Afraid to Fail, January Review, and February Goals

I know I am not a perfect blogger and that makes me stay away from this space.

I have these big expectations in my head about how I should act if I start blogging again. Self-induced pressure to do something the right way or not do it at all.  But a tendency of mine is letting the perfect be the enemy of the good, and that is something I need to continue fighting off because it tends to hold me back.  I have been scared to write here because I don’t know how to be the blogger I want to be, and it’s easier to not be a blogger at all.

So here I am in February showing my cards. I am not going to become a perfect blogger. I’m not going to gain a following and inspire people and create an extra income stream and blow the world away with my words.

But I’m going to try to show up here, anyways. Because I enjoy writing and because I want to chronicle my life.

There are some good things happening in this little world of mine, and I want to keep track of it here.

I decided to create my own sort of happiness project and have a different “focus” each month this year as I try to improve on various aspects of my life. The focus of January was fitness, and I have to say I blew myself away.  I logged 29 workouts in January (that’s only 2 total rest days the whole month). I signed up for Tina Reale’s Best Body Bootcamp and I have stayed committed and motivated, consistently meeting my personal weekly goals and pushing myself pretty hard through the weekly workouts. I spun, ran, kickboxed, yoga-ed, weight lifted, kettlebelled, and rowed in January. I developed some wonderful habits like planning my workouts for the week on Sunday nights and writing them into my planner like appointments. I tried some new classes, thought about which type of workouts suit me best, and pushed myself through some classes that I really didn’t feel like doing.

In four weeks, I have really improved on my physical fitness. Unfortunately, the results are not showing in my measurements right now. In fact, I have gained a pound (though I am convinced it’s muscle), only lost 1/2″ off my waist, and gained 1/2″ in my butt and thighs. Not exactly the results I had in mind. However, it’s the results of the four week fitness test that make me insanely proud. In four weeks, I shaved 2:03 off my mile pace.  I also was able to add 20 seconds to my wall sit hold, and 26 seconds to my plank hold.  In my one minute push-up test I added six reps, and in the one minute burpee test I added two reps. Those results are not something to sneeze at. I worked hard for those increases, and I’m proud of myself. It definitely takes some of the sting out of not losing weight and gaining inches on butt and thighs (UGH). I need to take the advice that I would give to a friend in this situation – I would say weight loss takes time and building muscle is so much more important; don’t focus on the scale, focus on how you feel. Sometimes easier said than done, but I’m trying to smile and keep pushing through.

Let’s talk about February! My focus in February is friends! I have struggled with female relationships and part of the reason is because I don’t always show up 100% for my friends, a habit I am determined to put to rest for good. When I don’t feel close with my girlfriends, it feels like a big part of my life and my happiness is missing. Some of my specific goals are:

  • Reconnect with an old friend
  • Make a new friend
  • Plan a girls night with college girls
  • Send two peices of snail mail
  • Call Anne twice
  • Skype with Chrissy twice
  • Have a heart to heart with Amanda & Lauren
  • Plan a girls trip for the spring

February is a dreary month, so focusing on having fun with my friends seems like a great way to beat the winter blahs!

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Heavy Head

Last night I found a 2009 journal and read it cover to cover and it made me feel very sad.  You see – I was so SAD and disappointed in myself and it was all about losing weight and being fat and counting calories and it made me think… omg I haven’t really changed at all. Sure, in ways I have changed and grown, but at the end of the day I have never been fully happy with myself and what a waste of life that is. What a waste, year after year, wanting to be someone else. Every year disappointed, every year the same thing.

So I decided I’m done. I changed lots of my 2013 goals. I don’t want to lose 10 lbs for the wedding anymore. I want to start eating intentionally and intuitively and view food and fuel and feel the way different foods affect me and choose foods based on how I want to feel. Instead of having a rigid workout schedule I have vowed to move my body 30 mins a day 5 days a week doing things that give me endorphins and make me feel happy.

My whole life, I have been a person whose mind works like this: “When X happens, then I will finally feel Y” and Y usually = happy. X changes depending on the circumstances or what waits for me around the corner.  But I’m sick of putting off my happiness. I am in control and I need to start making it happen NOW.

Well, not now, because today I will feel sad because it’s what is there in my soul, but I won’t let it ruin my day, I won’t let it bring me to tears. I will feel it and acknowledge it and move on. I will try to do things that make me smile, like drink hot chocolate and go to a 5:30pm gym class that I love and send an email to my girlfriend across the country.

Reading my own journals and hearing the sadness from my mini-me perspective is so heartbreaking to me. I can’t decide whether I want to burn or save the journals that chronicle the pain. I can trace it all back to the starting point of sadness… I can remember when I was confident and naive, and then the moment that changed it all at thirteen… the entire middle school finding out and mocking me…. begging my parents to send me to a private high school because I couldn’t stand the humility of my reputation… going to high school falling into numerous rotten relationships with potheads and emotional abusers… tears and tears and feeling unworthy of real love… thinking suicidal thoughts… dating (for three years) one supreme loser towards end of high school/early college and losing the majority of my high school friends and not “allowed” to make new friends at college… developing severe eating disordered tendencies in order to be able to control something when everything else felt like it was collapsing… dumping aforementioned loser…. meeting Keith (cue violin)… bouncing between anorexia and bulimia and losing and regaining thirty pounds… finally feeling happiness and love and fullness but feeling confused because of so many open wounds. That is where we are now.

There are so many happy things right now: I’m engaged to my absolute soulmate (he is not perfect by any means, but he is perfect for me), my relationship with my parents is improving by the day, I have two really great girlfriends and a handful of other friends, I’m finally getting a handle on my money situation finally and not worried about paying bills at the end of each month, I’m a mere five months from completing graduate school, and I possess an intense drive to appreciate life as it is and feel more fulfilled/happy.

Even though I *DO* certainly have regrets from my past, I also believe that every thread of my life quilt has made me who I am. And I am more compassionate/caring for others because of what I went through.

Structure, or lack thereof

Tomorrow marks my three-month anniversary at my job, and I am in need of some serious venting.

This job is so different than anything I have ever done. The people I work with are incredible (they feel like my family, already), the office has some amazing amenities (free gym in the basement? check. partners that often buy us lunch? check. free coffee and snacks? check), and there is potential to make a lot of money at the next level up.  Most importantly, the work I do is cool – I find people to do really cool jobs at some pretty major companies.

There is an incredible amount of flexibility (in schedule, day-to-day work, etc). I have no direct boss. This could be such a cool environment, but I feel like I’m failing.

Even though my boss (and coworkers) say I’m doing a great job, I feel a bit disappointed in myself inside because I know I could be doing so much more.

I used to be a motivated person. There was no one holding my hand through college yet I had the inner drive to get crazy shit done. Lately, that inner drive has been hard to cultivate and I find myself slacking on company time, which is just not like me.

I think this downward turn in my ambition happened when I worked in finance at the bank. I hated what I was doing, so I did whatever I could to avoid doing any work. Unfortunately those habits have stuck with me and I find myself spending way too much time reading blogs or otherwise occupying my day.  I am learning, but it’s not necessarily productive to my current role.

The thing that is confusing to me is: I do have the ability to influence my income if I bust ass. I mean, I won’t be able to make a significant difference in my salary since I only earn 3% on the fees we earn, but 3% of $1,00,000 is $30,000 so it’s not nothing.

I think something I struggle with right now is the lack of deliverables I have to produce. At the end of the day there is no one asking me for updates or reports. My job is to find good candidates for our open roles. It’s so loose and unstructured that I am losing focus and motivation.

I want to succeed in this job. My coworker is in the office 20 hours a week and she earns $250,000 per year. I don’t even desire to obtain that level of compensation, I would be more than happy to contribute $100,000 to our family income. But unless I get out of this funk, I’m never going to be able to do that.

As with most personal “issues” the first step is admitting there is a problem.

Ok, got it: there is definitely a problem.

Now I need to tackle it. And I think the solution is creating my own structure for my day.

My day needs to consist of the following:

  • research for open jobs (what are good companies to look at, etc)
  • sourcing qualified candidates for open jobs
  • connecting with said candidates
  • sending qualified and interested candidates to hiring managers
  • new business research
  • data entry for holly & rachel
  • social media management (posting new positions on LinkedIn, Twitter, etc)
  • understanding industry trends and techniques (reading industry blogs)

Seeing as I have 40 open jobs at any given time, the above tasks can easily fill a 40 hour work week. I think I get sidetracked by the data entry portion of the job and let that consume 80% of my time when it really should be consuming 20%.  I also want my email checking to only happen three times a day – I have read in numerous places that this is very effective for reducing distraction.

Every time we get a new open job, I could spend 2 hours doing research (companies to source from etc) and creating a “sourcing plan spreadsheet” with keywords, search strings, companies to look at, etc. Then on that spreadsheet I could keep track of all the candidates I reach out to (forcing myself to reach out to at least 10 per day) with contact info so follow-up is easier. I also want to create an “Accounts Receivable” spreadsheet so I can keep track of how much commission I should be planning to get each period, hopefully this will also create more of an outer sense of motivation since I will be able to see that I can in fact influence my income by finding more candidates.

A hypothetical day could go like this… (each day I will pick two jobs to focus on):

  • 9am-10am – read emails, follow up/take action on important things, file/delete as actioned on (data entry will happen here), set 2 priority jobs for the day
  • 10am-11:30am – follow sourcing plan for priority job #1, finding at least 5 qualified candidates and sending Linkedin message, email, and phone call
  • 11:30am-12pm – email check, follow up/take action, file/delete as actioned on (data entry will happen here)
  • 12pm-1pm – lunch break
  • 1pm-2pm – industry blog time, plus social media postings for priority openings
  • 2pm-3:30pm – follow sourcing plan for priority job #2, finding at least 5 qualified candidates and sending Linkedin message, email, and phone call
  • 3:30pm-4pm – new business research
  • 4pm-5pm – read emails, follow up/take action, file/delete as actioned on (data entry)

Oasis

Some are comforted by the presence of others, by the buzz and energy of social interactions and sharing.

I am someone who prefers to turn inside. I draw energy from rest, quiet, and peaceful soothing activities.

For years I tried to deny this quieter part of myself. I tried to squash the introvert, and forced myself to go out and see people.  I called myself an extrovert, I proclaimed that I loved to “go out”.  I spent much time under roofs that were not my own, and I ended up exhausted.

My oasis is my living room. Sweatpants and fuzzy blanket hideouts.  Flickering candles of vanilla and pumpkin. A stack of magazines, a pile of books, and a glass of wine. Creamy dark chocolate squares waiting to be bitten into. My cat and my husband nearby, ready to cuddle when called. A hot home-cooked meal, not necessarily healthy, and settling down for a marathon of one of our favorite shows. Late-night stumbling through the darkness, holding hands, tumbling down into freshly washed sheets.  These simple pleasures nourish me, the most decadent fruits for my soul.

2012 Closing Ceremony

To sum up 2012 in one word, I would say it was transformational. This year had some very tough parts, but was also filled with a lot of smiles, love, and personal growth.

The first six months of the year was filled with an inner sense of emptiness and sadness. The love of my life proposed to me in late December 2011, and unfortunately my family was not extremely supportive of or happy about my engagement. This was extremely taxing on my soul since I was elated to be engaged to my best friend yet I felt such distance and separation from my parents at this time. Eventually things got better: it was a slow process but now 12 months later everything looks and feels so much different. I wish I could change a lot of the circumstances, namely my dishonesty with my parents. I have made a lot of mistakes over the years, especially when it comes to the way I treat my parents. I have not given them the love or respect that they deserve, and I have not done my part to build their trust. Recently, this has all hit me in the face, and instead of being defensive and putting the blame on them, I am remorseful and seek their forgiveness. I wish there was a way I could take back all the years of hurt that I have caused them, but all I can do now is move forward and choose to treat them with love and respect from now on.  I feel like our relationship has begun to heal.

I struggled with female friendships. I crave close friendships with other women, but I have trouble feeling comfortable with other people sometimes. I let distance come into friendships, and then when distance happened, instead of trying to fix it, I pulled away more. I was not a good friend at times, feeling jealousy instead of happiness when great things happened to friends. I did not mean to react in this way and I regret it, but I assume this is where some of the distance was created. Additionally, sometimes I am very antisocial and would rather stay home and read than go out and see friends. This has held me back.

I struggled a lot with the way things ended at the bank – it was embarrassing more than anything. I regret the way that things happened. I like my new job but it’s very unstructured and I have become a little bit lazy and have trouble concentrating and prioritizing, which makes me feel guilty. I struggled with whether or not to continue pursuing my MBA because it’s so expensive. I decided to keep going. I will finish it in May 2013.

I paid of $9,000 in consumer debt but I still have an overwhelming balance on my student loans.

I nagged K too much and didn’t allow him to be himself at times.

I shed too many tears and let myself be paralyzed by crippling anxiety quite often. I watched too much TV and didn’t read or write enough. I have not been able to get my eating habits under control and I continue to struggle with binge eating disorder. I have low self-esteem and low self-confidence. These things hold me back.

Despite this list of struggles, I grew into a more beautiful person inside. I learned that change can be a good thing (even if it doesn’t feel like it right away). Challenging situations will not make me crumble, I can turn inward and find strength inside myself.  I have learned how deeply my family loves me and we have bonded in ways I wasn’t sure we ever would. I learned that K and I can go through hard scary times and come out stronger and closer than ever before. I grew closer to God and learned to turn to him to help me manage my fear, anxiety, or sadness.

I transformed my financial habits. My whole attitude towards money and spending has changed. I am no longer carrying any consumer debt and I built a small savings account for myself. My net worth is 200% higher than it was in December 2011. I realize the value of $1. I no longer feel like a serial consumerist. I have begun to live below my means.

One of the things that makes me happiest is that I can now say I feel close with my mom. I haven’t felt this way since the age of 10. I feel like she likes me and is proud of me. She has grown this year too. She has been kind to Keith in the past 6  months and I feel as if she finally accepts him.

2012 led me to a new job in a new industry that I might not have taken if I hadn’t had a push to leave the bank. I am so much happier now. Despite a large paycut, the upwards potential in the future is great, and I am confident that I have what it takes to succeed. A small business environment is much more suitable for my personality, and I no longer feel depressed and empty on Sunday nights (because I do not dread the week ahead any longer).

Despite all of the changes that happened, I stuck with a fairly consistent exercise schedule throughout the entire year. It is a natural mood enhancer for me and helps to keep me balanced. Exercise is now a part of my daily routine.

Travel continued to be a priority in my life. I traveled to London, Paris, and Brussels for 2 weeks with one of my closest girlfriends. Then I went to Ireland for 2 weeks with K and some of our friends.

I read some amazing books. I participated in succession planning for the family business. I tried to keep my brain active and engaged in my MBA studies.

I have worked on practicing gratitude and optimism. We can’t choose what happens to us but we CAN choose how we react to it. This is an area that is a work in progress for me, but when I have been able to practice optimism I can see what an amazing effect it has on my soul. We can create our own peace.

2012: thank you for the lows, for they have truly made me appreciate the highs. Recently I have been filled with an inner sense of peace, joy, appreciation, and optimism.  I am hopeful for what the upcoming year holds in store for me.

101 things to do in 2013

  1. Let K be K
  2. Keep marriage preparation low-stress for mom and dad, K, and the wedding party
  3. Marry my best friend and embody a state of calmness on the weeks leading up to and the day of our wedding – remember that it is just one day and the details of the wedding do not matter, what’s crucial is our marriage
  4. Have 12 fancy date nights (once a month)
  5. (Edited – yes, I made a sex goal)
  6. Sit at table for dinner at least twice a week, instead of eating on the couch watching TV
  7. Find a new show to watch together (ideas: Breaking Bad, Mad Men)
  8. Meet with a financial planner as a couple to set goals for the future and work out a manageable budget
  9. Create a weekly chore system so one of us is not feeling overburdened
  10. Call mom or dad at least three times a week
  11. Spend “nonrequired” time with cousins, especially G & I
  12. Put all family birthdays on calendar
  13. Write cards to mom, dad, and grandparents for birthdays & send in the mail
  14. On cousin birthdays email or make a phone call to say hello
  15. Have a sleepover with my mom
  16. Randomly visit my mom’s parents on the weekend
  17. Go out to dinner with my grandma K
  18. Call Anne every other week
  19. Call Chrissy every other week
  20. Visit Anne in Baltimore
  21. Visit Chrissy in San Diego
  22. Set monthly date with college group of friends – reinstate monthly brunch club?
  23. Put all friends birthdays in calendar
  24. Call each friend on their birthday
  25. Find a new group of girlfriends in Buffalo
  26. Spin with Amanda once a week
  27. Host a girls night
  28. Have a girls sleepover
  29. Reduce usage of profanity, especially the horribly unattractive F word
  30. Wear seatbelt while driving
  31. Wear glasses while driving
  32. Establish regular morning routine
  33. Establish regular evening routine
  34. Use Sunday for cooking/meal-planning for the week
  35. Read 36 books (3/month)
  36. Finish MBA and graduate with at least a 3.80 GPA
  37. Listen to books on tape while commuting to/from work
  38. Monthly check-ins to check progress on goals
  39. Earn $50K in 2013
  40. Pay off $10,000 on my student loans (ending balance of $10,000 at end of year)
  41. Open a first time homebuyer account and contribute monthly
  42. Build savings account to $5,000
  43. Remain credit card debt free
  44. Continue selling unused items on ebay
  45. Continue keeping budget spreadsheet and update weekly
  46. Consolidate old 401k into new one
  47. Shop seasonally (4x/year) except for special occasions
  48. Continue to seek quality over quantity while shopping
  49. Begin journaling on a regular basis
  50. Begin writing a novel
  51. Take more photographs and print/display them
  52. Keep 2013 binder and continue to plan the year and reflect on it regularly
  53. Instate “switch off Sunday” – do not use email and use phone sparingly (calls/texts are ok, checking FB and Instagram incessantly are not ok)
  54. Take an art class
  55. Read all the books in my “to read” pile (bookshelf and kindle)
  56. Change tattoo into something more meaningful
  57. Schedule a Natalie retreat weekend
  58. Write a book proposal
  59. Create a vision board
  60. Smile at strangers
  61. Be better at initiating conversation with others
  62. Talk less about myself
  63. Ask more questions and listen to the answers
  64. Shop at local/independently owned businesses when possible
  65. Get a bicycle and ride it around in the spring, summer, and fall
  66. Give more hugs
  67. Plan long weekend in fingerlakes with K
  68. Go to a concert
  69. Spend a weekend in Toronto
  70. Spend a weekend in New York City
  71. Plan a mini-honeymoon for the long weekend after the wedding
  72. Go to church at least 36 times (3x/month)
  73. Pray at night before bed
  74. Say positive affirmations and practice gratitude in the morning before getting up
  75. Practice visualization of success
  76. Get a manicure every other week
  77. Stop biting and picking at nails
  78. Get flexible enough to touch toes
  79. Drink more tea and less coffee
  80. Floss every day
  81. Get six pedicures (every other month)
  82. Continue to work out at least 5x/week
  83. Eat more greens
  84. Drink more water
  85. Count calls consistently on MFP for 1 month
  86. Walk more, drive less
  87. Participate in the 2013 Turkey Trot (8K)
  88. Reduce consumption of bread, crackers, and other gluten-products, and cheese and other dairy products
  89. Straighten hair 3x/wk or less
  90. Find a foundation that fits my skin type and coloring and does not cause me to break out
  91. Investigate root causes of acne & eczema
  92. Try out new hair do’s
  93. Practice yoga 52 times (once a week)
  94. Appreciate rest and vitality: Stick to a 10pm bed time on weeknights
  95. Learn SEO and SEM
  96. Begin a blog or website
  97. Each month have 2 candidates who make it to interview status
  98. Leave my desk at lunch every day
  99. Practice “inbox to 0” on Friday afternoon
  100. Continue involvement in G4 Task Force
  101. In Q3/Q4 2013, begin building up new business and networking in order to successfully switch job title to recruiter in January 2014