Maybe this running thing isn’t so bad after all

I didn’t know the city very well when I moved here. I had a lot of free time to roam between getting my job offer and when I actually started. I found the best way to learn this city was on foot; specifically by running. I found landmarks, friend’s homes, new neighborhoods and scoped out places I wanted to shop, eat or a venue to host an upcoming Social Impact Project.

But it was strange. Something was different here than it was in Chicago. In Chicago, I would tell people I wasn’t a runner, that “I have exercise-induced asthma” or “I can’t breathe when I run outside.”

Logically it made sense. Every time I ran in Chicago, I would wheeze for hours afterwards.But I haven’t been wheezing in DC.

In fact – I’ve started to enjoy running more.  However, once I started working 8a-6p+, I no longer could go for a run at 1pm on a Tuesday, so I began running on the weekends more consistently. Running in DC is challenging, let’s be honest. There are hills and tons of tourists. Oh, the tourists! I just want to yell at them, “Get out of the way morons!” Instead I find myself doing a quick 2 step dance around them. Usually I would run about 1.5, then walk a bit, then another 1.5 miles and return home.

But this past Saturday, was different. I had the most satisfying, peaceful, and proud running experience.

I woke up at 7am and felt gross from dinner the night before, so I went for a run. I ran from my apartment to the White House and before I knew it, I had 2 miles done. Then I began to run around the Tidal Basin (I had to go back eventually) and it became 2.5 miles, then 3.0 miles. When I surpassed 3.4 I thought, holy cow, I just ran my first 5K without stopping at all! That was the first time I had ever done that and I was proud of myself! I was determined to turn 3.1 instead a 10K! After those 3 miles something magical happened and it clicked. It was no longer UGH running, but I-can-and-want-to-keep-going running.

But then there was that huge blister on the arch of my left foot. And man, did it hurt. So I stopped and walked about a 0.5 mile, but then I thought to myself, Well this is just stupid of you, Caryn. It hurts to walk. It hurts to run. You might as well keep running as long as you’re not tired! 

So I did. I ran about 3 or 4 more miles and despite the pain, I felt great. I probably walked about a 1-1/2 miles but I was proud that I ran most of it. I got lost in the beauty of the day and of the city. Right around 4 miles, the horrible yet catchy fun song “The Tide is High” came on – and the line “I’m not the kind of girl that gives up just like that” really pushed me to keep going, and not give up. (side note: Blondie wrote a lot of creepy stalkerish songs. Have you noticed that?)

I was totally that crazy runner rocking out and head nodding to the music and I think I even fist bumped the air at one point. But I didn’t care. I was so content, totally at peace. It was a beautiful day, crisp and sunny – perfect for running. I just wanted to keep going. I ran for almost 90 minutes! PR for me!

I wanted to keep my motivation momentum going so instead of running home at the end of the workout, I limp-ran straight to Pacers shoe store to get a new pair of running shoes. No more blisters for this girl.

I am so proud of myself for running so long and for completing my first 5K. I might have actually completed a 10k but since I did walk some, and am not 100% sure on the distance, I don’t count it.

Lately, I’ve been inspired. I have many rock star runner friends and after watching them complete a half marathon, I was inspired to take up running more seriously. I always got bored running and wondered how people ran for so long without getting bored but now I get it. Something happened after mile 3, and suddenly I am that girl who can’t wait to try running again. Who am I?! Maybe this running thing isn’t so bad after all. I say that now…

NEW GOALS:

  • Improve PR of 5K from this weekend.
  • Sign up for 5K
  • Sign up for 10K once 5K completed
  • Do Tough Mudder type event with Terra
  • Run 10 Miler
  • Work up to 1/2 marathon

That time I climbed Mount Kilimanjaro and lived to tell the tale…

I was on top of the world!! (Or at least on The Roof of Africa!)

Despite some (major) breathing struggles due to the high altitude and extremely thin air, I’m really happy to report that I made it all the way to Uhuru Peak! I climbed 19,341 feet on the World’s Highest Freestanding Mountain to The Roof of Africa. From being cold and dirty for seven days and only using wet wipes to bathe, to camping out in sleeping bags in the great outdoors and going to the bathroom behind rocks along the trail, to facing my fears of climbing a real rock wall (with no harness) and hiking up to 7 hours in a day, to even climbing 13 hours in extreme cold and dangerously low temps on summit night, I can honestly say that even though in the moment it was the hardest thing I’ve ever done physically, I enjoyed every day and the adventure of it all.

My climbing group consisted of 3 other girls and I along with our 3 guides and 13 porters. We saw dads and sons, couples and groups of guys but we were the only group of all girls. Yup, we’re that badass.

We chose to do a 7 day hike on Machame, the route known as “The Whiskey Route” because it is more challenging and scenic than Marangu, the “Coca Cola Route.” The more days you spend climbing, the better your chances are of acclimatizing and successfully making it to the summit. I don’t know if I would have made it if we did a shorter trek. Climbing, much like in life, is a mental game. If you believe it is possible and tell yourself you can do it compared to if you are weak and give up, the choice is yours. You have to honey badger through that shit. The mental aspect of the climb was actually the easiest part for me. Apparently, when I want  something, I am a lot stronger mentally than I ever fully realized.

I used to wonder what it was like to touch a cloud. They look so fun and fluffy, right? Let me tell you right now – they aren’t. They are cold and damp and quite dreary! But even if you are standing in the clouds or above the clouds, when you’re on the mountain looking up at the snow-covered peak, you completely forget that you’re in Africa.

Every morning at 6am the porters woke us up with hot tea and a hot breakfast. We’d get dressed (we pretty much wore the same clothes everyday so this didn’t take too long), pack up our stuff and load our daypack with the stuff that we needed for the day. Having the right gear made the trek a thousand times easier. We had 3 hot meals a day and ate dinner around 6pm by candlelight. It got really cold at night and there wasn’t much to do in the dark except rely on our headlamps and candles to play cards, write in our journals or read so we’d stall best we could and then retire early for the night to rest up for the long day of hiking ahead.

Quick Kilimanjaro Facts:

  • The guides repeatedly tell you “pole pole” (pronounced polé) which means “slowly slowly”. The slower you go, the more likely you are to make it to the summit.
  • It’s the largest freestanding mountain in the world standing at 19,341 ft/ 5895 m.
  • Kilimanjaro supports 5 major eco-zones: rainforest, heath, moorland, alpine desert and arctic tundra. Where else on Earth can you journey through 5 climates from the Equator/Amazon Rainforest to the North Pole in 45 miles? Truly incredible.
  • The biggest challenge and danger is the high altitude. Climbers die from improper acclimatization and altitude sickness rather than falls.
  • Approximately 25,000 people attempt to summit Mt. Kilimanjaro annually. Only about 2/3 are successful. (and I am one of them! Woo!)
  • The structure is composed of 3 volcanoes: Kibo, Mawenzi, and Shira. Kibo, where all the hikers are, is the highest and only peak that is dormant and could erupt again. The most recent activity was only 200 years ago! (Yea, so I climbed on a colossal volcano!)

So here is a day by day account of the life-changing climb:

October 14: DAY 1
Machame Gate to Machame Hut Camp
Elevation: 5,997 ft to 9,908 ft

Distance: 10.8 km
 (6.7 miles)
Time: 12N to 5:22PM
. 5 hours 22 minutes
Zone: Rainforest

It rained in the rainforest. Go figure. I saw some monkeys swinging in the trees, so that was entertaining. The air was already thinning and already becoming more difficult to breathe. I tried to focus on the climb rather than what could have been.  That night I stood mesmerized by the breathtaking beauty and astounding mass quantity of stars. Stars in Utah have nothing on this.

day 1 - kilimanjaro
 
October 15 DAY 2
Machame Hut to Shira Camp
Elevation: 12,621 ft

Distance: 5.2 km
 (3.2 miles)

Time: 8:30AM to 1PM
 - 4 hours 57 minutes
Vitals: 97 Oxygen level
Zone: Alpine Forest

Today was rough and very steep. We were already above the clouds and climbed over rocks, mud and boulders. At one point, we were on the edge of a cliff with only a 3-inch thick ledge!! (not exaggerating at all)

day 2- kilimanjaro
Thank goodness for walking sticks. No stepping stones are stairs, only boulders.
October 16 – DAY 3
Shira Camp to Barranco Hut (via Lava Tower)

Elevation: Lava Tower 15,092 ft / Barranco Hut 130,70ft

Distance: 
Shira to Lava 7.0 (4.3 miles)
Lava to Barranco 3.7 km (2.3 miles)

Time: 8:30AM to 4PM
 - 6 hours 27 minutes
Vitals: 94 Oxygen level
Zone: Moorland

The first 3 ½ hours were straight uphill and extremely cold.The cold temps only make breathing in the thin air that much more difficult. To help acclimate (climb high, sleep low) we descended after reaching Lava Tower which is the highest point along the route until the summit.

Grace and I at Lava Tower; crazy Tim Burton-esque trees; me standing in front of Kibo
October 17 – DAY 4
Barranco Hut to Karanga Hut

Elevation: 13,255 ft

Barranco Wall (843 ft)
Distance: 5.8 km (3.6 miles)
Time: 8:50AM to 1PM
 4 hours
Vitals: 90 Oxygen level
Zone: Alpine Desert

The air had gotten so thin that it took me 5 minutes to catch my breath. Even going from the tent to the toilet tent and back was an effort. We literally climbed a rock wall known as the High Breach Barranco Wall. We put away our walking poles and used our hands to pull ourselves up and over massive boulders. On our walk, I had an interesting chat with Vincent, my guide, about how Tanzanian’s main news source is the radio because TV’s cost too much, papers are hard to find and people have to go to Internet cafes to get Internet access. When he told me Obama did well in the 2nd debate and bombed the 1st I realized just how disconnected from the world I had become and how at peace I was in the complete and utter silence, the serenity and the calmness of the mountain.

Yoga above the clouds, Niki and I climbing up the Barranco Wall and the four of us eating
October 18- DAY 5
Karanga Hut to Barafu Hut
Elevation: 15,092 ft

Distance: 3.4 km
 (2.1 miles)

Time: 8:45AM to 12PM
 2 hours 44 minutes
Zone: Desert

Upon arrival at the camp, we were told to rest up for our big night. The guides woke us up for dinner and then again at 1130p to begin our summit attempt. This was where it hit me. Time had come to go big or go home; but really just to go big because going home wasn’t going to be an option for me.

day 5 - kilimanjaro

October 18th/ Morning of October 19th – NIGHT of DAY 5/ DAY 6 SUMMIT ATTEMPT!
Distances on Summit Day
Barafu Hut to Stella Point: 3.3 Km (2.05 miles) ~ 6 hours 
(Stop & think about that. Climbing 2 miles straight up a mountain.
That puppy is huge!)
Stella Point to Summit Uhuru Peak: 1.2 km (.75 miles)
Summit to Barafu: 4.5km (2.8 miles)
Elevation: Stella Point 18,871 ft / Uhuru Peak 19,341 ft
Vitals: None taken. Vincent didn’t want to psych us out if we made it
this far?
Time: 12:20AM-1:30PM Summit. 13 hours!
Zone: Arctic Tundra

As soon as we left base, I felt like we were on a death march with what should have had dramatic Star Wars music playing in the background. Saving my iPod battery up until this point just to listen to music as I attempted to summit made all the difference in the world. It helped pass the time so much easier. I was wearing almost every piece of clothing I brought and while I was comfortable, others were vomiting and fighting frostbite. After all, climbing (pre-sunrise) in the cold, dark night at -10C (14 F) for  about 6+ hours was damn near frigid. When it is pitch black out, all you see is the feet of the person in front of you lit up in the light of your headlamp. You can’t see that you are on the edge of a massive cliff and you’re less likely to get psyched out by how far you have left to climb.

Did you know that the brain does not function very intelligently and often hallucinates at this altitude? One climber-friend said she must have blacked out while continuing to walk because she doesn’t remember parts of the climb near Stella Point. Another said he saw hippos. That’s bad, there are no hippos anywhere on the mountain. Thankfully, I didn’t have any symptoms of AMS. When you reach Stella Point you think you’re done but you’re not.  It’s a big tease. You’ve already climbed about 7 hours and you think you’ve exhausted all your reserved energy and that you can’t go any further but oh wait. You can! There is still (only) 470 ft to go! Even though I was struggling to breathe, I told myself, “Who needs to breathe!? I’ve come 5 days and have just an hour and half left! I can do this!” Admittedly, I cried a few tears when I got to the sign. Standing just feet away from a real ice glacier in Africa was absolutely magical. It  is so sad to think that they are melting and will likely be gone in 10-20 years.

summit

October 19 Day 6:
Barafu Hut to Mweka Camp
Distance: 6.3km  (3.9 miles)
Time: 3 hours
Elevation: Mweka Camp 10,138 ft

Vitals: Oxygen 70. Uh oh.
Zone: Alpine Desert

TOTAL Climbed Summit Day - Total 15.3km  (9.5 miles)

I kept thinking, “What comes up must go down” because for me the scariest part of it all was going down the loose scree. Couldn’t they have a ski chair lift to take me down? 10 hours into climbing and still 3 hours left, I was tired!! I thought once I descended and reached camp, my breathing would return to normal. However, I was wheezing coughing so violently that I almost vomited so the porters put me on a stretcher and carried me 3/4 of the way to Mweka camp to get me to lower altitude as fast as possible. They then gave me oxygen to help stabilize me. As it turns out, I was actually lucky to have been given a ride because really, going down is a lot harder on your knees and body and after 13 straight hours, I don’t think I had the energy to keep going.

complete
Happy and Dirty and in need of a shower, but we did it!
October 20 Day 7:
Mweka Camp to Mweka Gate to the hotel! AKA finally a shower 
with soap & water, a real toilet and a real bed!
Elevation: 5,423 ft

Distance: 8.5 km
 (5.3 miles)
Time: 8:30 to 10:30AM hotel by 12:30PM – 2 hours 47 minutes
Zone: Rainforest

I was lucky, even though I couldn’t breathe, I didn’t suffer from any AMS symptoms. I never had a headache, never saw hippos nor did I vomit. I think taking Advil and Diamox every day helped tremendously. Before we knew it, we were at the finish line receiving our certificates of summit completion! I immediately showered, laid on the bed and called home to wake up my parents to tell them that I was indeed alive and that I had succeeded! That night we all went to celebrate our successful climbs (and newfound access to showers) at Glacier – a bar hangout in Moshi with tables in a treehouse.

TOTAL DISTANCE WALKED: over 45 miles in 7 days.

Cheers'ing to our successful climb and to finally having a shower again
All 7 of us successfully made it to the summit. 100% success rate! Celebrating our successful climb and to finally having a shower again
October 21
Zone: Hotel & Airport

Time for my 22 hour flight home. Funny story – Before Grace contacted me to join her, I had considered joining a group of 6 Australians so I didn’t have to climb alone. When I got in the van to go to the airport, I was chatting with my van-mates who happened to be Australian. I  instantly knew who they were and when I asked if they climbed Rongai, they gave me a look like “WTF, how’d you know?” Turns out it is a very small world after all and they were the ones I almost climbed with! Good thing I went with Grace because it was a group of men all in their 50’s! That sure would have been an awkward 7 days.

A good life lesson learned – just keep your focus on what is directly ahead of you. Don’t look up the mountain and get caught up in how far you have still to go, just take one step at a time. 

It was such an incredible feeling of immense satisfaction and such a sense of accomplishment to know that I climbed Mount Kilimanjaro! I made to the top! I didn’t give up and yes, I did it! It was a very proud moment and in that moment, I felt untouchable, as if I could do anything. I felt on top of the world. While it truly was a once-in-a-life-time experience, it made me realize I am capable of so much more than I ever thought possible and am so much stronger (mentally) than I ever gave myself credit for. I am fierce, brave and independent. I enjoy adventures and camping and nature, too. I don’t need to wait for a man to come along for my life to begin. I  can accomplish dreams on my own. Looking back at pictures and memories, I am still impressed with myself that I was able to accomplish such a challenging feat. I am now apart of an elite club of people who can say that they made it to The Roof of Africa! I’m excited to see what my next adventure will be.

{Interested in climbing? Have questions about my experience or want to know more details on how climbing works, ask away in the comment section!}

** If you want to see more pictures check out my album.**

2012 in review. Year of Caryn complete.

Happy New Year, readers! Hope your year is off to a good start. How has another year passed already? Can someone please tell me because I am in disbelief that it has been a year (as of Jan 2) since I made that life changing decision that completely changed my life. It is true, time never stops and looking back, it really does help heal the wounds. It was a very difficult year emotionally but I refused to let misery encompass my life. So instead of wasting my days moping, I decided to learn about myself and made 2012 into the year that I began to find Caryn. I wanted to discover whom I was, what made me happy. I wanted to pursue dreams that I had let fall away and I wanted to become the most authentic version of myself. I did a lot of reflection and soul-searching and I took a deep look at who I had become and who I wanted to be and finally stopped dreaming and started doing. I had deemed 2012 The Year of Caryn and that it was. I find it bittersweet that it is over because I learned, grew and accomplished so much. I am kind of sad to let “my” year go. I know every year can be The Year of Caryn but it isn’t the same. And plus that’s just The Life of Caryn then.

Looking back, I am proud of 2012. It started off to be heart-wrenchingly painful where I was at rock bottom but I turned it around. It could have been just another miserable year but I made it into a year about self-exploration, independence, actualizing dreams, amazing adventures in Africa, volunteering, four (!) visits to DC, finding happiness and myself, winning things, and growth, learning, giving to others and being grateful.

January

Emotional. Tears. Swollen eyes. Heart-wrenching pain. Breakups. Saying goodbye. Losing a best friend. Mom’s 60th. Seeing an Intuitive. Receiving justification. Light-bulb moments. Dark days. iPhone acquired. Celebrated birthday. Realizing the fake vs. true friends. Depression. Crying in a public bar. Visits from supportive & amazing friends (from across the country.) Family support. Soul-searching. BiSC registration. Costa cruise crash & sinking.

February

Set personal goals. Self-reflection. Registered for volunteering in Tanzania. Girl sleepovers. Apartment hunting. RM work test. Date with Dad to see American Idiot. Emotional battles. Misery. Optimistic. Ugly tears. No appetite. Girls night out. Out of town friend visits. Signed a new lease. MIA Valentines Day. First Kitchen Aid! Scary Warm weather in 40’s! Whitney Houston’s death. Deadly tornado in Illinois.

March

30 Day Shred. Deadly tornado in Alabama. MRI results show new lesion on liver. Launch of ChiTownTweetup. Countdown to BiSC & Africa. Travel shots.

April

Acting like a teen again by gabbing on a call for 3 hours. New work team. Spontaneous trip to DC on a one day notice. Surprising friends for goodbye parties. 30 day shred. First official CTTU event at Blue Line Lounge. Planning. Creating. Dreaming. Tears. Dinners with friends. Botched haircut. Botched haircut fixed. Consulting call. New friends. Blog post causes tension. First blog post payment earned. Announced Africa to world. Shopping for Mad Men. Brunch with BiSC Chicago friends. Countdowns. Conflicting emotions. Dick Clark died.

May

Planning. Surprise visit a graduation. DC visit #2. Second CTTU event at Kirkwood. Book Africa flight. No more dreams, now reality. BiSC. Reunite with good friends. Freedom. Guard down. Wedding in Houston. Internal struggles about returning. ALL the emotions. Exiled from hotel room. Sister’s engagement party. Vegas. Abraham Lincoln hoax. Stolen stripper vodka. Soul-searching. Attempts at self-discovery. Spreading positivity and happiness. Lessons learned. Dancing on tabletops. In public. In bars. Letting go. Hit goal weight. Blueberry Stoli’s. Phone dates. Skype dates. Winning the Amazon Kindle Fire. Strip Clubs. Mad Men Party. Zumanity. Get ripped in 30.

June

Month of lots of skype dates and phone dates with friends. Applied for Visa. Attend invite-only Twitter party. Stacy’s Bridal shower. Brunch. Train to visit Mandi. Social media day. Assist in friend’s proposal. 4-way air-hockey. Planning. Stress. ANXIETY. Mom’s graduation. CTTU Sunday Funday at Brunch. Won free BiSC trip while skyping. Positive attitude. Personal Growth. Realizing more dreams and desires. Weight gain begins for no apparent reason.

July

Told my blog gave perspective to woman whose son moved away. Bought Tweetup for Change domain. Creativity. Founder. Entrepreneur. Risks. Charity. Philanthropy. Fireworks. Phone Dates. Skype Dates (Stacey). Almost record-breaking hot weather 100’s. Crazy humidity. Sox game for Dad’s Birthday. Fireworks at The Cell. Bridesmaid for the first time. Conflicting emotions. ANXIETY. Pepperoni chin breakouts. See Ex for the first time. In a wedding together. Extreme awkwardness. All the emotions: tears, pain, happiness. Fever and zits from anxiety. Rivers of tears. Missing him. Longing. Opened wounds. Talking causes crying. Saying goodbye all over again. Heartache and heart-break. Visits to Botanical Gardens to find calmness. Wedding dress decision time. In Aurora, Colorado movie theatre massacre. Bridesmaid chooses to be ex’s friend over me. Lose a friend. Uncomfortable. Lies. DC visit #3. Roadtrips with Maxie to Richmond. Cake Pops. Chocolate food fights. Laughter. Drool-worthy brunch. Bacon Bloody Mary’s. Sister’s Bridal shower. Dad’s 61st. Last minute visitors. Pre-work breakfast bonding. Olympics in London. Wacky opening ceremony. Biased USA reporting. Michael Phelps makes history. USA women’s gymnastics wins gold. Realizations that I’m not ready for friendship, despite wanting to be. Begin couch to 5K. SMC Social events. More shots. Africa preparations.

AUGUST

Concerts for Mothers Day. Seeing J.LO & Enrique. Great entertainers. Photo class. Accomplishing goals. Laid off. Blessings (not) in disguise. TUFC’s Dip Your Beak for Change at Drinkingbird. Won amazing headphones. Found out he’s dating. Elephant chest steps. Motivation to be ready to date. Shopping and preparing for Africa. Bachelorette planning. Neil Armstrong died.Sears Tower Skydeck glass city views. Deep dish pizza and cookie pies. Cupcakes from ATMs. Belly-ache laughs. Being local tourists and playing tour guide. All the walking.

SEPTEMBER

Horrible skin. Stress trumps a positive attitude. Flu. Sickness. Aches. Stacy’s Bachelorette. Last day of work. Job hunting. Loneliness. Lady-friend cycle late. Excited for Africa. Final shots. Filed for unemployment. Pressure to limit trip length. Standing ground. London Layover. Kensington Palace. Long flights. Disconnected from technology. Independence. Appreciation. Learning Swahili. Safari. 20 year-old dreams come true. Teaching kids. Lots of hugs & smiles. Kids shouting Teacha! Teacha! Pictcha! Pictcha! Personal exploration.

OCTOBER

Zanzibar. Palm trees. Poverty. White sand. Aqua water. Snorkeling. Relax. Actual vacation. Pools. Slave trade tours. Flights. Rewards. Love. Friendliness. Gratitude. Lesson plans. Photos. Kids singing to me. Teaching. Hugs. Waterfalls. Day trips. Coffee plantation. 1st Peanut butter sandwiches. Art projects. New cultures. Goodbyes. Tears. Climb Kilimanjaro. Tents. Boulders and rocks. Climbing legitimate rock walls. Personal goals accomplished. Survival. Hiking 7 hours a day. 13 hours to Summit. Accomplishment. Proud.  Mental power. Stunning sunrises. Who needs to breathe? Camping. Tents. Behind-the-Rock Potties. Layers of clothes. I CAN DO THIS. Wet wipe showers. Sleeping bags. Hot Tea. Guide crush on me. Climb mountain same day as my wedding. Tornadoes on wedding day at home. All the emotions of that day. Realization that I like traveling internationally alone. 22+ hour flights. Peace. Content. Calmness. In my element. Tranquil. Return home to enormous stress. Anxiety. Daydreams of returning to Moshi. Coughing. Cat-scans. Lance Armstrong stripped from awards. Parents proud of all my accomplishments. Give up eating meat that is GMO. Superstorm Sandy. Man jumps from space 

NOVEMBER

Culture shock. Anxiety. Depression. Weight gain. Workouts. Sister’s beautiful wedding. Mixed emotions. Tears. Love. Baking. Sign up for online dating. Finally ready. Thanksgiving. Share gratefulness. Gratitude. President Obama re-elected. Best re-election speech. Relieved. Grateful to be able to vote. Grateful lady bits are safe. Revisit orthodontist. Retainer. Again. Job hunting. Moving on. Missing past. Dates. Stress. Baking. Just Dance party. Begin running.

DECEMBER

Birthday. Visit DC & Richmond #4. Apartment hunting in DC. Road trip with Maxie. Donated my birthday to charity:Water. THE WORLD IS ENDING! Anti-climatic-false-Apocolypse. Her lack of perspective. Pain. Helpless. Frustration. Stress. Begin Eating Clean lifestyle. New Years with good friends.  Cards for Humanity. Sabers. Champagne.

Other things that were big this year:

Obama‘s endorsement of gay marriage! Honey Boo Boo. THIS NEEDS TO STOP NOW.Gangam Style. One Direction. Some Nights & We are Young by Fun. Death of Trayvon Martin. “Legitimized rape”. Chick-Fil-A controversy over gay marriage. The Hunger Games. 50 Shades of Grey. Facebook IPO bombs. Clint Eastwood argued with a chair. Hostess files for Bankruptcy – end of (fresh) Twinkies. NFL replacement refs.

Any other big things from 2012 that I forgot?

Here’s to 2013 & another year of growth and new adventures!

Happy 2013

 

* EDITED to include forgotten events.

No drinks for me this year, I’m pledging my birthday to Charity: Water.

Christmas Eve is in exactly six days. Which means my birthday is also in six days. People tend to forget about birthdays this time of year as they get lost in the shuffle and excitement of THE HOLIDAYS! Instead of wishing people to remember my birthday, my wish this year is that we can give back by remembering those who are not as privileged as us.

Growing up, I’ve been very lucky to have a very loving and supportive family. I’ve never really asked for much. Yet, I’ve still been given bountiful opportunities and received birthday gifts. Usually my birthday consists of birthday dinners and celebrations with friends and family.

But something shifted for me this year and I’ve come to realize just how much of my life I want to spend helping others. I’ve had amazing opportunities; I’m privileged to have the experiences that I have had. I went to overnight summer camp every summer as a child, I went to a Big 10 university and got a degree. I graduated without any debt and I studied in Florence, Italy for a semester. I’ve been to 24 countries already, I backpacked for four weeks through Europe and recently went to Tanzania just to pursue a volunteering dream. This list goes on but in the end it comes down to the fact that I am very lucky to have had all the opportunities I’ve had.

I know that while I have had all these experiences, there are many out there who only know a life of war and poverty, of struggle and hardship. When I was in Africa, I saw people drinking from the same stream that they bathed in. I saw rusted flimsy roof tops and people walking miles upon miles just for water and to provide for their family.

I often donate to friend’s causes like honoring loved ones or running a marathon.When disaster strikes, whether it was the Tsunami in Japan or Hurricane Sandy, I give money to the Red Cross. I hadn’t actually shown up on the doorstep ready to make a difference myself until I went to Tanzania. I had a life long dream of volunteering and having an impact on someone else’s life so I went to Africa, to actually DO something, not just pay for change, but to DO it. I started Social Impact Project for this reason, too. And I am proud to know that I accomplished that. But I don’t want it to stop there.

So this year, I am doing something different. I am continuing my efforts to make a difference, to make it part of my lifestyle rather than just  something I did once.

And that is why for my 28th birthday I want to start it off by giving back and helping others. I am pledging my birthday for a cause that gives 100% of what it raises and uses it to bring clean drinking water to those in need. I am pledging my birthday to help Charity: Water.

We take so much for granted and clean water is just one of many things. If you’re interested in reading about all the ways clean water can change the world, you can find them at Charity: Water.
So great Caryn, you are pledging your birthday. What does this mean?
This year, I am committed to raising $1,000 dollars for this cause. I realize I am not giving $1,000 of my own money; I’m asking my friends to help me.
This year, I will not let people buy me dinner to celebrate me. I want to celebrate life.

This year, no one is allowed to buy me drinks. Sure, I’ll have my friends get together, instead of buying me drinks on my birthday, I’m asking friends to take that money and put it towards something that actually matters.

I used to hate having my birthday at the end of the year, around the holidays. But I’ve come to realize, it is symbolic with starting the whole year over, starting fresh not only as the date changes but as another birthday passes. This year, as I head into another year, my 28th year, I want to start it off by giving back.
I have no idea if I’ll reach my goal. But it isn’t so much about the number as it is about helping somebody who deserves it, somebody who actually needs that “drink” for survival.

That is the best birthday gift I could ask for.

Thank you!

Here is a link to my birthday Charity: Water page.

The Year Of Caryn: 2012 – Progress Check

If you remember, I didn’t do my New Years Resolutions on time this year because of it didn’t quite start how I had expected. If I did, this list would be completely different. Instead, in February after some dust settled, I deemed 2012 – The Year Of Caryn and this list was born. And oh, The Year of Caryn it has been! Here is my progress check on accomplishing my goals thus far.

Goals For The Year Of Caryn:

  1. Focus on me. Discover who Caryn is as an individual. Do some soul-searching – figure out what makes me happy and what makes me tick. – CHECK (but still in progress & evolving)
  2. Put my needs first. Don’t do something just to please others. If it is something that I don’t want to do or that doesn’t make me happy, DON’T do it.  (This is liberating!) Also note: It’s okay to be selfish sometimes. CHECK – Despite family trying to get me to come back early from Tanzania, I am actually standing my ground and not giving up on my dreams. I am not trying to please them, I am putting myself first for once. Also, saying no to plans because it isn’t something I want to do – SO FREEING.
  3. Make time to do the things that I’ve always wanted to do but made excuses for, never thought I would have time to do or never thought the time was right. CHECK – volunteer in Tanzania in 19 days!
  4. Follow my dreams. CHECK I started Tweetup For Change, volunteering in Tanzania AND I’m going to climb Kilimanjaro, baby!
  5. Get in shape  – this includes running more, attending yoga and core fusion more often and completing a month of Jillian’s 30 day shred. CHECK, completed several Jillian DVD’s, got a personal trainer and started Couch to 5K
  6. Find space between digital world and real world.  Disconnect from constantly being connected. Turn off  the cell phone and computer once in a while. Still need to do this, but will have limited access while in Tanzania
  7. Take a photography class & learn to use a DSLR camera. CHECK Took a 90 min free photography class, but want to learn more
  8. Buy that DSLR camera  Can’t afford this right now. STILL TO DO
  9. Be more proactive about reaching out to those I love.  So many wonderful people have come into my life recently, don’t take them for granted. Continuous & in progress but not sure worthy of a check.
  10. Surround myself with those who make me happy. If someone doesn’t make me feel happy/smart/cool/pretty/nice/thin/safe to be my true self/smart enough – then take a step back and re-evaluate the friendship. I want to surround myself with people who make me feel happy and alive and appreciate me. CHECK but still evolving. Amazing how much better you feel when you’re around positive energy. Realized even if bad things happen, you can choose to be happy.

Blog Goals:

  1. Stay on top of my ideas for blog content and post in a timely fashion. I have 63 drafts just waiting to be finished and published. I’ve got to work on this. I have more drafts now and haven’t been posting as often as I would like. I’ve been too busy off making shit happen!
  2. Personal posts are okay but add more inspiring content too. The intent of the blog is not to be a diary. CHECK. Also started Saturn Return segment
  3. Don’t feel pressured to post if it has been a while.  It is my blog and I should only post when I have content I want to share. Guess this contradicts #1 but CHECK
  4. Create a new blog name. Please feel free to submit suggestions. Seriously. CHECK. new blog TBA later.
  5. Buy my own domain with said new blog name. STILL TO DO
  6. Hold more contests, interviews, giveaways etc. Be a more active blogger but still adhere to Goal 3. STILL TO DO – but I do have a guest post series coming up and have been selected for UbiChamps…
  7. Embrace all that blogging has brought into my world and continue to grow with it. CHECK! BiSC #2, winning a free trip for BiSC 2013 and Kindle Fire, Tweetups, new friends, social media events, etc.
  8. Learn CSS and improve technical skills STILL TO DO

I still have a bit to do in the Year of Caryn, but I am really proud of all that I have accomplished.  I feel like a totally different person than I was and so much has changed and evolved in these 9 months. It seems like forever ago when I first set these goals. I have made improvements in my life and focused on the big, personal, soul-searching things, the things to make me happy and allow me to grow. I have realized a lot about myself and about life in general and while I know this process is far from over, I know I am finally discovering who I really am at my hearts center and what I want to get out of this life. It really is the material things that I have left to check off this list. And it is only September!

What were your goals for 2012? How are you doing on accomplishing the goals you set out to do this year?