Self-Care, Being Un-Trendy & Being Nice — Some Thoughts After 30
“I’m hitting a major milestone: 30, or as I like to call it, the Cut the Bullsh-t and Go Be Awesome stage.” —Actress Olivia Wilde
I don’t even care that that quote isn’t from someone more renowned for his or her literary prowess, or an important historical figure. Because it’s absolutely my goal for this year. Cut BS, Be Awesome. And as that kicks off, it got me thinking about a few things I’ve finally kinda sorta started understanding as I’ve gotten a bit older. I know 30 isn’t old… but I’m pretty far from my 20 year old self at this point, and the best part about turning 30 has absolutely been the fact that I’ve spent a bit of time really reflecting on stuff. So, let’s chat!
Self Care Isn’t the Same as Self-Indulgence
But it’s also not that far off. I’ve gone hard both ways, and been miserable both ways. Lean too hard into self-development, meditation, language learning, et cetera and you start feeling resentful and grumpy. Lean too far into Netflix bingeing and Dorito-eating, and you feel lazy, sluggish and crappy about yourself. I think there’s a middle ground for 99 percent of us, one that involves watching a Netflix show while doing a mud mask or some easy yoga flows, meditating for five minutes instead of 20, or having that movie night with wine and popcorn and straight up enjoying it. I think my problem in the past is always thinking about what I should be doing, and doing that until I crack and go into what I ‘shouldn’t be doing,’ i.e watching Netflix til my eyes bleed. Neither way is making me any better.
DIY It When Possible
This might be a crafty thing for some people. I wish I could say that was always the case for me, but alas, I am impatient and bad at most crafts. But two things come out of this. One: I’m starting to actually appreciate the homemade presents. The rug my mom crocheted and the afghan she’s working on. And, on the giving side, seeing the Aspire crew wearing the STRIVEN shirts that I made for Christmas (striven meaning Aspire in Flemish). Those kinds of gifts are so rare for us now, but they mean so much, both in giving and receiving them. The second part of this is what I’m doing here on this blog, what I’ve done with Saddle, Sore and the Consummate Athlete Podcast, and what I’m doing with Shred Girls. If it doesn’t exist, you can make it exist. It’s never been easier to self-publish books, podcasts, videos, any kind of content you can dream up.
I’m Responsible for My Happiness
This is a new one for me, and it’s going to sound a little ‘smug married,’ as Bridget Jones would put it. Because part of it is definitely tied to the fact that I have someone in my life that I can absolutely count on, even when I’m feeling grumpy with him. But I wish I could go back, grab my 17 year old self and give her a shake and tell her this. No one—no boyfriend, husband, boss, friend—is responsible for you being happy. And if your happiness is dependent on any one (or two, or three) people in your life, that’s a problem. It’s great that people can make us feel happy. But if you need to be able to manifest that feeling on your own, without help from outside sources.
That’s been a huge learning experience for me lately: I’ve realized that my mood has a tendency to reflect the moods of others around me, i.e if Peter is in a grump, I become even grumpier than him! And happiness that’s tied to tangible things, i.e a work project or milestone, a fitness goal, getting flowers from your significant other… That stuff is just so damn fleeting. Last week, I had a huge meeting that went really well. Zero complaints. I walked out of it feeling like I was on cloud nine, but then, within five minutes, I was already thinking about the next steps for this project, and worried about what would happen, and suddenly, the good mood and happiness was already gone. And that was a GOOD meeting—imagine what I would feel like if it went poorly! Happiness that stems from achievement is great, but I think this year, contentment with myself, internally, is going to be a major focus.
I’m Not “Young” Anymore—But That’s OK
Another Olivia Wilde quote, because it’s one that I’ve been thinking about since I was 27. “The only thing I find a little bit scary about growing older is that you no longer can use the novelty of youth to make your achievements seem all the more impressive…You are now an adult, and what you do will be judged solely on what it is.”
For the first decade of being in journalism and writing books, I’ve been able to look at my work as done by a ‘young writer.’ I mean, I hope that my work stands as decent on its own, and I keep getting asked to write stuff, so I assume I don’t totally suck. But nonetheless, there’s always been a voice in my head, from writing to racing, that’s told me that whatever I did was instantly 10-20 percent cooler because I did it at such a young age. Well, shit. I’m not that young anymore, and now, what I do has to stand alone as good or great or pitiful. That’s scary and liberating and challenging all at the same time.
Want Something? Get After It
I have always been a Resolutions person. Back to School, Birthday, New Years, you name it: any excuse for a resolution list, I am all over it. So this is one I’ve been putting into play for a long time, but this year, I really went all in on a lot of goals (possibly because I wanted to hit them ahead of 30, if I’m being honest). Launching Shred Girls, for example—I’d been working on it slowly but steadily for years, but it wasn’t until I put it on my 2017 whiteboard that sits in plain sight everywhere I go, scheduled out everything that needed to be done to make it a reality, and really got down to work that it actually happened. Five years ago, I didn’t know how to use InDesign. It’s not like I have a background in photography, web design, or graphic design. Doesn’t matter. I worked really fricking hard to learn. I get a little grumpy when people ask what the secret to getting any of my jobs is because, to be totally honest, there isn’t one. I write thousands and thousands of words every week, get paid for some, write some for fun, write some in the hopes of getting paid, but mainly, I just write them. The importance of working hard at specific goals is a huge deal to me, and the nicest compliment I have ever, ever gotten was from Bill Strickland, after he hired me to write for Bicycling, when he told me that I had one of the greatest capacities for work that he’d ever seen. That’s not the chic-est of compliments, but it’s meant the most.
Trendy Might Not Be for Me
I really, really wanted this blog to be an ultra-classy wellness lifestyle blog. And then, I got acne on my chin from my helmet strap, wrote an article, and one comment on it really flicked a switch in my head. I LOVE talking about weird topics that I’m not seeing covered anywhere else, like what *not* to bring on a trip, how your helmet is giving you acne, why riding a bike is cramping your sex life (and how to fix it), and how to survive #vanlife without wanting to break up. It’s still that travel and adventure lifestyle, and I still dig beautifully curated content. But I don’t want this to be just another aspirational holier-than-thou lifestyle site. I want to get into that nitty-gritty, let people in on my dumb mistakes, and really help people get through those awkward moments that make a travel and outdoor lifestyle less than fun. I mean, it doesn’t make sense for me to showcase a gorgeous road trip and ignore the crappy moments, because if you go on the same trip and hit those same roadblocks that I did, what good did I do? So, we’re going to keep it real.
ABN (Always Be Nice)
I’ve been writing a ton about this lately in a couple of still-under-wraps projects I’m working on. But I’m also noticing it more and more in real life. Postal worker is rude? Smile and say something nice. Flight is delayed? Be nice. Legs hurt? Be nice. Basically… It’s honestly a lot harder (and personally, a lot more upsetting later on even if it feels self-righteous in the moment) to be mean or rude than it does to simply be kind. I see a lot of younger people ignoring basic common courtesies these days, and it grinds my gears to no end. (Adults do it too, of course.) Anyway, if there’s one thing I’m starting to realize, it’s that being nice is free, easy and goes a long way.
So really, being 30 is pretty good so far!
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