Oh what thanks there are to give…

This Thanksgiving, I find myself in a much different situation than I’ve ever been before. I’ve always struggled with over planning, future-glancing and wondering what things should be, all of which came crashing down in one fell swoop this year. But remarkably, that crash of all-things-planned was exactly what I needed in order to be happy, proving once again that all things happen for a reason.

A year ago today, I was still relatively new at a small company, all sunshine and unicorns at the possibilities that awaited me there. Darrell was less than satisfied in his role, and was looking to make a change. Since then, we’ve been lucky enough to have Darrell move into a position he loves, giving him a change of pace, scenery and salary, all three things he’d been needing for a very long time. And while the honeymoon phase of my employment waned, my desire to start freelancing grew. The wonderful happenstance of Darrell’s new employment meant the possibility that I’d be able to strike out on my own was becoming possible, and as you already know, fell into my lap unexpectedly just a few months ago. Since then, we’ve both become incredibly aware of just how lucky we are. And with that, I think it’s time I list out just a few of the things I’m very thankful for this year:

  • I’m thankful that both of us are healthy and happy.
  • I’m thankful that we find satisfaction in what we do for a living.
  • I’m thankful that we’re able to spend more time together.
  • I’m thankful for two wonderful families that love and support us in everything we do.
  • I’m thankful for all of the opportunities that lie ahead of us.

This blog, of course, has suffered a bit in the throes of change. It’s difficult for me to talk about things before they become a reality; I’m sort of superstitious and don’t want to jinx things before they happen. So when I’m awaiting news, contracts or anything else that seems blog-worthy, I tend to go radio silent for fear of losing out on a major opportunity. And that’s how things have been for the past month or so, working here and there on projects while a few potentially big opportunities await on the horizon. Suffice it to say that I’m still waiting, but there are so many things to be thankful for right now that I had to break the moratorium on posts.

I’d love to hear from you: what are you thankful for this year? What silver linings have you stumbled upon this year?

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Diving in head first: My 100-day writing challenge

I don’t know about you, but when I set out to do something, I have a tendency to…

Procrastinate. Change gears. Shift thoughts. Become doubtful. And ultimately, not always finish what I set out to do.

That ends today.

Today, I’m diving right into a self-imposed 100-day writing challenge. And it’s as simple as it sounds: write something in this blog every single day, for 100 days.

But Ally, why 100 days?

Somewhat arbitrary, somewhat necessary, 100 days seems like the perfect length of time to create a habit. It could also be that I’ve recently been visiting 100 Days of Real Food, a site about healthy eating, and the number 100 is just implanted in my head. And while I probably could use 100 days straight of eating better, that’s a story for another day.

But Ally, what’s the point of this challenge?

The truth is, I would classify myself as a better editor than writer. Whether that’s because I write all day at work and the idea fountain has run dry by the evenings, I don’t know, but until I’m able to spend all day watching the clouds pass to kickstart my creativity, the next best thing I can do to improve my writing is to simply do more of it.

But Ally, what will you talk about every day, for 100 days?

I’m glad you asked, umm, other Ally! This is the part I’m most excited about. Let’s just say the spirit of the entrepreneur has rubbed off on me since working at a startup, and the desire to do more than simply work for other people is taking hold. And as a writer and editor, there are a lot of resources available for building a business; however, I want to share with you my journey of becoming my own boss, not just what I’ve learned once I get there.

And while I hope this journey serves as a guideline and not a cautionary tale for people trying to break into freelancing (is that a thing?), I’m going to share it with you either way. I’ll try to stick just to writing about writing and editing here; but I do a little bit of rambling about health and fitness at Carrots & Cookies. Because yes, for the girl who has trouble thinking of things to say, it obviously makes sense to run two blogs.

But Ally, who starts a 100-day challenge on the 24th of the month?

I realize, it’s weird, and I asked myself this very question. Why wouldn’t I wait to start until the beginning of the month? The answer is simple: if the point of all this is to create a positive habit, why would I want to put that off? Besides, ‘beginnings’ are arbitrary anyway – what makes one day any different than the next?

For the sake of getting this challenge started as quickly as possible, I say not a darn thing.

Day 1, in the books.

On trying, testing limits and taking a break

When I was researching whether to go to grad school, my queries were mostly centered around what type of program to choose, which school to attend and what it would take to get in.

I knew why I wanted to go back – or at least, I thought I did. I wanted a better chance at getting the jobs I had thought I’d prepared for in undergrad, but hadn’t yet landed. I wanted to join the more elite ranks of those with Masters degrees. I wanted more than what I had. 

So, I studied for the GRE, got the scores I needed and got into accepted into a graduate program.

And that’s when the whole thing went to hell.

I should have known from the start that I wasn’t happy. I chalked it up to starting a new job at the same time. I attributed it to taking two classes at once. I gave in to the idea that I wasn’t as smart as I always thought I was. I ignored the fact that I left every class either in tears or enraged and I dismissed the nagging feeling that I wasn’t getting any value out of them.

In fact, I did what any normal human being would do in a situation that causes such misery.

I stuck it out for another semester.

But it was somewhere in that second semester that my grad school related searches started changing. I searched about transfers. I searched about quitting and I stumbled across this post, which – not to be overly dramatic – more or less changed my life. I started wondering whether I wanted to finish classes, but decided I couldn’t just quit.

I’d told too many people. I’d spent too much time and money. I wouldn’t be alone because my husband was starting classes this year.

But perhaps most of all – I do not quit things.

So I registered for classes, took the summer off and prepared for another year.

But summer brought more than a few relaxed evenings – it brought a long sought after job change. It brought perspective and it brought me to the realization that I couldn’t see the point in wasting one more minute being miserable, just because I was afraid to quit.

Last week, the fall semester began. I dutifully went to class, took notes and braced myself for the readings ahead.

And then I saw this video, and it reminded me that I’m supposed to be doing this for me. I’m supposed to be doing this because I want to. That I shouldn’t be wasting another minute working too hard on something I care too little about, just because I think I’m supposed to.

So today, I withdrew from classes.

I quit grad school.  

I quit grad school and I feel relieved and scared, happy and terrified from one minute to the next. I suppose only time will tell if I feel the same as Jessica Ogilivie did in her blog post, but right now, I know this is the right choice.

I had to try. I had to go to grad school or I’d always be left wondering. I may try again or I may try a different program. I’ve tested those limits. I’ve seen what the stress and anxiety does to my life and my relationships and right now, I don’t want to test them any further. I’m taking a break – and I’m doing it because I want to.

Not because I told anyone I was going to. 

Expectations and Motivations of a Twenty-Something.

Growing up, we’re all given expectations.

Brush your hair. Do your homework. And for God’s sakes please do not jump in any puddles when you’re dressed for church.

Well, I’ll be honest. I hated brushing my hair. I was chubby and my little arms never could reach to the back of my head, leaving me with an almost unmanageable nest of twists and knots that would seemingly never be unraveled.

And I really, really liked jumping in puddles. Saddle shoes and poofy dresses always seemed to have that effect on me.

But as I mentioned last time, I feel like I more or less met – nay, exceeded – my parents’ expectations as a child. And as such, they spurred me on to continue making a positive impression on those I might meet even after grandma’s handmade dresses went out of style.

If they ever were in style. I’m not sure.

I suppose that’s neither here nor there. But now, as I’m stumbling through my mid-twenties, I’m realizing that it’s not others who are holding expectations for me.

It’s myself.

Yikes.

But let me explain. I’m writing this post after watching a couple episodes of The Conversation. And while I realize the amount of ridicule I’m opening myself up to by writing a blog post inspired by a show that airs on Lifetime, to me, it’s worth it.

And if you’ve ever seen an episode, you’d know why. This show is entertaining, inspiring and to be honest, downright frustrating. To insert the old adage of “you’ll laugh, you’ll cry” is a bit of an understatement, although not untrue. This show makes me think, makes me reflect and makes me wish I was just a little older so that maybe, just maybe, some of the wisdom these women have learned over the years would seem more applicable to myself.

I guess you could say that’s exactly the point. It’s supposed to show all of us who are still stumbling and bumbling around that we’ll eventually get it. That we’ll eventually see life is one big wonderful party and all we have to do to attend is put on our happy faces and go.

But I think more than anything, it’s showing that I still just don’t get it. Which is precisely why I’m writing this post.

I honestly do not think that any woman, in her twenties, really truly gets it. I think that some women are better at riding the waves. I think that some are better at rolling with the punches and making opportunity out of obstacles. But in the end, none of us really get it.

And it reminded me of exactly what I said when I started this blog in the first place. That there’s a great big pile of unknown out there and we’re all just sort of hanging around here until we figure it out.

And more importantly, I need to remember that’s OK.

That not knowing is part of the game. That when we’re children, our mothers tell us what to do; when we’re older, we tell our children what to do; but it’s in this middle ground, in this place where I’m not someone’s mother or someone’s daughter 24 hours a day, that I genuinely have no idea what’s supposed to happen.

And that’s exactly how it’s supposed to be.

There are a lot – and I mean A LOT – of sources out there where you can find all the tips in the universe about how to be a better ______. How to be stronger, faster, skinnier, smarter or a better wife and mother. There’s Pinterest to lead us to believe that in order to be a good mom or wife, we have to learn how to make everything clean, everything tidy, with cute organized labels, all while baking the perfect pie and serving dinner on coordinated platters.

Please. I’m all for improvement and things looking nice, but come on. We all remember that Martha went to jail, right?

If Martha can’t do it, how are the rest of us supposed to run the perfect household?

The honest answer? We’re not. Twenty somethings are going to question every decision they make. Mothers are going to question whether they are being the best version of themselves for their children. Business women are always going to wonder whether they’re undervalued.

And we’re all just in it here together.

So it’s important we keep ourselves (and each other!) grounded, fighting our own battles and recognizing that no amount of crafty DIY ribbon can wrap up our life and no perfectly flaky pie crust can make us into better women.

For me, I need to recognize that these outlandish expectations are a product of my own mind and no one else’s. In fact, I hope that others will realize that we’re all our own toughest critics, that none of us really know what the hell’s going on, and that we’ll all figure it out eventually.

We’ll all get where we’re going when we get there. We should probably just lighten up about it already.

The Dream Drain

At least, that’s what this place feels like.

I can’t tell you all how often I open up this site, intending to write something – anything – but leave with the cursor still blinking over a blank page.

I write over here for school of course, but so does everyone else in my class. I post my articles over here, but I don’t particularly want the depressing research I’ve been doing on animal rights and other topics to clog up this page.

So what’s up with the whiteout over here?

20-Something Mind Games

Mostly, I feel like I have no idea what direction I want to lead you in.

Heck, I don’t even know what direction I want to lead myself in.

I don’t know what to write or what to tell you because it seems like everywhere I look, I see people who are following their dreams and making things happen. They’re off finding careers, finding their callings or simply finding themselves. People have what would appear to be the job I’ve been searching for since graduation, leaving me to wonder exactly which step I took was the wrong one.

Granted, I have a wonderful life as-is; I have a husband I love very much, who still laughs at all of the weird things I do from day to day. I have a family nearby and a new(ish) nephew who – when he’s not spitting up on me – is just about the cutest thing to ever lay in his own poop.

And I’m lucky enough to be employed and own a home when so many people in this world do not. Don’t get me wrong. I realize all of these blessings and I’m thankful for them every day.

But here I am, four years later without so much as one position with the same title as subject printed on my degree, while people I know are running off being artists and photographers, doctors and lawyers and discovering their dreams and pushing them to reality.

And me?

I feel like I was out sick on “discover your dream” day in elementary school.

(And did I mention I had excellent attendance almost every year?) 

The Curse of the Over-achiever

I should mention, of course, that I realize I’m only 26 and that I should chill out. But if that’s your advice, you can go ahead and leave it somewhere else. Why?

  1. Because I did what I was supposed to do through school, getting good grades, carrying a part-time job and earning the respect of my teachers, professors, employers and peers.
  2. Because I’m really, truly smart and a hard worker and those are supposed to be my keys to opening whatever doors I so choose.
  3. Because this is my blog and I’ll complain if I want to.

OK, you probably didn’t need that third one, and I really don’t mean to complain, but let’s be honest – when you grow up hearing you can be anything you want to be, you kind of start to believe it.

Maybe it’s because everyone in my generation was told the same thing, and we need to realize we really aren’t that special.

Maybe it’s only those who have a true, live-or-die-by-it passion can really make something of themselves.

Maybe some are just luckier than others. Or maybe in this über-connected world we just see more of the bright and shiny sides and it’s hard to remember we’re all in this messed up world together.

But tell me: how are you doing it?

How did you know what you’re doing is what you’re meant to be doing? Or are you like me, wondering when that big, fat, passionate something will come around and smack you in the face?

In school, problems have solutions, questions have answers and there’s a right and wrong way to do things. In life, we’re not that lucky.

I’m just hoping to figure it all out someday.

‘Til then.

World Domination: Phase Two.

Just in case you were wondering: Yes. I am still alive. And this time – I have very, very big news.

I will be starting a new career exactly one week from Monday – as a Copywriter / Proofreader downtown.

I’m beyond excited. I’ve been avoiding writing anything as my job search heated up because I needed to focus all my energy on finding something that could genuinely make me happy. That, and I noticed that my posts were getting increasingly negative, and no one wants to read that garbage.

Hell, I didn’t want to write that garbage.

In fact, I avoided posting anything until I had something positive to say. I think there’s an old saying that goes sort of like, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, it’s probably best to avoid public places. And people. And the interwebs.”

Or something like that.

So, I prepared for classes — which, of course, I’ll be starting the same week as my new job — and tracked down this fantastic position. And now, now that I have a shiny, everything-is-new-and-wonderful outlook on my career and life in general, I figured we could get to know each other again. Isn’t that fantastic?

Good. I knew you’d be excited.

Oh – and to go along with a major life/career change, I thought it was only fitting to throw in a major appearance change, so I chopped off my hair. Enjoy.

And so it begins.

I think I may officially be the last person who is interested in blogging to actually begin doing so.

It’s been a busy year (or two, or three) and I just haven’t found myself with the time. In the past three years, I have:

  • Met my boyfriend
  • Graduated from College
  • Moved in with my parents
  • Quickly relocated to an apartment
  • Landed my first big girl job
  • Moved into my second apartment
  • Got engaged to boyfriend fiancé
  • Got a promotion
  • Planned a wedding (seeing a trend here?)
  • Purchased a home with @font-face { font-family: “Cambria”; }p.MsoNormal, li.MsoNormal, div.MsoNormal { margin: 0in 0in 10pt; font-size: 12pt; font-family: “Times New Roman”; }div.Section1 { page: Section1; }fiancé
  • Got a promotion
  • Began traveling for work
  • Got married to fiancé husband

Phew. Yes – I realize that’s life, but for me – that’s a heck of a lot of life to happen all at once. So I have gone from planning my graduation, to planning my job hunt, to planning my career path, to planning a wedding. And for the first time in my life, there is nothing left to plan…leaving me with actual, real-life time to do other things.

I’ve been thinking about my non-planning for a while and was probably the brightest light at the end of the wedding-planning tunnel. I was never the play-dress-up-and-pretend-it’s-your-wedding type of little girl, so spending hours poring over flowers and colors and other miscellaneous details wasn’t what I would call thrilling. In fact, I think we selected the first vendor we met in every category (flowers, cake, DJ, photographer, venue). Lucky for me, everything turned out great and I was extremely pleased with everyone we picked. Lucky for husband – he didn’t have to hear me debating the pros and cons of off-white versus eggshell invitations.

So now, because I have the time and because I desperately need to, I’m writing. I’m not implying that I’ll be writing anything of substance – just that I’m finally beginning to put ideas to paper web, meaning at the very least I have to put my thoughts into complete sentences.

I guess you could say that by starting a blog, I’m starting another plan.

What can I say, I can’t help myself.