Since When Is Being Called a Twenty-Something an Insult?

As English department chair, I have a few mundane duties. Number one on the list of tedious is attending monthly district meetings. This past week, I had the pleasure of attending one such event. After sitting through pleas to join the superintendent’s strategic planning committee and comments that to teach problem solving skills, we need to assign more reading of expository pieces from the textbook, I was done.

Of course, that’s when I was stopped in the parking lot by one of the other chairs. She wanted to ask me about rubrics, so after that conversation, she asked how long  I had been teaching. When I told her eight years, she was shocked and said, “Wow! I thought you were in your early twenties!”

Now, how many thirty-year-olds wouldn’t love to hear those sweet words? Oddly enough, this one. With all the trouble I had turning thirty, I thought a statement like that would be akin to hearing the voice of Jesus himself. It wasn’t, though. I proudly told her, “No, I just turned thirty in October,” to which she responded with an even greater amount of surprise.

I suppose this means I’ve arrived. I’m a thirty-year-old, and I’m learning to embrace it.

I Can Hear the Rocky Theme in the Distance…

Today was training day 2 of my official half-marathon adventure. According to my Smart Coach from runnersworld.com, I had to run 2 miles today. I just could not convince myself to go to the gym to run on the treadmill like a hamster. I wanted to run outside in the fresh winter air, even though it was completely dark by the time I was able to get out.

Fears of being assaulted or hit by a car aside, I stepped out of my front door and ran six times around my block (2.3 miles total). This was a major accomplishment, considering that we live at the crest of a pretty tall hill.

This means I ran up and down the really tall hill six times, and I did it at a 12-minute mile pace, which, for me, is pretty darn average. Two words: hell yes.

That half marathon is starting to look easier and easier.

The Wisdom of Gnarls Barkley

As I ran my two mile training jaunt while Gnarls Barkley’s “Crazy” flooded my ears, I realized how much wisdom those words held. Crazy. Such a deceptively simple word that exactly describes my current state of mind. This is because the other day, a friend convinced me to stop training for Bay to Breakers and start training for a Half Marathon. And the best part? The half marathon is two months earlier and 6 miles longer than B2B. Her argument: Just think how easy B2B will be after you’ve run 13.1 miles…

13.1 miles. Every day, I try to fathom how far that is. I live closer than 13.1 miles to my work. My mom probably lives only about 7 miles from me–and in a car in rush hour traffic, even that seems interminable. In fact, I don’t think I DRIVE 13.1 miles during the course of a day, and she wants me to run it. Do you want to know the craziest part? I said yes.

So now here I am in the midst of full-on training. Yesterday was my first “official” day, even though I consider the 6 miles I ran last week as pre-training. I’ll run another 6 this week, and then the real fun begins. Part of me says, “Hell yes, I can do this” while the other (and sometimes louder) part of me thinks that I am, in the immortal words of Gnarls Barkley, crazy.

I will say this, though. When I was a senior in high school, awkward, chubby, and somewhat ugly, I never even dreamed of running around the block, let alone running a half marathon.

I guess 30 isn’t quite that bad.

Back on the Wagon (or moving belt)

Seriously, why is it so hard to get back in shape as we get older? I ran the Bay to Breakers (a 12K–7.5 miles for those of you who are metrically challenged) last May, and I haven’t run since (save two two-mile jaunts in June or July–I don’t even remember which month it was). B2B is only six months away now, and if I have any prayer of beating last year’s time, I need to get moving–literally.

Yesterday, in an effort to prepare myself for an hour and a half (well, 1:39 according to my official timing chip) of physical Armageddon (and to fit my butt into the new Seven jeans I bought on eBay), I dragged myself to the gym to give it the old college try on the treadmill. My hope was that I would be able to run two miles at a somewhat reasonable pace (two miles is my get-back-into-training-distance that I usually have no trouble doing). My Sunday adventure, however, was a much different story. After one mile, I had a huge cramp in my side and I was all but ready to drop to the ground. I had to stop and walk for a few minutes before I could increase my speed to a slow jog. And today, I’m in pain. Real pain. My quads are screaming for some Motrin.

I have no doubt in my mind that I’ll be ready for May 17, and I’m relatively certain that I can beat last year’s time. My thirty year old body, however, may have a different agenda. Let the battle of wills begin…

ThirtyGirl is Thankful

I always hear people–especially my dad, who’s a very young 68–say, “Age is not a number; it’s a state of mind,” and they’re probably right. Unfortunately, when you experience your first major decade change (10 and 20 don’t count), sometimes it’s way too easy to get wrapped up in that simple little digit.

That’s why, in the spirit of turkey, stuffing, and mashed potatoes (or goose, acorns, and pumpkin–if you want to get technical), I’ve decided today to celebrate all the things my thirty years have gifted me.

1. My personal and professional experiences.

In my life, I’ve had opportunities to travel to places my parents haven’t seen–and may never see. I’ve eaten pizza while staring at the Duomo in Florence; I’ve tasted wine at a local, family-owned winery in Ston, Croatia; I’ve performed a scene from Othello on the Globe Theater stage as the bells of St. Paul’s were chiming midnight. I was selected from a large pool of professionals–some with much more experience than I–to help lead the reform movement at the high school where I teach. At thirty, I am a respected, integral part of my professional community–at an age where many people are just starting to launch their careers.

2.  The knowledge that it’s more important to be respected than to be liked.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not a bitch. Bitches aren’t really respected anyway–more like feared, and I’m not interested in that. But what I have learned is that by spending too much time pleasing other people (in order to be liked), I forgot to please myself.

3. My family

Even though they’re third on my list, they’re not. This is going to sound cliche, but I don’t care. My family–my husband and daughter, as well as my mom and dad and other more extended family–are the ones that keep me sane (more or less) on even my worst days. No matter how hectic or crazy my life gets (which it does, on a daily basis), they’re the ones who keep me grounded, and they’re the ones that motivate me to be successful in my life.

Whatever your age today, I hope you’ll reflect on those gifts that your years have given you. Today isn’t about crow’s feet, gray hairs, or joint pain. Today is about life–and what really matters.

Happy Thanksgiving!

ThirtyGirl Lesson #1

If I’ve noticed one major difference in myself since I’ve turned thirty, it’s this: I’m completely less judgmental than I used to be. I’ll admit it. I used to look at people who didn’t share my life’s plan or my world views with a certain level of disdain, but I’ve noticed that now I just kind of have a “What the hell” attitude about everything.

Case in point: My best friend from elementary school just facebooked me the other day, and I haven’t seen her since our senior year in high school when she left early because she got pregnant and had a baby. If this contact had happened just one short month ago (okay, maybe I’m exaggerating a little), I can see myself getting really freaked out about her life choices and feeling like we have absolutely nothing in common. In fact, I may have put my BlackBerry back into my black Coach bag and forgotten her message in cyberspace. But I didn’t. In fact, I celebrated the fact that she is one strong chick. She’s a single working mom of two boys and has survived an abusive relationship. That’s definitely something to be proud of. In fact, I think she’s one of my new heroes.

So far, my six week tenure in the thirties has taught me one very important lesson–there’s way more to life than carrying a Coach purse.

Working Girl

Can women really have it all?

I am a working mom, which for me means that I’m caught between two very different worlds. On one side, I have my job friends, the ones who are working professionals like me–sans kids. On the other side, I have my mom friends, the ones who have two years olds just like I do–sans jobs (full-time anyway). Most of the time, I’m perfectly happy in my little professional-parenthood limbo, but sometimes I become fully aware of my outcast status.

Exhibit 1: Last weekend.

I finally had the opportunity to hang out with my mom friends for our semi-regular monthly gathering–after I had to flake on them two months in a row (a career really gets in the way of a social life). Anyway, our customary outing includes a trip to Dream Dinners to conveniently pack frozen dinners for a few weeks and then lunch (this time, at Mimi’s Cafe).  The conversation quickly turned to children (as it usually does)–both our two year olds and my friends’ “buns in the oven.” It just so happens that all of them are pregnant. I am not, and this is by complete choice. I do not plan on having anymore kids; my life is just too busy with one. This is where awkwardness ensues in our exchange. I sit quietly listening to stories about doctor’s appointments and complaints about not being able to eat deli turkey, and I am happy for my friends. After all, my non-pregnant status is completely my decision. For a moment, however, I felt the all-too familiar feelings of guilt and concerns about my own selfishness resurface.

That brings me to Exhibit 2: Saturday Night

In addition to my good friends outside of work, I have several really close friends at work. For a couple of weeks, we’ve had plans to spend tonight out on the town–sort of like a post-Halloween celebration. Our plans were to have dinner and drinks together and just have a good time since we’ve been spending what feels like every waking hour at work lately. My work friends decided that it would be fun, after dinner, to see Rocky Horror Picture Show at a local dinner theater. Being that I had never seen this cult classic, I was completely stoked and ready–until I found out that it starts at midnight. Enter the conflict of parenthood. Two issues come to mind: 1) I don’t want to ask my mom (who is also our babysitter) to stay at our house until two or three in the morning when she has to wake up early on Sunday and 2) the idea of our daughter waking up an hour earlier than normal (because of Daylight Savings) after we’ve gone to bed at three in the morning is not appealing. As a result, we opted out of the show and committed to dinner.

Feminist activists worked (and have been continually working) for years to ensure equality for the feminine members of society. They wanted us to have it all–the ability to have a career and a family. I can’t thank them enough for their hard work because it has given me the opportunity to follow my passion as a professional as well as fulfill my desire to be a mother. And while I am technically living the feminist dream, I have realized that having it all means not only having the freedom to choose, but it also means accepting the chains that come with our choices.