Unapologetically Me

I am not perfect nor do I try to be. But I do like the way I am. I’d do anything for my friends and family and I put my heart and soul into my friendships and relationships. A ‘fault’ of mine is that I care a lot about my friends’ well-being and would do anything for them. I’ll keep your secrets and listen to your problems. A silver lining can be found in nearly every situation; I’ll be your voice of reason and devil’s advocate. I’ll be your biggest cheerleader and I’ll encourage you to pursue your dreams.  I may not always remember names or specific details in stories, but I’ll listen and be present in the moment for you. I’ll be there to support you, and give a shoulder to cry on or a couch to sleep on. I’ll offer my advice and give hugs because well, I’m a hugger. I’ll try to make you happy. When I can’t fix something or make things better, I feel like I’ve failed you as a friend. When a close friend hurts, I hurt. I want to save the world, personally and professionally; I want to make the world a better place. I want to make a difference and impact lives. I want to make your world a better place. I’m an honest person and yes, my directness often gets me in trouble, but I think lies are cowardly. I treat everyone with respect, friend or foe. Life is short and precious and I do my best not to hold on to anger or grudges nor do I like going to bed angry; you never know what tomorrow will bring. I take people at their word which also means I’m gullible sometimes. I am cautious and selective about who I trust, but then I still trust too easily. I always see the best in people even after they prove me wrong and I give more chances than most deserve. I have a lot of self-control, determination, and a deep awareness of my true Self. I love unabashedly and unconditionally with everything in my being. I like nature and camping, sports and going on adventures, but I also like luxury hotels, being pampered, and getting dressed up all fancy. I love spontaneity, but I also like to plan. Hell, I still keep a paper planner. I make friends in elevators and in supermarket lines because I talk to everyone and strike up conversations with strangers, but I can still be shy in certain social situations. I can be gregarious and outgoing but can also be socially awkward. I’m not a good runner, but I run. I’m a firm believer in marriage equality and equal rights, yet am traditional with my relationships and believe in chivalry. I’m an open book and will talk about pretty much anything but still private about some things. I am a big dork about many things and when I’m comfortable, I’m super goofy and weird. I realize I also take things too seriously sometimes. I’ve shared many other random things about myself here and there. I believe in expressing gratitude daily and I always try to focus on the positive. I own the fact that being lactose intolerant, health-conscious, and mostly vegetarian makes me a picky eater and finding restaurants to eat at with me is often difficult. At the end of the day, I know I’ve grown a lot in the last couple years and I am proud of the woman I have become. Maybe some would consider it a fault to be so honest, bold, confident and independent; to care so much about my friends, to take things too seriously yet be goofy, but I’m okay with all of this because this is who I am. I am me. I’m unapologetically me.

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On Control and Learning to Let Go

“You can’t always choose what happens to you in this life but you sure as hell can choose how you respond and react to it.” –Brixston

Control is a funny thing.

Growing up I was a goodie-two-shoes. I didn’t want to get in trouble so I always did what I was told; I respected authority and the elderly. I was sure to always say my please and thank you’s. I’ve never been arrested or broken any (serious) laws. I never did drugs nor did I drink at all until I went abroad my second semester junior year. I’ve never had that random kiss in a bar or one-night stand; I can count on one hand how many times I’ve been sick from drinking too much. I make lists so I don’t forget things and will often take ownership of something to make sure it gets done. I always sat in the front of the class, turned my homework in on time and I never played hooky from class. My bills are always paid on time; I take daily vitamins, work out, I eat very healthy and watch everything I put in my mouth. I realize I unintentionally take some things too serious, like jokes and some aspects of relationships. I used to care a lot what people thought and tried to please everyone. It shouldn’t be a surprise that I’m a planner. I try to get to the airport with time to spare and always have at least a quarter tank of gas. I’ve always been overcautious, meticulous and constantly trying to do the right thing. I could go on…

While a select few things have changed, most have not. And I would not change who I am.

But in the past 6 months, there have been multiple serious life-changing events, that were both good and bad, that despite all my efforts and precautions, still happened. And there is absolutely nothing I could have done differently. All of it was completely out of my control.

While I cannot control the outcomes, I can control how I react and respond to the situations.

It is frustrating and defeating at first, and it is okay to have those feelings. But rather than dwell and wallow, I’ve chosen to focus on the positive aspects that I can take away from it. What can I learn? How can this situation make me a better person? What is the positive in this particular situation? How can I use my situation to help someone else?

I’ve learned that the Universe often has its own plans. No matter how much you try to be in command of the situation, to do all right things, say the right things, be in the right place, and to protect yourself against the dangers of life, sometimes you just have to let go, take some risks, love freely and live a little because some things are just out of your control.

The Bittersweet One Year Anniversary {Parallel Universes}

Today would have been my one year wedding anniversary.

I’m struggling with this. It is a very surreal and strange thing to process. How has it already been a year? It is crazy to think how fast time has flown by and all that has happened in the past year. Had I gotten married, NOT ONE event of this past year would have happened. Not.a.single.one. Think about that for a minute. Crazy, eh? It is stop-in-your-tracks and mind-numbing to think what could have been. It is even more wild to think that all the memories I have now from this past year would not exist. That’s such a strange to think about. Where would I be today?

Today is also the day I celebrate my one year anniversary of starting my assent up Mount Kilimanjaro.  I am so proud of myself for accomplishing that feat; a feat that I am still in disbelief that I DID; a feat that I have to look at photos to believe sometimes. And that would not have happened had I been celebrating the wedding anniversary.

So instead of cutting into and eating the top-tier of my wedding cake and exchanging paper gifts, I am alone looking through photos from when I climbed Kilimanjaro. It was ironic, it was coincidental, no it was Kismet, that it fell on the same day. I couldn’t have planned that better if I tried.

It is this parallel universe of celebrating two anniversaries; like looking down a kaleidoscope and seeing an alternate life. It’s like Sliding Doors; seeing what your life might have been if one decision was different. I’m proud of all that I’ve done, accomplished and am experiencing; of how I’ve grown and what I’ve learned about myself. But I miss him and wonder what our life would be like.

I know where I live now, who I’ve met, and the things I’ve done – none of it would have happened. My outlook on life would be different. I know I am much more positive and grateful for the little things; I would not be who I am today, that’s for sure. So much would be different. I’d be a Mrs.

There are those things we look forward to all year; we set goals, we hit milestones, we meet new people, we plan vacations, we advance in or change jobs. We have experiences that we expected and others that we never could have predicted. We grow another year older, wiser.  Yet the one thing that is consistent in all of it, is that time doesn’t stop. With that, every decision we make leads us on down a new path, and we must learn from our experiences. I guess having both anniversaries on the same day, makes today easier to swallow; it puts life and the choices we make into perspective.

Today is, and always will be a bittersweet day. Two anniversaries in one; today I celebrate both what I accomplished and what could have been.

Last year today, in my travel journal, I wrote, “To new challenges, to new beginnings and going over the hill to leave the past behind.” And that is just what I am celebrating today.

Happy Bittersweet One Year Anniversary, to me.

Change of Times – The Day the Clock Stopped.

Do you have something, an item or chotchky, that you have held onto through the years for no good reason other than because it held some nostalgic link to your past? For some unexplained reason you just couldn’t get yourself to throw it out?

My nostalgic item from college was a clock. A stupid black and white, cheap, whopping TEN dollar wall clock from Target. I bought it the fall semester of my sophomore year when I had just moved into my sorority for the first time. I lived with 3 other girls and when we were decorating our room, I bought this little cheap clock to hang on our wall. It hung above us all, above our couch in a spot where we all could see it. At the end of the semester, I moved down the hall and it came with me. Every time I moved, in college and even in Chicago, it came with me. The Clock found a spot on a bedroom or bathroom wall in every apartment I’ve had ever since. It became a staple of my room. While a lot of stuff got tossed when I moved to DC, I was sure it made the trip with me when I shipped my stuff. I didn’t know what it was about The Clock, but it made me comfortable knowing it was there. The place never felt like home until it was hanging on the wall. As the years passed, I changed but The Clock stayed a constant in my life.

It was a good cheap little clock; I rarely ever had to change the battery on it, maybe max two or three times in 9 years. That’s magical in clock lives. When I arrived in DC, it was one of the first things I unpacked. I immediately hung it on the bathroom wall and felt comforted. I noticed that afternoon that The Clock had stopped. So, naturally, I replaced the battery. It worked for about 15 minutes and then stopped again. So I bought a brand new pack of batteries and tried again. It not only stopped working, it killed the brand new batteries. This repeated 3 or 4 times before I finally gave in and said my goodbye. It wasn’t the batteries, The Clock had had enough. I paused and had a bit of a hesitation when I put it in the trash but knew it was for the best.

When I first bought The Clock in 2004, it was symbolic of the times changing. I was no longer a silly naïve young Freshman at Indiana University. I knew the campus, I was older, wiser and now I was a sorority girl living in a sorority house. I was on the verge of a lot of change and had a lot of adventures and growth ahead of me. 

Looking back, it is goofy that I had an attachment to a clock. But when I stop to think about it – it is quite symbolic of my life. It was with me for almost 9 years. It was there with me through all my college experiences. It was like a fly on my wall that witnessed many firsts and tears, tons of late night girl chats, silly sorority girl fights, hours of long studying, boy crushes, and while I didn’t realize it at the time, it likely was with me from the very first time I ever met The Ex, 3 years before we ever dated. It was with me through our entire relationship and as I lived out The Year of Caryn, looking to rediscover and find myself, it was there.

I moved to DC because I felt in my heart that I needed a fresh start. I wanted to put the past behind me and start a new. I knew it was time for a new chapter in my life to begin, time for new adventures and for change. While the clock used to be a constant in my life, I’ve learned that the only thing that is constant, is change.

It’s funny – it wasn’t just a silly cheap little clock, after all. It represented almost an entire decade of my life. There was no logical explanation as to why this move was any different from the many that came before, or why The Clock was hell-bent on killing every new battery I tried. The only thing that was different was me. I had changed. I am not the same girl who bought it 9 years ago nor am I even the same woman I was when I said goodbye to The Ex. The fact that the day The Clock stopped was the very day I moved in to my new apartment, in a new city; the day I was starting over with new adventures and a new beginning, is just too wild to be a coincidence. Moving here, I told the Universe I was ready to put all that had happened in Clock Decade behind me in order to embark on this new path. Just like that part of my life, The Clock is just a nostalgic memory now. I had to say goodbye to it, move on, start fresh and buy a new clock to go on the wall. Change of times, indeed.

dali melting clock

Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end

After talking about it since May of last year, it has finally happened.

Ok. So that is a lie. I’ve actually been telling people that I wanted to live somewhere other than Chicago ever since I returned from living abroad in ’06. I used to joke that I’d live in Austin or Boston because well, it rhymed and I am corny like that, and also because I heard they were fun cities to live in. I love Chicago, it is such a wonderful, beautiful and friendly city. It is my home. I grew up there. A part of me will always belong in Chicago. I don’t think I’ll ever fully leave; it is likely that I’ll be back someday. But I’ve always felt this strong draw to get out, to experience living elsewhere and to challenge myself to live outside of my comfort zone. I need a change. I love growing and experiencing new things and staying in one place my whole life limits that.

So last year when everything changed and I started to reevaluate my life, I recognized that I wasn’t truly being the most authentic version of myself. While I am extremely grateful for my friends in Chicago who have come into my life recently, I still felt something was missing. I realized I was a dreamer and a talker but not really doing anything about said dreams. As part of The Year of CarynI immediately began to take action towards putting my plans in motion for figuring out what I needed to do to make myself truly happy. 2012 was the start of doing things now and just because it is 2013, a new year, that doesn’t mean the momentum from 2012 has to stop.

After I visited DC for the second time last year, a friend said, “You should just move here” and with that it hit me that there is no better time than now to fulfill that dream. This is the perfect time in my life to pick up and move to a new city. I don’t have a boyfriend or a husband or any children, and I don’t even have a full-time job for that matter right now. If there was ever a time to have a new beginning, this was it.

People ask why DC? The truth is I have friends here so that made the decision easier, but it was honestly just a gut feeling. So far my gut hasn’t steered me wrong and has led me to great adventures and tremendous growth. When I visited over New Years, I almost signed with two other apartments, but for reasons here and there I had reservations. I nearly gave up but then on whim I skyped with these two girls and that was it. Again, in my gut I instantly knew they were the right choice. I quickly signed the lease and had 13 days to sell all my furniture, sublet my apartment and pack everything up. The last two weeks have been a complete whirlwind. People say moving is super stressful but because I know in my heart that this is where I’m supposed to be now, I was calm and not stressed.

Turns out my life fit into only 16 boxes. What wasn’t sold or donated (which was an embarrassingly large amount of clothing and chotchkes) was brought back to my parent’s place. I decided to ship everything instead of renting a truck and driving it out myself. They came and got my boxes and it felt like you move for free without the hassle of the heavy lifting or the stress of driving it out there yourself. Plus, it was all trackable and insured.

boxes

My apartment was perfect; I’ll miss living on my own in such an affordable spacious place. Closing the door to my apartment was harder than I expected. It was truly symbolic of that chapter in my life coming to an end. I had managed to collect gift certificates to various local places and enough booze to last me a lifetime so it gave me great pleasure to share it with friends instead of throwing it out (once opened, you can’t ship it). I am grateful that I got to say goodbye to so many friends over dinner while also spending two days with my parents before leaving town.

Fast forward to Friday, February 1st. Timing couldn’t have worked out any better, even if I tried. I was able to hug and say goodbye to my parents at the airport gate because their flight (they left for a cruise the same day) was to leave only 10 minutes after mine. I was reminded just how much more personal and emotional it is to say goodbye at the gate like we commonly used to do pre-9/11, rather than being rushed away by curbside security. Looking after them as they walked toward their gate was very emotional. I was excited about this new adventure but saying goodbye not knowing when I will see my parents, my puppy, and friends again was difficult. It was horribly bittersweet. When I studied abroad or went to Tanzania, there was always a known return date in the near future. I know that I am only a 90-minute flight, a call or even FaceTime away, but this time I have no idea when or if I’ll return to Chicago. I’ve never lived (permanently) away from Chicago and am used to going home when I want. It will be hard to not be able to go home for the weekend on a whim, at least without having to buy a plane ticket first. I am blessed to have such a close, loving and supportive relationship with my parents and that makes it harder than all other goodbyes.

Whenever I go away for a big trip like studying abroad in Italy, volunteering in Africa, or even going away to over night camp as a kid, my mom always wrote a letter for me to read on the plane and this was no exception. After our hugs and tears and goodbyes at the gate, they sat on their plane and I on mine, at the same airport, texting in a group chat. It was utterly adorable and made me smile through my tears. I was totally that crazy girl on the plane with tears streaming down her face for no apparent reason.

As I was walking off the plane, feeling oddly stuck between two worlds, my new apartment building called to tell me all 16 of my packages had arrived a day early. It seemed to snap things back to reality and things were already off to a good start. I immediately began unpacking and making this place my new home.

I know that I am just beginning my new adventure and that I chose and needed this change in my life. Everything in the past year has led up to this. Although my family is extremely important to me and I will miss them tremendously, I am excited to begin this new journey and to be closer to so many wonderful friends.

I am proud of myself for taking an active role in making my dreams a reality. I am proud that I didn’t procrastinate this move. I know this is only the beginning and that it isn’t going to be easy at first. There will be a lot of adjustments and change and it will come with a large amount of challenges, struggles and compromises. I will need to be patient and open to new experiences. The thing about change is that it forces you outside of your comfort zone and disguises itself as something painful and uncomfortable. But once you accept it, you forget you were ever worried in the first place. It becomes the norm. You just have to trust the change.

As I was saying my goodbyes, I couldn’t help but get the lyrics to Semisonic’s Closing Time stuck in my head, “Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.This is my new beginning. Now it is time for me to embrace the change and challenges that may come and just enjoy this new adventure.

After talking about it for so many years, it has finally happened.

Source: gitamba.com via Caryn on Pinterest

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.*This post was supported by UMoveFree. All comments are my own.*