The Unpretentious Reader

turning 30

30 random facts about me {Turning 30}

1. One time in college, a friend texted me this: “We’re going skydiving today. Wanna come?” And I did. (Such a rush!)

guages

2. Until about 5 years ago, the only things I knew how to cook were chili, hamburger helper, and banana bread.

3. In 2010 I started (and finished!) a 365 photo project. I picked a heck of a year to do it, because I got engaged AND married and life was just crazy for a while.

4. I used to have 1/2 inch gauged ears, around the same time I was also majorly into hardcore music and going to shows every weekend. Ah, youth.

gauges

5. The first CD I ever bought with my own money was MxPx’s “Teenage Politics.” Followed shortly thereafter by Creed’s “Human Clay” (NO SHAME, ya’ll).

6. I am right-handed, but I bat (and golf) left-handed. Yes, really.

7. When I was a kid, I had a pet hamster named Pumpkin and he was the best hamster to have ever lived in all the land.

pumpkin

8. I was absolutely terrified of roller coasters until my 9th grade class took a field trip to Islands of Adventure in Orlando, FL, during which my friends persuaded me to ride “The Hulk” with them. I’ve been a coaster junkie ever since.

9. Games have always been a huge part of my life; I was obsessed with Super Nintendo as a kid (who am I kidding, I still love SNES), I played Ultima Online all through high school, and these days I play a mix of PS4 and sometimes PC games. There’s not enough time in the day for all the games I want to try.

10. I learned how to drive stick in a ’92 Toyota Celica.

celica

11. As a young girl, I was a total tomboy. I balked at society’s rules for girls, at the color pink and the requirement to wear dresses for certain functions, and really anything at all that was considered traditionally “girly.” I got angry when I found out girls couldn’t play in the NFL. You get the idea. It’s only been in recent years that I’ve learned about feminism and started to identify as a feminist, but clearly, I’ve always been one at heart. (And now I believe it doesn’t matter if you like pink or not…it’s all about what you like because you like it and not because society tells you to!)

12. On a trip to the Bahamas when I was 13, my oldest/dearest friend Bekah and I were swimming in the ocean and started to get followed by a huge (~5-foot) barracuda…until I accidentally dropped my disposable camera in the water. That distracted him, and we swiftly swam to shore. Later we found out he was known to hang around that beach, and the locals had lovingly named him “George.” I am not kidding.

13. In 2013, I read 100 books. It was tough but I did it, and it seriously expanded my horizons in terms of new authors and genres to read.

100-books

14. The one time in my life I went to Warped Tour, I got sun poisoning and swore off music festivals forever.

15. I used to be a Guitar Hero master. I miss playing…but only the PS2 version.

16. I’ve only ever been on one blind date, and that date took me to a ZZ Top concert. Front row at The Ryman! I could almost touch their beards.

17. I loathe raisins. I used to loathe raisins and carrots, but I’m starting to come around to carrots (though I still won’t eat the big ones raw). Chick-Fila used to have a side item that was a shredded carrot and raisin “salad,” and anytime I went through the drive-thru and saw its picture on the menu, I shivered. JUST LOOK AT THAT ABOMINATION:

carrot-raisin

18. I’ve read and/or listened to the entire Harry Potter series at least six times but probably more than that (I’ve lost count). It never gets old.

19. I’ve visited 26 states in the U.S., in addition to the Bahamas, Belize, Guatemala, and Taiwan. One day I hope to expand that list to all 50 states, the Greek Isles, New Zealand, Iceland, basically all of Europe (but especially Italy), plus about 239486 other places.

20. I once jogged/walked a half marathon in Nashville. NEVER.AGAIN. (I’m smiling in this photo, but I assure you it’s only because this was taken pre-marathon.)

half-marathon

21. I have a gift card hoarding problem. I can never decide on something “good enough” to use the money on. (Currently have $75 in Amazon cards. WHAT TO DO!?!?!)

22. Around age 14, I worked at a horse ranch in exchange for getting to ride whenever I wanted. I absolutely loved it, all of it, and to this day I have a soft spot in my heart for horses and horseback riding.

23. My first experience with guacamole happened at my first job which, unfortunately for me and the guacamole, was Taco Bell. I didn’t try it again for years, convinced all guacamole was the equivalent to green baby poo. When someone actually made me guacamole with fresh ingredients, I immediately fell in love.

24. One summer in high school, my best friend in the whole world was grounded and the only way we survived was by writing actual, physical letters back and forth (in gel color pens, obviously). I mean…just look how cool we were:

me-tracy

25. Breakfast/brunch is my absolute favorite meal to go out for but also my most conflicted. Savory or sweet?!? SAVORY OR SWEET!?!? It’s a struggle every time.

26. In college I worked at a hotel where, during the Super Bowl, the stars from One Tree Hill came to stay. My one brush with fame!

27. While dating, my husband started calling me “Scooter” and the nickname stuck. Now, I can’t even remember the last time he addressed me by my real name…haha.

28. I decided to do extra schoolwork one summer and graduated high school at the age of 17, mostly because all my friends were a grade higher than me and I couldn’t stand the thought of them graduating without me. 😉

29. Living near a coast used to be a huge priority for me, but lately my love for the mountains is starting to rival my love for the beach.

30. After almost 30 years of living…….I’m still one of the most impatient people I know.


GOSH, that was a long list. I don’t blame you if you gave up halfway through, but if you’ve made it this far, thanks for reading! 🙂

Things I have (un)learned in the past decade {Turning 30}

Therapy is not of the devil

In fact, therapy can be good for you! It’s simple: too often do we seek professional medical help for physical ailments, but neglect that same help for our mental health. There’s a stigma about this, thanks to societal and/or religious norms, that seeing a therapist or taking prescribed medication for issues you can’t see with your eyes is somehow wrong or a failure. I’m here to tell you: it’s not.

My body is my own

One of the unfortunate side effects of being a pre-teen growing up in the purity culture / modesty culture frenzy is that a lot of those ideas, whether or not you agree with them now, have a tendency to embed themselves in your subconscious. Therapists call these core beliefs, and they are very hard to unlearn. But hey, creepy dude in the Wal-Mart who approached me while alone to tell me I’m “beautiful” – rather than be uncomfortably polite, I’m going to be rude to you now, because I didn’t ask for your opinion about my looks and even more important, I don’t care what you think.

Yes, your metabolism DOES slow down

Especially for those of us who have always struggled with our weight or always had slower metabolism or medical reasons why we can’t exercise or what-have-you. So do yourselves a favor, kids, and start eating right and exercising now. All in moderation, of course, but not creating those habits early is something I regret and am paying for now. My advice? If you’re physically able, find a type of exercise you enjoy. I loathe the gym – but I love being outside here in gorgeous Utah, so now I hike (and rock climb!). Same goes for cooking – if I don’t continuously find new recipes to try, I get bored and we order pizza instead.

It’s actually possible to get a job doing something you like

I majored in Business Administration in college, AKA the “I don’t know what to do with my life” degree. The only thing I’d been passionate about in high school was web design and writing. At the time, I wasn’t sure I was “smart enough” for a computer science or web design degree (thanks misogyny and general discouragement of women to go into STEM fields!). I also didn’t want to get an English degree just because I liked to write. All that to say, I had zero desire to start my own business or manage people. A business degree was easy but also bored me to tears.

Fast forward a decade, and here I am, in a communications position, writing for a living. It’s still a job, but it’s something I think I’m good at – something I enjoy. And one of my goals this year (that I’m woefully falling behind on) is to start coding again and rebuilding that skill set, so, yeah – I guess the point of this rambling paragraph is to not be discouraged if you get a degree you’re not thrilled about in college. You’re not pigeon-holed into doing that for the rest of your life!

I am very, very lucky to have the parents I do

We may not ALWAYS see eye-to-eye (ha!), but they love me more than I thought it was possible to love a person, they unwaveringly support me in all that I do, and they spoil me far more than I deserve. So many people don’t have good relationships with their parents (or don’t have parents, or have parents but they aren’t good people…the list goes on), and over the years I’ve just become more and more distinctly aware of how blessed I am to have them. They raised me to be an independent person with diverse interests, and I’m so very thankful for that.

Why 30 is exciting, for me {Turning 30}

Look at those stirrup pants. Those pants are saying, “30? I’ll never be 30! I’ll be young forever!” Also, I’m pretty sure that clown was possessed…

As a child, like many of you I’m sure, hearing that someone was 30 years old was the equivalent of them being 60. It was just so unfathomable to my young mind, practically lightyears away. 30-year-olds were, like, actual adults and had wrinkles and shopped for washer/dryer sets and lived boring old people lives.

Can we all just stop and laugh for a minute? I knew nothing. Nothing!

Ok, so maybe I don’t have the best skin in the world anymore and maybe I do get excited about buying new appliances (COME ON. Look at the refrigerators that exist today, they’re glorious), but I certainly do NOT live a boring life.

In fact, I’m pretty certain that the best is yet to come.

I spent my 20s working. I graduated from college a hair before turning 22, and as I wrote in my last ‘Turning 30’ post, I immediately moved away from my home town in Jacksonville, FL to Nashville, TN. It was a vulnerable time. I found a job (that I hated, but which gifted me with dear friends whom I love and keep in touch with to this day), and that was that. I’ve had a job ever since, aside from a brief stint of unemployment when we moved from Nashville to Salt Lake. That’s not to say I’m quitting my job the day I turn 30 – ha! Not happening anytime soon.

While I can’t predict the future, here are some things I’m looking forward to hopefully taking place in my 30s:

Buying a house

You guys, I am too old and cranky to deal with apartment-living for much longer. We’re lucky enough to finally be living in a condominium complex, with each building only housing four units with neighbors we get along with (and are even friends with), but still. I can’t tell you how ready I am to have our own backyard where we can grill again (!!!) and walls I can paint whatever color I want. I don’t even know where we’ll be buying (as in, which state) but I can tell you, IT IS TIME. Which brings me to my next point…

The unknown

In less than a year, my husband will have graduated college with his computer science degree. We literally have no idea what’s in store after that – will we stay here in Utah? Will we move? What kind of job will he get? What will our lives look like without school taking priority over everything? This uncertainty could bother some people, but I can’t help but be excited about it. All I know is the next chapter of our lives is about to begin and it has been a long time coming. School has consumed our lives for almost 5 years; I can’t wait to see what’s in store when it’s over.

Getting a dog (or two)

Many of you are aware that two years ago, we did have a dog. The sweetest, most perfect little dog with a very huge problem: separation anxiety. Living where we do, we were not allowed to get a second dog to keep him company all day, and believe me when I say that for eight months we tried EVERYTHING. We ended up having to adopt him to another family with a second dog, and to this day, I can’t think about it without my heart breaking. I haven’t dealt with the grief of that situation very well at all, but I can tell you that having a dog filled a hole in my heart I didn’t know I had until he was gone. While he can’t ever be replaced, I’m ready for that emptiness to be filled again…which will happen whenever we finally have a house and a yard.

Caring less about other people’s opinions

I’ve changed a bit in the past 10 years. I think most people do, especially in their 20s. I’d like to think that I’ve changed for the better. I’m more open-minded, more cautious of other people’s feelings. How I feel about political and social issues has changed. Most of all, I’ve tried my hardest over the past decade to become the most informed I can be about current events and social justice.

I’m not an expert on anything, but I know for a fact that I am white and privileged and could stand to learn a thing or two (or 50) from people different than me. That’s probably one of the most important things I’ve learned the past few years, and I hope to continue letting that guide my life and decisions moving forward. Included with that is not caring what other people think. I’d like to learn how to let go of worrying about other people’s opinions and be more of myself, my authentic self, regardless of the situation.

Turning 30: a series

Tracy and I, taken shortly before I moved in 2008.

Tracy and I, taken shortly before I moved away from Jax in 2008.

In the spirit of self-reflection and my ever-growing need to write more, I’ve decided to do a little mini series on turning 30. Because yes, I’m turning 30 next month and please excuse me while I go cry into a bowl of anti-aging face cream.

I think most people change A LOT in their 20s. It’s a vulnerable time, I’d argue even more vulnerable than high school, and the decisions you make in your 20s have the capacity to affect the rest of your life in unchangeable ways. Personally, I’ve changed quite a bit and learned quite a bit more during the past decade. And it all started with moving to Nashville…

 


 

I lay on the living room floor in a makeshift bed, trying and failing to ignore my dad’s snores drifting down the stairs from where he slept on the second floor. It was 4:00 a.m. on a mid-July morning and we were waking up in two hours to leave my hometown, the only place I’d ever known. I’d spent the past day and night soaking up time with my closest friends, not truly believing I was leaving, that I’d actually made the choice to leave. But I had. And I was.

At 6:00 a.m. the alarm clock cried out in that obnoxious way old school alarm clocks do, before the rise of iPhones, and I hadn’t slept a wink. Dad woke up, too, and silently we began to pack the last few straggler items into the U-Haul. We’d been unable to secure a trailer to tow my car, which meant for the next nine hours Dad would be driving the U-Haul, and I’d be following behind him. I kept telling myself I was the one who’d chosen to leave, that no one was making me do this.

Leaving the apartment Tracy and I had shared was an unceremonious affair. It was empty, a shell, devoid of the memories of friends, heartache, parties, and laughter it used to hold. I walked through one last time to make sure I hadn’t left anything behind, and then we drove away. Just like that.

Driving the 9 hours from Jacksonville to Nashville was old hat for me, I’d been doing it at least once a year with my parents for most of my life, but something about this drive on this day made everything stand out in sharp focus. With each passing minute, the realization that I was driving further away from the life I knew and into one I didn’t became harder and harder to ignore. I listened to angry music as loud as my ears could stand it, I cried, I called friends back home to pass the time. We stopped at a Wal-Mart so I could buy a car charger for my phone, so I could keep calling, keep up that lifeline I was so desperate to not let go of.

We got stuck in unmoving traffic in Chattanooga, forcing drivers to turn off A/Cs for fear of cars overheating in the thick July air, and at that moment I felt as if I were being punished. I could no longer remember the reasons I was doing this. I missed my parents, I knew that. I’d graduated from college two months earlier with no real purpose, no desire to keep working the job I had. I’d lost interest in various aspects of my life. I knew I needed a change, but was overcome with regret the second I’d committed to one.

3 months before moving. I was a very literal Facebook user at the time. 😉

When we finally arrived, many of my extended family were at my parents’ house, eagerly waiting to welcome me with open arms. I’ll never forget the rush of gratitude I felt in those moments, hugging my mom and cousins and aunts and uncles, feeling scared and so sad and so out of place, yet so very loved. Everyone helped unload the U-Haul, and as my uncle was leaving later that day, he looked me in the eyes and said, “This is your home now, Em.” Internally, I recoiled – my heart was still in Jacksonville, and would remain there for quite some time. But I’ve never forgotten those words, and what they’ve come to mean. Home doesn’t have to be where you grew up, or where you were born. Home is wherever you feel loved.

That was 8 years ago, and I remain forever changed because of that decision I made so long ago to move away from everything I’d ever known, a decision that turned out to be the best one I’d ever made, a decision that’s blessed me with friends and family and relationships I never would’ve known. As I approach this new decade of life as someone who is a very different person from that scared 21-year-old, I’m reminded that moving to Nashville was the catalyst for the change I so desperately needed. I don’t think I’d be the person I am today, with 30 looming on the horizon, living in Utah with my husband/best friend who gets me and a fantastic job and more outdoor hobbies than I need, if I hadn’t left Jacksonville. I don’t know who I’d be if I had stayed – but I’m glad I got the opportunity to never find out. 🙂