Forget about taking the day of your birthday off work. Take the next day off. Bring the last piece of birthday cake back into bed with you.
Bring some coffee, too.
And then think about what the year ahead brings. Cheers.
Editor’s Note: Nostalgia and some angst ahead. Proceed with caution.
Underneath all the fun of birthday month shenanigans is the true story that I’m another year older. I always use my birthday as a great time to look back, reflect, make plans, get excited, measure up, compare needlessly, etc. There’s something extra for birthdays that end in 0 and 5. I don’t know why, there just is.
That was the alternate title of this post. I’ve got plenty of people telling me I’m not old. But most of those people are older than me. It just feels like age became a real thing all of a sudden.
Thinking about the last five years – it’s been a pretty amazing, actually. For sure the most significant personal growth, and maybe that’s the good part of getting older – wisdom. I see clearer, understand more, worry less, pay less attention to stupid, and generally contribute more good than bad to the world. Tomorrow I’ll post about birthday fun and hopes and dreams and wishes and the future. Tonight I get to take a minute to think the last 5 years, as measured by birthdays.
How 31 was done:
I had been at River City Casino just under a year at this point and had finally relented and befriended the four crazy women that made up our HR office. I walked in the day of my birthday to find cake and decorations. It was really sweet.
Angela threw me a perfect party: Turkey burgers, pumpkin beer and s’mores for dessert. It was exactly what I wanted.
Meg is there on the left, she’s the one getting married in Virginia in a few weeks. Angela is on the other end, holding George (the dog). I emailed her a few days ago to tell her I can’t believe this years ago. Since then she has had two baby girls! This was just a minute ago! This was the group that brought me back into the world. I had come home from Chicago the day after my 30th birthday feeling lost and defeated. If there had ever been a time for me to focus on me and figure my crap out – it was that time. And when I was ready – so were these ladies. My divorce was final 4 days after this. And so I entered 32…
Boo to 32…
Yeah. Mostly the last several years have been a roller coaster that only goes up, but my 32nd birthday came right in the middle of a super yuck time. I “resigned” from the casino at the end of August and was once again lost and sad. Meg had moved in with me for what we thought would be 6 months while she looked for a job in Virginia, and good for her and all for finding one after 6 weeks. She moved out just a few days prior to my birthday. All I wanted for my birthday was Indian food with my sister for dinner.
What’s great about forcing myself to look back is that I’m so humbled by how people showed up for me. This blog may be ridiculous to everyone else, but I might have forgotten that Angela showed up to my house the morning of my birthday to go for a run and a workout with me. Claire met me at my favorite Mexican restaurant. When I stopped in to see Brian he made it seem like I was doing him a favor by working for him that fall, when I’m sure it was the other way around. My sister did go get Indian food with me for dinner. Cyndi continued her tradition of being the most thoughtful gift giver I know. Man. I have tears streaming down my face. I’m sure I took all of this kindness for granted in the moment. I’m sure I couldn’t see beyond my terrible, no-good time. I’m going to immediately send so many people flowers after I publish this.
Birthday recap here…
I look back and know that it was a hermit-y kind of birthday – but what I couldn’t have known is that three weeks later I would get the call that told me I was accepted into the BGSU grad school program. And that friends, was a choice that made all the difference…
33 – being as old as Jesus
I was really happy that my birthday was falling on a grad school weekend. These were the people I was closest to at that time and I couldn’t imagine spending my birthday with anyone else. I requested that we go back to Jed’s, and sit on their patio and drink the night away. And we did. What makes me smile about that night when I look back is it’s also the night I told, well, everyone really (including D) about my crush on D. It was this very grade school like plot to try and sit next to him or have a reason to talk to him. Our classmates weighing in on whether they thought this was a good idea. And me finally just telling him it was now officially the worst kept secret in the cohort. It was the first time there was any flirting and it was fun and exciting. Ahh, early romance.
The next morning in class I had some ‘splaining to do to poor D who may have been caught off guard by my admission. I spent the plane ride home crafting a really long email explaining how it had all come to be and what I was thinking, etc. It’s one of the emails I’ve kept – it was a really fun time.
Emilie, my favorite sister, always made sure she was around to celebrate with me as well. We went to a Slow Food St. Louis fundraiser and then drank Rumchata at my favorite neighborhood bar.
The first link was actually a post a few days before my birthday. And one that was really great to read right now. It was about the amazing and thoughtful people I have in my life (seriously Cyndi with the crazy thoughtful gifts) and the people that I’m so close to and that in this moment I’m not sure I deserve. I’m all wrapped up in break up angst (yes, still, a little – I know). I think that may be one of my favorite posts ever.
34 in paradise
This one is a little tougher to write about. Last year I ended birthday post with this paragraph:
I had no anxiety about this birthday at all. I don’t care that I’m “mid-30’s” now, I don’t mind another year. I have decided it’s a function of being very content. I don’t feel I should be somewhere else, someone else, something else. I’m actually quite happy with where everything in my life is right now.
I spent 34 in Mexico with D. It was a perfect trip. We were celebrating graduation which had been a month before, we got to spend real quality time together, he gave me two birthday cards because he couldn’t decide and I remember thinking that was adorable. It was just this really sweet and romantic trip.
I went into this post thinking about that last line from last year’s birthday post. My intention was to then say that not only did things not change – everything changed. I think during the course of writing this (incredibly long) post I’ve realized that actually, maybe not as much has changed as I think. I’m still incredibly lucky. I’m still surrounded by amazing people – many of the same. Cyndi is still an insanely thoughtful gift giver (Thanks, Cyndi!) and Claire is still checking in with me and Ann still likes every picture I post on Instagram and I’m in Meg’s wedding and Angela and I have dinner when I’m back in STL and Colin still texts me a random Sorkin quote… I feel a little like Ebenezer Scrooge with the ghost of Christmas past… These last few years have been amazing. It will only get better.
To 35 and beyond…
Tomorrow a group of colleagues will meet me for birthday happy hour. With the exception of two people, it’s a group I didn’t even know a year ago. And now there are some new favorites, friends I hope I have for many more birthdays to come.
Wow. Maybe the best gift (outside of the book and calendar Cyndi sent me!) is the always appreciated increased self awareness. It’s amazing how I came into this with a sad tinge. And I’m leaving with a list of people to send notes to, and be grateful for, and send love into the universe for.
I’ll save the article and Year 35 resolutions for another time. This became a whole other thing tonight. I wrote the title of this post first. I would have to say I do know how I feel about 35… fan-freaking-tastic.
Alternate title: My therapist gave me an A
It’s not unusual to be hard on oneself, right?
I’m fairly open about the fact that I check in with a therapist every now and then. I kind of think everyone would benefit from some insight into themselves from an outside source. Today, I was struggling that I’m wasting time – not a new theme for me. Claire tells me I’m so impatient. I do live with a sense of urgency that can lead to anxiety. Awareness is the first step, right? I told the good Doctor that here we are, near the end of summer, and what did I do? I’m haven’t finished Infinite Jest, I haven’t run regularly, the basement could be more organized (I finally bought the shelves!)… I could go on.
Good Doctor tells me I’m being too hard on myself and I needed to list all the things that I did accomplish in the last 60 days. Work/professional stuff is going so well lately – OD Conference, the case study for the chapter in the OD book with Mr. Head of the Largest Change Mgmt Research Company, I was selected for as a member of the New Chapter formation committee for ACMP (Assoc of Change Mgmt Professionals) and the potential re-org at work that may lead to something bigger and better. I worked on the house, maintained Sarah’s Farm (home of the Farm Fresh vegetables), bought a new car, settled into some new social scenarios, stopped binge eating (yeah – that was becoming a problem) and have reintroduced some exercise into my life.
The thing she said that had the biggest impact on me was a simple validation that there are a lot of stressful situations I’m in right now. Still being new to Columbus, lack of social/family structure, lack of the relationship I was counting on here, buying a house, buying a car, repaying student loans, getting a new job in a new field… these things are hard. They take time to get through. She mentioned the actual stressful life factors test is the Holmes and Rahe Stress Scale. Out of curiosity, and because who doesn’t love an assessment, I searched for the scale and took it. If you’re curious, the link has an easy graphic where you click what applies and it adds it up for you. Or, here is the scale:
Go ahead – add ‘em up.
Would you like to know my score? Of course you would! Why else have you read this far… 508. Five Hundred and Eight. And these are just listing the things that have happened in the last year!! Here’s what the scoring on that is…
Scoring The Life Change Index
The body is a finely timed instrument that does not like surprises. Any sudden change
stimuli which affects the body, or the reordering of important routines that the body
become used to, can cause needless stress, throwing your whole physical being into
The following chart will give you some idea of how to informally score yourself on Social
Readjustment Scale. Since being healthy is the optimum state you want to achieve, being
sick is the state of being you most want to avoid.
Life Change Units Likelihood Of Illness In Near Future
300+ about 80 percent
150-299 about 50 percent
less than 150 about 30 percent
Really?!?! An 80% increase in the likelihood of a stress related illness in the near future?! This explains the insomnia and general moodiness perhaps.
So. Stress. Validation.
In the spirit of immediately trying to combat the stress, I joined some co-workers at a concert tonight. One of our bosses has a brother who is the bass player in the band Walk the Moon. They are a fun, poppy, alternative band and all from Columbus and Cincinnati – so, Ohio grown. They are most known for their song, Anna Sun:
Tonight they played one of their new songs, Shut Up and Dance With Me. Loved it! Technically, it’s not released yet (on their album coming soon!!) but I did find it on You Tube. (Audio Only)
A great time with some catchy tunes and two beers – just enough to make me feel like dancing.
First – meet the players:
Now that you’re familiar, let me set the scene. It’s 10am. I am just finishing a meeting to discuss actual numbers of end users for project implementation (fyi – it’s twice what I thought) when the phone rings…
my boss: Hey Sarah. It’s me, your boss.
me: Hey boss.
my boss: I just got a phone call from Mr. Head of the top Change Mgmt research and methodology company. He asked if I knew anyone who might want to collaborate on a book chapter he’s writing for an OD textbook on change management. Is it okay if I give him your name?
me: Umm, heck freaking yeah. Please pass my name on to him.
my boss: Great. He’d like us to help write the case study and I think you’re the best partner. You should be getting an invite from him.
me: I got this.
I may have paraphrased some, but you get the idea, right?
My boss recommended me to this super important guy in the change management world (we all have our industry rock stars) to help test the model/framework he’s introducing in the chapter of an OD textbook that my OD Master’s program used! If this all works out, I cannot wait to send that email to some professors. “Oh, by the way, I’m listed as a collaborator in this text book now.” In addition, he wants to collaborate on the case study and use my current Nationwide program as the example. Now – this is all preliminary and maybe it goes nowhere. But in my inbox right this second is the abstract and outline for the method he’s writing. I’m supposed to review it. No problem, Mr. Head of the top Change Mgmt research and methodology company. No problem.
Did I not just write on this very blog last night how I want to start writing, want to pursue being published. Holy cow, Universe! You rule all! I made space and the space was filled. And in no small way.
*** *** *** *** ***
It’s been a while since I thought about the book that was so important to me for several years: Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert. Today one of the passages from the book came back to me:
“But I love him.”
“So love him.”
“But I miss him.”
“So miss him. Send him some love and light every time you think about him, then drop it. You’re just afraid to let go of the last bits of David because then you’ll be really alone, and Liz Gilbert is scared to death of what will happen if she’s really alone. But here’s what you gotta understand, Groceries. If you clear out all that space in your mind that you’re using right now to obsess about this guy, you’ll have a vacuum there, an open spot – a doorway. And guess what the universe will do with the doorway? It will rush in – God will rush in – and fill you with more love than you ever dreamed. So stop using David to block that door. Let it go.”
It’s not so much the not letting go of the man part that struck me today, although certainly relevant right now, it was the if you clear out the space you’re using to obsess, you open a spot and the universe rushes in to fill it. I’m overwhelmed by this opportunity this morning. I’m reminded that I have the power to survive. On a change management webinar last week, someone introduced the topic of resiliency and how they were using this resiliency assessment when they hired new change practitioners. Because above all else, a change professional should be able to handle change. I’ve been thinking about it since I heard of the assessment and haven’t gotten my hands on it yet – but how resilient am I? I’ve spent two months being mostly numb and living in a hermitage that is my house. So plans changed, so some one didn’t love me as much as I loved them… look at all the other stuff that’s out there waiting for me.
And Universe – if you’re still listening as intently as you were last night – I’d like you to send a Ted Mosby my way…I’ll be here…contributing to a chapter in an OD textbook.
I nearly named this post “…and calm returns.” When it dawned on me I already had a post titled that exact same thing. And you know what it was about? The exact same thing I’m going to write about here. Some may choose to see this as me in a destructive pattern. I choose to see it proof I got through this scenario a couple years ago and I can get through it again. It’s almost laughable how similar this week has been to a week back in November 2011.
First – some advice for future Sarah…STOP TRYING TO BE FRIENDS WITH YOUR EXES!
I mean, at least give it some time. I have a warped sense of friends with exes. I had a long time friendship with my on again/off again boyfriend Brad. And I count my ex husband as one of my best friends. (Hey buddy!) Both of those relationships didn’t come about over night and both of those took work from both parties to get to a friendship state of mind. I miss D. I valued him as a friend and classmate before we dated. But I’m going to have to accept that relationship doesn’t just come back. (I do wish I realized that before the great texting mistake of this past Sunday night – but whatevs. I’ve always wanted a restraining order against me.) (KIDDING!)
To settle myself down after the break up breakdown this past weekend I made a “pick me up playlist”, went for a run, and talked to my friendly neighborhood shrink (who actually thinks my super grief over the break up may be more related to latent super grief about my dad dying, but that’s this whole other Oedipal spiral I’m not particularly buying into. I digress….). I started to feel better. Tonight I spent the day at a conference where people discussed ideas and asked for my input. Awesome. I then got a glass of wine on the best patio in town (mine, naturally) and pulled out a book: Organization Development: A data-driven approach to organizational change. That’s right. Part of my problem is that I needed something to fill the space in my life where the relationship was. Well, I want to present at ACMP or OD conferences in the next couple of years. The department head of my OD master’s program told me BGSU was working towards a PhD program in OD in the next couple of years and told me not to consider going somewhere else until I saw what they were doing. In order to pursue those endeavors, having some work published would be helpful. So, I guess it’s time to think about what kind of work I want to research, where I think I can influence. This is really exciting to me. I get all lit up talking about small group effectiveness and organizational behavior. I’ve really missed school and these topics, so time to get back to it in some way.
The thing about returning to this place, the post break up crazy space, is that looking back to late 2011 and wondering how I was ever going to get through it is awesome from the other side. Um, not only did I get through it, I left that space in my dust! 2012 and 2013 have been my best years yet. 2014 is starting off a little rough, but I’m more hopeful this evening. I’ve got 6 months left and no idea what happens tomorrow. (Well, I mean, I know I get up, bring the pork roast that is in my crock pot overnight to work for our Halfway Mark Potluck for the big program I work on, drive back downtown for an Ops Review and then go to Jazzercise – but you get my drift.) I can now see all the space and time as an opportunity to do anything else. And if (hopefully, when) D and I can be friends, that will be great because he makes a good paper editor and I’ll need someone to read my drafts to check for punctuation mistakes. (Because obviously I overuse parentheses…and ellipsis.)
I like to think I get so wound up and crazy because I’m so passionate about the people in my life. If I felt lukewarm, this wouldn’t be an issue. It’s best I just embrace the crazy because I’m not giving up the passionate side of me. It’s my best side.
Ahh, my favorite time to write… after I’m exhausted.
Last night I got sucked into reading my own blog. (Insert vanity/narcissism jokes here) I was looking for something from a couple of years ago and then just kept reading. I read most of Fall 2012. It was a really exciting time for me. My first half marathon and working with Team in Training and grad school in full swing, I felt good and was constantly achieving things I didn’t know I could do, didn’t know I wanted to do and I was really happy.
2013 was a big year. I was laid off, found a new (awesome!) job, moved to a new place, finished the masters, pursued the relationship, traveled to Mexico and Canada…
We’re here at the halfway point of 2014. And I don’t know what to make of it yet. Perhaps it’s coming off a couple of big years that makes this one feel tame by comparison. It dawned on me one morning a couple of months ago – I didn’t feel like I was growing. I was making changes… bought the house, still figuring out the new job and city… but you can only say you’re “new” to a place for so long. And I reached the year mark of living in Columbus and working at Nationwide. This is where I live. And what am I doing with that? What am I learning? What am I doing with my time? I don’t think I equate making these changes with growing. If I were to tell someone about me right now it would be limited to my job and what I do.
There’s a bit in The Fault in Our Stars where Gus asks Hazel her “story” and she responds with her cancer diagnosis and history. Gus responds, with “No, not your cancer story – your story”. It’s that idea – what’s beneath our obvious story? Who else am I besides a NW employee?
I need a new goal. The house redecorating is nice, but not really a goal. Not something I would tell someone trying to get to know me. What’s my story? What am I working towards? I need it to be something more than working towards watching all of the tv series that Netflix offers.
I did apply for a spot on an Association of Change Management Professionals committee. It would be good for me and for NW to have a member on that team. I need something bigger than me, outside of this house. I thought it was this life I was working towards with the ex, alas, not the case. So, what’s my story? How do I make myself interesting again? How do I make each day feel fulfilled? How do I get back to the version of me that had something to talk about?
Was it worth the stress fracture in my right foot that led to walking around in one of those sexy boots for 6 weeks…Yup.
And that brings us to June 1. Single (perpetually, it seems), still learning this new city, and eating far too much ice cream. I can’t find a cupcake I’m crazy about here, but ice cream – we’ve got that in spades. A picture of me in front of Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams even went on the Christmas card last year. And, a picture of me and Jeni of Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams is right here…
After the moving, the new job, the buying a house, the moving again, all the weekends away (for runs, weddings, trips to see adorable baby niece, staying at the now ex-boyfriends house, visiting the newly engaged friends…) I’m looking forward to the Summer of Sarah. I’ve got plans for 30 days of NO travel (starting June 9th when I get back from going back to STL for another trip to see adorable baby niece AND see other sister who just got engaged) and may even stretch it into 45. I have plans for another Whole 30 during those 30 days and look forward to posting and connecting with that community again. I have plans to start creating routines here and planting herbs (a 2nd round of herbs – the transplanted ones did not take, starting from seed this time) and sitting on my patio reading Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace. I’m going to do a photo a day on Instagram in June. And one way or another I’m going to do 30 days of Jillians 30 Day Shred. I don’t think I’ve ever made it past Day 12…Day 7… Okay – Day 4! Sheesh!
In countless performance reviews, business meetings, client plans I’ve told people to think about what they want to start doing, stop doing and continue doing. I’m going to :
Start: going out to explore Columbus, even if it’s by myself
Stop: comparing myself to others. The recent engagement/baby boom taking place around me is causing some anxiety and I have this mildly intimidating co-worker that has led to second guessing. No more! I don’t even want babies.
Continue: paying my bills. Friday night when I was most of the way through a bottle of red on my patio while reading This is Where I Leave You on as it was getting dark and my mind was wandering to this plan… this seemed very clever and funny to me. Like this common-sense adult thing was something I needed to plan for. It’s far less amusing now, but still a good idea and I’m sticking with it.