Thursday, February 26, 2015

They say timing is everything...

As I prepare for the upcoming house sale, I have tasked myself with going through clutter. Holy shizzz…you don’t realize how much crap you have accumulated until you have to sort through it. But sometimes you do run across a nugget of gold. The other day I was going through clutter and I came across a folder from 2005 marked “goals.” Inside there were several job listings that I had printed off that were all magazine jobs based in New York City. Travel magazine, boating magazine, health magazine, bridal magazine, etc. I try to not look back with any regrets but for a split second that day, I wondered what happened to that dream? I vividly remember the day that I realized the dream in the first place. I was at my parents’ house, my mom and I were swimming, and I was telling her that I discovered a program at Drake that was all about magazines. “That,” I told her, “would be my way to tell stories and get paid for it.” Go for it, she said. “You know that means this will probably take me away from Iowa, like to New York City, California or maybe Chicago.” She encouraged me anyway and said whatever it took for me to be happy. So I enrolled into Drake for their magazine program and went to school while I worked full-time. Shortly after getting into the program, I learned about a school-sponsored trip to New York. We’d have the opportunity to meet and network with several big name publishing companies. I could barely contain my excitement. “I’m going,” I told my parents. My dad shook his head and didn’t even try to hide his worry. “Shawnna, why? Why New York City? It’s dangerous there.” It’s dangerous everywhere Dad, I told him. He didn’t want me to go, he never does. My mom was a lot more liberating. “Have a good time, Sis. You’re my adventurous girl.” So I went to New York with dreams as big as the Manhattan skyline. I soaked it all in: the vibe, the rush, the air, the people, the possibilities, etc. Everything about it was exciting to me; I remember feeling so alive. It was a jam-packed few days; we met with tons of editors and visited probably 10-12 different magazine offices. Toward the end of our visit is when the reality for me sank in. One of the Drake alums showing us around candidly spoke about the starting salary for magazine jobs in New York City: $25-28k and you’re getting coffee for people to start out. I’ll never forget how bad my heart sank. By that time, I had been working full-time for 3-4 years and felt I wasn’t meant to start at the bottom rung but the even bigger problem was that I already had my house. In my mind, there was no way it could work. Financially, I had way too many obligations. And just like that, I gave up that dream. Filed it away in the folder marked “goals” never to be seen again. 

At that time, the house was certainly the distraction only I never realized it until I discovered the folder again. I refuse to let myself wonder “what other” dreams I’ve given up because I know that the melody of life plays just exactly as it’s supposed to. Had I went to New York in my 20s, I never would have made it. I would have given it the good ol’ college try because that’s just me, but I didn’t have thick enough skin. More so, I didn’t know myself well enough. I didn’t have the confidence that I have now. Now I’m going on 12-14 years of communication experience and I have a master’s degree. I’m qualified for more senior level jobs and the house will soon no longer be a distraction. It is becoming clear to me that selling this house is the start of true FREEDOM for me and I can't even describe how exhilarating that is. There are no limitations, nothing holding me back any longer from making my dreams come true. I can finally live a life of never ending adventure! My future is as open as my heart; I could spread my wings and soar ANYWHERE. I can just surrender to whatever the world has in store for me. :) It’s another big step in the freedom of just being ME and it’s AMAZING. :)  

They say timing is everything. But for now, onto the next box.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

I'm Movin' On

Those who know me best might say that I have a rather backward way of exploring my way through life, and you know what, I wouldn’t change a single thing :)

In 2007, I set out to pursue the “American dream” of owning a house and by all pre-defined “standards” I did just that. The reality of owning my house, however, is that in the seven years that I’ve owned it, I have come close to losing it not once but twice. My entire life for the last six years has been about one big giant PLAN. I took a giant risk and went for my dream job only to have the market collapse 5 months later and I was left without a job – but left WITH a mortgage. At the worst of it, I was sleeping on an air mattress in my kitchen when the furnace (which controls the central A/C) went out and it was 94 degrees WITH a tiny window air conditioner running. I experienced an entire year of bill collectors calling multiple times every hour from 8 a.m. until 8 p.m. filling my voicemail box with 25-30 messages every single day. All calling for the same thing that I desperately wished I had more of so I could get them off my back. The pressure of keeping all of the balls in the air was unreal. One misstep anywhere and a whole new set of problems loomed. I was working close to 70 or 80 hours a week and juggling at times four different jobs/schedules. I was in a mess and every single action of my life had financial consequences which left me paralyzed and unable to really move or make decisions that would break me from it. And every single aspect of digging out involved another plan, and then another plan. It was far more than one person should have to bear. And yet, every day I counted my blessings that things weren’t worse. I was determined to not let the setbacks break my spirit because I knew that my hardship paled in comparison to others.’ 

Then one day last summer, I just got sick of it; I had just experienced the terrible déjà vu of coming close to losing my home a second time, I turned my life upside down by moving in two roommates who were virtual strangers to me but recommendations from good friends, and I had taken a THIRD job serving part-time at a local restaurant when I finally realized I wasn’t living my life true to who I really am at the core. I was striving to live up to that societal mold of having the house, the car, the nice 401(k), the husband, the 2.5 kids, etc. and I’ve realized that’s not necessarily MY dream. To me, a dream is a dream is a dream and I don’t think a dream is right or wrong. I’ve always been a big dreamer but I can confidently say that I’ve never thought about dreams in the same vein as everyone else. My dreams are starting to look vastly different and I could not be happier about that. I want to splash in puddles of rain. I want to walk barefoot on cold grass in the summer. I want to jump in a pile of leaves in the fall. I want to make snow angels in the winter. I want to smell the distinct smell of a campfire. I want to smile broadly. I want to SEE the world. I want to care for strangers. I want to find my soulmate and I want to love him fearlessly (and per my professor Brian Steffen, I want to argue with him over a good book). I want to feel things deeply. I want to hug generously. I want to make more mistakes. I want my life to be one never-ending adventure. I want to hike in the mountains. I want to wade in the rivers and streams, and swim in the waterfalls, lakes and oceans.  I want to tell stories. I want to laugh at nothing. I want to weep for people I don’t know. I want to savor the taste of coffee and eat fish on the coasts (and every kind of food in between). I want to make my unique mark on this world however it looks. And that’s just for starters.

I want my SOUL to be happy and nothing more. I want to pursue a life of deep meaning, selfless compassion and unwavering love. How can anyone fault me for this? How many of us are truly doing that? Three weeks ago, I went to an inner peace retreat in Santa Barbara, California. One of my days there, I sat on the beach breathing in the ocean air and feeling peaceful for the first time in a long time. My heart and soul both said, “More of this please.” So with that, I say good-bye to my house on Merklin Way and I will thank it for all of the wonderful memories and treasures I’ve tucked away into a corner of my heart. The next individual or family is getting one hell of a good house. I know some won’t understand my reasons for selling my house, I’ve already heard this, “well why would you pay virtually the same for apartment rent when you can have a house and keep building equity?” WHO GIVES A SHIT? What good is equity if you’re so tied down that you can’t even enjoy basic freedom? What good is a 401k if you never reach the retirement age to enjoy it? So you’re saving all of this money up AND THEN you’ll start living? Yes I am a goal-oriented and responsible person but that’s just one part of me. And that part doesn’t define me. Not anymore. None of us is guaranteed a tomorrow; I choose to live my life NOW.

The same can be said for the pressure to “settle down,” get married and have a family. You get to a certain age, especially for women, and people start looking at you differently. ‘When is SHE EVER going to get married? She’s running out of time for children you know. She must be an old maid.’ A year ago, I suddenly started feeling pressure about this whole idea, I thought about turning 33 and in my head I said “OhmygodI’mlosingmywindowoftimetoeverhavechildren!!!” And then I said “wait a minute; this is someone else telling me I need to do this, not me. I think I want to have children but I know that I’m not going to intentionally bring a child into this world unless I also found a partner who would be an excellent father. Maybe I’m ready for children and maybe I’m not. Maybe I’ll be ready tomorrow and maybe I’ll never be ready. Maybe I’m meant to have children or maybe I’m meant to adopt or maybe I’m not meant for children at all. Who knows?! At this point in time, I do not know. Leave me alone about the pressure, it’s unfair. And yet if those judging would stop for a moment to consider it, they might see that my life has just as big of a chance at lasting happiness because I’ve thought about all of these things. I’ve thought about the kind of partner I want to be. I’ve thought about the kind of person I deserve and who deserves me. I’m not willing to just pick anybody because of an arbitrary obligation to fulfill society’s demand for how I should live my life. I believe in all of those things with my whole heart: love, passion, humility, kindness, positivity, etc. And those are the frameworks and driving forces that guide my life at this stage. They aren’t the things you learn in college or high school or from family/friends or from work, for that matter. They’re the things you learn because of life experiences. Because of a willingness to put yourself out there. Because of the chance to push your limits and to make mistakes. Because of the opportunity to test your strength, perseverance and determination. Those life experiences that some people are too afraid to even try because god forbid it doesn’t line up with what everybody else thinks you should do. THAT to me, is living. All the rest is just striving to resemble an impossible standard void of any real meaning or passion. 

Regardless of what anyone else might think, I want to live a life of passion. I’ve never been more excited for a fresh start than I am right now. And not because I have some grand plan, but at the sheer exhilaration of having absolutely no plan at all.   

I have always referenced my path by the Robert Frost poem, “The Road Not Taken,” in it he wrote, “Two roads diverged in a wood, and I – I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.” So now, I begin my next great adventure. Life has been patiently waiting for me :)

Monday, October 14, 2013

October is the day!

When in Chicago, do what Chicagoans do, right?! So I'm in Chicago for my birthday and having a wonderful time. But I still remember that I made a promise to reveal something today and I'm not about to break my promise. For reals. Just not right now. Please try your request again later....

Gotcha! I'm kidding. Here goes. When I finished Octoberfest last year, I didn't have an idea how I could move forward with the blog even though I really wanted to. And then I realized I wanted to continue trying new things, especially when it comes to traveling. But considering I'm not a famous published author (yet...), I can't very well take a trip somewhere exotic all the time. Wouldn't that be nice though. But what I CAN do is discover hidden gems a little closer to home. So here's the plan:

For one year, every week, I will venture somewhere "new" in Iowa and find something that location is somehow "known for," it could be a place, an object, a food, a drink, a person, etc. the sky is the limit here. I will travel there experience it and then blog about it. It's my hope that by the end of he year, I will have discovered so many new things about our wonderful state and will share them with you! Maybe it will spur some ideas for vacations for all of you. But I'm going to need your help. To take on such a commitment, a lot of planning must happen. I will have to research and plan this out now in order to make a "trip" happen once a week. Therefore between now and Jan. 1, I'm going to be asking for ideas on where to go. What are your favorite hotspots in Iowa? Who do you know that I just simply must meet? What food or drink do I need to devour? I won't know these great places to go unless you tell me. Oh! And I'm holding auditions for traveling partners, basically the requirements are: a love of adventure and...well breathing. Pretty low standards really. So, can you help me? Are you up to the challenge? I'm going to pester you all incessantly because the only way this will be good is if I start off with good ideas. Put on your thinking caps and start bombarding me with ideas! Share this with friends and let's get to the really cool places in Iowa. I'd love to have feedback on the idea in general too. We have several weeks to really put a great plan into motion. 

Now I must do as Chicagoans do: explore the city, eat a good hot dog and/or deep dish pizza (or both), and try not to get tagged by a screaming taxi. For now, I'm off. I have replaced the song lyrics of "hot child in the city," to "single girl in the city!" I have my favorite city to explore. Oh and a birthday to celebrate! :)

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

October know what that means

Don't you just hate it when someone says "I have something to tell you," and then follows it up with "no, I can't tell you right now." I hate that too. But I'm going to do that right now. It's for your own good. Don't you hate when someone says that too? Me too. I'm glad we had this discussion. Well that's it folks, thanks for reading.

Hah, I wouldn't do that to you, my as-of-last-year-loyal followers! Some of you might be saying, "Shawnna, you're being a tease," and I take real offense to that. If I am a tease, then Madonna is a virgin. Or is she just like a virgin? As usual, I'm getting off track. This is just for building buzz, people. As the title of this post alludes to, I'm about to embark on a new adventure. And I would love to tell you about it...just not right now. I know, I know it's not fair. But life is not fair (I also hate when people tell me that). Because this fantastical brain of mine thinks way too many steps ahead, I wanted to commemorate last year's Octoberfest adventure by announcing the new journey on my birthday. What could be more fitting?!! If you don't remember the exact date of my birthday I won’t make you jump through another hoop: it’s Oct. 14. So 14 days from now I will be announcing what the new journey is and here’s a sneak peek: I’m going to need your help. Yes you. And you. And you and your brother. So your job, should you choose to accept it, is to help me build buzz until Oct. 14 and then it’s off the hinges on what I might ask you to do. You just never know. You’ll have to wait and see. If you’d like to guess what the new adventure is, I’ll entertain guesses. And if you offer me enough money and tell a bunch of your friends about my blog, I might just spill the beans early. I have no shame, if the price is right, I’ll do pretty much anything. I’m only teasing.  

Talk to you all soon!

Monday, November 26, 2012

NATIONAL Exposure!!

Go check out right now and you'll see MY notes along with some words from my blog post and a link back to my site!!! Beyond EXCITED! I've hit the BIG time! (ok, not really but it's exciting nonetheless!) :)

Sunday, November 25, 2012


Much like the stars of Saved by the Bell miss their anonymity, I missed you guys. But I am absolutely THRILLED to let you in on some exciting news!! My blog is about to get a huge boost of exposure. I got word tonight from Caitlin Boyle, creator and author of the Operation Beautiful books and movement, that my blog will be featured on her website, TOMORROW! Holy Amazeballs Batman! The Operation Beautiful movement has been featured on the Today Show and Oprah! And all of her fans will be able to view MY blog! I can't believe it! I just need you guys to do me a favor and return your support to her website by visiting it to check out my mention. Anyone who is willing to feature my blog deserves to have the same kind of support in return. And the Operation Beautiful is a great idea to support for girls and women everywhere. I'm beyond excited to see how much more exposure this might give my blog - I'm prepared for little to none and I will still be excited nontheless but this is a whole new audience to be exposed to and that's a great step in getting my blog out there to more people. After tomorrow I hope to do a "best of" post recapping Octoberfest and then I'll be asking for your input on how to keep the blog going. Stay tuned to all of that...

One more thing before I let you go, two weeks ago on campus, I went into the same bathroom that I posted one of my Operation Beautiful note, and discovered a whole slew of post-it notes on the mirror each one expressing a positive sentiment. I was so pleasantly shocked and I knew that it could NOT have been a coincidence. MY note caused a whole bunch of positivity in return. See...the world CAN become a better place, one note at a time. I'm more than happy to do my part and it does my heart good to see others returning the favor! :) Until tomorrow!

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Octoberfest Day 31: "Operation Beautiful"

I am anticipating you all asking me what my favorite activity of the month was so I thought I would beat you to the punch. The activity for Day 31 was my favorite, hands down. Now I know what you're thinking, "how could you choose just one activity to call your favorite?" It's simple. What I did for the very last day of the month truly represented what this was all about. I set out to try something new each day of the month. I wanted to get out of my comfort zone. I wanted to get out of the ruts of doing the same things day in and day out. I wanted to get my head out of my apps and experience life from a different viewpoint. I wanted to share my journey with all of you in the hopes that it would inspire each one of you to live each day to the fullest. And if one thing I did helped make the world a better place, then I would consider the month to be a success. The idea behind Octoberfest was about celebrating my birthday. The end result became much bigger than that. When you do something selfless for others, the act of pure kindness becomes bigger than you and can have far reaching results that you aren't expecting. That's what I experienced on  Day 31 and I will never forget it. I had an idea of another random act of kindness and my friend Hannah told me about a movement that was taking the idea one step further. It's called Operation Beautiful and it's about spreading positive messages to girls, various ages, all over the world with sticky notes. Right now, we live in a society that is very critical of phsycial beauty. Bullying is very prevalent in schools. And even when girls pass their teen years and become adults, we still struggle with body image and accepting ourselves just the way we are. In a way, the pressure becomes even worse the older we get. When I was in high school, I wrote an original oratory on body image and how little girls are subjected to it even under the age of 5. Disney princesses are always physically beautiful, very small in stature and most times projecting unrealistic ideals. My speech ended up being the 5th best in the state. The message behind the oratory was simple: every girl is beautiful no matter her size, shape, color, etc. Real beauty goes beyond skin and what's on the outside. So I took 7 different sticky notes and I wrote various messages on each of them varying from "Hello Gorgeous, have a wonderful day!" to "You are perfect just the way you are." Then I went to my grocery store, the mall and Drake campus and I put the sticky notes in random areas where girls would see them: bathroom stalls, dressing rooms, on women-specific grocery items, etc. Most of the time, I hid the sticky note so it wouldn't be super obvious and would truly be an element of surprise once a girl/woman discovered it. It's my hope that the woman who has been on the receiving end of the note, stopped her day and truly felt good about herself in that given moment. If she was having a bad day, I hope it cheered her up. If she's been thinking critically about herself lately, then I hope she realized that her beauty is perfect just as it is. If she's been depressed because she doesn't feel she can contribute anything worthwhile to this world, then I hope she thought twice and discovered that we are ALL capable of becoming something. Every woman is unique and different and has a perspective that no other woman shares. That's what makes our world beautiful. Girls should be reminded of this constantly, especially in the teenager years when they're more susceptible to temptations and peer pressure. And as women get into their 20s and are trying to figure out their place in the world, it's even more important for them to realize that they are still beautiful no matter what. And as women age and experience more life, that perspective is mature and beautiful.

I felt so overjoyed spreading the uplifting messages. The only thing more exciting would have been seeing a woman come across the notes. But the way I'm imagining their faces is probably pretty accurate. Again, I couldn't have been more proud of myself in that moment. Being selfless and giving and thoughtful is a truly wonderful feeling. Operation Octoberfest: Day 31. Beautiful indeed.