26: A Reflection

Every week I write a to-do list with four categories: Work, Personal, Self, and Goals. Under the “Self” column I have written “start writing my blog again” for about a month now. I don’t know what I was waiting for, a sign, the month to begin – I don’t know. But hey, it’s my twenty-sixth birthday so why not? Well to be exact, while writing this, it is three hours shy of my birthday – just petty details.

When I think about my birthday, I like most people, have plenty of memories. For my fifth birthday, I remember being in the backseat of my parents’ car as they drove me to the house of a dog breeder and I picked out my American Eskimo puppy, Max (it was the 90’s, adopt don’t shop wasn’t a thing  yet, I have an adopted dog now).

 

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Max (right) and Riley (left)
I remember my ninth birthday at the now defunct Laser Web with my best friends from elementary school, Courtney and Ryan. Or even my eleventh birthday, I invited a boy I liked to my party, he gave me an informational book on horses (sadly we did not get married and have 3 kids). On my sixteenth birthday, I recieved my beloved Ford F-150 which in a way – defined me in high school.

 

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Me recieving my truck (excuse the photo, it was 2007)
I remember going to the Granville (U of L’s goto dive bar) at midnight and my friend and equestrian teammate Becca bought me my first shot, a red-headed slut on my twenty-first birthday. Birthdays are full of memories, who you spent them with, what you did, what you recieved for gifts. They also symbolize the end of a chapter in your life. As I’ve grown older, I reflect on each year (does this mean I’m an adult now? Ew).

Chapter twenty-five comes to an end in three short hours. What will I remember? Well I took a job with my dream company. I quit the first full-time job I got out of college. I took a leap of faith. I moved out of my parents house. I got a lease on an apartment. I have a rent bill, an electric bill, and a water bill. I challenged myself in ways I never thought possible. My heart broke when my leap of faith left me flat on my face. I dealt with failure. I perservered. My world literally fell apart when I unexpectdly lost the most important person in my entire life, my mom.

I entered 2017 pretty battered and beaten. I’m still battered and beaten, but I haven’t given up. I didn’t know if I could pick myself up, but I did. I went to the gym and trained for a 5k. I volunteered at one of my favorite places on earth, The Kentucky Horse Park. I adopted an amazing dog, who I named Atticus. I got another job, something completely brand new, but my input is valued and my confidence is growing.

 

Atticus
Atticus (Follow him on Instagram: @atticusthespotteddoggo)
Turning twenty-six means more than the fact that I could be considered “in my late twenties.” It means more than knowing that I better have my own healthcare (thank god I do). My mother will never know me at twenty-six. She knew me over the past twenty-five years, every twist and change in my personality and growth. She was with me every step of the way. Turning twenty-six feels like climbing Mt. Everest completely alone. You are technically an adult when you turn eighteen, but for the first time, I feel like I’m on my own.

 

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My mom and I at the 2010 World Equestrian Games

Whatever I go through this year, whatever changes in my life is all me. Don’t get me wrong, I have an incredible support system of friends and of course my father but my mom and I were a team and now I’m the one left standing. I’m lucky though, she left me with a good head on my shoulders and a stuborness that won’t allow me to give up.

I have no idea what year twenty-six is going to bring me but I’m going to do things that scare me, live a life that makes me happy, and not take a single day for granted.

 

 

 

A Brand New Kentuckian

I have been pretty absent from blogging these past few weeks, and there are a few reasons for that. First and foremost, I am in mourning that The Bachelor season has ended. But seriously, live changes have been quite abundant lately and it has kept me very busy. It is funny how you can wait on change for so long and when it finally comes, everything happens so quickly. Just a few weeks ago I had a different job and I lived in a different state. I can now say that I am officially a Lexingtonian!

The first thing that set me on this whirlwind was a job offer from Keeneland. For the non-equine enthusiasts, Keeneland is a racetrack in Lexington, Kentucky and that is an oversimplified statement of what Keeneland is. It is a pillar of the city, a draw for tourism, and a historical treasure. I’m sure that description doesn’t begin to cover the impact of this racetrack. To me, Keeneland is the Holy Grail of jobs, not only do I love to attend the race meet at Keeneland I also admire the culture they so expertly uphold every day. If every track investing in branding and marketing the way Keeneland does, horse racing would not be a dying sport. Ok, enough gushing. But seriously, getting this job has been a dream come true.

Of course attending a track and working for one are two very different things. I prepared myself to be disappointing when I saw what really happened behind the scenes. Well obviously I just started, but I am even more impressed then I already was. Every employee that I have met at Keeneland loves that track and loves what they do. They work tirelessly to make Keeneland the iconic location it has become and they don’t rest on their laurels, they work everyday to make it better and better. I am honored to be able to join this team of dedicated and passionate individuals.

Along with the job came the apartment. After two years, I am finally saying goodbye to the hour and a half drive from Cincinnati to Lexington. I found an apartment and moved in this past weekend with the help of my amazing parents, boyfriend, his parents, and my great friends Jackie and Ethan. My bedroom furniture was delivered today and it is finally starting to feel like home. I have cooked myself dinner twice and not burnt anything, so I guess I’m an adult now? Well I also broke (then fixed) my Kuerig and the cable. One step at a time right.

Life throws curve balls all the time and I’m never quite sure if I am on the right track, but for the first time I feel like I am right where I am supposed to be doing what I am supposed to be doing. It is such a great feeling and I can’t wait to see what happens next.

~Lauren

 

Moving On

Today was my last day working as a Marketing Coordinator for the United States Dressage Federation. USDF was my first “big girl” job, so leaving it is definitely a big deal, and I am not a fan of change. I have learned so much in my year and a half of employment at USDF, I know a bit more about dressage now but I’m still by no means an expert. I have learned plenty about sponsorship, event vendors, and inventory among other things. More exciting: I am one badass bag stuffer and box builder.

I have known for awhile that I wanted to move on. I felt stuck without any forward movement. With an hour and a half commute, and an uncertain future, I was mentally unsettled. By mentally unsettled I mean that my anxiety and depression were ramping up big time. It is crazy how much difference one week can make. Just one application submitted, I had no expectations. Before I knew it, I had a new job offer on the table from my dream company, Keeneland.

Keeneland is a racetrack in Lexington, Kentucky and it is one of my favorite places on earth. The track is gorgeous, and from a marketing geek standpoint, they are the top of the heap in the racing industry. Keeneland knows exactly who they are, they sell an experience that attracts outside the general racing demographic. To be a part of their team would be a dream. And I am so proud and excited to say that I get to join this team.

I knew I would miss USDF, but today I realized how much I connected with the people I worked with. I honestly didn’t expect to be missed very much, but the outpouring of well wishes from my colleagues warmed my heart. I spent 40 hours a week (sometimes more) with these people for almost two years, in a way they feel like family. I can’t help but think about the projects they have on the table and feel sad that I won’t be a part of that. I am ready for the next step but I won’t forget USDF or the people I worked with everyday.

This also marks the end of my time at the Kentucky Horse Park. Straight out of college I was given the amazing opportunity to work at the world famous Kentucky Horse Park for the Director of Marketing and Public Relations. The park feels like home to me. I remember my parents taking me there when I was six and I felt like that was where I belonged. I loved horses and this was my Disneyland. If you would have told six-year-old me that I would work there one day, I wouldn’t have believed it. Leaving employment at the park I was lucky to be able to stay on-site at the USDF office.

I am going to miss driving into this beautiful establishment everyday. On my lunch breaks I could walk through the park and see horses everywhere. I could visit Kentucky Derby Winner Funny Cide anytime I wanted. I got to go to  the Rolex 3-Day-Event, BreyerFest, Pony Finals etc. I will never get this opportunity right outside my office ever again. It is bittersweet. The park will always have a piece of my heart.

As sad as I am to leave, I know this is the right move for me. I am excited to work at such an iconic establishment, I know I can learn so much and I hope my skills can benefit Keeneland. I don’t know what my future is going to hold but I am elated with how it is going so far. I am ready for a new job at a new company and a new home, Lexington, Kentucky.

~Lauren

2016 New Year-Same Me

 

2016
Picture Credit: May Designs

After the whirlwind that was 2015, it leaves me to wonder what 2016 has in store. Of course trying to guess at what this year will bring is futile because no matter what I guess, I’ll be wrong. I do have goals for this year, I like to think of them as goals and not resolutions because if you don’t reach a goal, you can always go back to it but breaking a resolution sounds pretty final. I may not achieve my goals for 2016, but I’m going to try. New year, same me, just a better me.

  1. Run a 5k- I’m not a runner in the slightest but I think I can handle 3.1 miles and darn it the Color Run looks so fun!
  2. Learn Photoshop-If I want excel in my industry, I need to learn design. It’s time to teach myself how to use this wonder tool!
  3. Read 50 books-I read 38 in 2015 and it’s time to up the ante.
  4. Move into an apartment-A hangover goal from 2015.
  5. Volunteer-It’s time to give back more.
  6. Love Myself-Self explanatory.

 

Happy 2016!

~Lauren

A Year in Review

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(Caption: Meeting Etenaire was definitely a highlight of my year)

It is beyond cliché to look at the New Year as a ‘turning point’ in your life, just because 365 days have passed doesn’t mean anything is really different. Everyone rolls their eyes at the ‘new year, new me’ posts that will certainly flood our newsfeeds. But, if you put the bitterness aside, is it really all that bad? Maybe the mental thought of a new year is just what we need to take a step that we are afraid of taking, it is that little push to reflect on the last 365 days to see what changed in your life for the good and the bad. It’s not a bad idea to check in with yourself, your memories, your experiences, your goals once in awhile. So I am going to go full cliché and review my year of 2015.

Let’s start with the facts. I am 24 years old this year, I am employed for the first time for over a full year, and I live with my parents. I am not married, nor do I have kids, but I am in a very committed long-term relationship with my boyfriend of three years.

As always, I began 2015 with resolutions or goals in mind, some I achieved and some I didn’t. I wanted to get back to reading for pleasure, and I did. I read 38 books this year, you can check out more of that here. I wanted to get back into exercising, and I did. I walk an average of three miles a day on my breaks at work. I even lost 20lbs. I wanted to fully transition into adulthood. The jury is still out on that one. I do have a steady job and paycheck, and an actual savings account. I even got a promotion this year. And I purchased a brand new car, all on my own (no cosigner). I do still live with my parents which was a huge failure in my eyes when I began this year. I wanted more than anything to move out. While I didn’t achieve that goal, I did achieve peace with the fact that living with my parents after college isn’t a failure. I still have the goal to move out in 2016 but I am done beating myself up about the fact that I like many people my age live at home.

But my biggest goal this year was to take care of myself. I spend so much time taking care of my family, friends, work, animals etc. that I don’t take care of myself enough. On the physical side, I finally went to a chiropractor for my back issues that ailed me all through college, I should’ve went years ago. More importantly, I finally made the decision to take care of myself mentally.

For a long time I haven’t been happy. I’ve been surrounded by amazing friends and family and had amazing opportunities but something was wrong. I told myself that it was me and that I needed to think differently, I felt guilty that I wasn’t happy when I had so much going for me. I cried all the time, sometimes for small reasons, at times for no reason at all. I began to get panic attacks at the thought of being in an uncomfortable social situation, or getting caught in traffic. Little problems became big problems in my head. I felt that nothing would ever get better, only get worse and that I had failed at my goals. I convinced myself that my friends didn’t really like me, that my family just put up with me out of necessity and that my coworkers didn’t respect me. Everyday life became hard to live, and honestly I didn’t want to put the energy into doing it anymore.

Then I took a step. I found a therapist. I was scared to do it, I thought of the social stigma attached and I didn’t want to be thought of as ‘crazy’ or ‘unstable’. But I knew something had to change. I use a therapist through In Your Corner Online, a service where you talk to a therapist on your schedule over Skype (it really is the 21st century). Meeting my therapist Amanda has to be the best thing I’ve done for myself all year. She never makes me feel crazy or unstable and we are able to talk through the issues I have. Since I started seeing her I’ve come to terms that I have Depression and Anxiety. These disorders do not define me but they are a part of who I am. And now I know why I get the feelings that I do. I had been seeing Amanda for four or five months and things were better but I knew I still wasn’t where I needed to be. I then started anti-anxiety medication. At first I was afraid that taking a pill would really mean I am crazy or that it would take my personality away. But the pills help the parts that I can’t, the chemical imbalance and I still have my personality. With therapy and medication I finally feel happy again.

Am I cured? No. It’ isn’t that simple. I still have bad days where I want to crawl under my bed and cry without reason. I still have a stray panic attack in a traffic jam or stress too much when someone doesn’t text me back immediately. But I’m working on it, now that I know more about myself, I know why I react the way I do and I can combat those thoughts in a healthy way. Why am I putting this out there? Well number one, I want to take the stigma away from mental health. If you hurt yourself physically you fix it, it should be the same for your mental health. I want to share my story in hopes it inspires someone who needs help to get it. And number two, I don’t want to hide anymore. I don’t want to make up excuses of why I can’t go out if I have a therapist appointment. Or hide my anxiety medication so no one sees it accidentally. This is a part of me and I’m going to own it.

I think I’ve grown as a person more in the last year than any other year of my life. It has been a year full of many ups and downs. I am so lucky to have spent it with a great family and amazing friends. Without their support, I wouldn’t be as strong as I am today. I’m looking forward to continuing to grow in 2016, and I am very proud of what I accomplished this year.

I am proud that I received a promotion at work after only nine months of employment. I am proud that I bought a car without any financial assistance from my family. I am proud that I lost 20lbs (even if I gained some back). I am proud that I posted pictures of myself in a bikini though I am not a size two. I am proud that I dyed my hair blonde on a whim. I am proud that I swam with dolphins in the Caribbean Sea. I am proud that I read over 30 books this year. I am proud that I seeked out a therapist and admitted I needed some help. I am proud that I finally put myself first in my life. I am proud that I wrote and published a blog. I am proud that I’m sharing it with the world. I am proud of me for being me and not apologizing for it.

Thank you 2015 for teaching me so much

~Lauren

Book Review: Barbara the Slut and Other People

  Somehow I have regained a bit of momentum on my reading list this month, and I couldn’t be happier! I blew through Barbara the Slut and Other People in two days! Granted, it’s been super slow at work and the book is pretty short-but hey it is an accomplishment! I am way more of a novel reader than a short story person, I like to delve deep into the characters. I had a hard time in my creative writing classes in college, creating a story in a small form. I always wanted more. But in the interest of trying new things this year, I have it a go. Fascinating title, right?

I love this book you guys! As I’ve said in the past, character development is the number one thing for me. Holmes amazingly perfectly crafts these flawed, realistic characters in such a short space. I felt like I knew her characters by the end of each story. That is super difficult to obtain in a novel, much less a short story.

Holmes is very minimal in her story telling. She drops you right into the situation, no warning, no backstory. As the reader you pick up things along the way but you have a million questions that aren’t answered. And there aren’t really endings or resolutions to these stories. They just kind of stop. Which normally would bother me, a lot! But, it doesn’t with these. They feel like small life snapshots, when they end, they end. As the reader it is nice to kind of fill in the puzzle yourself even if it isn’t correct.

I connected with the characters because many of the stories focused on young adults around my age. She tackled the subjects of what to do after college when you can’t find a job (work at a sex toy store, of course!), family issues (no they don’t get easier when you grow up), being true to yourself, dumping the nice guy, really bonding with your dog! Even the adolescence based stories feel so real to me, the mean kids at school, high school judgement. It beautifully captured what it’s like to grow up in this society. 

I think this was a wonderful time in my life to read this book and it seems to summarize my crazy year in a way. Everyone in college, in their twenties should read this. 5 stars!

~Lauren 

End of an Era, Beginning of an Age

carYesterday I made the biggest purchase that I’ve made in my life so far, I bought a car. It has been awhile since I realized that I indeed needed a new vehicle, but I tried to ignore it for as long as possible. It’s not that I didn’t see the excitement in purchasing a new car, but I felt the overwhelming anxiety of purchasing something that I would be paying off for years. I also loved what I drove, a 2002 Ford F150. But the truck I love is 13 years old and has over 195,000 miles, and my daily commute is around 120 miles. You can see the issue.

But, I LOVE my truck. I was given my truck for my 16th birthday, and it is still the best birthday present that I have ever received. As a teenager, that was all I wanted, a truck. I had horses and was heavily involved in 4H, and there was massive respect for trucks. I was also raised as a ‘ford’ girl, so an F150 was my dream vehicle. My parents picked me up in my truck from high school on my birthday and I was floored. Of course everyone saw me in it and for a moment, I was the cool kid. And in high school, we all live for that moment.

My truck came to define me in a way. Soon people knew me based on the fact that I drove a truck. I pointed it out in the parking lot, yep that truck is mine. I drove to the drive-in with all my friends in the back, I would help people move. I was the girl with the big truck. It took me to my first Rolex 3-Day Event, to Texas and back, to Louisville for college, to countless IHSA Shows, and more. It hauled horses, hay, jump standards, exotic plants, you name it-my truck was used for it. I was recognized on the street while driving it, I got attention from other drivers and respect. It wasn’t often that you saw a little girl like me driving a truck. To be honest, I wasn’t sure that I was ready to let that go. But the gas cost was killing me, and I was killing my truck with that commute. I knew she had be retired.

I hate car shopping. I’ve heard enough to believe in the stereotypical sneaky wheeling and dealing car salesman and I hate not being able to trust people. I overly trust people and I don’t do well in a scenario where I have to be on my toes, ready to be deceived. While I knew I needed a car, I kept putting it off. Finally I decided to go out test driving cars last weekend. I needed to find out exactly what I wanted. I test drove a Ford Focus, a Hyundai Elantra, and a Nissan Versa. Small cars with good gas mileage but still on the cheaper side. The Focus was a huge disappointment to me, it was extremely tiny and the interior seemed very cheap. Even my salesman told me it was a cheap car and he couldn’t fit his kids in his. I fell in love with the Elantra, it was far and away bigger and nicer on the inside. The Versa was nice, but it didn’t compare to the Elantra with me.

After my test driving excursion, I searched on the internet and found that most of the 2015 Elantras were gone. This was a let down because I knew my best shot was to get a cheap 2015. I did find a 2015 at a great price. I called the dealership and set up an appointment for the next day. I was emailed twice the next day to make sure I was still coming to the appointment. I even had my parents meet me there. When I showed up and asked for the person I had been communicating with I was told that they don’t deal with customers and the car I came to look at was sold yesterday. I was shattered. I had put everything on this car. When my parents showed up, my dad let the salesman have it which embarrassed me and it was all around a mess. This is why I hated car shopping.

But I picked myself up and started emailing dealers again this next day. My car search took me to Beavercreek, about an hour away on a rainy Saturday. If I didn’t come home with a car, I would be crushed all over again. But I wanted a good deal of course, but most of all I just didn’t want to be lied too. After 5 hours, I drove home in a brand new 2016 Hyundai Elantra SE. I was elated. This is the most adult thing I’ve done. And I paid for it 100% by myself and I dealt with the financing on my own, catching the ‘extra’ expenses they tried to throw in. It was so nice to feel proud of myself for actually completing something this large in my life. Maybe there is hope for me yet in the adult world.

If you don’t believe in yourself, no one else will.

I can’t count how many times I have heard this quote, mostly from my mother, but I don’t think that I fully understood it until today. Have you ever had one of those days that literally everything you do seems to go wrong? That was what today was like for me. At work I was asked to do some proofreading and editing. These were two things that I felt that I was good at. Writing has always been a skill that I prided myself on. After proofreading a document about a half-a-dozen times (finding new errors each time), I finally approved it. But an error still managed to sneak through. I wanted to pull my hair out. To make matters worse, a webpage that I had made edits to earlier in the week was riddled with errors and my boss was less than pleased. As I rectified those mistakes, all confidence in my proofreading and editing skills seemed to drain from my body. I reread that document at least a dozen times before sending it to him for review. I missed one comma.

I felt pretty defeated about the whole thing. I touted my writing and editing ability on my resume, on my LinkedIn profile, I corrected grammar on Twitter-so who was this new girl? I began to wonder if I had lost my writing ability, or maybe I never had it to begin with. So I did what most twenty-somethings do when they are faced with a tough realization, I posted my woes on Facebook. Now I can say that I did this to vent, but in reality, I did it for validation. I wanted people to tell me that I had not lost my writing ability, that I was in fact a good writer. I needed my Facebook friends to tell me what I wouldn’t tell myself.

I recieved a lukewarm reception to my status. About five likes and two comments. The first comment was a suggestion that I try automatic writing because I was overthinking it (which was true) from a guy that I shared a creative writing class with in college. The second was from a friend who sympathized with me, saying she went through something similar. Good responses, but not what I wanted. I wanted to be told that I was a great writer and that these mistakes didn’t change that. Why didn’t I get that response?

Well that’s easy. I didn’t believe in myself so why would other people? The fact is if I say that I’m a bad writer, then why would someone argue with me? If people genuinely disagree with me, or care about me then they may argue with me but maybe they wouldn’t. If I would’ve walked into my boss’s office and said “I’m a terrible writer,” he probably would’ve looked at me like I was crazy, and then he may have believed it. People will believe you when you say something about yourself, that is why confidence is so important. If I believe I’m a bad writer, everyone else will believe it too. If I believe I’m a good writer, then so will the world. You can’t rely on other people to believe in you if you don’t. It starts with you.

I believe I am a good writer. I also believe that I am far from perfect, I will make mistakes, that makes me human.

-Lauren

Congratulations! You are an adult now.

I woke up one day and I was 24. It sounds so old and so young at the same time. According to the law, I’m in adult and I’ve graduated from pre-adulthood (aka college), so this is not a drill, it’s the real thing. I’ve always been under the delusion that I would have it all figured out by now. I would have a great job (leading to a great career), a beautiful apartment, an impressive credit score, and life would be amazing. I spent the last 24 years doing all the right things: good grades, extra curricular activities, college, internships etc. I was a bit of an overachiever. Well I graduated from college last May and finally got a solid dose of the real world. And to be fair, I can’t complain. I had a job upon graduation, it was a seasonal position but I turned that into a full-time position at a neighboring employer. I then was promoted in nine months. So what is my problem? Well I’m sitting on my parent’s couch, and for some reason living at home feels like a failure. I moved back home a year ago and I convinced myself it was temporary. It still is temporary, just not as temporary as I would’ve liked. If I did everything the right way then why can’t I pay rent? And I am not sure where my career is headed, or even where I want it to go. After two decades of instruction, I feel like I have no direction. Are you sick of me whining yet? I am.

It is so easy to fall into the trap of thinking that I am the only one who feels this way. Social media is a perfect catalyst for feeling like I am behind the curve. I mean look at everyone else, they have it together, why can’t I? But, when I actually talk to people, I realize that we are all in the same boat. I ran into a friend from high school this past weekend at a festival. He was one of those guys that everyone knew would be successful. And from the first glance it looked like he had it all, Bachelors and Masters degrees and a good job. But he was quick to point out that he wasn’t doing what he wanted to do, and he was having a tough time getting into what he wanted to do and still make enough money to stay afloat. Just this afternoon I had lunch with a friend that I used to work with. After searching for a job for a year, she’s going back to school to try a new career. She was overwhelmed about going back to school while holding down a part-time job. The truth is, none of us have it figured out. As frustrating as it is, there is not a manual on how to survive your 20’s. It will work out, it has to work out.

Until then, I try to remember that not having it all figured out yet is not failing. Adulting is hard, being your own biggest critic just makes it harder.

Lauren