Spend like Mike: a lesson in impulse shopping

This weekend I went a little crazy. I went on an Amazon/Home Depot shopping spree, or at least as much of a “spree” as I’m emotionally capable of. I enjoy the process of questioning my actions and motives, forever trying to keep myself in check, so consumer behavior fascinates me.

We moved into our own place a few months ago. We signed the lease the day I got my job offer and moved in 3 days before I left for GEICO training. This last week I’ve been back we’ve been settling in together. Finally. This weekend we finally committed to the small handful of purchases we’d been considering for months, or even years.

Our old roommate Mike, a 31 year-old flamboyant gay man from Boston, spent money so fast that he’d be forced to borrow from his parents (or us) in order to cover rent and bills. A consistent appreciator of Vodka, he’d often find himself Buying Now With One Click. During Christmas break last year, he took a week-long vacation to Mexico on borrowed and gifted money. When he arrived home with a grand total of $17 to his name, $3 less than what he needed to get his car out of airport parking, he walked to a bar and drank his final dollars. Sloshed, he then asked another roommate to bail him out, whom he promised to pay back after his parents loaned him some money. His spending habits are impressively impulsive.

But Mike taught me a few important lessons. Mike always buys the highest quality products without regard for cost. He considers his overall enjoyment of the item tantamount to the initial cost, which means cost is not a huge factor in his purchase decisions until he is literally out of money. As a result, he owns a lot of really nice shit that he genuinely loves (or loved at one time). After over a year of watching this kind of extreme consumer behavior, it occurred to me that I probably fall closer to the opposite end of that buying spectrum; I am guilty of sacrificing quality for a more cost-effective price, especially for commodities like watering cans or pillow cases. But Mike rubbed off on me a little, and I find myself valuing quality and style more and more.

That’s why I splurged and bought a pretty $21 copper watering can instead of the $2.97 plastic piece of shit from Home Depot. I also have 2 house plants, a lucky bamboo, a hanging urban veggie/herb garden on our deck rail, and front porch flowers now, like I’ve always wanted. But unlike the last few times I’ve felt similar green thumb inspiration, this time I’ll keep them all alive because I have a novelty watering can from which I need to get my $21 worth.

Mike buys something the second he decides he wants it. He doesn’t second guess his impulses, nor does he question whether it is a wise use of his money. Perhaps this is instant gratification at its finest, and certainly not sustainable, but it’s also an important lesson in treating yourself and following through with what you want, especially when the alternative is to constantly dream or think about having it. That’s how I look at it.

That is not to condone mass consumerism, or even to stray too far from my current brand of minimalism (a trendy euphemism for being cheap and/or pretentious, depending on how you look at it), but my pattern is to think about a purchase, try it on, and ponder it for weeks or months at a time before committing. And that entire process is actually kind of exhausting.

A minimalist at heart, I resist buying or accumulating things and often gain more pleasure in getting rid of things. It’s my form of control and I’m on a current mission to Konmari my entire life. I think about this shit a lot. Probably too much. If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you know that. As a result, I go long periods of time without the tools and things that could make my life so much easier. Like these kombucha brewing bottles, which I finally allowed myself to purchase this weekend, after almost a year of brewing kombucha and sloppily portioning into mason jars. Bottling kombucha will be so much more efficient and easier to store/drink now.

IMG_20180421_162801032_HDR
Me trying (yet again) to keep plants alive.

For the last 6 years, I’ve been using a combination of thrift store blankets and sheets because that’s who I am. They are fine, but the cats destroyed the off-white comforter when they were kittens and the sheets are mismatched and feel old. None of the sheets or blankets quite fit the bed, and they never look clean no matter how many times we wash them, probably also the cats’ doing. It’s one of those things that you get used to, but in the back of my mind I’m always thinking about how nice it’d be to have fresh sheets and a colorful comforter to brighten the room. That was my final splurge. A fresh, well made bed is one of those pleasures I indulge.

As we are on a mission to rid ourselves of all our furniture— a process forever testing my patience– we find it easier to justify these new purchases with the money we’re bringing in from our old stuff. I see it like a trade. Am I willing to trade the coffee table for house plants and lucky bamboo? Absolutely. Trade the couch for new bedding? Yes. Trade the dining table for kombucha bottles, a watering can, and a deck vegetable garden? Definitely. But despite this fair trade, or maybe because of it, it’s been really fun to spend like Mike this weekend. To let the weight go and move on from my obsession about lucky bamboo desk ornaments.

It’s a weird feeling to buy stuff for yourself when you have a lifetime of resisting such behavior. But now it’s like this huge weight is lifted off my shoulder. I have new sheets! I’m someone who has a lucky bamboo at my desk right now! I feel accomplished, a feeling I wouldn’t normally associate with shopping. I also feel incredibly fortunate and grateful to be in a position to both indulge and think about this. Do you ever catch yourself and think, damn, I am so privileged to live in the first world, to have these kinds of problems, to be able to do and buy all this stuff? When you spend like Mike, that feeling comes up a lot.

Homemade raw granola [gluten-free, sugar-free, oil-free, vegan]

***This is a raw vegan recipe that uses a 9-tray Excalibur Dehydrator (a dehydrator I’ve been using for over 10 years without a problem–highly recommend!) to prepare. If you do not have a dehydrator, do everything the same except “bake” on sheet pans in your oven at 210F until done. Plan to spend all damn day in the kitchen if you’re using the oven.***

IMG_20180421_182351884
I cook on the floor because I’m an actual animal.

I make this stuff in 25-liter batches because it’s my go-to breakfast these days and I’m not able to deal with running out on a weekday. I usually use about equal parts granola and chia seeds, add hot water, add some frozen blueberries, and viola! Breakfast of champions. I don’t have a picture of that because I stopped photographing my breakfast when I realized I had a problem.

If you have trouble picturing making granola in this quantity, it’s because nobody in their right mind makes granola in that quantity. Unless you’re like me, and you enjoy both buying, cooking, and feeding your cats in obnoxious bulk. But this raw vegan granola lasts longer than it takes me and my husband to go through. Don’t worry about it going bad. It won’t if you keep it airtight.

Granola is an art, not a science. This recipe is mostly the result of what we happen to have on hand. Throw in whatever you prefer in your granola. My favorite benefit of homemade granola is having the control of exactly what goes into it. No weird ingredients, oils, filler grains, or unnecessary added sugar.

To avoid adding traditional sweeteners like sugar, syrup, honey, or agave, which all have a high Glycemic Index (GI), I use a homemade cinnamon prune paste. The purpose of the prune paste is to soften and hold all the oatmeal, nuts, seeds, and other ingredients together. Nobody wants dry, crumbly granola. I’ve also used dates (GI: 146), but dates have significantly more sugar than prunes (GI: 25) so the added flavor and sweetener isn’t worth it for me.

Homemade Raw Granola [gluten-free, sugar-free, oil-free, vegan]

In no particular order, mix by hand all of the following dry ingredients in a massive bowl or stockpot. I used my 23-quart pressure canning pot.

  • 15 cups rolled oats (regular oatmeal)
  • 4 cups chopped walnuts (put whole walnuts in a bag and smash with your hands)
  • 3 cups raw unsweetened coconut flakes (the best price I find is at Indian markets)
  • 2 cups hemp hearts/seeds (bulk section of health store)
  • 2 cups almond slivers
  • 2 cups toasted buckwheat groats (if you can’t find toasted, buy raw and toast yourself)
  • 1.5 cups raisins
  • 1 cup chia seeds
  • 1 cup raw pumpkin seeds/pepitas
  • 1 cup white sesame seeds
  • 1 cup raw sunflower seeds
  • 1 cup raw cacao nibs

In your blender or food processor, blend the following until smooth:

  • 4.5 cups dried prunes (lowest glycemic index I could find for dry fruit)
  • 4 cups filtered water (I have the Berkey filter and love it to death)
  • 3 Tablespoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 Tablespoon ground nutmeg

Put on a snug-fitting latex glove if you don’t want to spend an hour washing your hands, use a spatula to transfer the prune paste into the dry ingredients, and mix with your little gloved hand until you think you’re done. Then scoop to the bottom corners of your pot and mix some more!

Once fully mixed, spread onto Teflex sheets (looking up that Amazon link for you, I just realized that Teflex sheets are literally 4.2% the cost of what I paid a decade ago. Incredible.). Anyway, this recipe usually takes about 8 14”x14” trays. Dehydrate for 12 hours at 135F, or until done. The temperature doesn’t really matter.

I’m not one for photography, but here’s a snap of the granola going into the dehydrator. Yummm!

IMG_20180421_183948
It doesn’t actually look this orange. There’s just a remarkably warm and charming light hanging above.

TGIF!

I am having a really hard time waking up early. During job training, I’d be in bed by 7pm because I’m a sleep Nazi, but I also woke at 3:30am with ease every morning. Sleeping in until after 5am was a treat. Under no circumstances could I even lounge around until 6am. Now I struggle to make it into bed before 9pm or peel myself out of my warm cocoon before 5:30am. I suppose that’s still pretty early, now that I look at those times written down. Why am I complaining? Going to bed at 9 and waking up at 5:30 is within the realm of acceptable. What the fuck did I expect of myself? See, this is why I blog about this stuff. Reality check.

Working full time while doing my MBA online is not impossible, or really that difficult, but it does require creative time management and willpower. That is why I am trying to wake up at the asscrack of dawn: to do my MBA homework before work. The idea is that I get home from work, usually more exhausted from the SF Bay Area commute than from work itself, and then have zero obligation to do anything productive whatsoever. I also want to have free weekends. So far that plan is failing. Every day this week I’ve hit snooze and spent at least two hours on homework after work. Thankfully, the homework is relevant to my interests, but it’s still homework. All I really want to do is go in the hot tub with my Kindle or make holiday-themed cat beads with Sculpey clay (I have this uncharacteristic goal of festivity, expressed solely through holiday-themed cat earrings.).

Anyway, it’s finally Friday and the majority of the working northern hemisphere is in celebration. And today I woke up just early enough to finish my MBA to-do list before the weekend, but just late enough to feel kind of rushed. I should be getting dressed and making my lunch instead of blogging. But procrastination is a terrible disease.

TGIF!

The 4 best books I read in 2017

I should have written this post in January, but I didn’t think about it in January. I thought about it this fine Sunday morning, in mid-April. So here we go. This list is equally relevant today, so enjoy!

I read 36 books in 2017 and some of them really sucked. For example, never read Ego is The Enemy. Why did everyone like that book? It was tedious as fuck. The Biology of Belief was also particularly terrible. I finished that book and then immediately wanted all my time back, which fortunately wasn’t much. Over a decade after its original publication, I also finally read Eat Pray Love, which while I understand its popularity and then went on to read Gilbert’s Big Magic as a result, didn’t quite do it for me. Most other books just kind of sat in the middle as average.

But then there were the gems. The books I truly loved. That’s the list I give you below. Of the 36 books I read last year, these are the books I’d actually recommend you read. In no particular order, let’s begin!

1. Spaceman by Mike Massimino

Awww, I loved this book! Mike’s humble account of his journey from childhood dream to actual astronaut is the kind of story that gives you hope and makes you want to hold onto your own childhood ambitions. It’s also a fascinating account of his time in space, the camaraderie within NASA, and his thoughtful perspective on life in general.

2. Wild by Cheryl Strayed

This book was about so much more than one woman’s experience on the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT). It was about her relationship with life and how she processed trauma. Honest and raw, it chronicled her experience hiking the PCT and processing the chaos that led her to hike it alone. Also, yay female empowerment!

3. Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation by Michael Pollan

Are you a foodie like me? Yes? Then read this book. I loved The Omnivore’s Dilemma, which I believe was later made into a documentary, so I jumped at the chance to read Cooked. It takes you through the various methods of cooking and preparing food, complete with histories, anecdotes, and his own experience mastering techniques in the kitchen. I listened to the audio version, which was excellent.

4. The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle

Let’s get one thing out of the way: Eckhart Tolle is fucking weird. But as Dan Harris attests from personal experience with the guy in his excellent book 10% Happier, Tolle is the real deal. I listened to the audio version of A New Earth a few years ago. If you’ve ever read Tolle, you know his flowery language can sometimes be a barrier to understanding what the hell he is talking about. But once you get used to it, his genius is unleashed and you begin to see. I love his books. They’re a nice dose of spiritual woo-woo in my otherwise pragmatic existence. This book didn’t disappoint.

And that’s it! Many of the other books I read made my most recommended books list, but only because they’re relevant to specific interests (nutrition, hormonal health, etc). The above 4 books are generally excellent though. Have you read any of them? What do you think?

What good books have you read recently?

Until next year, TurboTax!

I finally finished our taxes this morning.

I’d entered all our usual tax forms as they arrived in January and February, but put off itemizing FlowMats expenses and income until now. Owning a business sucks, guys. It really does. Especially when it isn’t profitable, as high-end inventory social enterprises tend to be (in my experience).

Despite selling hundreds of mats and bags, I paid Amazon more in fees last year than I made in total gross income from health coaching and 501(c)(3) bookkeeping combined (the two jobs I had last year). It’s unconscionable how much Amazon charges sellers. That’s why I scaled back the entire operation, moved the website to a tab on this blog, and now sell exclusively out of my storage unit in Hayward, California. Even with astronomical UPS shipping rates and monthly storage fees, it costs less than Amazon.

I founded FlowMats in 2015 while backpacking Southeast Asia, which makes 2018 my 3rd year in business. The experience has been bittersweet and I don’t feel like I’m emotionally removed enough to comfortably and thoughtfully reflect on it. It still kind of feels like I’m caught in the middle of a cascading stress ball, even though I’m trying to wind down the whole thing and move on.

I need to write more on this later as a way to process the entire thing. Right now I can’t even think about it without my blood pressure spiking. It’s a sensitive, triggering subject for me. I don’t even tell people that I own a nonprofit anymore because I can’t bear to talk about it. Despite selling hundreds of yoga mats to yogis all over the world, it feels as though the financial obstacles have nearly outweighed the successes. I feel this most during tax season.

But here I am. I fucking did it and I’m not sorry.

Until next year, TurboTax!

McDonald’s french fries and hummus are basically the same

You know those days when all you want to do is eat french fries and not care that the under part of your arm jiggles just a little bit when you reach for another?

I’m having one of those weeks.

Except that I legitimately don’t care that I’ve lost muscle mass in my arms since I permanently quit working out at the gym. I had a personal trainer for 3 months last year (bucket list!) and it was great because now I know that I don’t need that shit in my life. I really thought I’d be the kind of person to get excited about body measurements and performance optimization, but in the end, all I cared about was maintaining health and continually fitting into my (stretchy) clothes. Not hard.

As long as I don’t eat too many french fries.

The week of my period is usually the time in my life when I allow myself to indulge these feelings and vocalize my cravings. In this case, that means not eating all the french fries, but instead using hummus as a salad dressing. It makes the salad more meaty, you know? I could walk across the street to hoard Burger King french fries (hoarding is the only thing I know how to do with french fries), but I’ve never had BK fries and I know for a fact that McDonald’s french fries have to be better.

McDonald’s french fries are not a guilty pleasure. I feel no guilt, only joy. I don’t pretend I’m better than McD’s when the freedom fry craving strikes. Life is meant to be lived, so I don’t discipline myself and resist every urge. I think about them until I taste the partially hydrogenated oils. Then reality sets in and I realize there’s no way I’m putting on pants and driving through California traffic to buy a bag of deep-fried potatoes, no matter how perfectly salted they are. And the BK across the street from my hotel this week? I’m not emotionally prepared for the level of disappointment BK would deliver. So I stick with my hummus salads.

I’ve gone through 3 pounds of hummus in less than a week, which says more about my french fry craving than it does about my hummus consumption. It seems to go with everything this week, including an empty fork and open mouth. If I think about McD’s hard enough, I can almost convince myself I’m eating my favorite vegan junk food.

Alrighty, then.

I did not purposely sit down to write about french fries, but it appears that’s what I’ve done. And I’m ok with that.

The charm of self-published authors

The worst part about having a fulltime job is the decreased time available for reading.

But Reading Is Fundamental, so I just finished reading my friend’s book, Bahamian Rhapsody, a chronicle of his time living in the Bahamas with his family. I read most of it during layovers, plane rides, and soaking in the hotel hot tub. All other hours of my existence are occupied by work, studying, or drinking too much beer on a Friday. Is that what they mean by balance?

One of my 2018 goals is to read 50 books. It’s April and this was book number 16. A few books ago I read my grandma’s memoir, which is not available on Amazon so is therefore not listed on Goodreads or my online reading list. I read the first 15 books before March, while unemployed. I’m losing speed. This new job is really getting in the way of my personal accomplishments.

Jimi’s book is the second memoir by a friend I have read, the first actually being my grandma’s memoir of her time living in Africa. I think people like to write about living or traveling in foreign countries. It usually marks a highlight or pivot point in their lives and makes for a rich backdrop. Both my grandma and Jimi reflected on life in a similar way as a result of their experiences. People also like to talk about their foreign adventures, as though their travels were the most interesting parts of them, which is sometimes true but usually not. I think it’s just the change in our environment that sparks a new perspective. And new is interesting. At first.

*cue heavy judgment and residual resentment from a past experience*

I had a boyfriend years back who loved to talk about his time “living” in Vietnam. He lived there 3 months. He also loved to talk about his time “living” in Geneva. He lived here 2 months. He would go on and on about his adventures (usually involving heavy drinking), while I’d smile and blink. He’d compare how things were done over there, often citing America as inferior. It got really fucking old really fucking fast. After almost a year and a half, he’d cycled through his travel stories so much that he ran out of things to tell me. At that point, he asked me why I never talked about my travels. To which I responded: who really enjoys hearing other people’s travel stories? Not. Fucking. Me. I have my own, thank you very much, and they are equally as (un)exciting and cliche. And nobody wants to hear about those stories, either. I didn’t really say that, exactly, but I thought it. I don’t want to hear your fucking travel stories.

Unless you write them in a book and package them as a thoughtful reflection on life, which verbal storytelling just can’t match. It’s the same reason I prefer reading personal, honest, vulnerable blogs by people not trying to sell me anything, more than listening to the same person pontificate on life. A self-published author has very little to gain by you reading their work. A conversation hog just likes to dominate a conversation. The intention is inherently different between the two mediums. The blogs and books that exist not to gain followers or profit, but instead simply to be written, are the ones I enjoy most.

What I loved about both my grandma’s and Jimi’s books was their raw and unedited honesty. They both had that self-published charm, typos and all. While both provided glimpses of insight into the human condition and astute observations of the world around them, they’d also each quickly tumble to material reality, falling short of any realization or greater awareness. Their plots didn’t twist and surprise, but rather jumped and mashed between scenes, leaving frayed loose ends. There were fun characters, but we didn’t get to know them or see their side. Details wouldn’t quite match up. A perfect memory.

Like life. Neither quite reached a climax or epiphany or brilliant insight. And I liked that because it’s how life goes. It’s how we actually remember things. It’s how people think. Imperfectly. We just kind of exist, rarely forming complete thoughts or realizing our own shortcomings. We see our perspective. We’re limited by our biases. We’re self-contradicting, grammatically incorrect, syntactically awkward humans who fumble around, somehow convinced that we have it together more than the average person, which is why we convince ourselves we should write a book! And we should. These kinds of books are rustic, and sometimes that’s exactly what we need: a charming reminder that we’re all about as average as the rest of ’em.

Anyway. I thank everyone who reaches this conclusion, that you should write. You’re doing it right. I love you.

Hey! Have you written a memoir? Know someone who has? Comment below with a link. I’d love to support your writing and give it a read!

Female Problems

I had two concerns about attending two months of GEICO Auto Damage Training. First, that my casual clothes wouldn’t be professional enough for dress casual attire (are yoga pants professional if they’re black? no.), and second, that I’d get my period at an inopportune time and have to miss–or completely fuck up–days of training as a result.

Thankfully, neither of those materialized. I’m pregnant! Just kidding. Although, I am sitting in my hotel room eating hummus with a fork so my behavior could indicate otherwise. I eat a stereotypical amount of hummus for a vegan yogi living in California. You could look at my grocery receipts and guess my political orientation. Or what time of the month it is. (I’m also eating chocolate.)

In seventh grade, I took the SATs as part of a program I was involved with. During the last section of the exam, I felt this warmth in my powder blue sweatpants. I also felt a weird pain in my stomach area, like I was sick. Knowing my nerves can sometimes get the best of me, I thought nothing of it until I saw the red stain on my chair. That’s the story of my second period. The first came while babysitting, five months before.

This time it came yesterday, after 44 days. It used to be four times a year and has been gradually increasing to its current 8-9 times per year. The goal is 11 or 12. That’s when I’ll know I’ve “cured” my PCOS and can move the fuck on with my life. But then there are times like in 2008, when it wouldn’t stop for a solid 8 months, yet conveniently took a four-day break while I partied in London, only to pick back up again when I got home. My body has its own rhythm-or lack thereof- that I’m trying to figure out. That’s why I write about this stuff. I’m tuning in. Paying attention.

I first learned about PCOS last year and have since been on a mission to normalize my periods, balance my hormones, and live pain-free. I traded coffee for tea, drastically reduced my alcohol consumption (the last few weekends of training an exception I’ve forgiven myself for), totally cut out all dairy and farmed fish (whereas before I would chalk up the occasional sushi buffet and cold cheese pizza to being a bad vegan, which I still consider myself to be but for other reasons), and most importantly, eliminated all soy products. And the results thus far have been phenomenal. While the time between periods is still greater than 35 days (aka abnormal), the associated pain, PMS, and other symptoms have greatly reduced.

So when it arrived last night, I kind of panicked but also kind of knew I’d be ok. They’ve been getting less painful. Last year I’d be curled on the bathroom floor for at least one full day, unable to keep down any food. I’d be out of commission from anything social or outside my half of the bed for another two or three. The pain would be so bad I’d dry heave, screaming for relief. Today, I pop four ibuprofen every four hours and apply a heating pad. It’s nothing. And it couldn’t have come at a better time.

Our current phase of training is much more relaxed and casual than the previous five weeks. It’s like my body was waiting for a moment when my MBA classes were over (omFg did I tell you I got a B+ and not a C? I’d been reading my grade wrong the entire time! Embarrassing relief.), the hard part of GEICO training had concluded, and I could relax into a little bit of minor physical pain. I’m just really thankful right now. Everything could have been so much worse.

And since we have our GEICO branded polos now, you could say I’m living the dream.

Work Friends and Party Friends are not Friend Friends: why I think adult friendships are hard to transcend

Adult friendships don’t have the bonds of adolescence and childhood to hold them together. Without an enduring common struggle (like growing up or years of school) or shared experience spanning multiple environments (seeing each other at home, school, parks, malls, fields, parties, etc), it’s tough to feel connected. I think that’s why it’s harder to solidify adult friendships. Adult friendships lack the benefit of compound time and space. Instead, adult friendships exist in one shared realm, like work or parties or the gym or mom groups. Adult friendships form in a vacuum, removed from the wholeness of the individual. Does that make any damn sense? I’m thinking about it today, as I do.

At what point does an adult friendship evolve into the kind of bond that transcends mere convenience or proximity? It feels like friendships out of convenience are the kind of friendships that are as easy to form as they are to walk away from. It’s easy to find another Party Friend or Yoga Friend or Hiking Friend or Work Friend. It’s not as easy to find a Friend Friend. This is something I frequently think about because most of my friendships have been those born out of convenience or proximity. As a result, I have a history of cycling through people when I move, change jobs or, before I married my favorite Friend Friend, broke up with a partner. Put another way, my friendships are largely the product of my environment, not the product of shared values.

Friendships serve my human need for companionship and belonging, but not in the kind of way that makes me actually feel like I belong or that we’d help each other move or that we’re cosmically connected. Most of my friends don’t know my parents’ names or how many cats I have (or why I have that many) or how I feel about string theory (I’ve recently been trying to figure out wtf it’s all about). Not all my friends know I started a nonprofit yoga mat company or spent my early childhood in New Zealand or have 4 siblings. And I don’t know this stuff about them, either. Are my friendships abnormally shallow, or is this just how shit goes with Generation Me (a book I’ve been meaning to read, is it any good?)?

During the GEICO hiring process, I met another woman who also got the offer. So we decided to exchange numbers and strike up a friendship before training. (She doesn’t know I keep a blog, which is indicative of what these kinds of Work Friends are like for me.) A few days before I left for training and before she failed her drug test, we sat on her patio and talked about the kind of nothingness that people tend to talk about. So I changed it up and asked her a question. I wanted to know how she felt about online privacy and personal data mining, a subject I find fascinating and terrifying. She evaded the question entirely and redirected the flow of conversation back to herself. Later in the conversation, I brought up a (literally) life-changing book we both happened to have read, and again she skirted the topic and resumed small talk. I got her life story, but in the few weeks of becoming Work Friends, she never once asked me a personal question or showed any interest in getting to know me as a person beyond what kind of beer I prefer or if I wanted to carpool to work. Conversations aren’t real with Work Friends. Were we energetically misaligned, or do Work Friends not ascend beyond mere convenience? I don’t know. I’m bad at this.

The last five weeks, I’ve formed Work Friends with a number of my colleagues. In Virginia, we lived in this microcosm of shared stress, and bonds that felt so real at the time were formed as a result. Now back in San Diego, removed from the orbit of chaos that was AD Basic, it occurs to me that whatever real connection I felt with those few individuals was likely the result of going through something together and grasping at shared commonalities like enjoying a beer on a Friday. None of it is real, is it? A friendship formed with the guy who happens to sit in front of me in the test room is not a Friend Friend. We talked for 3 weeks and convinced ourselves that we had a shared bond because we’re human and humans talk. I find this depressing. Building rapport and conversation for 3 weeks is social-emotional energy. Maybe it’s just practice. Or a hit of Love and Belonging from Maslow’s Hierarchy. Or both.

We have two more weeks in San Diego before we each fly back to our respective locations and begin work. Until then, I have Work Friends to nurture. Perhaps it’s a numbers game. Maybe we go through life making Something Friends, work at them, and hope for a few to grow into the kind of Friend Friends that we crave. Then again, maybe friendships are just that: Something Friends. Maybe we just bump against random humans as we travel through time, and through a series of brief and coincidental encounters, we convince ourselves that we’ve fulfilled our urge to feel connected. Or, again, maybe I’m just really bad at this. Entirely possible.

Tyler visited this weekend. He drove down Friday night and left this morning. Being with him, I feel that kind of Friend Friend connection that only exists between two people who, for the lack of a less hippie explanation, resonate at the same frequency. Tyler likes to describe it like sound waves, oscillating in synch, parallel. When two people match, they just click. When two people match for a moment, it’s like Sine and Cosine intersecting for just a moment in space and time, but ultimately traveling away from each other. Adult friendships feel like that to me. It feels like I’m constantly crossing paths with almost parallel but ultimately opposite energies.

Without the benefit of compounded time and space, adult friendships fizzle or never fully form. As a replacement, or maybe even as a distraction from the inevitable but subtle emptiness we feel as a result of this social shitstorm, I’d argue that we use social media (which I officially dislike), text banter, and email to convince ourselves that we have actual Friend Friends who see us as whole. But Friend Friends take time and space to form, and I doubt screen-to-screen communication really counts toward those requirements.

At the same time, I cannot help but take a step back and acknowledge that, as with everything, my perspective is the product of my self-generated and (probably) egoist reality, and that I could be living in some fucked up and sad bubble that disallows for the kinds of Friend Friends that everyone else does, in fact, experience. But that’s doubtful. People seem kind of sad. There’s entirely too much Tweeting in this world for balance to exist at a mass scale. If adult friendships were that easy to transcend, I don’t think I’d be thinking about this so much.

Unless I am, in fact, just bad at this.

Entirely possible.

16 Things I’m glad I did before 30

All of us born in 1988 turn 30 this year. Happy birthday! Statistically, we are nearing midlife, but I know deep down that I’m only 1/5 there. My stoned prophecy in 2009 that I’ll live to 135 isn’t dying anytime soon. I have a lot of life left. We all do, more or less.

As I near this new era of adulthood, I find myself reminiscing my 20s and picking out experiences and choices for which I am thankful. While in practice my 20s were spent lost, confused, and often stressed about my future, in retrospect I had a great time and feel pretty darn fortunate to have experienced so much, however unsettled I felt. Would I go back and change some things? Sure, but not in any kind of regretful way. We are the accumulation and product of our experiences, so it’s best to just make peace with that.

Yesterday I went on a hike with a friend, and at one point the conversation steered to what our bucket list was. To be completely honest, my bucket list was a thing I pretty much crushed in my 20s. Right now, the only thing left (besides hiking to the base camp of Everest and publishing a book…ok, and doing 100 consecutive pushups) is settling down and having a family. Those classic adventure goals are quenched (for now). Whether or not I knew what kind of life gift I was giving myself, I lived my 20s as though it was my one chance to do All The Things.

In no particular order, here are 16 things I’m glad I did before 30.

1. Lived frugally

Maybe even miserly, at times. Finding the cheapest rent, buying generic everything, opting for second-hand whenever possible, and turning off the lights were just some of the choices that compounded on one another to put me in a place of financial stability today. In my early 20s, I also locked away all my savings and birthday money, and automated deposits of disposable income into 1 and 5-year CDs (Certificate of Deposits). This saved me from potential poor decision making, which looking back I’m sure to have made. I am thankful to my dad for preaching the value of investments, frugality, and paying off credit cards in full every month. Early on, I knew that I was probably too young and stupid to make wise choices, so I bet against myself, lived below my means, and hid my money out of reach. One of the reasons I am grateful to have lived this way is that my tolerance for discomfort has decreased as I’ve gotten older. Roughing life and renting a living room floor just don’t have the same appeal they did when I was 19. But I did it and I’m richer for it.

2. Traveled. A lot.

I am forever grateful for the opportunities afforded to me in my 20s to travel. Not everyone has the same choice to uproot and backpack a continent or drop everything and move to a new state. But if you have the chance, do it. With how light I traveled, a month of traveling was almost always cheaper than a month of rent back in the States. I traveled to well over a dozen countries in my late teens and 20s, including 2 long backpacking trips, 1 solo bicycle tour, and several smaller trips. Unless you’re not the type interested in travel, get out and cross shit off your bucket list while you’re young and unencumbered by the responsibilities of life.

3. Explored my sexual orientation

This was a stressful thing to do, as I remained sexually confused for years, but I explored my curiosities and got to know this side of myself. I was going to marry my boyfriend at 19, but broke it off because I had this gut feeling that I needed to explore myself more (and I also suspected that despite feeling totally in love, I was probably too young to know what the fuck any of that really meant). That’s the kind of life choice I look back on and think, wow, bullet dodged and lesson learned! Through navigating serious relationships and less serious relationships, I became very clear about what I need and want from a partner. I don’t personally think I could have done that without going through all the confusing and frustrating ups and downs of dating. It sucked but it was worth it to come to some inner peace on the matter.

4. Bought a house

It’s not my “house house,” but it’s a house and I own it. I used the tips I’d made as a bartender one summer as my down payment, then collected rental income to pay the mortgage. It’s small, it’s in an average neighborhood, and 5 years later it continues to produce a decent ROI and prevent us from needing to live paycheck to paycheck. Buying that little thing is one of the best financial decisions I made in my 20s and it gives me tremendous peace of mind knowing that if life goes south and shit hits the fan for some outlier of a reason, we’ll at least never be homeless. Assuming you have good credit, it’s surprisingly simple and inexpensive to buy a house. Anyone with a few grand (or even less, depending on where you live) laying around in their 20s would be wise to invest accordingly. My mortgage was hundreds per month less than rent in the same area.

5. Didn’t get pregnant (but still got married)

It wasn’t that hard to be safe and not be stupid or impulsive, but I look at all my peers from high school with multiple kids and I’m like, damn… how do you do it? Thank fucking god that’s not my life right now. At no point in my 20s would I have been emotionally ready. Need I say more? I feel like by entering my 30s without kids, I’m somehow winning because I get that much more freedom in life. It also means we get to enjoy our marriage and therefore establish an even stronger base for when that time comes, which, now that I’m almost 30, is definitely coming up!

6. Studied liberal arts

I used to majorly regret my undergraduate experience. It took me over 7 years to finish the degree and when I did, I ended up with one of the most useless ones ever. Or did I? There is a difference between a degree and an education, and I think I got both. Studying liberal arts and taking courses in everything opened my mind in a way a traditional “useful” degree may not have. I would never have contemplated Kant’s categorical imperative or debated the potential of utopia had I not taken a more liberal approach to my education. Now that I am secure in a career that values and rewards me for the fact that I have any degree at all, I can finally see the true value in having studied what I studied. Liberal arts is a valuable education.

7. Smoked a lot of weed, but that’s it

Did it, loved it, learned a lot, would do it again. Thankfully, the anti-drug campaigns through grade school and a lecture in high school biology scared me away from anything more serious than marijuana. I’ve never had any desire to experiment with drugs and somehow I’ve made it nearly 30 years into life and have yet to even see any drugs besides weed. Not seeing drugs is almost like a claim to fame at this point. So I feel like I have this nice balance, where I’m familiar enough with the culture, but just square enough to stay away from it. As a type-A, smoking weed and looking at life from a “chilled out” perspective was one of the most formative and positive decisions I made in my 20s. I made countless life decisions while stoned, which actually kind of shocks me because I cannot imagine doing that today, but those decisions turned into cherished memories. It also meant I didn’t drink very much in college because why drink when you can smoke? Undeniable logic, I know.

8. Had my heart broken

It sucks but it’s going to happen eventually. Each heartbreak was easier to deal with. It’s like all shitty things in life; it makes the sweet moments that much sweeter. I’m thankful for those on-again-off-again relationships and broken off engagements and desperate I love you’s before the inevitable end. None of that drama exists when you find the right match. I know that now.

9. Lived alone. Lived with roommates. Lived in a truck.

Also lived in a walk-in closet. Lived in the corner of a living room. I learned about what’s important in life: a clean kitchen, not owning too much shit, and the importance of beauty in your immediate surroundings.

10. Followed my passion, again and again

This is something I’ve talked about on this blog before. It’s something I think about a lot. And it’s what defined my 20s. While I’m not a fan of the advice anymore, having lived that way for over a decade is insurance against regretting not trying later in life. When I wanted to be a professional SCUBA diver, I moved to Hawaii and did it. When I wanted to be a health professional, I became a health coach and started a vegan food delivery service. When I wanted to live and breathe yoga, I became a yoga teacher and started a yoga mat company. When I wanted to make a bunch of money and feel like a baller, I sold real estate, started a corporation and hired assistants. When I wanted to learn anything, I changed my major, took an online class, or otherwise sought new knowledge. From teaching ESL to joining the Navy to working in nonprofit finance to marketing for a national corporate yoga studio, I followed every whim and every desire. All in the name of passion. It felt chaotic as hell and I may be farther behind professionally than my peers, but now I feel like one of the most well-rounded people I know.

11. Started a business and succeeded. Started a business and failed.

I took risks, made a lot of money, lost a lot of money, and followed through with all my crazy business ideas. And that’s pretty fucking cool. Our tolerance for risk is higher when we’re younger, so our 20s are the time to fuck up and learn. Although the bottom line might not reflect the amount of time and effort I invested, the inevitable personal growth and value of the experience is priceless. Maybe I’ll try something again in the future, but for now I’m just happy I gave it a solid go, multiple times.

12. Smoked cigarettes to be cool, then quit

Might have it been better had I never even tried? Perhaps. But I went through my phase, smoked religiously, then one day quit cold turkey because it occurred to me that smoking was the kind of life choice I’d definitely regret if I kept it up. But it was kind of fun to stand in those social circles and feel like a part of something, even if that something was cancer.

13. Took control of my diet and health

A nutrition course I took in culinary school in 2007 forever changed my life. Since then, I’ve been on the path of plant-based eating and thinking about my health as a long-term investment in my happiness. I also look younger as a result, which should come in handy when I hit those triple digits.

14. Found yoga

If you’re a yogi, I know you feel me. It took me a few years to finally connect breath and movement, but once it clicked, my life changed. I have yet to preach the value of meditation, as I totally suck at making it a habit. Maybe that’s something I’ll nail down in my 30s, along with hiking Everest, writing that book, and doing 100 pushups.

15. Quit social media

I had MySpace through middle school and high school, Facebook before the general public could join in college, and Instagram during its pre-ad heyday. And I probably fell into that category of people who would clinically be considered “addicted.” Now, I survive on this WordPress blog and a smartphone void of any distracting app whatsoever. Quitting social media and essentially leaving the Internet was one of the best choices I made for my mental health. I couldn’t help but to subtly (or not so subtly) compare my life to others on Facebook, feel inadequate with my yoga practice on Instagram, and passively consume negative news everywhere. Living an unplugged life is nice. I call it detaching from The Chaos.

16. Didn’t get any tattoos or gauge my ears

Now I can finally be cool because I am the one millennial who did not permanently alter her body. I thought about getting tattoos so many times and once thought about gauging my ears, but I couldn’t decide on a design and never got around to it. Sometimes procrastination pays off for life.

Thanks for reading to the end! I hope it provided some insight or value for you. No matter your age, what are some things you’re thankful to be doing right now in life? What are some things you look back on and feel grateful for having experienced? If you’re beyond your 30s, how do you look back on your 30s? I’m a sucker for this kind of life advice, so hit me!

Thanks! ❤