2016 Life Lessons

Reflection is something I try to do every night. I like to write down something that was good, something that I want to improve on, and my rambling thoughts before I go to sleep. I had plenty of reflection today. Switching between sleeping and watching movies on a 16 hour flight with approximately 3 more hours before I land in Tanzania, I’ve thought about a lot about 2016. I’ve had a lot of ups and downs but I try to focus on the positive. Four of the biggest things I learned in 2016 were self-respect, forgiveness, independence, and empowerment.

Self-Respect

To use the word “dating” to describe what I attempted to do this year would be too generous of a word. On the bright side, I met a lot of great guys who I ended up being friends with through mutual friends, work, or through Bumble and Tinder. I figured we could stay friends because my work and life balance was not on my side with all the moving. Bad timing is the story of my life.

On the not so bright side, I ended up in a a handful of hurtful situations that I stayed in thinking I could change the other person. It hurt me more to get my hopes up and to think that I could possibly date this person despite the fact I KNEW they were NOT good for me. Some promised they wouldn’t hurt me but ended up hurting me. Dating this year left me very guarded and vulnerable, but I learned a life lesson about self-respect. I eventually walked away from those hurtful situations and started to respect myself and learn my worth. Don’t force someone to like you; the right person will openly give you their time and companionship.

Forgiveness

Forgiveness has never been an easy thing for me. I dislike holding grudges against people but sometimes it’s easier to cut people off than to fix a friendship. This year I learned that I felt better going out and extending an olive branch to people I may have hurt through my actions, through my friend’s actions, or misunderstanding. Never burn bridges because you never know when you will run into someone again. I repaired plenty of friendships this year and never been happier to have these people back into my life. If you try to make amends and the other person does not agree, move on but feel better that you were willing to make peace between the two of you.

Independence

This past year I felt like I truly learned about independence. Having to leave a familiar place and pick up again really taught me about how to be on my own. I’ve always had my friends and family within mere hours of where I lived. Living on my own, being comfortable in my own company, and having to improvise made me a stronger person. I realized that I did not have my two roommates from college helping me shovel out my car in the snow or help me bring my groceries up three flights of stairs. Before this year, I never drove more than six hours or find an apartment by myself. I had to learn how to be aware of my surroundings, make good judgment, and be safe everywhere I went. Being independent proved that I could make it on my own.

Empowerment

I could not have made it this year without the help of my friends and my family by my side. Every time I felt down from constant training for work, always being on the road, or just my constant string of bad dates…I always had a friend to talk to. Someone was always there to listen to me and remind me that I could do it. I think we need to learn how to empower each other. There is nothing more valuable than having a support group for you. It really helps knowing that no matter where I end up, there is always a group of people praying for me, cheering me on, and reminding me that everything is going to be okay.

No matter what happened this year, good or bad, remember that you are an amazing person with a lot to contribute to society, you are loved, and you have a purpose.

Best wishes for 2017.

-KC

Table for One: Part II

Two and a half hours, country back roads lined with tobacco and cotton, and a half a tank of gas later…I was in beautiful Savannah, Georgia. The last time I was in the city, I was in middle school and my Girl Scout troop sold enough Girl Scout cookies to make a weeklong trip one summer. Coming back as an adult was a real treat…I mean who could enjoy River Street at night as an eleven year old? I checked into my hotel downtown and went on my unaccompanied adventure.

I walked miles on miles just exploring downtown and taking in all the sights. I had a list on my phone of places recommended by friends and of course…Pinterest. Then I realized it was time for lunch and I thought to myself, “Do I go back to the hotel or do I go to a restaurant and eat alone?” I sat off an edge along the river shamelessly day drinking Wet Willies and decided “Nobody knows me here, I’ll go to a restaurant alone.” I decided to go to a casual, low-key place and the anxiety rushed through my body. This might sound like an exaggeration for some people, but I used to be the type of person who would beg everyone at work to simply walk to the convenience store with me because my level of social anxiety would go through the roof. I couldn’t go anywhere by myself because I felt like I was being watched or judged and now I just decided to eat alone in a restaurant.

As I anxiously approached the host, he looked at me and asked, “Hello! How many ma’am?”

“Table for one, please.” *as my heart was beating out of my chest*

The host walked me over and asked if I wanted to sit at the bar or at a small table near a window. I opted for the window and immediately took my phone out. The restaurant wasn’t too busy because it just opened for lunch but I felt like there were hundreds of eyes looking at me. My inner self kept screaming “You’re alone and everyone is looking at you because you’re about to eat alone.” The server came by and asked what I wanted to drink. I could drown my anxiety in a pitcher of margarita or I could face my anxiety and drink water. I replied, “Water please.” Then the server came back to ask me what I wanted to order. While I waited for my food, I looked around and realized everyone was too involved in their conversations to realize I was even alone. I looked at the bar and saw that a lot of people were eating alone too. Suddenly, I didn’t feel weird and I ate my first meal in a restaurant by myself.

Once my anxiety subsided, I rewarded myself with a shopping trip downtown and was proud of myself for being confident and not feeling awkward. After my shopping trip, I dropped my stuff off to my hotel and ventured back out to River Street. I even made random friends while I was out that night. We met because we were all watching a street performer and a lady in the group asked what flavor my Wet Willies was (popular daiquiri spot in the South. Thanks to Gabrielle, my best friend for introducing me). We talked and I found out they were from Fort Stewart (an Army base near Savannah). I mentioned I was in the area because I was at Fort Gordon. Instant friends!

I quickly loved traveling by myself because I was on my own itinerary. I did everything I wanted to do on my travel to do list without having to worry about fitting other people into my schedule. I always thought that traveling in large groups was a pain because everyone wanted to do something different, and it always felt chaotic to me. My introverted side felt at peace when I spent the next day soaking in the sun and reading a book at Tybee Island. I loved Savannah so much I went back again five days later with my dad and brother when they came to Georgia to visit me.

Later in the summer, I was fortunate enough to have my brother and friends accompany me on my laundry list of cities I wanted to visit. Then my very last trip before heading back to Virginia was to Hilton Head lsland, South Carolina where I decided to travel to by myself. It felt like my life that summer was coming to a full circle. I survived my first and last trips on my own with a renewed sense of confidence and much less anxiety.

Moral of the story:

Nobody cares that you’re sitting a table or at the bar by yourself.

If you want to take a trip by yourself, don’t be scared.

Use good judgment and stay in a safe location.

Let you family and friends know where you are staying.

Bring a phone charger, cash, and your ID wherever you go.

Feed your wanderlust. It could be the next state over, or the next continent. Go for it!

-KC

Table for One: Part I

There was so much anticipation. My group text with my coworkers at work was blowing up, “Where are you heading to this summer?” I kept refreshing my work email until an email from my supervisor popped up.

“You’re going to Fort Gordon, Georgia for twelve weeks.”

I was thinking to myself, “WHERE IS THAT?” I was finishing up my temporary duty (the military’s version of a business trip) in Norfolk, Virginia when I got the news of my next assignment. It was February at the time and I wouldn’t leave for Georgia for another five months. I asked my fellow coworkers if anyone else was getting sent to the same place as me and became anxious as I figured out that I was going to be alone for the entire twelve weeks.

Upon figuring out where in the world Augusta, Georgia was, I got excited about being able to go to a place I’ve never been to before. As it got closer to summer, I started to plan all the places I wanted to visit in Georgia and South Carolina since Augusta sat on the border of both states…Savannah, Charleston, Hilton Head…I was going to spend my summer in a city that had an average temperature of 90 in the summer. I was not ready for the heat…or being there on my own.

I anticipated that the drive from Virginia to Georgia would be the most difficult part of the twelve weeks since I’ve never driven very far without my family. The drive was actually the easiest part…the hardest part was adjusting. I checked into my new workplace then after orientation I checked into the place I would stay at for the summer. I was overwhelmed. It was 105 degrees on my first day, I had to unpack my 4Runner that was packed to the brim, and I was exhausted from driving 450 miles. I didn’t even unpack one bag before I laid on my bed and passed out for a couple of hours.

The first few nights were the hardest. Between figuring out a new work schedule, getting lost on my way to work, and barely eating from all the stress…I was worn out the first week. I already needed a vacation that first week. None of my friends were anywhere near Georgia and my brother was just starting grad school in North Carolina so I had nobody to persuade to go on a road trip with me. I opened my Google Maps app and started to enter different cities in Georgia and South Carolina, opened my Marriott app and searched for the cheapest hotel deals…then I stumbled across a hotel in Savannah that is usually $350/night for $120. I guess it was a last minute deal so I booked it immediately. I set an alarm for 6AM and the next morning I would be on my way to Savannah and Tybee Island on my first solo trip of #Summer16

To be continued…

-KC

Living Solo

Four addresses in two years… My friends can’t even keep track of my mailing address because it hasn’t been the same since I graduated from college. Between moving and long term travel for work…moving to New York will be the first time I am signing a lease for longer than twelve months. This will also be the first time I am living far from my home but I decided to live alone.

Throughout college, I had 2-3 roommates everywhere I lived. I always had someone to talk to, someone to eat meals with, and someone to drag into the city with me on the weekends. I really enjoyed the company of others. It felt like it was always a party when they invited their friends over too. As much as I loved living with others, I craved having my own place that I could decorate by myself, not worry about a cleaning schedule, and have privacy. As a full time student and part time rowing coach, there was no way I could afford my own place in the DC area.

When I moved to Richmond, I finally had the opportunity to live by myself and it was amazing. I felt so accomplished being able to pay for my own rent and my own utilities. It was really empowering knowing that I worked hard enough to sustain living by myself. Statistics show that the percentage of women living alone is somewhere between 15-20%. Articles titled “Living Alone? You’re not alone” are all over the Internet as if there is a stigma for a young, unmarried women to live alone.

Well guess what…there is nothing wrong with being a woman and being able to provide for yourself. I’m living in the suburbs of NYC in a brand new one-bedroom apartment when I had the options to ask for roommates. I am not struggling to pay the rent and I am still putting money into my TSP (retirement) and my savings account. Too many people have said:

“Don’t you wish you had someone to split the rent with?”

“Don’t you get lonely living alone?”

“That sucks that you moved to NY. It’s so expensive there.”

I am sure they are not being said with a negativity. I see living alone as something that nobody can take away from me because if someone were to enter my life and live with me, they could leave and I could pay the rent on time.

I learned a lot since I started living on my own last summer. You really learn how to take care of yourself when you’re sick, communicate better with your friends since you can’t rely on roommates to be social, and you learn how to do things by yourself…like carrying six boxes of IKEA furniture up three flights of stairs to assemble by yourself. I can also keep my laundry in the dryer for 3 days, take forever in the bathroom getting ready for work, and turn my spare shelves into a wine cabinet.

If you’re a young lady (or man) living alone, know that you’re an independent, self-sufficient, badass millennial with an awesome career that allows you to have that lifestyle. Don’t let society tell you that you’re a loner with no social skills for living by yourself.

If you’re living at home or with roommates and thinking about living by yourself, do it! Don’t be scared. Live in a safe neighborhood and buy a Swiffer to help you kill bugs.

-KC

PS. Check out websites like WatchDog and ask your local police station about crime reports. This is all public information and it will help you find a safe place.

If you’re affiliated with the military or the DOD, ask the housing staff on post to help you find a place.

Falling Out of My Comfort Zone

People will tell you…jump out of your comfort zone, do something uncomfortable, and see the world as if changing your job, moving out of state, or starting over is something that happens overnight. We all adapt to change at different paces…and I happen to be at the slower end of that spectrum and this is my journey.

Just last year I was finishing up grad school, in a long term relationship, coaching rowing, and just loving life. The majority of my friends stayed within the area and I was looking forward to joining the “real world” with them once I graduated. I dreamt of working for a federal agency, living in the District, and joining my friends for brunch every Sunday as we discussed our adult lives. Little did I know that this was all coming to a halt.

Before and after class, I furiously searched for jobs on USAJobs filtering them down to Washington DC, Maryland, and Virginia. I had no intent of leaving the DC area. Job offers came from private companies and political campaigns, but I wanted that federal government job. One morning I checked my email and it said “REFERRED” with a job offer with the Department of the Army. The job search was over and I was ready to graduate the following May. My friends and family were so excited for me. I felt like all my hard work in college and grad school paid off. Then I asked my significant other, “Would you consider moving to Richmond with me someday?” That conversation ended with a “no” and it ended our rocky relationship. Later that summer, I was moving to Richmond and starting over. I spent many nights crying, contemplating my life decisions, and hoping to make it back to DC.

Little did I know that all these changes would be the biggest blessing in disguise. Now I’m single and living alone in my own apartment in a town I have never heard of, a couple hundred miles away from home, and not only working for the government but for a prestigious school. Many people would see this as backtracking because it seems like I’m starting over, but it isn’t. I used to look back and think about how my life would have been if I stayed in the same place. I don’t look back. I just keep looking forward. I told people to stop feeling sorry for me for moving around, living out of suitcases for business trips, and eating in restaurants alone in random cities. My job took me out of my comfort zone, helped me meet some amazing people, and taught me about being self-sufficient.

I’m happy and excited about everyday now. I hope I can inspire others to do the same.

Don’t be afraid of what the future holds.

-KC