My Awesomely Random Life (and Everything in Between)

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When I was younger, I remember my mom and dad telling me over and over to enjoy the little moments, the here and nows, because life has this weird way of going into hyperdrive with every passing year. I never really got it back then; but as I look back on the last few weeks, months and years, their words ring truer than ever.

Life moves damn fast.

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about that lately; the things I’ve done, experiences I’ve had, adventures taken and the incredible people I’ve met along the way. I’ve also realized that there is so much that I have yet to do and see and accomplish. And all of that comes by sticking a giant middle finger up to fear and taking big risks. Someone wise recently told me that life begins outside of your comfort zone and he couldn’t have been more on point with that. It was a reminder, and the kick in the ass I needed to get back to doing just that.

Here are 20 little things I’ve learned that life is way too short for:

1. Not petting just all of the doggos. *But always ask first.

2. For loose ends, for feelings that were never acted upon and gestures that were never taken.

3. Not asking for a raise because you’re afraid of being denied. At the very least, you’ll learn what you need to work on so that you get one the next time around. Or it will give you confirmation to take your talent and drive and skills where you will be given that opportunity to grow.

4. Not applying for that job because you’re afraid you’re not qualified enough. Speaking from personal experience, you’re probably not giving yourself enough credit. You are a fucking rockstar. And you’ll never know what could happen unless you try. So try! Reach out. If nothing else, they’ll know who you are and remember you. That first impression is priceless.

5. Not introducing yourself to people you admire because you think they’re above you. They’re not, and they were once where you are now. They remember that.

6. Wearing heels when you want to wear flats.

7. Wearing flats when you want to wear sneakers.

8. Living for the weekend. There are seven days of the week, seven opportunities to see that show and go to that dive bar and stay up until the wee hours with your best friends, laughing until it hurts.

9. Letting the actions of other people dictate your own happiness. FOMO is a real, 21st century phenomenon. Just because it’s real doesn’t mean it’s not bullshit. Live your life offline. Photo-worthy opportunities will arise naturally because of that.

10. Not telling people how you feel, whether it’s that you love them, or that you have a great idea, or that you feel used or alone or scared or happy. Express yourself, at every chance you can. The people who care about those feelings are the ones to keep around.

11. Worrying about those five pounds. Nobody but you knows they exist.

12. Not standing up for yourself.

13. And your work.

14. And what you believe in.

15. And what you deserve.

16. Holding onto a grudge. There is great power in forgiveness, in others and yourself. You never know what’s going on with someone behind closed doors. Practice kindness and show compassion. The world could use more of that.

17. Beating yourself up for a mistake. Apologize once, and then work to make it better, but also remember to forgive yourself for being — of all things you might have the audacity to be — human.

18. Not watching cheesy movies or listening to catchy pop songs because you think you should have better taste than that. Netflix is full of fluffy rom-coms that do nothing but provide joy. Thinking you’re above a little lowest common denominator happiness just means you’re denying yourself potential happiness. It doesn’t make you any more high brow than anyone else.

19. Filling your life with so much unnecessary stuff just because it was cool or hip or you wanted it in that moment. You can’t take your mounds of stuff with you. Stuff doesn’t mean anything in the long run. You can’t put a price on the memories you make and the experiences you have. Sometimes practicing impulse control is only getting us ready and excited for the stuff that’s really worth it.

20. Not eating dessert. Like I said, you can’t take it with you, and that includes whatever jiggle you earned from eating that really delicious cookie. Or donut. Or cookie-flavored donut. Life will be sweeter for it.

Life moves damn fast.

So take the damn chance. Get on that plane, send that person an ‘I’m sorry’, tell them that you love them, that you’re IN love with them. Drive all night to see someone in the morning. I don’t care if it makes you vulnerable, if it exposes you. Expose yourself. Open the hell up.

Let life fill you with hurt, with happiness; let it weather you, let it teach you. Let it inspire you, let it break you down and build you up. You are here to risk your heart. And create moments and experiences and do things that equate to living a “F*CK YES!” life.

Please don’t ever forget that.

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The Fix

Avila at Chestnut

A few times a month, I’ll receive a message either on Facebook or Instagram or Twitter or via email asking me for help. For advice. For an opinion on what they should do.

Y’all, social media is a funny and crazy and daunting thing, but it also has this weird way of bringing people together.

It’s humbling, every time I receive one of these messages. From strangers, from friends, from strangers who become friends. And it’s flattering to think that someone somewhere might think I have some answers, or was enough of a catalyst to help someone try to find help for themselves. I don’t think it has much to do with being inspirational so much as it does that most of the issues I talk and write about are things I have struggled with, am struggling with, and am honest about struggling with. Trying to navigate work, relationships, my incessant yet incredibly annoying habit of thinking that ‘perfect’ is and should be this obtainable goal, and adulting in general are all things that I have and will always be open about. Life is hard and confusing as hell sometimes. But from my experience, there’s comfort in knowing you aren’t alone in this thang.

And when you’re a peer, an equal, another regular person who faced any given monster and is doing okay, sometimes that’s less intimidating than a therapist or a doctor or a parent or anyone else in your immediate life who might unknowingly judge you as they try to help. One of the things computer screens have given us is a little piece of illuminated hope, the kind of hope that doesn’t ever touch your real life unless you want it, and the kind that allows you to be anonymous. When you’re struggling, knowing that you’re letting that hope in on your life is sometimes the most blessed thing. It’s empowerment. And who doesn’t like a big ‘ol slice of that every now and then? I know I do, preferably covered in cheese and pepperoni.

But I hardly know what to tell people, in part because I am not an advice columnist, and because I don’t know their lives, and because I am scared to take the ownership of giving bad advice. The truth is, my life is still messy in places. I don’t have it all figured out. I’m trying, and each and every day I learn something new, and grow, but I’m still a work in progress. I think we all are in a way. Nine times out of 10, I’m making my own answers to my life up as I go.

I suppose this is an apology, in part, if you’ve ever asked me something and I didn’t respond. I probably didn’t know how. That’s hardly an excuse, because I could have tried, but I am human too. And humans get scared sometimes. Of our emotions, of our history, of our struggles and our scars. Sometimes we’re scared that if we poke the box where we packed all those bad things away, the memories of those struggles will peep their ugly heads back out. Sometimes giving advice feels like that.

But one thing I do know is that I can cheer you on. I can ask questions. I can tell you that deep down, you know what you need to do, you just want someone else to tell it to you because that’s the easy way. I can be rhetorical and tricky and universal, and it would probably seem personal because when you seek advice, you latch onto whatever you can and call it yours. And I will do all of these things, if that is what you want and need. Because I really do hope that the people who find even the smallest amount of inspiration in my own story know that someone is cheering for them. Someone always is.

But though I can root for you and tell you that if I made it through, so can you, I cannot fix you. I don’t have the answers. None of us do. We’re all doing the best we can with what we have, but the Internet and the transparency and immediacy of communication means we can do it together.

I cannot fix you. But then again, I shouldn’t. That’s not my job. The only person who can and should and might fix you is you. Trust that you’ll be able to do that.

You’re more capable than you think.

sanddunes

Damn, Colorado. Time sure does fly when you’re having fun.

It was at about exactly this time six years ago when I crossed the state line, my little VW Bug packed to the brim with everything I owned (give or take a few discarded cups of coffee and empty Twizzler wrappers).

I remember having a conversation with my sister two nights prior while watching The Office. I randomly looked over at her [with a mouth full of Doritos, probably) and said, “You know what? I think I’m gonna move to Colorado.” There was no defining “Ah-ha!” or moment of clarity that led me to the decision of literally packing up my life and starting fresh in a state clear across the country. It was just me, Michael Scott and some stale potato chip product. If that’s not inspiring as fuck, I don’t know what is.

As I stepped out of my car, my legs stiff and my eyes heavy from driving over 22 hours, these questions–and so many more–were running through my head on the repeat.

I was terrified.

But I was also incredibly happy. Like, eating a giant ice cream cone on a sunny Saturday afternoon in a park full of puppies, happy.

Taking in that first sight of majestic Rocky Mountain goodness in front of me, I felt like I was home.

When I decided a little over six years ago to take a giant leap of faith and make the big move, I really had no idea what was in store for me. I did something so very unWendi-like and jumped without looking. I stuck a giant middle finger up to any kind of plan, any premeditated form of action. I felt, and I did. I didn’t have a job lined up, I knew just a handful of people and wasn’t even sure if I would like living in the Mile High City. All I really knew for sure was that if I didn’t try, if I didn’t take this chance now, I might never get the opportunity to do so again. I also knew that if I fell back on that fear of things not working out, if I chose instead to remain forever in my comfort zone, there would be some serious regret-age going on.

And if there is one thing I have learned in my 30 years thus far, it’s that regret is no friend of mine.

So I jumped.

Shit, I jumped hard.

And that by far has probably been one of the greatest decisions I have ever made to date.

For six years I have been lucky enough to call Denver my home.

For six years, I have been able to call the mountains my playground, my weekend escape. I’ve seen some of the most beautiful sunrises and sunsets imaginable, I’ve hiked some of the most challenging and breath-taking trails, explored the urban jungle that is downtown Denver and tasted some of the best food (And beer! Yes, I am now a beer fan! Well, getting there anyway) that I’ve ever had.

Professionally I’ve had some very challenging and rewarding opportunities that have really helped to shape not only me as a social media/writer/boss chic, but also have served as a reminder that I’m damn good at what I do, that I love what I do, and to never, ever never stop pursuing that dream of mine no matter what obstacles may get in my way. I’ve worked with some strong-willed and big-hearted people, have helped to inspire some incredibly talented and motivated students, and have learned and grown from each and every one of them.

Personally, I’ve broken out of this silly shell I’ve been hiding behind. Moving somewhere new by yourself kind of forces you to put your badass self out there and meet people, no matter how you end up doing that. I’ve met some incredible new friends, have reconnected with old ones and have made too many memories to count.

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The late-night conversations, the too-close-to-call softball games, the good first dates and the ones you wish you could Ctrl Alt Delete. The summer baseball games at Coors Field and Packer games at Badgers, the bike rides, snowball fights and Harry Potter movie-marathons. The pool parties, happy hours, road trips and barbeques.

The smiles.

The hugs.

The uncontrollable laughter.

These past six years have made my heart so incredibly full, nearly as full as my ever-shrinking apartment—the number of books I’ve accumulated since I’ve been here is embarrassing, guys. I cannot wait to see what happens in the next 2, 5, 10 or 15 years to come.

I’ve come a long way since making the decision to start this grand adventure—over 8,000 miles and an immeasurable amount of self-growth, courage, spontaneity and a ‘You only get one life so you better damn make it the best possible life there is’ mentality. If I can take just one thing away from this is that it’s never to late to make a change, to face that fear or worry and do the damn thing! You’ll never know the amazingness that awaits you on the other side if you never try.

Cheers to six years, y’all!

But I’m a Fixer

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Every since I was a young girl, I’ve loved figuring out the answers to problems. Jigsaw and crossword puzzles were my jam, and don’t even get me started on my slight obsession with McGyver. To this day you cannot convince me that a toothpick, some gum and a bottle of DW-40 won’t solve any crisis.

As a writer, as a forever learner, doer and out-of-the-box thinker, I’ve gotten really good at looking at an issue, at an obstacle or problem in many different angles, analyzing and coming up with a plan of execution. Or multiple plans. Brainstorming, researching and making an action plan is kind of my MO.

If my best friend is having relationship or family issues, I will sit with him/her and figure out a way to get them past this, no matter how many bottles of PBR/wine we have to sacrifice along the way. If a coworker is struggling to find their footing at work, I will help them come up with a plan to tackle their responsibilities like the boss I know they are. If my mom is still texting in hieroglyphics, I will…..yeah, sorry mom. I think that one’s a lost cause.

I like having answers, I like knowing that anything can be solved. And I hate, hate, hate seeing the ones I love and care about in any sort of pain.

I’m a fixer, that’s kinda what I do.

But sometimes life throws you a curve ball of a problem, one that you don’t have the answer for.

Someone really close to me, someone who I love with all of my everything, my inspiration, the person I look up to, my baby sister is going through something right now that is incredibly hard. She’s been fighting Endometriosis, a condition that affects more than 6.3 million women in the US alone, yet it is still one of the most misunderstood and complicated diseases to diagnose, treat and cure. While she has always handled this like the champ she is despite the challenges, she recently hit a bit of a rough patch.  If you know my sister, you already know that she is one of the strongest and most resilient people I have ever met, someone who exudes bravery and determination through every pore. For all of these reasons and more, I am certain, without a doubt, 110% positive that she will kick Endo’s ass.

In an conversation I had with her last night, I asked if there was anything I could do to help? Her heartbreaking reply: “There isn’t. There isn’t anything anyone can do. I don’t what’s going on, and Wendi, I’m scared.”

As a problem solver, as a fixer, and most importantly as her big sister, sitting on the sidelines and not having an answer or a plan to give? A way to make her feel better? A part of me, a very big part, thinks that I’m letting her down in some way. For all of our lives, I’ve been the one protecting her, showing her the ropes, of what to do and not to do. I so badly want to help, to tell her everything is going to be okay, to take all of this pain and confusion and stress away.

I’m a fixer, but this, unlike that jigsaw or crossword puzzle sitting on my coffee table, I can’t fix. I don’t know the solution, the answer, a way to make it all go away.

And that absolutely kills me.

But if I have learned anything in my 31 years – besides finally, FINALLY figuring out how to fold a fitted sheet – it’s that being there for someone, just being there, can make all the difference in the world. I’ve been through some trying times myself, I think we all have at one point or another, and the one thing that helped get me through, the one thing that kept my hope motor running, my fire to fight ignited, it was the endless support and encouragement from those who I loved and cared about most. A shoulder to cry on, an ear to listen, an endless supply of bear hugs and a partner to share that pizza and bottles of PBR/wine with.

These are the things, the little blessings that make you stronger, give you a reason to keep fighting and the reassurance that things are going to be okay.

Sometimes you won’t have all of the answers, but that doesn’t mean you can’t be a part of the solution.

Reaching out, being there for someone who needs you the most, that in and of itself is the greatest gift you could ever give.

Something even some toothpicks, gum and a bottle of DW-40 couldn’t replicate.

To my kickass, amazing and beautiful baby sis, you are a fighter. You are strong. You can and you will get through this.

You have so many people who love you, who are there for you, who believe in you.

We will get through this.

Together.

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When you think about the person who has a big heart, who cares deeply and cares hard, it probably conjures up a lot of assumptions.

They cry at movies and get weepy at commercials (this Google Chrome spot has the ability to turn anyone and their second cousin’s best friend’s uncle into a blubbering hot mess) without concern if someone is looking. They care about strangers more than you thought possible, light up at the possibility of helping someone–even if they have nothing to give them in return–and feel things so strongly and so deeply, that those feelings often make their decisions for them.

They lead with their heart instead of their head.

You might mistake this person for being impulsive, for a ‘leap before they look’ kind of guy/gal. And in a way, you’re right. Because the head says ‘wait’ but the heart says ‘go’. And they’re not the kind that can ever sit still when their heart is telling them to run somewhere.

But painting them simply as someone who has too many feelings and too big of a heart, who doesn’t have enough of a head on their shoulders to really think things through isn’t giving them enough credit. It’s writing them off as someone who is just feelings. As if feelings aren’t valid or strong or worth noting.

The truth about the person who leads with their heart instead of their head that you’re probably too afraid to admit? They’re braver than you.

The person who leads with their heart instead of their head isn’t afraid of the possibility of failing. They’re too busy chasing, loving, and giving to worry about the repercussions that may come back to hurt them. They’re more concerned about doing what feels best to waste time weighing and outweighing options that may never even see the light of day.

They’re too busy loving, and in turn living, to unnecessarily linger on the possibility that something might be the wrong choice.

The truth about leading with your heart is that it’s the scarier choice. It’s the riskier option. More can go wrong when you leap instead of look, when you love instead of hold back, when you feel instead of giving into fear. It’s the bolder choice; the choice that leaves more open to come back and smack you with negativity and pain.

Which is why it is a choice that should be commended, not shamed.

So to those who lead with their hearts and not their heads, who are constantly giving without expectation of receiving, who unapologetically have those hearts on their sleeves for the world to take a piece of: I commend you. 

You are brave in a world that so often tries to make souls like yours afraid of what they’re feeling. You take risks in a world where doing just that is an act of rebellion. You put yourself out there when everything realistically is pointing at you to do exactly the opposite.

You remain loving in a world that is often so unkind.

Never apologize for being that person. Never make your love smaller to protect yourself. Never repress what you want to shout from the rooftops.

Because you are someone who leads with their heart and not their head, and that is brave.

And that is beautiful.

And the world needs more people

just

like

you.

mom

My name’s Wendi, and I am a strong, independent and intelligent 31 year-old woman. I know how to change my own oil, can bake the shit out of some chocolate-chip cookies and even have my own 401K.

Impressive, I know.

I’d like to think that I’m somewhat of a fully-functioning adult, most of the time, however there’s one thing that I still find myself doing pretty much on the regular, one thing that I probably will never stop doing no matter how old I get, or how much fully-functioning adult experience I put behind me…

…and that’s going to the moms for advice.

I’m extremely lucky in that my mom and I have always had the strongest of relationships. She has always been my rock, my inspiration, the person I would go to first whenever I had a problem or a big decision to make. From first-day-of-school outfits and major hair transformations (thank GOD you talked me off of that perm ledge) to college choices and major job opportunities, my mom has been there with me through it all. She has been the voice of reason, of wisdom when I needed it the most.

It wasn’t until recently that I realized how much I still rely on me madre for things.

The past week alone I’ve called/texted her in a sweaty panic, asking her what she thinks I should do about:

  • My leaky kitchen faucet (Broken valve thingy – technical term)
  • That sore throat/cough/swollen ankle/weird rash on my neck thing (Whatever you do, DO NOT WebMD it!)
  • Boys (You can’t live with them, can’t live without them)
  • And general adulting (Yogurt that’s three days past its expiration is still safe to eat, right? Huh, coconut oil works on that? So about that fitted sheet sitch…)

I may be a 31 year-old strong, independent and intelligent woman, but I still very much appreciate advice from the moms. And I don’t think I will ever stop appreciating it.

Mom, if you’re reading this, thank you! A million times thank you! If I grow up to be half of the incredible woman you are, I would consider myself lucky.

*And I will call you later. My stomach is seriously turning cartwheels and I think it may have been because of that yogurt.

Disconnect to Reconnect

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One of the struggles of the digital age is constantly feeling like you need to create, to be ‘on’ 24/7, to be connected in a tangle of internets, interwebs, networks and sites.  That if you’re not tweeting and Instagramming and writing another article, another post, another piece, you’re losing out on precious time or views or likes or followers or whatever metric it is that you want to call “success.” I mean, hell, Harper Lee didn’t publish a second book for DECADES.

That’s how starved we are for constant content.

But the thing is, when you’re so busy making stuff, you can sometimes forget how to live your own life. You know, offline. Remember that place? It’s the one where none of those numbers and hearts and stars matter.

Believe me, I know how tough it is. My day-to-day life is filled with notifications and posts and tweets and thinking critically about how to maximize all of the stuff that does not and cannot exist offline. And don’t get me wrong. I LOVE my job! And sure, there are ways to sign off and let a computer do its thang, but even then, I have to keep one eye on it because an algorithm cannot make a critical judgment call.

It’s the nature of the social media beast.

Trust me when I say that to work in social is to never not be working. And at my last job, I spent the bulk of my time writing nearly all day long, every. single. day. There was no overarching editorial schedule, just that I knew I had to write something. That freedom was both amazing and terrifying. And I was chasing numbers and page views, and though I was rather good at making those numbers happen, eventually, I burned out. You always burn out eventually. You run out of things to talk about. You run out of ways to write the same story for the 20th time.

So you find ways to recharge.

You close your laptop. (Dear God, I hope you do this regardless! It’s good for your health and your sanity.) You meet up with friends. You swipe a few times on Bumble or Tinder or whatever the latest hot dating app is, and maybe you go on a date. Or five dates. You go for a run, for a hike. You grab a coffee, you talk to the barista and see how their day’s going, you buy yourself flowers at the farmer’s market you swear you’re going to visit more regularly. You live your one, singular, unrepeatable life.

Disconnect to reconnect.

I wear a bracelet with that reminder everyday to drive home how important it is to step away from the digital screens and i-phones, the apps and the websites. And I will be the first to admit how hard that can be sometimes. But the truth of the matter is, these things will still be there tomorrow. And the next day. And three weeks, three months from now.

That dinner with your family, that road trip with your best friends, that night spent camping under the stars or midnight laughs shared sitting on the kitchen floor over a pint of ice cream? Those moments only happen once. Promise me you won’t get too caught up trying to “connect” that you completely miss out on what it is you’re trying to connect to or with.

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