To My 40-Something Self

This post originally appeared on the 40:20 Vision

After enjoying dinner at a 30-something’s apartment I realized I have a lot to look forward to. Being more established professionally and financially could mean a well-connected network, a more spacious apartment and a heftier paycheck.

It also got me thinking how I want to remind myself when I reach that more established place in my life just where I started. 

To My 40-Something Self,

If you’re going through a rough time consider, what would I have done as a 20-something? Let’s be honest – it’s a more carefree time. From friendships to relationships and from serious to silly, I’m writing to remind you where you came from. 

1. Wherever you’re living, check in often and go home regularly to see family. Regardless of age, you will always be their little girl.

2. Stay humble. There were days when you could only afford veggies for dinner and months when you lived paycheck to paycheck. 

3. Take public transportation. It’s got to be the best invention next to sliced bread and bottomless mimosa brunches. 

4. Go grocery shopping on Saturday or Sunday mornings. Apparently that’s how firemen roll, and I’m sure you’ll always enjoy a little eye candy.

5. Keep up the workout routine. I’m putting in the work as a 20-something and expect you to hold up your end of the bargain. 

6. Focus on your girlfriends. They have been there to listen, advise and dance through everything. And they will continue to be there to dry your tears, make you laugh and remind you why your ex wasn’t the one for you or how lucky you are to have found your husband. 

7. Explore. Even if circumstances don’t allow you to travel far, be a tourist in your own city. There is always something new to discover. 

8. Don’t forget that kissing is better than breathing. Whatever relationship stage you find yourself in, expect the romance and do your part to contribute as well.

9. Keep writing. If it’s not in blog form, keep journaling and sending letters and postcards. Taking time to reflect will strengthen your memory. Sharing some written love with those close to you will be a welcome surprise. 

10. Take a 20-something out for dinner and drinks. She admires you and would love to hear how you got to where you are. 

Always learning,

Your 20-Something Self

 

Words to live by

Looking for a little motivation? PR pro and social media maven Sarah Evans has you covered. In her book, [RE]FRAME, Sarah offers pieces of advice with an accompanying story for each tip. She writes in an easy to digest and very shareable format. (Pick up your copy here.) 

In one of the opening stories Sarah includes her life mission statement. She wrote it 10 years ago and each topic resonates strongly enough with her that she has not had to make any changes.  

Reading Sarah’s statement inspired me to write my words to live by.

What are yours? 

Fear is only an option, not an ultimatum. 

If life is not playing out the way I imagined, I will choose differently. 

Telling stories is good for the memory, and even better for the soul.

I am happiest when making connections. 

I am a student always.

I go with the flo(w). 

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Say yes.

Since moving to New York City I have tried saying yes to everything. In fact, one of my “NYC Goals” I wrote back in January was: 

Say yes. 

To invitations. 

Even when I think I will get lost. 

To challenge myself and get out of my comfort zone. 

I focused on doing. After long days I made an effort to see friends and attend events. I proved this question right – “In 1 year, 5 years, 10 years, will I remember the nights I stayed in or will I remember the outings and people I experienced them with?” 

I raised my hand at work. I got in line with this idea, “People who love their jobs won’t work a day in their lives.” 

Two examples include: 

One weeknight my pal Addison invited me to meet his friend visiting NYC. I was looking forward to a night to recoup at my apartment, but instead chose to say yes. Turns out we would see the city in style (aka in Addison’s rented BMW). For the first time the makeup of Manhattan was starting to make sense. (Be thankful you have a map app on your SuperPhone people!) And, for the record, cruising NYC in a BMW is never a bad choice.

I joined an internal company organization committed to equaling the ratio of men and women in leadership positions and helping women of all levels on their way to the top. By saying yes to the opportunity to join the planning committee, I’ve been fortunate to work with stellar colleagues across the company – people I would not interact with through my typical workload. I’m also seeing change and continued dialogues take place as a result of my actions. 

What were the outcomes of your best “yes’s”? This week let “yes” win out over “no.” You just might surprise yourself. 

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“2 – 6″

Next up in my birthday shares is 2 big things I want to experience and 6 little-big things I want to accomplish. 

I have enough deadlines in my day-to-day so I’m not putting timing on the items, but writing/announcing them is reason enough for me to remain accountable. 

Live abroad. 

I’ve always been interested in other cultures and the people that comprise them. I have photos and paintings on my wall of places of where I’ve been (Australia, Paris) and places of where I want to go (London, Italy… to name a few). I believe seeing these images on my wall is a fantastic reminder that I can get there – and will get there. It worked with the picture of Times Square – it has successfully transferred to the “places I’ve been” category. 

Whether it’s a month, a year or… living abroad could expose me to another world of people, challenges and life lessons. NYC has also provided me with a great taste of diversity. One of my favorite parts of this city is being able to walk down the block hearing several languages, English not included. It reminds me of visiting Sydney. I heard countless languages – each one causing my ears to perk up (as they would in Chicago). I quickly realized this was the norm – and I’m seeing the same trend in NYC. 

And fortunately, with an employer with 65 offices globally this goal feels very attainable. I’m thinking London, Sydney or Amsterdam, but as always, open to suggestions! 

Get married. 

[Breath Daddio, no plans to have you walk me down the aisle in the very near future,] BUT it is never too early to start choreographing our Father-Daughter dance (we should sell tickets to the reception for the performance alone!). This is not an immediate life event; I would probably need to find an interested stud first, but one I most definitely want in my life for several reasons.

The foremost reason: have you met my parents? Talk about two people complimenting each other 100%. Almost 35 years in and they’re still laughing, caring and most importantly, dancing (as in the actual experience and through all the curve balls life has thrown them). I don’t know when I want this big life commitment, but I know I want it – because of them. 

 

In the “little-big” category I want to…

Launch my side hustle. 

I’m the first to admit money does not come easy in NYC and I really enjoy helping friends and professional contacts with PR. It allows me to perfect my craft and I see great opportunities in turning help into a more substantial hustle. 

Improve my fitness.

Specifically I want to run something – 5K, 10K, half marathon… I’ve committed to some kind of activity 5x per week: running, yoga, dance. If I focus on my overall fitness I’m hoping this “something” will be a breeze. I know I feel more energized, sleep better and find myself in an all-around better mood thanks to consistent workouts.  

Make something of my blog. 

This means determining my ongoing theme, how to best reach my audience and turn it into a “must-read.” If you are technically savvy and want to teach me your tricks I am ready to learn. Additionally, I want to explore investing into the site and take up more opportunities to guest blog to challenge my writing and strengthen my relationships. 

Repay my parents. 

Not only for the loans they have given me, but to make up for all they have done for me over the last 25 years. I can’t wait to be able to help them in the ways they have helped me. 

Live the “student always” mentality. 

Regardless of age or experience, I feel everyone should look for the lesson from any situation. I plan to continue this approach professionally and personally (with many more blog posts to share the observations).  

Be the best maid of honor I can be. 

[Again – Daddy, breath. No official plans on this front; just another life goal.] As the baby of the family my sister has catered to me our entire lives – letting me choose the best piece of pizza (because that totally exists), listening to my never-ending stories and surprising me with presents every time I turn around. It’s about time this one received all the attention she so rightfully deserves. I’ve heard this wedding business is intense. To which I say – bring it on. 

What’s on your life to do list? How are you doing so far at accomplishing each item? 

“2 – 5″

To celebrate my upcoming birthday I’m sharing 25 things I’m proud of experiencing and accomplishing. It’s been 25 years, but it appears a lot of the proud moments have surfaced recently. Imagine that : ) 

What are you proud of today? Consider the big things AND the little things.

1. I graduated from an outstanding university

2. I started a blog. 

3. I took my online connections offline. 

4. I mentored several college students into the PR industry. 

5. I leveraged my social media network for my job hunt. 

6. I moved to New York City. 

7. I received a raise 7 months into my new position. 

8. I ran 1 mile 2 miles 3.5 miles… and counting! 

9. I secured more than 30,000 hits on my YouTube channel (properly tagging a video is no joke). 

10. I engaged the CEO/President of my company in conversation on the elevator, which ended in a high five! 

11. I contributed a post to one of my favorite blogs, the3six5

12. I went into relationships with an open mind and my guard down. 

13. I became the Operations Manager for an internal agency initiative (also the catalyst for the CEO high five). 

14. I went after yoga

15. I swallowed my pride and asked for directions when lost. 

16. I said “yes” more times than I said “no”.

17. I hosted 9 visitors in the first 6 months in NYC. 

18. I am surviving NYC with a StupidPhone

19. I could have a dozen bridesmaids if I got married tomorrow. 

20. I volunteer for a non-profit I believe in, She’s the First

21. I am learning to cook. 

22. I pick up girls better than guys (according to my guy friends).

23. I smile when I mean it and I cry when I need it. 

24. I make my parents proud. 

25. I left my comfort zone. 

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A Little Nerve

My great aunt Helen enjoyed quite the stint in show business back in the day. Well under 5’ at age 16, she was approached to temporarily join a traveling show. While I’m not advising you to be shot out of a cannon anytime soon, we can certainly heed this 94 year old woman’s advice. 

Transcript

She was asking me if I was ever in show business. I said, “No. I have no talent.” She says, “You don’t need any talent, just a little nerve. I have an opening to replace the person that used to do the cannon. She got pregnant and I need somebody to take her place. Would you like to try?”

I was young. Sixteen, stupid, fearless. 

[If you had to count, do you know how many times you were shot out of a cannon?]

Nine times. We did nine shows and I had no net. I had two big men – one on this side and one on this side. Both my arms were close to my body and when you come out you put your arms forward like you were diving into the water.

[Did it get any easier when you were shot out of the cannon multiple times?]

The first two-three times it was scary. But I just did what I was told. All you need is nerve when you’re that young. 

In your professional and personal life, bring the big ideas. After being propelled out of a cannon, Aunt Helen explains how two men caught her on each arm – meaning this brave teen took on the challenge without a net. What can you leave behind to ensure success is in your future? Whether it’s a negative attitude from someone or your own doubts, see these obstacles as your launching pad.

After all, all you need is a little nerve.   

6 months in… 6 lessons learned

I’ve been laying low on the blog front, but doing the exact opposite in my every day. I’ve taken the last few weeks to reflect on my writing to date, to imagine where it will go in the future and to truly experience the present. I realized I was going into situations thinking to myself, how can I write about this later? As a “student always” I will maintain that curiosity, but focus instead on being fully present in the moments.

I find it hard to believe, but I’ve been in this place they call the Big Apple for 6 months. Since moving I regularly say that ‘every day is a good day,’ but I would be lying if I didn’t acknowledge the lows along with the highs. In reflecting on the past 6 months, 6 key lessons have emerged. 

I lost a lot. People say you can start a conversation with anyone in New York by asking how they got here. Inevitably it’s a story filled with struggles that test our abilities to keep pushing forward. 

In my first few months I lost my Auntie Stephanie and pup Tequila to heaven’s pearly gates. My iPhone and wallet were stolen and I literally lost my way (gets tricky in a new city without a superphone, aka smartphone). It was difficult dealing with the passings and setbacks in a new city, but I knew I could only allow myself a certain amount of time to be sad. Lesson 1: Dwelling on the negative only keeps you from enjoying the positive. 

I was trusted as a professional. On the side hustle front, entrepreneur friends have turned to me for counsel and some even want to pay me! In my day job I take an active role in my clients’ programs and I’m called on to support projects outside my regular accounts. I’m serving as the Operations Manager for an internal initiative that strives to equal the male-female ration in leadership positions and provides support for employees on their way up. (This program is also the catalyst for my high five with the company’s CEO/President! Side lesson: It pays to speak up in the elevator about your enthusiasm for a program.) Lesson 2: Go after the work that excites you, challenges you and most importantly, scares you. Push yourself to do the things you think you cannot do. 

I had to ask for money. It’s hard to admit this, but definitely a part of my New York makeup. I realized how quickly money goes here and when you factor in the unexpected – like replacing a laptop – the challenge becomes greater. From babysitting to bartending (can you see me serving up cocktails?) to reinventing my first biz of start to finish party services, I’m planning ahead so I don’t find myself in a similar situation. Lesson 3: Get smart with the dollars and remain grateful for your support system. 

I met a guy. For the first time in a while, I really liked someone. We didn’t have a lot of time to spend together before he headed off on an adventure so we packed everything in over the course of one month. Lesson 4: The length of time you know a person means nothing when it comes to making a true connection. I expected this notion from my social media connections (it’s easy to make fast friends with shared interests via Twitter, for example), but not from a person I wanted to date and one I initially met in real life. I grew up thinking I had to follow this drawn out path to find that connection, when really; two people just need to be open at the same time. Who knows what’s to come, but I look at the situation knowing I’ve come away a better person just by being a part of it. 

I made new friends, but kept the old. (As the Girl Scouts’ song goes…) I joined a non-profit. I attended networking events. I took yoga classes. I picked up girls at parties. I put myself out there. The people I’ve met have been the main reason I’ve experienced a seamless transition. 

On the other hand, I Skyped for hours. I mailed postcards. I sent 1,300 texts in a month (yes, it is somehow possible on a stupidphone). I hosted 8 visitors (with more on the way!) I made time for phone calls and avoided multitasking during them so I could truly listen and be a part of each conversation. I’m still working at how to perfect the keeping in touch. Lesson 5: Moving to a new city tests your ability for meeting people while it challenges your creativity for staying in touch with those back home. Both remind me the most important parts of your life are defined by the people you choose to have in it. 

I left my comfort zone. For 25 years I lived in the same state and never more than two hours away from the house where I was raised. Some people make big moves for college while others take the leap following graduation. I needed a little more time to fully commit to a big transition. I struggled in the past with change, and I’m still learning how to handle it, but I’m comfortable with it being a work in progress. Lesson 6: When a change is the right one for you, you won’t have any doubts about making that leap.

Here’s to the lessons to come

Regardless of location, do you have any “coming to New York” stories or lessons to share? I’d love to hear from you in the comments.  

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You Should Stay In New York City

** I find more meaning in this letter every time I read it. It deserved its own post.

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Dear You,
   
So you told me that you thought about leaving New York. Which, I suppose, plenty of transplants think of doing. It’s not the first time and probably won’t be the last.

But these waves of thoughts were different than before. It was triggered when your sister had her baby, her first child and your first nephew, and you weren’t there. Instead, you spent that Friday checking mousetraps. You met your nephew via Skype. It has also been officially a year since you’ve been here and you’ve reevaluated the facts.

Living in Bed-Stuy is precisely what one could have assumed living in Bed-Stuy to be like, just with more cat-calls from tough guys in groups wondering why you’re so rude for not welcoming their advances. Never has being around so many made you feel so alone. You thought you would have found your Miranda and Charlotte by now, not watching them on DVD wondering how a show could get so much right and wrong in the same season. 
   

Every day it becomes clearer that New York is the greatest place to be when you matter but it’s the worst place to be when you don’t. Around every corner is a better apartment, or a better happy hour, or all the makings of a wonderful life you wish you had.

But I don’t think you should leave New York.

At least, not yet.

In your heart, you know you were not meant for an ordinary life. You flourish in a life surrounded by innovators and passionate people. You found that here.

There’s a life for you back home. It was pre-wrapped for you from birth. It’s comfortable, featuring your friends, your family, your car. It all sits waiting for you like a lottery ticket with the winning numbers unscratched. It’s tempting, no doubt.

There’s nothing magical about New York City. It is an amazing place just as there are amazing places everywhere, each with its own strengths and opportunities and disadvantages. You could have discovered and followed your passions in dozens of cities or towns. But for you, you knew in your heart that place was New York. And so you came.

Your nephew won’t ever remember you weren’t there for his birth. But one day you might find he’ll remember the time he visited his favorite aunt up north. The one who left home to make her name is the greatest place to make a name.

I hope you find solidarity knowing you are like so many others. You’re a special kind of person, the kind who decided to choose what their destiny would be, not have it laid out for them. Their New York might be in Los Angeles. Or Nashville. Or a sustainable farm in South America. That isn’t the point. The point is you didn’t commit to change because this city would make you the woman you wanted to be. You knew the woman you were. You know the woman you demanded yourself to become, and she belonged in New York.

Remember that CD you bought from those subway musicians at Lorimer? You paid ten dollars for only 5 songs. I told you that was a rip-off. You disagreed. You liked their music and wanted to support them in a simple way. You decided if those guys make their name outside of the subway system, you said you’d be glad to have been there when they had only the backs of people waiting for the next G train. 
    

It is very possible that the financial, emotional, and physical toll this move to New York took on you will not be worth it. It is very possible that you will go home and resume being yourself as you would have otherwise been, understanding the life you had imagined isn’t a fairy tale. But when it comes to your success, I’d put ten dollars on you.

And I’d put ten dollars on your success happening here.

– Robert (via Thought Catalog)