happiness

What Do You Do For Fun?

I’m going to say it: from about age 27 to age 33, I had no hobbies. My hobby was this business: getting it going, growing it bigger, making it better.

For years, I tried to buy only clothes I could wear to work. I tried to read books that would apply to my job. I had this singular focus that I thought admirable. And I would have kept on this path probably indefinitely.

What finally made me question my life: I was at a party where someone asked me very innocently what I did for fun. 

And I had no answer. It was the most boring I’ve ever felt.

If it is one thing I understand to my core is that I am not a boring person.

So I attempted to diversify. I started hosting people on AirBnB and began planning for Anchorspace (which is now open). These were my first attempt at diversifying.

Ha, nice try, Nicole. Filling your time with more money-making things. Still no answer to the question of what you do for fun.

How can I be bad at having fun?

This clearly had to change.

I am now in a young adult book club… and I have struggled to go to a single monthly hangout that involves wine and reading a book most people could read in half a day. Like most things that are fun and good for you, I always feel great once I’m there. It has been nice to now have at least one thing to say when someone asks me my hobbies.

But how ridiculous I feel lying on the couch reading “Paper Towns” for four hours is interesting to me. Many people would spend that many hours watching television, building miniature airplanes, or whatever it is they do to relax and not feel a thing about it. I feel guilty. I have to make myself do it.

I added more things to practice making myself have fun. Since then, I’ve tried standup comedy and podcasting. I bought bright blue pants. I took singing lessons. And it all felt a little uncomfortable at first… and then it wasn’t.

Good news? It’s getting easier. And as it does, I’ve been thinking about less structured fun. Can I build an hour of fun into a Wednesday? Maybe if I had a list of things that sounded fun, I could just pick from them.

I tried to come up with a list and was initially blank.

Then I realized I was trying too hard. So I have a list in a notebook and when I think of something that sounds fun, I write it down. Then when I’m bored, I can refer to it.

As I try to think of being an interesting person who is a creative and has fun, I think of this post from Elizabeth Gilbert, which I’ve saved from her book “Big Magic”:

Dear Ones -As many of you know by now, my new book BIG MAGIC: CREATIVE LIVING BEYOND FEAR is coming out on September…

Posted by Elizabeth Gilbert on Monday, July 13, 2015

While it was important to make myself do the thing, I couldn’t put pressure on doing more stuff but instead, build the space for it to come in and out.

The other interesting part of this is it has been difficult to transition to someone who doesn’t share all the time. That’s part of ‘fun’ for me: not worrying about the presentation of it. So just enjoying the sunset (versus taking a picture of it and posting it to Instagram) has been a change for me.

Because of making room for fun and making sure it is something that isn’t done with another ulterior motive (like building my Instagram), my creativity (like finding more fun things to do) is increasing all the time.

I’ve now written things that aren’t on the internet, tried things I wasn’t very good at (ask Eric about the scarf I knit him), and otherwise have become a much more well rounded person, with some effort anyway.

Remember, when you are at a party, you want to say a few things you do for fun that don’t necessarily make you money… because life’s too short to feel like you’re boring. And the next time someone asks you at a party ‘What do you do for fun?’ I hope you’re as happy with your answers as I am with mine.

What Running 20 Miles in the Middle of the Night Taught Me About Life

Many months ago, one of my friends jumped out of bed and proclaimed (with meaningful background music), “I’m going to go for a 100 mile run this summer!”

Actually, I’m not sure how it all went down, but I like to imagine it with a dramatic flair.

Once I determined that he was still sane, I agreed to help to run a fraction of it with him. After all, this is the person who convinced me a couple years ago that I could totally run a marathon, and has dragged me through a couple so far. So, I figured the least I could do was return the favor.

And that’s the story of the (first) time I volunteered to run 20 miles in the middle of the night on the Sunrise Trail. My friend started running around 4 p.m., and I joined in from midnight to 4 a.m. (aka The Graveyard Shift). Here are a few life lessons I learned along the way:



1) Sometimes, you need to readjust. Less than 2 miles in, I got vague pain in my head. No worries, I reassured myself, this is all new territory, you had a lot of caffeine today and are running at midnight. But by mile 5, this headache had grown to epic proportions.  I didn’t want to say anything, partially because of the searing pain and partially because I felt responsible for getting my friend through the next few hours of running. Don’t be a flake! screamed the voice in my head.

And then, we made a brief pitstop to adjust headlamps (this was my first time wearing one). Almost as soon as I took mine off, a surge of blood rushed back into my head. That’s right. My headache was the result of cutting off circulation to my own brain via headlamp.

A crude artistic rendition of the incident. Note: There was actually a bunny, and the stars were amazing.

A crude artistic rendition of the incident. Note: There was actually a bunny, and the stars were this amazing.

While this was, to say the least, uncomfortable, there’s a good life take-away: as you move about your day/life in general, if you feel like your head is about to explode (literally or figuratively), then something needs to change. The answer may not be as simple as oxygen deprivation, but once you find the solution, moving forward becomes a lot easier.

2) Trading passion for glory isn’t worth it (that’s right, Eye of the Tiger). So, the biggest question people had about the whole running 100 miles was “Why?” Well, my friend basically said, “Why NOT?” It amazed me that someone could be so passionate about, well, anything. The fact that there was no tangible prize at the end of this thing baffled me. He was just doing it for the sheer sake of doing it.

This reminded me how refreshing it is to do something you love free of ulterior motives. I’m guilty of getting a bit too competitive when I run, despite the knowledge that it’s bad for my mental well-being. In this undertaking, my friend reminded me (note: he has also told me this on many, many other occasions) that relying on external factors, be they medals, praise, a promotion, etc., isn’t a great reason to do something. Do it because it’s what you love to do, and let that be all.



3) It’s an adventure! Towards the end of my shift, neither one of us spoke unless necessary (me due to sleep deprivation, and my friend because he’d been running for almost 12 hours at this point). The only noises were our feet hitting dirt, some bullfrogs, and an owl. At one point, probably around 3 a.m., it was dark- as if all the light but our headlamps had been sucked in a vacuum. And then, the sun started to rise.

Perhaps delirious, I got inexplicably excited by this. We were running toward the sun! It was all an adventure! Life is an adventure!!! My brain was full of exclamation points.

This was definitely the song playing in my head.

This was definitely the song playing in my head.

At this point, I was reveling in the craziness of running 20 miles at midnight, and was struck with how awesome my surroundings were- the trees, the frogs, the flowers, the sky. Finding joy in the simple things genuinely makes the world seem like a better place, no matter where you are.

4) Never underestimate your friends. I know I’ve said this before, but I’m going to say it again: it’s comforting to know that other people will support you, no questions asked. Even if they think you’re a little off your rocker for wanting to run 100 miles in the heat of summer. I was just one of many who participated in this run, and there was a ton of support via Facebook. Sometimes, just showing up is enough. No matter what your goals are, it’s always good to have a support team.

5) Push your limits, but know when enough is enough. Ultimately, due to the heat and humidity, my friend decided to stop running after 85 miles. It was a smart decision, anddifficult to make. Setting goals and aspiring to do things you didn’t know you could do (running 85 miles, learning how to use Photoshop, teaching yourself how to breakdance) leads to personal growth (which you probably already knew), but the tricky part is balancing this with knowing when it’s time to tap out (and not viewing it as ‘giving up’). This is something that I struggle with, and don’t have a cookie-cutter answer for (maybe because it doesn’t exist).

I’m thankful that my friend asked me to be part of this run, and am so proud of what he accomplished. It was a tremendous feat, and it all happened because, quite simply, he wanted it to happen. How many times will you get to run the Sunrise Trail at midnight with a good friend? As many times as you want.



Sometimes You’re the Windshield, Sometimes You’re the Bug

Windshield_vs_Bug

And, this past month, I tended more towards the bug.

May was a difficult month for me, which included tough life events and just having a lot going on. Part of it may be considered self-inflicted, and the other part, the universe working its magic.  Here’s the highlight reel:

1. I decided to move. After living in a place I haven’t been comfortable in for almost a year, something inspired me to (finally) act. So, I talked with my landlords, and began the quest for a new castle.

And, like many things, this was easier said than done. I’d conveniently forgotten that the process of apartment hunting isn’t exactly rainbows and butterflies. In fact, the moving process in general kind of sucks. I’m not much of a planner, and ended up packing everything in my kitchen without considering how eating was going to work out for the next week and a half.

In the end, I reached out to a close friend, and will be living in new place that I’m really excited about. The moral here: it’s okay to admit you need help sometimes. People’s generosity will surprise you.



2. There was a death in my family. In my adult life, I haven’t really encountered death, and especially not the death of someone I love. Pain and hurt (and lots of tears) are all natural to the grieving process, but I also discovered the roses that come with these thorns.

Spending time with my family, even in sorrow, made me realize just how much I love and need them. Plus, I was reminded that my great-aunt was a kind, loving and overall wonderful human being who inspired many people. And maybe, that’s what life is all about.

3.  A couple weeks ago, I ran my second marathon (which had been planned since New Years). While I finished in the time range I’d wanted, I still felt a little disappointed in myself, wondering what I could’ve done differently, done better. It was almost 80 degrees that day, and toward the end, I was struggling. Luckily, an awesome friend jumped in, water in hand, and helped me get through the last push (over a mile).

After the race, I drove back to Bowdoin College to hang out with my brother, and wasn’t paying a whole lot of attention to how my body was doing. I hadn’t really eaten anything, or drank nearly enough water. A few hours later, my brother and his girlfriend graciously took care of me when my body started, well, shutting down due to dehydration.

Driving home later that night, weak and exhausted (maybe a little delirious), I felt incredibly frustrated. I’m still not sure what was more upsetting: finding out the hard way what my limits are, or the knowledge that I have them at all.



4. Steve’s Graduation: Last but not least, my little brother graduates from Bowdoin this weekend (woohoo!). The only negative thing here is Bowdoin (as a Bates alum, this caused some tension during the holidays), but I can look past that, I suppose…

All of these things, good, bad, in-between, made me realize a few things. First, I had the opportunity to reevaluate some things in my life (big and small), and gained some invaluable perspective on what it is I want. Hint: it basically boils down to love and happiness.

Second, you may have noticed the general theme in all of these events: friends and family always bailed me out. Time and time again, it amazes me how many wonderful people surround me. After this month, its a blessing I’m grateful for. If you’re struggling with something in life, even if you think it’s “too trivial” or not worth “bothering” someone over, go ahead and reach out. People can be pretty amazing, and there’s someone out there who’ll take your hand and help.

I lost my debit card and spilled unholy amounts of coffee on myself in the midst of all of this, but hey, maybe in June I’ll be the windshield.



This Week In My Brain: June 25, 2013

On this ridiculously hot day in my life, please appreciate some things that have made me think… and smile online in the last week or so. Mainly courtesy of Pinterest:

computerlesspowerful

 

 

change

 

 

bossvsleader



atleastonepersonpleased

 

If you like these, there is more on my ‘For Thought’ Pinterest board. And if you like my taste in everything (not just quotes but housewares, cool gifts, slightly offbeat sense of humor) you can follow all the boards!



Why One Woman Wrote A Whole Book From An iPhone

This morning, I heard a story  on NPR about a woman who got diagnosed with ALS, a slowly degenerative disease that is eventually fatal. She spent the next year of her life living: travel with her family and doing all those other things you say you’ll do before you go.

She also wrote a book. Since at that time she only had movement in one thumb, she had her husband put her iPhobe in her non moving hand and she typed over 80,000 words with her working thumb into the Notes app on her phone (her iPad keyboard she said was too big to navigate).

I wanted to understand a bit how this felt so I typed this blog entry the same way. It was slow and I got the luxury of correcting my spelling errors, etc. on a full sized keyboard when I posted the blog.

It is amazing what the human spirit can do. Rather than seeing her limits, this woman saw her one working thumb and her still working mind and wrote the book she wanted to. Also made me realize there is more than one way to do something, even if one way takes longer and seems tedious. I thought it was the perfect thing to hear on a Sunday morning when I was feeling a bit sorry for myself feeling under the weather. Made me get up and do something with my day!

If you want to read (or hear) the interview too: http://kgou.org/post/living-life-joy-until-i-say-good-bye

Another great story about the same woman: http://thechronicleherald.ca/artslife/930473-her-toughest-assignment-reporter-chronicles-her-last-days