Turning 35 & 180 degrees

Today I turn 35 years old. And, to celebrate one helluva trip around the sun over the past year (think 180 degrees of reinventing myself & taking back control of my own happiness), I’m dusting off the virtual pen-pad… yep, it’s time to start writing again.

Before jumping straight into life as it is right now (looking down the barrel of a beautiful milestone) I thought it’d be good to look back at the past year. Because, man alive, it’s been one crazy, beautiful, BIG year.

This time last year, I was celebrating turning 34 in Istanbul, Turkey – exploring the sites & sounds of a culture where historic meets modern, & east meets west. Looking for depth of connection in a land that was very foreign to me. Travel is an innate part of my being, so giving into the moment & experiencing a beautiful people, under a harsh sun was an amazing and, at times, otherworldly start to a new year on the planet. 

Wandering the streets of Istanbul, shopping in the Grand Bazaar, & wading underground in ancient cisterns blew my mind apart in a beautifully explosive way. I was blessed to head to Gallipoli to pay tribute to ANZAC soldiers (alongside their Turkish peers) 100 years after the Great War. And, spent a week on the Lycian Coast – swimming in the Med, eating amazing food, & making memories to last a lifetime. What a mind-bender that trip was! Each moment served as a reminder of how short, & how full a life could be when truly lived.

Fast forward one year. Everything – & I mean everything, has changed. My outlook. My friendship circle. My family. My wardrobe. My home. My passions. My balance. Everything. And, since we all know change is hard for even those with the most positive outlook amongst us – the past 365 days have been, at times, beyond hard. The good news? It’s all good news… but it takes time to get to that point.

Which brings me to now: After an amazing night in West Hollywood with new friends (not to mention a most serendipitous meeting with an old friend)… the world couldn’t seem more right.  Cocktails, laughter, & starlit kisses are the ideal way to ring in a birthday! 

Now cruising the I-15 to Las Vegas, a giant Diet Dr Pepper is well in hand & ice cold. My soulmate is riding shotgun. We’re both singing loudly (& gorgeously off key) to our holiday playlist. And, the road ahead is clear. My only goal for the next 72 hours is to enjoy friends, pools, shopping, & my beloved. Zero stress. All relax.

See? 180 degrees.

So… with 180 degree turns in mind, I’ve been asking myself one question lately: “What have I learned in the past year?” My head and my heart have the same answer: A lot. I’ve learned a lot. Distilling down “a lot” into some actionable & shareable points has been a practice in frustration, in focusing on what’s important, & in filtering what’s not.

Here are a few of the most important lessons the last year has taught (or, re-taught) me…

ACTIVELY PURSUE YOUR HAPPINESS
Seriously – this is one all of us need to work on. There will always be work, taxes, mortgages… adulting is hard. Very, hard! And, being happy in today’s ever connected world takes work & the ability to embrace fun moments when they come. I for one can attest to the fact that making changes – even if they’re for the better – can be the most difficult thing you’ll ever do. We all get comfortable with the same ‘ol, same ‘ol. Even the thought of change can be terrifying. But, actively making decisions that lead to happiness means you get to take back control of you.

And, at times baby steps are the better than sprinting. Because, if you’re missing your “Happy”, then you’re not truly living. Let’s be realistic, with high-highs come low-lows… hang on tight & enjoy the bumpy ride.

The harder you push, & the higher you prioritize happiness, the bigger the positive impact. The more the laughter. And the lighter the soul. Go on, chase your joy!

GET COMFORTABLE WITH FAILURE
This is one I’ve really fought against & wrestled with this year. Failure has always walked beside me, sometimes we even run hand in hand together – but usually failure has lead me to success after readjustments & hard work to reach a goal. Not so these past 365 days.

Failure  & I have been in each other’s faces, beds, minds, & hearts. You could say, we’re new-age-besties. And, although I fought my bestie & actively ran from failure… we’re cool with each other now.

Because, when it comes down to it, accepting failure – sometimes over & over & over again – means you’re able to realistically set expectations. And, in turn, find joy & sunlight in even the darkest moments.

Also, this isn’t to say there weren’t any moments to celebrate in the last year in my life. In fact, along with the low-lows, I’ve experienced the highest-of-highs. I’ve embraced moments of pure love, gentle comfort, & overwhelming success.

So, while I’m much more comfortable with failure now… I try to never lose sight of the fact that sweating the small (or big) stuff helps only to fan the flames of failure. Looking out for moments of thankfulness & celebrating all successes make for a life well lived.

IT’S TOTALLY OKAY TO CRY
This goes without saying – because believe me, spending an entire week listening to Adele on repeat isn’t just good for healing the soul, but also for drying out ye olde tear ducts. There were times when I thought my entire body might run dry from crying.

And, it wasn’t until I embraced the fact that it was okay to mourn change – that I allowed myself to heal. The old saying about salt water curing anything is true – tears & the ocean can act as salve for a troubled soul.

Having a strong group of friends & loved ones around to cry with also helps. There’s more strength in crying & showing emotion than there is weakness. And sharing your broken pieces with those who love you best only helps to strengthen the seams where they’ve split.

For me, I was lucky to find someone who loves me wholly, unapologetically, & without bounds – all at a time when I wasn’t sure I was even a little bit lovable. Crying has never been seen as weak with my One, merely a moment to “feel” & then move forward.

So, if those tears start falling, let them.

BE YOU, All OF YOU
Seriously, this is a big one. For me, it’s the biggest piece of advice I could ever hope to impart on anyone. Being anything other than who you are is shithouse. People are going to talk. They’re going to judge. They’re going to be small-minded & hardhearted. But, you know what? Who honestly gives a flying f*%k?  Not me. Not anymore.

Heading back to that 180 turn for me, this year taught me who & what really matter in my universe. I’ve learned that love is simple if you’re honest about it. I’ve also learned that the haters can be pushed aside as dead weight in your emotional works. Because, the people who love you tend to love you more when you’re completely open & honest about who you are & what you believe in.

So what does this next year have in store? If it continues as it’s started, there will be adventures, laughter, music, sunshine, rainbows, friends, family, music & love. Talk about a year to look forward to!

 

The Social Media Un-Guru

My day job is an exiting one. In the course of a day I get to be part storyteller, part creative, part strategist, part marketing geek, part student, and part teacher.

Because my role is focused on the complicated world of social media as a whole, I’m most often defined as “our social guru”. The best part about being “our social guru” at work is that people are happy to claim me out loud – which makes my nerd heart very happy.

I love learning non-stop about how people act and interact online in a social space, but I’m no guru in any sense traditional or new-age.  I’m a storyteller, a connector, a passionate lover of human psychology, and a person fascinated by people. I love finding out what sets in stone and proliferates bias in a community. I also find great pleasure in cracking into deep-data-dives which make my head spin with insights and ideas to help businesses and individuals connect on a real, old-fashioned level (even though the connection mechanic is new).

But, a guru I am not. Not a fully fledged one anyhow.

To start at the definition of the work, guru is a noun which means “teacher” in Sanskrit. As a noun it means the imparter of knowledge. On these accounts I could say, yep, I’m a bit of a guru. Teaching others and expanding their knowledge base is the most important thing any of us can do, so in this sense I draw much joy from being a guru in the traditional sense. And, I try to teach someone something new each day – as well as push myself to learn constantly and let others teach me!

That said, I’m not teaching in a world of traditional Sanskrit and glorious gurus – in fact, in a modern, western digital society the term “social media guru” has a beaty-chesty connotation to it. Braggadocious even. And that’s because, in the short history of social media, many self-styled gurus turned out to be little more than modern day charlatans pulling the wool and promising the moon (branding social media the silver bullet of cheap marketing success) while charging out the ears.

In fact, these self-styled gurus have done more harm than good for social media realists like myself. Their vocabulary is non-definitive and their promises empty. But, luckily, most savvy businesses with solid social strategies are leaving these old-school gurus behind and searching out people who can tell amazing (genuine) stories in real-time while also demonstrating a discernible return on investment.

I like to think of the people above – myself included – as revolutionists of thought and creativity. To me, we are today’s mass-market storytellers focused on the individuals we are selling to as just that, individuals. Targeted advertising and creative means we say the right thing at the right time and we teach others (even our competitors) by showing what we are about. And, hopefully, offering value to each person as we interact with them.

I like to call us “Social Media Un-gurus”. I could write for years on the attributes of un-gurus – but I think most of what I’d say would be pretty commonsensical. To get people to connect, you need to care and work on an even and genuine playing field. Sharing insights, passion, and technology will keep us all connected. And it’ll be those un-gurus who change with the times and experiment that rise to the top.

 

social-media-gurus

 

 

Hard days and rainbows

Today was a crappy day. Well, for someone as perennially happy as I usually am, it was. Up at the crack of dawn and in to the office hours before most, I really did start off with a smile on my face. Really, I did. I was expecting rainbows, not storm clouds.

But, with one small, seemingly innocuous exchange, it all went downhill. A few sobs in the bathroom stall and tear drops staining my dress later, and I pulled myself together outwardly.

Pulled together not because I was ready to stop my pity party, or because I wanted to have a really good boohoo. But, because emotion in the workplace is frowned upon for the most part – or has been in past professional lives that I’ve lived. In most professional settings, happiness is a weakness. Passion is, too. Tears? Man, you must really be an unbalanced wreck.

I have never, and will never be an automaton. I am human, as are my colleagues. I love what I do. Literally, love my job. And, that’s why I enjoy working where I work right now.

The people I work with, and spend most of my waking hours with, are fun. They’re smart. They’re complex. They’re kind. And…they show emotion. When you need a quiet hug, you’ll find it. No judging. Just the knowledge that we are all people working for a common goal.

Knowing this settles my heart.

Beyond everything, the days filled with rainbows and successes far outnumber the hard days. And I know, if it weren’t for the rough stuff, the good stuff wouldn’t be as fabulous.

Right now, at home with my family (cooking dinner and writing poetry with the mini-me) I’m happy and thankful. And, hoping the rainbows are back tomorrow.

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Another day above ground…

Hello there, Monday. Here we are again. Another early morning. Another early start. Everyone on the bus today looked like they’d been dragged from warmer, more secure dreams to fave another week. And, looking around, only a few people looked pretty happy to be blessed with the promise of more time above ground.

I wanted to get up and sing (badly, and without fear of being committed to the nuthouse) – or dance. Sitting dour-faced with weary passengers surrounding me…I could shout:
“C’mon people! It’s Monday! Monday!”

For me, Mondays are like a new beginning every 6 days. Now, if you think about it, that’s a pretty lucky thing, isn’t it? So many new beginnings. More sunny mornings. Birdsong vibrating the dewdrops on spider webs outside the front door.

Over the weekend I was blessed with time amongst friends, amongst family… And lots of sunshine and laughter (I should probably mention the champagne, too, because it was delicious).

Thousands of tiny moments that roll into one to create my perception of luck and blessings to be awake and alive today. Work is full of fun & like-minded people, home is where the love is. And the wider world is an experience a minute.

Here’s to today. Another day above ground. Get outdoors.

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The beauty in a blank page

You know those people in life who constantly make you feel new, fresh, and curious? They make us all feel alive. They make us delve deeper in the everyday world. They force us outside of our comfort zones. And they ask deep, probing questions that go far below the surface.

While these folks might both stoke the fire of our passions and at the same time drive us nuts, there’s no question in my mind that they are the ones who change the world – one thought at a time. Through their infectious way of communicating, they teach others to look at the world around them and to change it.

One such person in my life presented me with his greatest fear once. To him, a blank piece of paper was something that made him tremble with apprehension. Give him a few bullet points, a framework, or a simple sentence about a concept or an idea and he was off to the races on different ways to solve the problem in front of him. But, given nothing to work with but pen and paper, he stalled.

For me, someone who loves the challenge of creating words and phrases that spin a story at a set cadence, this point of view was life changing. “WHAT DO YOU MEAN YOU’RE AFRAID OF A BLANK PAGE?” I wanted to shout. Just think of all of the possibilities. The stories that could be written and consumed voraciously by a captive audience. The data that could be formulated to tell a completely different kind of tale.

For me, a blank sheet of paper is a lot of things. It’s new start. There’s something fresh and clean, and almost healing, about the untapped potential in front of me.  There are no expectations, strategies or objectives set – other than writing, feeling, communicating. I love this!

And whether I get an audience can be 1, or none… a blank sheet of paper is therapy.  It’s invigorating, it’s time to step out of my own consciousness and create. Time to understand. Because, sometimes what you write without the weight of expectation is the healing salve with which the soul regenerates.

So to me – there’s beauty in nothing. Especially when that nothingness is a blank page, a free hour to write, and a wandering mind.

Why I STILL love going to the gym (after all these years)

The gym. A place where dreams are made, goals are set, bodies are ripped, sweat is dripped, and everyone has a story about why the heck they’re here instead of anywhere else in the world.

For most of my adult life I’ve been a member of a gym. My reasons for joining gyms – and even more so for staying – have changed throughout the years, though. And it’s only now as I sit and think about it, that I can see the reasons why I truly do love going to the gym (still) after all these years.

It all started when I was 14yrs old. Coming into my own as a young teenager, and getting over two years of intense illness that stripped me of the ability to even stand up, let alone play a sport or exercise, the gym was a place where I could get stronger. Where I could work on catching up. Playing sports better. Bonding with friends. The gym was a little bit of everything for me as I navigated the uncertain waters of growing up and finding myself in social situations.

Going to the gym each day helped me set firm foundations in making my self-confidence and self-belief priorities. Because I saw positive changes in myself with hard work, I learned very young to invest in my health & well-being. As a woman, this set the foundations for the rest of my journey.

In my early 20’s (pre-family), the gym became a place where I could get stronger physically and forge deeper friendships in a safe place. Gyms were harbors in strange cities and countries where I felt comfortable in my surroundings. No matter where I was in the world, I was surrounded by like-minded people, heavy weights. And, the more I lifted, the less the weight of the world seemed to weigh on my shoulders. I studied. I ate. I exercised. I hung out with friends. And then I repeated the cycle over and over again.

That is, until I met the love of my life. At 23yrs old I married my best friend. Knowing me like he did (and still does) my hubby realized that gym time was a sacred time for me. A time to recharge my batteries. Burn off margaritas. And find an inner-zen. A balance between fun times and health. After we married and our daughter was born, we packed up everything we owned, but it in a shipping container and moved to the Southern Hemisphere.

For a California girl, packing up house, home, baby, and husband and heading to New Zealand was a bit mind-bending.  As a young wife and mother, the gym was becoming less about looks and strength and more about “me time”. I yearned for balance and confidence. For silence, a wandering mind, and an hour to get lost in a good book. Once again, the gym became my savior.

Into my 30’s now, and the gym has become something different again. For me, the gym is about saving time and money (by not having to buy new clothes!), and less about looks.  All of the cliches about being comfortable in my own skin and enjoying working out just for the sake of it – they’re all true as you age. Right now the gym is a mish-mash of meanings for me. Borrowed emotions from my teenage years, the growth of my 20’s and now finding a happiness beyond looks as a comfortably settled woman in her 30’s.

So, yep. I think I’ll stop typing now, put on my running shoes, and head for the gym. To, ya know, find my zen.

:o)

 

 

Idiots With Guns eating at the Sonic Burger

Excuse me while I share a piece of my mind.

I recently saw a photo of a group of 5 rednecks (I love rednecks, by the way) sitting at a Sonic Burger eating their lunch in peace with a nonchalant air about them as they slurped up their Coca-Colas and Mr Pibbs. Most of the time, I’m don’t take the world too seriously. I try to highlight the positive in situations and laugh when a silver lining presents itself. Most of the time.

This time, I was appalled by the photo.

WHY? I’ll tell you why. These men, who look like they’ve just passed through puberty and shouldn’t be trusted with razors to shave their peach fuzz let alone with anything that could mean life and death of others, were chowing down with LARGE RIFLES STRAPPED TO THEIR BACKS. Yep. Hunting weapons that would make anyone with a sense of self-preservation shake in their boots a teeny bit (or a lot).

After posting this photo on social media, the men in the image as well as their supporters online (because, let’s face it, there are always very LOUD and OPINIONATED idiots shouting on the internet) have reacted shocked. They’re taken aback by the fact that anyone (ahem, most people) would find offense in this particular situation.

YOU HAVE TO BE JOKING! No really. You must be taking the pi$$.

There is no way I would ever take myself or my family to eat at at a place where people are allowed to intimidate others simply by wearing their firearms (RIFLES PEOPLE) in public. Your right to bear arms does not give you the right to flaunt said guns in public places like restaurants. And, before every hillbilly with an opinion jumps in, I’m okay with guns if they’re used as they are intended. If you’re hunting deer, take your rifles into the woods. The only reason you would ever need to wear them in public is in the highly unlikely event of a zombie apocalypse. That’s it.

Ordering a chocolate shake and polishing off a Sonic Burger aren’t times in which your loaded weapons (or even your unloaded weapons) should be on display. Where in the world has common sense gone? Common decency? Apparently they’ve gone the way of the Dodo and been replaced by even bigger dummies instead.

I’ve tried very hard not to weigh in on the gun-control debate for a long time. The pro-gun contingent that make the loudest noise usually do so to bully and harass people who think there should actually be some weight behind background checks. I truly beliebe that the rules that allow Joe Bloggs to come in off the street and buy a semi-automatic weapon and hundreds of rounds of ammunition in an urban area are ridiculous, loose, weak and allow for instances like UCSB time and time again.

I personally come from a rural place where my family always had hunting weapons (guns, bows and arrows, knives) – but we always, always, always had our weapons locked up and never put them on display. My family would be horrified if any of us ever took a gun out with the intent of intimidating others. If you need a gun to prove you’ve got a pair of cajones, you need to get that space in between your ears checked. Dumb. Dumber. Dumbest. I really worry about the way the USA is heading.  

What is so wrong with putting your guns away in your vehicle while you stop to eat in a public place? What about simple, decent respect for others? Why are we allowing others to intimidate the public so openly? Because they went to the local gun shop and got a freaking $30 gun license? What a joke.

The constitution says we have a right to be armed. But, I have a right to feel safe in public. This is getting stupid. Throw all of your numbers at me. Go on. Yell. Rant. Holler. Do what you will. The thing is, I’ve seen too many people I love hurt by guns. Legal ones. I see intimidation and I know the real fear of standing up for myself and wondering if the guy I’m standing up to has a gun.

Protect yourself, sure. But don’t be idiots about it. Leave your weapons in the car when you stop for a burger. Seems like a good enough start to me…

Rant over.

Moving at the speed of life

Isn’t it a curious thing – the pace of life? Somedays seem like a sprint from beginning to end, while others are easy, tempered with moments of reflection.

If time is measured on the rate of change, then surely the speed of life is that which dictates our age. Somedays, weary to the bone. Others, hoping out of bed before dawn anxious to greet a new day.

How do you live it? What’s your speed at the moment?

Me? Somewhere between a jog and a sprint. And I love every single step I’m able to take along the way…

The unintended (happy) consequences of running out of data

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At some point on the 25th of December, just before four friends from the USA arrived for two weeks of fun and adventures, my mobile photo data for the month came to an end. Yep, somehow I’d used up every last mega-giga-micro bite thingy that I’m allotted each month.

I’ve never in my adult life EVER used up all of the data on my phone. Ever. There’s always a buffer for those ‘just in case moments’ in life. And by ‘just in case’ I don’t mean having to call for assistance or to get something urgent or even slightly important done – but rather those “OMG! I must Instagram/Facebook/Vine/Snapchat this!” moments.

Having no data felt so foreign. So crazy. So…so weird. Truth be told I felt slightly helpless and a little bit lost. I also felt disconnected. All in the space of 15 seconds or so.

After a moment of deep breathing, I looked up from my phone and made a split-second decision. For the next 10 days (until my data would be renewed again from the font of monthly mobile plans) I’d just turn off as often as humanly possible. I know, I know…shock, horror. Right?

Wrong. After my initial panic from knowing that I’d have to effectively “turn off” for ten days (I’d have to check in for work a few times a day), I embraced the awesomeness that is the silence of being unconnected to a device. No beeping. No little red flags calling my attention away from more immediate conversations and instants. Nope, I lived life in the here-and-now for the first time in a long time. And, wowzah, did it resonate with me!

Do you remember those times as a kid when you’d spend all day with a group of friends? You’d get up in the morning, go to someone’s house, wait for the whole crew to show up and then start adventuring. My best friends and I would hike in the local hills, ride bikes, go to the movies, play games, swim, run around, and so much more. All in a day! We connected on long summer days, before and after school, and on the weekends in ways that I’ve never connected with other people since. We formed bonds that are, to this day, unbreakable. All because we got to know each other down to the deepest parts of our beings. We learned to trust each other. To love each other – warts and all.

In today’s hyper-connected world we’re so pitifully unconnected. Having a cup of coffee with a friend usually involves 14 other conversations on other devices and leaves any of us little bandwidth to concentrate on the people right there in front of us (refer to the photo of my friends in a cafe on a recent road trip we took across New Zealand’s North Island). There are always photos to be uploaded, bragging rights to be posted, blogs to be written. All with someone sitting right in front of us.

It’s a sad state of affairs. Really, it is. Where have our attention spans gone? The worst part is that most people, myself included, don’t know they’ve been sucked into the vortex until someone who’s come out the other side (or avoided it all together) makes a point to call you out on your behavior. Or when your data runs out and you realize how silly feeling anxious about that is.

I, for one, will put my hand up and admit extreme guilt in being over connected. In not spending enough time just enjoying cracking jokes out on the lawn with my kid, in not savoring every sip of wine with my husband sitting next to me. For a long time I was confused, always looking for the next big thing to spark my interest or passion. The truth is, I was never focused enough on living in the moment to actually realize that everything I needed was already right in front of my face – it was just that my face was obscured by technology more often than not!

From here on out though, I’m changing. I will be making one helluva concerted effort to put my phone on silent. Leave it behind more often. Not allow it to record every waking moment of my life and of the lives of people I love. Sorry iPhone, it’s not you – it’s me. And, right here, right now I am changing gears.

Life’s for living. 100% focus on who I’m with. 100% focus on being in the moment and creating great memories…not great selfies. Here’s to the new revolution. The anti-unlimited data revolution.

Go on…turn off everything. I dare you.

On Resolutions and New Starts

As the clock struck midnight and 2013 turned into 2014, I looked around me and took in as much of the moment as I could and hugged my loved ones. There were fireworks exploding above us,  a cheering crowd surrounding us, and icy cold champagne in abundance. Yes! This is the stuff life is made of.

Now, in the cold hard light of day in a new January (I’m staring at it squinty eyed) I have a bit of time to look back, and forward.  I sit here contemplating life. And new starts. And resolutions. And all of the other things that a New Year encompasses (like promises to be better versions of ourselves, to work harder, to makes lists, set goals, to cross things off of said lists…I’ll start with the groceries).

Lots of people see the beginning of a new year as a new start – a way to ensure the past remains the past, and that infinite possibilities of the future rule the day. By the same token, there sure are a lot of folks who poo-poo the idea of New Years resolutions.

As for me, I love New Years, and I love resolutions. Here’s why:

1. The next year stretches vast in front of me – I can aim to have my own TV talk show or to lose 10lbs in the next trip around the sun, and I do truly believe, that if I set myself a time limit to have these things happen that they will.

2. Hope reigns supreme – by nature I am a hopeful person, this means that resolutions and New Years bring hope, wonder and joy all locked in the simple idea of ‘potential’. Unlimited happiness is ahead, surely!

3. It’s easy to throw the bad stuff from the past out the window and leave it there – yep, leaving the past behind, but having a reason to do so and a date to do it on makes giving up the ghost of past hurts a bit easier (at least for me). Life’s too short to hold onto the negative crap. New Years is a good time to just release it.

So there you have it – some of the reasons why I love New Years and resolutions. This year’s resolution(s)? Too many to mention. But don’t worry, I’ve made a list!