3 Ways I Gained Perspective in My 30s

ICYMI, I turned 33 years old exactly 10 days ago (you can check out highlights from my Lady Gaga-themed birthday party here). Some folks in my position would be sad to be officially out of their 20s, but in all honesty, I kinda love my 30s.

Why do I prefer this decade of life? I’ve said this out loud to a number of people, but in case you missed it, I’ll lay it out right here, right now: I am *finally* becoming more comfortable with who I am and what I want.

As with everything, this is still a work in progress. However, as my birthday came and went, and we charge into a new astrological new year (where my astrology peeps at?!) I’ve been very reflective lately on how I got here.

And so, after much thinking and introspection, I’ve landed on three major ways my perspective has changed as I’ve embraced my 30s—and more importantly—embraced my authentic self.

New Perspective On Family

Over five years ago (has it really been that long?) my dad passed away, which flipped my entire world upside down and forced me to look at things in a completely different way. I suddenly found myself taking a step back to reflect on what actually matters, and as a result, made some changes in terms of how I live my life. Some days are better than others of course, but after my dad passed I’ve made a concerted effort to not take anything (or anyone) for granted.

How did I gain perspective? By discovering…

  • I have an amazing support system, including a wonderful chosen family in addition to my biological fam.
  • I have a wonderful husband and partner who is ready and willing to stick by my side no matter what life throws at us.
  • My parents are a part of me and have played a huge role in who I am and how I operate in the world.
  • I need to embrace my culture because it is definitely something I want to pass on to my future children.
  • When it comes to family in general, you need to hold on to the things that matter. Let everything else go.

New Perspective On Career

In one of my more popular posts, I talked about my pivot from teaching communication to working in the field of communication at Vectorworks—a HUGE deal because I thought I would be a professor for the rest of my life. Now here we are, almost two years later, and I feel like I’ve already learned so much: about leaning on my team, trusting myself, and remaining curious regardless of where I am employed. I’m proud that my efforts at Vectorworks have paid off in the form of a promotion, where I now have the opportunity as Communications Manager to lead and mentor junior writers on my team. Even though it was very scary at the time, leaving academia has taught me many life lessons that I wouldn’t have received otherwise.

How did I gain perspective? By observing…

  • Perfectionism doesn’t bode well for me in the workplace.
  • Working 24/7 doesn’t bring me joy and balance.
  • Having amazing co-workers makes the workday worthwhile.
  • Having solid mentors and managers is immensely valuable.
  • My “not enough” at work is actually great…even promotable!
  • I am capable of making a lasting impact on my team and organization.

New Perspective On Mindset

Many of my teachers/benefactors have discussed the power of meditation, but it isn’t until very recently that I’ve decided to make the effort to meditate at least 10 minutes every morning. Since beginning this practice, I have been more cognizant of staying present and observing thoughts and feelings without judgment or attachment. As practicing yogi I’ve always understood the power of mindfulness and breath, but through daily meditation, I hope to work on bringing yoga principles to my every day awareness, outside of the mat.

How did I gain perspective? By realizing…

  • The power of staying present reaps many benefits.
  • Being mindful in what I say and do oftentimes reduces my anger/defensiveness/fear.
  • Some deep breathing (even for a few minutes!) can do magical wonders.
  • If I surround myself with people who can serve as teachers/role models on conscious living, I am constantly reminded of what I strive for in my own life.

So there you have it. Not a mind-blowing list by any means, but certainly one that took a few decades of work to bring to my awareness.

Anything you would add? Anything I may have missed?

This is What Happens When You Live Right Now

This past week I went to DC after work to visit my academic friends who were in town for the AEJMC national conference.

Although I was super excited to see my dear ones, I will admit that I also felt a bit nervous. You see, it had been at least a year since I had seen many of these people, and it was almost exactly one year ago when I told them I would be leaving academia and working in industry.

Why was I so nervous? Even though I knew I had to walk away from the career I once loved, the decision was very difficult. I had put a lot of time and energy into my education that prepared me for the academy. My grad program and mentors had invested a lot in me, and I felt like I was letting people down—and I’ve lived most of my life as a people pleaser. So to say I felt anxious walking into that conference hotel with no idea who I would run into is an understatement.

I couldn’t be more wrong.

Faces lit up when they saw me. Pleasantly surprised, folks exclaimed, “what are you doing here?!” before giving me a huge hug. I even ran into my beloved Ph.D. advisor and was able to catch up with her and my grad school friends as if nothing had changed.

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With my academic colleagues at AEJMC

But actually, something had changed, based on what I was told. My friends said I seemed calmer, happier, more zen. My energy was no longer the hot mess of stress and anxiety that appeared to be my norm just over a year ago. That I looked good, that I should keep doing yoga, that my hair looked great—ok, these physical things shouldn’t matter as much, but it was still all very flattering.

I even got a few, “so, you’re coming back to academia, right?!” comments, to which I replied:

“I’m good right now. I have a good job, and I’m happy, and I have better work/life balance. I’m gonna stick with this right now.”

Right now.

Right now I don’t know what my future career holds for me. Right now I don’t know if I’ll ever go back to academia, or if I’ll make yet another pivot down the road. Right now I’m honestly trying not to think about it too much.

Nope, right now I’m going to keep riding this positive wave of energy I’m apparently radiating and continue doing what feels right. Because that’s how I feel.

Right now.

Birthday Reflections: This Is Me Moving Forward

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Today is my 31st birthday.

For those of you that know me well, you’re probably waiting for a month-long series of events with various activities in different locations.

But not this year. This year is different.

I’ve decided to tone things down a bit and focus a little more inward.

Now don’t get me wrong, there was still a bit of celebration. I went to NYC over the weekend and saw Waitress the Musical on Broadway; it was just as wonderful and amazing as I had anticipated (thank you Jessie Mueller for your breathtaking performance). And tonight, I had dinner with a small group of friends and participated in a Museum Heist-themed Escape the Room. We managed to breakout, with about 15 minutes to spare, despite my heightening anxiety.

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*cue segue into the actual purpose of this post*

Although I’m sure many of you see my outward, celebratory leanings toward my birthday via social media posts and in-person interactions with yours truly, I have doubts that y’all know what really goes inside this little brain of mine.

You see, I suffer from anxiety, and there are times when it can be so crippling I can hardly speak, let alone be the delightful host at my birthday party.

Wow, what does that look like, you might ask?

Here is a visual.

About a month ago the NBC television drama This Is Us aired an episode where character Randall Pearson (played by actor Sterling K. Brown) suffers from a panic attack at his office. Now I don’t watch the show (though based on that very realistic clip I feel like I should) but because it was being shared multiple times on my Facebook timeline I decided to take a look…

…five minutes later my husband Derek sees me bawling on our living room couch.

D: “Honey, what’s wrong?”

R: “I watched the clip. The one with the anxiety attack. It was so real. I know EXACTLY what that feels like” *continues to sob*

Kudos to the show creators for getting it spot on. I’ve been there.

A few key examples.

#1: The summer before I moved to Maryland for graduate school, I was suffering from attacks fairly regularly. I was so worried that it would mess with my success of getting my M.A. and Ph.D., and that my mother would think it was too risky to move from home. But I was able to pull it together and I moved to Maryland, where I obtained both my masters and doctorate within five years.

#2: About two years ago, my husband (who was then my fiancé), my mom, and my sister came to my home in Richmond, Virginia (where I was living at the time) for Thanksgiving. I was having some issues with depression that Fall semester, and was prescribed a new medication to help with the symptoms, but unfortunately it triggered an attack in the middle of a lovely outdoor picnic. I had to be rushed home, where my husband witnessed what my attacks were like for the very first time, and feeling completely helpless on what to do.

#3: About a week ago, I was running late for a meeting at work because I couldn’t find something in the house. As I was frantically searching for the item, I felt another attack coming.

…but this time, compared to the previous two scenarios, I was able to get it under control within 30 minutes vs. the several hours it usually can take to subside, and I was able to function at the meeting as though nothing had happened.

What was the difference then?

A couple of things:

Yoga: About a year ago, I started getting into a more consistent yoga practice, thanks to the very accessible (and helpful!) videos by Yoga with Adriene. It’s helped bring an awareness to my body that I’ve never had before, and it’s helped me discover how my body deals with things such as flexibility, balance, energy, and flow. I’m at a point now where I need this practice, much like how I need coffee in the morning; it’s now that important.

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Meditation and Mindfulness: My new therapist in Maryland has been pushing me to meditate more to help alleviate my anxiety and stress; she wants me to start integrating mind awareness with my new found body awareness, and so far it’s been working. I am no where near getting into a daily practice, but I now have a few resources to start with, and that day while driving to my meeting I engaged in deep breathing exercises that seemed to help.

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Music/Singing/Dancing/Performing: In my most recent panicked episode, after taking some deep breaths, I played two songs from my Spotify playlist and belted at the top of my lungs until I felt the attack subsiding and I had tears streaming down my face. In a freaky-type of coincidence, a close friend recently shared a very poignant interview with actress Emma Stone about how acting acts as her personal therapy, and I completely agree with her insight:

“I wouldn’t say that performing is a cure for anxiety, but when you have excess energy that turns inward and makes you an over-thinker, you can begin to panic.”

Oh Emma, I can TOTALLY relate!

Not only am I super hard on myself pretty much ALL THE DAMN TIME (but I’m working on it this year; see my previous post!), but I also deal with all this social anxiety worrying about what others think of me (I go into detail a bit in my Instagram post for International Women’s Day) and it can get dang exhausting.

But when I’m performing, whether it’s singing on a stage, or dancing a routine at a ballroom competition, or throwing down some spoken word, or doing improv for my Murder Mystery troupe, I don’t feel afraid.

In fact, I feel quite the opposite.

I feel EMPOWERED. I feel UNSTOPPABLE.

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I feel HAPPY TO BE IN OWN SKIN, anxiety and all.

So why are we so ashamed? Why is it so hard to own up to our anxieties, insecurities, and self-doubts? Why is it so hard to ask for help, to seek community, to find solidarity? Why do we perceive these struggles as stigmatized weaknesses, when we can channel that energy to push ourselves into unknown greatness, through realizing that we only get this one life to make the most of the hand we’ve been dealt?

I don’t have the answers here folks. Hell, I’m still trying to figure it all out myself.

But if there are things that I’ve learned, now that I’m another year older and a perpetual learner, it’s this:

  • That I want to be more empathetic to myself, and others.
  • That I want to treat people the way they deserve to be treated.
  • That I no longer want to wait around to do the things that truly make me happy.
  • That I want to continue to surround myself with the people I love and make me feel loved.
  • That I no longer want to compromise my values for the sake of being liked.
  • That I want to speak up against injustice, no matter how scary or difficult.
  • That I want to be unapologetically, authentically ME.

THIS IS ME MOVING FORWARD. I HOPE YOU WILL LIKE IT. ❤️

Oh, and if you have a chance, please contribute to my birthday fundraiser for RAINN that closes at midnight tonight, thanks!