Old Enough to Be Bold

Face it, you’re not young anymore. Don’t worry, you’re not old either; you’ve still got a long life ahead of you. But you’ve spent enough time on this earth to get it together and should have a clear – or at least opaque – vision for your future.

It’s not like you’ve got to have everything figured out at this point, but it’s time to take a deep, honest look at your priorities. If you keep wandering down the path of what ifs, hoping for something or someone to intervene and place the answers in your lap, you’ll end up lost. Forever searching in the dark for a light you’ll never find.

This time in life is confusing. It’s a matrix at the edge youthful playfulness and stressful, adult decisions. It’s easy to convince ourselves we’re still ripe with age and don’t need to have all of the next moves calculated. But that night out we used to quickly bounce back from now serves up a day-long headache and harsh reminder that we’re not; and that we kind of do. Not all the moves, per se, but at least enough to establish a solid game plan for the future.

Think about your dream job. Is the one you’re at now a stepping stone to get there? Are you surrounded by co-workers who are empowering you with the skills you’ll need to get through that next door? If not, then walk out of this one and into one that will. You’ll experience a world of difference when you work with a team of people who recognize your talents and encourage you to reach your goals.

Are the people in your life like-minded, positive influences that encourage you to challenge yourself while constantly bringing the best side of you to light? If not, it might be time to let go. As hard as it may be to end a relationship or recognize the final straw in a friendship that only drags you down, one day, you’ll cross paths with people who will help you realize the reasons why those individuals are no longer in your life. And at that point, you’ll finally understand what trust, respect and genuine happiness truly feel like.

You’re still young enough to be bold, but old enough to be wise. Each decision you make has the potential to impact the rest of your story, so approach every single one with caution, passion and an end goal in mind.

Don’t be bound by boundaries

Boundaries: They exist to keep us safe – to shelter us from what may lie on the other side. As children, it’s embedded in us to color within the lines – our creativity limited to a solid black outline that’s pre-determined by someone other than ourselves. The older we get, the more opportunities we have to define those boundaries on our own. Then, the onus is on us individually to decide how far we want to push them.

All too often, we put those boundaries up too close to home; in near proximity to what we know because anything that stretches too far touches upon the territory of the unknown. And with this notion comes the risk of confusing comfort for fulfillment. We somehow convince ourselves that we can’t venture further, so we don’t. We stay, and we obey, the lines that have come to define us.

While the choice is ultimately ours, those we care for and trust have the potential to impact the placement of the boundaries – whether in the right direction or wrong. Fear of disappointing or letting others down can limit the strides we take toward something new, something better. But if the urge within you is to push those limits, and you don’t because of the potential impact on anyone else, a new set of dotted lines will be sketched for all of you. And redefined, dotted lines may never connect.

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Big World, Bigger Aspirations

Back in Richmond a few weeks ago for a wedding, I stopped at the office building of my first “big girl” job. I remember looking out across the urban landscape from the balcony fresh out of college, recognizing the opprichmondortunities that flourished in the city below and being energized to take on the world.  But there were a lot of lessons that naïve and worry-free, wide-eyed 22-year-old would learn along the way.  Some were difficult but all were critical in getting me to where I am today – a place I know would make that young girl proud.

Don’t let the opinion of others dictate your destiny. You and you alone possess the power to unlock your full potential; the unwarranted words and doubts of others hold no merit.  Don’t look at the naysayers, and those who try to put you down, as hurdles but rather as propellers pushing you forward to your greatest achievements.

Don’t spend so much time looking forward that you forget to live in the moment. If you’re always on the go, planning your next adventure, you might miss whatever is right in front of your eyes. Each moment we have on this earth is a gift – feel it, embrace it – and don’t let it slip through your fingertips.

You need to let go – of people, of things, of circumstances dragging you down. It can be hard to separate from certain possessions, memories or relationships because they seem so engrained into who you are as a person but letting go of the old makes room for the new – and that might just be better than anything you’ve imaged before.

Listen. In a world full of noise, drown out the chatter. We’ve each taken different roads to get to where we are but there may be others who took similar steps in the days and years before you, and those individuals may have a takeaway that will help you on your journey. Lend an ear and you could learn a valuable lesson. Take a walk to the beach and listen to the water crashing on the shore. Strike up a conversation with a stranger and listen to their life story. Listen to your friends. Listen to your preacher. Listen to your body. And most importantly, listen to your heart.

Radiate kindness. It’s contagious and it will always come back around. Be the source of a smile on someone else’s face. This one applies not just to people you know, but those you don’t as well, as they have the potential to pass it on to others you may never touch.

The world is big, but so are your ambitions. Let no one, including yourself, stand in the way of your dreams.

Taking a chance on change

Change can be a scary thing.  Finding comfort in the familiar is an easy default.  Sticking with what you know, perfecting your daily routine – these are all things that provide us a sense of security and are far more appealing than the idea of walking away from everything you know and taking a leap of faith.  Why?  Because chances come with risks.  But guess what?  Living a life in which you are simply content lends its fair share of risk, too, albeit of a different nature.

You see the thing about change is that it’s natural, even when it does not feel that way.  Like the subtle shifts in seasonal scenery or the gentle flip of a wall calendar, change is engrained in us.  Everything in the world around us changes.  The earth keeps moving and it’s important that we do the same.  It’s not going to stop moving and fighting against it will only leave you exhausted and defeated.

When going through a transitional period in your life, here are some important factors to consider:

Don’t let the opinions of others divert you from the path you’re meant to follow.  Everyone will have their own opinion on what is best for you but the truth is, you’re the only one who really, truly knows what is in your heart.  Be open to the wisdom of others, but take outside thoughts with a grain of salt and don’t allow them to control your decision to make a move.

It’s good to have a big heart, but don’t let that set you back from doing what is best for you.  Sure, being selfish is usually frowned upon but there are actually times when it is okay.  It’s easy to get caught in the idea that you need to make others happy or don’t want to hurt the feelings of those you care about but sometimes, just sometimes, the best thing you can do is to look out for yourself.  Those that care about you, in the most sincere of senses, will accept this.

Dig deep to find out what truly matters to you.  This one is tough and can easily be skewed by the world around you.  It’s easy to be tempted by more money or big promises, but in the end, are these the things that will make you finally feel fulfilled?  Will you be able to look back on your life and say “I’m so glad I was able to do this or make that?” If the answer is no, it’s time to reevaluate.  You don’t want to reflect back later in life and think, “I’m so sad I’m missed out on this because I was too busy being focused on that.”

A world of unknowns awaits you if you’re brave enough to take a chance but the reward may be far greater than leading a life in which you’re always wishing for something more, something different.changing-seasons

Happiness is a choice

Happiness is a choice.  Not for all, but for those of us who are fortunate enough to be in full control of our emotional well-being, it is a choice that we make the moment we open our eyes each morning.  For the most part, I’ve always considered myself a persistently positive person but as of late, I’m feeling the weight of the world on my shoulders and realize the strength to lift it cannot be found through toying with dumbbells or equipment at the gym.  The power to break through comes from within.  It often requires taking a difficult and critical look at yourself and opening your eyes to the toxins that have the ability to bring you down.

I realize that I am incredibly blessed with abundant love and opportunity, but yet sometimes, I let life’s stressors get in the way of recognizing those blessings.  Strangely enough it was my dermatologist, who typically rambles on and on about nothing of importance, that made me stop and think about the changes I needed to make in life.  Without any prompting, he went into a lecture on how we are the only ones to blame if we’re unhappy.  If someone constantly gets under your skin, you’re the one that keeps interacting with them and giving them the power to do so.  If work is wearing on you, you’re the one preventing yourself from finding new opportunities.  If someone cuts you off on the road, it’s up to you to decide if it’s necessary to blare your horn at them in range or to just keep on driving along with a smile on your face.  He explained that we are the only ones that can control whether the little things, or actions of others, get to us.

That conversation is the only one I’ve had with the wacky doctor that ever made any sense at all, but it was a message than dug far deeper than the skin he specializes in.  In a month where we celebrate the things we’re grateful for, I’m taking a new approach to recognizing and realizing those gifts.

I’m in no way shape or form a morning person (or a night person, really), but I’m forcing myself out of bed an hour early each morning for a period of reflection.  With a cup of coffee in hand, I’ll begin each day reading devotion from Joel Osteen’s Every Day a Friday, along with the associated Bible scripture.  Then, I’ll take a moment to think about something that took place on the previous day for which I’m thankful.  While we can’t let the little things the kooky doctor described get to us, we mustn’t also forget about the positive little things because sometimes, they can have the biggest impact on our happiness.

The holidays are a perfect reminder of the things that propel us forward in life.  If you’ve been feeling down or disconnected, I encourage you to make time to rediscover the things that make you whole.  Feel free to come along with me on this journey and share your experience!

30 is the same 30

I am currently rolling down the backside of 29 and despite any efforts to hit the brakes, I will propel through the last six months of my twenties and crash into my third decade here on earth at full speed.  They say thirty is the new twenty, but it’s not.  No colloquial phrase (or Jay Z lyric) will ease the notion of turning 30 or the effects of aging.  It’s just a statement intended to help those nearing the milestone feel better about the transition.  Here’s how I know:

While once viewed as somewhat acceptable, it’s now selfish to be selfish.

Okay, so maybe selfishness was never encouraged, but there was a little more leeway back in the day.  Throughout our teens and early twenties, it was expected that we’d do or try things that required putting ourselves first.  These were the formative years; times when we needed to follow our own instincts and explore opportunities that would lead us to discover who we really were.  Things like spending all our money on trips with friends or taking a few years off of school to get down to the bottom of what we really wanted to do with our lives. scared timon

While we must never lose sight of doing what is best for ourselves, these days, many of us have others to look out for – whether that be children, significant others, friends or society.  We’re no longer at the age where living solely with a “me mentality” is acceptable nor excusable.

With all the miles packed on over the years, your body now requires a little more TLC to keep moving forward.

Contrary to what our bodies had us believing back in college, living off a liquid + Ramen diet is a not sustainable approach to survival.  If we’re not careful, age will offer an assist in turning us into lightweights at dinner and heavyweights on the scale.  Time will never slow down, but our metabolism will, so we must take it upon ourselves to learn about our bodies’ needs and meet its demands.  Educate yourself on the necessary nutrients and vitamins to maintain a balanced lifestyle.

The second part of the equation is exercise.  You can eat all the natural, organic, Whole Foods items you want, but without keeping your body calibrated, you’ll end up in the shop much like the way your first car from high school always was.  If you work a desk job like me and sit for 8-10 hours a day, even exercise won’t be enough.  You’ve got to get up and move, every hour on the hour, so your body doesn’t get tricked into thinking it’s destined to stay put.

Life past 11 p.m. is nearly non-existent.

Back in college, I’d be getting ready to go out at 9, pre-gaming by 10 and rolling deep with my girls downtown by 11.  These days, I’m getting ready for bed at 9, PJ’ing by 10, and rolling the in Zzz’s by 11.  When I do somehow muster up the energy to make it out to a bar, I’m quickly left wondering what’s driving me to leave faster, the obnoxious, boisterous crowd or the warmth of my covers back home.  The past few years have taught me that fun is found in many forms and doesn’t always require an elaborate plan or celebration.  These days, the best nights are the ones followed by a manageable early morning.

You’re already halfway to retirement.

Split your age in half, and you’re back in the halls of high school without a worry in the world.  Although those days seem long ago, chances are many memories are still so fresh and emotions still so vivid.  Now, double your age, and you’re almost 60.  Will you be able to look back on your 30’s with memories still so clear?

You’re one day closer today to retirement than you were yesterday, and while the picture of freedom may seem enticing, it won’t be so pleasant if you don’t have the money to fulfill your post-career aspirations.  Start saving now, don’t wait until your next big birthday milestone!

Despite the early emergence of wrinkles and the occasional white hair, loss of eyesight, rough mornings and seemingly endless responsibilities associated with thirty, turns out, the transition may not be that bad after all.  You’ve finally reached a point where all your hard work has paid off and you’ve set the foundation for yourself, your family, or your future family.  You have a deeper understanding of and appreciation for the people that helped you to where you are today.  You have the ability to make your own choices and create your own destiny.  Sure, there are a lot of tough changes that go along with aging, but each birthday we celebrate is another opportunity to change the world, or at least our own.  Bring it on, thirty.

Friendships: the ones that last a lifetime, are the rare kind.

I remember spending hours perusing quotes as a teenager, hoping to find one that I spoke to me on some deep level that I could add to the then modern day version of a blog, my AIM profile.  Quotes about life, love and everything in between filled the small one-pager, amidst a multitude of random colors, font combos, squiggly asterisks and numerical word substitutions (insert:~*babii CC: 2 cute 2 be 4got10*~).

Back then, one of those quotes, “It’s not where you are but who you’re with that matters,” would have been followed up by initials of my closest friends, some of whom I am still fortunate enough to have in my life.  Unbeknownst to my teenaged, pimple-faced self, those words would still hold true, all these years later.

I recently had the privilege to stand by my best friend’s side as she married the love of her life.  The past two years since their engagement have been leading up to the memorable day but as I boarded that plane for the trip back south, a wave of emotion, twenty years in the making, hit me harder than the open bar.

True friendships, the ones that last a lifetime, are the rare kind.  I am so grateful for the relationships I’ve had since my early days, as well as for the ones built along the way.  Although not one to cry, I absolutely lost it sitting in the airport as I prepared to venture back South of the Dixie.  Spending a series of days with friends, family, and those that feel like family momentarily tricked me into thinking I missed the place I called home for the majority of my life.  The memories and bonds made in that town have always been, and will always be, with me wherever I am.  But while the scenery still looks (somewhat) familiar, and the experiences feel the same, everything is so different.  People have moved away, and lives have moved on, but this one weekend, with everyone back together, reminded me of the life and people that helped turn me into the person I am today.  I don’t miss “home,” I miss the feeling of content felt during the days in that place: the same as I experienced in the days of carefully crafted AIM away messages.

Life changes rapidly and we experience different milestones at varying times.   However, it’s those milestones that always bring us back together with our closest, far away friends.  Though easy to get caught in the tide, trips back to proverbial house that built me have a way of grounding me and reminding me of how fortunate I am – for the friends, family and experiences I’ve had, or maintained, throughout this journey through life.  And for that, I will be forever grateful – for the memories and the moments.  And for those I’m with, physically or in spirt, no matter where they may be.

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Post-grad guidelines: letter to my 22-year-old self

I honestly can’t fathom the fact that it’s been seven years since I walked across that University of South Carolina stage and took hold of my degree.  Time moves so quickly and seems to speed up even faster as each day passes.  This week marks a milestone for me, seven years since starting my career at Wireside (!), and with that, it only seems appropriate to reflect upon the lessons learned in these post-college years.  Looking back, here are some takeaways I have for my 22-year-old self.

Priorities will shift.  Right now, you’re straight out of the college gates, ready to tackle the world.  Slow down.  Focus.  Take time to explore your passions.  Many of the things that motivate you today will be mere memories in the days of tomorrow.  You don’t need to craft a game plan for the rest of your life, but you must make choices now that will keep you on the path you inevitably want to follow.  Connect with mentors that can guide you and watch you grow along the way.

Chances should be taken.  This one is tough for you, a person that feels most at ease in a safety net of the familiar.  But regret is a strong force, one that will serve up a constant reminder of moves you did not make.  Taking a leap of faith, no matter how difficult it may be, can turn out to be the best decision you’ve ever made.  Go against your internal grain and force yourself out of the comfort zone.

You’re unknowingly taking those you love for granted.  Although you’ve lost friends and family members, you still don’t fully grasp the true impact of loss.  As you grow, times will come when those close to you are no longer a part of your life here on earth.  And the stories of lives taken too soon, even those you don’t know personally, will touch you on a deeper level and help you to realize that not a moment in life should be taken for granted.  Every hug, every conversation, could be your last so embrace tightly and connect deeply.

Friendships will fade.  Not all of them.  Some will pass the test of time.  But others, the bonds you thought could never be broken, will prove to have been held together by a Velcro that slowly loses cohesiveness over time.  This will be a harsh realization, but it’s often a shift where no one is at fault.  Life will take you to different places and accelerate at different moments; you may not always be able to keep up with one another.  As you grow, you’ll learn that certain people were a part of your life at a certain time because that’s when you needed them, and they needed you, most.  They played a role in making you into the person you’re becoming and it is okay if they’re not by your side to see the final product.  You’ll carry a piece of them with you, always.  A friendship, even one that once seemed so strong but is now visible only in a stack of old photos, will still be an important friendship when you look back at your journey through life.

You’re in for an amazing adventure filled with limitless opportunities, unwavering love from those around you and unwritten storylines.  Just don’t sit back and enjoy the ride because you’re the one in the driver’s seat.