Intended Side Effects

Oh, Hey, Clavicles! Nice to See You!

When I started to this new chapter I would be lying if I said I didn’t hope to lose some weight.  The desire was and is definitely there to slim down.  That being said, I strongly feel that I do not want to focus on a number displayed on a scale.  While it is a handy tool in keeping track of your progress, I find that it can cause me to get discouraged, which is not productive when my ultimate goal is to have a healthier lifestyle.

In fact, when I started I did not weigh myself, but curiosity got the best of me and I hopped on about 2 months after moving here.  So I know approximately how much weight I have lost, but not an exact number.  And, no, I’m not going to share the number.  It will only cause me to become obsessed with a measly pound or two.

I am pleased to report that in general I have more energy and have been able to maintain a positive outlook during this anxiety filled job search.  I am also pleased to share that I have dropped a jean size.  So, see, I could get wound up about a pound this way or a pound that way, or I can feel proud of the fact that I feel better and fit in a smaller size.

Not a long post today, I just wanted to give everyone an update!  Hope 2012 is treating you well!


The Long Road to Change

During these last few months I have been doing a lot of thinking on my hikes.  As I’ve mentioned on here before, music is a big part of my life.  I’m usually attracted to songs first by their melody and then, if they stand the test, the lyrics, which take me deeper into the song.

Well, recently I started to listen to Florence + the Machine’s new album, especially their new single Shake It Out.  The lyrics  have a positive message about shaking off your demons and making decisions about what baggage you continue to carry with you.  The melody gives you a feeling of strength, leaving you with a sense of empowerment.  It speaks to taking inventory of the aspects of yourself that you don’t like and making an active decision to change.

This had me thinking about the amount of change that has occurred in my life in the last year.  I thought about the year during the MBA course, about the new friends I had made, the experiences that I had been through and what all of this had taught me.  But, I quickly realized that this last year was not when this current metamorphosis began.  I started to think back through the last couple of years to pinpoint when this latest change started.  I believe I found it.

November 2009 was a very bad month for me.  I had fallen into a depression due to a broken engagement (my choice, but still tough) among other tough events that had occurred throughout the year.  What made it worse was that I wasn’t aware how much of a fixture  depression had become in my behavior.   Luckily, I had a boss who sat me down and explained to me that while it was understandable that I was going through a hard time, I needed to sort some stuff out because I was bringing this baggage into work with me and it was starting to be noticed.  Tough conversation, huh?  I will forever be grateful that she had this conversation with me because it made me realize that I needed to take an active role in my life.  I had wallowed long enough; it was time for a change.

It was then that I started searching for what I wanted in my life.  What was a priority?  Did I still want to live in NYC?  What direction was my career taking and was I happy with this direction?  It took a project at work to make me realize that I wanted to go back to school.  I started researching programs and settled on two, one in the US and one in the UK.  The submission date for enrollment in the Fall of 2010 for the US program had already passed, but not the UK.  I figured I would apply there and if I didn’t get in I would go for the program in the US.  Low and behold 7 months later, on my 30th birthday to be exact, I was accepted into the MBA program, or should I say programme, in the UK.  Everything was falling into place.  The next big hurdle smacked me in the face harder than I thought it would.

Leaving my friends in NYC was one of the saddest things I have ever done.  I think it’s hard for me to explain how close I was and still am to my friends there.  See, I had lived in New York for 8 1/2 years, these were people who had been through so much with me.  They were the family that I had chosen.  To walk away from such a support system was something I didn’t ever envision myself doing, but here I was doing just that.  I tried to comfort myself by saying that I could always come back, but in my heart I knew that my time in NYC was done.

During the MBA program I hemmed and hawed over where to move to after the program was finished.  I was deciding between New York City and San Francisco.  I was still keeping NY on the table because I was worried I was making a mistake by leaving my life there.   I wondered if I was making this too hard on myself and was it necessary to put myself through so much.  In February of 2011 I went back to visit NYC  and had a feeling that visit would help me make my decision.  The suspicion I had held was turned out to be true.  I wasn’t the only going through quite a bit of change.  Almost every single one of my friends discussed with anticipation the changes that were going to occur in their lives in the next year or two; marriages, babies, and new cities.  The life that I knew would not be the same if I should return.  The decision was made to continue on the path that felt right for me.  On to SF.

So, here I find myself, still living with my Mom and Step-dad; they have been amazing, as have my Dad and Step-mom.  I count myself as extremely fortunate to have so much unconditional love and support around me.  So, I am inching closer to a new job and a new apartment, and, hopefully, new friends!  I haven’t been this happy and content in a long time.  The journey has been a long one, but definitely well worth it!

Happy New Year!  May you have your own journey in 2012 and beyond!

Light at the End of the Tunnel?

Take a Deep Breath, Everything Will Be Alright.

Ain’t No Mountain High Enough!

Today I achieved a goal I set out for myself very shortly after I moved out here and started this new chapter.  Obviously, I have been hiking quite a bit. Well the first time I hiked Mt. Wittenberg I about nearly died (Ok, I didn’t nearly die, but it felt that way.)  Why?  Because the first 2 miles are basically straight uphill.  How steep you ask?  Well, in those 2 miles the hiker gains nearly 1,300 feet in elevation.  So, yeah, it’s pretty steep.

The sign, it's like it's mocking me with its minuscule 2.0.

When I took the picture on the left it was in anticipation of doing a post solely on Wittenberg and my relationship with trying to “conquer” it.  Instead I have fallen into quite a cozy relationship with this hike.  The usual hike is about 4.5 miles in total and takes a little over an hour and a half.  In an effort to continually push myself I try to improve my time up the mountain.  So far I have taken 8 minutes off of my time. Weee!

Since I tend to work better with a goal in mind, I set a goal to hike what, to me, was the hardest hike I could think of.  Why make things easy on myself?  The hike involves starting with Wittenberg, continuing on for another 2.2 miles on fairly easy terrain until you turn back around and hike another 750 feet in approximately 2 miles, with the final stretch consisting of 2.7 miles of either flat or downhill terrain.  All in all it is nearly 9 miles (8.8 for those of you who are counting, but doesn’t 9 miles have a certain ring to it?)  So the challenge in this hike is two-fold, it’s not just the elevation, but also has a bit of endurance.

I have had this hike in the back of my mind for about the last two months while I was building my strength.  Well, I decided that today was the big day.  It was chilly and grey, which might have put a few people off, but I think these conditions were ideal.  It meant that, for a weekend day, the trails were fairly empty and the weather helped to keep me from over-heating.  One little fun side-effect, I was so warm and it was so chilly that condensation actually started forming on the outside of my sweatshirt.  It’s true!

See? Nice View.

At the start, it was a bit rough going, some days I hike Wittenberg and feel great and some days I grin and bear it.  Unfortunately, today was a grin-and-bear-it day, not the best start for the tough hike.  However, I continued on my trek.  I was able to recover a bit in the 2.2 miles, which normally has a great view, but today was not about views.  (Oh! But, I did see a bobcat during this stretch!)  And then I had to turn around and face the next uphill battle.  At this point I was a bit hungry, next time I need to bring at least one more snack, one apple did not cut it.  But I pushed on and knew that once I got over the last hill it would be easy sailing.  The last bump in this hike is the downhill bit, which is also steep.  Let’s just say that I never looked up to enjoy the scenery during this bit, I did not trust my legs and I was sure that I would trip if I didn’t identify each and every tree root, rock and slippery leaf.  The final 0.8 miles are on a very flat and wide trail.  When I hit this stretch it was smooth sailing!  It took me approximately 3 hours to do this hike, not too bad if I do say so myself.

So, one goal accomplished, I wonder what crazy hike I will think of next.

Go, Go, Go, Joseph! – Update Day 30

So yesterday I was listening to Andrew Lloyd Weber’s Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.

What? Don’t look at me like that.  We all have our music that we know is just wrong, but still love anyway.

Well, I was hiking on that same trail that I wrote about the other day, you know, the one where I was constantly getting caught lip-syncing or singing, and decided to play the soundtrack.  As you may have noticed, I tend to listen to musicals while I’m hiking, I think that is due to the fact that I can act out the show on the trail.  It keeps me engaged.  I guess it’s the 30 year-old equivalent (Ok, fine, 31) of grabbing your hairbrush and performing in front of the mirror.

I started thinking about my history with this musical.  When I was younger I was in a professional children’s chorus, which at the time, had four choirs representing different levels of skills.  The choirs were preparatory, intermediate, advanced and honors.  To advance in the levels you had to audition for the choir director who decided if you were ready and had the skill to move up.  When I joined I was placed in the intermediate choir.  Well, as you may or may not know, Joseph requires a children’s choir.  When the production tours they audition choirs in the immediate area and rotate them through during the production schedule.  Wouldn’t you know that the year Joseph came to the SF Bay Area was the year I moved up into the advanced choir.  Unfortunately, this choir was too old for the production and it was the intermediate choir that auditioned for and got the spot.  Even though the choir I was a member of went to Denmark to participate in an International Children’s Choir festival, I was still completely devastated that I did not get to do the show.  I was this close!

Once upon a time I also participated in a small contest to name three shows by Andrew Lloyd Webber that were based on books.  Oh man, did I know I had this one in the bag.  I rose my hand with confidence, or more accurately, the annoying eagerness of an overachiever, and was selected.  Score!  I started to recite my list:

Me: Phantom of the Opera.

Lady on Stage: Yes.  

Me: Cats.

Lady on Stage: Yup. 

Me: Joseph and the… (You know the rest.)

Lady on Stage: Nope.  Anyone else?

WHA?!  I almost shouted from the audience, “I’m pretty sure the Bible is a book, lady!” As one of my friends was in the show and I was there with a number of other people, I decided to let her stupidity speak for itself.

Anyway, I’ve come a long way from those stories, but still enjoy thinking about them.  Plus, I secretly believe that one day, with a lot of training, I could play the Narrator.  I would belt the crap out of that role!

I leave you with an updated picture, a fuzzy caterpillar, because who doesn’t love fuzzy caterpillars, and the wonderful remix that is actually part of this glorious musical.

So Fuzzy!

Hiking - Day 30

Happier and Healthier – Update Day 20

I promise to completely catch up and update in real time, but for now I’m still a little behind.  So, at 20 days in all has been going well.  I’ve been hiking a lot.  I’m starting to find that this is one of the few ways that I can relieve some of the stress and anxiety that is coming with the job search.  On this day I took a longer hike than usual.  This is a trail that is in total 8.6 miles (but who’s counting!).  The hike has relatively easy terrain with barely any change in elevation; however, half way through you are rewarded with this stunning view!

Arch Rock

The trail I took this day is probably the most widely-used trail in the National Park where I’m hiking.  The trail head is always full of kids on their field trip to Earthquake Trail.  (I know you California natives remember this field trip!)  I figured since I was hiking on a Friday and thinking I could out run those kids, that I wouldn’t see many people on the trail.  Boy was I wrong!  There were so many people, horses and bikes, that I wasn’t able to get my usual solitary hike that I enjoy.  Ok, here’s REALLY one of the reasons I like having the trail all to myself.  I love to either sing or lip-sync on the trail.  A few of you know that I even do this at the gym, but for some reason I find it far more acceptable getting caught at the gym than getting caught on the trail.  I kept feeling like Hugh Grant’s character in Love, Actually where he gets caught dancing.  You know, this one:

Needless to say that I have decided that should I find myself hiking on a Friday, Saturday or Sunday, I will definitely be using on the of the more remote trails, otherwise this is what people will be running into.

Doing my best Freddie Mercury Impression

Eating Your 5 a Day, or It’s Windy in Here.

The first day I arrived back in the SF Bay Area my Step-Dad suggested we watch a movie.  As it had been a long day, I was definitely looking forward to a good movie.  As many of you know, I love documentaries so when he suggested that we watch Forks Over Knives, I was looking forward to it.  The documentary basically advocates a vegan diet, showing evidence that links animal proteins to cancer, heart disease and other health issues.  It was agreed upon in the household that, while no one wanted to go completely vegan (I would die without cheese!), there may be something to trying to cut down on animal proteins.  I hopped on board with the enthusiasm one only experiences when embarking on such life changes.

A Patch to Die For

Making the change has been fairly easy since they have a fruit and vegetable garden and, well, I don’t do the grocery shopping.  I have been enjoying going into the garden and picking my strawberries for breakfast or choosing which apple I want off of the tree.  While we seem to be at the end of the summer berries, the tomatoes are just ripening as summer was a little slow to come to this area and we ate our first winter squash today.  In addition, the chanterelle mushrooms made their debut with a bang!  (Mushroom disclaimer: my step-dad knows what he is doing and has been picking mushrooms for years.  I don’t recommend it unless you know what you are doing as some mushrooms can be highly poisonous or lethal.)

The Most Recent Harvest

Mushroom Madness

It has become very common for me to have something from this garden in every meal of the day.  The change in diet has left me feeling light and refreshed.  However, there have been a few unwelcome side effects.  As you may or may not know, when one consumes a lot of fruit and vegetables they have a tendency to make one’s tummy a little rumbley.  I knew this, but always seem to conveniently forget when I increase the amount of fruits and vegetables in my diet.  I brought this up with my Mom and we had a good laugh over it, after she promptly showed me to the medicine cabinet where I could find some much needed relief.  So, you have been warned, if you are going to go down this route, I recommend purchasing something prior to starting the change that will alleviate the inevitable discomfort that is coming your way.

Now that I have been here for a month, I am starting to think that the leisurely viewing of the documentary was not a spontaneous idea.  I can’t help but giggle a little bit when I think back to the night, “Oh, hey, have you seen this? It looks really interesting!”  I should’ve known, it was nice and queued up, ready to stream.  Well played, step-dad, well played!

Happier and Healthier – Update Day 10

The idea for this blog started to come to fruition on Day 10 of this journey.  I knew that when I left school I wanted to actively make a change in my lifestyle and was going to use the move and the somewhat remote location that I am living in now as the jumping off point.  However, it was this picture that inspired the idea to track the change.

Day 10

I remembered the picture that I had taken on my first day.  I thought to myself that I would start a timeline of change.   While the whole idea isn’t necessarily about weight loss, it is an added benefit to making a change like this.  The idea for actually blogging came a few days later when I was hiking around the trails here.  I was so inspired by the beautiful scenery around me that I started taking pictures with my phone.  I kept grinning to myself about all of the pithy captions I would have; in all honesty, I probably have come up with about two that are cute, but who cares, they make me smile!

Looking for Inspiration

I don’t know about all of you, but for some reason I think better when I’m out on my walks.  I finalized the structure for my dissertation out on a walk, strategized my next steps on getting a job and started analyzing the next decisions I had to make in my life.  I used to be this way at the gym, but after years of going to the gym it has been more and more difficult to physically get myself there.  On top of that the workouts aren’t as productive as they used to be because I’m just not motivated when I’m there.  And, well, it turns out I really enjoy hiking!

Music is another crucial element to my hikes.  When I started imagining the structure of the blog I thought I would do updates a bit more frequently with information about the trails that I am hiking and the music that I am playing.  (If anyone wants to know the trails I’m hiking, let me know and I’ll post a map.)  There was only one problem with that, I listen to the same albums obsessively until I am absolutely sick of them.  Then I usually shelve the album for about 6 months to a year until the urge to listen to music comes back to me.  Am I the only one who does this?

In case anyone was wondering, American Idiot – the Original Cast Recording and The Steep Canyon Rangers are in regular rotation at the moment.  If anyone has any suggestions, let me know!  I am always open to new music.

In the meantime, the plan is to take a picture of myself every ten days or so and post the progress here.  In between, I’ll be doing other posts that I find amusing or any other unanticipated side effects of the changes to my diet.  I think I’ll leave you with this picture, it is one of my favorites so far!

The View from on High!

More Banjo!

This weekend was supposed to be all about Hardly Strictly Bluegrass

I started imagining things I would write on Thursday about the weekend.  I was going to explain how music is so important in my life. It helps make those happy moments a bit happier and allows me to explore the sadness that is sometimes necessary. However, I guess that will be a post for another day.

I did make it to Hardly Strictly on Friday and enjoyed the day with my Mom and Step-dad. There are five stages, but we set up camp at the biggest stage, the Banjo Stage.  Decent seats, right?

Hardly Strictly!

However, I was supposed to go on Saturday when a bunch of musicians that I love were playing.  For some reason when I woke up on Saturday morning the whole day just seemed like too much. The thought of driving to SF, trying to find parking and then dealing with the crowds just seemed overwhelming.  I was trying to get in touch with my best friend who I knew was going, but was having problems getting in touch with her as I have horrible cell service where I’m staying right now.  I started thinking about why I couldn’t just go by myself and enjoy the music.  What was stopping me?  I don’t usually like talking to people once the music has started, so what would be the big deal?  I admire my best friend and her attitude towards doing things on her own.  She frequently used to “take herself out for dinner.”  What a great approach!  Who needs the permission of others to do something you want to enjoy?  And yet I sometimes find myself frozen with inaction when I don’t hear back from people.  It seems that I have to give myself permission to do things on my own.  I am getting better at doing this, but sometimes it is a struggle.

I eventually got in touch with her and made plans for that evening.  The funny thing about all of this is that I ended up driving through SF to get to her house.

A New Adventure

So, I decided I would start writing a blog to document the exciting new chapter in my life.

As I have entered my Thirties, it seemed that it was time for a change in my life.  Everyone’s life around me was changing and mine had been on the verge of change, until all of that feel apart.  I’m sure this will come up at some point in another post.

I am originally from California, but had been living in NYC for the last 8.5 years.  After a year in Edinburgh pursuing an MBA, I figured the time was right to move back to California.  So, here I am, back at home, trying to find a job and improve my life.

In the meantime, I figured this would be as good a time as any to improve my health.  I have struggled with my weight off and on for years.  Part of the motivation for moving back to CA was to pursue a healthier lifestyle, now seems as good a time as any to start.

So, this will be a sort of a split between, watch me try and get a job and watch me pursue a path to healthier living.

I will be taking pictures about every 10 days or so to monitor progress!  (Full disclosure: I’m already 13 days in, so I’ll be playing a bit of catch-up).

In the meantime, here are two pictures from my first day of hiking.

Day 1 - Happy Hiker

Hike 1