30 before 30

It’s my birthday! Last year I decided to take a break from any kind of annual goal setting, but seeing a wave of 30 before 30 lists recently has me wanting to join in. Considering I only have a year to get this stuff done I made sure to throw in some relatively simple things that can be achieved on an ideal day at the spur of the moment… but I’m definitely also lumping in the big stuff and the “stretch goals” that I’m not 100% sure I can get done in the next 12 months.

I promise these add up to 30... don't have enough time this evening to fix that formatting issue!

Guiding Principles (At least that sounds nice as a title here)

  1. Share Better
    This blog is part of this and I have another goal pertaining to the blog later, but I do want to take a hard look at my social media use in the next year and cut back to only he things I really care for and realistically have the time for. The other half of this trying to be a little bit more authentic and honest when things aren’t going so hot— I hate the “highlight reel” aspect of social media and I figure starting with myself is a good enough way to effect change.
  2. Let Go
    I feel like this is a cliche in terms of goals. And this isn’t a “let go of all the haters” thing (ha!). It’s more about getting rid of versions of myself that are not remotely realistic. I could probably be a marathon runner if I wanted to… but I do not have the time or dedication to pursue that goal at the moment. That sort of thing. The bright side to this is that it frees up mental energy toward working on the things I really do want to work on, so I don’t really consider this a negative thing.
  3. Work Deeply
    I recently finished Cal Newport’s Deep Work, I’ve been paying attention to how I work and get things done, and I’ve realized just how distracted I am all the time. And I think it’s a huge part of the reason I’ve been a little frustrated with my ability to get things done at work and at home. It’s seriously difficult for me to commit to doing one task for an entire hour without giving in to some kind of distraction (text messages, running off to do something else that popped into my head, etc). So I definitely want to work on improving my ability to focus for long periods of time over the course of the next year.

The Big Things that I’m not totally sure I can afford to do

  1. Leave the country
    I could totally cop out and go to Canada, but where this is a bit of a stretch is that I’m thinking more like Europe or Asia. It’d be a very bare bones, travel on the cheap trip, but I’m thinking I can squeeze just enough money out of my budget to do it.
  2. Buy myself a new lens
    The one lens I’ve never had and have pretty much always wanted is a nice macro lens. I love the tiny details in things and I’d love to really be able to capture some of that. But looking at what I can afford in a year, this is a definite maybe for now.

The Big Things I’m pretty confident I can do

  1. Reading Challenge
    I’ve REALLY been enjoying reading lately, having rediscovered the magic of libraries and reading books for free. I’m going to write about this in depth later on but I have a somewhat aggressive but realistic goal set for myself and kind of a fun “curriculum” to follow.
  2. Run a 10k
    So I’m publicly holding myself accountable for this one in particular. My sister, Jenna, and I are tentatively planning on taking on the Big Ten 10k in Chicago next summer. And… I need to actually start training for that.
  3. Finish another #The100DayProject or 30 Day Challenge
    I managed to start and finish one this year and I enjoyed it, even when I was annoyed with myself, so I’d like to challenge myself to another creative stretch at some point.

Everything else!

  1. Go out of state
    Assuming I actually do the Big Ten 10k this should be easily achievable, so…
  2. Go out of state
    I’m planning on trying to do that at least twice next year.
  3. Half Moon Pose
    I want to start regularly practicing yoga— I’m a little bit hooked after taking a class through U-M this semester. I’m going to take another next semester if I can, and there are three poses I want to either actually balance well in or be able to hold for any length of time, starting with half moon…
  4. Crow Pose
    And this one…
  5. Bird of Paradise
    And this one!
  6. Learn some animation skills
    This is partially for work but I do want to challenge myself to learn some new software next year since I feel like it’s been awhile since I really challenged myself in this area.
  7. Build the portfolio side of this site
    But for real this time. I feel like this was definitely one of my annual goals a couple years ago, but considering I have everything set up and I just need to add things, this should be doable now, ha.
  8. “KonMari” my computer
    This might be cheating since I’ve already finished the easier part of this, but yes, as lame as it is to say, I do kind of like applying the “only keep what sparks joy” method to my life and I’ve yet to do this to a bunch of files on my computer.
  9. Get into a regular sleep schedule
    30-year-old’s should have regular sleep schedules, right? I want to do this for more than just that reason, but I do find it funny that I’m really wanting this on the eve of “old age”
  10. Schedule/Review my days and weeks
    I’ve recently started doing “Weekly Reviews” as it pertains to both work and personal projects and it’s been so helpful to me that I want to try to push that even further and try to get into the habit of planning my days out a little more intentionally.
  11. 50 blog posts
    This goes back to my first goal/intention— I want to work on writing a little bit more. And sharing better. And really, just documenting the stuff that I’m accomplishing so that I can look back on them and feel better about how I’m spending my time. I’ve learned if I can’t do that I tend to feel like I’ve done nothing even when I know that’s not true.
  12. 50 postcards
    I still love Postcrossing but I tend to slip into periods of sending cards and then going a few weeks where I don’t. So I’d like to send roughly one a week next year.
  13. 25 movies
    Another thing I love doing and rarely get around to doing on a regular basis. I’ve got a list that’s years-old that I want to make a dent in.
  14. 12 photos that I love enough to frame
    This is the easier of my photography goals and I do want it to end with actually getting some photos printed and framed for my apartment. 
  15. Have another dinner party or two
    I hosted two potluck dinners at my apartment this past year and I want to keep up with this because it was a blast both times!
  16. Hang out more with Misty (my bird)
    I mean, he’s like my child, I should definitely be able to carve out more time to actively playing with him.
  17. Try out a new art technique or two
    My friend Lindsey and I have been scheming up some ideas in this arena and I’m excited to finally try them.
  18. Visit the DIA (or other art museum!)
    I go way too long between DIA trips and that’s dumb because I only live like 45 minutes away.
  19. Picnic in the Arb
    Or, as I’m typing this, really just a picnic anywhere in Ann Arbor would be kind of fun since I’m also envisioning the law quad.
  20. Go on a hike
    This is very “stuff white people like,” but I’ve been wanting to do another hike since my trip to the Adirondacks a couple summers ago
  21. Visit a beach
    This is also no small thing, even though Michigan is full of beaches. I’ve definitely gone entire summers without seeing a beach before and that’s just sad. So I’m going to actively prevent that.
  22. Plan something fun for my 30th Birthday
    I don’t know what yet, but I never really plan things for my birthday and it would be fun to do something a little bit more involved for this milestone birthday that is the entire reason for the list.

I Don't Have Cancer + November-ish Links

I’m a little bit over a month out from learning that the cyst on my ovary had shrunk and was therefore not cancer! So the immediate anxiety that I was feeling back in October is resolved for now and I am left with just a general low-level anxiety that I think I’m managing fairly well on a daily basis. And I was in a big rush to "resume life as normal" so I wasn't super eager to write about it publicly in the moment, if I'm totally honest.

Things Worth Sharing

I had mentioned wanting to share things not related to cancer back then, too. I tend to thoroughly enjoy the weekly/monthly links that some of my favorite bloggers share. And since I’ve been reading more and still listening to a ton of podcasts, I figured it’d be interesting for me to track noteworthy things as well!

Reading

How Essential Oils Became the Cure for Our Age of Anxiety

This is both an informative read and highly entertaining. A line I particularly enjoyed from when the author goes to a Young Living conference: "Never have I sneezed so much; never have I been blessed so enthusiastically when I sneezed.”

Promethea Unbound

This is truly a long read, so you’ll have to set aside some time for this one, but I found it to be gripping.

Evicted by Matthew Desmond
$2.00 a Day: Living on Almost Nothing in America by H. Luke Shaefer and Kathryn Edin
PBS Frontline Podcast - The Housing Fix

At any given point I probably have about ten books in my hold queue at the library. And somewhat by accident, I spent most of October reading about poverty in the U.S. because those books happened to come in. And then I caught an episode of "Frontline" that so closely mirrored some of the things I’d read I figured I would group all of those together for you if you have any interest in learning about the gaps in government assistance on low-income housing.

Listening

Heaven’s Gate

I think anyone that knows me is aware that I have always had an interest in true crime (and also Law & Order: SVU). Cults fall into that area of interest for me and part of what makes this show so compelling is Glynn Washington’s own background having grown up in a cult himself.

Revisionist History - Blame Game

A coworker recommended Revisionist History to me about a year ago and I never got around to subscribing. That was a huge mistake— I’m working my way through the back catalog right now and pretty much every episode has been fascinating to me. Blame Game sticks out to me in part because I have always had a little bit of worry in the back of my head while driving, thinking that one day might car might just start accelerating uncontrollably.

This American Life - White Haze

This was the first podcast I had marked to share here so it’s not as timely as it was when it was first released, but I think it’s still worth a listen to get some insight into certain pockets of the right-wing that were linked to Charlottesville.

99% Invisible - La Sagrada Familia

A great episode from one of my favorite podcasts of all time. Hearing more about the background of La Sagrada Familia is making me that much more eager to see it in person!

I'm planning on making a monthly post like this so that the links and things I share aren't too "stale" by the time I'm sharing them. So if you enjoyed these, I will be back in December with more. At least that's the plan!

On Two Years of Cancer Survivorship

Two years ago today I woke from surgery and found out that I had cancer. This morning I woke up with anxiety over an MRI I’m getting tomorrow for a cyst on my remaining ovary. Technically an improvement! Also, a friendly reminder that once you’ve had cancer it stays with you.

Last year I shared a Facebook post asking people to be aware of the often vague symptoms of ovarian cancer and basically called it a day. It wasn’t a fun day, don’t get me wrong. But looking back at that day from right now, I was feeling more optimistic. Or, maybe I was still in a little bit of denial that it had happened at all. Or, maybe coasting on a bit of a survivor’s high where things were consistently getting better, so it felt a little bit like I had overcome the worst possible thing that would ever happen to me and everything would be up from there. Or, maybe I felt like I had obtained some kind of deep wisdom having survived cancer and it would make all difficult things easier to tackle.

Now a year later I feel like I really haven’t even scratched the surface of what the hell being a cancer survivor means. It feels harder this year. Certain things are easier, I’ve taken to joking about how getting a flu shot is not even remotely a big deal to me now, among other things. The small, easy things in life that might have given me some anxiety before are now rightfully small and easy. And maybe that was the moral of the first year of survivorship. This past year sort of felt like “the hard things are still hard, if not harder.”

Finding out you have a small cyst with an irregular spot is a hard thing. And it’s made harder by the fact that now I have a real, intimate knowledge of what cancer treatment entails. So you mentally run down the possibilities: it’s probably not cancer, I have been told if I didn’t have a history of cancer that this cyst would not be a big deal. So sure, maybe it’s not cancer. But then maybe this is just the first cyst of many and the recommendation becomes a hysterectomy. And then I have to learn what it’s like to be a person that is not just missing an ovary, but most of the organs that biologically make me a woman. Of course, it’s more likely that this will all be fine and the cyst will resolve itself on its own...

… But even then, there’s nothing quite like spending your two-year anniversary of your diagnosis mulling over the reality that you could get cancer again. And I can tell myself that I was able to beat it once, so I could beat it again. Assuming I’d have to go through a relatively short treatment schedule again it seems doable. Maybe that sounds kind of insane to an outsider but that was only four months of my life. And it’s really nice to have a finish line.

What’s exhausting is thinking about what survivorship looks after that because I am currently living in the reality that there is no finish line to survivorship. Vain concerns immediately spring to mind, like “I really do not want to spend another two years growing out my hair.” So I think it’s safe to say whatever deep wisdom I thought I’d gained last year is at best, a work in progress. Then I’d imagine there’s a lot of “well I’ve had cancer twice, that was probably not the last time” and “what the hell does dating look like now” because it turns out that having cancer once makes it kind of difficult.

Then, of course, there’s the general “what the hell do I do with my life now?” thought. Which takes me from wondering about what a hypothetical two-time cancer survivorship looks like to the present, where I am just a one-time cancer survivor figuring out survivorship. And I am still very familiar with that thought and feel like I haven’t acted on it much.

I recently started seeing a therapist (seems like a good step one) and she mentioned in passing that I might find it helpful to write a blog post. Which is something that I had already been thinking about but hadn’t done because it doesn’t seem like relaying my anxieties would be that useful to other people. As trite as it is to say if I can help one person that would make it worth it. And maybe that person will be me, ha!

I don’t want to alarm anyone in writing this— I’m doing well on a daily basis even with this cyst. But this is the reality of cancer. It stays with you and there’s no finish line. Those are two things I feel like I know for a fact and everything else seems up for debate and discovery. Which seems like a good enough place to start with a blog. I don’t plan to always write about my cancer here, but it feels like it’s still just under the surface of everything in my life. And I think documenting things will help me realize I’m doing better than I think I am.

I already feel better for having written and shared this today :)