Contributor on ‘2020 – A Year’s Worth of Ruminations’

Nicole – Chicago

January 31, 2020

Question 1: How did you feel today? (What thoughts are on your mind on this last day of each month and what stimuli caused you to feel that way?)

I’ve been thinking a lot about this quote from one of my favorite TV shows as a teenager, Skins: “It’s got potential, this day. It’s pregnant.”  There’s just something about this year that feels like it’s going to be a really big, impactful, and messy year.  This month, while not extremely exciting, has been an important month to set all the groundwork for what is coming up this year.  If the goal for the end of this year is to reap the fruits of my hard work, this month has been about sowing the seeds and tending to those crops.  

There has been a lot of preparation and planning for what is coming up this year and in the next few months in particular.  I’m moving into my own apartment tomorrow and I have some work events coming up that put me in a position of high visibility with my regional leadership teams, on top of the typical pursuits of personal and professional bettermentOf course all of those things don’t just happen, so a lot of my time in January has been spent strategically planning for these big events and grinding out the work necessary to make them successful.  It’s been grueling–time that I want to be spending with my family and boyfriend has been spent packing up all of my possessions or on the phone with potential candidates for jobs at my company.  Nonetheless, I’ve been chugging along because I’m excited to see my hard work amount to some great outcomes.

Underlying all of that excitement, however, is a lot of anxiety.  I can never seem to shake the inner monologue of my self-critic, so I feel a lot of general self-doubt and questioning of whether I’m capable of all that I want to do and of all that I have coming up. I’ve gotten better at ignoring that little voice, or at least at convincing myself not to listen to it, but it never goes away.  I yearn for a day where I won’t even notice it, but as I get older, I realize it’s more about finding ways to cope instead of finding ways to make it go away.

Regardless, though, there is a lot of good in my life and a lot that I’m excited for not only in the upcoming month, but also for this entire year.

Question 2: How would you frame your day (answer to the first question) to a complete stranger?

The end of the month is wrapping up very nicely.  Work has been going really well–I’ve only been in the role for 3 months, but I’ve been able to pick up on everything very quickly and make an immediate impact, and there are a lot of big events and work-related travel that I have coming up in February that I’m looking forward to.  In my personal life, things have been great too–I signed a lease on an apartment that I’m going to finally move into tomorrow, so I’ve spent much of January packing and purging in preparation.  

We’re only a month into 2020, but it just feels like a big year for me, and I’m so excited to have a lot of pieces of the puzzle falling into place.  After spending a lot of my time since graduating in a state of existential angst, it’s nice to feel like everything is working itself out.

Question 3: What are some aspects of your routine now (daily/weekly) that you think should be changed (for health reasons, stress, etc.) and what are some things you do that you would recommend to someone else? What are a couple things you would want to add to your routine to enhance your lifestyle?

I’m pretty content with my routines, by and large, but the one thing I feel is missing is exercise.  In college I was very consistent with working out–I had softball practice 6 times per week and weight lifted 4 days on top of that.  Since I’ve graduated, however, it’s really been hit or miss–some weeks I go to the gym 2-3 times, but there are some periods where I won’t go for weeks.  I’ve really struggled with having to work 8-5 and then trying to find time outside of that to work out–I’m not always able to get up before to exercise without compromising my sleep schedule and after work I’m either too tired or unhappy with the amount of people at the gym, which prevents me from completing my usual routine.  This always leaves me frustrated, though, because I know how much better, mentally and physically, I feel when I work out.  The thing that I always have to remind myself of is that it is better to go and do something (e.g., just ride a bike at the gym) than to wait to do something until the conditions are perfect.  This upcoming month, my goal is to really just find ways to add exercise into my day, even if it doesn’t confirm with my vision of what exercise needs to look like.

February 29, 2020

Question 1: How did you feel today? (What thoughts are on your mind on this last day of each month and what stimuli caused you to feel that way?)

Today I am incredibly hungover, thanks to a fun night out with my good friends Nathan and Michael, Michael’s friend Drew, and some of Michael’s coworkers.  We spent the evening dancing the night away in Boystown and then made our way back to my apartment (but not before stopping at 7-Eleven to pick up ice cream to binge).  I forced everyone to watch my favorite Scooby Doo episode which was met with mixed reviews.  Then the group played Mario Party while I fell asleep on the floor, in true Nicole fashion.  I generally tend to be an introvert and find a lot of joy in the time I spend by myself, but it’s evenings like that that remind me how much I enjoy spending time with friends I care about.

In some ways it seems appropriate that my month is ending with a hangover because February has been full of nothing but high points and a come down was bound to happen.   Last month I said that January was about sowing the seeds of hard work, and February was truly the beginning of reaping the fruits of my labor.  This month was incredibly fulfilling in a number of different verticals: I moved into my first apartment, I was able to do a lot of fun travel for work, I celebrated my birthday with my loved ones, and a ton more. Above all, though, I feel happy.  It’s been a lot of work to get to this point, spanning far beyond just January of this year, but it finally feels like all of the work has been worth it and for something.

Question 2: How would you frame your day (answer to the first question) to a complete stranger?

I’m feeling a little hungover today.  I went to a couple of bars in Boystown last night with some friends.  It was a nice time–we danced a ton and then we went back to my apartment to wind down and watch TV.  Of course, I don’t drink as much as I used to, so I’m really feeling last night’s decisions today.

Question 3: Two paths diverge in a yellow wood… which do you choose? One winds into a dark canopy headed towards a beautiful valley, and the other heads straight for the top of the mountain. Choose wisely 😉

While both paths seem appealing, the winding path through a forest and into a valley calls to me; it reminds me of my family’s mill in the Neckar Valley of Germany–filled with beautiful vineyards and lovely castles.  I picture it as being fall and being able to enjoy walking through the forest while the leaves are changing colors, only to then emerge from the forest into an immensely green and lush valley.  I think about sitting next to the river that runs through the valley and reading, soaking up one of the last warm days before winter begins.  It’s one of those days you look around you and think “damn, I’m so grateful to be here right now.”