2019 Life Olympics

At the end of 2018, I was fried: emotionally, physically, financially. It had been a brutal year that took a huge toll on my health and home. I kept having these episodes where I woke up in the middle of the night with my heart racing so fast that I worried it would explode. My GERD was the worst it had ever been, I was head-cold sick more than not, and I was literally struggling to breathe. The past few years of work were catching up to me and my body was showing it. I was honestly starting to feel like I would certainly die of some stress-related disorder before I turned 40. And then one of my friends died from a heart-attack and I made the decision that some things had to change. My friends tease me that I only do things in my personal life when they benefit Allovue and in many ways, this was true here, too. I realized last year that I wanted to do this work for a long time to come. And I realized that my life’s work would be cut pretty short if I killed myself from stress before I turned 35. When I shared this with my exec coach as well as how past attempts to prioritize my health had always fallen by the wayside she said, “Well. I think you’re just going to have to make up your mind to… do it.” So I did it.

This year was all about getting my body, mind, and heart in a place that allows me to do work that I care about for the rest of my life if I want to (and ensuring that the “rest of my life” is actually a good long time). 2019 was about setting boundaries on my time and energy so that I could be a fully-functioning whole healthy person. And it turned out that in a year in which my general mantra was to “do less” (no more setting +30 annuals goals and working myself into a stress-addled mess), my life felt the fullest. Here we go:

2019 Life Olympics Recap

Career – Gold 

Please try not to laugh at my extremely “duh” realization that the more I took care of myself, the more the company thrived. My exec coach deemed my transition from December 2018 to January 2019 a “DOS to Windows” level upgrade in my general approach to business strategy. In no small part, this is because we were raising money and it’s just a little easier to feel confident with $4M in fresh funding in the bank. But I took that gasoline and poured fire on it – unleashing ideas and plans and ambitions that I had been holding back on for years. One Board member asked me in December, “Do you want to be a large chicken or do you want to be a 10-ft tall murder bird?” Let’s not psychoanalyze this too much but for some reason this image really resonated with me and I spent the better part of this year channeling this vibrant Cassowary:

Don’t ask me why, but it worked. Allovue had a banner year and we’re on track to fulfilling a vision that I have been working towards for 7 nearly years.

Sharply juxtaposed with my murder bird imagery, it’s worth mentioning another consequence from this year of being a whole person: I was kinder. It turns out that sleep and exercise and proper nutrition increase your capacity for patience and kindness, too. I made more time for people and I felt less reactive. I was able to process setbacks more quickly and productively. I had energy for more team outings. I started doing weekly CEO Chats where I spend 30 minutes 1:1 with every member of the company. It’s my favorite part of the week. I even noticed this in small ways, like having the energy to make friendly conversation with Lyft drivers. Being too tired to be friendly is a state of being that I plan I leave in the dust of this decade.

Lastly, this year I felt like I led the company with the most love. Love for the work, love for our team, and love for our partners. While there are many forces and headlines in this capitalist world that may lead you to believe that love and success are incompatible, I humbly, flatly disagree. Leading from a place of love and kindness is the only way that feels right to me. And if the past few years have taught me anything about business: if it feels right, it is right. They don’t call it the golden rule for nothin’.

Home – Silver

This was a tricky one! First: there were no catastrophes this year! After 2018’s cascade of house-related disasters (ceiling caving in! flood! awful tenants! roof leaks!) I was hoping the gods of hearth and home would leave me alone this year. As a peace offering, I gave my bedroom a little makeover and finalized my will. For good measure, I cleaned up my backyard and built a little porch. And my property manager has been an actual gift from the heavens. All was quiet on the homefront this year.

But, um. Finance is also in this category. And on matters of personal finance this year? Well, this was an area of my life considerably devoid of boundaries. Dinners, drinks, wine clubs, concerts, personal training, specialists, massages, travel, shopping, new hobbies, home improvements – I did it all. I was a pure hedonist this whole year, as you probably already know if you follow me on Instagram. So why did this spending spree year not plunge me into the depths of “Did Not Place“? Because I believe in balance in all things. Since starting Allovue, I’ve been very scrappy. In the first year of Allovue, my gross income was $9K. The following year, it was about $20K. It’s risen to more livable wages over the past 5 years, but I’ve still been at-times frugal to a fault. So this year, I let loose a little. I indulged. I explored. I released myself from fretting about whether I should splurge the extra $4 on the meal I really wanted. I tipped very generously. I had a LOT of fun. But I still did all of this within my means, so it’s not as though I drove myself into debt on fancy dinners. I had many wonderful experiences this year and no regrets about a year of limited saving. Next year, though, is going to be a year of saving and mostly free fun. I already canceled the wine club memberships.

Health – Gold

GOOOOOOOLLLLLLLLLDDDDDDD. I’ve never given myself Gold in this category before! I’m actually tearing up a little bit right now because it took me 10 years of working at this entirely self-constructed, self-imposed framework for adult living to feel like I did a good job taking care of my own physical health but I did it and I feel great. I had so much help, though! I worked with an allergist who helped with my persistent colds (non-allergic rhinitis from years of not treating my allergies effectively) and GERD (apparently sinus health is closely connected with digestive health). I worked with a personal trainer to help me learn more about strength training and increased my muscle mass by about 5%. I worked with a nutritionist who helped me identify food triggers and get rid of the GERD entirely and get off all the prescription meds I had been using to treat it. I started working with a therapist to take care of my mental health. I increased my physical activity by 250% and had the most consistent year of exercise ever. I slept well. I took vacations and breaks when I needed them. I reduced my sugar intake. I learned about protein! I figured out the daily breakdown of fat, protein, and carbs that makes me feel best. And perhaps most importantly, I didn’t allow my energy to be drained by things that I had no power over. There is really something to that serenity prayer and I can’t overstate the benefit to physical and mental health by learning to recognize the things that are out of my control and letting that shit go.

So this was a categorical improvement for me this year, but there is still a lot of work I need to do in the next decade on my body image. It’s hard for me to admit this but I think it’s important to be honest about challenges as much as celebrating successes. For as long as I can remember, I have struggled mightily with body dysmorphia, disordered eating, and general body image. At times, I have starved myself on as little as 800-calories a day; I have tried every fast, juice-cleanse, colon-cleanse, fad diet, and magic pill on the market. The negative self-talk is constant and vicious; I often wonder what on earth I could accomplish if I ever managed to free up all that mental energy. I have a near-phobia of taking pictures because I am so paranoid about how I will look. I have a complicated relationship with mirrors. I have extreme anxiety about bread. In the summer of 2016 I contracted a food-borne illness on vacation and couldn’t eat or drink much of anything without vomiting for two months. I had a parasite and it was the best I had ever felt about my body.

I’m not utterly lacking in self-confidence: I have confidence in my ideas, my ability to solve problems, my judgment, my ability to love, and my capacity for creativity. But I live in a world that constantly reminds me that what’s in a woman’s head doesn’t count for much if we can’t count her abs. I have been thus far unsuccessful at squelching that narrative internally. For a while, I was under the impression that this was just a narrative of immaturity. I imagined that when I turned 30, I would suddenly be very wise and self-accepting. When that didn’t happen, the body-hate somehow intensified instead: How are you over 30 and still obsessing over this? Why can’t you let this go?

This is a work in progress and something I’m going to prioritize with my therapist and nutritionist in 2020. My goal is to someday be able to look in the mirror or at a picture of myself and feel proud. Please do not interpret this as an invitation to tell me that I look good or that you think I’m thin or pretty or whatever. It is not invited and it will not help. I do not need any external validation on these matters; this is an inside job. I don’t feel comfortable sharing all of this, but if there’s anyone else out there who always feels like they are 10, 15, or 100 pounds away from happiness, know that you are not alone.

Soul – Gold

Picking up the thread on spending, you can see that I really enjoyed myself this year. I indulged in everything that brings me pleasure and joy this year: delicious gastronomic experiences; travel to Cancun, London, Amsterdam, Vancouver, Miami, and Tulum; concerts; plays; museums; singing. I felt creatively on fire this year and attribute a good chunk of that to surrounding myself with creative energy at every occasion. I also rediscovered a love of camping this year. I bought some new gear and enjoyed several camping trips around Maryland before it got too cold this Fall. My only failing/complaint in this category is that I had a lackluster and uninspired year of reading and writing. I think it was offset enough by my other creative experiences but I do want to reprioritize reading again next year.

Relationships – Gold

I know this category is the only one you care about and that’s why I save it for last. Hopefully, I tricked you into caring about the rest of my life, but if you skipped to the end I’ll forgive you. As many of you know, this year I took a big hiatus from dating. I quietly started my hiatus around September of 2018 and broke my hiatus in August 2019 when I met someone in real life who I actually wanted to go out with. Probably because I was fried in other realms in my life, I was beyond exhausted with dating last year. It became something I completely dreaded and I decided I needed a long hard break from trying. Did it work? Yes. Better than I imagined.

Up until hiatus, dating felt like something I needed to do to fill a missing part of my life or myself. I was operating from a deficit standpoint. I felt like lots of things in my life were great but my singleness represented some hole or flaw that needed correcting. As a result, the act of dating felt extremely high stakes and I always felt anxious and insecure about it. Giving myself the freedom to not care or not try at all was truly liberating. Suddenly, I was not worried about reserving time and space in my life for something or someone that may or may not materialize. I made plans with friends, I went on trips, and I planned my evenings and weekends with zero regards to men who may or may not commit to plans; who may or may not cancel at the last moment. My life felt instantly larger. Time and space just expanded. Instead of feeling like a restriction, my world opened up. I spent so much time with friends this year. And did I mention how much fun I had? I also made more time for my parents and enjoyed trips and concerts and other activities with them, too.

I’m dating again but it feels completely different now. I learned that my life and my heart are already full. Nothing at all is missing or broken. Now dating is a value-add activity only and that is a completely different game – one that doesn’t make me feel anxious at all. I also learned to expand my definition of love this year. All the romantic rhetoric about finding “the one” or finding love “at last” or “saving love” are really… limiting. Taking romantic love off the table for a year allowed me to receive and give love in so many other ways: friend love, parental love, coworker love, self-love, city love, etc. In a year that I thought would require an absence of love, I actually experienced the greatest abundance of love. My definition of love had been narrow; I was being far too precious about it. As I expanded my definition, I experienced love and gave it more abundantly. So I guess it’s true what they say: you find love when you stop looking for it – it just looks and feels differently than I expected.

2020

So that’s a wrap on 10 years of the Life Olympics! Next year, I am planning to bring lots of energy inspired by Baby Yoda and Moira Rose. My theme for 2020 is Intention because I want to take the energy I feel right now and deploy it with more intentionality next year – bringing increased mindfulness to how I spend my time, money, physical and mental energy. And because I love wordplay, I also literally want to spend more time camping “in-tent” to enjoy more peace and quiet and beauty in nature.

When I started working with the nutritionist she gave me a list about “Mindful Eating” which I scoffed at for having tips like “Chew your food” but decided to try anyway. As it turns out, I was not really chewing my food at all, so much as just quickly and eagerly swallowing whole bites – much like the rest of my life. In 2020, instead of swallowing life whole, I’ll learn to chew it.

bebe yoda wink.gif

 

 

 

2018 Life Olympics

Let’s get one thing straight: 2018 was not a year. 2018 was actually a decade in annum’s disguise. Things happened in January or February 2018 that I would have blindly guessed had occurred at least three years ago. The Winter Olympics, for example. How do you measure a year? In heartburn, in wrinkles, in gray hairs, in stress disorders.

Have you ever had a moment when you come face-to-face with your own specific brand of crazy? (I know the answer is yes because you’re reading this and all of my friends and casual observers are a little bit crazy. It takes one to know one). Anywho, the other day I sat down to do my annual reconciliation of goals that I set this time last year… all 32 of them. 32 goals. What the what? What sort of lunatic sets 32 annual goals? Even several days later, I can’t even type this without laughing at myself. Some of these goals are things like “Raise X million dollars” – a months-long affair involving dozens or hundreds of tasks. 1/32! I tallied it up and I somehow managed to hit 20 of these crazy goals, in a year that I had written off as “terrible,” “horrible,” “no good,” and “very bad.”

Coincidentally, my word for 2019 is “boundaries” – may I set them, may I respect them.

2018 Life Olympics Recap

CareerBronze

By objective measures, Allovue had a pretty good year. We are now supporting over $10 billion in school budgets for about one million students – milestones of which I’m very proud. We added terrific people to our team, we made huge improvements to the product, we hosted an awesome Summit, and we brought on exciting new partners.

Personally, I just didn’t feel like it was my best year. This is partly because I set insane expectations for myself and then felt disappointed when I couldn’t match them. My attention was divided across several core functions, which made me feel generally frazzled and unfocused for large swaths of the year. When I get stressed, my instinct is to double-down and work harder, which catalyzes a vicious spiral of overwork/exhaustion.

At least twice this year, I dismissed serious health issues as “probably just from stress” and I got sick more than I have in the past several years combined. Next year, I’m putting boundaries in place to help me focus on the goals that really matter to me and to do so with a clear head and a healthy body.

Home – Did not place

Ooph. The gods of hearth and home were not on my side this year. I had an attempted break-in at my rental house that resulted in someone smashing through my backyard fence Hulk-style. My second-floor ceiling caved-in from water damage. Tenants made a mess of the house, resulting in three months of deep-cleaning and painting (and income-loss). My basement flooded. I discovered (because I smelled gas one night) that the gas line in my house was too small (who even knew that was a thing?) and had to be entirely ripped out and replaced. My taxes increased 300 percent. And to top off the year, a new roof. Throughout all of this, I really tried to exercise gratitude for having house(s) in which things break, but it still sucks to write those checks. I’m praying that all will be quiet on the home-front next year. Please.

::Burns sage::

Health Bronze

While I felt sick and run-down quite a bit this year, I still did some healthy things that I’m proud of. Early in the year, I made the decision to give up my car when the lease was up. I have always characterized my driving as “all of the adrenaline but none of the skill of Batman” and I think it’s maybe safer for everyone if I sit in the passenger seat of cars. I anticipated that I would spend about as much money on transportation with increased rideshare spending, but thought the trade-off of stress and time spent driving would be a net good. I was wrong:

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In 2017, I spent $5,067 on transportation. In 2018, I increased my spending on rideshare 1000% but it still didn’t come close to the total cost of having a car. In 2018, I spent $2,791, which includes the remaining $550 balance on my car payments. If I take that out and factor in post-car rideshare spending, I’m still saving 50% or more on transportation costs. This is wild. One cost not shown here, since it’s a one-time expense, is my new bike. I could buy and outfit a brand new bike every year and still only hit about 75% of my spending level with a car. I’m extremely pleased with this decision.

I also joined a new gym and hired a personal trainer this year. These costs probably offset what I saved in transportation, but I feel good about investing in my health. I exercised more regularly this year than ever before, even if it wasn’t quite at the level of frequency I was aiming for, and I built a lot of muscle with weight training.

My biggest health fails this year were 1) eating like crap during busy travel seasons and 2) generally eating way too much sugar. I’m increasingly seeing studies about the long-term health consequences of processed foods and sugar. I don’t do well with total elimination diets, but I want to dramatically reduce my intake of sugar, refined carbs, and processed foods, as well as managing my diet better when I’m on the road.

Soul – Silver

Shockingly, this was my best category this year. I hit the most goals in this LO category, which included time for writing, singing, traveling, theatre/concert-going, and other activities that make my soul happy. I saw some terrific performances this year, including Audra McDonald and Cynthia Erivo at BSO, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof and A Wonder in My Soul at CenterStage, Waitress at Hippodrome, Ingrid Michaelson at the Beacon, Spring Awakening at StillPointe, Remember Jones at Soundstage, Wye Oak at Ottobar, and Once on This Island on Broadway. I didn’t write quite as much as I had hoped (ya’ll, I thought I was going to draft two books this year. My concept of time is WILD.) But I still had op-eds published in The Baltimore Sun and Forbes, as well as a few pieces in Medium and on my own blog. I also sang a lot of songs that I loved this year and played the piano more than I have in years. More of all this. I fell short of my 36-book reading goal, but still clocked in a respectable 32 – my second-best reading year since I started tracking in 2012. For the past several years, I’ve been making a conscious effort to diversify the authors I’m reading. This year, 53% of books I read were authored by people of color and 60% were authored by women. Only 15% were authored by men of color, so that’s an area for improvement next year.

Favorite novel(s): Exit West by Mohsin Hamid, Home Fire by Kamila Shamsie

Favorite poetry: Helium by Rudy Francisco, Felicity by Mary Oliver

Favorite business/strategy: The Power of Moments by Chip and Dan Heath; Thinking in Bets by Annie Duke

Favorite memoir/essays: we are never meeting in real life. by Samantha Irby; We’re Going to Need More Wine by Gabrielle Union

Relationships – Bronze

I had a fun time engaging with friends and family in new ways this year. I hosted a wine-tasting night and piano concert at my house. I went on trips and to festivals with friends. I also made peace with letting go of some relationships. I spent time with my family and celebrated 21 years of our Boxing Day tradition with my Dad.

I’m taking a hiatus from dating through 2019; at least, a sabbatical from trying. The various apps and profiles have been deleted; my swiping finger is retired. I’ve been at this game for over a decade with very little success and there’s absolutely nothing else in my life that I would invest this much time in for so little joy or purpose. A big part of my goal for 2018 was to retire old narratives that no longer suit me and I decided around November that this story of infinite first dates is just not working for me. For a while, it was fun, then funny. At some point, though, it turned into an exercise in drudgery. I cannot continue to invest this much time and emotional labor and hope into an activity that continuously drains and disappoints me. There is too much else far more worthy of my time and energy: myself, Allovue, my family, my friends – the true loves of my life.

ListenI see you grinning over there, thinking, “Oh, this is it. Now that she has given up, love is just going to drop right into her lap.” I think you’ve been watching too many Hallmark Holiday movies; this is not The Christmas Crush. This is the real world where men flake and cheat and ghost and zombie and ghost again and I’m all the way over it. Let me be. I can live happily ever after anyway.

Andddd that’s a wrap on 2018. I can’t say I’m sorry to see it go. I’m closing out the year in Mexico, binge-reading novels, listening to the ocean, doing yoga, eating chilaquiles, and setting a reasonable number of goals that (mostly) adhere to the confines of the space-time continuum. See you on the other side.

 

2017 Life Olympics: We lived to tell about it

Another year of the Life Olympics in the books. A few solid milestones of progress. A few respectable efforts. And a few “How are we here again?” disappointments. The mile-markers are fun, but the disappointments are more to the point; the Life Olympics is asymptotic. I’m resisting the urge to put a value judgment on 2017. In turns, I felt depleted and rejuvenated.

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My main takeaway for the year is that I have decidedly outgrown some personal narratives and it’s time to rewrite them. How would you describe yourself in 140 characters? What is your personal elevator pitch? These “I’m a [_______] person” stories that we tell ourselves (and others) shape our sense of identity, our behavior, our ambitions – even our fashion choices. Ultimately, these narratives shape our lives, so what stories are you telling yourself? Are they serving you well?

What do your narratives say about your body? About your capacity to love and be loved? About your ability to do your job well? About your style? About your values? About your worth? Which ones are holding you back?

Some of my narratives, I’ve simply outgrown; what was true five years ago is no longer totally accurate or relevant today. Some of my narratives are just toxic vestiges of adolescence that have never served me well but are deeply ingrained in my sense of self and hard to slough off.

My plan for 2018 is to surround myself with people, ideas, and experiences that will help me construct positive and accurate new narratives.

I still have a few hours to marinate in the triumphs and failures of 2017, so here we go:

Career – Silver

This was a big year for Allovue. We placed a big bet on a new product, reworked our internal processes, and made some big transitions on the team. As we approach the five-year mark of our existence, I’ve been reflecting on how this journey started and where we are today. Last week, I flipped through my 2013-Q1 journal, where I found sketches for what became the product roadmap for the next five years. Every component of our product today is in there (cementing my deep belief in writing things down). As I reflect on Allovue’s narratives, I have perhaps allowed people to focus too much on the improbability of Allovue’s founding. In 2018, Allovue is going to shed its adolescent insecurities, too.

Health Bronze

This damn category. Constant travel continues to destroy my physical health efforts. My sense of well-being is inversely proportional to conference season. Gretchen Rubin’s writing on habits and goals made me rethink my approach to health goals. “Lose 10 pounds” shows up in nearly every quarterly goals page forever. I realized that this goal is kind of meaningless to me because I’m more motivated by action plans than end-states. Sure, it would be nice to lose 10 pounds, but that goal has nothing to do with what I actually care about: feeling healthy and looking fit. The most rational part of my brain knows that losing 10 pounds doesn’t actually have much to do with feeling or looking healthy – I could lose 10 pounds if I were to get a parasite (note: has happened; do not recommend), but that wouldn’t actually mean that I’ve accomplished the spirit of that goal. I started rewriting these goals to be specifically oriented around why I care about this and what I need to do to make it happen. Next, I need to do a better job planning around the constraints in my life, like building workout habits around mobile routines that I can do anywhere.

Home – Gold

I am supremely pleased with this category this year. I bought a new house just a block and a half from our office and I will be turning in my leased car in a couple of weeks. (This should probably also go into Health because it will do wonders for my safety to stop driving.) There are so many mental health consequences to this area of my life, too. While I enjoyed an amazing run with AirBNB for five years, it has been nice to enjoy some privacy at home. I’ve been cooking (mostly in the Instant Pot) and entertaining more, which has made the house feel like home quickly.

Moving inspired a big purge of stuff. Most notably, I decided to give away most of the books I had been hoarding and moving around since college. I had accumulated over 600 books at my previous house and I was determined to part with most of them (I probably didn’t need to hold onto those AP study guides). I used the Kon-Mari method, flipped through each one and whittled down my collection to about 50 books that held a certain joy for me, as well as about 25 that I hadn’t read yet but promised to do so within a year. Marie Kondo is a little wacky, but that method works. I now have my very own real-life Ideal Bookshelf that does, in fact, bring me great joy.

Soul – Bronze

This is borderline Did Not Place. My poor soul. My annual Goodreads Challenge performance was an embarrassment that ruined a six-year streak of reading growth. Woe! The only saving grace is that I did make good on my intention to read books from more diverse authors. This year, 40 percent of authors I read were people of color (compared to 15 percent last year) and 55 percent were women (compared to 48 percent last year). It wasn’t difficult to be mindful of author diversity, but it was necessary.

It was a fun year of (leisure) travel. My friend Ali and I spent a week adventuring in Croatia and Montenegro where we jumped off cliffs into the Adriatic Sea and drove up and down narrow mountain switch-backs at “bee speed,” as we named the speed at which a buzzing bee passes you on the road. Hey, we lived to tell about it. I’m currently sitting on the balcony of a house in beautiful Negril, Jamaica, which isn’t a bad place to ring in the new year. I had great travel experiences with friends this year, but for the first time in a while, I didn’t take any solo sojourns. If you haven’t traveled alone, it may seem lonely, but it’s actually incredibly rejuvenating. I missed the experience this year and need to make time for an independent adventure next year.

Lastly, the state of country hurt my soul this year – daily. America needs to get its act together. On the subject of narratives, this country needs to reclaim its own this year.

Relationships Silver

I want to be able to celebrate the rich relationships I have in my life – with my parents, friends, colleagues – but there’s a preoccupation with my romantic life that seems to overshadow this category of my life. On that, all I will say is this: I refuse to settle until I find what I’m looking for and I’ll let you know when I find it because I’ll know it when I see it.

All in all, a good year of growth and plenty of room for improvement.

Adios 2017!

Bienvenue 2018!

2013 Life Olympics

2013. I don’t want to tempt (or limit) the fates by awarding this year any premature superlatives, but I have a suspicion that I will always look back on 2013 as a pivotal year in my life.

It’s a little surreal to think that so much of what brings me daily joy and fulfillment didn’t even exist a year ago.

For the past few years, I have come think of adulthood as the Life Olympics: the constant striving for balance between Career, Home, Relationships, Health, and Wellness.

The results are in for 2013:

Career – Gold Star
Founding and growing Allovue has been a thrilling and fulfilling journey, and I can’t wait to see what next year brings. Despite the popular myths about startup founders failing to sleep, eat, or do anything unrelated to business orders, I think I succeeded in striking a pretty fair balance with the other 4 realms of my life, but there’s still plenty of room for improvement.

I resigned from my job the first day back after the New Year holiday. I had come across this quote on Pinterest from We Bought a Zoo, and just kept repeating it to myself:

20 seconds of insane courage. Emphasis on insane. I had no plan, no funding, and no experience – just some gnawing intuition that I had to go bring this idea in my head to life, or feel the churning discontent of regret forever. So, into the abyss.
I woke up on Monday February 4 – my first day as an untethered, fun-employed entrepreneur – feeling an odd mix of liberation and terror. For the first time in my adult life, (maybe my entire life?) I felt solely responsible for myself. There was no one to tell me what to do or how to do, but then, there was no one to tell me what to do or how to do it. I was a bit paralyzed by the weight of my newfound freedom at first, and then at 9:49am, I remembered: “To begin, begin,” and so I began. I’m not sure what I did that first day, but I must have felt some vague sense of accomplishment, because I had this to say at the end of the day: 

I know it won’t always be this fun…But isn’t it ok to bask in the sheer exuberance of it – just for a little while? Just for today, I’ll relish in the joy that accompanies the audacity to live the very life I imagined. Just for a moment, I’ll play in that narrow intersection of pleasure and purpose, feeling infinite and electric.

Fortunately, that feeling lasted more than a day. The chaos of “startup life” feels oddly natural to me in a way that the routine of other jobs never had before. I think I worked on 8 different jobs this year to make it work, but I did it on my own terms, so I can finally read this speech without the nagging feeling of being slightly off center:

The only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it.

Steve Jobs

Relationships – Gold Star
Speaking of matters of the heart, two weeks before I started Allovue, I decided I was tired of eating dinner alone and revamped my online dating profile for what I promised would be the last damn time. I agreed to exactly one date the day after I activated my profile. On the way there, I reminded myself (aloud) that I was officially done compromising on my non-negotiables in relationships. Maybe the universe just wanted to hear me say it out loud, because I went into Brewer’s Art that night to meet the actual man of my dreams in real life. I don’t know if there’s ever a good time to start a new relationship, but I’m pretty sure it is not two weeks before you leave your job to start a company. I’ve heard it said that you find love when you find yourself – I just wasn’t expecting it all to happen, like, immediately, all at once, very fast.

Home – Silver
In the Home category, I include basic home maintenance, cleaning, and keeping personal finances in order. My home was probably cleaner than usual this year, because I was constantly hosting new AirBNB guests. Talk about an incentive to keep the house in order when people are literally rating your house on its cleanliness! Of course, part of my strategy was to just relegate the mess to my room, but even that’s had to change with the addition of our new kitty, Darwin, who likes to scratch, sniff, claw, and eat anything in reach. I’m running out of room to stash junk and mess, so it looks like I will finally have to be a grown-up and either purge excess or keep things tidy! #likeanadult
Health – Bronze

As it turned out, it was a good year to start dating a doctor/lawyer. At the end of January, I found myself engaged in a class-action lawsuit after it was discovered that my doctor had been allegedly secretly photographing patients with a camera pen and subsequently committed suicide. Feeling anxious about the care I had been receiving for the past 4 years, I quickly sought a new doctor and was diagnosed with endocervical adenocarcinoma in situ – stage 0 of a fairly rare form of glandular cervical cancer. My doctor said it was usually difficult to catch this type of cancer so early, but since we did, I was able to have a minor surgery to remove the cancerous cells. I just had my 6 month check-up, and my tests came back normal!

So this whole litigation/investigation process turned out to be a bizarre, potentially life-saving blessing. Unchecked, the cancer would have very likely progressed and I would have been facing far more invasive treatment options. This made me think about all of the men and women who put off visiting a doctor for routine check-ups because they lack basic insurance. If my father hadn’t harangued me about securing private insurance before I left my job-with-benefits, a health crisis would have been a financial catastrophe, too. Even my small surgery would have cost over $10,000 without insurance. This whole ordeal gave me a deeply personal lens with which to view the Affordable Care Act debate this year. I’m thankful our country is finally making an attempt to fix what I can attest to be a very broken system.

Despite attending more Bikram yoga classes this year than either of the past 2 years I’ve been practicing, I still didn’t get to as many as I had aimed for. This is an area of my life that I really to need to work on making it a permanent habit. It’s (sadly) looking like the best way to do that is to just get up at 5:30am to make the 6am class. I’ve gotten better at it, but it’s still going to take some practice to make it less of a struggle-fest in the morning.

Wellness – Honorable Mention
No surprises here. Personal wellness falls to the bottom of my priority list, year after year. I define personal wellness to include the things that feed my brain, creativity, and soul – probably not where I should be slacking off. This realm looks different for everyone, but for me it includes reading, writing, singing, cooking, taking pictures, and going to yoga. I fell woefully short of my book-a-week reading goal this year and abandoned my photo-a-week project in February. I did maintain my singing lessons every other week, which is a small victory, and I’ve started to carve out time for cooking delicious things on Sunday afternoons. This area definitely needs more work in 2014, and I think it needs to start with a shift in value judgment. In my gut, I know most of the inspiration for my “real” work comes from this personal creative time, but it’s so indirect and quiet that it’s easy to write-off these activities as less essential. No more! Wellness is essential.

You’ll Figure It Out.
In 2012 I wrote a lot about gender politics in the tech world. One day, I stopped and took a hard look at my own life. Technology, specifically as it related to solutions for education, was clearly a big passion of mine. Why wasn’t I doing work in that field? Why wasn’t I taking a leadership role in the very area that I was lamenting a lack of female leadership? The answers were all rooted in blinding fear. I was afraid I wasn’t appropriately “certified” to do what I wanted to do. I was afraid I didn’t know how to do what I wanted to do. I was afraid of what people would think, or say. Then, I realized that none of these were particularly good reasons to not do a thing that I wanted to do. So, I decided to just muster up that 20 seconds of courage, and force myself to figure it out. I surrounded myself with smart, helpful people, and asked a LOT of questions along the way. “Leap and the net will appear,” says an old Zen proverb. Sometimes, you just have to build your own net.