Sunday, September 19, 2010

Conquered

I drove to the top of Pike's Peak twice this summer. Each time I promised myself I would do it right and climb to the top before winter. When my friend Katie asked me about a month ago if I wanted to give it a try, I decided it would be the perfect way to celebrate one year of living in Colorado.

I love anniversaries. They always feel like a natural time to take stock of whatever situation you are in and evaluate if your life is where you want or need it to be. So birthdays, New Year's, seasonal changes, annual events, and other milestones usually get me thinking about what has changed or what should change since the last time I was in this place.

I don't think I've been particularly shy about how great this last year has been. Not just for me, but for a lot of people I care about. There have been weddings and babies and new jobs and houses-it's been wonderful watching so many people I love also progressing in their lives.

Mostly wonderful. I want it to be so crystal clear that I am genuinely and completely thrilled every time I get the "I'm getting married!" or "we're having a baby!" call. I do not begrudge anyone these exciting moments and I don't feel jealous of the good fortune of my friends and family-heaven knows I have way more than my share of goodness in my life. But there are moments, when it's the fourth baby and the fifth wedding announcement in a row when I feel straight up behind. It never used to bother me when I was in my 20's and I was just doing different things than so many of my friends. But now that I'm just about to turn 34, and not only have the lion's share of the people my age but also kids I used to babysit and people born in the 90's gotten hitched or started their families, it's hard not to feel a twinge that maybe I missed a step. I'm just as far from those things as I approach my mid-thirties as I was when I was sneaking up on my mid-twenties. It's bizarre for a girl who has consistently reached her goals to have an area of her life that is relatively impossible to control. I've had to talk myself out of a panic more often than I am comfortable with in the last few months.

Fortunately, a 10 hour hike will give you some time to reflect, even when you do it with six other people.

Some pretty obvious great stuff happened this year. I went to the Olympics. My sister got married. One of my best friends got married and it brought so many of my favorite people to town. We got a new nephew. I went to Mexico for the first time. I had lots of fun visitors. I finally went on one of those big single Mormon trips that always seemed to unappealing and it turned out to be super fun and a great way to meet some great new people. All very good things that this next year will be hard pressed to surpass.

But aside from fun had and excitement generated, I feel like the best part of this past year was all the personal growth I can see when I look back.

I have been keeping a list in the back of the notebook I take to Church of things I would like to do in my life. That list kind of sat there for a few years, mocking me a little bit. So this year I have been a lot more proactive with that list. I bought a ticket to Panama for Thanksgiving because I've never been. My bike basically collected dust for two years in Boston so I made some friends who ride and now I wonder why I was ever afraid of it. I have wanted to learn to rock climb since my brother got into it 15 years ago but just never did. So last week I met some guys who said they'd be happy to take me and I loved it so much I ended up buying equipment and joining a gym. I promised myself I'd spend this non-Games summer exploring Colorado so I hiked and I drove and I weekend adventured. I'd like to say I'm making progress on the list but the fun thing is-it just keeps getting longer and instead of feeling like it's mocking me, it's inspiring me to do more, see more, try more. Something about old dogs and new tricks?

I finally got up the courage this year to let go of a friendship that was not good for me. My close friends, my sister, my mom-they had all told me this was a guy who was never going to be what I kept patiently hoping he had in him. In hindsight, I have no idea why a smart, confident girl with a satisfying life and a healthy network of friends spent so long letting some dumb guy jerk her around. I finally woke up one day and wondered what I might be missing out on because he was taking up too much space in my heart and mind. Truthfully, I'm a little embarrassed that it took me as much time as it did and sometimes the internal dialogue I would run on why it was OK to keep him in my life makes me cringe. I am pretty sure I knew how dumb I was being but I was so stubborn and just wanted to be RIGHT that I held on way beyond all reasonable behavior. But I did finally come around and I've rarely felt as powerful and as in control as I did when I finally said, "enough."

Along those lines, you know I don't go into much detail here about boys but I did let myself get my heart broken this year. He told me at the beginning that I was awfully guarded and so I took a chance and tried not to be. It was short-lived and I am not thrilled with all the ways I handled it while it was happening and especially when it ended. He said some things about me when it was over that were really hard to hear. But with some time and some perspective-he was right, and I feel like I got a crash course in relationships that will be oh so helpful when the next one comes along. My friend Damian once said that a year where you are not in a position to get your heart broken is a wasted one. It's so true I almost want to crochet it on a pillow. As it turns out, getting hurt is not fatal and if you also get to learn a few things, it's well worth the risk.

I have never been great at taking feedback. I like to be good at things and I tend to take it really personally when someone tells me how I can improve. As you can imagine, that can be a serious liability in the workplace. I get almost sick to my stomach when it comes time for a performance review. It doesn't matter if my boss tells me 100 good things, I will fixate on the thing I didn't do well and worry about it and blow it out of proportion and wonder if I am any good at my job. For the last eight years I have been in jobs where you can judge yourself by sales and web traffic and event attendance so you have plenty of impersonal metrics for figuring out how you are doing. Not so anymore. At the end of the Games, a survey goes out to all the team staff, all the athletes, and all the people who worked in your operational site with YOUR name on it and they get to rate you. Then your boss rates you, then the Managing Director weighs in. There are literally hundreds and hundreds of people who get to say things about YOU. As you can imagine, I spent February pretty much in a panic. I knew the reviews would be overwhelmingly positive but that for sure there would be criticism. And at first I was pretty worked up about any kind of negative comment I heard or read. It has taken months and months but I have been working extremely hard to figure out how to take the things are true and use them to improve and to shake off the things that truly don't matter. I was out for a bike ride with my coworker a few weeks ago and after about 30 minutes he said, "are you open to some suggestions about your riding?" I looked at him and said, "Todd, I started doing this three months ago-I am not only open, I am DYING for suggestions." As soon as it was out of my mouth I realized there was a life lesson in there. Staying coachable and humble and being open to the knowledge and experience of others is the only way I am ever going to get better at anything. True at work, true in the new hobbies I'm picking up, and so so so unbelievably true-and maybe most important-in all the relationships in my life. I know I can be a better friend, sister, aunt, in-law and daughter if I can admit that there are ways to improve.

I know there is probably no way to feel completely calm about being single at 34. It's that balance I've been trying to get a handle on for 10 years between being thankful and happy with the life I have and the choices I've made while still being honest with myself that I do want a family of my own someday. It's not easy. But if I spend enough time counting my blessings and trying harder to be the very best version of myself, I have little to complain about.

I posted this song a few weeks ago but it's really taken root in my heart lately. I don't mind taking the long way and as much as I like to win-turns out life just isn't a race.



It's been a crazy year. A rewarding year. A scary year. A learning year. A year I wouldn't trade for anything.

5 comments:

turleybenson said...

My biggest disappointment in life is that teleportation isn't real.

'Cause I'd really love to have lunch with you. And talk about everything in this post. Watching people progress past you, taking criticism, and that AWESOME DC song I listen to about twenty times a day.

I like you a whole lot.

Damian said...

thx for the reflection and the thoughts. I added this today to my list of quotes:

"heartbreak is an eternal emotion, and the only form of pain that we know that God himself feels regularly."

but we only feel heartbreak because we know our potential for Joy.

Jamie said...

You inspire me with every post.

Nat Attack said...

PANAMA!!!

Also? XO.

miche said...

Katie, I love catching up on your blog. What a raw and brave and humble post. You rock.