Ch-ch-ch-changes

Time goes by pretty fast if you don’t take the time to look around.

(Time also goes by Clichepretty fast after 40.. how is it almost July??? And where are my glasses).

Grey hair, sore knees, sad eyes and that’s just the dog. Its true I’m starting to resemble him these days, but I refuse to resort to spending my days lying on the sofa farting and snoring… no matter what I feel like.

A few data points from the last year or so to catch you up:

  • 3 new bosses, 13 keynotes, 6 conferences, 18 town halls, 300+ powerpoints and 1TB of new content created.
  • 2 heads of state, 2 ambassadors, 6 tech icons and many of the Fortune 100 CEOs. (Favorite was the Dutch Prime minister who was delicious, weird and still lives with his mother. Wonderful manners).
  • $$$$$ earned. I mean ridiculous.

And in non work life;

  • 11 procedures via 2 shoulder surgeries, 32 weeks of PT, knee cartilage busted
  • 7 glorious weekends in St. Helena, CA
  • 3 dates with men who turned out to be married.
  • 3 apartment moves
  • 1 old flame
  • And I finally saw BRUCE in concert (Springsteen not Hornby and the Range)

And the best thing of all?

I realized I prefer working with and being around nice people over most everything else.

Life is just too short to run behind Mr.Big in 4 inch heels hoping that you’re having some positive impact on someone somewhere. No matter the astonishing people you meet, the innovation you’re absorbed in, the resources available and the learning you do… nothing beats working with a team of people who have your back, who treat you well and who share your values. Seeing the impact of your work. Having a team who knows you and doesn’t think its weird when you lend a hand, offer or ask for help. It makes all the difference.

I’m sure this reads like every clich√© in the book.. but its been an eye-opening, life changing 18 months for me.¬† I’ve always been independent, up for an adventure and embracing of change.. and this time might be the ultimate challenge. Putting my values first and building the life I want around them.

Now.. does anyone have a use for some slightly used high heels?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The right decision

Those who know me, or based on this blog have a vague sense of me, know I’m insanely impulsive. I have put more thought into whether I should go with black or white underwear than whether to move and I’ve spent more time returning things to the store than actually buying stuff.

I moved to the US after about 30 seconds of thought (and several adult beverages), drove to Montana on a whim to go on a date with my then boyfriend and I’ve moved 24 times since I was 18 (yes, I’ve moved house twice in one year on more than one occasion).
I’ve always prided myself on not getting too hung up on any decision, but recently the downside is outweighing the up.You can only roll with the wrong choices for so long.

Over the holidays, a trusted girlfriend and I were reminiscing about the comedy of errors that was the past 5 years of our friendship. The Albino boyfriend who made love like a woodpecker, the dog breeder who threatened to sue me for not showing my dog, the $4,000 sofa, buying a house I’d seen once, selling the house 10 months later to move in with a boyfriend and getting dumped the same day. Some decisions were just bad luck, but most were bad judgement and poor choices.

In hindsight I wondered if I’d been drunk or high for the last 25 years. I’m sure I wasn’t.  

I respect my friend and I knew the comments came with love… but just it didn’t feel so funny in the cold light of being a 41 yr old single woman. I mean I’m a grown up. I have no urge to shop at Ann Taylor or buy curtains, but I don’t want to find myself homeless and pushing a shopping cart in Manolo Blanhiks and a thong either.

After some long conversations about my messy finances, my slightly barren love life and a year of sleepless nights, my girlfriend suggested therapy.
I’d tried budget spreadsheets and programs, ‘cooling off periods’ and morning after vows, yet I still found myself energized by the process of making a decision, making something happen, even when it was ill informed, badly timed or clearly ‘not the best idea’. Note – don’t be thinking about divorce the day you get married. Sitting on my hands kills me, but lately I wish I had a heavier butt.
I sure might have a healthier 401K and a less bruised heart.

Why did it take so long to wise up? Well bad decision making is cumulative. You make a bad decision, and then a worse decision to try and fix the first. And so on. Marry an even worse decision maker and you’re so busy trying to climb out of 2 sets of crap that you don’t notice how deep the hole is getting. My divorce left with a $3000 a month mortgage, and the hole got bigger.  And so on and so on. Being on your own means that there isn’t a second income to rescue you when things get tough. With a trust fund consisting of recipe books and some insanely warm socks, I was on my own when the roof started leaking and my swamp cooler exploded.

It wasn’t until things finally bottomed out and I slowed down long enough to notice that ‘things.are.not.good.at.all’ that I realized that shopping cart was going to become a reality before I reached 41 unless something changed.

Today I’m 4 months into the therapy and progress is slow but steady. I no longer make decisions the day the situation arises and ‘I’ll get back to you’ has become a new mantra where all things economic are concerned. I’m making rationale, well reasoned decisions and I’ve not moved house for 6 months (I’m aiming for 18 to declare victory). I no longer listen to words but look at actions to determine if someone is being real and the majority of the things I’ve ‘chosen’ lately have been rational and beneficial – juicing, daily 5 mile walks, smiling. Other than giving my dog a haircut, nothing has been injurious (he looked very sad to lose his mow hawk). As a result my mental health and finances are returning to a less alien craziness and I no longer lie awake worrying about whether I really want to move to Montana (I don’t) or whether I can afford gas. In fact, this grown up reasonable life is quite appealing for its frugality and evenness (even if I do have to wrestle with not buying a corset on a weekly basis).

Now if only I could apply these lessons to my love life…That could definitely use some therapy.

Impulse control

If you’ve been reading this blog for more than 2 seconds, its pretty clear I have a a problem with impulse control. I love love love making decisions. Really fast. And informed by the minimum of data. In fact, if I don’t know anything about it and you need to right know now, well I’m practically a PhD candidate on why you should, definitely, go for it (but wear good underwear).  It might be due to a career spent in consulting (the land of the instant expert), but I seem to remember it plaguing me back in elementary school when I demanded and pleaded for a haircut because Carl Postle dared me. My mother saw her opportunity to be permanently relieved of braiding duty and aided my impulsive decision. The next day I returned to school sans 11 inches of hair and with bangs which refused to lie down. I inadvertently became the only punk in 3th grade. Good decision? Well it’s taken 30 odd years to grow back but meanwhile I’ve rocked every color and style under the sun, so.. kinda?

I’m clearly from the school of ‘whats the worse that could happen?’ and since I’ve not yet been arrested or had a haircut I can’t live with .. well it seems to have served me ok. When someone asks me whether I have regrets, I’m with Frank- ‘ I’ve had a few’.

My first tattoo
I’d always wanted a tattoo but given the associations in the UK – prisoner, hooker, sailor – I’d held off throughout my rebellious years, through my 20s and well into my 30s.  I regularly wrote on myself – but largely decisions I had forgotten to make or reminders about milk – and I loved the idea of permanently painting something on my body. I didn’t actually like the way tattoos looked – not that I knew many hookers, but some of the locals were decidedly sketchy back in Wales- but since anchors, ‘Mum’ and boobs seemed to feature, I figured that it was just choosing the right design. Fast forward to 9am on my 38th birthday as the guy is inking a large Union Jack on the back of my neck. And by large, I mean LARGE. This thing practically wrapped around my shoulders like a post Olympic run. The flag was a quick idea that I’d had while driving to the shop – I’ll always be British, ergo it will always been relevant – and it seemed like a good idea until I realized that a large red, white and blue flag on the back of my neck might be considered non business attire at work. Time to start growing my hair I guess. I wore scarves and turtlenecks throughout 2009 and finally worked up the courage to show my mother. That’s when I learned the flaw in my speedy decision.
Apparently in my absence from the UK, the British Nationalist party (aka the British Nazis) had adopted the ‘flag on the back of the neck’ tattoo to indicate membership of the party. I was basically walking around with a swastika tattooed on my head.
I now have an enormous, slightly square butterfly on the back of my neck.

Marriage
I’ve mentioned this before, so I won’t repeat myself. But I do know this. No-one should think on the morning of their wedding – ‘ oh well if it doesn’t work out, I can always get divorced’. Nuff said.

The ‘Money Pit’
After a few years living in a tiny duplex I developed a passionate desire for more space and a garden for my dog to run around. When I say developed, basically I got pissed off in the space of a snow bound weekend. The sign went up and despite warnings from my realtors that the house might take 30-60 days to sell, it sold in 4 days. Oh shit. I hadn’t looked at a single house.
In a frenzy of activity I started viewing every house within a 10 bock radius (I loved my neighbors, my ch ch neighborhood and our annual street party) to no avail. That was day 1. By day 4, I was desperate, my price point had escalated by $50,000 and I was now looking in neighborhoods with no name. Where the residents considered the walk back from the bar at 3am a street party. And shifty guys actually pushed shopping carts filled with cans. My realtor, excited by the escalating price point told me it was an ‘up and coming’ neighborhood as the dollar signs spun in her head. 
I settled on a house in a no name neighborhood with no street parking, lots of rental units and 1 block from a major artery into the city. Because it had a red wall in the living room. Yes, a $375,000 decision based on a wall. I walked around the house once for about 10 minutes and decided to buy. I loved that red wall. 5 weeks later I was moving in and the lack of data aspect of my decision started to reveal itself.
First the water heater blew. Then the HVAC guy told me that the boiler was undersized for the square footage of the house. I hung curtains and noticed that the crack in my window was creating a jet stream through my bedroom. And then one day while walking the dog I returned to find the front of the house had actually fallen off. Yes.. my beautiful Craftsman tiling had dropped off revealing 100 year old wooden planks. Which were rotten. As the snow fell – outside and inside my bedroom- I realized that despite my beautiful red wall, I might have made a bad decision.  The nail in the coffin for the house  came 2 days before my parents were due to arrive from the UK for an extended stay. I noticed that water was gushing down the side of the house and was informed by Dave, my HVAC best friend, that my swamp cooler was busted. He climbed on the roof to inspect further and shouted down with some glee ‘…and did you know you need a new roof?’
After spending $38,000 on local tradesman and numerous weekends at Home Depot, just 42 weeks after buying the money pit, I moved out.  I now rent a 600 sq ft apartment.

So there you have it. Impulse control. On the positive side, poor impulse control led to me moving to the US, finding amazing friends, some crazy crazy nights. I’ve had some amazing adventures, not least my decision to the move the US, hiking the Grand Canyon on Christmas day in the snow, moving to Seattle, learning to ride a motorcycle and following the Tour De France through the Alps. On the downside, I’ve had to support some terrible terrible decisions and my therapist has a lot of work to do.

But I’ve quite the bank of stories for my dotage.  Which apparently I’ll be spending in a wheelchair with a full face tattoo and a Mohawk.

Adulthood defined by real estate

I was, until very recently a home owner. A serial home owner and bonefide navigator of Home Depot, the paint store and even Angies List (aka training pants for renovators without a clue who don’t trust anyone).
I bought my first apartment when I was 28, high on a $7,000 bonus and eager to become an adult by owning something. My car was leased, my outfit was still on my AMEX card but I thought I needed to own a place in order to declare my adulthood. So I wasn’t in a relationship, I sure as hell wasn’t going to be having a family any time soon and owning a house seemed the reasonable ‘next step’ as I headed towards 30. Fast forward 10 years and I notice now that people who buy a place not because they want to but because they don’t have  reason not to, generally are doing it through a lack of imagination and societies subtle social cues. ‘Oh, you STILL rent?’ was a conversation I’d been party to on several occasions and as couples paired off, it seemed that the first house payment was made before the rice was washed out of the wedding underwear.

So in the absence of a mate, a bought a place. Then sold it to move in with a guy. Then we got married and we bought a place (because that’s what you do), and then we sold it to move for work. Then we bought another place (because the marriage was falling apart and that’s what you do), and then I sold it (he having long scooted off). I bought a singleton palace of practicality – the duplex. But after a few years of furnishing, finishing and listening to my neighbors arguing on the other side of the wall, I decided to bite the bullet and buy a ‘grown up house’ all on my own. Two floors, 2200 sq ft of 1898 Victorian decrepitude. Buy it and he will come. Thank you Kevin Costner.
No he didn’t.
Which is a pity because I could have used someone with some heft, a spare power drill and any knowledge of landscaping, irrigation, drainage, roofing, insulation, heating AND cooling, plumbing or wasps nests. And that was in less than a year. I had dinner with a friend who had flipped a few houses and asked for an honest assessment. ‘Fish or cut bait?’
He laughed and said ‘ if you’re asking, you already need to sell’
I drank more wine and privately thought he didn’t understand my passionate desire not to fail. I would make the damn thing work. Even if I had to spend my entire 401K to do it.

Then, $38,000 in, drowning in debt, sweating buckets because my cooler broke and yet eerily smelling moldy due to the drainage issues in the basement, I met a guy. A handy guy. A farmer no less. Not that he was going to help me fix anything, but he sure gave me a reason to reconsider my home ownership plan. We rapidly fell in love, he invited me to move to be with him, we planned our Christmas vacation and our marriage ceremony. I finally had the push I needed to get rid of the money pit so I listed the house and sold in 2 days.

2 days.

Even he seemed surprised and a little concerned. But we pressed on. I started rationalizing furniture and we measured and mapped out our future living room during one of my visits. 7 days later he was gone. The following day my house closed. I wasn’t a home owner any more.

Today I live in a third floor walk up 1 bedroom rental apartment. Its not adult by any stretch. I have a whiteboard on the wall and a bike in the living room. With the addition of a Dali poster I’d be all but back in college. I don’t own a dining room table any more (I eat off my knees) and
I should be embarrassed, humiliated even at the poor decisions which led me here. At 40 I have nothing to show for it. I have scars and stories but no real estate. My single friends shrug and say ‘no biggie’, my married friends are horrified and embarrassed for me. My American dream is looking decidedly shabby. No house, no husband, no kids, (and not even an Porsche to compensate).

But if being a grown up is really just about real estate, do I really need to be ‘grown up’? If being an adult means spending every weekend at Home Depot and lying awake at 2am worried about whether my shingles will make it through the night.. then I’m happy not to be. I sleep just fine these days and I can finally afford to eat out again. Good thing now that I don’t have a dining table.