Ten years…Where am I now?

When May of this year came and went, it deeply resonated with me. Ten years ago I graduated college. Ten years ago I was a lost soul, and had absolutely no idea what I wanted to do or where I wanted to go. I’m pretty sure this is a common phenomenon: the plight of the recent college grad. Up until this point, your life has been pretty scripted: get good grades and go to a good college. In college, get good grades and you’ll get a good job. The problem for me (and probably many others) is that I really wasn’t sure what I wanted to do, or rather, I knew what interested me, but the idea was a bit too abstract. I knew I wanted to do something in the environmental/conservation field, and frankly that idea changed weekly. At one point I wanted to be Jane Goodall. During another point, I wanted to work in environmental law. I can (un)successfully say that I ended up doing neither; however, I did stay true to my interests and have been working in biodiversity conservation (=bonafide bunny hugger).

These past ten years I have been going with the flow – there is no true goal or definitive direction. It has more-or-less been an amorphous journey of exploring new opportunities and then seeing what happens.  It’s been a life experiment.

As I look towards my future and attempt to create a new path for myself, I can’t help but look back on what I’ve done because I don’t think I could have planned, thought of, or dreamt of what I have done. It’s not that its all that crazy, or life-altering, but it is certainly not what I had planned. Then again, I didn’t have anything planned, so perhaps that’s why this reflection has fascinated me. Perhaps if Robin from 2004 really did sit down and make goals, maybe I would have accomplished more. Who really knows… Maybe, I’m not meant to be a planner, but I’m meant to be a fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants kind of gal.  That approach seems to have worked so far…

Regardless, upon making my list, I had a very self-satisfying moment, a rare instant where I was actually proud of myself. It was a time where I’m not comparing myself to anyone else, which subsequently makes me feel like I’m worthless. I’m a helpless perfectionist, so nothing I do is ever really praise worthy – I can always do better. But, this list made me smile – a lot. Heck, I even printed it out and hung it over my desk in an effort to keep me inspired to do more.

Now, I’m trying to piece together a vision of my next ten years because they obviously have to kick this past ten-year’s ass.  Bring it on 2024!

How I spent my life in 10 years:  2004-2014

Vacation hangover

Coming back from vacation and facing reality is a hard pill to swallow.  It may be one of the most depressing events that we willingly and repeatedly do to ourselves.  We work really hard, sometimes at jobs that crush our delicate souls and are mind-numbingly dull.  We save our money and hoard our vacation time.  Then we’re off, like a bat out of hell, where there is no looking back, yet there is only blue skies and sunshine ahead. There aren’t any nagging bosses, or stressful unanswered emails or annoying coworkers.  It’s a freeing feeling where you feel weightless because there are no responsibilities.  Unfortunately, we’re like a boomerang, and we are forced to come back to the same reality we were initially escaping.  It’s sad, torturous and sadly, it’s a necessary evil. 

It goes without saying that I just got back from vacation, where I spent eight glorious days in Colorado.  The first half of my trip was a skating competition and the back half was just pure fun.  For those magnificent days, my only worries (aside from skating) were eating, taking in the fresh mountain air and just doing a whole lot of nothing.  I should also point out that I think I belong in Colorado – NOT because of the whole pot legalization thing (that’s never been my thing), but because of it’s laid back atmosphere.  At least in Denver and Breckenridge, everyone was happy, stress-free and enjoyed the outdoors.  Nobody seemed to take his or her life for granted.  Ultimately, that’s all I want:  carefree happiness in a beautiful setting.

I’m not saying that my life is difficult or particularly hard – it’s not, not even close.  I know that I’m very lucky for the things that I do have, and I’m eternally grateful for that.  However, I am a Type-A perfectionist, who knows that things could always be better.  Needless to say, I’m always looking for a way to improve upon my already stellar life.  To me, perfection is like a hard-to-attain target – it’s not impossible, but it’s exceedingly difficult.  Because I like a challenge, I’m always striving to hit that unspoiled, obsessive, demanding goal of sheer faultlessness. 

Anyway, while on vacation, I felt like I was the best version of myself.  I was happy and relaxed.  I still had my quick sarcastic comments, but nothing overly snarky.  I woke up every day smiling and was ready to take on the day.  There was nothing that I felt that I couldn’t handle.  It was empowering.  In contrast, back at home in super-uptight Washington, DC, I constantly feel defeated, tired and stressed.  I regularly suffer from debilitating migraines, and I battle feeling truly healthy and energetic.  Perhaps, it’s the environment, as I’m also surrounded by a bunch of intelligent, Type-A perfectionists, so by default, we up ante when it comes to stress.  Maybe, it’s my job.  Maybe, it’s the location.  Who knows?  

Personally, I think my body is just allergic to all things that are not-vacation.  Clearly, I need to live in a world that is a perpetual vacation that is sporadically interrupted by monotony and stress.  Not the other way around.  

I’m sure my utopia would get boring.  I’m sure, in some way that I would miss the professional rat race.  It’s possible that my high achieving self would get angry that I’m wasting my brain and my expensive science degrees on doing a whole lot of (happy) nothing.  I would probably begin to feel unfulfilled, but in a different way.  On top of that, all of my happiness would suck my sarcasm right out of my body.  I thrive on sarcasm, and it’s a trait of mine that has only gotten stronger as I’ve grown older (and more jaded).  It’d be weird to not see life through my acerbic lens.  So, until I can figure out how to have the perfect life of a perpetual vacation that is both professionally and personally rewarding, I will continue to daydream and do my best to pay attention at work until this vacation hangover passes.

Beautiful, glorious Breckenridge Colorado

Beautiful, glorious Breckenridge Colorado

Stuck in a Groundhog’s Day/time-warp conversation

Dear crazy-neighborhood lady,

I should first point out that you aren’t crazy in the clinically, mentally deranged sort of way, but there is something slightly off with you.  So, my apologies for not knowing exactly what to call you.  This is what I know about you:  you ride a bike, wear a green helmet, live in my neighborhood and you love my dog.  But, here’s the kicker….  you and I have the same conversation over and over again.  It is the Groundhog’s Day of conversations.  To me, it’s a bit nutty that this happens, let alone time and time again.  It makes me think that perhaps the lights are on, but no one’s home.  Or maybe, you just don’t have the social normalcy that you probably should have at this stage in your life.   Let me paint a picture for you to let you know how this interaction happens.

You are on your bike and you are wearing an army green helmet.  I am walking my adorable dog, Binnie.  As soon as you see Binnie, you get off your bike.  Then, verbatim, this is what happens:

Crazy lady with green helmet:  Oooooooh my, what a cute dog you have.  Is she friendly?*

*(You ask after you have already stuck your face in Binnie’s face.  Thankfully, for you, she’s a sweetheart)

Me:  Thanks.  I certainly think so.

CLWGH: Oooooooh, what a love.  Is she a puppy?

Me: No, she’s an adult – a rescue.  We think she’s about 8, but we’re not sure.

CLWGH:  I’m not allowed to have dogs in my building.  I have a cat, but it’s not the same.

Me:  That stinks you can’t have a dog.  They are wonderful companions.

CLWGH:  What’s her name?

Me:  Binnie

CLWGH:  Is she a pitbull?

Me:  We think so, but again, she’s a rescue, so who really knows.

CLWGH: Binnie – you look like you have a great life!

Me:  We spoil her rotten.

CLWGH:  Well, bye Binnie.  I hope to see you in the neighborhood soon.

You then proceed to get on your bike and ride off into your time-warped sunset.

Let me point out a few things.  For starters, you and I have had this conversation for at least 2 years, and it happens about every two months.  Secondly, you never look me in the face, so perhaps that is why you don’t recognize me; however, my dog has a very distinctive look, so I fail to understand why you don’t recognize her, especially because you fawn over her like a grandmother dotes on her grandchildren.  Thirdly and probably most importantly, at any point during our conversation, does it ever occur to you that maybe we’ve met and had this conversation?  Because, it should.  The fact that it doesn’t ring a bell makes me worried about you.  How do you function in everyday life?  Do you actually live in the movie Groundhog’s Day? How do you hold down a normal job?  You seem intelligent, and friendly, so I’d like to think that you’re employed.  Perhaps, you have a job where you’re perpetually doing the same thing, which seems to be a real talent of yours.

Anyway, you seem nice and certainly anyone that loves Binnie is ok in my book.  Hopefully, after reading this perhaps you’ll realize this trend of a constant, time-loop of a conversation because frankly, it’s weird.  Now, when I see you on the street, I run to the other side.  Not because I don’t want to talk to you, but because I just don’t want to have the same conversation again… for the hundredth time.  Maybe, like Bill Murry’s character, you are trying to improve yourself and learn as many things about the locals as possible to find satisfaction your life.  Or maybe, most likely, you are perfectly pleasant, but just totally socially inept.  In the meantime, I will continue to avoid you in the neighborhood.

Best wishes,

Robin

The Relationship Spectrum

Relationships aren’t always black or white. There seems to be a murky gray area in between because both parties aren’t always on the same page. There seems to be a spectrum ranging from not-so-much-a-relationship to marriage.  As smart as some of my girlfriends are, I’ve found that they don’t always understand where they stand in their relationships, or they choose to not fully understand their “relationship.” Ignorance is bliss, right?  Not so much.  It’s time to face the facts.   Use this conjunction with Is He My Boyfriend and you’ll never be confused about your ‘relationship’ again.

Where does your relationship lie on the spectrum?

Where does your relationship lie on the spectrum?

Things that annoy me, Part 1

I’m easily annoyed.  I know this.  Obviously, I think things should be done my way, on my time scale.  The world would be a much better place if it were.  At least that’s my humble opinion.

Today’s grievance:  asshats, or people that are so selfish that their head is shoved so far up their own tushy that they do not exist in reality.MrAsshat

To a certain extent, we are all selfish.  It’s human nature – a survival skill, really.  We HAVE to look out for ourselves because no one else really is.  However, there is a fine line between taking care of your needs and being a total, giant, selfish asshat.

Characteristics of asshat-ery:

First and foremost, asshats come in all shapes and sizes, which can be incredibly deceptive.    In my experience, I’ve come across three groups of asshats, though I’m sure more exist.  Generally speaking, I try to avoid these people at all costs, but sometimes they are cleverly disguised.  One must look out for the characteristics before deciding to turn and run.

First, there are the obvious asshats.  Those individuals believe that the world, in fact DOES revolve around them, that their problems are the most noteworthy, that their achievements are incomparable.   They are difficult to miss.  I’m pretty sure the entire Kardashian clan fits in this group.

A less obvious group is the sneak-attack asshat.  These people talk about their big hearts and all the wonderful things they do for humanity.  They practice yoga and feed the homeless.  They don’t raise their voices.  They “listen,” or at least they make you think that they listen.  They aren’t.  They’ve practiced the art of thoughtful deception.   They are anxiously awaiting the proper moment to turn the conversation back to them.   It’s ninja-like asshat trickery at its finest.

Another group is the repeat offenders of asshat-edness.  Yes, sure, it’s known that these people have had selfish behavior in the past, but you decided to look past it because, you are a sucker (like me).  You think the friendship is mutual, but in fact, it is very much one-sided, and regrettably, it is not in your favor.

Upon looking closely at these repeat offenders in my life, there seems to be a trend – they happen to be actual friends that exist in my inner circle.  How is that possible?  They tend to seek out help, advice, and praise more than most.  In the same vein, they seem to be incredibly thankful for the time and energy that I’ve wasted on their miniscule problems, but I do it because I have a big heart (=sucker).  Because they are overtly appreciative, I don’t actually realize that it’s a trap – that they will not return the same energy to me should I need it.  In my own opinion, it’s almost the worst kind of selfishness because it’s entirely deceptive.

My problem is that 99% of the time I’m a perfectly composed, yet irritable individual (that in itself is not the problem).  I don’t need extra praise or advice.  I can figure it out on my own (or I call my mother, as mothers know everything).  It’s not often that I have a moment where I need friendly advice.  When that moment does happen, for some reason I tend to go to the same asshat repeat offenders.  I know better, yet I apparently love the torture of it.

2013: a personal retrospective

pig_roadThe end of one year is always the time that I take a moment to reflect on me, who I’ve become, and of course, what is it that I want to be.  I know that I’m not the only person who does this.   I’m also pretty sure that’s why people set New Year’s Resolutions – to make those changes about themselves that they didn’t like in the previous year.  Of course, the majority of us then quickly forget those resolutions before the month of January is over.   On a side note, that is why February is the BEST month to go to the gym.  Everyone that set a goal to either go to the gym more, or get in shape, has already burned out by February.  True story.

I digress….

For me, 2013 was about setting realistic goals for myself and trying to change behaviors that I know are more or less changeable.  2012 was a hard year for me, and when I say that it’s because I’m a Type-A perfectionist who sets really high standards for myself.   In the grand scheme of it, 2012 was totally fine and I had no real reason to complain.  But let’s face the facts; it is way more gratifying to complain about things, especially small issues, then just sucking it up and NOT complaining.  It’s just human nature.   For that reason, I mentally went into 2013 with a different mindset – I wanted to set marginally high standards with the caveat that some events are totally beyond our control, and to a certain extent we need to learn how to ‘go with the flow’ and ‘not sweat the small stuff.’  As a kid, my mom always told me that things happen for a reason.  Now, in my 30’s, it was time to actually believe it and embrace it.  Alternately, one could look at my resolution at aiming to be mediocre, at best.  I prefer the former…

My fearless sidekick, Binnie, also contemplates her life in 2013

My fearless sidekick, Binnie, also contemplates her life in 2013

If I had to grade myself over the course of the past year, I would give myself a B/B-.  I’m a perfectionist, remember?!  I had a solid performance in determining what makes me exceptionally happy, and to make sure those things happen daily.   Apparently, I’m not fun to be around when I’m cranky.   As nerdy as it sounds, I made a list of the things that make me happy.  Such things include spending time outside, reading a good book, playing with the dog, cooking with my spousal equivalent and skating (a huge passion of mine since childhood).  I made a point to make sure that I accomplished at least one of those each day.  Cheesy I know, but whatever, my wacky plan worked and I’m totally happy, and everyone around me is happy because I’m not cranky.  Success!

Another one of my 2013 resolutions was to figure out my career goals and make serious strides to achieve them.   I have been less successful with achieving this one. As a side note, I’ve been in what I call the “early-mid year career slump.”  I’ve been mentally beating myself up trying to figure out what it is that I want to do with my life.   Subsequently, I have been asking myself what did I THINK I would be doing at this stage in my life.  Clearly, I never quite thought ahead as to what I BELIEVED I would be or should be doing.  Perhaps, that’s my first mistake.  Lesson learned – think ahead, set goals = career slump avoided.

I have a job, and some would say it’s a good job, but I’ve been feeling less than fulfilled.  I’ve always had the poetic notion that a job shouldn’t be a job; it should be something that you are passionate about doing.  I thought my first step would be to establish what my goals are and what makes me happy.  I thought that doing this would help me see my path a lot clearer.  Turns out that was a tall order that couldn’t be accomplished this year.  So, this particular resolution will be rolled over into 2014 with hopes of more success.

Perhaps, figuring out my career goals was not meant to be this year.  Maybe there is some bigger lesson or opportunity that is meant to happen in 2014.  And, isn’t accepting that fact what I wanted to accomplish this year, after all?

Is he my boyfriend? A brutally honest roadmap to happiness

One of my best girl friends found herself in a sticky situation where she was unsure about her relationship status.  Because this was an issue that came up repeatedly (=daily), and my advice was not taken, I decided to make a visual aid.  Perhaps, that would help her better understand reality – a good swift visual kick in the ass.  It worked, eventually – but not because the chart was faulty (she has faulty wiring).

Maybe you are also perplexed about your relationship and question if it ACTUALLY is a relationship?  The chart doesn’t lie.
Is he my boyfriend