Thirty-One: A Retrospective

With my birthday just around the corner, I’ve reached the time of year when I tend to be extra introspective. There’s something about my birthday, especially since it follows just on the tail of the New Year, that makes me take stock of what I’ve been up to and where I’m going.


Thirty-one has been a wild ride for me. On one hand, there have been some wonderful moments and accomplishments. Some highlights:

When I joined Weight Watchers the day after my birthday, I never imagined that I’d be down to a size 6. This has been a huge deal for me, and after almost 20 years of struggling with my weight, I’m finally able to say that I’m at peace with both the scale and my body.  

Going to the UK for the end of the Olympics (Brandon was there for work, so I played the role of the dutiful, ever-sacrificing wife and flew over for two weeks of vacation. It was arduous, let me tell you) was amazing! The whole experience was incredible, especially watching the U.S. Women’s National Team beat Japan for the gold medal in soccer.

Proudly displaying my Team USA shirt after we won the gold!
In late September, I ran my first 5K since I was 21 — after a 10-year hiatus due to arthritis in my feet, it felt wonderful to be running again. 

On the other hand, though, a good portion of this year was spent being consumed by my existential crisis/quarter-life crisis/whatever you call it. Starting in mid-2011, I found myself growing increasingly unhappy with my career in international security.  It’s what I’d trained for throughout college and grad school, and yet I was miserable.  As time went on, it only got worse — and the beginning of 2012 saw me plumbing the depths of my unhappiest moments.


I was especially unhappy because, in the midst of trying to figure out what, exactly, I want to do with my life, I managed to give myself quite a lot of flak for the fact that my life wasn’t turning out as I’d planned.


I spent a lot of time kicking myself — ok, it’d be more accurate to say that I was actually berating myself in the most vicious of ways — for deviating from my carefully-constructed life plan. I felt like I’d amounted to a whole lot of nothing, and that I’d been a total waste: wasted educational investment, wasted effort, everything. An epic fail.


In April and May, I could feel myself slipping into a particularly dark place. I was deriding myself almost constantly, I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life, and I was abjectly miserable. I felt like I was a complete failure, and I believed that I deserved nothing good in life as retribution for my failure to make something of myself. 


Like I said, it was a really dark place.

Thankfully, things began to turn around a bit this summer. I realized I didn’t deserve any of my self-inflicted derision or disdain, and I started to treat myself with compassion and kindness. Instead of calling myself a waste, I told myself what I knew I’d tell a friend if they were in my shoes: it’s okay. You haven’t made mistakes, because you’re learning from all these experiences. You couldn’t have known how things would turn out — no one does — and it’s totally fine to change course as you go along. 
 life plan


Once I was no longer expending so much energy on kicking myself, I could focus more on figuring out what I want to do and where I want to go from here.


After many sleepless nights, numerous long runs spent contemplating the situation, and a bajillion looooong journal entries, I realized: while international security focuses on preventing bad things from happening, my greatest joys and most edifying moments come from facilitating and catalyzing good things in peoples’ lives.


I then realized that there are two key ways I want to make this the focus of my professional life going forward: first, knowing that my day job is likely going to remain my main source of income for the forseeable future, I started working to make a transition from international security into global women’s issues.  Through that, I hope to get involved in efforts supporting women’s health, education, and economic empowerment in developing countries.  
 "Women hold up half the sky." -Mao Tse Tung

The second is the reason I started this blog: I love writing, and I’ve long been passionate about health, fitness, and cooking. I love finding healthy recipes for friends and family to try out.  I love encouraging people to work out, and I love helping them achieve their goals. I decided to start writing about fitness, healthy recipes, wellness, and self-acceptance — as well as all the changes I’m going through as I try to align my career with my core values.  My hope is that by writing about my experiences with fitness, food, and being true to myself, readers will find a resource for healthy living and following their dreams.

Please disregard the fact that I’m totally not cooking healthy food in this picture.
Not surprisingly, once I realized that my calling in life involves specific passions I’ve always had and always loved — writing, international women’s issues, and wellness — things really started to look up.

Now, as I bid adieu to 31 and welcome 32, I can finally say that I have a good idea of where I want to go and what I want to do. It took me a long time — and a lot of blood, sweat, and tears — to get to this point, but after over a year of feeling stuck, miserable, and scared, I’m ready to welcome the future with open arms.

I’ve decided that this is my theme song for how I feel these days (and I might be listening to this on constant loop on my iPod):

4 thoughts on “Thirty-One: A Retrospective

  1. Caitlin Helsel January 15, 2013 / 2:21 am

    Ahh, Lillian, this post makes me so incredibly happy for you! You have come so far this year, and I can tell just by reading these and other past posts that you are on both a path that makes you happy and one that fulfills you/is what you are meant to do. You wouldn't be able to write the way you do, or do what you do otherwise πŸ™‚ I'm so happy that I found you in the blogsphere, since you have been one of the most helpful in making me listen to my mind/heart/body in the past few months especially, and I look forward to future kicks in the bum from you when I need them πŸ˜‰

  2. jessielovestorun January 15, 2013 / 9:53 am

    Hearing that you are in such a better place with your life just makes me smile from ear to ear. I honestly can't tell you enough that you truly do deserve all the greatness that comes with life, and change! You are such a motivating, inspiring & sweet person Lillian! I just KNOW that this will be YOUR year!! =)

  3. Lillian January 16, 2013 / 3:20 am

    Ok, so I'd be lying if I said I didn't get incredibly verklempt when I read this. It makes me so, so happy to know that I've been able to help you listen to your body – I'm incredibly glad I found you in the blogosphere, too! *Hugs*

  4. Lillian January 16, 2013 / 3:23 am

    Thank you so much, Jessie! I'm so glad we're able to connect through our blogs, and it means a ton to have wonderful people like yourself reading! πŸ™‚ *Hugs*

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