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! ❤

What kinds of problems do you enjoy solving?

Wednesday was the halfway point of GEICO Auto Damage Adjuster training. I’ve been away from home for exactly one month tomorrow. It feels like forever and nothing at the same time. I miss my husband and my cats and waking up after 3:30AM. The days don’t end here; they blend together. But I love it because I know it will end.

I still have occasional moments of disbelief. I know so goddamn much about cars! It is absolutely unbelievable how much I suddenly know about a subject I have actively avoided my whole life. I once sold a car instead of getting the oil changed because the whole process seemed too foreign to handle. Cars are so far removed from my reality that I question whether I’m actually absorbing anything. Am I systematically deleting all this new knowledge every day and when this training ends I’ll be back to trying to figure out where the damn windshield wiper switch is on my own car?

Last year when I was trying to figure out my shit, I wrote about why I’m over following my passion. Going into the car insurance industry is an excellent example of not doing what I love and never working a day in my life. I still don’t particularly care about cars, but the funny thing is that the job itself doesn’t require an actual interest in the subject. It requires an interest in the process.

That’s what I’m finding most interesting about this entire experience. I love details and being methodical and maximizing efficiency and minimizing costs. And that’s exactly what auto damage adjusting is about. It’s about looking at a problem and coming up with the most cost-effective and complete way to solve it. So going back to thinking about passion, the question we should really be asking ourselves is what kinds of problems do we enjoy solving? I feel like that’s where our Answer is.

[By the way: call GEICO to get a quote and use my employee ID 215412 to get the best rates ;-)]

How hardship keeps us healthy (and why we’re getting rid of all our furniture)

Monday morning I sat down to eat breakfast with another region. They flew in from Tuscon, but come from as far north as Washington State. The breakfast buffet yet again proved to be beyond all expectations. I ate chia oatmeal pudding with fresh cut strawberries and a side of melon. I sipped tea and listened to the conversation, one which I chose not to participate in for fear of offending. I’m working on tact and not sharing unsolicited opinions. Instead, I harbor my judgment.

The group unanimously complained about the long walk from our rooms to the dining hall. It’s 500 steps. I measured it the day we arrived. 500 steps is just under a quarter mile, meaning we get half a mile of walking every morning, just for breakfast. Include dinner, and we get a full mile per day. Just for eating. Region 5 was not feeling it. But I am and this is why.

Hardship, highly regarded by centenarians of the Blue Zones, who tend their own land, walk instead of drive, and forego high furniture, is the idea that small inconveniences compounded over a lifetime (or even 3 weeks, our time here in Virginia) can have a large impact on your life. For example, walking half a mile every morning for breakfast adds up to over 180 miles a year. Depending on your height and weight, that’s roughly 11,000 calories, which equates to over 3 pounds of fat (3,500 calories is about 1 pound of fat). It only takes about 5 minutes to walk 500 steps. Do you think a 10 minute morning walk is worth it to maintain a healthy weight?

Since reading Blue Zones, I’ve been looking for small ways to incorporate more hardship into my life. Natural and easy weight management is one side effect of hardship, but improved overall health and therefore longevity is the real goal. By introducing daily hardship, it is easier to live free from the common physical ailments that result from a prolonged sedentary lifestyle.

Hardship does not have to be extreme, and by definition, it is quite the opposite. Think of hardship as a sustainable inconvenience. That is why, after a decade of setting myself up for failure with overambitious workout plans, this year I finally made the conscious choice not to workout for the sake of working out. Instead, I opt to practice at least 15 minutes of yoga every evening and walk at least 10,000 steps throughout the day. If I feel like anything more, fine, but there’s no pressure. If I don’t quite make it to the goal, I don’t stress. It’s a process. The goal isn’t six-pack abs or running a 5-minute mile. It’s overall health. With that in mind, at the end of the week, I will have stretched and de-stressed for nearly 2 hours and walked well over 20 miles. Compounded over a lifetime, not only is this sustainable and easy on the body, but it’s fun (I like yoga and walking) and effective. Going to the gym for an hour a day? For me, that’s unsustainable torture. Maybe it is for you, too?

Taking the stairs, parking farther from the door, and walking during your lunch break are all examples of hardship. But what about diet? Opting to go meat-free even one day or one meal per week can be a step in the right direction. It is well-documented that eating more vegetables and less meat is good for our health. For me, I try to eat one green thing at every meal. Compounded over a week, that’s at least 21 servings of greens. Another example is to switch out one sugary beverage per day/week/etc for water. Keep it simple. That’s the whole idea. This is very similar to the “baby step” mentality of habit change, except that you don’t ever have to take more than or reach for more than baby steps.

Beyond diet and exercise, what interests me right now is the idea of shaping my home life around the idea of hardship. In Okinawa, the Blue Zone of Japan, it is not uncommon for people to forego furniture. Sitting in cushions surrounding a low table on the floor means you have to get up and down a lot more, using your joints, core, and leg muscles more than you would if you sat in a chair at a typical table. The inconvenience is minor, but imagine the benefits if practiced over the course of a lifetime! Centenarians in Okinawa are spry and mobile, not arthritic and stiff.

The same logic applies to couches, beds, and other furniture. The closer you get to the ground, the more hardship you introduce into your daily tasks and the less “laying around” you’re prone to do.

I love the idea of designing our homes and spaces around our values, hobbies, and priorities. In the past, I have always designed my homes around social norms. For example, living rooms are for couches. Dining rooms are for tables and chairs. Bedrooms are for beds and nightstands. But the truth is that our space is our space, and we can use it however we like. I am not sure why it’s taken me so long to fully grasp this. There is nobody telling me I have to have a couch or a bed frame or a high table. Nobody.

So in the name of hardship, we’re getting rid of it all and going furniture free. This might sound kind of extreme, but it feels liberating. Granted, I have not yet sold all the furniture and experienced it first hand (that’ll be for another blog post), but the idea is solidified in my mind.

Instead of a couch, our living room will have the perfect space for my yoga mat and props. Instead of a coffee table and end tables, we’ll have cushions and a low game/eating table. Instead of using the dining space for a table and chairs, we can have a reading nook and mini office. As of right now, the only standard furniture we’ll have left is the bed and mattress. But let’s see how this little No Furniture Experiment goes. I’m still at GEICO training for another 5 weeks, so I may or may not come home to an empty apartment with plenty of space to stretch out, live long and prosper.

A suspicious feast

My husband was a US Navy submariner for 6 years. He says that the submariners eat the best out of anyone in the Navy. It’s the only thing good about their life. They eat well for mental health.

We arrived at Auto Damage Basic yesterday. We stay at the National Conference Center (NCC) in Leesburg, VA, and train somewhere a few miles away. Our rooms are spartan shoeboxes with single-pane windows dressed in curtains from a foregone era, but the food here is spectacular. So is the organic argon shampoo.

Without violating the non-disclosure I signed, let it rest that the first two weeks in San Diego were intense. It started with 2 days of GEICO 101, which served as an introduction to the company and its policies, benefits, and culture. What followed was 8 days of Auto Damage Preschool, a basic introduction to the material we need to master. We memorized nearly 60 detailed diagrams and over 300 car parts, regurgitated pages from our manual verbatim, and had to maintain an 85% average on every daily exam. Or you’re fired. I now know more about cars than your dad or your uncle.

And we’re just getting started.

Phase 2 is supposed to be even more intense, meant to make Phase 1 look like a light appetizer to a heavy full-course meal. I suspect that’s why the cafeteria provides things like chia seeds, an olive bar, and fresh vegetables, roasted, raw and grilled. Last night I ate the entire rainbow, including red quinoa pilaf topped with walnuts. This morning I ate 4 different kinds of fruit and a waiter cleaned my dishes and refilled my tea.

Training starts tomorrow. But today we feast.

Blue Zones by Dan Buettner: this book makes me want to actually make friends (but not stress about it)

February’s book club book was Blue Zones by Dan Buettner. And like January, I was both the only person to read the book and also the only person still in the book club. Also like January, I let someone else pick the book because I thought it might encourage them to actually read it. The acquaintances-soon-to-be-friends both officially bailed on the whole thing. Some variation of “I’m busy” seemed to be the problem.

Quick rant: if you’re too busy for book club, your priorities are wrong. If you’re too busy to follow through with your commitments, your priorities are wrong. If you’re too busy to nurture your relationships, your priorities are wrong. Am I right?

But I read Blue Zones because I’m committed to this book club, whether or not it technically still exists. 2018 Ashley commits and shows up. You can count on that.

The people of the Blue Zones would agree. Social relationships are a key factor in supporting longevity. That means we’re friends now. I need you. It’s science.

A little background, before I dive into another rant, which is what these book club book reviews end up being: the Blue Zones are the places in the world with the highest proportions of centenarians. It all started as a project in the early 2000s (I think?), funded by National Geographic. The goal was to figure out WTF made people live so long in these random and far off places of the Earth. This book examines the cultural characteristics, lifestyle habits, and diets of a bunch of old people, and tries to string together the commonalities so that we, the youth-seeking readers, may gain some insight into a long life.

And it delivered! Here’s what I gathered.

First of all, be vegan. Not really, but be about as close to vegan or vegetarian as you can, and only consume animal products that are from your farm or at least local and minimally processed. You could also read The China Study to come to that conclusion (an excellent read). But it’s 2018, so this kind of nutrition knowledge should be common sense by now, right? Or do I live in a vegan bubble of my own creation? Doesn’t everyone more or less agree that meat and cheese in large quantities are bad? Yet for some reason–and stay with me here even if you feel insulted– Atkins (the nutrition “expert” who literally died young from a fucking heart attack after following his own advice) is now dressed up as Paleo and Keto, and fat people everywhere rejoice in drinking butter coffee and eating organic grass-fed steak at each meal. Cocaine is also great for weight loss. I’ve never done it, but I assume it’s also more fun and faster. It might even be cheaper. It’s definitely better for the environment. Did I just condone cocaine? Yikes.

Second, live a low-stress life by engaging in activities like yoga, Tai chi, meditation, or just straight up chillin’. I like this one. One of my 2018 personal missions is to chill the fuck out and take it easy, two things I’m historically not great at. It’s why I’m limiting my MBA to the slowest possible pace of one class per quarter and accepting that I will never have a life-changing Miracle Morning (a book whose rating ought to be the inverse of its Amazon reviews, omg that book sucks). Instead of trying to “do it all,” I make it my mission to be as “unbusy” as possible. For example, one of the only social events I had scheduled on my calendar in February was this book club meeting, and not even that happened! But low stress isn’t just about carving out free time and managing priorities. It’s about not stressing in general, and accepting life as it comes at you. It’s an attitude. A lifestyle.

Third–and by now I’m kind of losing interest in itemizing everything Blue Zones said because summarizing an entire book isn’t as fun as reading it and this isn’t a high school English class–is to have a strong social circle. This is where I struggle.

It’s not just that my book club never shows up to its meetings, it’s that I don’t make much of an effort to socialize outside of my husband and cats. I don’t have many strong social bonds and that’s never bothered me as much as it does now because if I did, I might live longer. And living longer is something I’d like to do because the longer you live, the more you get to experience and the more birthday cake you get to eat. Yet, I’d almost always rather be alone than with someone else. I wish I wasn’t like this, but I just don’t have high social needs. So fuck. See my dilemma? I do enjoy people, in one-on-one settings, but I think I might be too “particular” to appreciate everyone the way I’d like to. It’s not that “my standards are high” or that I think I’m better than everyone (because people aren’t arranged in hierarchies; we’re more like laterally spread across a range of neutral traits), it’s that one important thing I look for in a friend is a strong tendency toward conspiracy theorist. I love conspiracy theorists. They’re so fun and paranoid. But they don’t get out much.

Ok, that devolved. Let’s get back to the book.

Blue Zones was worth the read. It inspired me to keep up my healthy habits like eating plants and walking every day, and it encouraged me to consider reaching back out to my book club for another meeting next month.

I got stoned one day in 2009 and had a vision that I’d live to 135. I also believe in self-fulfilling prophecies. Now that I know the secret to longevity, I really need this social book club to pan out.

Want more book suggestions? Look here.

Graduate school grades matter and TV is mildly depressing

My plan to coast through my MBA is backfiring. I am currently failing. Did you know you need a B- to pass a graduate level class? I have a solid C, the grade I was shooting for because life is more important than grades, and now it’s come to my attention that this is unacceptable. Grades are more important. Why is it that right when I get my shit together and realize that grades never mattered, that now they do? There’s probably a life lesson hidden in this mess, but I’m too stressed about acing the rest of the quarter to have epiphanies.

Things tend to work themselves out and I’m pretty good at appealing things I disagree with, so I remain confident that I’ll squeak by with that B-, but the next 3 weeks are now going to be even more intense than they already are with my GEICO training. Bring it.

It’s moments like this when I like to mentally project myself a year into the future. A year from now, none of this will matter. A year from now, this stress will be forgotten. A year from now, I will look back and laugh at how much I cared about any of this at all. A year from now, this will all be gone and I will have new worries to stress about and mentally project out of, a year into the future. I think this is what the circle of life is: dissipating stresses, year after year, forever.

Last night I dealt with the stress by watching TV in my hotel room, something I haven’t done in so long that the last commercial I saw was likely produced in the 90s or early 2000s. We didn’t have cable TV growing up, and since graduating from high school in 2006, I haven’t once lived in a house with a TV. TV is not my default entertainment. After clicking through every ESPN channel, reality TV show, and news station, I landed on something good enough. There’s a show on CNN called “The History of Comedy,” which I watched for two hours and paired with chamomile tea. I didn’t laugh once.

When I finally turned off the TV at 8:30 to go to sleep, I felt so empty inside that I almost wanted to cry. It reminded me why I hate watching TV (GoT the clear exception, but even that was hard to handle). Every commercial was for insurance, retirement investing, or prescription medication. Several of them referenced pop culture icons that went right over my head. Am I that out of touch? Makes me think the show was targeting a different kind of stressed out person.

Does everyone feel this empty after watching TV? Studies do show that “mildly depressed” is the average emotion people have while watching television, but with limited personal experience, I didn’t realize that that feeling lingers even after you stop. Guys, it was awful. Even while I watched, waiting for something funny, I felt this sinking feeling that I was desperately wasting my time.

But something happened as I slept. The feeling crept deeper into my being, and I awoke with this deep sense of loss. Like the 2 hours I spent staring at the TV last night somehow set me back emotionally. I felt so depleted and defeated, simultaneously stressed about that fucking C I have in Organizational Theory. Knowing this emotion is temporary, and maybe also related to the fact that I spent Friday night and Saturday afternoon at funeral receptions with literally all my in-laws, I put on my best fitting clothes and took the elevator to the breakfast buffet.

Oatmeal, nuts, seeds, and strawberries. Tea. Time to get back to it.

Am I turning into a gearhead? Is text-to-speech software any good yet?

The first thing I did when I arrived at the hotel last Sunday was count 13 flossers, 13 Q-tips, and 13 pairs of vitamins D and B12. Once depleted, I’ll know it’s time to fly to Virginia for round 2 of GEICO training. This is how I count the days. Not unlike prisoners etching tallies on their wall. Except I’m paid to be here and I get my own room at a Hilton. So not much like prison at all.

Week one of training is done and I know more about cars, engines, and cooling systems than I ever cared to. But suddenly, it’s all quite fascinating. Am I turning into a gearhead? Doubtful. But I will probably be the first woman to ever open her hood for the first time and be able to accurately identify every single part in the engine. First I’ll need to find the latch to unlock it, but I’m feeling pretty damn confident right now.

I wake up at 5AM to study 2 hours before the 8 hour training day, take an hour break to eat and congratulate myself for passing the day’s exam, then study another 3 hours for the following day’s exam. 30 minutes of yoga, sleep, repeat. I can’t say more than that because otherwise, I’d have to kill you, but GEICO isn’t fucking around. This 2-month training program is intense. In my cohort of 17 (all brilliant people), I am one of two women, and perhaps the most ignorant when it comes to anything remotely related to manual labor, which cars fall into. That means I get a lot of laughs when I raise my hand to ask another question. But I’m rolling with it. When everyone expects you to be clueless and confused, you have nothing to lose by participating in class.

Meanwhile, I’m doing my MBA. Today is Saturday and I woke at 6AM to get a jump start on this week’s assignments. I clocked 52 hours of work this week for GEICO, and my MBA requires another 15. Do you have any idea how exhausted I am? And yet, I’m thriving in this environment. I even have time to blog about it. See!

There’s something about this structured and strict environment that’s bringing out the best in me, pushing me toward healthy and disciplined choices. I eat the same 3 meals every day: oatmeal, nuts, seeds, and strawberries for breakfast, hummus veggie sandwich on sprouted grain bread for lunch, lentils and broccoli slaw for dinner. Breakfast and lunch are washed down with green tea, then I switch to lavender chamomile for dinner. 3 bottles of water in between. It doesn’t get boring because I don’t have time to get bored. Or think about it. I find that being this busy forces me to minimize other areas of my life, like deciding what to eat or deciding what to wear or deciding whether to press snooze (no!).

And holy hell, I fucking love it. It’s a welcome departure from my previous existence, where I spent my days applying for jobs and questioning every life choice that led me to a life of applying for jobs and questioning my life. Why am I so cerebral? Maybe it’s narcissism. Sometimes I wonder if I’m so self-absorbed that I’m blind to it, and wondering if I’m self-absorbed is all part of the illusion. Then I remember how well I care for my cats (is verbalizing my love for them the same as actually caring for them?) and how I fold my husband’s underwear how he likes, and I feel better about myself.

I need a tea refill. And I’m finally coming to terms with the fact that I’m only blogging because I don’t want to read my textbook. I wonder if text-to-speech technology is sophisticated enough to be bearable? I used to use that function on my Kindle (the original Kindle). My drive to UAS in Juneau was 45 minutes, just long enough to get through the few required chapters of whatever pedantic bullshit Dickens wrote in The Pickwick Papers. If reading Dickens isn’t bad enough, imagine a fucking robot read it to you in double time while you drive 30MPH through ice and snow. The only thing I remember from that book is the voice that read it to me. Never again.

I think I’ll just read my textbook.