Today is my birthday. 35 years. Or as I like to say, the 7th anniversary of my 28th birthday. I try not to write posts strictly about myself but I make an exception today. So I’m gonna do some looking back and some looking ahead and you can come along for the ride or not. Your choice!
How would I sum up the past year?
Way harder than I imagined it would be…but in the end, amazed that I found myself on the right path.
But seriously…2017 was hard, ya’ll. I rushed into it with the courage of a lion, fresh off the heals of chemotherapy. I was officially in remission and I was going to have the best year ever. I’ll spare you the details because I’ve covered this already, but in summary here are the big highs and lows that defined last year.
- Disney world – woohoo!!
- Get laid off – crap
- Prove to myself I can run a half marathon – woohoo!!
- Figure out that side effects make running long distances really awful – crap
- Massive kitchen renovation – woohoo!!
- Land a job that induces anxiety attacks – crap
- Figure out my body does well on keto – woohoo!!
- Land a job that TRULY feels right and is what I love to do – woohoo!!
- Shed all the weight I gained during treatment – woohoo!!
- Finally have my hair reach a length that I can style – woohoo!!
- Finally feel like me – woohooo!!
If you’re keeping track, yes there were more highs than lows, but what you can’t see is how low the lows actually were. There were so many days I hated seeing myself in the mirror, or days where I was worried I’d be unemployed for longer than we could afford to be unemployed or worried I’d be stuck in a job that was literally like knives in my stomach every time I parked the car to go inside or worried that I’d lose my love of running because of the side effects I experienced. It was like the universe wanted to mock my idea of having the best year ever. And it did a good job for a while. But the thing I kept holding on to was that time would go by whether or I did or did not succeed…whether I worried or did not worry…and that someday I would be able to see myself in the mirror…and when that day came, who would I want to see? The old me? An undefinable post cancer me? Or an even better, stronger version of me? I hoped for the old me. I got the even better, stronger version.
In 2016, the year before, I can say with certainty that I was tested physically when I went misdiagnosed for 6 months and then underwent chemotherapy for the remaining six months.
In 2017, the physical challenge was done, but the mental challenge had just started. Last year was mentally harder than any part of my cancer diagnosis or treatment. And I was definitely not expecting that. I naively thought that once I was in the clear it would be smooth sailing. Clearly, that was not the case.
What did I learn from this?
1. Life doesn’t stop when you stop.
It keeps going. Businesses fall apart and that impacts your job security. Things happen to family members. Friendships come and go (well the good ones don’t go). Life just finds a way to throw you curve balls even when you think “I’ve dealt with enough, right?”
2. The time will pass anyway – think about how you want to look back on that time?
Most of 2017 – I felt like a schmuck. But that didn’t stop me from getting back into running and braving the gym with my new hairdo. It didn’t stop me from training for a half marathon. It didn’t even stop me when I got laid off and had to hunt for jobs for almost three months. I just did those things because even though I felt like I schmuck, I knew I wanted to look back and not actually think I was a schmuck. Does that make sense? If I just didn’t do any of those things, would I be where I am now? Nope. Would I be wishing I would have started doing those things a year ago? Yep. So I just pushed through the shmuckiness like I push through the mundane/repetitive parts of training for a half marathon. You do it because it’s all about what you’ll gain in the long run.
How do I want to sum up the next year?
In a word – Meaningful.
I actually wrote this down during the journaling part of the “Yoga Flow and Coffee Connection” event my friend Lindsay put on last Sunday. I want to focus on activities and things and people that are meaningful to me. And that means being okay saying no to things that truly don’t align with where I’m at today.
And where exactly am I today?
- I prefer to get up really early in the morning. 4:30 or 5 most mornings.
- I like to write or workout before everyone wakes (with the exception on this post because there is a deadline of it still being my birthday that I’d like to meet)
- When I work, I like to work in the office because I love the team energy I feel when I’m seated among my peers (which is a huge change from just a year or two ago).
- I’m okay letting go of being a subject matter expert in the health insurance/health care industry (for now) so that I can be an expert at digital marketing.
- I like to work in spreadsheets – analyzing data – and even sometimes doing some linkedin stalking to make sure our leads are qualified.
- I love that I get to work on a wide variety of projects and that there is a final point to those projects – a point when it gets “shipped.” Working product side for almost two years, I didn’t get to experience that often. Nothing was ever done…it was just a new iteration of something we’d worked on before.
- In the kitchen, I’ve done a complete 180. I meal plan, a lot. I count calories and macros, quite often. I measure and weigh food for most of my meals. I study and research ketogenic recipes and spend hours on the weekend preparing grocery lists, going to different stores for ingredients and making meals for dinner or to prep for the week.
- At night, I crash around 8 or 8:30 and I rarely drink anymore (seriously, I should be well into my first hour of sleep by now)
- I’ve given up on deep cleaning and now outsource that to a cleaning lady once a month (no shame!) so that I can stop stressing about the state of the bathrooms.
- I like writing more than I did last year. And I like educating others by reporting my own experiences.
- I feel like I’m much more a homebody now than I ever was in the past. I like to do things with the family, but I’m fine doing them at home. I don’t need to go out and experience a ton of new things.
- I don’t watch as many movies as I used to, but that’s also because I pretty much prioritize sleep over everything else.
- I’m excited to train for a half marathon again, and also nervous. This might be my last big race for a while. After that, I’d like to become an American Ninja Warrior (only sort of kidding).
I don’t think it will be hard for me to align with those activities in the foreseeable future…because I do all of that already. But there are areas of my life that are meaningful that I don’t do enough of today – so that might be the challenge, to keep those things meaningful by continually nurturing them.
Finally, I thought it might be fun to do one of those “You ask these questions every year on your birthday”…This was a part of one version I found. I basically cherry-picked the ones I wanted to answer, so here they are!
1. What did you do this year that you’d never done before?
- Stabbed myself with a knife while trying to remove the pit of an avocado
- Tried the keto diet
- Dyed my hair fun colors like pink and lavender
2. What would you like to have next year that you lacked this year?
- The ability to do a pull up
- A new car (maybe…depends on how much more life I can get out of my current car)
3. What date(s) from this year will remain etched upon your memory, and why?
- December 20, 2017 – one year in remission
- November 16, 2017 – The day I quit my job at a place I’d only worked for four months (It was literally the worst job of my life)
- June 16, 2017 – the day I ran my first half marathon post cancer
4. What was your biggest achievement of the year?
- Honestly, surviving 2017 was my biggest accomplishment.
- Second biggest was losing the weight I put on during treatment (over 20 lbs!)
5. What was your biggest failure?
Taking a job offer with a company that had a lot of political turmoil – and that position in turned caused me to have anxiety attacks for the first time in my life (and this coming from someone who had cancer is really saying something)
6. What other hardships did you face?
- Getting laid off from my job in May 2017
- Being unemployed for three months
- Not being able to see my version of me in the mirror every day
- Discovering how nerve damage negatively impacted my running
7. Did you suffer illness or injury?
No major illnesses. But there was that avocado stabbing incident.
8. What did you get really, really, really excited about?
- Discovering that when I’m on the keto diet that I don’t have any nerve damage (neuropathy) symptoms
- Renovating our kitchen
- Finally being able to style my hair and being able to see me in the mirror
- Going to Disney World!
9. Compared to this time last year, are you:
- Happier or sadder? Happier
- Thinner or fatter? Thinner
- Richer or poorer? Kind of both – bigger paycheck, but we have a lot more debt because of our kitchen renovation
10. What do you wish you’d done more of?
Nothing. I think I handled the last year the best I could.
11. What do you wish you’d done less of?
Worrying about things outside of my control
12. Do you hate anyone now that you didn’t hate this time last year?
Ha! Yes. Two certain peoples at my former hellish job.
13. What was your favorite show?
- Game of Thrones
- Superstore (don’t judge! it’s hilarious)
14. What was the best book you read?
- Deep Work by Cal Newport
- The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F***
15. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?
Having a job that I liked. Luckily, the last few months of the year took a turn for the better. Now in a job I love!
16. What kept you sane?
Focusing on goals: Training for a half marathon, Completing certifications related to my job, building a chatbot that reminds you to change your air filter, Meal planning and figuring out keto
17. What valuable life lesson did you learn this year?
- That hard work pays off but that’s IT IS REALLY HARD.
- There are no shortcuts. If you put in the work, you’ll see the results.
- Trust your gut. It’s usually right.
18. What is a quote that sums up your year?
From the book, “The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F***”…
Don’t ask yourself what you want out of life. It’s easy to want success and fame and happiness. Everybody wants those things. A much more interesting question to ask yourself is, “What kind of pain do I want?” What you are willing to struggle for is a greater determinant of how our lives turn out.
So that’s it. That’s me at 35. Thanks for sticking with me this far!