Thoughts on turning 31… and the
future of Map Your 30s blog

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When I first started writing about turning 30 years old and decided to create the Map Your 30s Blog, my idea was simple: I wanted to write about all of the changes happening in my life and I wanted to make the point that life doesn’t end when you’re 30.

In fact, in my very first post after turning the big 3-0, I said that “my goal with the Map Your 30s blog is to prove that turning this momentous decade doesn’t have to be the end of your journey.” I wanted to write about how it’s okay not to have everything figured out, because I still didn’t and because I knew plenty of people who were stressed because it felt like being 30 meant SO MUCH.

It doesn’t.

Or, at least, it doesn’t have to.

Yesterday, I turned 31 years old and, let me tell you, a LOT of stuff has happened in my life since. If you’ve been following me at all (on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram), then you might have noticed quite a few changes… Starting with the biggest one of all: At 30, I was living in New York City, the place I had chosen to call my home since I went to college there at 18 years old, and am now a happy resident of Southwest Florida, where I am actually originally from and never thought I would end up in again.

But there’s more. And since I had very specific categories I wanted to grow in, talk about and generally work towards bettering in my 30s, here it is.

Relationships: When I turned 30 years old, I was single and kind of starting to be miserable about it. I hadn’t had a longterm relationship in six years and, even worse, the relationships I had before were pretty freaking horrible. But in my first Map Your 30s blog post (which was written exactly 3 months after turning 30), I wrote about finally finding the relationship I have always dreamed of. And well, we’re about to near our one year anniversary and are happily planning for 57 more to come.

Career: This is probably the place where I’ve grown the most, besides relationships. At 30, I had just accepted a job that very quickly turned out to be the wrong move for me and spurned me to go back to Florida, with my tail between my legs, to live with my parents and figure out the next step. In my update last June, I had thankfully gone back to being the Food Editor at Brit+Co and started writing again for MamásLatinas. Since then, I also started being a regular contributor to Mom.me and am hoping to find another PT writing gig soon. Beyond that, though, I also am freelancing a ton since the start of 2017 (after hiring a writing coach) and am very optimistic that I will hit my goal of being published in 17 publications this year… and very soon, I expect!

Home: My home situation obviously changed quite dramatically from being 30 to being 31, since I moved states and settled back in Southwest Florida (for now, anyway). I used to believe that New York City was the place where I belonged and the only city that I could live in, but that’s no longer true. It ironically probably took 10 years of living in the city (the official time you can start calling yourself a “New Yorker,” which I very much consider myself to be) before I realized that I could live elsewhere too. Right now I am happy to be in SW FL but I know that my life is going to take me elsewhere, and possibly before turning 32. That’s meant that my physical home, as in the apartment we live in, is a bit in flux. But that’s okay because, as we all know, I don’t have to have it all figured out just yet.

Finances: This area is a tricky one but, I have to say, I think I am finally starting to get to a better place. At 30, I had no savings to speak of at all. And shortly after starting this blog and moving to Florida, I realized that I might have to save for a car and who knows what else. It’s been tricky, too, because Adam and I traveled a bunch towards the end of 2016 and that ran up our credit cards a bit higher than we’d like. However, with my stable editor and contributor jobs, extra income from freelance writing and some hard-ass budgeting, I am very confident we will be able to pay it all off by the time I turn 32 next year.

Health: I have to admit: At 30, I was definitely not the weight I was hoping to be. Although that didn’t stop me from taking the boudoir photos I had always wanted, it didn’t exactly make me feel good to be eating unhealthy food 80% of the time and only focusing on healthy food 20% of the time. As I wrote in my first Map Your 30s blog post, I wanted to switch those numbers and start to really focus on my health. Although I still haven’t figured out a good gym routine, I am happy to report that I now eat vegetarian or vegan about 80% of the time and have lost about 20 pounds since my 30th birthday. And I wasn’t even trying to!

Confidence: Here is where things get a little tricky… You see, “confidence” was my secret keyword for writing about recovery, which was something that I was not yet comfortable sharing with the world this time last year. I had gone into rehab in July 2015, relapsed in April 2016 (yes, a month after turning 30) and finally confessed to my journey last September, the same month that I celebrated my half-birthday. I also wanted to talk about mental health in this space, and I haven’t done much of that. But from being 30 and on the edge of a relapse to being 31 and almost a whole year sober, I am feeling pretty good and (dare I say it?) more confident than ever.

So, all in all, I would say that the 30th year of my birth was a pretty good one. I met the love of my life, started a full-time freelance writing career, moved from NYC to SW FL, set up a good budget to pay off debts, lost weight as a result of healthier eating and finally figured out life as a sober person.

It’s been quite a rollercoaster and, although I haven’t written about it as much as I initially thought, it’s been a good check-in for myself to see how I have been doing on the bigger life goals.

Here’s the thing though: Although in my head, I kind of want to do more of Map Your 30s, in my heart I know that this is totally unrealistic. The truth is that I have other writing goals right now and no time to focus on this. Beyond that, I want to do something different with my personal writing… and I haven’t quite figured out yet. But I’ll definitely let you know once I do.

However, that’s doesn’t mean that Map Your 30s is totally dead. What it means is that it’s on the back burner and possibly something I just check in with once a year or so. I’m not sure yet, to be honest, but what I do know is that I was right all along: Turning 30 doesn’t mean the end of your life and it doesn’t mean that you have to have everything figured out by then.

If I’ve learned anything over and over in the past year, it’s that life changes and evolves in ways that we imagine, ways that we plan for, ways that we expect… and so many more ways that were definitely not the plan, not what we expected, and not what we could have imagined.

Would I have imagined this time last year that I would be a full-time freelance writer and editor, living with an amazing partner, in Southwest Florida of all places? Absolutely not! But this has brought new adventure, excitement, stability, love, career advances and so much more to my life. I wouldn’t trade it for the world.

And I wouldn’t trade turning 30 for anything either. Or 31, for that matter.

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Dose & OMGFacts: December 2016

What I Learned Struggling To Get Sober

Guys, Don’t Talk To Women Working In Coffee Shops

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How I’m writing about the things that seriously SCARE me

Please subscribe to my newsletter and read more of my writing on my personal blog, The Cookie Dough LifeThank you!

A couple days, I wrote about the scariest thing that I could imagine: my recovery.

It’s funny to think about how recovery, which many would consider a “success,” is something so scary to talk about. But I was terrified of admitting that I had a problem and I was even more terrified of the stigma I may face from friends, loved ones and acquaintances (as well as random strangers on the internet) who didn’t know about my issues and who may not be as kind as the very select few that I had previously shared this with.

But I must be the luckiest girl on the planet, because the reactions I received were overwhelmingly positive.

I was absolutely touched by all of the people who read and responded to my confession. I remember reading a while ago that gratitude is important in recovery, and I am definitely grateful for the sweet messages that I have received in the past couple of days.

The best part of the messages, though, was a couple friends reminding me about the anal sex article I wrote a couple of years ago. At the time, THAT was absolutely the scariest thing I had ever written.

I remember thinking about writing this piece for a while, knowing the stigma that comes with anal sex and the stereotype that women can never, ever enjoy it. In fact, it was an episode of The Mindy Project that first propelled me into a rage about that stereotype.

In the episode, I remember clearly that Danny (Mindy’s then-boyfriend) tries to “accidentally” slip it in, and Mindy is shocked and disgusted. Later on, she is talking with her best friend (who happens to be a straight guy) and he tells her that no woman can ever enjoy it.

My immediate reaction: F THAT!

It’s not that I’m the biggest lover of it, but I have been lucky enough to enjoy it with a very select few. And, let me tell you, it was always a great and carefully planned experience–not an “OOPS so sorry I slipped it in the wrong hole” type of thing.

And that’s part of what drove me crazy. The assumption that women can’t enjoy anal sex, and the further offensive assumption that the only way a guy can get it is by tricking his lover into it. Well, sorry to tell you, but slipping it in is NEVER going to be an enjoyable experience for anyone. However, talking about it and carefully planning it (and using some of my anal sex tips!) can actually make it a great experience for both people.

The reason why I’m mentioning this article a couple years after the fact is that it remains one of the pieces that I am most proud of. Yes, it was hella SCARY to write but it was also cathartic, therapeutic and I honestly believe that I helped people by doing so.

And so, last week when I wrote about recovery and nervously hit the publish button, I knew I was doing the right thing too.

It all comes down to the phrase I read recently in Writing Is My Drink: “Why don’t you try writing about what scares you the most?” I talked about it when I wrote about the scary parts of turning 30 recently, too, and it’s something that I have kept thinking about.

Writing about the scary things is, well, SCARY. It’s terrifying, actually. I had the idea for the anal sex tips article long before I actually wrote it. And I knew that I wanted to write about my recovery for at least the better part of a year. But it took a long time before I was able to do so.

Now that I have, though, I feel a sense of relief. There’s still a lot more to say, but I am glad I started to talk about it. Not only did I receive a tremendous wave of support that had me floating on cloud nine all weekend, but I continue to believe that writing about the scary things can and does help people.

Maybe it’s because that’s the kind of reading I love too, but connecting with another human being because of their struggles is something uniquely special. And although it was and continues to be scary, I also feel invigorated by what I have shared in the recent and distant past (weight loss story included here too).

So here’s to writing more… And especially writing more about the things that scare me. Because once I do it, MAN do I feel better!

Want more? Subscribe to my newsletter to get writing news and updates on my memoir (Moscow Chica). Then check out my personal blog and find me on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest!

Confession: I’m in recovery… And here are 5 things I learned so far

Please subscribe to my newsletter and read more of my writing on my personal blog, The Cookie Dough LifeThank you!

Next week is the last day of National Recovery Month and I am taking a DEEP BREATH in order to tell you something that has taken me one year, two months and five days to admit publicly: I am in recovery.

I don’t get want to go into the details of when it started and why it happened and how bad it got (yet)… except to say that my problem was alcohol, and I haven’t had a single drink or even a sip of a drink in almost six months. There’s a lot more to say about my own journey, some of which I am ready to share and some of which I am scared shitless to talk about at the moment. But in honor of National Recovery Month, I thought that I would start by coming out of the recovery closet to tell you about the five things I’ve learned so far.

(Please don’t judge me too harshly, I can’t help but repeat over and over in my head right now.)

1. Cognitive behavioral therapy is the way to go: You’ve probably known someone in recovery and/or have heard about Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous or one of the other “anonymous”-based programs in the past. And while this program work for MANY people, it is just not for me. I’ve been to the meetings and liked them, and I’ve definitely made friends in the rooms. They’ve been helpful and I have learned a lot. But, to be honest, I am just far too secular to take much of the program seriously.

I understand that when they say a Higher Power, you can choose whomever you want to be your higher power. People have told me about others who have made the rooms or the community or just anything else their ultimate Higher Power, but I just can’t do the same. I hear the word “God” in meetings (or anywhere else for that matter) and it makes my skin crawl. Beyond that, I don’t like any program that isn’t backed by some hard science–and so I have come to regard cognitive behavioral therapy as my recovery path of choice.

Mainly, I have attended SMART Recovery meetings and enjoyed them. They’re not perfect either, but I know that talking about my problems, focusing on what I can change and fix and how I can view things in a better light is what works for me. It’s basically free group therapy where we can freely talk about anxieties, respond to others with helpful advice or even just empathy. They’re smaller and more intimate, and I learned more in my first SMART meeting than in months of AA. The 12 steps and the 12 traditions? I understand that they work for some. But I am just not one of those people. Sorry.

2. Having a support system is absolutely crucial: If you haven’t seen the “almost everything we think we know about addiction is wrong” video above with the Rat Park and what that all means, do it ASAP. It’s one of the things that has helped me the most in this journey, and I am really happy that an extremely supportive friend shared it with me last year shortly before my first lapse (see below) because it is partially what has led me on my Map Your 30s blog path. I know that might sound a bit hokey, but it did.

Learning more about addiction is great, but the #1 thing that has helped me to advance in my recovery is having the support and love of friends and family (just like in Rat Park!). You see, while I have met and befriended some other addicts during my recovery journey, the truth is that most of my friends are what we in meetings call “normies”–as in normal people who can adequately handle alcohol, and the occasional drug like marijuana, without it becoming a life-ruining issue.

Since going into recovery, they have stood by me through and through. I know that I have worried some of them needlessly as I learned and grew and failed and succeeded throughout the past year, but they’ve still been there for me and I have been incredibly lucky for that. The same goes for my family, who have seen more of my bad addictive behavior than anyone else, yet they are still there for me too. And now I am extremely lucky to have the most caring, supportive partner I could have ever hoped for. He didn’t know me during my active addiction. He met me a month after my last relapse. But he’s there for me every single day, and has even given up drinking for me. It’s difficult for me to adequately describe how grateful I am for him and for all of the people I have in my life, but I truly am.

3. Lapses are a natural part of the process: My recovery birthday is July 18, 2015. It’s the first time that I honestly acknowledged to someone else that I had a problem that I needed help with and made a commitment to get that help. I knew that I could no longer do it on my own, that I could no longer keep trying to moderate and that I could no longer hide the truth.

I had a problem with drinking, and I needed help dealing with it. As I began to meet others in recovery, however, I found that people had relapses that lasted anything from one day to another few years. And they experienced a lot of guilt about it, but it was a guilt that I didn’t quite understand–especially not when it was a short-lived episode.

Luckily, my therapist helped to talk me through the process and realize that recovery is a journey, not a destination. Since my recovery date, I’ve had a few lapses (short bursts of drinking) that I am not at all proud of. But what I am proud of is that I moved on from them and didn’t let them affect me too negatively. I could have honestly let the guilt of one or two or more of them drive me back into a very dark place from which it would take months to release, but I didn’t. Yes, they happened. No, they weren’t fun. But I moved on, and I kept focusing on what’s really important: Keep going forward as much as possible, even when there’s an occasional step backwards.

4. It’s not just a one-size-fits-all solution: One of the things that I weirdly enjoy the most about being in recovery, besides the community aspect and the support I have received from loved ones, is reading about what recovery truly means. And the best thing I have come to understand is that there is no black and white world out there when it comes to recovery, and it is absolutely NOT a one-size-fits-all solution.

To be honest, and I don’t want to get into it too much, but that’s absolutely one of the reasons I do not enjoy going to AA meetings. I’ve found some of the black & white mentality draining and, to be frank, dangerous. Although I have met many great people, I have also met those who can’t see reason and are not open minded enough to consider other options. I try not to judge other people’s paths to recovery because I think that is absolutely dangerous territory, but unfortunately I constantly feel judged when I express any kind of differing opinion.

But still, I keep on reading and I keep on engaging with the community (especially online, where it’s easier to find a variety of people and opinions.) I enjoy learning about people’s experiences, even if they are very much not like my own. In fact, one of my favorite things is to read recovery blogs and popular addiction and recovery website The Fix. It’s been a great source of information, and I continue to read through as much of it as I can. Just as I ended up going to school for nutrition after my 100 pound weight loss, I am now constantly trying to learn more about recovery. I guess the truth is that I enjoy absorbing everything I can about whatever it is I am facing, and learning about all of the different ways and techniques and tools for recovery–whether I agree with them or not, whether they work for me or not–is a truly fascinating endeavor.

5. The problem isn’t just about me, it’s about us: As President Barack Obama and Macklemore recently said in the realest video about drug addiction in America, drug overdoses kill more people than traffic accidents. I mean, just this year we’ve lost the amazing Prince to an accidental drug overdose–and I think we’re all still mourning that one.

It’s not an easy problem to solve, and I honestly do not yet know what my part in it may be. I’ve considered eventually running meetings or getting some sort of degree in therapy in order to be able to help other addicts. But, to be honest, I think my best weapon is and has always been my ability to be honest in my writing.

The truth is that I’ve been keeping this under wraps while I’ve learned to deal with it. And it’s the scariest thing I can imagine to hit “publish” on this article, but I am coming out of the recovery closet (as they say) because I think it is important to get rid of the stigma surrounding addiction and recovery. It’s important to be able to talk about these things. It’s important to recognize that this happens to not just me, but to countless others who may not look or sound like the stereotypical drug addicts you might have been in TV or movies.

As Macklemore concluded in the video, “shame and this stigma associated with the disease keeps too many people from seeking the help that they actually need.” I am hoping that by sharing my own journey, my own struggles and my own successes, I can do a tiny bit to help that stigma and maybe even inspire someone to seek the help that they need in the same way that I know my weight loss journey has inspired others to get healthier.

After all, isn’t living a long and happy life all that we truly want?

Want more? Subscribe to my newsletter to get writing news and updates on my memoir (Moscow Chica). Then check out my personal blog and find me on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest!

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