mean you should ignore everyone else. Even Leigh’s blog post illustrates that we can all benefit from viewing ourselves through the eyes of men who are looking for connection and love not perfection. Letting ourselves believe the compliments that we are given and trusting in the evidence that we are desirable is the surest way to gain greater confidence in our own unique beauty. We have to realize that even then it will never be an unfailing confidence and that’s okay.

A couple of years ago I shared a quote from Emanuel Ungaro, “I like women who are not sure of themselves. I like the moment when a woman thinks she is not good enough, pretty enough. It’s wonderful. It’s like I’ve scratched the surface and discovered something…” I wish we could see the beauty in our own moments of self-doubt and, instead of turning against ourselves, unashamedly let it drive us to reach out for the comfort of those who see our beauty when we can’t.


Feature image from

Feeling Like a Flaky Failure

I can’t believe how long it’s been since I’ve written for you! Well…I can’t and I can.

Do you ever have those times when you avoid looking in a mirror because you feel like an absolute mess and can’t bear confronting your reflection? Or have you ever dodged seeing a friend because the last time you saw him/her you were yammering on and on about some new project or job and now that it didn’t end up panning out you are embarrassed to admit it to your friend? If you’ve ever done either of these things than you might understand why I’ve been avoiding my blog so much for so long.

The thing about writing about your life—especially when you’re an in-the-moment person like me who doesn’t always wait until something is certain or successful to share it—is that when you look back on what you’re written you can feel like a big, flaky failure. Every time you log into your blog you might think too much about all the projects you talked about starting but never finished, the dreams you shared that have gone unfulfilled, the jobs you were so excited to get but then quit, and the lessons you learned that you seem cursed to keep re-learning. All of that might make you feel like an embarrassing mess.  You might decide that it’s more prudent to stop writing altogether. Especially when the last blog post you wrote is yet another example of something you didn’t follow through on. (Yep, I definitely didn’t focus on dating this fall. More on that later).

Holding myself back from writing, which is one of my favorite things, was foolish. Most of all, I was foolish for viewing myself so critically.

There is nothing wrong with the process of figuring things out that I’ve gone through during the last four years. There is no good reason to be ashamed of changing my mind or re-directing my energy. Most importantly, there is nothing wrong with me. In retrospect, it’s easy to see that most of my abandoned projects were attempts to turn myself into someone I’m not, most of my un-achieved dreams were tied to a life I don’t really want and am not suited for, and the jobs I’ve quit weren’t good fits for me. The only thing I’ve really failed at is being someone that I’m not. While that can feel like a bad thing, it actually isn’t.

If you’re thinking: What?! I thought you were more self-assured than this. And didn’t you make peace with having a non-storybook life back in August?

You would be right that I have made peace with the path that I’ve chosen. I no longer regret walking away from a potentially prestigious academic career and deciding to pursue a career in marketing instead. I love promoting products, interacting with people, managing my staff and coordinating events. I am very passionate about and feel very at home in the field of experiential marketing. Am I entirely comfortable with the fact that I don’t have complete narrative control of my life? Not exactly. It bothers me less than it used to and that’s progress.

I definitely am not as self-assured or self-aware as I can come across as. Accepting that I am not the character that I imagined I would become has been far harder than learning to appreciate the unpredictability of life.

I haven’t just wanted my life to be like a novel, I’ve wanted to be like a literary character. Not any old character either. There is a part of me that wanted to be like Dagny Taggart: rigidly disciplined, insanely decisive, and unstoppably confident. But rigid and disciplined are two words that will never aptly describe me. I think that is true of most people who are more relationally motivated than monetarily motivated. I achieve my goals through persistence, flexibility and charisma. I can be decisive but I’m also very adaptable and open to change. Though I’m pretty comfortable in my own skin, I will always be my harshest critic. While these differences between Dagny and I might explain why I wasn’t at home in academia, they aren’t actually flaws. It’s a bit ridiculous how long it’s taken me to see that.

The most ridiculous thing is how much I struggle to forgive myself for being human. Of course, not all of the things I’ve been beating myself up about are strengths in disguise. I can’t say I’m perfectly happy with every decision that I’ve made but who can honestly say that? What sane person doesn’t have areas that they know they need to grow in? I’m sure you aren’t surprised to learn that I’m imperfect. It is about time that I stopped being so embarrassed by my non-humorous imperfections (I’m probably a little too comfortable with my foibles that are funny—like my satirical love life).

Right now we are in the midst of Lent. This season is when the new year begins in earnest for me. As I’ve said for years, January is the most illogical inaugural month—at least for those of us in the Northern hemisphere. By this time of year, the days are finally getting noticeably longer. You can feel the approach of spring in the growing warmth of the sun and hear it in the songs of the birds that have returned already. It’s when I begin seriously thinking about what I want to accomplish in this new year. One of my resolutions is to view myself with more grace.

I am not a flaky failure. I’m human. And that’s nothing to be ashamed of.

Feature image by Chris Barbalis.

Trying to Shake Off My Complacency with Singleness

Yesterday, I received a “love yourself” care package from my dear friend Lucy with books and goodies and journal supplies. The gift was prompted by our last phone conversation because we talked about how two men have re-entered my life that I had complicated relationships with once-upon-a-time (which is the reason they have been out of my life for the last few years). She gave me some practical advice that day about how to establish some healthy boundaries with them and mentioned three of her favorite books on the subject of self-love and dating: Daring Greatly, He’s Just Not That Into You & How to Get a Date Worth Keeping. She sent me all three with little post-it notes on them telling me the order in which to read them.

Unfortunately, the mug she sent got a little chipped in transit.

Lucy knows me so well that in her card she even wrote in parenthesis, “please, don’t brush [these books] off even if the titles seem abrasive/annoying/offensive—they’re so good, so totally worth reading.” Of course, she was referring to those last two because there’s nothing offensive about encouraging me to dare greatly. I can’t say that the title for the second book doesn’t sting a little or that the third book doesn’t make me bristle. At the same time, I’ve gleaned enough from our conversations about these books to know they are worth reading.

I started last night with the third book on the list (I’ve never been good at following instructions). I have heard so much from Lucy about Dr. Henry Clouds dating advice that I was impatient to see what more I could learn from actually reading How to Get a Date Worth Keeping. So much of what he has to say at the beginning are things that I have already learned. While I am going to keep reading and faithfully make my way through Lucy’s fall reading list for me, I feel like I’m in a different place than I led Lucy to believe during our phone conversation.

In college and grad school, I didn’t take much responsibility for my stagnant dating life. When my pattern of developing pseudo-relationships cropped up I felt like it was some sick fate that God was condemning me to. It was easy to blame my weight and the shallowness of men so I did that a lot publically. Deep down, I felt like there was something essentially wrong with me.  A fundamental truth I believed was that I was too exhausting to love. Or, to steal a line from my favorite Shakespearean play, I felt like I was too expensive to wear every day. Thus, I was relegated to be “the other woman” (though my affairs with men were only emotional because I don’t mix emotional intimacy with physical intimacy).

I’ve come to believe what Dr. Cloud espouses in his book: it is our own mental road blocks that prevent us from dating and developing the relationship that we want. If we want a different outcome, we have to change our mindset (I’m paraphrasing, of course, and being somewhat reductive but that’s the gist). I know that I have been the one holding myself back.

The summer I turned 25 I proved Dr. Cloud’s thesis. I felt beautiful and desirable. I had my heart set on getting my first official relationship and I left myself open to dating. For months, it seemed like I couldn’t go anywhere without meeting a guy who would eventually ask for my phone number.  It was great and led to that short-lived relationship with a younger guy.

It wasn’t discouragement or heartbreak that cut that season of dating so short. I’m the type of person who only needs to prove something to myself once. After I proved that I was dateable and loveable I was left with the question of whether or not I actually wanted to date or have a man in my life. At that time, I decided that the answer was No. I wanted to be single. My weight gain over the last year has been an external indicator of this internal truth. I wanted to clear my head. To learn how to be comfortable just being me without needing the validation of my male relationships. To focus wholeheartedly on getting back out on my own and out of my parents’ without distraction. It’s so exhausting trying to defend this stance (and, frankly, a very personal decision) that I’ve coped out and made excuses when undergoing scrutiny about my singleness. It’s so easy to blame my singleness on a lack of available/eligible single men. I’ve know that it’s a smoke screen. I could even list a number of opportunities that I’ve passed up during this time.

The re-entrance of these two men in my life has awakened a hunger in me that’s been dormant for almost two years–I forgot how nice it is to have a man in my life who will call me on demand and chat my ear off as I drive home from work so I stay alert. I forgot how easily my barbed wire can come down when I’m talking to a man I really click with. I know all of this is what is worrying my friends. It’s worrying me a little too. I don’t want to fall back in our old cycles. I don’t want to have my heart set on them. But I also know that it isn’t. I’m not as concerned as my friends are because that old pattern doesn’t tempt me anymore. Though I am still the same person and though I still care about these men, I have grown up. I’ve learned that I’m loveable and dateable. I know that I can live a full, rich life on my own. That knowledge makes it impossible to be willing to settle for someone who is just not that into me. Even though these men are reminding me of what I miss, even though they have awakened this hunger, I haven’t forgotten our history and I don’t expect them to satiate my hunger.

It feels so good to be regaining the desire to have a man in my life. Every time my exuberance is met with concern I get a little more annoyed because what I want my friends to pick up on is that I’m starting to shake off my complacency with singleness. I think that’s great news! I plan to put Dr. Cloud’s book and Lucy’s self-love kit to good use.

Feature image by William Stitt.

Giving Up On A Storybook Life

“Lindsey, you know how you and I have often talked about the literary quality of life? Do you think we are in control of our stories or not?”

“I’m pretty sure we’re not.”

A friend of mine recently started off our phone conversation this way. It was a great hook. This is something that I’ve written about and thought about for years. Every time I feel that this subject is tired, that I’ve said all that I can say, I see an ad for Donald Miller’s organization Storyline and I know I have to write about it again. While Miller’s right that life is made up of the elements of a good story (setting, conflict, climax), the uncomfortable truth is that we aren’t the authors of our own stories. While mapping out your life plan like a story chart sounds wonderful, the frightening beauty of life is that it rarely cooperates with our plans.

Working in the business of in-store promotions, a majority of the staff members that I train and work with are retirees. I love that I so often get a chance to hear their stories. We have a woman who was a flight attendant. She’s traveled all over the world and lived in Italy for years. We have another woman (one of my absolute favorites) who owned and ran three different types of businesses and sold them all. She has tried almost every profession you can think of because she loves a new challenge. She did most of it while raising three children on her own. We have another woman who was a social worker who spent years living in New Orleans and California. And on and on the variety of stories go. What is common to most of them is that life took them in directions they never would have expected or planned.

Most of you know that my life hasn’t gone how I planned. The same friend who posed that question said to me, “I could tell when you were in grad school that you weren’t going to be happy in the life you imagined.” It’s so funny to me how some of the people in my life recognized that long before I did. Though not all of them were as insightful, which I’m glad about because it makes me feel better about being wrong (it’s so much easier to be wrong in good company).

The most valuable thing that I am learning is that you can live an intentional life without living a storybook life. Clarity of both purpose and pursuit isn’t always necessary.

This truth really freaks me out! I can have a laissez faire attitude sometimes but that’s usually when it comes to other people’s lives. Not mine. I remember telling a friend who graduated college before me not to worry too much about what profession he would have because “life has a way of figuring those things out for us.” Then I spent practically three years freaking out about the same question. While I was mentally exhausting myself asking big questions and trying to compose a beautiful outline of my life, I was completely oblivious to the fact that I am already living out a story. A story that I’m far more suited for.

Since my senior year of high school, I have been in the business of planning and orchestrating events, training, managing and leading people along with writing, public speaking and teaching. These are the things that I excel at and that I love doing. I almost can’t resist them. What frustrated me is that they don’t fit neatly under one job description (at least none that I’ve come across so far). Student Affairs seemed like a good fit but it wouldn’t have left enough time to write. Teaching seemed like a fit but it wouldn’t make use of my event planning or management skills. The politics of academia doesn’t suit me either. Being an Event Coordinator & Regional Trainer is great but it doesn’t make sense of the intellectual half of me. Et cetera ad nauseam. Not being able to settle on one job that brings together these two halves of myself—the  thinker/writer/teacher and the event planner/manager—frustrated me. I kept thinking that I’d be so much happier and more productive if only I could find one job with these facets.  But I’m starting to see that I like having separate spheres of my life. I like having one occupation that takes me out of my apartment, stretches me past my comfort zone and utilizes my extroverted side and I like having one occupation that lets me stay at home and feed my introverted side.

My literary nature was also hungry for an obviously meaningful and impactful career. I’ve envied Christa who is a nurse that primarily serves the underprivileged and Nichelle who is a teacher in an underprivileged area. I wanted to be a part of saving people’s lives just as they are. What meaning is there in the promotions business? When I expressed a little of this to my mom, she said that she’s realized that my work will always be meaningful as long as I work with people. As I look back on the many wonderful conversations I’ve had with my coworkers and customers, I see what she means. Bringing simple joy to people’s lives and listening to their stories is meaningful. In a culture in which people are increasingly neglecting those in front of them (because we are staring at our smartphones instead of talking to each other) it is an even more valuable thing. Maybe I’m not saving lives but that doesn’t mean my work has no value or significance.

While I am learning that I can’t follow my intentionally plotted out course for my life, there are things that I can be intentional about: Actively looking for the good in people, even in the people who annoy me. Treating everyone with kindness and respect even when they smell awful or are physically disfigured or offend other cultural standards of beauty (these are the minorities that I think face some of the worst discrimination). Allowing people to take precedence over my plans and giving my attention to them in its entirety when we are talking–as much as possible, of course. Giving myself permission to relax and re-energize when I need it. Sparking deep conversations about life and God and relationships. Seeking to see God’s hand in my life and others. Seeking to see God’s face in my life and others. These are the things that are in my control. This is the type of intentionality that will matter when I’m laying on my deathbed.

It’s pretty obvious to me that my life will never achieve the storybook standards that I have for it. But it will continue to surprise me in wonderful and meaningful ways like when Saundra reached out to me to join her on that first promotional tour or how I was recently surprised when Huffington Post Live reached out to me to be a part of a segment (I probably should’ve mentioned this before). While I’ve lost all surety that I know where my story is headed, I have a better sense of who I am in this story. That’s good enough.

My favorite pastor, Rick McKinley, often talks about how we are all characters in God’s story. God doesn’t write predictable stories. He likes to subvert our expectations and surprise us. He likes to challenge us far more than we would choose to challenge ourselves. But He also makes the ordinary extraordinary. He bringing meaning into the mundane. Though I can’t promise that I’ll stop wrestling for narrative control of my life, I’m gaining a far greater appreciation for its actual author.

Feature image by Adriana Velásquez 

Not About Love

I’ve been really obsessed lately with the website 40 Days of Dating. Two friends, Jessie and Tim, with  opposite relationship issues—who also happen to be graphic designers—decided to date for 40 days and write about it. Part of what draws me into their experiment is the graphic element (I’m a sucker for bright colors and delicious fonts) but I’m also fascinated by the project itself. I relate to both Jessie and Tim in different ways.

Like Jessie, I grew up with parents who are deeply in love and have a strong marriage. Witnessing the beauty of the life they have made together and the bond they have with each other, it’s impossible not to want a relationship like that myself. Also, like her, I’m a romantic. I love the feeling of being in love (or being infatuated). And I’m equally uninterested, and frankly exhausted, by the idea of dating lots of men. But my reasons for being disinclined to date casually are very different from hers. This ties into how I’m like Tim.

Tim is a commitment-phobe because he loves his freedom.  He loves that he can do whatever he wants, whenever he wants, with whoever he wants. I can relate to that. As I recently told you, freedom is a requirement in all of my relationships. Though I am energized by having an extroverted job and love investing deeply in people, I am an introvert at heart who is very project oriented. I need a lot of quality personal time to unwind, reflect, recharge and work. When I’m sunk into a project or taking personal time even my loved ones feel like a huge inconvenience when they make the smallest demand on my time or energy (especially energy).  I prefer having relationships on my terms, in my timing.

All of my friends have said to me at some point or other, “I love that we can go months or years without talking and I know it’s okay. You won’t get offended.” Of course, I don’t get offended. This is how I like my relationships. The beauty of only seeing each other every once in a while is that it pretty much guarantees that when we do see each other it’ll be great! No drama. No boredom. No opportunity to take each other for granted. Since I jump quickly into deep conversation, we both get intimacy on demand. While these marathon hangout sessions usually take up a large chunk of time, it isn’t a habitual commitment so it’s easier to fit into my haphazard schedule. I get intimacy and freedom. But I don’t get anyone to consistently lean on or talk to every day. That’s the trade off.

Tim and I are very different in that my need for freedom and control leads me more naturally into pseudo-relationships than casually dating. I did give casual dating a try but I found it entirely unsatisfying because it didn’t offer me the intense emotional connection I crave. I don’t care if a relationship ends in marriage or if it just ends but while it lasts I want it to be deep, beautiful and meaningful. If it isn’t, there is no way I will find time for it in my schedule. Flirting is fun but I get my fill of it at work.

I have been “deep single” for the last year because I decided that my habit of pseudo-dating wasn’t healthy and that casually dating isn’t for me. I haven’t even allowed myself to hangout with guy friends outside of work because I didn’t want it to get complicated. While this time has given me a chance to clear my head and feel more centered, it has also left me craving intimacy. One thing I’ve realized about myself in the absence of close male relationships is that I don’t have the capacity to emotionally connect with women as deeply (I let my best female friend find out my grandpa died through facebook–you can bet I would’ve at least texted one of the leading men in my life right away had we still been on intimate terms at the time).

The 40 Days of Dating project speaks to where I’m at because I’m a crazy mix of both of these people: I don’t want to give up my freedom and I want a deep meaningful relationship. While they struggle to compromise with each other, I am struggling to compromise with myself.

Wednesday, I had what was supposed to be a networking meeting with life coach Jill Haas that practically turned into a therapy session. She observed that I’m a control freak which isn’t news to me but, somehow, I always seem to disconnect my desire for freedom from a need to have control (even though that is obviously what it is). She left me asking myself some good questions. I’m not going to pretend that I’ve come to a resolution. Instead, I’ll leave you with the main question I’m asking myself:

Is my need for a sense of freedom and control more important to me than my desire for intimacy and a healthy relationship?

Good question right? I wish I had an answer.

Life in the Promotional Marketing Biz

“What do you do?” We all face this question on a regular basis. Though I spend the majority of my week doing more typical marketing work (I was a freelance copywriter), I have the most fun telling people about my work on the weekends. Friday through Sunday I work for a promotional marketing company as a trainer, an event coordinator and, when needed, a product demonstrator.

“You know those people who hand out samples in the grocery store? I train them.” That’s usually the answer that I give. It almost always sparks a conversation about the experience that person has had with a product demonstrator. For me, it’s a thrilling conversation because I love hearing these stories and I love educating people about the promotional marketing industry. Even though we live in a technologically rich world, nothing beats the experience of trying a new product with a friendly engaging brand ambassador there to answer your questions or banter with you. Let’s be honest, it is the surest way to convert a follower into a customer.

I was first introduced to promotional marketing by my friend Saundra who recruited me to join her on a Cholula hot sauce mobile tour around the east coast soon after I got out of grad school. She had been in the promotions industry for a couple of years by that time and already had a hefty number of mobile tours under her belt. Her partner Vito had been in the industry for even longer. I learned a lot from both of them as they told me about past tours and gave me tips on how to be an exceptional brand ambassador. They infected me with their enthusiasm for this industry and re-enforced that I have a natural ability to quickly connect with people (which is a prerequisite for excelling in promotions). It wasn’t a surprise to me when they told me this fall that they were founding their own promotional marketing company VIP Talent & Events. While I worked with them I saw that they have the vision to conceptualize a tour, a knack for choosing good people and a smart, efficient approach to event planning and management. Though I loved working with them, life on the road full-time is not for me. That is what led me to my current role for Elite Marketing Interactions as a Regional Trainer & Event Coordinator (to put a title to my description).

Working for a company that primarily does in-store promotions instead of mobile tours allows me to be more grounded than Saundra and Vito who live on the road for a majority of the year. While I do travel for my job, I am able to come home every night.

It might seem like a big leap that I went from studying philosophy and earning an entirely academic master’s degree to marketing –to those of you who know that part of my story. I should mention that I brought with me 4 ½ years of translatable experience. I planned and executed my first campus wide event during my first semester of college and by the end of that semester I founded a student organization.  That organization became one of the largest on campus by the time I graduated in part because I wasn’t afraid to shamelessly and constantly promote it for four years. My experience leading that organization and then overseeing all of the student organizations at my college led me to a graduate internship in Programming & Leadership at Fordham (which was more like a staff role as opposed to those internships where you’re mostly an errand runner). Since each of those positions involved print and online marketing, face-to-face promotion, managing and training staff/ leaders and event planning and execution it wasn’t that much of a leap to enter the marketing industry.

A large part of what I love about promotions is its diversity. Every tour that Vito and Saundra tell me about is incredibly different just as each week for Elite is different for me. Some weekends I train new staff. Some weekends I set-up and run a booth at community events and tradeshows. Some weekends I organize and orchestrate high-profile in-store events. Some weekends I perform product demonstrations (often wine/beer – which are my favorite) at understaffed stores. What is always consistent in this business is that you are challenged to make a positive first impression on hundreds of people in just 5 – 20 seconds with them. Yes, there are people who will hang out with you for much longer than 20 seconds. You can have some incredible conversations but these people are the exceptions. Most people will only give you just a few seconds of their time. The challenging of figuring out just the right hook to bring people in and make them feel at ease and engaged is part of what makes every day in the promotions industry exciting.

I want to share this passion with you because I love this industry and because I want you to understand that I’m not exaggerating when I bring up how I can to anybody.

Maybe We Shouldn’t Be So Scared of the Scale

My favorite way to win a prize at a state fair or amusement park when I was a kid was by challenging the person who guessed weights. They rarely ever got mine right so it was an easy victory. If I ever have to choose a carnie job that would be the one I’d want. I think I’d have a better success rate than most of the ones I met because I’ve developed a knack for accurately guessing people’s weight. It helps that I have a lot of data to draw from (since I am comfortable telling anyone and practically everyone how much I weigh at any given time, people are pretty comfortable sharing their weight with me). What also helps is that I understand the subjectivity of weight.

It seems to me that most people have preconceived notions about weight. Like, if someone weights less than 100 pounds it is assumed they are probably anorexic and if a woman weighs more than 150 pounds or a man exceeds 200 they must be overweight. These ideas are absolutely ridiculous! I have friends who are healthy at a mere 90 something pounds and others who are trim and thin at 210 pounds. There are men in my life who would be overweight at 180 pounds and women I know who could be underweight at 180. Outside of the unique context of each individual person, these numbers have no real meaning.

Bone density, height, muscle mass and, of course, fat all play a large part in determining what someone weighs. It is by looking at each person as an individual, seeing their unique attributes, that I’m able to guess pretty well what weight range they fall into. But this guess isn’t ever a judgement because that number alone doesn’t determine if they are healthy or not.

Age, physical activity, and overall physical well-being in combination with those other factor all play a role in what weight is ideal for each individual person. This complexity of weight is part of what makes it so interesting to me. It is also what makes it so hard to determine what a “healthy” weight is for another person or even yourself. For all of us, these factors change throughout our lives. There may be a time when [insert number] is the best weight for you and a time when it isn’t.

I like being open about what I weigh because it creates the opportunity to talk about the assumptions and misconceptions that we have about weight. One of the first things that I discovered is that many thin people feel as scrutinized and sensitive about their weight as heavy people do. My best friend Nichelle and sister Christa are great examples. Nichelle is 5’ 10” with a medium to large frame and enjoys lifting weights so she never weighs less than 160 lbs. Whenever she admits her weight, people often feel a need to “comfort” her that she only weighs “that much” because she has so much muscle. What they are implying is that they think she weighs more than they expected, so they have to rationalize it to themselves. My sister Christa is on the other end of that spectrum. She’s 5’ 10” with a very small frame and hasn’t ever seriously worked out. She rarely weighs much more than 125 pounds. She grew up with doctors suspecting she had an eating disorder because she didn’t fall into the “healthy” weight zone on their BMI chart. For her, that weight is normal.

There is an odd comfort in realizing that most of us—overweight or not— feel like our weight doesn’t measure up to our culture’s expectations. It bridges the gap that we can feel exists between us and it creates the opportunity for us to realize that we can’t judge ourselves based off of these inaccurate notions of what is and isn’t healthy. In my opinion, we shouldn’t judge ourselves off of these numbers at all.

I don’t need a scale to tell me when I could use to change my habits and burn some fat. It certainly can’t tell me when I could use to gain some more muscle (moving into a new apartment, struggling to lift half of my furniture and boxes, made me realize that). I think most of us know our bodies well enough to know when change is needed. The number I see blinking back at me on my scale may confirm what I already know but it always has to be interpreted though my knowledge of what is healthy for me as an individual, not what is perceived to be healthy for me by others.

Even though this number is subjective, it can be a powerful act to stand up and publicly state what your weight is. At least, that is how I feel about it. I feel like it is a way of saying, “Whether you approve of my weight or not, this is what it is. And I am okay with it.” Even when I know that my habits could use some improvement and I could use to get my body into better shape, I still find it important to own the weight I am at and accept that, ideal or not, this is me.

Feature image by Scott Webb.