We did it!

This June marks 15 years (!) since my high school graduation. I didn’t go to my 10-year class reunion, but going to the 15-year doesn’t sound like total hell. I’ve got a good life I’d be happy to show off. If I could go back and give my class graduation speech, I’d have some smart words of wisdom to dispense.

 Ladies and gentlemen of the class of ’99,

High school buddies.

It’s often said that you shouldn’t go further than what feels right to you today, and that the only person you should compete against is the you of yesterday.

This is good advice at the gym as well as in life.

You might never be the best, but you probably won’t be the worst either. That’s how you know you’re in the right place. Exactly where you need to be.

But if your place doesn’t feel right, maybe it’s not. There’s no shame in going to therapy, asking for help or taking a chance.

The only wrong choice is to do nothing.

The best way to boost endorphins is to exercise. But if you don’t do that, other proven ways are eating chocolate, drinking wine and having sex. But I recommend all four.

Find things you love to do. And do them often.

Find people you love. And see them often.

Find work you love. And quit doing it before you stop loving it.

Remember that the least interesting people in high school are the ones who are waiting to peak when it really matters. When you’re 30, no one wants to be friends with the ones who peaked at 17.

From today on, you are responsible for your actions. There’s no more blaming your parents for not teaching you or blaming circumstances for wronging you. Your life is your responsibility. Step up, take chances and take control.

If anyone tells you you can’t, prove them wrong.

And when you do, be sure to remind your doubter often.

No matter how old you get, poop jokes will be funny, you will not feel like you have your life figured out and you will never be too old to try new things.

If you want to do something, do it now. Today. You can do it later, but you’ll only find more reasons not to. Don’t wait.

Don’t burn bridges. People you cast away today might be people you really need in the future.

If you don’t fail often, you aren’t being innovative enough.

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If you don’t know, ask.

If you make a mistake, admit it.

If you mess up royally, apologize profusely.

That’s how you earn respect.

Move out of your hometown. There’s a great big world out there – one where people aren’t just like you. I want you to experience all this earth has to offer. I don’t want you to miss out.

Home will always be there. Even if it changes location.

Play nice with others.

Say I love you.

Don’t shy away from pain. Our feelings are how we learn. Embrace them. Good or bad.

Wake up every morning and choose to live.

And remember, if your hair looks good when you’re done, you didn’t do it right.

Stuck in the middle

Did you overlook Middle Child’s Day earlier this week? Typical!

We always dress like this.
We always dress like this.

My mom tells about when I was little, and I broke her heart because I’d always go to my grandpa before her and dad, if Grandpa was around. That way my siblings and I each got an adult’s attention. Yes, I grew up the typical, complaining middle child. I was desperate for attention. I tried so hard to be special. I got grumpy when I wasn’t.

I remember racing my brother and sister in after school to tell our mom about the fire drill or assembly or whatever special thing happened that day before my sibs could. Sometimes I won, sometimes I didn’t. I probably would have fared better if I didn’t announce, “I get to tell Mom about …” as I ran to the door thus sparking competition.

It’s commonly accepted in psychology that middle children tend to be opposites of their older siblings. They believe their older sibling gets all the glory while the younger sibling escapes discipline. In general, middle children tend to be secretive, not revealing feelings. I don’t think that’s true of me at all. Everyone knows how I’m feeling, and I didn’t especially feel like my brother was more glorious or my sister less disciplined.

Middle kids tend to feel like they don’t have a special place in the family. This is definitely true for me. I think that’s why I moved across the country at age 18. I needed to find my special place.

But most true of all for me is that middle children tend to be great peacemakers. They read people well because they’ve been doing it all their lives. I think that’s a great strength of mine. For better or worse, I usually tolerate people who others don’t tolerate very long. I tend to see the best in people. I give more second chances than I probably should. I’m the one people come to for advice or to air injustices.

Growing up, I was always on the team, too. My brother and sister never teamed up against me. It was always me with one of them against the other. That’s a comfortable spot for me to be in, and I’m good at getting there. That sounds manipulative, and maybe it is.

My co-workers and I debated the pros and cons of each position in the birth order. None sounded especially cushy.

Can’t go back

Remember when six-word memoirs were popular a few years back? Mine was “I’ve found better, can’t go back.”

You know, the way you can’t go back to eating Kraft singles after you’ve experienced real, unprocessed, straight-from-the-creamery cheese. Or how you wouldn’t pick Bud Light at the bar when Anderson Valley Winter Seasonal or Blue Point Toasted Lager is an option.

On this day of reminiscing and looking forward, I can’t help but think about those six words. Especially since I just spent the last nine days in my childhood home in Minnesota. Every time I go back, I have new life experiences and memories. I feel more and more removed, yet it’s familiar. For example, I knew exactly how to get where I was going when I borrowed my parents’ car, yet I couldn’t remember which switch turned on the lights in the basement.

While I miss so much about home: My family, the two friends I have left there, wild rice and the lakes, I just don’t think I could ever go back. It just … isn’t me. I can’t describe it exactly. Maybe I outgrew it. Maybe I don’t like it. I don’t know. It’ll always be a part of me, but it’s no longer “home.”

Doors keep opening in life. New experiences await. How could I go back the way I came?

I thrive on being challenged, and I haven’t conquered New York yet. I still want to master the hop, roll, hit the deck, push up to plank, 360 to my back move in Mind, Body Bootcamp. I want to force my way into the publishing industry. I want to know exactly which trains to take to get to Bedford Avenue in Williamsburg without having to look it up.

So I guess that’s my New Year’s resolution: challenge myself. When I stop working to accomplish and pushing myself, it’ll be time to find better and not look back.

New Year's
I got out for a while despite feeling a bit sick. Confession: I was home and asleep by 10:30.

A victory

Last night I declared my dishwasher full and ready to run. Does your dishwasher take forever to run? Like three hours? Mine does. I find it so annoying, so I like to start it, then run out the the door so I don’t have to listen to the whishing and wirring, so I left it for this morning.

I just played a little game of “Can I cram one more cereal bowl in here?” Success! Now that’s starting the day off right.

Living in the real world

I had my nails manicured last weekend. They looked beautiful – the perfect metallicy pink for my skin tone. The paint started chipping yesterday. I found myself liking it even better. They were too perfect before. I like the chipped imperfection.

I mentioned before that I strive for perfection. But the more I think about it, the more I don’t. I don’t want to live on perfect Queen Anne or perfect Bellevue. Especially not Bellevue – communities designed to be perfect make me sad. Where’s the character? Don’t you just feel like people there must be hiding something? Or feeling emotionally unfulfilled? Give me gritty Greenwood with it’s sketchy homes, quirky establishments and residents and that questionable dry cleaner on 90th that has three “Open” signs out front, yet I still have my doubts any day. It’s not all … sanitized and picturesque, but it is genuine. We unapologetically love our independent coffee shops and pubs. We don’t think we’re better than anyone else and we don’t think we’re worse off either. Come visit, or don’t. Doesn’t matter to us.

A friend told me the other day she’s not looking for a perfect princess story life. I agree with her wholeheartedly. Who wants to live in a Disney movies? That’s fiction. Plus, if you have the perfect job, home, relationship, family, friends and hobbies, what’s there to strive for? What do you look forward to? You have no where to go but down.

Sure, I have my dreams and fantasies. I like to make plans and set goals. But I firmly believe the bumper sticker wisdom that life happens when you’re busy making other plans. And I often find myself thinking, “real life is so much better than what I planned.”