A Life Update from Madison!

Vines on a Red House with a Volkswagen Bug

Greetings from Madison, friends! In a whirlwind of events over the last several weeks I’ve found myself back in the Dairyland and, honestly, I’m so excited to be back. At first I felt a little weird moving back when I was literally just here, but I got a great offer at a small marketing agency and everything just sort of fell into place. So, why not?! Life is funny like that sometimes.

It’s daunting moving for a job, even if it’s back to a town you know and love. I felt a lot of uncertainty and fear after I committed to move back. What if I hate my new job? What if I feel like an idiot for moving back? What if I feel left out now that I don’t work with all my friends? It was paralyzing. Instead of being excited that I finally got a job offer after months of job searching, I felt so stressed and sick.

I think I just had such a tough time in my last job that I was terrified this would be the same way. But then I realized that it can never be the same way because I’m not the same person.  I’m so much more confident in the workplace, I know how to manage my work and time, I can speak my mind when I see something wrong. I will never be that nervous 22-year-old fresh out of grad school and terrified of making a mistake and I’m GRATEFUL for that.

Sure, I’m coming back to a city I’ve lived in before and I’m living 3 blocks away from my old apartment, but things feel different this time. I feel like myself again. I don’t feel like I have to hide who I am or dim my shine anymore. I feel a lightness I thought I’d lost. I feel a sense of control and direction that I didn’t have before.

Is this my dream job? Probably not. But it’s a step in the right direction, it’s a better offer than I had at my last job (if we’re being honest), and one of my clients has a raccoon in their office so it certainly has it’s perks lol. I also think I’ve let go of the “dream job” notion at this point and am starting to see my career in the long-term. It’s tough when you see people on social media with these really cool jobs right out of school (and fair play to them!), but for most of us it’s going to take time and exploration and a few office raccoons to get it right.

All in all – things aren’t perfect, but for the first time in so long I’m embracing being in transition and am feeling really good about it. I’m leaning into things that make happy. I’m baking weird shit. I’m decorating my bathroom with boob decor. I’m watching a lot of reality TV. And that makes me really happy.

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Things I Love About Summer: An Incomplete List

Driving to the suburbs at sunset with the windows down playing melancholy music I liked in high school (looking at you Dave Matthews & Tim Reynolds Live at Radio City)

When the sky turns green before a tornado

Stopping whatever I’m doing to watch a Thunderstorm

Always feeling a little sticky

The way a wood floor feels underneath my feet when it’s hot out and the wood’s expanded

Going on long sweaty runs next to bodies of water

Drinking a cold Miller Lite after said long sweaty run

Walking as an event

Leaving an air conditioned office at the end of the day and realizing it’s beautiful outside

“Reading” outside on a blanket, but actually just taking a nap

The idea of going to the beach

The 4th of July parade in small suburban towns (shoutout to the Jesse White tumblers)

Eating novelty ice cream at a public pool

Being able to call the trashy romance novels I love “beach reads”

That one outdoor party of the summer where you don’t get too drunk or sunburnt and everyone is really nice and you don’t get the Fear the next day

Farmers Market vegetables

Watching all the traffic on the Eisenhower while my mom and I drink wine and she teaches me how to grill

Going to outdoor concerts with friends who think to pack a picnic

Festive tequila shots

Wearing all-white and feeling really classy

 

(Inspired by this post on Cup of Jo)

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New City, Who Dis? April Resolutions 2018

Chicago Skyline Champagne

Resolutions from March

First up, I’m recapping my resolutions from last month and checking in on how they went and whether or not I’ll be bringing them back for April…

Read more. I’ve had like a couple good spurts this month: I read Everything I Never Told You at the beginning of the month and am making my way through Call Me By Your Name pretty quickly now. All it took was like an hour here and an hour there, but once I finish a book I dawdle getting to the next one. I made a GoodReads account, so maybe tracking books and looking out for new ones will help me be more motivated? Still chipping away at this one!

Write about what I’m passionate about. I did this! Or at least I’m getting there. I definitely feel like I’m starting to get a clearer sense of what I want to talk about and am giving myself the time to actually write about it. I was particularly nervous writing about leaving my recent job, but I felt like it was important to put it out there and the responses I’ve gotten have been super supportive and heartwarming. It’s so nice to know that others can tell when I’m writing something that means a lot to me.

Go on walks. I have walked a good bit this month, but I haven’t been as intentional as I want to be about it. I do a lot of walking now that I’m Chicago – to the train, with the dog, out to dinner – so like it still counts, but I think I want to narrow down this resolution and make walking a part of my morning routine. I think getting my ass out of bed and out of my house earlier will help me be more productive.

Try something new. I actually found it hard enough to stick to my normal schedule this month that I didn’t really feel the need to try something new – life has felt new enough as it is! With that said, though, going on vacation with friends was sort of a new experience and now that I’m in Chicago I’m doing new things left and right, so I feel like I have successfully shaken off my wine-and-Netflix nights for a while, which was the point.

 

Resolutions for April

Go on morning walks. I’m not a morning person, so it typically takes me forever to leave the house if I don’t have to be somewhere – and it doesn’t help that the weather has been miserable (spring, where are you?!). But I’ve noticed the days I do get out early in the day are the days I feel the most productive. My goal this month is to get outside before 10am Monday through Friday. I’m hoping it will give me more purpose in the morning and get my blood flowing a little bit. We shall see.

Find a fitness studio. One of the things that I already miss about Madison is the fitness studio I had there. It was super close to my apartment, affordable (with a corporate discount), and I loved their variety of hot yoga and HIIT classes. Now that I’m in Chicago, I don’t want to get out of the habit of getting to class so I’m already on the prowl for a new fitness studio. Searching for: a variety of yoga and cardio classes, not crazy expensive, in the South Loop, and overall has a fun, positive vibe. Just went to my first class this afternoon!

Get back to Church. I haven’t really mentioned religion much on the blog, but I actually am pretty into the whole church thing. I honestly just feel like my best self when I go to church on a regular basis. I went on Easter and just felt so good after! I think it helps keep things in perspective for me. I’m looking for a pretty large, diverse congregation that’s in the Loop area – there are a few on my list, so hopefully I find one that clicks.

Take advantage of Chicago. I don’t know why, but moving back to Chicago has felt more intimidating this time than in previous years. I don’t know if it’s because it feels more permanent or I got used to living in little ol’ Madison, but I want to push myself to get out and see more of the city. I find myself going to a lot of the same places in my neighborhood, so I want explore other parts of the city and enjoy being 25 in Chicago!

 

I think that’s where I’m going to leave it this month – I don’t want to bite off more than I can chew since I’m still adjusting to things. I have discovered that even though I like new things and like to think I’m a pretty adventurous person, I take forever to adjust to change. Like I just started to feel at home in Madison when I decided to leave and I lived there for 18 months!

I’m excited for this month, though! I think it’s going to be tough and existential at times, but I think good stuff is ahead and I’m glad to finally have some roots down to start figuring some stuff out for myself. It’s hard finding a balance between letting myself process and explore, but also having enough to do everyday that I don’t go crazy. It’s not really a resolution, but I think that’s what I’m going to spend a lot of my month doing, too. I think my resolutions this month will help me settle into new routines and hopefully find some new people here in the city, too. As always, I’ll keep you posted!

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Some Big Life Changes + How I Feel About Turning 25

Madison Capitol Sunset Tree Light

Today is my birthday and, to be honest, I’m starting out 25 in a bit of weird place: I recently left my job after a year and a half and am moving back to Chicago. I’m still in Madison until I find someone to sublet my apartment and am going back and forth in a kind of limbo in the meantime.

I’m pretty nervous about the future right now because to be totally honest I don’t really have a plan. I have a few smaller projects in social media and writing that I’m working on, but I don’t have a full-time job lined up. I’m not positive about what I want to do and want to give myself some time to explore and I really knew that what I was doing wasn’t working

I’m sure some of you are rolling your eyes or think that I’m stupid for leaving a good job for essentially nothing (and trust me, I get you), but despite my misgivings I know that leaving my job was the best decision for me. It was so much more than “I’m not happy” or “I don’t like the work”. I became jumpy and had trouble sleeping. I wound up in therapy. I had my first panic attack. I couldn’t understand how I was so miserable because I was doing “the right thing”, but my anxiety and depression were turning my life upside down.

I think I would have run into some of these challenges no matter what – going from the cushy liberal arts life into the real world is always going to be a rude awakening – but I knew that something was really wrong. The things I loved most about myself were shutting down – my curiosity, my creativity, my love for travel and meeting new people – and I was becoming a numb version of myself. I was coping and pushing through the stress, but I could see myself slipping away.

Eventually I knew I had to get out. Doing what I was “supposed” to do wasn’t worth it anymore because it was obviously not what I was supposed to do. But it was so hard to leave, so much harder than I thought it would be. I felt like an idiot for leaving. I felt like I couldn’t hack it. I felt like a failure. But I eventually I realized that I was more of a failure if I continued to let a stupid job suck the life out of me. It’s just a job. I can start over.

So here I am, turning 25, starting over.

It doesn’t feel good yet, but I know it will. I can feel my muscles starting to relax a little bit. I’ve stopped having dreams about spreadsheets and customer calls. I read a book. I still feel guilty and untethered, but I’m moving forward. I’m learning how to structure my time. I’m channeling my energy into writing and running and cooking. I’m learning how to feel productive on my own terms.

Because, at the end of the day, I love working. And I think that’s what surprised and confused me the most. I’ve always been a bit of a workaholic. Sleeping 5 hours a night in high school, double majoring in college, doing my masters degree in one year. I have always pushed myself and chosen the hardest path. So what made this experience different?

Honestly, I’m not sure and perhaps I’ll never really be sure. I’ve definitely learned a lot about myself and what I’m looking for in a job – I love working with a small team of friends, I need a balance of creative and business work, I want to feel connected to the real world, I want to help empower women – but I think it’s hard to pinpoint exactly what made me feel so helpless and awful during this last year and a half.

I think what matters now is looking ahead. I didn’t really plan to do a whole sob-story post about this, especially for my birthday, but part of looking ahead for me is just being honest about my life. I’ve found it really exhausting hiding this from everyone. The next several months are going to be unpredictable and could end up being even worse than this job – who knows – but I’d rather lean into it than shy away from it.

Long story short: I don’t know what I’m doing with my life and I’m (sort of) okay with that. I think I want to travel. I definitely want to write more. I’ll definitely be writing more on this blog. I’m kicking around the idea of writing a book. I’m taking each day as it comes and am trying to be kind to myself. It’s been a hell of year and I can’t say that I’m sad to see 24 go.

I know 25 will bring its own challenges, but I’m ready.

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Some New (And Old) Goals for March: Resolutions 2018

Resolutions from February

Here’s a recap of what I focused on in February, if you’re interested:

Don’t look at my phone first thing in the morning. Success! I thought this one would be harder, but I actually found it pretty peaceful to leave my phone on my nightstand as I went about the rest of my morning. I got out the door faster, too, since I wasn’t getting sucked into the Instagram-vortex first thing.

Scroll through Instagram less. I feel like I half-way did this? To be honest, I’ve just been a lot busier this month, so I haven’t had the same kind of downtime to dick around on my phone. I still feel like I waste a good amount of time on social media, but I think the way to counteract that is to give myself more proactive goals – focusing on doing more of something instead of saying I’ll do less. Going to try a different approach this month.

Stick to my editorial calendar. This is another one I can improve on. It’s hard finding a balance between wanting to consistently post on here, but also making sure I post things that I care about and I really want to talk about! I’ve loved writing the commentary-style posts I did this month (here and here) and want to do more of those in the future. I also have few bigger posts I’ve been working on coming soon, so I’m excited about blog stuff this month and think that’ll help keep me more consistent.

Meditate. I tried the Headspace app this month and I like the actual act of meditating a lot. I just haven’t figured out where it fits into my life. I tried it at various times throughout the day – in my morning routine, on my lunch break at work, right before bed – and nothing really seemed to stick. It’s become a great tool to have in my toolkit, but I’m not sure if I’ll actively keep trying to work it in this coming month. It’s nice to have the option when I can’t sleep or am feeling particularly overwhelmed, though.

Overall: I feel less confident about my resolutions for February than I think I did for January. We’re definitely out of New Years Resolutions season, though, and into normal life, so I’m not super surprised that they slipped a little. Also, I’ve had an insane month with a lot unexpected personal and work stress, so I’m trying to be understanding with myself. Self care, y’all!

 

Resolutions for March

With that said, though, I’m so ready for March! I love March because it’s my birthday month and it sort of feels like a second chance to start fresh. Hopefully that spirit will also kick start my resolutions for the month!

Read more. Bringing this one back from January! I definitely fell back onto watching TV and trolling social media more this month, so bringing back my push to read more seems appropriate. Just picked up this book today and I’m already super into it – fingers crossed it gets me excited to sit down and read again!

Write about what I’m passionate about. This blog has been a lot of things over time – part journal, part travel diary, part soap box – and, although I’m glad to have tried out a bunch of things, I’d like to get a better sense of what I’m most excited to write about. I think it’s really easy to get caught up in seeing what other people are doing and think that that’s what you need to do, but I’ve found the posts I feel the best about and that people respond to the most are the ones that I feel most fired up about. Whether it’s feminism or style or art, I can tell when I’m writing something that feels important. This month I want to lean into that. I want to write about what I’m talking about with my friends and what I’m ranting about to my mom. It makes me feel vulnerable, but I think it will lead me in the right direction with the posts I put up here. I’m excited to see what happens!

Go on walks. It’s that time of year where I just physically can’t stand to be inside anymore. Wisconsin winters are tough and working in a windowless office for so long makes the cabin fever even more intense, so walks seem like a good solution – even if it’s cold out! Whether listening a podcast or at least making myself go get a coffee in the morning, I think being out in the world will make me more present and feel engaged with humanity again, which feels important lol.

Try something new. I feel like I got pretty thoroughly stuck into the hibernation routine this winter and now that Spring is on the way (maybe? hopefully?) I think mixing things up a little bit will help me break the wine-and-grey’s-anatomy cycle. I want to try some restaurants that have been on my list forever, change up my workout classes, and generally try to be a little more open to new things this March.

That’s it for this month! I’ll check back in at the beginning of April and let you know how things go. And I’d be interested to hear how anyone else’s New Years Resolutions are going – I feel like it’s the time of year where they’ve either completely fallen away or you’ve gotten into the habit. Let me know!

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What I’m Focusing On This February : Resolutions 2018

Girl Standing in a Doorway Sweater and Jeans

Hey all! As I mentioned in this post, I’m doing my New Years resolutions a little bit differently this year: instead of making one huge (and likely unattainable) goal for the year, I’m breaking down each month into smaller goals. Makes sense, right? January was my first month giving this a go so I’ve got a little recap of how things went and then I’m sharing what made the cut for February. Check it out!

Girl Standing in a Doorway Sweater and Jeans

Sunglasses: Ray Ban , Sweater: Vintage Escada by Margaretha Ley , Jeans: Urban Outfitters (last worn here) , Shoes: Adidas Stan Smith

 

First things first: I need to check in with my January resolutions. A couple went pretty well, while the others I think I’m going to revisit in some form or another for February…

Start journaling regularly again. I did this! I’m not at my full three pages every morning, but I’m at least sitting down to write for a little bit each day. I’m not going to keep it as a resolution for next month because it’s something I’m already in the habit of doing, but I’m happy I got back on the wagon.

Drink more tea. I also did this! I’ve been really intentional about cutting down on my caffeine intake this month by switching to tea, decaf, or half-caf. It’s nice to have an alcohol-free option that still feels like I’m taking time to unwind. I’m not totally seeing the effects on my anxiety and sleep patterns that I was hoping to, but I have noticed how much more jittery I get if I do have regular, so obviously something’s going on. I’ve got a giant tub of half-caf Folger’s in my cupboard, so I don’t think I need to keep reminding myself to do this in February.

Be more consistent with my blog posts. I’m still working on this one. I got a couple of posts out that I feel really good about – particularly my Marie Kondo one – but I think working more on the blog and social media in general is going to be something I keepcoming back to. I like this as a first step, though. It really is about getting into the habit of making content and thinking ahead (that’s the part I’m not so great at). More to come on this front.

Read more instead of watching TV. I had a couple of great days – and even finished a book! – but generally this is another one I can do better on. The last few days I’ve put on some music (Ella Fitzgerald Spotify radio) and read while eating dinner and that’s gone really well! I’m also a really big momentum person when it comes to reading. I finished a book yesterday and started another today, so I’m hoping this will put me in a good spot to get some good reading done in February, too. Carrying this one over into February because I think I can do better.

Overall, I feel pretty good about my first month of smaller resolutions! I like that they’re action-oriented and I can actually do them. Those little wins make a big difference! I’m still feeling pretty motivated, so I’ve laid out a few things to work on next month…

Here are a few things I want to focus on in February:

Don’t look at my phone first thing in the morning. Every morning the first thing I do is reach for my phone and go on Instagram. Honestly, I do it because looking at a screen helps wake me up, but I don’t love how I feel looking at social media first thing in the morning. I like having a quiet, reflective morning routine and reading the news or checking Twitter just sort of bums me out, ya know? I’ve been threatening for ages to get an alarm clock instead, so maybe the time is now.

Scroll through Instagram less. Another social media related one and this one is going to be a hard habit to break. How often have I gone on my phone to check the weather or an email and I end up scrolling through Instagram for five minutes? Spoiler: at least five times a day. If I’m just hanging out watching the Bachelor that’s one thing, but I’d like to cut down on the mindless scrolling I do getting ready in the morning, on my lunch break, and just whenever I have down time. I’m in pretty deep with this one, but it’s worth a try.

Stick to my editorial calendar. Last month I tried to be more consistent with my posts and I did okay, but I’d like to keep improving here. The challenge for me is thinking ahead – I get so into whatever post I’m working on right now that I don’t think about what’s next. Then my momentum sinks and it’s hard to pick it up again. I’ve put together editorial calendars in the past, but this month my goal is to take it seriously. Setting deadlines for myself has been a constant challenge for me, but it’s time to step up and keep the ball rolling on here.

Meditate. I’ve had two or three meditation apps sitting on my phone for almost a year now and have used them… once? Maybe? I always make excuses as to why I don’t meditate (I’m too tired I would just fall asleep, I don’t want to pay for a subscription to the app, I already go to yoga, etc.), but whenever I have tried it consistently I’ve loved it. A blogger I follow has done it for 100 days straight and says its really helped her anxiety, too. Worth a shot!

Reading more consistently. Bringing this one back for another go!

I’ll report back at the end of February with how things have gone! I think a few of these are going to require a little bit of research into techniques that work or apps that can be helpful, so I’ll post all of that come March. If you have any advice for my February resolutions, I’d love to hear!

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All of my Feelings About Marie Kondo’s Famous Cleaning Method

Over New Years weekend I embarked on a cleaning mission: to clear out my entire apartment using Marie Kondo’s KonMari Method. If you don’t keep up with the latest in Japanese tidying trends, the KonMari method is a quirky style of cleaning that touts the benefits of discarding anything that doesn’t bring you joy. It made waves a few years ago when Kondo’s book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up hit the New York Times Best Seller List and Marie Kondo was propelled into domestic goddess status. To be honest, the whole concept felt a little new agey for me (it’s like one step down from believing in healing crystals), but one of my best friends recommended it and I desperately needed to clean out my apartment, so I gave it a go.

I’ll be real: The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up is a weird book. Part memoir describing Marie Kondo’s strange childhood obsession with cleaning, part practical guide to cleaning out your home, and part spiritual guide. It’s sort of Thich Nhat Hanh meets Martha Stewart. It’s very specific, sort of repetitive, and all around self promotional. But Marie Kondo is a good saleswoman and I’m buying it.

I shared a lot of my #KonMariWeekend on Instagram Stories a few weeks back, but wanted to write up some thoughts now that I’m a few weeks out. In this post I’m breaking down the basics principles of the method, what I did each day, and my overall results, if you’re interested.

The Fundamentals

I won’t go into the specifics (you’ll just have to take the book out of the library like I did for those), but there are a few main principles that you’re supposed to follow pretty closely:

  • Keep only what sparks joy. This is basically the main takeaway of the book – while sorting through everything, notice what objects make you light up with joy. Keep those. Get rid of everything else.
  • Sort by category, not by location. Another KonMari fundamental is to avoid the mistake of sorting room-by-room. Instead gather every item of a certain genre together (clothes, books, papers, etc.) and then sort through them all at once.
  • Finish discarding first then put everything away. Once you start thinking about where to keep things, you’re no longer listening to that voice that’s telling you what brings you joy. Focus on one stage of the process at a time.
  • Make tidying a special event, not a daily chore. Do as much as you can as quickly as you can – don’t lose momentum. Once you know everything you own and you know you love it, cleaning becomes easier and less time-consuming.

The Game Plan

I did my #KonMariWeekend over four days. I gave myself 1 day to prep, 2 days to sort, and 1 day to get rid of everything. I’ve slowly been putting things back into place ever since, which you’re not supposed to do, but I had to go back to work eventually. Here’s how each day went…

Day One: Prep

Day one was pretty easy, to be honest. I was actually kind of nervous about committing to the process and wanted to ease into it. Sort of a cop out, but I’m still glad I took a day to mentally and logistically prepare.

On prep day I:

  • Finished reading the book. Obvi this was important. Plus, I took a few notes about things like what order I’m supposed to sort my clothes in because she’s really specific about stuff like that.
  • Got all my supplies together. I used: lots of garbage bags, paper bags, moving boxes, tape, and scissors.
  • Did all my laundry. This is the first thing that Marie Kondo suggests you sort through so this way I would be ready to go (and wouldn’t have an excuse to keep anything).

I also worked out, made some food for the next few days, and went to bed early. Guys, I treated this event like the Olympics. Prep day ruled because it was easy and still useful.

 Days Two and Three: Sort

Have you ever exhausted yourself by thinking too much? Does this only happen to me? Because that’s a great way to sum the next two days of #KonMariWeekend. Going through literally every item you own and making a decision about it is really mentally taxing, let me tell ya.

But I also think this is the most meaningful part of the process. In the book, Marie Kondo references (many times) that her method changes people’s lives. Through the process of cleaning their homes people discover long lost passions, change careers, realize the unhappiness of their marriage, things like that. Although this didn’t happen to me (spoiler alert), I do understand how it could happen to someone. Bear with me.

I’m a big believer in listening to your gut and this process is a great way to tune into that. You learn what it feels like to hold something you love versus something you resent. You’re asking yourself over and over again “what brings me joy?”. It’s this process of tuning into your feelings that can easily be applied beyond the cleaning process. During my sorting days I found myself wondering if other things in my life were really bringing me joy. The food I eat? The friends that I have? The work I do? I’m pretty in tune with that stuff at a high-level, but it was really interesting to feel that same ultra-specific discernment happening in other aspects of my life. I can definitely see how someone who has never listened to their gut could be deeply transformed by this method.

Overall, the sorting process wasn’t as difficult as I thought it was going to be. In past major clean outs, I often felt a pang of regret about giving something away, but anything that I loved that much I just kept even if I never use it. And that’s what I like about this method: it takes into account how emotionally invested we are in the objects we have. It doesn’t set arbitrary numbers or daily goals – you’re empowered to decide what is worthy of staying in your life, which I think makes people a lot more likely to stay tidy, too. It was a lot of work and I really had to be in the right mindset for it, but this was by far the most effective clean out I’ve ever done and I haven’t regretted getting rid of a single thing.

Day Four: Get rid of Everything

This is oddly the day that is completely unmentioned in Marie Kondo’s book. I don’t know if all the posh Japanese people who hire her just get other people to haul away all their junk, but this was definitely the longest and hardest day of them all. I got rid of 3 car loads of stuff – which is amazing if I do say so myself –  but wow did it suck to move all of it by myself!

Everything basically got brought to Goodwill, which is my go-to for donations. They have a great mission, they’re everywhere, and they take donations at really convenient hours. I would have loved to give more to local charities, but honestly, I was really just itching to get all of this stuff out of my apartment so I didn’t do the research I could have. If you end up doing this, do consider donating to lesser known local charities – they need our help, too!

There’s not much to say about this day other than I was physically exhausted by the end of it. There aren’t many days in my life where I do this kind of manual labor and I certainly have a knew found respect for those who do. After dropping off my last car load (I saved books for last, which was such a rookie mistake), I came home, cracked open a beer, and made myself a steak. And it was great.

Afterwards: Putting Everything Back

So, this is the part of the Marie Kondo method where I sort of fell off the wagon: once you discard everything you’re supposed to organize your home and give everything a place. I didn’t do this right away – I had to go back to work believe it or not – but it did get done over the next week.

I honestly didn’t change where I put that many things, despite Marie Kondo having lots of theories about this, but I was amazed at how much easier it is to clean my apartment now that it’s empty. Putting clothes away no longer involves a strategic method of figuring out what hangers I have available and then pushing my mountain of clothes one way or the other just to hang something up. My dishes actually fit in my drying rack. My coat closet closes entirely for the first time since I moved in. They’re small victories, but it’s nice.

And I think that’s what Marie Kondo is all about: improving our lives through a series of small, joyful, and intentional decisions. Objects are a necessary part of life – sometimes you just need stuff – so why not try to make our objects a source of joy?

General Thoughts

When I first moved into my apartment, I literally took anything I could get my hands on. I was starting my first job, I had no money (I literally outfitted my kitchen using gift cards), and I had a bunch of family members moving at once, so I just vultured what I could from people. I ended up with a hodgepodge of things that totally weren’t me. For that time in my life, though, that was totally okay. Maybe they weren’t intentional, but those things brought me joy – the joy of having my first apartment to call my own, the joy of making dinner in my own kitchen, the joy of figuring out how I wanted to live alone.

But as I’ve figured those things out, it became time to change. Over the last year and a half, I’ve become someone I hardly recognize – confident in my career, excited about the future, discerning about who I spend my time with – and now I need a space that reflects that. Cleaning has always had profound meaning to people as the chance to start over and I think that’s why I wanted to do this in the first place. I felt new.

Does this method have issues? Absolutely. For one, it wreaks of wealth and privilege – the ability to own whatever makes you happy just isn’t attainable for everyone. I ended up keeping things that don’t bring me joy because I need them and I can’t afford to buy a new one. Sure, an entire kitchen filled with Anthropologie dishware would certainly make me happy, but that’s not going to happen right now.

I also thought it was interesting that Marie Kondo never mentions the process of getting rid of all your stuff because this was another part of the method that felt privileged, too. Either you are able to move all of it out yourself, you have friends who can take time off to help you, or you can afford to hire someone to move everything for you and those aren’t always options for people.

So, it isn’t perfect and I completely understand if this method isn’t for you for those reasons or because the whole thing just doesn’t resonate with you. I approached this at a particular time in my life with a good deal of resources and I really liked it, but I was definitely a skeptic, too. Will I be folding my socks like sushi so they can rest at night? No. But did I feel like this was an effective cleaning method? For me, yes.

My biggest takeaway out of the whole experience is that it’s made me more aware of the effect objects have on my emotions. I was shocked by how many things I resented (ill fitting tops, broken kitchen utensils, grimy bathroom products) so it felt really good to get rid of them. I’ve also noticed a change in my buying habits – I’m much intentional about buying things and don’t feel as attached to things I purchase, either. Although I don’t think I had as profound a reaction as some of Kondo’s clients, the whole process has made my whole life feel a little bit lighter and that counts as a win in my book.

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Why I’m Doing Resolutions A Little Bit Differently This Year

This year, I’ve decided to forgo big, yearlong resolutions because they simply don’t work for me! Making a huge proclamation at the beginning of the year is simply setting myself up for failure. I know myself well enough at this point to know that I get easily derailed by goals like that. If I miss a day or something unexpected comes along, I get completely upended and feel like I can’t get back on the horse.

I definitely still have yearlong goals: to feel more fulfilled in my career and to make decisions that are right for me instead of fixating on what other people think I should do. But they’re really big goals and where do I even begin? Taking a huge, nebulous project and breaking it down into small, achievable steps is what I do at work all the time, so I’m curious if this will translate to my personal goals.

So, I’ve decided to do something different this year: to break down my resolutions into smaller, more realistic goals. Each month I will set a few intentions for myself that I want to work on and that I feel will bring me closer to my big, year-long resolutions. This gives me the flexibility to try new strategies and to react to what lives brings along, while still giving me some structure and momentum. I hope a new approach will help me be more realistic, less discouraged, and focused on creating good habits instead of reaching arbitrary goals that don’t suit me anymore.

With all that said, this is an experiment. Part of doing what’s right for me is letting myself try new things and then not judging myself if they don’t work out. I’m going to give it the old (women’s) college try and see how I feel about it. And you guys know me, I can’t resist a good personal project!

Here are my goals for January of 2018:

  • Start journaling regularly again. I went through a period over the summer where I journaled first thing every morning (as part of The Artist’s Way program) and I really took to it. Having that space to reflect and sort through my feelings first thing in the morning was a relief and I think it will make me happy to bring that back for a while.
  • Drink more tea. This may seem random, but it stems from a couple of issues I’ve been having. I want to drink less caffeine because it aggravates my anxiety (science here) and less alcohol because I think it’s the culprit behind some stomach issues I’ve been having. I like having something to sip on at night, though, that feels luxurious and relaxing so I think herbal tea will be a good substitute. Any other suggestions of what to reach for instead?
  • Be more consistent with my blog posts. I feel like I’m starting to get into a rhythm with my posts and I want to keep that up (and do even more!). I’m really starting to focus on what I want this space to be – what I want to talk about, what my voice is, etc. And I know the best way to figure those things out is to write more! Keep your eyes peeled for more good stuff here.
  • Read more instead of watching TV. I’m trying to avoid numerical goals like “read 2 books” or “spend 1 night a week reading” because these ultimately aren’t what help me reach goals. I want to read more in general and I know I will if I make a habit of reaching for a book instead of turning on Netflix.

That’s it for January – I figure that will be enough to focus on for the next several weeks. At the end of the month, I’ll do a check in about how these went and set some new intentions for February (or continue with some of these). I like documenting this kind of personal growth stuff, so I think this will be a fun little project that I can continue to revisit regularly.

Are you setting resolutions this year? Do you think the whole thing is a scam to get people to buy gym memberships? I always like hearing. 🙂 And check out my favorite moments from 2017 along with a few things I’m really proud of in this post.

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My Favorite Moments of 2017 & A Few Things I’m Really Proud Of

I actually can’t believe this year is over! It’s gone by so fast, but, not gonna lie, I feel like it lasted forever. Hands down, I have grown more this year than any other. The person I was in January is completely different than the person I am now in December. I’m more independent and confident in every aspect of my life and I’m so proud of that. But, wow, did it come with some challenges.

2017 certainly wasn’t the year that I wanted, but it was absolutely the year that I needed.

A few things that I’m particularly proud of myself for this year:

  • Doing more things by myself. Moving to a new city can be intimidating, but I feel like I really rose to the occasion. I’ve spent the year going to bars alone for an after work beer, taking classes at UW-Madison in dance and writing by myself, and going on walks by the lake on my own. I have always loved hanging out with myself and I feel like I got to cherish that this year.
  • Facing my fear of living alone. Although I’ve always enjoyed doing things by myself, I have always harbored a fear of living alone. I often have trouble falling asleep and get nervous when it’s time for bed and, although I still get it sometimes, I feel the anxiety subsiding a lot these days. It may not be perfect, but I’ve lived alone for over a year now and that feels pretty good.
  • Feeling like a young professional. When I started at work, I had total imposter syndrome and for good reason! I was an arts grad doing really technical work in an industry I’d never even heard of. But I’ve learned a ton and really embraced a logical side of my brain that had apparently gone dormant. I’m now comfortable giving big presentations, confident voicing my opinion about technology and business, and have a level of professionalism that only a corporate job can unwillingly instill in you. Work has been fraught for me this year, but I’m definitely better for it.
  • Getting into a more consistent workout routine. I’ve been pretty active ever since I started exercising back in high school, but I really found a routine that works for me this year. Running has always been my staple, but mixing it up with hot yoga and HIIT workouts has made me stronger, more toned, and more challenged than I’ve ever been. I’m more consistent and more excited to workout these days, which feels really good. Next year, I want to branch out even more and try boxing or strength training – they feel so much more approachable now.

On top of all that, my year was punctuated with some pretty amazing moments. I’ve gone on some amazing trips, I’ve enjoyed Madison soooo much, and am constantly reminded how amazing my friends are and how strong my family is. I picked out a few photos of some of my highlights, if you’re interested…

The Women’s March

What a way to start the year! It was the first time I felt proud of my country in a long, long time. Who’s ready to march again in 2018?

A Quick Trip to Florida

A short trip, but it was certainly some much needed sunshine after a long Wisconsin winter. I spent most of the trip drinking coronas and reading on the back deck of the hotel and, honestly, it was perfect.

My Graduation from Trinity College Dublin

Definitely my proudest moment of 2017. I almost didn’t go back for graduation, but it was such an amazing bookend to my time at Trinity. It was great to see all my grad school friends, to be back at all my favorite Dublin spots, and really let it soak in that I got a Masters degree! Cheers to that!

The Most Amazing Trip to Japan

Hands down, best trip I’ve ever been on! I would probably do 2017 all over again just to go back. Seeing my best friend from college, Betsy, was so great – it had been almost 3 years – and getting to experience Japan through her eyes was incredible. Japan is seriously magical. I don’t know how to explain it, but if you ever get the chance to go – do it!

A Great Summer in Madison

After all my travels in the Spring, I was sooo ready to hang out in Madison for the summer. My friends and I spent every Monday night watching The Bachelorette at the local bar, we drank pitchers at the Union Terrace, went to street festivals, hit up the farmers market every Saturday morning, ran a 5K with my mom (her first!), and spent Sunday afternoons going on long runs around town. It fucking rocked.

A Fun (But Challenging) Trip to Colorado

My biggest work accomplishment of the year was this trip I did to Colorado: it was a week of big customer presentations that I organized and moderated myself. It was really nerve racking, but I ended up doing really well, got great facetime with customers (I usually talk to people on the phone), and was really proud of myself for taking on such a big challenge. Was definitely happy to relax with a weekend in Boulder with the parents after all that!

Running My Fifth Half Marathon

I hadn’t run a half marathon in over 2 years, so this was the most nervous I’d been about a race in a long time. Despite getting sick the week before the race, I trained really well and was really happy with the experience overall. I actually enjoyed my long Sunday runs around Madison and nothing beats running onto Lake Shore Drive on a beautiful morning to hundreds of people cheering you on. The pizza and beer at the end didn’t hurt either!

Home for the Holidays

I ended the year on a high note. A great, chill week at home catching up with my family and friends was exactly how I wanted to spend my Christmas. A lot has changed this year – and a lot more will change next year, I’m sure – but that feeling of driving through the town I grew up in feels exactly the same every time.

What were you favorite (or most challenging) moments of 2017? I feel like we all sort of got bowled over this year, so I’m happy to to have a fresh start. And I don’t know, I have a good feeling about 2018. I feel like I’ve gotten through the worst of things for a while and I’m really ready to dive into the new year. Would love to hear your highlights, too!

Also, here are a few blog posts about some of my favorite moments, if you fancy reading more:

  • Read more about Japan here, here, here, and here.
  • Learn more about my summer in Madison here.
  • See some of my favorite snapshots from my Colorado trip here.
  • Check out all my favorite spots in Dublin here.
  • Read more reflections on my first year in Madison here.
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My Favorite Christmas Traditions + A Festive Jumpsuit

Christmas Tree Wine

 

Christmas Tree Model

I started celebrating Christmas a little earlier than usual this year (because Lord knows we need any excuse for some joy these days) and I’m starting to get so excited, guys! I broke out the decorations, put up my little Christmas tree, tuned into the local Christmas station – I’m totally admiring my handiwork as we speak!

I’ve even done a good amount of my gift shopping, which has to be some kind of record because I famously wait until the last minute every year. All this holiday spirit made me want to share some thoughts on the holidays including the best Christmas tree ever and where not to see the Nutcracker this year…

 

Christmas Tree Ornament

Putting Up the (Aluminum) Christmas Tree

My mom’s never been one to do things the traditional way, but when it came to buying a new christmas tree she really outdid herself. We’ve always had fake trees because she’s allergic to pine (it’s actually a secret dream of mine to get a real one just to see what it would be like – sorry mom!) so we grew up putting the tree together, untangling the lights, the whole nine yards.

A few years back she said she’d ordered a new one online – let’s say we were not expecting it to be silver and made out of metal. My brother and I thought she was insane! But of course, now it’s my favorite thing ever and I can’t wait to have one of my own some day.

 

Laughing Christmas Wine

Drinking Mulled Wine at Christkindlmarket

This is definitely our newest tradition, but it feels like one we’ve been doing for years. My mom moved downtown a few years ago and I have to say that nothing beats Christmas in the city. Everything is lit up and Christmas is everywhere – I literally went to a random bar last last weekend and Santa was there! (I got so weirdly star stuck!)

Christkindlmarket on Daley Plaza has become our go to for a dose of Christmas spirit. We get mugs of mulled wine, eat potato pancakes, and browse through the incredible collection of handmade glass ornaments. They seriously have everything. My dream is to one day have an entire Christmas tree of alcoholic beverage ornaments and this is definitely where I’ll start – the Germans know what’s up!

 

Laughing Christmas Model

Seeing the Nutcracker

I’ve been a longtime fan of ballet – I danced all the way up until senior year of college and always felt really lucky to have one of the best ballet companies right at our doorstep, the Joffrey. So, of course, we frequented their version of the Nutcracker every year. I remember crying the first time I saw it (I know, cheesy lol) because it’s just a really incredible production.

Unfortunately, they decided to change things up last year and maybe we’re just curmudgeonly creatures of habit, but we felt like it missed the magic of the old version. We’re going to give the Madison Ballet’s version a try this year so fingers crossed! Regardless of the production itself, it’s just so nice to get dressed up, people watch, and drink champagne at intermission. Really looking forward to it this year!

 

Christmas Tree Ornaments

Getting Baked

I need no excuse to bake, but Christmas makes baking seem extra cozy and wonderful. I pour myself a glass of red wine, put on a Christmas movie, and I’m a happy little clam. Plus, I have an office filled with hungry developers to eat all my leftovers!

My go-to are classic chocolate chip cookies (I swear by the Martha Stewart recipe – they stay soft for days), but I’ve been trying to branch out lately. This year, I want to go total classic and do gingerbread. I’ve never actually made them before, but I think I’m ready for a little bit of a challenge. Frankly, I’m more worried about the decorating than the baking – I’m honestly tragic at that sort of thing. Keep an eye out for some total fails!

 

Christmas Tree Wine

Spending Time with My Family and Friends

I know, I know this is the most cliche answer ever… But it is genuinely my favorite part of the holidays. As I mentioned on Instagram recently, the holidays can be really tough. I know the years after my parents got divorced I dreaded the holidays – it was hard to see our family traditions change and I always felt like I was letting one parent down by being with the other.

But we all got older and made new traditions and I’ve really come to learn that home can be anywhere when you have the right people. It’s still not perfect and we always manage to find something stupid to fight about, but we also always figure it out and I feel lucky that I have a family who loves me enough to fight for our time together. Sappy, yes, but true!

 

Christmas Tree Wine

Last thing: can we talk about this jumpsuit for a second?! I love that it’s subtly festive and can totally be dressed up or down – I might wear it with heels to the Nutcracker next week or with slippers to lounge around in on Christmas Day. It’s the perfect cross between formal wear and pajamas, which is my ideal holiday outfit aesthetic.

I stopped into Anthropologie last week do some Christmas shopping and of course immediately found something for myself… I’m not sure if it’s still going on, but they were having a 40% off sale on sale items in store, which is a whopper for them. If you love Anthro, but gawk at their prices it’s a great time to pick up some goodies as gifts or, if you’re like me, as a little secret santa to yourself.

What are you guys up to for the holidays? Do you have any fun holiday traditions that have stuck? Funnily enough we don’t have anything in particular we do on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day, we focus mainly on the lead up to Christmas, but I always love to hear what other families do!

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