My Awesomely Random Life (and Everything in Between)

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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!

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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.

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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.

Fear? What Fear?

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We have to continually be jumping off cliffs and developing our wings on the way down. – Kurt Vonnegut.

Fear. It’s a funny thing, guys. It’s also a very necessary thing. If you go back in history, fear was what enabled the cavemen to identify a dangerous situation. It’s what heightens your senses, pumps adrenaline into your system, and it helps you survive whatever it is that’s scaring you. But life isn’t that difficult anymore — there are fewer stakes raised, and we live in a pretty safe, comfortable environment – relatively speaking.

Because of that, our fears are the things we now manifest inside ourselves. The things we let fester, the dreams we never pursue, the chances we don’t take, the places we never move to, the people we don’t admit to loving, the jobs we never apply for. There are so many things to be afraid of, but most of these things reside inside our own head.

Because what if we fail? What if we never recover? What if, what if, what if?

But what if we don’t?

What if we do the scariest thing of all — what if we actually get everything we ever wanted?

One of my track coaches used to always say that “you should get uncomfortable, because being uncomfortable is where you begin to see changes.” And it’s true — not just in the biological sense that your body responds to harder work by adapting and becoming stronger, but because your mind becomes stronger, too. You begin to withstand the scary things, the things you never thought you were capable of. And in this, you become more resilient.

Because being scared is fucking uncomfortable.

Being afraid is supposed to be fucking uncomfortable — it lights that metaphorical fire under your ass in order to tell you to work towards being more comfortable. But there are two ways you can do this: either retreating, and avoiding the scary thing in the first place, or working through it to the other side. Riding out the uncomfortable and the scary until you’re stronger and things aren’t as scary anymore. Fight or flight. Do or die.

And of course, in order to really understand how to withstand the scary things life throws at us, you have to get to the bottom of why you think it’s scary. Why it gets under you skin, why it terrifies you, why it dregs up memories of all the other times you faced scary things and didn’t come out stronger on the other side. There’s a whole host of reasons, really, and each will vary from person to person, but I think one of the things that connects this fear we all experience isn’t all that unique.

We’re most afraid of being happy. Of having a good life.

Not that we don’t want to — oh, of course we do. But we wonder if we deserve a good life, if we ought to have one, and so this doubt creeps in and we’re left second-guessing ourselves when we have to stand up to the thing that is in the way of our happiness. Of whatever it is we want. After all, what would happen if we wound up getting everything we wanted? What if it all got taken away?

But that is a risk with everything you do. So you might as well face the scary parts head on, because chances are, the outcome you want least might happen anyway. Whether or not you tried.

And if you don’t try, the what if — the magical, fantastical, best-case-scenario — will never happen at all.

Do the things that scare you.

Get uncomfortable.

Stand your ground.

Speak up, and go after the things you want. Apply for the job, tell the person you’re crushing on that you like them, take the risk.

And if you do wind up with everything you ever wanted, it’s because you did that work. You put in the effort, you found the grit within yourself, you realized that the scariest things in this world can sometimes be the most wonderful.

We’re scared of change, is all. But change is good for us. Change is how we learn. There’s nothing more fulfilling than that.

17 Things in 2017

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This is normally my favorite post of the year. Because despite my best efforts, I learn things every year and it’s fun to record them.

And for some reason every year, I learn exactly the same amount of things as the year itself. Weird, no? I don’t know why or how it happens, but I’m rolling with it.

Without further ado, here is my list of 17 things I learned in 2017:

  1. Giving feels better than getting. After the craziness of the past year, I spent a lot of time putting my energy into giving back. I have a pretty damn good life when all is said and done, but there are many people out there – families, young children – who are struggling to put food on the table, to find a safe place to sleep, to simply make it through the day. The world can be an ugly place, but it’s made all the brighter when we help one another out. Giving back is the shit, y’all.
  2. Cut anything that’s not working for you anymore out of your life. Yeah, it’ll hurt for a minute but then it’ll rock and you’ll be all, oh wow, this rocks! And I’m a big fan of things rocking.
  3. Fear not! If there’s anything I’ve learned this year, it’s that the best experiences in life often come as a result of doing what you were scared of, of looking fear directly in the eyes and doing the damned thing anyway. Whether that be climbing that fucking mountain, opening your heart again after being hurt or simply saying yes out of a habit of saying no, you’ll only regret the moments you missed out on due to that pesky fear.
  4. Do what you really want to do. A couple of weeks ago I finished the rough draft of a second novel. Yes, fiction! It’s different than anything I’ve done before and it’s a risk, but you know what? It’s been a crazy and awesome and crazy awesome experience!
  5. It doesn’t take that much effort to feel close to people. This year I’ve been texting and IMing and Facebooking and Instagramming and group messaging my ass off and it’s made me feel closer to friends all over the world. I’ve made it a point to stay connected to those in my life who matter most, no matter how far away they may be.
  6. Chocolate is great. Eat a lot of it. And often.
  7. Five years is nothing and everything. This year I celebrated five years in Denver. Five years since I packed up all of my things, got into my VW Bug and traveled across the country. Talk about facing that fear. It’s still the most terrifying thing I’ve ever done, but also the best thing. In the time I’ve been here, I’ve done so many incredible things and have met so many incredible people. I love this city and am proud of who’ve I’ve become, as well as the life I’ve made here.
  8. Take a break from the news. And while this year proved that if you didn’t check the news for half an hour, you’d miss something, for fuck’s sake, give yourself a break and just MISS SOMETHING. Go pet a dog or wrap a scarf around your cat. Go fly a kite like you’re those bratty kids in Mary Poppins. You can catch up later. Or not. Sometimes it’s okay to play the ignorant card.
  9. Did I mention chocolate?
  10. Go ahead and tell yourself you’re awesome. Do it daily. It’s cliché because it works. Trust me, I know because I’m so awesome, y’all.
  11. Stop putting off what you’ve been wanting to do. I may be speaking more to myself here, but that trip you’ve said you were going to take for the past  5 10 years? GO! Like, YESTERDAY!
  12. Turning 30 isn’t that big of deal. In fact, 30 is abso-fucking-lutely the new 20. My twenties were a time of still trying to figure out who I was, navigating work and relationships and adulting and….well, to be honest, I’m still trying to do that. The difference is now, I own all of that. And I’m okay with it. And I’m slowly making my way there.
  13. You’re gonna have to kiss a lot of frogs to find that prince. A LOT. But it just makes for good practice, right? RIGHT?!
  14. Go ahead and get bangs. What’s the big deal, amiright ladies? Even if you hate them, they’ll grow. You only live once, yo. I liked mine at least 60% of the time, which is more than I like most things.
  15. Except chocolate.
  16. Show up. For your friends, for your family, for your co-workers and dry cleaners and neighborhood Dunkin Donuts worker (shout out to John!). Be there for people. One small moment of compassion can spark a shift in someone, redirecting the course of their day, maybe even their life.
  17. Nothing is ever perfect, but who gives a fuck? Not me. I have no fucks left to give, y’all, and I’ve never felt stronger. This year has given me PERSPECTIVE. In 2017, I let go of having the perfect *fill in the blank with your own stuff* and, even though we’re living in an actual nation-wide nightmare, I personally feel confident and badass in between panic attacks. Bring it, 2018.

 

There’s a lot of talk about how 2018 is going to be worse, but I don’t believe that. I believe we all learned all kinds of (real) lessons this year and we’ll use them in the year ahead to stand up for what we believe in.

 

I think we’re ultimately gonna be okay, guys. Love to everyone and Happy New Year. Except you, 2017. You can show yourself out.

 

xo,

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