I had a birthday a few weeks back–May 29th, to be exact–and ever since, I’ve been reflecting on what I want to do this year. It wasn’t an intentional reflective period, it just happened that way.
Steve just celebrated his 30th birthday on Monday. We enjoyed a quiet but fabulous night out, eating all of the food at Smith and Wollensky (including 12 oysters, 6 littlenecks, three sides-for-two, and two massive steaks…and drinks…and there was beef carpaccio in there somewhere too). Steve, like many, does not love celebrating birthdays because to him, they seem like non-events. Paraphrasing how he sees it: congratulations, you didn’t die this year. But me being me, I still insisted that it was special–it is!–because if nothing else, I’m glad he didn’t die this year. Romantic, huh?
While we enjoyed our first drinks–I, a glass of pinot noir, Steve an Old Fashioned–I toasted to another year, and asked Steve what he wanted to do with this, his 31st year. He thought, then responded. I won’t share his response here because poor Steve didn’t sign up for every last thing that comes out of his mouth to be publicized because I have a blog. But I will share with you what I said when Steve turned the question on me.
In this, my 29th year, I aim to:
A while back, I attended a professional training on how to influence people. My takeaway was really this: talk less, listen more. In order to really hear what the other person is saying, I need to keep my mouth shut and let that person frame the discussion him/herself. I am so trained to reflective, active listening (too much mediation training?) that I think it has taken over my ability to listen and hear.
Will this change everything? No. Will I all of a sudden become a mute listening robot? No. When I told Steve about this intention, it came with the caveat that he sort of has to do the opposite: talk more, listen less. See, we’re very different. I’m a Meyers-Briggs E, he’s an I. I process externally, he processes internally. It can make for a lot of seemingly lopsided conversations, in that I’m talkatalkatalking and he’s absorbing, silently. Then, minutes or hours later, he contributes a neatly organized sentence or two that sums up his whole position, and there I was, yammering on about mine forever because I think out loud and didn’t quite know how I felt about it until I said it out loud a few times.
My E tendencies won’t go away, his I tendencies are here to stay, but we’ll try to shift the balance and see what happens. It’s a stretch for the both of us.
Also, I think I have ADD.
When we were still in RI, almost a year ago, we developed our first Five Year Plan, or our 5YP. I know, you’re thinking: How Soviet of you! The goal at that point was to build our savings–liquid and retirement–and equity in our home, develop our careers, and ultimately relocate to a different area five years down the line. To accomplish these tasks, we had charts and progress goals and check ins, networking and career skills plans, you name it. It was legit.
Well, we sort of did it out of order, huh? We shifted career gears quickly, decided to relocate, sold the house in three days, and BAM now we live in DC, new shiny careers and all.
Nothing major went by the wayside, but I’d like to take a step back and figure out what we need to do to get back on track in terms of liquid and retirement savings, especially. We need to discuss our goals and how we want our life to look and feel, and what we need to do–financially–to get there.
Honestly, what we need is a sit-down with a financial planner. But, we don’t have the same financial goals as many couples our age, and that’s making it harder to find someone who will give advice specifically for us. I want someone who can tailor advice to the following: we do not want kids and don’t need to plan for them and don’t want to be asked if we’ll change our minds every year (seriously world, noyb), we have owned a home and eventually will again but probably not in the next 5 years, our student loan situation is very different from that of our peers, our salaries took a hit when we moved to a more expensive area but can rebound, we are saving for retirement, we could be saving more for general purposes, we want to enjoy our lives more than we want to trudge through them. Internetz, FIND ME THIS ADVISOR. Someone who knows that we might be able to retire at a sensible age, that we’re not doomed to a life of visit-less nursing home times, and that we can have a little more freedom in our estate planning.
Some of my smaller goal-making tasks in my To Do And Then series have addressed this, specifically rolling over my retirement moola to my new employer. There are more steps, though. Time to figure out what they are and how to get there.
Some people can sing as beautifully as the angels, some can slip in and out of a dramatic role seamlessly, and then there are the graceful dancers and nimble, powerful athletes. But me? Nope. I can’t sing very well, and even so, my nerves keep me from belting anything out unless I’m safely sealed within the confines of an empty, moving car. I can sort of act out little bits but I can’t actually act act. My dancing is more like seizing, and my athletic skills are, uh, non-existent. You know what I can do, though? I can cook.
I tell everyone who will listen that if I could, I’d stay home all day and cook. And eat. And feed other people. It’s when I feel my best. I feel like it’s the one talent I have, the one art form at which I excel. I have a natural instinct for cooking, and dammit, I’m proud of that. I truly love it.
I’m not going to culinary school, I don’t want to be held to learn proper measuring and conversion methods, nor can I be bothered with the food safety unit that comes with every single culinary lesson (botulism schmotulism). So I’ll cook at home. And I’ll feed anyone who will eat. Usually, that’s me, Steve, occasionally Hala, and the dogs if they are lucky (ooh la la, boiled chicken and white rice!). I like being in my kitchen, I like watching people eat and enjoy food–mine or otherwise, in the least creepy way possible–and I like the feeling that comes when that bite, that meal, that taste hit the spot for whomever is taking it in.
I want to do more of that:
nourish myself and others more. With food.
Lucky gal I am, I have some people to explore this with.
I worked on the judging thing last year and made some great headway. It boils down to this: I have no idea why certain people do, dress, act, say, smell, whatever how they do because I am not them, I am not in their life, and I simply can’t know.
And it’s none of my business. And it’s none of yours.
And by pointing out those differences in a bad light, I’m the asshole, not the superior one.
I would want the same courtesy extended to me.
Simple as that. I believe the same basic concept applies to the complaining bit: by focusing on the bad, you are not improving anything. Focus on the good, work with or around the bad, move the eff on.
I recently read somewhere that a marriage has to get used to–comfortable with–the season-less life without kids, mostly by making seasons and special carve outs within the marriage. As I mentioned above, we are the only people who will be occupying this family. Dogs, sure; friends and other family, yep. But for our family unit, it’s Steve, and it’s me, and that’s it.
Relishing our relationship and keeping it interesting and vibrant is important. Usually, you can find us sitting on the couch scrolling through our phones, yelling at the dogs not to bark at birds or old people or air, with Dexter on in the background (see: the past week). But sometimes, we want to go on a date. Something special. Doesn’t have to be fancy–a walk for some ice cream, or a trip to the super market on a Sunday morning will do–but we need to carve out concentrated time for our family; for me and Steve.
Date nights shall commence. We haven’t dated anyone in over a decade, and that includes each other (…we’ve been together, exclusively, since 2002), so we might be rusty at first. But we will enjoy this and see where it takes us, because honestly, it’s our future.
I feel at home when I know my way around, know and use my resources, and can confidently navigate between routine, known options and known-but-novel options. We’ve started to do this with our little section of town, but I want to expand. I want to entrench myself in my new home and have a go-to place for X and a you-have-to-try-place for Y, and I want to just go and try and do.
There’s so much we haven’t done yet, and so, in concert with dating one another, we’ll try to maintain a rolling list of places to go, things to see, neighborhoods to visit, restaurants to try, walks to take. A passport, of sorts: when you’ve done it, check it off, but keep adding.
I think that the “DC as Home” concept will really be most tried around the holidays. We are going home for Thanksgiving, but not for Christmas. So, Christmas in a new city it is!
Here’s to a fantastic, growth-oriented 29th year, self.