October 18, 2019

Year 32

Birthdays have always been a big deal to me. Truthfully, I used to celebrate my entire birth month but then #LittleLadyHolland came along on October 14th and I had to reevaluate that a bit. Since her birth, the month of October has understandably been about her and I'm 100% okay with that for super obvious reasons. But the kid inside of me still loves a good birthday celebration even if my birthday is a bit of an afterthought now.

This year feels different though. Perhaps it is because my 32nd year on Earth was my hardest yet. I honestly went into my 32nd year feeling more hopeful than ever. In Year 31 I had visited France. I was more plugged into my community. My job and my family seemed better than ever before. I felt like life was more than good; it was amazing. And as I continually saw glimpses of what the future held for me and my family, I became more and more excited to see how the next year would unfold.

But I never saw it unfolding like it did. I'm still in the throws of it all. I have good days and bad days. More accurately, I have good hours and bad hours. And while I cannot share too much, I can now say with confidence that on October 18, 2018,  I only saw half of the picture. Waking up to the reality of the other half has been hard, but easy things don't refine you. I'm overdue for some refinement.
As always, let's revisit my 40 by 40 list of things I hoped to accomplish this decade. Here's a brief rundown of what I've marked off my list in Year 32:

Write a letter to myself that I can read at 50 (Level 1)

I just did this yesterday. I was looking over my list and becoming a little disheartened that I hadn't truly accomplished as much as I wanted to in the past year and I thought -- I should do this one. You see, I had been putting this one off. Even though I initially put it down as a Level 1 accomplishment, and therefore, an easy one, I'd discovered over the past couple of years that it was, in fact, harder than I thought. I'd started it a few times but always gave up on it. I kept thinking that I needed life to be "set" before I could write it. I needed to know where I would land -- I needed to be able to point to something concrete so that future Kate use it as a guidepost back to harmony in the event she'd strayed. With that sort of pressure, it was hard to get anything out of my head and onto paper because life, of course, is chaos and we are never truly "set". But yesterday morning, as I settled down at my desk, ready to embark on a day of work, I suddenly realized that I couldn't think of a better time in my life to write this letter. Yes, life is full of ups and downs right now. It is far from set. But maybe that's what I need to remember. I need to remember that somethings never change and thankfully, others are always in flux. So I wrote myself that letter -- it's four pages. When finished, I sat down and read it aloud to myself in front of some photos of me and Holland while sipping hot tea. It was a moment I hope not to forget and one that, in seventeen years, I hope I can vividly recall as I open my letter for the first time.

Go zip lining (Level 2)

In June we went to Colorado for a family reunion of sorts. While I'd flown through and over Colorado many times, I'd never actually visited the state itself. It is such a beautiful state. Don't get me wrong -- I think I'm still likely pick a beach over a mountain a majority of the time, but I gained a new appreciation for the mountains on that trip. Much like the beach, I found that they have a humbling beauty to them that in person, make you feel as if you are both terribly important and supremely insignificant. One day during the trip, we visited the Royal Gorge. The Royal Gorge is a canyon, very fittingly, of the Arkansas River located west of Canon City, Colorado. My generous grandparents-in-law offered to pay for me to zip-line over the gorge so I took them up on the offer. At 1,200 feet above the Arkansas River, the Royal Gorge zip line is the highest zip line in America! It was amazingly fun and the only downside is that the ride itself was fairly short overall. It was fantastic though and I truly hope it isn't my last zip-lining experience!

Take a girls only vacation (Level 3)

In July, my best friend Alex, accompanied Holland and me on a tip to Santa Barbara, California. Though it was not originally scheduled as a girls only vacation, unforeseen events turned it into one and honestly, it was amazing. I shared details pretty liberally on Instagram at the time including the first time Holland's tiny toes touched ocean water (a moment this beach-loving mama will never forget). So many moments from that trip have already morphed into fond memories that I often recall when life feels hard. While I sincerely hope it is not the last "girls only" vacation in my 30's (I already tentatively have a few others in the works) it is one that I am supremely thankful for and already cherish!
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In additional to officially crossing the above items off my list, there are a few "Honorable Mentions" this year. This last year really pushed me out of my comfort zone and while I could technically cross some of the following off my list, I'm not going to quite yet because I think there is more to come in these areas. So let's quickly visit a few honorable mentions:

Attend service at a house of worship of a religion I am not familiar with 

Earlier this year I felt a calling to find a church family. I know how that sounds -- especially if you aren't religious or spiritual but it's true. Years ago I had given up on ever finding a church that encompassed and lived out the Gospel as I interpreted it. For years I had kept that side of my life private -- reading Rachel Held Evans' blog and Twitter feed and feeling, mostly content, with the community it offered. But then, as you probably know, RHE tragically passed away. For someone who did not personally know her, I was shocked as just how crushed I was to lose her. But underneath the sorrow, there was a small voice. I heard it every time I checked #BecauseofRHE for new messages of lament. I slowly realized that there was a whole community out there who read the Gospel as I did and I realized that maybe, just maybe, I could find a church community that did too. Each time I pressed this thought down in my mind, it would arise again. Finally, I relented and put a list together of churches that I'd be open to visiting. On my second such visit, I hit the jackpot. I found my way into a local Episcopal church, and while it was supremely different from any "church" experience I've ever had in the past, I fell in love with it. With the people, with the traditions and customs, with stained glass and the choir. While parts of it still feel foreign to me, I am really enjoying learning more about it and settling in. I also love that Holland talks about going to church with enthusiasm and that we often find ourselves having somewhat theological chats before bed or at dinner. While I still plan on attending service at a house of worship that is not Christian, I feel like my foray into the Episcopal church this year is noteworthy and is a first step on a much needed path.
 
Put a wild color streak(s) in my hair (even if temporary)

I'm not sure if it totally counts as "wild" but earlier this year I broke my nearly decade long "no-color" streak and went ombre with my hair. At first, the ends were a bit amber in color but over time, I've lightened them even more. In person, the tips of my hair are definitely blonde and that's a color that, for this brunette, is at least somewhat wild. I do however, still plan on incorporating a truly wild color in my hair, at least temporarily, in the future so I'm not going to cross this one off the list quite yet.

Get a Holland related tattoo

While I do not yet have my Holland related tattoo, I have figured out what that tattoo is going to be and have already set a date (plus paid a deposit) for it. Not spilling the beans yet, but let's just say, this is one that I'm definitely crossing off the list in Year 33.

Go Scuba Diving

Speaking of things I plan to cross off the list soon, an opportunity has hit my radar where I might, just might, get to go on a week-long scuba diving trip in 2020. A lot of things would have to fall into place for me in order to make it happen, including me being able to find the finances to pull it off (at the moment, that particular piece seems the most challenging). Nonetheless, I'm excited about the prospect so I'm going to put this out into the universe and hope it can all come together! Wish me luck.

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The more I think about it, technically speaking, today is not the end of my 32nd year (that was yesterday). Today, I turn 33 so it's really the beginning of my 33rd year. I like that framing better. In the midst of so many endings, I like the idea of beginning anew. Sometimes we need to rest and to re-evaluate the lives we lead before we set off on new travels. This post today has helped me do that - I've been blessed before, I'm blessed now, and I'll be blessed again. It's time to start anew in a new year of a new life. Let's go 33 -- I've got big plans for you! 

October 08, 2019

I used to be you.

This morning I sat across the table from a stranger and sipped hot tea. The drive to the cafe was eventful. The interstate was bumper to bumper following an early morning wreck so I took back roads -- praying silent prayers for those involved in the accident and for the fact that I now know Little Rock well enough to take back roads (something college-Kate, would have marveled at). When I arrived at the cafe, a full 2-minutes ahead of schedule thankyouverymuch, it wasn't hard to spot my companion. As an eager first year law student, she was, of course, the one wearing a polished dress and blazer at 8 a.m. to meet me. I wanted to tell her that I wasn't important enough for all that and that I wouldn't have judged her one bit for showing up in sweatpants. But I bit my tongue.

She introduced herself and patiently waited as I ordered hot tea and a bagel. Then we started the familiar dance of the mentor/mentee relationship: What college did you attend? What did you major in? Why did you go to law school? What's your favorite class so far? What do you think you want to practice when you graduate? 

The questions and answers rolled off my tongue casually. With ease.
I've done this before. Several times in fact.
And each time, I sit and I talk. I sip my hot tea. I try to provide what I can, though honestly, I'm never sure that I have much to provide.
She seems nice. Eager. Quick on her feet. I tell her that she'll survive this. I feel truth in those words as they pour from my lips. But before we can make moves to throw away napkins and push in our chairs, the familiar question bubbles up from her mouth: "How do I get where you are?"

This time though, the question hits me differently than it has before. I want to scream "You don't want to be where I am friend. My life is a mess. Everything is crazy." But I of course, stop myself. This 1L did not sign up for my drama.

So instead, I smile and I tell a story.
An honest story.
The true story of me in 2013.

I was graduating soon. I was jobless and scared. I watched classmates accept job offers and I cried into my pillow -- half from jealousy and half from despair. I prepped for a bar exam and prayed that something awaited me on the other side of it though I had no clue what that thing was or whether it would be what I wanted. And even though I didn't know it at the time, I practicing a form of faith. I wouldn't have called it that - I would have called it preparation. I prepped by studying ten hours a day, six days a week. I prepped by sending out cover letters and resumes and by asking for lunches with attorneys I'd met during my clerkships. I prepped by combing through online job listings and by casually dropping by career services just to say hi.

All of that prep -- all of that faith -- formed a path to good things. I got a job offer a week after I sat for the bar exam. That job served me well for nearly three years and I learned a lot from it. Met amazing people. When I left it for my current position back in 2016, I was once again unsure of the future but I now love my current job -- nearly everything about it. What I do. The people I work with. The flexibility it gives me. Everything.

And as I poured forth this true story, I could see her taking stock of what I said but also what I meant by it all. What I meant was that there isn't a "color by numbers" that will get her the career I have nine years from now. No -- she has to form her own path. And her path won't all be sunshine and rainbows. She'll have peaks and valleys along the way. She'll cry tears of angst and of joy. But that if she keeps laying the bricks, the path will emerge and it will lead her to the professional life that she is supposed to have -- not mine; hers.

So we threw away napkins and pushed in chairs. We gave familiar handshakes and parted ways. And as always, I left not knowing if I imparted anything worth imparting on her at all. I'm just not sure. I never am. There is however, certainty in one thing. Because you see, as I recalled my true story aloud, I realized that my life is once again calling me to lay down bricks in faith.

Years later and scary things loom again. There is so much uncertainty on the other side of it all.  Once again I see life unfolding for others and I'm left crying in my pillow at night -- half from jealousy and half from despair. Once again I'm researching and prepping and desperately throwing down bricks and crossing my fingers that somehow, someway, they will converge into a distinguishable a path on the other side. A path towards good things. But just like before -- I can't possibly orchestrate it all. It has to unfold. In its own time. In its own way. All I can do is what I can do. That's it. No more. No less. And just like the student I met today, my path won't look like yours. And that's okay. It's mine.

So instead of falling apart in the cafe parking lot, I breathe deep.
I drive back across town in peace.
I arrive at my office. I tackle my inbox.
And I lay another brick.
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