My 4-Minute Life Story

Per The New York Times’ 30-Day Well Challenge, here’s my 4-minute life story:

I was born on a Tuesday, shortly after my family’s house burnt down. The stress of the trauma put my mom into early labor, but we were both safe. In fact, the doctor told my mom it was probably pre-labor and encouraged her to have a glass of wine and relax. I came along shortly after.

Before I can remember, my parents divorced. I have no memories of my parents being married or living together. I remember being raised by my mother, with the help of my aunts and grandparents. And while I always thought myself a daddy’s girl, I think that was more a pipedream than anything else.

My favorite memories with my dad include watching and playing baseball and snuggling with our dog Sammy. Otherwise, most of my memories with him revolve around his joyriding through fatherhood with little consideration for his children.

As a kid, I spent my time writing. My grandma likes to tell me how before I could even write, I would scribble on page after page of my notebooks writing “stories.”

My brother and I fought like hell as kids. He was my idol but wanted nothing to do with me. In fact, that even lasted through high school. It wasn’t until college that we both finally figured out how to be friends. And, today, I consider him my best friend.

Anyway. My mom enrolled me in tap dance classes as a kid, which I loved. But I have one distinct memory of a photographer telling me to “suck in” my gut. I always knew I was chubby, but that was a real kicker. Enter a lifetime of self-hate.

By the time I was in 6th grade, I opted out of dance class and into sports. I was never very athletic but always very competitive. I played volleyball, basketball and softball through 8th grade, and while I was never very good I loved being apart of the teams (except when we were losing).

When I started high school, we moved out of Detroit and to the suburbs. Holy fuck was that a god damn nightmare. I went from classmates who were on food stamps to having a “friend” who received a Jaguar for her 16th birthday.

I can’t really say I have any good memories from high school. I spent most of my time listening to emo and punk music, sneaking off to shows solo and trying to forget things. But, really, nothing worked.

So when I got to college I immediately fell in love. I basically wasted 4 years on a trash human who did everything he could to control me. He broke up with me during our senior year when his family pressured him with questions about marriage over Thanksgiving break. We shortly got back together with a hell of a lot of rules and regulations. When I realized I was my own person and couldn’t deal with that shit, we broke up. Soon after, I ran away to Chicago.

During my freshman year of college, my stepmom died. She was the definition of a wicked stepmother, but I felt the need to gain some closure so I went to the funeral. It was then that my paternal grandfather told me he regretted not being a bigger part of my life as a child and asked for forgiveness. Of course, I forgave him.

That was an opportunity to reconnect with my father. It didn’t really go so well.

So, back to Chicago. I moved here in 2008, during the height of the recession. Getting a job sucked, so I spent the next few years freelance writing, walking dogs and waitressing. After a series of unfortunate events, I ended up working as a barista at Starbucks.

That job eventually led me to the Chicago Tribune. And while that job sucked, it dictated the future of my career. Gone were the plans to work at a publishing house and I found myself working in content marketing.

While working at the Tribune, I was in a really bad bicycling accident. I shattered my ribs, collapsed both lungs, fractured my pelvis and spine. I think that covers it? I spent a month at Northwestern and three months at my mom’s outside of Detroit recovering. As soon as I was strong enough to, I moved back to Chicago. In retrospect, I’m not sure what for.

It was then that I connected with who would be my future husband.

As part of my recovery, I got involved with different physical challenges. It started with Muderlla, a 5K obstacle course (in the mud). The proceeds went to the fight against violence against women, and I finished the race with three badass chicks.

Since then, I’ve finished two Tough Mudders, the Chicago Marathon, two half marathons and a boatload of other events. Currently, I’m training for my third marathon and after that, I’ve got my second triathlon to work on.

Today, I find myself focused on work and my career. My husband and I bought a house last year (in Chicago) and we’re making plans for the years to come. And while I don’t know exactly what the future will hold, I’m looking forward to the possibilities.

I’ve been through a lot of hardships and I’m at a point in my life where I feel happy, confident and comfortable. I’m thankful for that.

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I Do it with a Purpose

traverse bay

Last month, I set out to accomplish a lot in 2019. Fourteen days in, I think I’m doing a pretty good job of sticking to my resolutions, and I have high hopes for what’s to come.

New Year’s resolutions

We’re nearly at the halfway point of Whole 30. My body is feeling refreshed. When I completed the challenge last year, I spent the majority of the month with a cold. This made it easy to avoid temptations, as my cravings were completely diluted. This month, however, I’m getting by with a strict workout routine and meal prep.

Marathon training starts next week and I’m feeling a bit uncertain. My first “long run” is only 6 miles, but I’ve not run more than a 5K in a few months. Instead, I’ve been focusing on strength training rather than endurance. So I’m hoping the transition is smooth.

The relaunch of Chicago Beer Club has been successful to date. With just one blog due for the month, it’s been an easy accomplishment. Working with PorchDrinking.com has proven to be a huge asset, and I’m looking forward to future opportunities with that outlet.

Up next

As part of a healthier 2019, I signed up for The New York Times 30-day wellness challenge. Every day, there’s a new challenge in my inbox ranging from 6-minute workouts to planning healthy snacks to 4-minute meditation exercises. It’s proven to be a good motivator that requires minimal effort but sufficient reward.

With 23 days off this year, I’m hoping to dedicate more time and funds to travel. We’ll be taking trips to Pennslyvania for a family event and San Francisco for a wedding, but I’d like to squeeze in an adventure down to Florida or even the Bahamas to spend time with friends as well.

Work continues to be a lot of work with an uncertain future. I’ve been looking for the right company to maintain a career with and grow. And while my job shows signs of opportunity, I always feel like I’m playing catchup. 2008 was a rough year to enter the workforce and Tribune layoffs just added more momentum to the punch.

We always enter January inspired, ready to take on the year ahead. But something about 2019 feels different.

Today I Missed My Workout

Christmas morning seems like as good a time as any to reflect. Especially when it’s 6 a.m., you’ve been up for two hours and you’re at your in-laws trying not to wake anyone.

Whole 30

2018 has been a full year. I kicked it off with the Whole 30 program, a diet meant to help you learn more about the foods you eat and how they affect your body. I was proud, and surprised, when I hit the 30-day mark cheat-free and feeling good. As an avid cook, meal prep was something I looked forward to, even if it meant no booze, sugar, carbs and a whole lot of other stuff.

Running

From there, I jumped into training for my second full marathon. Looking back on my training program, I don’t quite remember where I fell off. I know I hit my 18-mile run and missed the 20 miler. But I did a lot on the treadmill, big mistake.

Race day, Memorial weekend, was hot and humid AF. The Top of Michigan Marathon starts in Charlevoix and ends in Harbor Springs, hitting Petoskey along the way. And, unlike the Chicago Marathon, the course is slim. There were maybe 100 marathoners and even fewer supporters along the course.

Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to finish the race. At the halfway mark, I called it quits. The night before, my CamelBak broke and I wasn’t able to carry enough water to stay hydrated in the heat (water stations were limited and some even ran out of cold water). The humidity made it difficult to breathe and the lack of crowd support killed my motivation. Don’t worry though, I signed up for the 2019 race and plan to kick its ass.

Home

The summer was consumed with our new house. We moved in in April and I literally never wanted to leave. From unpacking to decorating to yardwork, it kept us busy. While we still haven’t finished hanging our decor, we did just furnish the third bedroom.

I’m in love with our home, and I think the rest of the family is, too.

Friends and family

We spent time celebrating some of our closest friends throughout the year. Weddings, babies, engagements, big moves and new homes. Even our niece’s first birthday.

I’ve spent a lot of time reflecting on what I’ve lost on here. It’s part of the purpose for my blog—coping, healing and remembering. But 2018 has shown me how lucky I am for what and who I have in my life.

SuperSprint

Training for my first triathlon also kept me busy this summer. Part of the Chicago Triathlon series, the SuperSprint is awesome for first-timers. Event weekend takes place at the end of August and the course is manageable.

Swim, bike, run. That’s the basics of a tri. The atmosphere was electric and the participants were incredible. So much support and inspiration. While not as physically difficult as a marathon, a triathlon is more mentally taxing.

This is another race I’ve already signed up for in 2019. This year, my goal was to finish. Next year, I’m keeping time. My hope is to one day complete a full triathlon. Until then, I’ll be working on my open-water swimming.

Work, work, work

The end of the year has kind of been swept up with work. Professionally, I’ve been given a number of opportunities to grow and advance, all of which I’ve embraced with open arms. For the first time in a few years, I’m not only satisfied at work but excited for the future.

Personally, I’ve been focusing on my beer blog. The focus the past two months has been on social media, but I’m planning for a 2019 relaunch of the blog. Until then, check us out on Instagram: @chibeerclub.

To help expand my reach, network and knowledge, I joined PorchDrinking as a copy editor and social media coordinator. I’ve only been working with the team for a couple of weeks, but it’s been a positive experience so far.

2019 and beyond

I think 2019 will look a lot like this year, only refined. I’ve learned so much and have so many things I want to accomplish next year. More travel. More learning. More growing.

I Never Trusted My Own Eyes.

beer and work

November is National Novel Writing Month (#NaNoWriMo). To put a spin on things, yet still get inspired, I’ve chosen to work on re-launching my (other) blog: Chicago Beer Club. If you thought this blog was poorly maintained, my craft beer blog is way worse off.

My goal is to develop it as a portfolio for myself. While I enjoy sharing personal stories here, it’s not something I would feel comfortable citing in a job interview.

On top of that, #ChiBeerClub is much more than a blog. It’s a social presence (currently on Instagram and Twitter, with more platforms to launch in 2019). This fits nicely with my professional role as a social and digital editor. While I work at a content marketing agency in our financial services vertical, the craft beer industry is much more interesting and exciting (to me, anyway). But the beer industry hires from within, so I’m just looking for a way to get my foot in that door.

In deciding to re-launch ChiBeerClub, I considered making a greater commitment to Bee Sophia, as well. With an editorial calendar, getting ahead on my writing and automated social publishing for my other blog, I’m hoping both can be manageable. While I’m likely biting off more than I can chew, my goal is to continue sharing here. In the meantime, check out ChiBeerClub to see what I’m up to and to keep tabs on whether or not I’m living up to my goals.

Cheers!

Story Stayed the Same

To say that writing saved me would be dramatic. I’ve had a strong, supportive network of humans to help along the way. But I won’t let that diminish the role writing has played in my healing, understanding and acceptance throughout the years.

Time and time again, I’ve turned to writing for support and guidance. I’ve told journals things I wouldn’t dare tell another sole. Putting pencil to paper allowed me to work through emotions, understand my internal struggles and come out at the end of a page with the ability to move forward, or at least an idea for how to get started.

Historically, I’ve done all this through the form of poetry. I spent my high school years pining over the tragic life of poets Sylvia Plath and her husband Ted Hughes. I romanticized the stereotypical emotionally sensitive lifestyle of a poetic personality and threw my childish words into prose poetry. And it made me feel good. It made me feel excited and understood, even if I never felt quite like I fit in.

As a creative writing major in college, I spent many roundtable sessions editing my peers’ work and also had my own put on the chopping block. And, somehow, I always felt as though I was coming up short. Either I wasn’t eloquent enough, profound enough or “deep” enough… whatever that means.

So, following college graduation, I didn’t head back for a master’s degree in creative writing. I was far too inferior for that. My best hope was to go into publishing, but 2008 Chicago had other things in mind.

Instead, I found myself writing and editing for a plumbing and piping consultation firm and a trivia company. Research became both as interesting and important to me as writing had always been. And as my career continued, research would be the driving force behind it as I dove into content marketing—a field where I must become an expert in whatever industry my client is focused.

And while this was never a career I saw in my future, it’s where I’ve found myself excel. I get to write, and sometimes I can even weave in a little creativity. It’s also helped me find my passion and expertise in editing. While this is something I always had an interest in, creative writing is a tricky form for the editor’s eye. How can you correct someone’s poetry? That shit comes from the soul.

But through all this, I find that I’ve lost my poetry. I think I started this blog with the intent to draft from that poet’s mindset. But, instead, I find myself focusing on research-driven topics or drafting in stream of conscious. The digital disconnect is easy to blame; there’s just something about putting pen to paper and scribbling until your hand hurts—capturing every error, rewrite or addition along the way.

I’ve toyed with the idea of poetry challenges. Signing myself up for readings, workshops or just about anything to get the creativity flowing again. The thing is, I only want to write for me.

“Better to write for yourself and have no public, than to write for the public and have no self.” – Cyril Connolly

Turned All My Ls into Lessons

When I don’t know what to do or how to feel, I write. I write in hopes of finding some sort of safety, connection, security. I don’t know if writing has ever helped me figure out what to do or how to feel. But I can say that writing put me at ease. It calms me and strengthens me.

I haven’t been focused on self-maintenance the past couple of years. I threw myself into wedding planning upon getting engaged, and from there I was dedicated to marathon training. After that, selling the condo and getting into our new house. I’ve given myself goals for distraction from the emotional difficulties I’ve faced. Even currently, I’m (half-assedly) training for the Chicago Triathlon Super Sprint.

In all of this distraction, I find a comfortable pace. But somewhere along the way, I collapsed emotionally. It’s only  here with my thoughts that I’ve been at my best. When I can navigate my self doubt, triumps and failures. When I can reminice and remember, smiling at the good and cringing with the bad. But in my head is no place to live. Those moments are memories and are worth moving on from.

So how do I find happiness in the present? I’ve come to terms with the inescapble fact that I will never get closer and may never truly move on. Do we ever, even when the damage is repaired?

So what’s next? Where do I go from here? I’ll turn to the things that I love. I’ll turn to the written word, long adventures with no destination and enabling change. I’ll be busy and maybe it will all just be a distraction, but I know that’s where I can find happiness. I’ll stop trying to fill a gap and start trying to heal.

Someone Who I Used to Know

Holy fuck, I think I had a breakthrough.

I saw a ghost today at the climbing gym—no, it wasn’t an actual ghost, of a climber who had fallen to their death. I thought I saw someone I used to know. Spoiler alert: It wasn’t her.

While I haven’t seen or spoken to this person in almost five years, I do think about her from time to time. But immediately upon seeing her look-a-like, I flashed back to our last actual conversation. And it reminded me of the importance of letting go and moving on. It reminded me that you have to listen to what other people are saying and just accept it.

I do hope this is a milestone for me when it comes to the “grieving” process, but I’m not convinced it’s over. I still have a long way to go toward coming to terms with my lost relationship and moving on, but I’d like to think I made some progress today.

It’s always easier to give advice than it is to take it. But today, today I had the opportunity to take my own advice. And while I can understand and respect the point of view, it’s still hard as hell to accept.