Today is Halloween and the memory Facebook decided to share with me was of the time I dressed up as “Tiger Lily” from Peter Pan. I was working as an intern at Walt Disney World when the photo was taken. My friend was Ariel from the Kiss the Girl scene in The Little Mermaid. The blue seats we’re sitting on belong to the Tomorrowland Transit Authority (TTA), otherwise known as the PeopleMover.
I didn’t share this memory.
In 2009, when the photo was taken, I had never heard of cultural appropriation and I’m willing to bet most of you hadn’t either. Today, I wouldn’t wear this costume. And to be quite honest a little part of me feels bad about that. Because even though I might make different choices today I still remember when this photo was taken. It wasn’t that long ago. I loved this costume. I had a fantastic night! Good memories.
I consider myself very progressive when it comes to Women’s rights and LGBTQ rights. But when cultural appropriation is brought up I have mixed feelings. I would never want to unwittingly hurt someone’s feelings and if wearing a costume like this does that, then that’s reason enough for me not to wear it. But I have concerns. I think free speech and free expression is such an important part of our democracy. And yes, no one is going to be arrested for wearing an insensitive costume. So in that sense, there’s still freedom of expression. But they may be publicly shamed for it. I hate the idea of shaming anyone for something as benign as a costume.
When does admiring a culture and wanting to show your love of it through a “costume” turn into appropriation of another culture? We’ve known for decades that it is wrong to wear blackface (and yet some people still do it). We’ve understood for a relatively short time that wearing a Native American outfit on Halloween is not okay. I’ve seen it said that dressing up as a character who happens to be of a different culture is okay, as long as you’re not dressing up as the culture itself. But would anyone looking at the picture of me above know I was trying to be Tiger Lily, and not just random Native girl? Probably not.
Maybe I need time to adjust to the new normal. Maybe this hits me a little closer to home as someone who has worn this costume and dressed up as Princess Jasmine from the movie Aladdin as a kid.
There are culturally insensitive people out there who purposely wear a costume they know is bad idea. There are people who say, “Lighten up, it’s just a costume.” There are culturally dense people out there who make bad judgements. There are people like me. There are people who claim the mantle of social justice and call out wrongs as they see it. There are people who call out those wrongs more loudly. There’s a whole spectrum of opinions out there.
Right now I think the line between appreciation and appropriation is still getting moved around. It’s fuzzy at times, or at least I perceive it that way.
For some examples of how “all over” the place opinions on this topic are see You Can’t Steal a Culture: In Defense of Cultural Appropriation at The Daily Beast, Don’t Be a Racist for Halloween: Here’s Why Cultures Aren’t Costumes at Everyday Feminism and I Told My Daughter She Can’t Dress Up as a Native American for Halloween: Here’s Why at the Washington Post. I know we as a society are still figuring all of this out. In the meantime, I’ll keep learning and listening.
Before this month I had gone 28 years without ever being on or trying a “diet”. I’m lucky. I’ve never struggled with my weight. I was always a skinny kid and I’ve been able to eat what I want, guilt-free, for the most part.
In August my coworkers, who are very health-minded (a benefit of working in Parks & Recreation) decided to challenge our office to do the Whole 30 for the month of September. What’s Whole 30? It’s a meal plan where you eliminate sugar, grains, legumes and dairy from your diet. My first reaction was to just say “Uh no, sorry that’s not for me but good luck to you all.” Then peer pressure set in and I gave Whole 30 some real thought. Did I need to lose weight? No. But Whole 30 isn’t about weight loss. It’s about changing your relationship with food and teaching yourself how to knock out sugar cravings. And if there’s one weakness I have… it’s sugar! Give me chocolate covered raisins, soda, candied nuts, pastries and you name it. I eat my scrambled eggs with… you guessed it… sugar loaded Ketchup. I put sugary dressing on my salad. I add flavored syrup to my coffee and sprinkle cinnamon sugar on my toast. It’s far to say that going into this I had strong relationship with sugar.
So I did it! Well for two weeks I did. Whole 30 is supposed to be for 30 days but I had to cut mine short for medical reasons (don’t worry, I’m okay). When the timing is right I may try this crazy thing again.
What did I eat? I ate lots of eggs and sweet potatoes. Seriously, those two things alone SAVED me so many times. I taught myself how to fry and poach an egg because variety is key when you’re eating the same thing every day (I ate eggs most days at least once). I also ate nuts, lots of fruit, veggies, meat and SMOOTHIES. Smoothies are “taboo” in Whole 30 land but I decided I was going to set myself up for success and be kind to myself.
What did I like about Whole 30? I’ll admit, after I got past the first five days, my body was feeling very good. Whole 30 is a very clean diet where you eliminate many common allergy causing foods or foods that can make you feel congested. I’m thinking of certain grains and almost all dairy. I discovered that I LOVED almond milk. Sweet potatoes taste great with just a sprinkling of cinnamon on them. No sugar needed! Fresh fruit and dried fruit began to taste sweeter after I stopped eating foods with added and processed sugar. Seriously, so tasty! I learned to love the spices in my cabinet I’d been neglecting. Things like basil, paprika, cardamon and good old salt and pepper. Salt and Pepper on scrambled eggs? Delicious.
What did I dislike about Whole 30? Putting yourself on a restricted meal plan like this takes $$ and time. Almost all cheap and processed food has either sugar added to it or grains. So, when on the Whole 30 you make a lot of things from scratch. The packaged meatballs at the store? They had breadcrumbs in them. That bottle of Prego tomato sauce on the shelf? It has sugar added to it. If you don’t take the time to plan out your meals for the week and prep some meals ahead of time… you can really get yourself into a pickle. There were a couple occasions where I just ran out of time and because I couldn’t run out to Taco Bell or wherever for a burrito. So I just made myself some more scrambled eggs and ate a banana. There were definitely some downer times. Another thing that was an issue for me personally, is that I’m not a huge meat eater. I’ve flirted with becoming vegetarian a few times. When I do buy meat, I make sure it’s rated highly by the Global Animal Partnership or that it’s from a small and/or local farm (yay, farmer’s market). For someone who works really long hours, a single parent with kids at home or someone on a very low income… Whole 30 is not that realistic of an option. It takes a effort. The good thing is that it’s just for 30 days.
But, if it’s just for 30 days, what’s the point? Here are my takeaways. I learned important things from doing the Whole 30, even if it was only for two weeks in my case.
- Read your labels. I had NO idea how often sugar is sneaked into everything we eat. Bread with high fructose corn syrup. Summer sausage with dextrose (that’s sugar). Beef jerky with cane sugar. 95% of canned soups have sugar added to them as well as pasta sauces. I’m eating sugar again but I’m trying to keep it under control. So I am reading my labels and making choices when I see a lot of added sugar in something.
- Making food from scratch isn’t easy but it’s so tasty and rewarding! I will never again buy tomato sauce from a bottle or can now that I’ve made my own. You can hide all of your leftover veggies in there and it tastes great! I found Whole 30 recipes for making Ketchup and BBQ sauce from scratch. You can bet when my current supply runs out, I’ll be doing this.
- Almond milk is an awesome alternative to cow’s milk. I’m trying to move away from the animal food industry where I can. Now I’m ordering all of my coffee with almond milk. It adds a distinct buttery/nutty flavor but I love it.
So, have you tried the Whole 30? What did you think about it?
The first paid position I found after losing my job last summer was at the Abernethy Center; a full-service wedding venue where Tom and I were married in 2013. While I applied to be a ceremony specialist (a day of site coordinator of sorts) I mostly worked as a server. And before this I had ZERO serving experience.
I don’t think I had your typical serving experience while at Abernethy however. There is no memorization of the menu, beyond what’s on the *limited* menu THAT night. There are no taking orders. There are no tips.
While I left because I was frustrated at not being able to move beyond serving and because the hours were encroaching on my ability to effectively work at my other positions, my time in the wedding industry was an insightful one. Here is my advice for anyone planning their special day:
- Most couples see each other before the ceremony (for pictures) or do a first look. But the look on your fiance’s face when they see you coming down the aisle for the first time that day is something truly special. So consider it.
- If you decide not to see each other before the wedding, you MUST have appetizers for your guests. If you make guests wait more than an hour in between the ceremony and your arrival at the reception (while you’re out taking photos) with no food they will either get A) drunk B) hangry C) bored or D) all of the above.
- You will probably order more food than you need but that’s a good thing. While it was a bummer to see that amount of food that got thrown away at the end of each night, the worst was when a couple RAN OUT of food. It didn’t happen often but man oh man… it wasn’t a good thing when that happened.
- Fondant cakes are beautiful but they aren’t tasty. Or, rather, they have a large frosting to cake ratio and the frosting isn’t really that edible. Cakes can be pretty but they should be food first, art second.
- If you want to have a dry wedding, provide an Italian soda bar or something similar for your guests as an alternative to alcohol. Otherwise they will go through A LOT of coffee and tea. A lot.
- When your server comes to clear your table, don’t pile up plates for them in advance. We have a system for which plates to stack at the bottom (the ones with less food) and how to set silverware to the side of a tray. I had “helpful” people try to do this for me and it wasn’t helpful. But I appreciated the thought behind it.
- If you’re going to splurge on something, splurge on a good location (something that’s memorable and will photograph well), good food and some decent alcohol options, your DJ and your photographer. Having a good photographer and venue will be to your benefit. Having good food and music will be to your guests’ benefit. People won’t remember what color the flowers in your centerpieces were or which trinket you imparted them with. They will remember if they had a good time or not.
- Your DJ is the most underrated vendor at your wedding. DJs set the mood, make announcements, keep the “flow” of the event going and so much more! A bad DJ can (and I’ve seen it happen) ruin a wedding. A great DJ can elevate a good wedding to a fantastic party that everyone enjoys. Choose wisely.
- Please leave your ready rooms in a decent shape. I was so thankful when I got the bride or groom’s suite at the end of the night and it was tidy and not disgusting. The horrors I’ve seen in those places. Please, don’t be that person.
- Don’t do what everyone else is doing because it seems cool, unless it’s something you truly want to do. During my time as a server I would see waves of Pinterest inspired trends come through (succulents, cheesy photo booths, mason jars, candy tables). Those weddings tended to blur together. I really enjoyed those times I saw a couple’s personality come through in the decor or entertainment and I know their guests did too.
Oh, and we will cry during the speeches. No matter how many we’ve seen.
When I celebrated my birthday last summer I was obsessed with finding all of the things I could do (a Sephora Makeover, a visit to the Portland Rose Gardens) or get (a drink from Dutch Bros, a pastry from Panera) for free. This was because I had lost my job the month before and I didn’t know when I would have an income again. Money was tight and anxiety levels were high.
I don’t reference that time in my life too often anymore but occasionally I’ll catch myself saying things like “When I lost my job…” or even “When I was laid off…” Which is really sad because the truth is, I was fired. Terminated. Whatever you want to call it.
Yes. You never think it’s going to happen to you. I certainly didn’t! And I always assumed that anyone who had been fired, or terminated, or “let go”, deserved it. And there again things can get tricky with that word deserved. I don’t think I deserved to be fired but obviously my employer felt differently. I’m not here to wax on about how I was mistreated or how awful they were to me. I was not given any formal warning, put on a PIP, or anything of that sort. In fact, I had a positive performance review earlier in the year (I still have the paper copy of that review too). So I was surprised to say the least. But Oregon is an Employment At-Will state, and so as long as I didn’t feel my firing was due to retaliation or another illegal reason, my termination was perfectly legal.
I did apply for unemployment and I did receive it roughly eight weeks later. During that time I applied for jobs like it was my new full-time position. Which it was. I remember one day where I had three interviews. In mid-September I had made it to second and third round interviews at four different places. My anxiety was high because I knew I was close to getting an offer and I thought I might have more than one to wrangle with.
I remember with one of the jobs, the hiring manager calling me personally to tell me they had chosen someone else but that I was their second choice. She asked if I wanted feedback on why they went with another candidate. I did. She said “I can tell you’re a humble person and that’s a great quality to have but in the job interview you have to sell yourself. I think you’ll go very far in life if you can get past that mental roadblock.” It was hard to hear but I appreciated that she took the time to call me and offer me advice.
My firing did do a number on my confidence and feeling of self worth. In 2014 I left an organization I loved and coworkers I got along with very well for a job that seemed like the perfect fit. And yes, I LOVED that job. It took two months, a phone interview, a panel interview, a project submission and a personal interview with the CEO for me to get the offer for that full-time job with benefits that I loved. And once it was gone I worried that I made a mistake. Because I had chosen to leave the place I had been for three years, where I felt stagnant in my career but otherwise cared deeply about.
In September of last year I did get one offer for a job and accepted it. And it’s a fantastic job that I now have. It’s the perfect match of an organization and department that supports its employees, has friendly coworkers who I get along well with AND is a position where I feel I can learn and grow. But… and there’s always a but. It’s part-time. In some ways I feel like it’s been six years since graduation and here I am, still working part-time. Although technically with the other part-time work I do (farmers markets, house cleaning and marketing consulting) I sometimes work over 40 hours a week AND make more money than I did in a week at my full-time job. It’s hard work juggling multiple commitments. Earlier this year I had to let one of my part-time jobs go. It got to be too much.
I know I work hard and yet there’s still some shame. Shame that I don’t have a full-time job with benefits aka a “real job” and shame in having once lost a job.
It’s something I need to work on.
What this journey has taught me:
- One bad job experience won’t break you. Be honest with yourself and others. Use the people who are in your court, your advocates. Take advice from anyone willing to offer it. Volunteer more! Potential employers will see through a small negative in your job history when its surrounded by so much more positive.
- Dirty jobs are not beneath anyone. In the past year I have been a food service worker (both a server and barista). I have scrubbed other peoples’ toilets. I currently spend a good number of Saturday mornings hauling a tent, tables and product into my small hatchback and setting up a booth at the farmers market.
- Mentors are important but in the end I’m the only one responsible for getting myself ahead in life. If an opportunity comes, it’s up to me to take it or let it go.
- Hard work is hard. Taking time for relaxation and self care is key to surviving a hectic schedule and multiple commitments. Sometimes you just have to say NO to things. This is something I’m still working on.
- Having a budget and keeping track of how much money you spend on things is the secret to finding extra money in your life you didn’t think existed. I don’t deny myself life’s pleasures but I don’t eat out, grab coffee in the morning or buy myself clothes I don’t need even 1/4 as much as I did before my job termination. It forced me to be more careful with money. And even though it annoys Tom at times, having the perspective we do now makes me feel confident we could weather another financial storm if we have to. PSA: Have an emergency fund and a budget.
Three years ago, in early summer 2013, I ran my first half-marathon, which was also my first ever endurance event. I hadn’t walked as much as a 5k going into it.
Today I spent four hours volunteering with set up for the Grateful Dad (a hippy themed Father’s Day race) to earn a free entry into one of Terrapin‘s future races. One week from today I’ll head back to my favorite place in the world – no, I’m not exaggerating this – Sunriver, Oregon to take part in the Pacific Crest Weekend Sports Festival. While I’m not training with Team In Training this year, I have their program to thank for getting me to the level of physical fitness and drive that I have today.
Now, $6k spread across three years and three races probably doesn’t seem like a lot and it is nowhere near what some of my teammates have been able to raise. But I’m proud of it because I had to work to raise that. In some cases that meant actual physical work! For me, the hardest obstacles to fundraising weren’t physical but mental. I am an introvert. When I signed up to do Team In Training in 2013 the training wasn’t what daunted me even though I was new to the race world. The fundraising was daunting because I didn’t feel comfortable asking people for money. I HATED it. And while it’s gotten easier it’s still never been something I feel comfortable doing.
Here’s how I did it.
Straight Up Ask for Money
While this is my least favorite way to fundraise it requires little effort and is the best place to start. Make a list of contacts; people you speak to on a regular basis, friends and family members. I like the handwritten letter approach because it’s more personal but this method could be done through email. If you really have the time, personalizing each letter is a really nice touch. If I knew the friend I was writing to had lost a loved one to blood cancer, I would offer to honor their memory by writing their name on the back of my race shirt – symbolically carrying them across the finish line. When you ask someone for money, you have to get used to hearing “No”… or in the case of a letter, just never hearing back. If you do hear a “No” you have to understand that it’s not personal. Perhaps this person has just donated to several other causes this year and they’re tapped out. Maybe they just can’t spare the money. It’s not personal. People will surprise you. The wealthy relatives you expected to donate might not but that college friend who is just starting out in their career? They might throw in $10 or $25. Ask everyone you feel comfortable asking, and don’t assume who will and will not give. An ask is just that. It’s not a demand.
Get Creative with a Raffle
During my Fall 2015 Season with Team In Training I asked both local businesses and friends and family members for in-kind donations. This can be a great option for someone who can’t spare a monetary donation but still wants to help out your cause.
Gifts in kind, also referred to as in–kind donations, is a kind of charitable giving in which, instead of giving money to buy needed goods and services, the goods and services themselves are given.
For my raffle I got gift baskets from local businesses (Starbucks and Stash Tea), and put together gift baskets comprised of items I’d won myself or wasn’t using (new water bottle, a gift card to a running store, makeup samples from Sephora, a bottle of vodka) and items that were gifted to my cause by friends and family (wine glasses, bottle of wine, brand new exercise ball). I asked people to make a donation of at least $25 dollars to be entered into the raffle. Several people participated and I was able to raise a few hundred dollars this way. A majority of the people who donated won a prize, so it was a win for them as well!
Get on the Streets and Panhandle
This I was really nervous to do. It’s tricky because you have to get lucky and find the right spot. On my first attempt back in my Spring 2014 Season I tried a freeway on-ramp outside Bridgeport Village with a teammate and got nada. During the Fall 2015 Season I tried a freeway off-ramp at Keizer Station just north of Salem with another teammate and we got over $75 in about an hour’s time. This same teammate and I had earlier tried a sidewalk just outside the Woodburn Outlet Stores and were shooed away by mall security. After that we tried the sidewalk by one of the exits from a parking lot and got minimal money. It was about $2.50 for over 30 minutes of time. Location matters A LOT. Private property won’t do. It has to be a public sidewalk. On another occasion during Fall 2015 Season a different teammate and I tried the sidewalk outside the Fremont Whole Foods in NE Portland. This sidewalk technically belonged to the store as it was between Whole Foods and the parking lot, not the parking lot and the sidewalk. But we went in and talked to management and they gave their blessing as long as we weren’t approaching people or hassling them (we stayed in one spot with our signs and buckets). For this we made over $50 in about an hour’s time. I later went back again on my own and made another roughly $50.
Sell Your Own Wares
I’m not crafty by any means but I can bake. During the Fall 2015 Season I took custom orders for healthy cookies using nut butters from Nut-Tritious Foods, a business owned by family. I offered to make the cookies vegan or gluten-free upon request. I was able to make $60 making 4 dozen cookies at $15 a batch. I also sold books to Powell’s City of Books and clothes to local resale shops and donated the money I made to my own fundraising efforts. I was able to raise about $25 this way.
Partner with Local Businesses for a Percentage of Sales
This is where things can really take off when it comes to fundraising. Lots of restaurants – Panda Express, California Pizza Kitchen, Old Spaghetti Factory, Chipotle and Burgerville come to mind – will partner with you for fundraising nights. This is done one of two ways. Burgerville is the only one I know of that does it the better way. They will donate 10% of sales between the hours of 4:00 and 8:00pm (typically) on a weeknight of your choosing (except Fridays) from anyone who walks in the door. Usually you help out by being in the store during those hours, helping deliver food and bussing tables. Burgerville will also sell Team In Training “blood drops” at the register for an optional additional donation to anyone who wants to purchase one. You make 100% of the donations from blood drops and someone could choose to spend $1 or as much as $20 on one. It’s up to their generosity. Most restaurants do fundraising nights by offering some higher percentage of sales (usually 20% to 50%) for an evening or a whole day but only to those people who mention your charity or fundraiser when they order. This can work half decently if you can get an entire office or large group of friends to eat at the same restaurant on the same day for lunch or dinner. One of my teammates was able to make flyers about her fundraiser and pass them out to people entering the restaurant while the fundraiser was happening, and those people probably mentioned it. But most restaurants won’t let you do that. You can tell every single one of your facebook friends you’re having a fundraiser at X restaurant but unless they decide to eat there that night and ALSO mention your fundraiser you won’t get any donations. I did a fundraiser at California Pizza Kitchen during my Fall 2015 Season and used my birthday as a way to get a huge group of people in and ensure donations. It worked but even so at the end of it all, I got a check for about $70. Compare that to Burgerville. The worst one I did, where they only sold 20ish blood drops, still made over $200. At another Burgerville the staff got really laser-focused on selling the blood drops and my teammate and I ended up with over $1,000 in donations!
Some businesses – Sees Candy, Jamba Juice and What’s the Scoop? Ice Cream in Portland are a few – offer a product-selling fundraiser. In the case of Sees Candy and Jamaba Juice you have to purchase the product (chocolate bars or gift cards) at a discount and then sell them at regular price. You keep the difference, which becomes a donation. During my Fall 2015 Season two other teammates and I did a fundraiser with What’s the Scoop?. Here we didn’t have to put out any money. We took orders for $8 pints of ice cream (four flavors available) and gave the completed orders back to staff at What’s the Scoop? For every pint we sold, What’s the Scoop? donated $4, which is 50% of sales. Not bad! Purchasers had to stop by the shop during a 3 day time period to pick up their pints. My teammates and I made a little over $100 doing this. When split three ways it wasn’t great for the amount of effort involved but I could have done it by myself and then $100 would have been great.
Keep Your Blog Up-to-Date and Post on Social Media
This one’s really simple. When you join Team In Training you’re given a blog where you can track donations and write updates to keep friends and family in the loop about your progress, both physical and fundraising. I’m a writer so the idea of blogging was one I was already into. But writing there helped keep me focused and engaged. And when I posted an update to Facebook? Well, I got a few donations that way. It was less than $50, but it all adds up in the end.
Finally, I think it’s important to understand that when you fundraise with Team In Training you’re getting “free” race registration, T-shirt and dinner the night before the race. For this reason I like to donate to my own fundraising the rough amount that will be spent benefiting me personally. That way any donation from family, friends and strangers is truly going to the mission. This isn’t something you have to do but I like to.
I was inspired to write about my fundraising journey because it wasn’t easy but I did it. I did it while working at nonprofits where I wasn’t allowed to solicit donations (lots of teammates fundraised at their work places) and while making an entry-level nonprofit salary. I did it despite being an introvert who hates being in the awkward position of asking people for money. In the past couple years as I’ve broken into this “run-walking” thing I’ve talked to a lot of other runners and walkers. Not all of them have done Team In Training and for many of them, the idea of fundraising is too much to handle. But if I can do it, so can they. I’m not trying to sugar coat anything. It is a challenge. There’s a reason I am taking this year off! But it is so rewarding. The training you get and the friends and contacts you make are so valuable. When I’m ready to make the leap from half-marathons to a full marathon, the first place I’m going to sign up is with Team In Training.
I’m eeking in this post at 11:30 a.m. on a Tuesday night, keeping my self-imposed commitment to write one blog post each month. I seem to be low on time lately and this is what I offer up as my poor excuse.
I actually just tallied up my hours in the past week and discovered that I’ve put in a total of 55 hours of paid work in the past week. That’s between three jobs and two consulting-type gigs. I was expecting my hours to be closer to 45 and seeing the higher number gives me some relief to the fatigue I’ve been feeling.
The truth is I’m a far cry from where I was at this same time last year, with a full-time job and benefits. I’m working, physically, mentally and emotionally harder now to get to roughly the same place. Truth be told, I’m making MORE money but it doesn’t feel like it because none of it is 100% steady or stable. But then, what is in life?
That’s been my lesson from the last year.
My apologies for the vaguebooking nature of this post. I promise to delve more into exactly what I’m getting on at in a not-so-long in the future post.
As for my last post on millennials and minimalism, I stand behind what I said as it is a reflection of how I feel and what I value in life. However, I do feel IMMENSELY grateful to my family. I was raised in an upper-middle class household and had several privileges associated with that and just plain awesome parents in general. While I may not aspire to live in as large a home as they do, or own all the gadgets they do… I respect that my parents worked hard for what they have. Truth be told, people should be free to spend their money on what they wish. I won’t judge (too much) so long as they’re not going into debt for it. My parents instilled a work ethic in me that’s paying off in my life today.
So, Mom, Dad, Rob and Pat… know this, I love you and I think you’re awesome.
I am one of those millennials we keep hearing about in the news. The age range is somewhat loosely defined but being born in 1988, I’ve always been squarely within that spectrum. Millennials are sometimes praised (we’re generous, empathetic and entrepreneurs) but then you see also results like these when you Google the word.
What I do know is that growing up in a 24/7 news cycle and in a world where technology was ubiquitous has shaped who I am. I honestly can’t stand cable TV news. I’ve never NOT owned a computer. I’m not religious in the slightest. I probably “overshare” online… okay, I know I do. But that has as much to do with my chosen field – marketing – and my interests – blogging and writing – as it does with the generation I belong to. Graduating from college during The Great Recession definitely impacted me as a person and altered the trajectory of my life. Even though I love my job right now I realize I am still underemployed in the sense that I do not have a full-time position with benefits. I’ve only held a full-time job for eight months of the six years since graduation. For the first two years post-college I had a mix of part-time jobs (often retail and temp agency work) and internships. I do feel some guilt about not having a full-time job right now but I’ve decided that being in a place I love after a crazy amount of turmoil last year is worth it. I actually work three jobs right now. Tom and I make enough to pay our bills, slowly pay off our debt and save appropriately. In a very real sense we are lucky. But in an America where millennials are likely to be worse off than our parents, my idea of success is A LOT different than my parents’.
That brings me to minimalism. An innocuous Facebook post by my friend and former Disney roommate Jessica about capsule wardrobes launched me into a whole new world of self-discovery. There are really only two ways to get ahead in life financially. You can chase higher earnings or you can live simply/below your means or some combination of both. Obviously I think it’s important that as I get older and grow in my career I earn more. But when I think about the lifestyle that my parents have chosen I have a hard time relating and wanting the same things for myself. Maybe I’m just young and naive and I admit there’s the chance I will change my mind as I get older. But I don’t care about having a big house. In fact, I don’t want one. I don’t need a luxury car. I just a want a reliable car. I don’t want all the latest gadgets (this sets me apart from some of my millennial peers) and I could care less about having Ethan Allen or Pottery Barn furniture in my home. Sorry for dropping the F bomb but I also fucking hate knick knacks and collectibles. I hate clutter. I hate stuff. There is so much stuff in today’s America.
Then there’s the size of the average American home. Since the 1950s, it’s more than doubled! I grew up in some of those big houses. As an adult I think about how much it will cost to save up for one of those homes and then pay the taxes on it. I think of all the furniture I’d buy to fill up those rooms. I think about the cost to heat it and I say to myself “No, thank you!” I think our parents’ generation generally thought bigger was better. The tide may be turning now thanks to millennials. Young people are choosing to live in cities without owning a car or they’re buying tiny houses and living mortgage-free. Becoming an adult during the Real Estate Bubble (when so many mortgages went underwater) really opened my eyes to the realities of home ownership. Tom and I are renting and with rents in the Portland Metro Area skyrocketing there are days when I really wish we could bite the bullet and buy a house with zero-down. But in the long run I don’t think that’s a good idea. It’s very important to me that we pay off all of our debt and save 10% – 20% to put down on a home. This means we’re also delaying having a family. It’s our reality and it’s the reality of many other millennials.
Tom and I both feel that having a job we love, where we feel valued is relatively more important than income potential. We both agree that we’d like to spend the majority of our life saving up for experiences like cooking classes, travel and concerts than on possessions. That’s the essence of minimalism.
Minimalism is a lifestyle that helps people question what things add value to their lives. By clearing the clutter from life’s path, we can all make room for the most important aspects of life: health, relationships, passion, growth, and contribution. -From The Minimalists
Minimalism looks different to every person who embarks on its journey. For me it means taking a hard look at my wardrobe and deciding to donate or sell that jacket I never wear even though “It’s cute”. For Tom it means selling old video games he won’t play again, instead of keeping them around “Just in case”. It means we downsized from a 950 square foot apartment to an 800 square foot one. It means going through all of the cards I’ve saved over the years (I do have a sentimental streak) and recycling the ones that don’t have a personal message inside. Yep, I admitted that. It means that I say “No” to free things when it’s not something I would buy myself (like chapstick or a T-shirt at a race). It means we’re not buying something unless we REALLY want it or need it. Not only are we decluttering our lives but this lifestyle adjustment is helping us get out of debt faster.
I really think that no matter what happens in our careers or with our health, having this attitude towards life will only help us in the long run. Our version of success is different than that of previous generations, but it’s one that we’re proud to own.
Here are some websites and related media on the subjects of millennials and minimalism that inspire me:
Leap Day comes around only once every four years. I’m taking advantage of the extra time by getting back into the habit of doing something that I love — writing. Sure, didn’t I say this last year? Yes, I did. And I do hate making promises I don’t keep. Last year my writing goals were quite broad. I simply said I would “write more” but didn’t give myself specific, measurable goals. This year I will. I will write one blog post each month, starting today!
Did I accomplish anything on last year’s list? I was planning on trying every restaurant in the Alphabet District of NW Portland at least once. Hahahahaha. Well, I unexpectedly lost my job at the end of June but before that I managed to eat at quite a few places. I’m still not sure why I ever thought I could eat at ALL of them though.
I didn’t read all of the books I planned to but I did read an extra one that was not listed in my New Years Resolutions. These were Soulminder by Timothy Zahn, Homeland, Exile and Sojourn by R.A. Salvatore (a trilogy), Outlander by Diana Gabaldon and the audiobook of Room by Emma Donoghue, which just won an Academy Award for its film adaption. The bonus book was Smoke Gets in Your Eyes & Other Lessons from the Crematory by Caitlin Doughty. Smoke, Soulminder and The Homeland Trilogy were all signed by their author at a Powell’s Books signing event — I love attending these!
I had a long a crazy journey last year with Team In Training in 2015 so expect at least a couple blogs on that subject. This year I promised myself I would take a break from fundraising. I don’t regret my experiences but it became very overwhelming at times. Instead, this year I’m focusing on walking and running for my own health, both physical and mental. It’s crazy that three years ago, when I had just started with the Team, I HATED running. I couldn’t understand why anyone would do something like that for fun. What?! I still don’t like calling myself a runner because what I do is more of a run-walk-run than actual running. But the running part of it all HAS become enjoyable. Running can be really great with the right atmosphere and when I’m in the mood for it! I think running is better because it’s easier now. When something is hard you have to mentally push yourself through it. That can be rewarding but it’s not fun. Now that running is not easy, but easier, it’s an enjoyable hobby for me.
I made a goal at the beginning of the year to do at least one race each month. So far I’m on track to complete this goal and I have every confidence that I will continue to do so. I kicked things off at the end of January with the Race for Warmth 5k in Vancouver. I did this event with Rob and it was great to be able to have that one-on-one time with him —we don’t get it enough anymore. A couple days ago I did the Polar Plunge 5k along the Columbia River in North Portland (Airport Neighborhood). I did NOT take the plunge into the river however. Maybe next year… What I love about both of these races is that they’re small and close to 100% of funds raised by registration fees goes to charity. The Race for Warmth supports Clark Public Utilities’ Operation Warm Heart, and the Polar Plunge benefits Special Olympics of Oregon. Next up is a biggie and one I’ve done before — the Portland Shamrock Run. I’m on the lookout for more races and will be putting a priority on ones that benefit a charity and have beautiful, scenic courses.
So long, and thanks for all the fish!
Two months ago I was back at Disneyland, not just for vacation, but to run the Tinkerbell Half Marathon. This was my third half marathon (others were the Rock N’ Roll Portland in 2013 and Pacific Crest in 2014) and it was my first runDisney race. I had a wonderful time but that being said… I doubt I will run a half marathon with runDisney again. What a downer right? Nope. Honestly I’m not trying to be. This is my official review of the Tinkerbell Half Marathon. It’s an honest review from this run/walker’s perspective only.
In my 26 years on this earth I have never taken a “true” road trip. That is, a road trip that requires more than a single day of driving. Anaheim is close enough to Portland that Tom and I decided to drive down into California and see the sights along the way. We spent three nights on the way down, three nights in Anaheim and two nights on the way back up north. The race was on a Sunday and our plan was reach Anaheim sometime mid-Friday, not knowing what kind of a loop traffic would throw us. We left Big Sur at 10:00am and stopped only twice, first to see the Elephant Seal colony at Point Piedras Blancas and later to get gas. Unfortunately we hit traffic on Hwy 101 as we were driving into Los Angeles. We managed to get to our hotel, Hotel Pepper Tree, just before 6:00pm. We hit the Tinkerbell Race Expo at the Disneyland Hotel around 7:00pm with an hour to pick up my packet materials and cruise vendors before the place closed. This was not ideal but we managed to get everything done, giving us a full day in the parks on Saturday! I picked up my ONE splurge purchase, a Tinkerbell Half Marathon commemorative Dooney & Bourke purse at the expo. Truth be told I was not disappointed about missing out on seeing much at the expo. The more time you spend in places like that the more likely you are to drop $$ you don’t have!
Trying to be thrifty, Tom and I decided to purchase a single day/ single park ticket to use on Saturday and a twilight ticket for Sunday. This ended up being quite a bit cheaper than a two-day park hopper option (our second choice). The twilight ticket allows you access into one of the two Disneyland parks after 4:00pm. Since I was going to be wiped out and need to nap and eat after running the half marathon on Sunday anyway this really made the most sense at about 2/3 the price of a single day ticket. We decided to visit Disney California Adventure on Saturday since that park closes at 10:00pm and visit Disneyland proper on Sunday since it closes at midnight giving us maximum value from our twilight ticket.
Walking around a theme park the day before running a half marathon was not the best idea but with our schedule it was a necessity. Tom and I did leave the park before closing time, at around 8:30pm, which was important since the race started at 5:00am the next morning. Yeah. You read that right. So, we missed World of Color but got a decent night’s sleep.
I woke up at 4:00am on race day to get to our corrals. Tom and I discovered the hard way that spending $20 (on average) extra per night on a hotel within walking distance of the start line would have been a good idea. Convenience is key for these races so don’t discount your location, even if you chose to drive. Parking was a bit of a nightmare and dropping me off near the corrals was also a tricky process. However, I did make it in time! I had a friend in corral D and another group of friends in corral F. I couldn’t join my friend in D because I was placed in E and not allowed to move up. I mistakenly moved back to corral G (the last corral) thinking that was where my other friends were. By the time I realized this, it was getting too close to start time for me to switch, so I stayed in G. Let me tell you, it took us over an hour (in G) to reach the start line. This meant that I was waiting to start running for about 90 minutes.
I believe around 13,000 men and women registered to run Tinkerbell. This race was crowded! That gave it a very energetic atmosphere. Because I was near the end of the pack I ended up passing a lot of people and in the process I did a generous amount of zig zagging and came to some rough starts and stops. runDisney races attract quite a few walkers and people who are they primarily for the experience and to wear fun costumes. Now, by no way am I trying to disparage those people. I started out as a walker and my pace exists between a 12:30 and 14:00 minute mile so I am by no means fast. I use an interval run-walk method to finish my half marathons. And heck yeah, runDisney races are fun and people should dress up in costumes if they want to. But I can’t ignore the fact this impacted how I ran, for the worse. I have always had IT band and knee issues in my right leg (which I now understand stems from a weak right hip). By the time I got to mile 10 of Tinkerbell I was in more pain that I had felt in any of my previous races. After I returned home, my knee pain persisted and I ended up in physical therapy to speed up my healing. This is something I have not needed to do after other races.
Now the course. The first glorious six miles had us running through Disney California Adventure and Disneyland parks. Inspiring! Whimsical! Fun! There is no other way to put it. I LOVED the first half of this race. Then we exited through Downtown Disney and spent the next seven miles winding through Anaheim’s residential neighborhoods and downtown. There were people cheering us on, funny signs, high school bands and cheerleaders. I appreciate each and every one of them. But I couldn’t help but feel like there was this noticeable drop in motivation from being out of the theme parks. In a half marathon you always need that mental endurance to carry you through the last few miles just as much as you need physical endurance.
Now, I don’t regret running Tinkerberll and I had a blast! But… I’ve decided that I will only do a 5k or 10k with runDisney in the future. These races are expensive and I need to make my investment worth it. The 5k or 10k Disney race would solve the problem of injury/fatigue from crowded running. It will also allow me to spend the race where I want to be… inside the most magical place on Earth!
I am now training for the Nike Women San Francisco Half Marathon on October 18, 2015. This course will be tough (hills, eeek!) but with solid training and a consistent pace mentally and physically I believe I can do it. I’m also excited to have my team with me this time around. Help me get to to the start line by making a donation to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society on my fundraising page.