Friday, September 5, 2014

Grownups doing grownup things!

Life has been really funny lately. It has a way of making you feel like you may still be 21 years old, and simultaneously helping you feel like the most responsible adult in the world. 

There's been a little spat between some friends and it's all settled in the dust now, but not without choice words being spoken and feelings being hurt. Earlier this week I was just fed up, and I said so. Like a grown-up, I voiced my concern and basically told my friends to stop acting like fools. It took a few days, but everyone came around and one big ol' burly dude even sent me an apology. It might have said "sorry I had my head up my ass" but hey... an apology is an apology, and to me that's a really grownup move. 

I also (finally) procured renter's insurance. Don't worry, I've only been living uninsured in my condo for 5 years, but the time is here. I also started meeting with a financial planner. I don't have a lot, but I want to make sure that I am doing the right thing with the money that I do have. He's been helpful in making my finances very tactical - put x% in your 401k, put another x% into a Roth IRA, and have $x in your checking account at all times. 

Things at work are also taking a change for the positive. I was frustrated for the better part of this year, and when I finally spoke up and voiced my concerns, it was a matter of weeks and things have changed dramatically. The biggest change I have noticed? My own attitude. I've spent hours and hours detailing out why and how much I love my job, and that hasn't changed, but my overall satisfaction with my role within a team, my career potential, and the trajectory I was on was changing. Whining about it to all the people who couldn't do anything didn't get me anywhere, so I finally owned up to my own frustrations and met with a few people who could help me. And they did! I walked away from those conversations feeling empowered and appreciated, and my general work ethic has improved as a result. I wasn't slacking before, but there does seem to be a little more pep in my step!

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

That Time I Decided to go to Graduate School: I FINISHED MY FIRST YEAR

For as long as I'm in school, this blog will continue to be neglected. There are so many things I want to talk about and so many things I want to say, but so little time to do it. 

I finished my first year. I look back over the last 12 months and it's unbelievable to me what I've accomplished. What we, all of my classmates, have accomplished, collectively. It's incredible. We've learned about topics that have no relevance to our careers. We've made incredible new friends. We've lost family members. We've had children. We've gotten new jobs, bought new cars, purchased homes. We've spent hours upon hours upon hours together studying and not-so-studying. And I've never in my life received so many Snapchats as I have since starting business school. 

In hindsight, I can speak really eloquently about the program and how it works, but I had no idea what I was doing when I started. For the first year, we're kept together as a class. All ~100 of us take classes together every Monday and every Wednesday for a year. We're divided into 2 sections, and those change each semester. We cover Marketing, Data & Decision Analysis, Finance, Operations, Accounting, Economics, and Strategy, all in a year. Additionally, each semester has a mini-consulting project that we work on in teams. 

Each semester had it's own challenges. The first semester, we were figuring out. The classes were a little easier. Case studies were used to deliver content, and a lot of the homework was group work. We were still learning how to be back in school. Second semester was a brutal wake up call. Accounting was HARD. We had to keep up with weekly homework and reading, on top of our other classes and our full time jobs. We came out on the other side of accounting and figured it was smooth sailing from here. The joke was most certainly on us.

Summer was, well, summer. School was not meant to be done in the summer. Not only that, the challenge with the summer courses wasn't the content so much as how they were taught. It was yet another different style, and another challenge to overcome. I kept reminding myself that it was good practice for surviving in the real world! And before we knew it, we were taking mid-terms and then final exams and giving final presentations and BAM. Summer was over, our first year was over, and I know I certainly have the exhaustion to prove it.

So that was my year in a nutshell. Except not really, because I also maintained* outside friendships, continued to work 50-60 hours a week at a job that I love, and I signed up for a second term as our class's Social Chair. I continued to travel regularly for work, and for pleasure. I didn't get to spend any time doing anything else that I love, except tennis and oh yeah, I completed a half marathon. no half marathons ever again, but tennis is not something I'm giving up any time soon. I joke that I am tired of telling people I'm busy when they ask how I am, but it's the truth. 

We have 3 glorious weeks off from school before the first semester of electives starts. I'm taking three classes, and I'm really excited about the content of all of them. I'm also doing more work travel this fall than I expected, and I now have these awesome friends that I want to hang out with all the time. But it's all worth it. That's what I realized. 6 months ago I was seriously contemplating whether or not I'd made the right choice to go back to school, and now that I'm on the other side of my first year, the answer is yes, 100 times yes. These are memories, people, experiences that I will remember forever. My work is already better because of school, and evidenced by the photo dump strewn throughout this post, my life in general is better because of the people I've found. Cheers, Class of 2016! 

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Crazy Bag Lady

Ever since I can remember, I have been purse crazed. I just love them. My favorite purse of all time was a Coach purse I got from the family I nannied for in college. The kids picked it out for me, and it was exactly what I would have picked out for myself. While not the most flattering picture, it is the best I have of that bag. Unfortnately, the strap started ripping and Coach didn't have any replacements so they gave me another new purse... RIP, teal blue Coach bag. I still think of you fondly. (And that door... it was the door to our apartment in Spain that I loved, loved, loved.) 

So, while I have found bags here and there that I liked, nothing really spoke to me like my Coach bag. I pretty much stuck to using a Longchamp because I could schlep around all my shit (pardon my French) without really worrying about anything. My computer fit, my notebook fit, my giant wallet fit...I had not a worry in the world, except that my bag wasn't exactly fashion-forward. Whatever.

Then, in Croatia, Amanda spotted a perfect bag that we both ended up buying and LOVING! I bought it in gray and she in white. I've been using it for the last 6 weeks that I've been home and am still a huge fan. I somehow found this picture online of a Forever 21 knockoff, so I guess it's not as "unique" as I wanted. Either way, the bag is completely functional and I love it. The zippers allow it to expand or not depending on use. The leather and straps are very sturdy and so far nothing has really seemed to damage or disrupt it. Fingers crossed that it continues to be as durable as it has been so far... I would love to keep it forever!

AND THEN... this morning I was in line at Starbucks and the girl in front of me had an awesome, huge SACK that also worked as a purse. I told her I loved it, and she let me in on her secret. She'd gotten it for $68 from Free People and it was vegan leather. I was instantly sold, and looked it up on my phone while waiting for my coffee. As soon as I got to work, I placed my order, and it'll be here a week from today! I'm so excited. Free People doesn't usually have free shipping on orders under $100, but if you sign up for the newsletter and use the code "FREESHIPPING" you can avoid the $8 in shipping cost. I ordered it in black but was seriously debating some of the other colors. Apparently it comes with a couple smaller satchels as well... I haven't been this excited about the mail in quite some time! I'll be checking religiously until my bag has arrived (and hopefully it will be here right in time for a trip down to the Caribbean...!)

Have you had amazing luck with any purchases lately? I've been trying to spend less on unnecessary items since I have so many exciting trips coming up, but I couldn't help myself with this one. 

Friday, June 27, 2014

Trying to remember it all...

I was sitting in class this week and started giggling about something stupid and couldn't stop. It was nothing funny at all, but I kept laughing until tears were rolling down my face and I couldn't catch my breath.

In that moment, I had a flashback to a ski trip in high school. We had just finished with dinner and were sitting around the kitchen table talking like and a buddy and I started laughing about something, and then we just couldn't stop. We laughed and laughed and laughed, until we were red in the face, couldn't breathe, and everyone was looking at us like we'd lost our minds. I remember thinking in that moment and right after that I wanted to remember it forever, what that very minute felt like for me. I knew deep down that I was happy, carefree, loved, and I felt like the world was at my fingertips. It truly, really was.

As I giggled uncontrollably in class, I somehow conjured up that memory, and it really hit home for me. So often I want to ingrain every single moment into my brain, commit it to memory and be able to draw on it forever. Every moment is that precious to me. What I'm learning, over and over and over again, is that keeping every memory within arms reach is just not possible.  Tonight was a good reminder to me that it's the little moments that matter and define me just as much as the big ones. It's giggling in class and at the dinner table with my favorite people for practically no reason at all that I want to carry with me for a lifetime.

Pictures totally unrelated (and 5+ years old) but are super happy memories captured on camera.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Mid-Summer Goals

I have 3 posts drafted at the moment, and all of them, in one way or another, emphasize how busy I am feeling. It's overwhelming, actually. So, now that midterms are behind me (see ya, suckers!), I feel it is time to re-prioritize, and I have a few goals for the next 6 weeks that I'd like to focus on.

  • Regular exercise. I'm not sure how to define this or what it means, but right now I'm playing tennis maybe once or twice a week, and that's just not good enough. A friend suggested making a goal for # of minutes per week, which I really like. Assuming I get 120 minutes of tennis in every week, I'd like to get 180 minutes of general exercise, which roughly translates to two additional days of running or tennis or whatever I feel like. I'm tired of making excuses for not being able to exercise appropriately!
  • Avoid over-planning. This is the thing I am the worst about, and the hardest to control. I just want to do all the things! I think I am also chronically afraid that if I don't plan in advance, no one else will be available to do whatever it is I want to do by the time it is actually appropriate to make plans.  

So that's it. I may or may not have intentionally put off writing this post until I could share the Fall 2014 Calendar with my best b-school pals and I may or may not have debated including calendar invite attachments with said email. For the record, I didn't do it, but only because I was lazy and not because I didn't want to. Micromanagement and over-planning at it's finest!

This summer is practically over according to my calendar. I've planned until I can't plan anymore. Lake weekends, football games, social events, work trips, concerts... you name it, I've planned it and there is not one single minute left to spare. But this is it. No more. I have to save room for tennis and friends and spontaneity and girls nights and boys nights and work and rest and family. Those are all important, too, and sometimes the best times in life are completely unplanned and unexpected. 

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Right now...

Eating / lots of Mexican food. and ham and cheese sandwiches. yum. 
Drinking / copious H2O from my masters tumbler. too many beers last night. 
Practicing / patience. a lot of patience. patience with others, patience with myself. 
Mastering / the art of email. 
Learning / about finance and strategy. NPV, annuities, perpetuities. no thanks. 
Trying / to stay sane. school + crazy work hours + spontaneous friends in town + accidental happy hours are becoming unmanageable!
Playing / with the idea of a career change (!!!)
Finishing / an assignment for school, hopefully. i may or may not have promised it by 9pm tonight. 
Reading / for my strategy class. b-o-r-i-n-g. i can't wait for august so i can read more trashy romance novels. 
Remembering / how valuable friendships can be, even when they are long distance, rarely time for talking type friendship. being able to pick up where you left off and have it be even better than before is truly a gift. 
Wearing / business clothes but every day i wish i could wear yoga pants. i even brought yoga pants to change into after work and before class because i just can't with business casual.
Cooking / nothing. seriously, no time. but if i had time, tacos. lots of tacos. 
Working / on balance. fewer snickers bars, more tennis. fewer complaints, more appreciation. fewer plans, more spontaneity. 
Traveling / to punta cana, minneapolis, dallas, houston, miami, san fran, phoenix, and iceland 2.0, all in the next 6 months. someone buy me an airplane and let me live on it and see the world. 
Wanting / to fall in love. still, always. MJ wasn't right for me so that's over, and i am still sad and lonely and convinced i'll be a cat lady forever, although currently sans cats. 

Monday, June 2, 2014

Hvala, Croatia!

I'm back from Croatia! What an incredible trip - unlike any others we've taken for so many reasons. A little photo essay is below, and I'll capture my thoughts about the whole experience at the end. Enjoy!

 Zagreb at it's finest. 

It was a brilliant day for exploring the capital city and curing our jetlag. We tromped and stomped all over the city, stretching our legs after being cooped up for 18 hours. We explored churches, bell towers, farmers markets, cemeteries, and made our way into several pubs before collapsing into bed at 9pm in anticipation of our trip south the next day. The hotel (Doubletree Zagreb) was fine, although not exactly close to anything. I can't complain though, hotel points paid for the whole trip and a couple extra steps never hurt anybody! If you find yourself in Zagreb, spend a day and don't plan to spend any more than that. It's a great launching points for several day trips so you could certainly make it home base for a few days, but the city itself is do-able in a day's time. 

On suggestion of the concierge, we stopped in Rastoke on our way to Plitvice National Park. I am so glad he recommended it and that we actually found it in time to stop! It was such a neat little town and a beautiful preview to the national park. There were small water falls, a few paths to walk up and down, and most interesting to me were the women dressed as fairies and serving as tour guides. One of the large waterfalls is named Vilina kosa which translates to "fairy hair" in English, which explains the odd costume. There is a little shop and restaurant, a pub, and a few B&B's in the small town, but if you are heading south from Zagreb it's a 1 hour stop on your way to Plitvice Lakes. Highly recommend!

After visiting Rastoke, I was prepared for a few more waterfalls and lakes at Plitvice National Park. Well, wasn't I surprised with what we saw. I don't know if we actually toured the parks the right way, but it worked for us. We parked at Gate 2 and walked down to catch the boat, which took us over to a landing where there was a little cafe. We grabbed a delicious, quick lunch and enjoyed soaking up the sun and beautiful scenery before taking a 15 minute walk to catch a bus tram and take us back to the parking area. We got sidetracked on our walk and explored a few more of the lakes and trails, but some of the paths were shut down due to flooding. As you can see we got very lucky with the weather - a gorgeous, sunny, perfect day! If I could do it all over again, I would have spent far more time in the National Park, perhaps staying overnight in a B&B nearby. We had to leave at a certain time in order to make it to Split to return our rental car, but I would have loved to spend 2-3 more hours walking around and snapping pictures. The scenery was just so incredible!

We only spent 1 evening in Split, although it's a magical city. The old city is lively and unique, and being there on a Friday night meant there were groups singing on the main street, families out strolling and eating ice cream, and tourists sitting on benches taking in the scenery. We enjoyed a really lovely dinner just a few streets off the water, opting for the classic Croatian seafood dishes - mussels and grilled tuna, plus a Greek salad that I ate the feta and cucumbers out of, Amanda ate the tomatoes, and we fought over the peppers.

We set out bright and early Saturday morning to find our sailing boat for the next 7 days. We were a bit shell-shocked at the size, but decided to make the most of it.

First stop, Omis! At the very, very top you can see a tiny little fortress. Our guide said it was just a quick 20 minute walk up there. She lied. I quit halfway through and am told I didn't miss much. The rest of the town was pretty quiet, and we chose to spend the evening having BBQ and beers on the boat, getting to know our new friends.

Second stop, Makarska. Makarska is a small city on the Adriatic coast, thus one of the places we sailed to that was not an island. They had a nice little beach, a few trails for hiking out to the point overlooking the bay, and some fun shops and treasure troves to explore. We found a nice patio for dinner and enjoyed some Croatian wine as the sun set. This was the place where we were supposed to have a rave in a cave, but since we were there so early in the season, no cave raving for us. Cue the chorus of boo's! That didn't stop us from having a little fun, though! :)

Fourth stop, Hvar. I truly enjoyed Hvar, and while I heard it was a major party destination, we found it to be peaceful, quiet, and expensive. It was hard to find a decent restaurant that was not 150kn (~$30) for an entree. We did a little hiking and exploring, wandered the town and the shops, ate dinner in a little garden restaurant way off the beaten trail, and made it back to our boat in time to completely avoid the rain. Not for long though - the group decided to practically swim to a bar for the evening, an adventure we all survived using piggy back rides, leopard print umbrellas, and bare feet to keep ourselves out of the bay!

Fifth stop, Korcula! As you can see, it was a lot of doom and gloom for our unexpected 2-day stint in Korcula. We were supposed to leave in the morning but due to bad weather we were stuck for a second night. Not the worst place to be stranded, but not our favorite locale either. It was cold and windy, but we made the most of it and explored the old town, drank our share of strong, bitter coffee, and bought a few souvenirs. We also spent a lot of time in our tiny cabin watching episodes of Orphan Black because what else do you do when there's nothing to do?

Our final destination was Dubrovnik, where we spent 2 nights at the Hilton Dubrovnik, a gorgeous property just on the edge of the old town and in a perfect location for enjoying the tremendous views of old walls and medieval fortress. As you can see, we went from pretty depressing, dreary weather in the morning to an absolutely incredible afternoon, which we enjoyed from our patio with music playing and books in hand. Truly, truly the perfect end to an incredible trip!