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Hello there! Happy mid-January to you. Popping in to give a brief update on how the year of less is going, and also update an old post from the archives of this blog covering a topic near and dear to my heart this time of year: how to style your outfits when you live in a climate of single-digit temps, snow, and slush. You know, the kind of place where it becomes socially acceptable to show up to social gatherings in marshmallow coats with snot frozen to your face, glasses fogged over, and pants that you've slept in (possibly multiple nights in a row). (I've been there… recently… so this refresher is for both of us.)

Ok, first things first: the YOL update! Two weeks in, and we're going strong with meal planning and have received only one Amazon Prime delivery to restock my Skinceuticals CE Ferulic serum. I've had zero temptation to buy anything, but we have run into a few questions around rules for the year:

  1. Are we going to allow ourselves a 'date night' budget that counts as social eating out, or does it need to be eat at home if it's just the two of us?
  2. Should we have more constraints around budgets for social eating out? After I went out to dinner with a girlfriend at an extremely hip, very expensive restaurant and we accidentally had multiple very expensive bottles of wine, Wes made the point that it would be easy to inadvertently shift our savings into overspending in other areas we're allowing for this year and it might be wise to hold ourselves to a cap each month.
  3. Do candles count as groceries? (I burn candles constantly, and they are important triggers for me to unwind, right up there with music and dimmer light switches.) My candle supply is going to last me until mid-February, so have a little time to think on this one.
  4. How should we handle birthdays? Allow for gifts, or contain it to experience-based investments?

If you have advice or thoughts on how we should answer these questions, please feel free to leave me a comment or shoot me a note.

Alright, on to the topic at hand for this post: how to avoid succumbing to the temptation of dressing like the Michelin man for the next few months. If you live closer to the equator or in the southern hemisphere, you can drop off here.

Figuring out how to style myself for an average winter day was challenging when I moved back to Chicago a few years ago. Learning how to invest in outerwear and boots was one part of the challenge, but figuring out some of the following questions took time for me:

  • What kind of pants do I wear with equestrian boots? Snow boots? Chelsea boots?
  • What kind of socks do I need to wear so they don't fall off in my boots?
  • Are there ways to style my clothes so I can avoid wearing tights?
  • What kind of coat do I need to wear with a dress? A tunic?
  • How can I layer myself so that I don't suffocate on my train commute?
  • How do I wear these leather leggings in a way that does not make me look like a dominatrix?

You get the idea. They sound funny when I type them out, but all of those questions have come up for me in the past as I tried to get dressed for the cold.

If you've been reading for a while, you know that I am big on planning out your outfits in advance in order to improve your style. You also may remember that I believe that all outfit planning should start with selecting the shoes (or boots) that will work for the various activities you have going on in a day. I know some people wear snow boots and carry extra shoes with them to change into at work or at a party, but for me that's too fussy and would introduce the risk of forgetting or losing my shoes.

Anyway, I am saying all of this because I spent one Sunday afternoon planning a few weeks' worth of outfits to avoid YOL boredom / temptation to buy, and decided to kill two birds with one stone by sorting through every single pair of winter-appropriate footwear I own and building outfits around every pair to have plenty of options for the various* activities I do during the winter.

Speaking of boots, this is a great segue to the first tip below - I hope you enjoy them all (and the reminder if you remember this post from back in 2015)!

#1 Collect boots that multitask 

Invest in boots you love that can be worn in a variety of settings, from hiking through slush to the train, to meetings at work and social events on the weekends. I ignored the over-the-knee boot and Hunter boot trends for this reason, because I didn't think they would get great mileage in my wardrobe. A great pair of black ankle booties with a pointed toe, a pair of flat boots in black leather that are roomy enough to be worn with Smartwool socks, and a pair of knee-high black rubber equestrian boots for really snowy days are really all you need. A few years ago, I also invested in a great pair of black suede mid-calf pointy-toed Sigerson Morrison booties that are the perfect high heel replacement for any outfit.

Since this was originally posted, I also added a pair of simple Stuart Weitzman tall black leather flat boots that hit just below the knee, and ended my search for a pair of boots with the comfort and utility of UGGs but chic. (The ones I bought were from House of Harlow 1960, pictured below.)

#2 Up the quality of your sweaters

I have a few amazing cashmere and wool sweaters (I love the brands Vince, ACNE and Eileen Fisher) in neutral colors (cream, black, gray) that are on constant rotation in my wardrobe during the winter. I've shown an oversize ACNE one styled a few ways in this post. After cutting out shopping for a year, I realized that I gravitated towards my sweaters that were super high quality, slightly oversize, and in neutral colors. After recognizing that, I made an effort to avoid anything that didn't meet those qualifications and developed a willingness to spend significantly more if I found one that did.

#3 Invest in a several simple-yet-wonderful coats

In cold temperatures, your coat sets the tone for your whole outfit and it's worth having a good selection that you can rotate. Over the years, I've invested in a few basics with timeless shapes (like a wool pea coat and a long blazer coat) and have used them season after season. You can also layer lighter coats to get more out of your collection. I should also note that I have a long down jacket a la sleeping bag that I use for purely utilitarian purposes like taking my dog out and other non-stylish events of the like.

(As an update to this tip, I decided to style my long down jacket with an oversize cashmere scarf, great shearling gloves and apres ski boots for an example of how to upgrade the basic leggings-and-UGGs when you venture out on the weekend! See below.)

#4 Use hats as a statement piece

For a really long time, I hated hats and convinced myself that they'd ruin my hair volume and make me look ridiculous. But they are absolutely essential to staying warm, so I got over it and have since built up a nice collection of cool hats that not only keep heat from escaping from my scalp but also add an element of cool to my winter outfits. I've got a Russian fur hat, a basic American Apparel beanie, a classic French wool beret, and a cashmere beanie that I rotate as accessories. When I started thinking of them as accessories, it changed everything. Where my 22-year-old self would think I look crazy in a hat, I think they lend my outfits an air of "I don't take myself too seriously" or just that practicality never goes out of style. As my dad says, it's impossible to be cold if you're dressed right. 

#5 Add an unexpected accessory

By unexpected accessory, this can be a pair of fun earrings, a vintage silk scarf worn as a bracelet, or a beautiful clutch that hasn't gotten enough airtime lately. Lately, I've been trying to mix in my 'summer' bags to freshen up the monotone, all-neutral looks I tend to wear this time of year.

#5 Mix and match your hats, scarves and gloves

I've built a small collection of oversize cashmere scarves in neutral colors (one each in black, gray, and cream) and love to mix and match them with my collection of hats-of-varied-textures referenced in point #3 above. Because my scarves and hats are so simple, they go with all my coats and add variety and a much-needed element of eclectic luxury for those days that I'm plodding through slushy, brown snow to the train. 

#7 When all else fails, wear red lipstick

My aunt recommended Armani Express Moisture lipstick a few years ago when I was complaining that my dry, chapped lips were interrupting my lipstick game. I picked it up in the perfect red shade called Rouge Ecstasy and it's changed my life. Even when there are tears frozen to my face, I feel stylish whenever I wear it. I wear it constantly and it lasts forever, and is worth every cent. However, if you cannot reconcile spending $40 on a tube of lipstick, Burt's Bees lip balm with a red tint does the trick as well and adds some much needed color to a simple-yet-very-warm outfit of all neutrals.

That's all I've got for you, hope you enjoyed this post and would love to hear your thoughts in the comments. 

*By various, I mean three activities, if we are not counting my homebody habits of sitting in front of my fireplace in my pajamas or in front of Wes's ginormous TV watching Netflix with a Costco-sized bag of SkinnyPop at the ready. (Which has been done more nights in the past two weeks than I care to admit. Old habits die hard, especially in winter.) Those three activities are going to the office, dining out with friends, or relaxing with friends via pedicure, Chinese massage, or sitting around someone's living room with wine and Cards Against Humanity.

Happy first day of 2018, folks! Thank you so much for your readership and all of your support over the past year, and especially the outpouring of love and encouragement following my last post on the struggle that was 2017. I'm happy to report that we're on the up-and-up, photo of us smiling in Hawaii as proof. 

Today marks the beginning of a year-long project that I am calling "The Year of Less" because it is focused on subtracting things and activities that are not adding value to my life in order to achieve a few objectives that are important to both me and Wes. It's a long post, intense with lots of bullet points, most of it written in my iPhone notes over the past several weeks. Some of you have reached out to me via email or Instagram that you're taking steps this year to reduce your own consumption. I encourage you to share your thoughts and approaches in the comments on this post for the other readers of this blog who might see a need to cut back in their own lives, but the approach I am describing here might not be an appropriate fit for what they may want to accomplish. That said, here's the post:

What The Year of Less is all about

If you read my last post on happiness and living life to the fullest, you may remember that there was a nod to the idea of living beneath your means. An idea that honestly used to tick me off, growing up with frugal parents who made me babysit and do odd jobs to earn money and ride around in ultra-uncool cars.* Basically, my parents were extremely wealthy and we wanted for nothing: my dad was a corporate litigator for the largest power utility in the country, my mom stayed home to raise us, we lived in a 6-bedroom, 4-bathroom McMansion that they custom-built in a community so elite that the village property taxes paid by individual families regularly hit the 20 to 30 thousand dollar mark and the high school student parking lot was filled with Range Rovers.

In the midst of this abundance of wealth, my mom and dad's strategic approach to parenting was to convince us that we were dirt poor, a giant Irish Catholic stereotype plopped into a bubble where we didn't belong. They provided the basics and routinely reminded us of this fact: roof over our heads, three square meals a day, the necessary clothing, shoes and accessories for our lifestyles and various extracurricular interests, etc. My dad was notorious for telling us that he owned everything, including the shirts on our backs, and that our home was not a democracy but a dictatorship. Our room and board was contingent on successful completion of daily and weekly chores that were cruel and unusual punishment: making our beds and cleaning our rooms, clearing the table and doing dishes after dinner, sweeping the floors for the former, and Saturday morning yard work** for the latter.

Three things happened to me as a result of this parenting style:
  1. I learned what it took to make money, and how much the non-necessary things I wanted cost in both money and the effort to make that money.
  2. I developed expensive taste and love to spend money on beautiful things.
  3. I married a CPA who routinely goes to lunch at Costco to eat a $1.50 lunch of hot dog and soda.

My point is, this concept of living frugally despite having plenty of money is sort of embedded in my psyche. It was probably one of the subconscious reasons I was attracted to and then married Wes, because he embodied this value my parents prioritized yet I detested growing up and my subconscious mind figured he would keep point #2 above in check.

Although it took some time to land on a balanced approach to spending versus saving versus investing our money, Wes and I made it a priority to strike that balance early in our marriage. (For more on our approach to money management and building wealth, read this post.) In 2017, we were faced with a few major challenges but money was never part of our decision-making process because of the fact that we had been consciously living beneath our means and had a generous cushion of savings.

In reflecting on the past year, I've come to recognize a few things as true and important that need to be a bigger priority in my life:
  1. Wes and I have enough, of everything. More than enough, in fact, in our home and in our closets and in our lives.
  2. We have done a bad job of appreciating and valuing and using the more than enough that we have, and spending time and money on things and activities that aren't adding value.
  3. Because of point #1 and point #2 above, we are effectively bloating ourselves, complicating our lives, and adding unnecessary stuff and stress and weight and spending money that would be so much better used to grow our investments and savings.

This is a problem, people. Maybe you can relate, or possibly Wes and I are alone on this. If you've been reading this blog for a while, you'll remember that I did a "no new things" challenge where I cut out shopping for wardrobe-related things for an entire year. It was the best thing I ever did to hone my personal style: it totally revamped my approach to how I thought about spending related to my wardrobe, allowed me to fully inventory my closet and make best use of what I already owned, and enabled me to make some amazing, thoughtful, formerly cost-prohibitive investments in a select few pieces to fill gaps or add a fresh element that I'll use for years. It worked, and fundamentally changed how I thought about and made purchases.

The objectives for the Year of Less

For 2018, Wes and I have decided to partner on a project to subtract the activities and things that are not serving us. It will be an expansion of the "no new things" challenge mentioned above, covering much more than just wardrobe purchases in order to accomplish the following objectives:

#1 Appreciate, value and take better care of what we already own

There are only so many opportunities in a 365-day period to actually use an item that you own, be it a zucchini noodle slicer or a pair of leather leggings. From a home perspective, we have a list of at least 50 little projects that need to be completed but will be left untouched and the supplies collecting dust if our focus were to remain on acquiring new or different décor or gadgets. From a wardrobe perspective, having too much stuff paradoxically cramps your style because it distracts you from using the items that you love, that are your favorites and deserve more repeat wears throughout the year but fall to the wayside when you introduce alternatives that you don't need or really love as much.

Absolutely all of our basic needs are covered, and then some, for the next year. Forcing ourselves to use what we already own will keep our focus on the abundance we enjoy in our home, and our life in general. Constraints inspire creativity, after all. Personal style, an amazing home and a fulfilling lifestyle all require thought, planning, and originality. They also require love, in the sense of caring for and appreciating the elements you're using to build your style, design your home or create a more purposeful life.

Yet we don't consciously take the time to consider all of the elements we have in our closets or our homes, and ask ourselves if they are truly adding value and serving our lives in the way we thought that they would when we bought them in the first place. In The Compound Effect by Darren Hardy (one of the best books I read in 2017), I learned about the "5X" principle: if you want to truly understand the cost of something you are purchasing, take the price and multiply it by 5 - it will give you the approximate value of that money had you chosen to invest it.

Before you start asking things like "After how many years?" or "What type of investment are we talking about?" or "What if the market were to crash?" or "Isn't this an oversimplification?" let me just say that I appreciate the 5X principle as a framework and a way of better evaluating what we purchase by contrasting it with an approximation of the potential value of that money if applied differently. We will be using that principle to evaluate everything we currently own, and everything we buy after this year of less.

#2 Develop the mental strength and habits to drive better outcomes in our lives

If you read The Baby Post, you'll remember the easy-yet-in-utter-disarray life that I described. So this is a big one for us. Despite the fact that I was consciously cutting back from a wardrobe perspective, I still bought more than I needed this year while already having too much in my closet. From a home perspective, we're still overwhelmed with so much STUFF and it is actually causing stress. And even amidst this overwhelm of stuff and stress, we're making thoughtless impulse purchases, shipping Amazon Prime boxes to ourselves and keeping the 7-Eleven down the street in business.

If you study up on the psychology of purchasing decisions, the general perspective is that we buy things we don't need for one of two reasons:
  • We feel pleasure when we spend money: it "scratches an itch," so to speak, by altering our mental states from a place of discomfort - same goes for eating, drinking alcohol, etc.
  • We believe the thing we are buying will solve a problem that we are currently struggling with: it's a a quick fix, so to speak. For example, gained weight and don't feel good about yourself? Why not solve it with a new pair of pants in a different size that make you feel better? Or, insecure and feeling unloved? Why not purchase a designer bag that will cause others to envy or admire you?

It's so crazy, right?! But absolutely true. For me, and for Wes, impulse purchasing has been a mental crutch to supposedly solve for a whole bunch of problems. We'll have a few drinks to escape the uncomfortable mental state we're in after a stressful day at work, or run out to buy some unnecessary snacks from 7-Eleven because we're watching a movie, a bit bored and it's a thing to do. Then we think that we could stand to lose a couple of pounds, so  we order some fitness products on Amazon Prime that we will definitely use instead of stick in a closet to collect dust / remind us that we have still not broken our drinking and / or snacking habit.

My point is, the thoughtless spending is a mental problem. It requires self-awareness and mental strength to recognize what's driving your desire to consume something, and then rise above it. Keeping our focus on the abundance we enjoy in our lives and using what we already own will put our minds in a better place of appreciation and contentment.

The rules and guidelines for The Year of Less

In order to accomplish the objectives of taking better care of what we already own and developing better habits, we will be implementing the following rules for all purchases we collectively make in 2018:
  • Eliminate all retail shopping entirely, including Amazon Prime, with the only exception being for groceries, health or skincare-related necessities (i.e., supplements, medication, SkinCeuticals, etc.)
  • Eliminate all wardrobe-related purchases, including eBay, vintage and thrifted pieces allowed in the original challenge, and live with existing wardrobe for the next 365 days
  • Eliminate all non-social eating out (e.g., Starbucks runs, buying lunch at work, our new habit of eating at restaurants 3-5 nights per week due to disorganization and lack of planning)
  • Eliminate all home-related purchases, except for improvement projects that add resale value (i.e., refinishing floors, updating fixtures or appliances, etc.)
  • Donate or sell every item in home not used by 12/31/2018.

Sticking to these rules will force us to create better habits, including:
  • Planning out our meals and buying groceries in advance to prevent emergency dining out scenarios (if you already do this, would love any tips / advice)
  • Inventorying everything we own, and organizing our home to support using the things we find worth keeping to test how value-added each item truly is in our space
  • Updating our nightly and morning routines to include eating breakfast at home, packing lunches and preparing dinner
  • Planning out my outfits on a rolling 30-day basis to rotate and use all of the elements I own, and prevent the illogical desire to buy something new.

Although I am sure this sounds slightly crazy or extreme to many of you, I am honestly feeling a little relieved to get started. It's going to be uncomfortable, and difficult. But we needed something drastic to break our patterns that have created many of our unnecessary struggles. It will also help to dramatically grow our cushion of savings, beef up our investment strategy and give our future selves a gift of better habits, more wealth, an improved mindset, and an appreciation of the blessings in our life that have manifested as stuff we currently have in our possession.

If you've made it to the end of this post, thank you so much for reading and I hope you found some value in it. Would love to hear your thoughts in the comments, or feel free to shoot me an email. I'll be sharing a lot of bonus posts about our full journey and lessons learned throughout the course of the year. If you're interested in access to all of these posts, feel free to join the newsletter. If not, you can check back here for some of it!

*To be specific, these two cars were either a maroon Ford Taurus sedan (the preferred option) that deteriorated in a compounding manner as each of my five siblings gained a driver's license and proceeded to get in minor scuffles with inanimate objects in parking lots and spill every single beverage that entered the car's gray polyester interior, or a giant Ford Clubwagon van that we referred to as "The Church Bus" for its cavernous capacity and ability to hold all eight of my family members. These cars instilled in me a deep love of walking and public transportation, and later led me to purchase a BMW X5 to compensate which I deeply regret every time I fill the tank with premium gas or have to pay to get it serviced.

**Even when there was no raking leaves or lawn mowing that needed to be done, my dad would make up jobs for the sole purpose of waking us up early and keeping us busy. He got particularly bad about this after I challenged him multiple times, accusing him of having 6 children so we could do all this work for him. He laughed for a solid five minutes. Later, after observing that no other family on our block had a gaggle of children raking leaves or mowing the lawn, I suggested that he outsource to one of our neighbor's landscaping companies, mentioning that I knew he could certainly afford it. Eventually I gave up and just did the work without protest, and took a job working at a bakery in town the moment I could be legally employed. I'd get to work at 5:30a on Saturday mornings as a 15-year-old in order to avoid yard work and eat as many cookies as I wanted.

You know when you start complaining about something, and the person you're complaining to tries to put it in perspective by saying something about how you're lucky that you're not a starving child in Africa or missing a limb or a Syrian refugee and your problems aren't really that bad?

It's the WORST. Technically you know they're right, but since you're NOT a starving child in Africa and all you've got is your own unique set of problems to worry about, trying to focus on starving children doesn't solve anything. Problems are relative. A fact that doesn't make the ones you suffer any less painful to you.

Then there are those people who tell you to just smile, because your muscle memory will convince your brain that you are ACTUALLY happy instead of a girl in two-day-old pajamas with a three-week-old melancholic mood that subsides occasionally but settles right back in once she's alone with her thoughts. And she is going to fake smile about it OVER HER DEAD BODY.

There's a reason that people like to tell you that your problems aren't that bad, to put on a fake smile and snap out of it. It's because our culture suggests that we should ALWAYS be happy. And if we're not walking on sunshine 100% of the time, there must be something terribly wrong with us. A problem that must be FIXED! With a fake smile, a starving African child, a pill, a new washer-dryer set maybe?

But it's a lie. Life is a cycle of highs and lows, times of joy mixed with periods of sorrow and a whole lot of unremarkable time in between, where we're not exceedingly happy or down-and-out but neutral, living our day-to-day lives doing what it is that we do in our natural states-of-being, fluctuating between our wide range of human emotions that allow us to express ourselves and experience our lives to the fullest.

And I've come to realize that living life to the fullest requires us to get comfortable with periods of sorrow, of pain, of melancholy. Those emotions and states of being are part of the experience, making us appreciate the times of joy and the times that are utterly unremarkable, honing our minds to reflect and learn and grow in a way that you simply cannot when your heart is exploding rainbows. And our cultural need to be constantly happy and fulfilled is a problem, making us feel like there is something wrong with us that needs to be fixed when we hit one of life's low points, preventing us from working through it and growing because we're too busy searching for the right solution to repair ourselves.

Now that we've gotten that out of the way, I am going to tell you a story reflecting on the past year. Frankly, it was the hardest I've had in my 31 years of life, and I say that knowing full well that my problems aren't really that bad, yada yada yada. This was a hard post to write, but one that felt important to share here with you. So often, we choose to internalize our struggles, opting to stay silent about the topics that are dominating our thoughts rather than sharing them out of fear of what others would think. That's what I did this past year. I buried my problems, stayed silent, maintained my Polly Positive image and suffered alone despite desperately needing someone who could relate.

Honestly, had I opened up and found this person, I would have hugged her, made her come over, kept her wine glass perpetually full and cried to her while we held hands and bonded. And it would have cured me, made me feel like what I was going through was hard, yes, but also normal. It would have been easier, somehow, to have felt less alone. So that's why I am sharing this post, so you can come back to it when you're having a hard time, pour yourself a glass of wine, and read it from the comfort of your couch in your days-old pajamas knowing that according to at least one other person on Earth, you are normal and not alone.

(In full disclosure, this post is going to get a little dark, but it will have an upswing at the end and have a few life lessons and 2018 resolutions sprinkled in that you might find worthwhile.) 

Why 2017 was a bad year

New year's day of 2017 started off hopeful, with Wes and I agreeing that it would be our 'Year of Yes.' We'd try new things! See new places! Make new friends! And in general, say yes to as much as we possible could fit into our schedules. In tune with that theme, we decided we'd try to see Hamilton THAT VERY EVENING. Boldly turning to Craigslist, we hoped to find a hungover couple who couldn't get it together and would sell us their tickets.

And find them we did, show up to the theater in our Sunday best we did, and discover we were scammed we did, too. (I KNOW. WHERE WAS MY BETTER JUDGEMENT? I WAS TRYING TO BE BOLD AND IGNORE THE RISKS!) Taking it in stride, we dusted off our pride, went to nice dinner, and laughed about how it could only go up from here.

Days later, my husband left his job after requesting flex time or remote work options from his company in order to be with his sick father in North Carolina and help his overwhelmed mother. Sorry, they said. The HR policy does not allow it. SCREW THEM, I said. WE'LL FIGURE IT OUT! YOUR FAMILY NEEDS YOU. WE CAN AFFORD IT.

He packed our car with his things and our dog that night, and drove 16 hours straight through the snow to his parents place for the uncertain timeframe that comes with a declining health profile. "Could be weeks," we said, "or this could last months."  I cried by myself on our couch, sad, lonely, and stressed. In one swift move, I became the breadwinner and my income plus our hard-won savings account that we prided ourselves on were going to have to tide us over for as long as it took, covering our mortgage and typical expenses along with back-and-forth flights to North Carolina as we tried to implement some structure and semblance of balance to an otherwise unpredictable situation.

As if on cue from the Universe sensing our mounting stress and 50% drop in income, my wallet was stolen off of my desk at my client site the next week. With $800 cash in it. (I KNOW. WHO CARRIES THAT MUCH CASH? IT WAS A GIFT, I WAS GOING TO BE ON THE ROAD FOR THREE WEEKS STRAIGHT AND DIDN'T HAVE TIME TO GO TO THE BANK.) [Insert face-palm emoji here.]

Wes flew home a few days later, to spend some quality time together and pick up a few more things. That weekend, I had brunch plans with some girlfriends and asked Wes to help clean our master bathroom, which has a Whirlpool tub that needed sanitizing. "Plug the tub," I said, "pour in a cup of bleach, run the water to fill it so it covers the spouts, and then run the bubbles for 20 minutes." He was on it, and my brunch was amazing! Until I walked out of the restaurant, checked my phone, and saw DOZENS of missed calls, frantic text messages and even a few emails from my husband, my sister, my cousin, my mom, etc.

Long story short, Wes had followed my instructions but realized he had some time to kill while the tub was filling with water. "Why not check the mail?" he thought to himself, going down two flights of stairs, exiting our home and promptly locking himself out. (To recap, bleach water is running and about to overflow the tub, mere feet from our vintage Moroccan rug and above our kitchen that we'd paid an arm and a leg to have painted baseboard-to-ceiling only a few months earlier. Not to mention that this was all directly over our kitchen table a.k.a. my makeshift desk.)

I rushed home, arriving shortly after the locksmith left, and walked upstairs to find water streaming from the chandelier all over the table and floor and my husband in an eerily calm panic, clipping my notebooks and work papers to various chairs and windows, air drying them in hopes of salvation. My computer was tipped on its side, drip-drying on the kitchen island.

One emergency plumber, $2,000 and a need for another fresh paint job later, Wes and I found ourselves sitting in a dry area of our kitchen in defeated silence, mentally tallying the unnecessary expenses and income forgone over the course of a couple of months. (People, it was THOUSANDS. MANY THOUSANDS.) "We need to get away," one of us said, staring into the soggy mess of our home. We booked a long weekend trip to Miami that night, a brief reprieve from the expensive swirl that had become our day-to-day lives.

Here we are in Miami, avoiding our problems!
We spent months fighting, fueled by Wes's back-and-forth trips, his denial and rage that I couldn’t fully grasp, his dad's nosediving and stabilizing health, and the unspoken understanding that the only end to the situation would be his father's death. One, two, three months went by, and we started to doubt why we'd gone down this road to begin with, that maybe he would get better, that maybe Wes leaving his job was hasty. Four, five months went by and we couldn't find a single thing to agree on. Our relationship was in a pressure cooker, with each of us trying desperately to do what is the right thing to do in a situation that we hoped to never find ourselves again.

One night, after a serious fight that ended in an agree-to-disagree truce, we sat down and talked about whether our marriage could survive if this continued. We were running out of steam, out of money, out of love. And we weren't sure it could. Wes came home, started working again, and his dad died two weeks later, over the 4th of July weekend. We got the call that he was in hospice and flew down in disbelief, then went through the motions of wake, funeral, sorting through belongings, and returning to real life with a dull sense of relief mixed with guilt.

Watching my husband lose his father, grieve him and make sense of the next steps in life without him was hard. It felt like my hands were tied behind my back, with nothing to say and no comfort to offer, feeling selfish for my limited ability to be there for him, feebly suggesting grief therapy and quietly giving him space to process it by himself while simultaneously fearing the intensity of his emotions because they made me imagine the place I would be if (when) I lose my own father and mother. And I've been creepily attached to them ever since. (Morbid, I know. I think my parents are getting sick of me insisting on weekly Sunday dinners.)

What one bad year taught me

While Wes has spent the past several months grieving, waking at four o'clock in the morning and doubling down on his work, I've spent it soul searching, thinking long and hard about what I want our life to look like going forward after a long year that we're ready to bring to a close. Here's where I landed on the important things in life:

  • From a family lens: as hard as marriage is, or as babies sound, this year has taught me over and over again that family is all there is at the end, and that it's a commitment and an investment that grows in value over time. Wes and I had our marriage tested and pushed to what seemed to be its limits this year, and have come out on the other side stronger and more prepared for the challenges we'll face together in the future. Being there for the birth of my nephew, and hearing from my sister and mom and friends (including many of readers of this blog) about their experiences in marriage and motherhood has strengthened my resolve that Wes and I can handle it when we're ready to take that step in life.
  • From a career lens: after years of convincing myself my 80% travel schedule was fine, I finally told my company I needed to be home regardless of what that meant for my career growth. And what an amazing thing it is to be home in the middle of the week! Airline and hotel status be damned, there is no travel perk that can compete for the fulfillment I get from using my Crock Pot and eating dinner with my husband at our kitchen table instead of a desk in my Marriott hotel room.  This set up will last until April 2018, career moves after that point to be continued…
  • From a health lens: almost immediately after Wes's father's funeral, I decided to do something about the physical toll the stress had taken on my body and saw an oriental wellness doctor who put me on a 90-day elimination diet that cut all sugar, alcohol, dairy, processed foods, etc. It reset my health in a way I cannot describe, breaking several bad habits I'd developed, implementing better habits for the long haul, and transforming my body, my skin, my hair, and even my moods.
  • From a money lens: having the ability to go down to one income and rely on our savings reinforced our belief in the importance of living beneath our means because it gave us the freedom for Wes to leave his job with no notice or planning on our part. It's inspired me to do another "no new things" challenge in 2018 to reset my priorities when it comes to money and things. (Post coming soon…)
  • From a writing lens: realizing that the most cathartic posts I wrote this year were also the ones that were the most personal, the most well-received, and the most widely shared has taught me that my writing, at its best, is a tool for processing my own experiences and sharing them here to build meaningful connections. This year has taught me that we need more people and places to turn to for perspective when we're going through those things in life we all experience but don't necessarily talk about openly, and there's no reason why this blog can't be one of those places.

Although it has been an incredibly challenging year, I wouldn't change it. And really, couldn't have changed it as much as I wanted to with something, anything to make it easier to bear. The lessons I've personally learned over this 12-month-long life dip have been incredibly valuable and will stay with me for the long haul, there for utility and comfort the next time I hit a phase in life that doesn't have a happiness cure-all.

The end. Thank you so much for reading, and for all of your support, thoughtful comments, kind emails, and continued engagement on this blog. It is such a pleasure for me to write, mostly because of all of the inspiration you provide through your readership. I hope you have a wonderful holiday season, and here's to a very happy (but with natural ups and downs, not forcefully happy since we've agreed that is terrible) 2018!



Oh hello there, I'm writing to you from my couch, in mismatched pajamas and slathered in retinol cream, surrounded by papers, bottle caps, half-full notebooks and a Lily's chocolate bar that I'm willing myself not to eat. There's dog hair all over my floors and laundry piled in various places around my house that have been sitting around for so long that I can't remember which clumps of clothes are clean and which are dirty. Wes and I had Tostitos and salsa for dinner because we don't have edible food in our fridge and we were too tired to go out and too hungry to order in.

My workout bag has been packed and ready to go to the gym all week, yet I've left it sitting by the door because I couldn't muster the energy to even carry it to work (much less hit the treadmill). I just paid $305 to the City of Chicago for two unpaid parking tickets that had final determination notices and I don't even remember getting the first ones. Don’t even get me started on what our recycling situation looks like or how many piles of mail we have yet to address. Our bed is unmade, probably also covered in dog hair. There's also a list of half-finished or yet-to-be-started house projects in my notebook, including things like "change the air filters" and "fix doorbell." You know, those basic things that help you breathe and not miss the FedEx delivery man there to drop off the replacement credit card you lost at the airport. Or maybe Starbucks. Or maybe in your couch, now that you're thinking about it.

Why I'm scared to have children

Wes and I can't feed ourselves, process our mail, or keep up with the sheer amount of Amazon boxes we need to carry out to the recycling bins. (Walking into our garage is treacherous.) We turn into Todd and Margot from Christmas Vacation the moment something goes missing, or the moment one of us discovers a mystery spill on the kitchen floor, or the moment my Audible subscription that I cancelled at least three years ago auto-renews again. The reason I'm telling you all of this is because it is important for you to understand that the life Wes and I have built is in disarray 10 out of every 13 days* and there is absolutely no logical reason for it considering how much help we have (dog walker, cleaning lady, handyman, etc.) and how easy and uncomplicated our lives should be all things considered. So if we're this much of a mess between the two of us, the thought of placing a miniature human being in our exclusive care is terrifying.**

TERRIFYING! So terrifying, in fact, that I believe I am high-risk for postpartum depression driven not from the baby but from the sheer lack of sleep, my husband's inability to organize himself, the uncontrollable disarray compounded by bottles and boppies (whatever these are) and the 129,746 accessories that one needs to keep a baby alive, my inability to control my irritation under duress, the loss of the ability to escape on a whim, and my innate selfishness that I try hard to suppress*** but will certainly rear its ugly head when an innocent, helpless baby is crying at two in the morning and my auto-response will be to put in my earplugs and ignore it.

And because my husband and I are both intense, passionate and opinionated, our typical sparring and head butting will be pushed over the edge. We'll become exhausted, survivalist versions of ourselves prone to implode under any additional pressure such as getting a parking ticket or recycling what one of us thought was junk mail but was actually our baby's social security number. Oh, and our baby, so joyful and full of zest for life, will slowly develop emotional problems over the years and start a global support group for children of high-strung parents and later write a New York Times bestselling novel about how we ruined her life.

And I'll read it alone in my detested-yet-practical Honda Odyssey, contemplating how differently things would have turned out if I'd followed through on my threat to call off my engagement to her father that one time we got in a fight on the Ile de la Cite in Paris. It was triggered by my need for sleep, Wes's need to be at the Musee d'Orsay no later than 6 o'clock in the morning, hours of waiting in line because he was right, miles of walking in boots I hadn't fully broken in, and a disturbing discovery of our fundamental differences in vacation preferences. I'd stopped to rest my Band Aid-covered feet and have a café au lait and pain au chocolat, and Wes questioned whether we'd make it to the top of the Notre Dame cathedral if I continued chewing at an escargot pace. At my wit's end, I dramatically threw my partially eaten croissant in the trash, stormed out of the café, and considered for a few minutes whether to book a flight home to prove how seriously ticked I was at his rudeness. We cooled off for an hour, then made up on a park bench. Wes apologized for his Germanic efficiency in viewing as many monuments in one day as humanly possible, I apologized for my Iack of urgency while eating croissants, we vowed to never go sightseeing together again, bought some vin chaud, held hands the rest of the day, and proceeded with our engagement as planned albeit with eyes wide open to the balancing act that would ensue in our marriage.

Wes and I have learned that marriage is hard. Very hard. We love each other deeply, and occasionally have homicidal thoughts about each other, too. My suspicion is that marriage with babies is harder, if only based on observations from my childhood. Which involved six children, separated by a mere nine years. Just so we're on the same page about those observations, here's a brief synopsis of my mom's life:

My frame of reference for what life is like as a mother

Mary Lou woke up every day at Lord knows what time, dressed her children and likely her husband, curled each of her daughter's hair, made breakfast, cleaned wayward Cheerios off the floor and smashed bananas off of our faces and prevented at least one child per day from eating Chapstick or putting a finger into an electrical socket. She'd make sure our homework and lunches were packed, walk some of us to school, get others to the bus stop and drop my dad at the train, all before 8:30a. Then she'd spent the rest of the day using her master's degree tutoring children with special needs and somehow also dust, vacuum, bleach toilets, Windex windows, and wipe down every surface in our home only to have all of her children tumble back in at 3 o'clock in the afternoon, drop their belongings all over her freshly mopped floors, smudge the countertops with peanut butter, and leave trails of graham crackers behind them. My mom would literally clean up behind us, shuttle us to soccer practice, swim lessons, and the library, then come home to make dinner, oversee homework and negotiate conflicts. Finally, she'd round us all back up for one more outing around 7p. to pick my dad up from the train, serve dinner, clean the whole thing up, bathe us and read to us and pray with us, put us to bed, and repeat the entire thing the next day.

She had no help (sorry, Dad). None. Nor did she escape via yoga or Pinot Noir.**** My mother is a saint with a bottomless well of patience. She also routinely talks to herself and can have an entire conversation with you where she appears engaged and offers appropriate follow up questions but will have no memory of the conversation a few hours later. We think she developed this as a survival skill against her horde of children constantly competing for her attention, and her husband's bad jokes.

Considering the sharp contrast between my life (easy yet in utter disarray) and my mom's (miraculously together despite every reason for her to throw in the towel and run off without speaking to any of us again) helped me to better understand the roots of my fears related to having children. In short, it's an enormous amount of work, requires an unbelievable amount of selflessness, sacrifice and patience, and is a milestone that poses the most significant, permanent, life-altering changes you'll ever experience. Not to mention it produces a human being that could potentially embody all of the most irritating qualities of your spouse and drive you batty for the rest of your days.

We're in a unique place in history where children and marriage are truly a choice, life milestones that are culturally encouraged but ultimately 100% optional. Our first world societies have advanced to a place where the physiological and safety drivers that incentivized the traditional family structure in hunter-gatherer and farming communities (brawn, iron, field hands) are no longer relevant, and the psychological and fulfillment drivers have expanded to include an endless array of options beyond settling down and having a family.***** Nod to the suffragettes, trailblazers, and feminists who paved the way for me to consider the quite viable alternative life option spent independently wealthy, alone and entirely fulfilled in a Parisian apartment filled with books for the rest of my days - a vision that bubbles up in direct proportion to the number and volume of laundry piles in my home.

Given that children are a ton of work, and entirely optional, let's get back to the question of why we give up our single, commitment-free lives and choose to have them in the first place.

The basic reasons we choose to have children

Here's the rationale from my personal point of view: we know that this life is bigger than us, and children give our lives purpose. They're our legacy. We're pretty sure we'd regret it if we didn't. It's instinctual. They're adorable. Our friends are having them and it's getting harder to relate to each other's lives without them. When we're old and crotchety and want to say whatever we damn well please, we need a captive audience who loves us and will be willing to spoon-feed us Jell-O in our nursing home rocking chairs. It gets boring sometimes, just the two of us, eating a civilized dinner of Tostitos and salsa at our white lacquer kitchen table. We're obsessed with our niece and nephew. We have a nagging sense that we're supposed to be doing more with our time, our talents, our resources and our love.

And yet despite all these valid reasons, I'm still sitting here writing this, terrified: of what would happen to our relationship if we tried and succeeded, or if we tried and failed. Of what would happen to my priorities, my mindset, my friendships, my time, my body. My body! That I know so well, that I work so hard to keep in shape, that defines a part of my identity that I cannot describe and would unpredictably and permanently change. Of the gamble that is genetics, and knowing the mental and physical deficiencies that run in my family. Of the tradeoff that is choosing to have your own versus fostering or adopting, and what it means to the children who could have been. Of the absolute permanence of the commitment that is creating or taking responsibility for another human life. Of the endless crying, pumping, feeding, burping, soothing and sudden, ever-present impulse to give everything of yourself. Of the perpetual pressure (self-induced or not) to be the selfless mother on top of being the loving wife, effective homemaker, accomplished career woman, and amazing friend. Of the fear of losing yourself in the mix, setting aside the things that have defined you up until this point in life to be shuffled and reevaluated in light of the fresh, hot, breathing little body now entirely dependent on your support. Of what it would mean if I decided to walk away from my lucrative career to prioritize spending more time raising my child, and how my relationship and power dynamic with my husband would change. Of what it would mean if I decided to stay put and continued to advance in my career, and entrust that time spent caring for my child to someone else.

Despite my terror and obvious over-analysis, I am fortunate enough to have a network of mothers among my family, my friends, my colleagues and my connections through this blog. This network crosses the spectrum of "mother-types," from stay-at-home to CEOs, from what seems like every relationship status, from women whose maternal instincts kicked in at 22 and couldn't wait to pop one out, to those who bit the bullet and had a baby so they wouldn’t regret it down the road. And I asked them, every single one of them, to share with me one thing they wish someone had told them before they went down the road of having a baby. The responses covered everything from things to keep in mind before you get to the hospital to give birth, to how you'll feel when your child goes away to college. And it was effing beautiful, so beautiful that I cried weird happy tears as I tried to synthesize all the advice into this post. In a nutshell, here's what they said:

On pregnancy and childbirth:
  • That you shouldn’t listen to advice - there is no right or wrong, and you need to do what's right for you (Kate) and if you can handle labor, you can handle anything motherhood throws at you (Lou)
  • That you should continue to eat well and exercise during pregnancy, because it will help you get back to your pre-baby body - and if you're home with the baby, do something each day to get out of the house (Wear This Like This)
  • That you should seriously consider pelvic floor therapy - you'll be grateful you did down the road (Claudia)
  • That you may want to consider placenta pills to ward off postpartum depression and read The Continuum Concept by Jean Liedloff (Jill)
  • That the first few hours in the hospital you will be poked and prodded like a science experiment (Jennifer)

On the first few months:
  • That you MUST ACCEPT HELP, and limit visitors to 30 minutes at a time for the first few months (Julie)
  • That those first few weeks are incredibly hard, and your body feels foreign, but eventually it all falls into place (Kellianne) usually after the first 6 weeks - and the first smile helps tremendously! (Jillian)
  • That the postpartum can be more painful than the pregnancy and delivery, made worse because no one talks about it (Sheila)
  • That the level of HARD and TIRED is beyond words, but the level of LOVE is so unimaginable (Bridget)
  • That babies are quite easy - aside from sleep, food and diaper changes, they mostly just want love (Melissa)
  • That you really do need to sleep when the baby sleeps, and remember that not everyone instantly falls in love with their baby the moment they see them - sometimes, the bond grows over time (Red Shiny Lips)

On parenting:
  • That you should trust your instincts: if something doesn’t feel right, it isn't (Little French Beds)
  • That it's completely normal to worry, but to remember that everything will be OK and you've got it (Wendy)
  • That you need to take things one day at a time (Ilene) and enjoy every moment, because it goes too quickly (Lynn, Golden Girl Gruss)
  • That you need to define your own family dynamic, talk to your child every day, figure out what makes your child "tick" and adjust accordingly, learn to tell your child "no" and teach them to work hard for what they want in life (Tara)

On identity change:
  • That your child will be the only thing that completes the circle of your life, that they'll make you crazy, but they'll return your love in spades (Sartorial Choices)
  • That you'll never stop worrying, even when your child is in college (Nicky)
  • That your heart - and life - will change in ways you cannot imagine (Lulu, Theresa) and cannot contain the love you feel for your child (Kellianne)
  • That you need to find a healthy balance between not wanting a baby to change any part of your life versus turning everything upside down (Aunt Honey's Estate)
  • That you'll learn what it means to be selfless and will do anything for your child (Stephanie)

On lifestyle change:
  • That it's totally awesome and exciting to see this little person grow and it doesn't feel like work - it may take more intense scheduling, but you'll continue to do everything you want and feel like a total badass for handling it all (Claudia)
  • That you'll never use the bathroom alone, at least for a decade or so - and childcare is SUPER expensive (Tatjana)
  • That school becomes more stressful than when you were in it yourself, and the good days will carry you far (Katie)
  • That you may be tired forever, even if your child is a great sleeper (Laura)
  • That it IS scary - but the cliches are true, and being a parent is amazing (This Is Mom Jeans)

The one underlying theme, shared across the board, is that you will never regret it, because it is worth it one billion times over. Honestly, I've talked to literally hundreds of mothers and cannot find even ONE who has regretted her choice to have a child. And observing my sister and friends become mothers has been especially inspiring, almost as inspiring as watching the tiny beings they've brought into the world develop personalities, learn to express themselves and grow into dynamic, lovable little people that never would have existed without the decision to create them in the first place.

So here I am, still terrified but with a strengthened resolve that, like marriage, children are an incredible amount of work that pay dividends in joy. And while I know that it's a highly personal choice, and that one can live a fulfilling life that is also devoid of children (and spouses, for that matter), my personal perspective is that I'd be remiss to not try, if only because I'd be missing out on the 25 well-organized bullet points of life experience detailed in the above list (go ahead, count them).

After considering the perspectives of those who have been there, the questions I am left with are how and when: whether we'll have our own, or foster, or adopt, and determining our timeline. And Mom, if you're reading this, I know you're thinking "Why not now?!" and I acknowledge the widely held opinion that there is never a right time, but I am someone that needs time to process, to hold ideas in my mind, turn them over and over and over, and come out on the other side having made a decision, confident that I am going in eyes wide open and prepared as much as I possibly can be for the kind of experience and responsibility that is bringing a life into the world.

If you're still with me, congratulations on making it to the end of this post and through the inner workings of my neurotic brain. Would absolutely love to hear your thoughts on this post, especially if you have additional thoughts or perspectives to share on the journey of motherhood. Please let me know in the comments!

*My house is cleaned biweekly, and the clean, serene orderliness lasts for exactly two days.

**This doesn't even touch on our shared fear of managing through nine months of pregnancy, which will probably involve lots of tears, negotiating with myself about whether to have that glass of wine, and blaming Wes for every possible discomfort I experience.

***OK, I don't try that hard.

****She did Richard Simmons videos in our living room and enjoyed Celestial Seasonings as her evening beverage of choice. Her only real escape came with her frequent migraines, which triggered long, Imitrex-induced naps.

*****Despite these advancements in human society, we haven't evolved to the point where nosy relatives are extinct - I'm pretty sure family gatherings 100 years from now will continue to be forums for probing questions into our dating lives and unsolicited opinions on our aging eggs. 

Looking for some life-altering ideas, are you? Welcome, take a seat, and enjoy what the better part of my years of research* and self-discovery** has produced. These concepts are fundamentally simple, yet somehow still changed my perspective on what I do every day, how I think and what I prioritize. So, I thought they were worth sharing with you here in case you've been looking for ways to shake up your own patterns.

Without further ado…

#1 You become what you do every day

This concept is what inspired me to make some major changes, including quitting alcohol for three months. I read some really tactical examples of what bad habits, repeated every day, can do to your life and realized that I was allowing my bad habits to affect my health, my mood and even my relationships. The examples were from a great book called "The Compound Effect" by Darren Hardy. In it, he makes the argument that there is an operating system running your life whether you know it or not.

This operating system is programmed by your unconscious mind and controlled by the tiny little things you do out of habit. We do almost EVERYTHING out of habit, and those small, seemingly insignificant choices build on each other over time. If you look at all of the elements of your life as they are today - your health, your relationships, your career, your mindset - and rewind time, you'd see that they're simply a culmination of small things you did consistently over a very long period of time. And the kicker is that there is no standing still: those small things that you're doing automatically are either moving you forward towards your goals, or dragging you backwards away from them.

This is why the small things matter, like making your bed, paying your taxes, eating spinach, saying no to Jelly Bellys, controlling your temper, being nice to strangers, etc. Learning how to "hack" the unconscious operating system that's running your life in order to override bad habits and replace them with better ones that compound over time into the life outcomes you want - your ideal relationship, a fit body, a career with limitless potential - is what the book is all about.

Not a reader? I wrote a bonus post for my email subscribers with the top 10 pieces of advice from the book that you can immediately implement to improve your own life. You can sign up for the list here if you're interested in reading it.

#2 You are not your mind

Stop right now and think about what thoughts are floating around in your mind. Maybe you're thinking about that last paragraph you read and considering the eight million Reece's Peanut Butter Cups you ate last night and how much that onslaught of sugar will drag you backwards from your hot body goals. Whatever it is dinging around between your ears, the fact that you have literally taken a step outside of your mind to reflect on what's happening in your mind suggests that you are a separate entity than your mind. Spiritual implications aside, this is hugely powerful because it enables you to control your thoughts.

There are a lot of people in the world who don't control their thoughts and simply emote, allowing their minds to run wild and drive decisions that are irrational. (Think road rage and other public displays of emotion that violate social norms and make people uncomfortable, bad managers with biting feedback who make their subordinates despise them, etc.)

Although we all think that we're rational beings completely in control at all times, we're not. Think about the periods of your life that were the most stressful. Your emotions run high, your mind tends to race, and it can feel overwhelming. Learning how to take a step outside of your mind and reflect on why you're thinking what you're thinking is immediately calming because it imbues logic, refocuses you on outcomes and allows you to redirect your thoughts.

Recognizing that my mind was something that I could control was a game-changer for almost every area of my life. Although I joke a lot about my neuroses, there have been and will continue to be plenty of moments when I need to stamp them out and actively redirect my thoughts for better outcomes. For example, getting even remotely negative feedback at work used to make me angry or embarrassed, which can easily translate into defensiveness or crying in the bathroom. Both are irrational and don't exactly demonstrate that you're ready for more responsibility. Training myself to take a step back, think about why the feedback was making me think whatever it was that I was thinking, and then talk myself into using it as a data point and not taking it personally took some time and energy, but now it's my automatic response to all feedback. And I also now give a lot of unsolicited advice to my colleagues about how showing your negative emotions at work is a sign that you lack power and share tips on becoming unflappable.

#3 The present moment is the only thing that matters

If we can agree that you become what you repeatedly do, that we cannot change the past, and that we cannot control the future, that leaves us with this exact moment to focus on and use to our advantage. Have you ever heard that depression is driven by focusing on the past, and anxiety is driven by focusing on the future? We know that those states of mind are unproductive in general, but especially when you consider that there's literally nothing you can do to change the past or control your future. It doesn't mean that you shouldn't learn from your past or plan for your future, because you should. It's a question of where you focus your mind, your thoughts and your energy.

So that leaves us to focus on the present moment. If you want to change something, now is the time to do it. Want to lose weight? Take the first step in this exact moment. Decide that you're going to do it, go throw out all the junk food in your house, buy some great books or magazines to read on your couch at night instead of sitting in front of the TV where you're tempted to snack. Want to have a better relationship with your husband? Take action in this exact moment. Text him right now that you love him, or do something for him that he'll appreciate later. Want to make more money? Use this moment to update your resume, schedule a meeting with your boss for the end of the week, and make a list of where you can take on more responsibility or add more value to share with the person who oversees your work and can help you get to the next level.

Whatever it is, do it now. Thinking about it, planning it, or dreaming about it doesn't get you results. Only taking action does. Using the present moment to make decisions and take immediate action builds momentum. Once you've got momentum, it compounds to get you the results you want. It's easier said than done, because it take a lot of energy to get started, requires you to get past your fears and insecurities, and necessitates some risk. But remember that there's no standing still. What you do with this exact moment might as well be helping you get what you want.

To end this post, I'm going to leave you with a question and a quote to think about (both have been top of mind for me):

Think about yourself at this time last year. What did you think would be different about your life today?

"For what it's worth: it's never too late to be whoever you want to be. I hope you live a life you're proud of, and if you find that you're not, I hope you have the strength to start over."  - F. Scott Fitzgerald

Ok, that's all I've got for you. Please let me know what you think of these ideas in the comments!

*Reading through the contents of entire USPS boxes filled with Amazon books delivered to my door two days after one stressful, sleepless night where the only thing that would console me was Googling "how to be less neurotic," asking my friends, colleagues and strangers mildly intrusive questions about their lives and deepest desires, and watching enlightening documentaries such as Iris.

**I don't even really know what this means, but it sounds nice, doesn't it? There's actually not much to discover. I think it's more like, "self-assessment" but that sounds too sterile.