2015 - the Year of Allison

2015...I certainly don't think I ever imagined this year ever coming.  It's not so much that I had something super exciting planned for this year, it's just that...well, this is the year I turn 30.  As a young child, I imagined 30 as being ancient, the age when everything falls apart.  However, anymore age 30 seems to be the year of reinvention, and I am certainly hoping to revitalize some aspects of my life. 

In late 2014, I was plagued with some Crohn's-esque complications and a foot surgery that has me in a boot for what feels like eternity.  Children and dogs seem enamored by it, and adults seem to find it as justification for the handicap placard hanging from my rear view mirror.  With it occurring right before the holidays, television shows have finished their "fall season" and you are left with cliche holiday movies and shows that leave you saying, "people actually sign the waiver to appear on this show?"  Being an avid reader, I decided that my time was better spent ensuring that I read all of the novels that have inspired movies coming out in the next few months.  Call me strange, but I prefer to go into the movie knowing what aspects should be shown, and deciphering whether or not the story has been properly interpreted.

I had been wanting to read the memoir "Wild" for some time, and with the release of the much anticipated film (starring Reese Witherspoon) I found myself anxious to dive in.  I'm not sure what my expectations were, but even though "Cheryl" and I had grown up much differently, I began to see many similarities in our lives.  In the book, Cheryl is 26, and preparing to take the trek of her life on the Pacific Coast Trail as a way to properly mourn the death of her mother and become the person with the ideals that she had instilled upon her.  Throughout the way, she reflects on many of the aspects of her life that have changed since her mother passed away; she left her degree incomplete with only a semester to go, she cheated on a supportive, caring husband many times, and she even sought out illicit drugs...all in an effort to make her feel the way she had before her mother passed. 

Anyone who knows me would know that the last word to describe me would be "outdoorsy" but this book really inspired me to take my life back into my own hands.  Perhaps I will not walk 1000 miles to achieve this goal, but I felt similar changes were necessary if I wanted to feel the happiness and relief that I so much deserved to live a fulfilling life.

Thus, I have decided to make 2015 the year of Allison.  The year where it's not just about the talk, but more about the walk.  I have decided to make the changes in my diet that I know I so desperately need in order to keep my Crohn's in control - no more sodas, less carbs, and more veggies. With the help of a friend, I am training for my first half marathon in May, where my goal is simply to finish...nothing more, nothing less.  I will not focus on trying to find the man of my dreams, but will hope that these decisions will attract the kind of person I want to have a life with.  And lastly, I hope to make better financial choices so that at the end of the year I have more than what I started with, and can begin thinking about what's next for me, instead of feeling stuck in the same, complacent place.

It's a lot to take on, but I feel like I need to embrace getting older and to share my trials and tribulations with friends and family.  I may not be where I expected to be at 30, but I've still got a lot to give this world.  So here's to 2015, make it your year and become the person you've always wanted to be, one day at a time.  FYI, only 361 days to go! 

To the 2014 Graduates..

It's true; I never got to give a commencement speech and I'm still a bit bitter about it.  However, as I approach my 10 year hs reunion and my 6 year college graduation anniversary, what I really wish is that someone had given me the advice I'm about to give you all (yes, the 3 people that read this blog.  Thank you.)

Baby Don't Rush....
My entire life had been one goal gearing up for another larger goal:
  • do well in high school to get into good college (check)
  • do well in college to get into good medical school or get good job (check)
  • be filthy rich and enjoy life (not so much...)
Let's face it, it's basically impossible to plan out every aspect of your life.  This took me a very long time to figure out.  The first few years out of college were very confusing for me.  I wanted to live like a baller and ignore all of the other responsibilities that came with being a grown up.  
I felt the pressure of all of my friends getting married and starting their lives...and a few friends got married, had kids, and stopped working shortly thereafter.  All of the sudden I felt like I was doing what I was supposed to do...
 The fact of the matter is that there is no "syllabus" for life; just because you don't find the right guy in college doesn't mean you should settle just because your best friend is getting married.  And if you can't afford a new car or that fancy purse you've been eying...don't do it.   The only thing worse than buyers remorse is that monthly bill that keeps knocking at your door for 60 months...
 Live a Little...
One of my biggest regrets after graduation is that I was so ready to start making money that I missed out on the trip of a lifetime with some of my sorority sisters backpacking around Europe.  Sure...I bet there would have been a few hiccups along the way, but I really wish I had been a bit more adventurous.  I told myself that I only wanted to do the traveling if I could do it in style...but at this rate...that will be in about 50 years...and I'm not sure how stylish 70 y.o. Americans in Europe are, but I'm guessing my odds (and my legs) would have been better at 22. 
It's important to start saving soon, but also take time for fun trips.  Let's face it, it takes years to build up that vacation time - which is why you should definitely take advantage of the holiday time you do have off.  My first year out of college I made sure to spend all of my holidays with friends who had chosen to live in more exciting destinations than myself.  All a good vacay needs is good friends, good fun, and good wine :)
Give Yourself a Break...
About 6 months into working life, I had a full on tantrum about how much life sucked.  Way more of my money was going to bills/rent/etc. then I deemed acceptable.  I was angry.  I mean, as the low man on the pole, I was dealt a lot of the "technical writing" challenges which I had only spend 10 weeks in school covering.  Where was the lab work?  The DOEs?  HELP ME.  
I remember coming home one night and telling my mom about all of this bullshit.  How I could have just gotten an English degree after all!  The fact is that sometimes a job is not all you think it's going to be...and once you're a full timer the charade is up. 
So, what do you do?  Well, if you're like me...I did an assessment and thought maybe it was the field.  Or maybe it was the company.  So I left the company I was with only to find that the grass wasn't always greener.  The thing is, you have to put your time in.  However, once you've proven yourself over a year or two - don't be afraid to come to your supervisor or mentor and explain to them how you are feeling and what you are looking for.  A great supervisor will help you find a job within the company that meets your needs; in fact, I'm a huge fan of the rotational programs that more companies are becoming accustomed to.  Companies invest in you just as much as you invest in them - they would rather keep good employees and make them happy versus starting over with a new hire.  If that discussion doesn't go well...look elsewhere.  
 And if you really hate your job and feel like you've covered all of the possible scenarios...consider a career change.  However, do your homework.  You've seen how much the investment is to getting one degree..starting over can be pretty intimidating.  
And you know what?  If you're not a manager or a director or a CEO by the time you're 30...join the club!  Most of those people have earned that position after many years of hard work and lots of experience.  Here's the way I look at it: do you really want that title if you're not prepared for the responsibility?  Why rush when you could possible have the same opportunity in a year or two with even more experience.  A title means very little...and it shouldn't define who you are as an employee.  

So at the end of the day...try to find something positive about your job - even if it's just a paycheck.  And...just remember that most colleges have at least one time a year when you are allowed to act like a College Idiot all over again...HOMECOMING :) 

What's In My Bag?

One of my favorite bits in US Weekly is the "What's in My Bag?" piece.  I'm always looking for new ideas for things I have to carry in my bag, and I must say some of my beauty favorites have been found in this article.  So...I know share with you what's in my bag.  Reader...beware

My turquoise Botkier has seen better days - but I just love the color and style!  I got it over 2 years ago and it is starting to show...the seams are starting to rip on the crossbody strap.  Honestly, I'm so attached I may look into a repair shop to save my precious!  

Techno Geek: I've basically always got my iPhone with me...and I love this owl case that one of my besties customized for me.  It reminds me of my Chi Omega sisters!  

Summer Shades: Before they made a comeback, my older brother was always reppin' the Wayfarers.  I have to admit I love the classic style with the modern spin of all of the shades.  This Olive Rubberized pair is my ole standby.  

Memberships Out the...: I love a great deal, but I hate how every place makes you carry a "card" around now.  As you can see, I'm a clutch wallet gal, so when it became overwhelming I picked up this bright Tory Burch card case to keep all of my memberships sorted.  Honestly, I couldn't take the disorganization.  

Traveling Lady: I honestly hate carrying my Passport around, but I still haven't updated it to my maiden name.  Ugh.  It does come in handy though when I forget that I still have some things in my married name (like my college graduate program...whoops).  

All in One Gadgets: My mom thought it was so weird when I asked for a Swiss Army Card for Christmas one year but I use it ALL of the time.  It has a great pair of scissors, nail file, a pin, and even a toothpick...it has come in handy on multiple occasions.  

A wee bit Lippy: I must carry at least 3 lip treatments at one time.  I love the Fresh brand Sugar gloss for overall shine, and my new favorite is the Tarte Amazonian Clay lipstick.  It has great pigment with shea butter so it never cracks.  

Smelling Good on the Run: I love that fragrances have come out will rollerball versions.  It's a great way to sample a scent you're still not 100% about and is the perfect size for travel.  Now I always smell like roses.  

So there you have it...that's "What's in my Bag" at this moment.  And of course some fall, we'll have to change it up! 

Summer Song Superlatives

This blog encompasses my favorite things; so, why not compile a list of my summer music predictions with one of my favorite Tonight Show bits.  Let the list begin...

Most Likely to be this summer's anthem...
Calvin Harris "Summer"
You know how last summer in May you were jamming to "Blurred Lines" like you couldn't get enough of it?  Well...come August Mr. Robin Thicke had worn out his welcome. 

I have a feeling that's how DJ Calvin Harris's track "Summer" is going to pan out for Summer 2014.  It's kind of like looking at someone's online dating profile...they look really great online, but then...

Most Likely to be the song you won't admit you know...
Iggy Azalea, "Fancy"
Face it.  The song is catchy.  I mean, I catch myself walking around the house saying, "I'm so fancy" about 30 times a day.  It makes it a little more okay that Jimmy Fallon did this song in his lip sync battle, right?

Most Likely to be the guy in every song this summer...
Sam Smith 
Move over Pitbull!  There's a new guy in town and he is sending every song he's on to the top of the charts!  Even if you don't know his name you probably know some of the songs he's on...and trust me, this guy has got chops.  Finally, a guy who doesn't liken taking a girl home and "getting it in" to a tree falling down (Timber, anyone?) 

Album most likely to make you go, "Who is this?"...
Coldplay "Ghost Stories" 
Coldplay's upcoming album, "Ghost Stories" is as haunting as its namesake.  Gone are the rock n rolls sounds from the last few albums, and back is the chilling tone of Chris Martin that we all know and love.  The song Midnight is my personal favorite...

Song most likely to make you love instrumental...
Lindsey Stirling, "Shatter Me" 
Don't worry, this isn't your mom and dad's version of Beethoven's 8th Symphony.  Lindsey Stirling is showing the industry that with an electronic flare, instrumental music can top the charts.  

Song most likely to put her on the map...
Sia, "Chandelier" 
Sia is no newbie to the music industry...but for whatever reason, most of her stateside fame is attributed to being featured on other artists songs.  Well, "Chandelier" is proof that this chick is too good to be backing up anyone.  

Song most likely to confuse you...
Lana Del Ray, "West Coast" 
Honestly Lana, are you indie?  are you retro? WHAT GENRE ARE YOU?  Well, West Coast proves Ms. Del Ray can't be labeled...and something tells me that's just the way she wants it...

Album most like to plummet him to stardom...
Ray Lamontagne, "Supernova" 
Ray has been part of the underground music following for over a decade, with songs like "Trouble" being sung by the likes of many music contestants.  However, "Supernova" has an easy feel that is just perfect for summer.  It's a rarity because you can actually listen to the whole album...however I'm partial to "She's the one" 

So if that doesn't get you geared up for summer I'm not sure what will...however, I'm sure come August we'll all be ready for some fresh tunes.  

Revisiting this whole School Thing...

Several years ago, I was still overly ambitious and decided it would be a wonderful idea to go back to school and get my masters.  The program at Purdue University made it seem so attractive: online, the capability to get it done quickly, applicable classes to improve your knowledge on-the-job...

Well, let's just say that life as a full time Engineer who also takes classes is not at all fun.  And here are a few reasons why:
  1. You have to work with UNDERGRADS
Honestly, a lot changes in the real world.  When you have a 40+ hour a week job that requires you to...I don't know, work all day you go to bed at 9:30pm and wake up at 5:30am.  Yes, that's exactly 8 hours...because that's all you have time for.  
So when you decide to be ambitious and ALSO go to school, you basically use every bit of free time working on class.  Gone are the days of weekends because you have to listen to 3 lectures and read 3 chapters on how often your neurons are firing.  
And when you can do this on your own time, that's wonderful.  Trust me.  But...when you have to reply on others for project work...it's enough to make you want to shake them and tell them that THIS IS NOT HOW THINGS WORK IN THE REAL WORLD.  
Last week, I was in Boston all week for work.  I got home Friday evening, and proceeded to work Saturday and Sunday on a project from the class from hell.  Imagine my surprise when one of my peers let's the team know that he will be unavailable for the weekend because he and his gf are celebrating their 6 month anniversary.  It took a lot of patience to not provide the statistical probabilities of he and said gf staying together and having a successful engagement/marriage, etc. but I also wanted to shake him.  I would love to have a weekend galavanting around some college campus with a hot (or even mediocre at this point in my life) co-ed whose only concern is whether or not you're going to lavaliere her any time soon.  I mean really?  This project is like 50% of our grade - get focused...before I jump off a bridge. 

2. You complete activities that are completely irrelevant to your actual job
My current class, Quantitative Physiology, involves hour long powerpoint lectures that seem to "pass" over the concepts.  So, after cover 10 chapters, 12 lectures, and other various research papers, studying for the exam is quite overwhelming.  Well, imagine my frustration when said exam is over EVERY MINUTE DETAIL OF ONE OF THOSE LECTURES.  Are you kidding me?  I really have to tell you every aspect about why a monkey isn't rewarded by focusing on a dot?  
Guess what students?  You will never use this.  In fact, in the real world you are NEVER tested.  And when you are...it's about the Bloodborne Pathogens you "might" come across in your work.  
So excuse me for being a little PISSED that I spent 6 hours of my Sunday prepping for an exam that only covered about 30 minutes of my studying time.  I hate you.  

3. The only thing comparable is working with others...
That's right, the only thing I can find comparable to my actual job is that I am completing a ton of work that I will never get credit for.  Why yes, I'd love to rely on my "technical expert" counterparts to be able to write a paragraph, but apparently they were blessed with aptitude on one side of the brain.  
Yes, I'm a neurotic control freak who still wants to do my best, but jesus...how's about a comma every once and then?  And spell check...that's there for a reason kids.


So basically, my education has only proven one thing for me.  That my anxiety medication either works great or that my world view has really taken a 180 in the last 6 years...because basically, my only goal at the end of the semester is to receive a B in the course.  Still aiming too high?  Well that's only so I will be reimbursed by my company.

Only 28 and I am already a bitter adult.  Success!

The Real World - Ain't It Fun?

Call it coincidence, call it fate.  However, I call it...reality.  On the way home from work after a long day, a song popped on the radio and boy did it really get it.  The song was Paramore's latest, Ain't It Fun.

Most of you are smart, so I don't want to spend an hour deciphering the lyrics of a song that pretty much describes itself.  However, for those of you who tend to turn off your thinkers on the weekends like me, here we go.  The song basically talks about how growing up isn't all it's cracked up to be.  Specifically, there is a great part of the song that yells, "Don't go crying, to your Momma, cause you're on your own in the real world."

I literally started laughing because boy oh boy is that the case.  It's not so much that I feel alone - far from that!  It's just that, this "adulthood" thing that I've been trying to figure out for approximately 6 years is something my mother has done for 39 years and my dad, 48.  In fact, my dad has been with the same company for 46 of those years.  So...I guess what I'm trying to say is don't expect a pity party.

It made me think of the interactions I have with high school and college kids on a daily basis.  My company employs many college kids as interns to gain experience in the field,  I advise the chapter of the sorority that I was a member of, and I have many friends and family members eager to emerge into this guise of freedom that is surely what everyone expects with adulthood.

And honestly, when someone from those groups comes up to me and tells me about how ready they are to move on all I want do is play a scene from one of my all time favorites, Billy Madison, and remind those kids how overrated growing up is.

It's not all bad, but let me just throw some caution to the wind.  Life is not cheap. 

My first job out of college was with a very large pharmaceutical company headquartered in Indianapolis.  When I saw how much I was making, I had basically already planned my first Nordstrom shopping spree in my head.  I had decided to live at home to "save money" and couldn't wait to get to spending.  However, about 6 months in my excitement started to falter.  

For one thing, while 8 hours a day is an expectation at most job, 10 hours is recommended and 12 hours is best.  This was no problem when you were interning right?  That's because you were being paid hourly.  In the real world, you make the same flat fee.  Now that really comes in handy when you're feeling ill and still get paid...but when you've got approximately 40 hours in by Wednesday, it gets less fun.  

After realizing that life as an intern was a complete 180 from life as a full timer, I had to come to come to terms with those two words that every college grad dreads: student loans.  Realizing that nearly a 1/4 of my salary would be immediately turned over to pay off of my undergraduate loans was depressing at best.  I soon saw my dreams of owning a Range Rover in 5 years dwindling away.  

Don't get me wrong, I made a few good decisions along the way, but I definitely still tried to live like a baller.  I ended up getting an apartment on Indy's north side for an "affordable" $1200/month, paid a car loan of $500/month and started to see why my parents were constantly complaining about wireless bills, cable bills, and all of the luxuries we Milennials have grown accustomed to.  

Now, I see that I was trying to live the life my parents were living immediately out of college.  Granted, as an engineer I was emerging college at a much better salary than many...but I still couldn't believe how much of my check was already spent before I got it.  And trust me, it doesn't get better.  I practically need a degree in Finance to understand how insurance companies determine your out of pocket expense and credit cards...don't get me started.  

And when I start to get down, I think back to when I was a mere undergraduate.  Driving my 1999 Pontiac Grand Am, my only concern being what my costume would be for the fraternity party of the week, and how many calories were in a 6 inch Subway sub.  

So...for those of you in the final countdown to adulthood - SLOW YOUR ROLL.  Try to live like a college kid for as long as you can.  There's no reason to try and grow up overnight.  Work hard so you can play hard...and at the end of the day, give yourself time to complain.  But fair warning...we're all in the same spot.  

Sisterhood: My Thoughts on Sororities

When I tell most people I'm in a sorority, they're not really surprised.  Most of them proceed with the question, "Is it anything like that book 'Pledged'?" or "One time, I saw this episode of Dr. Phil where these girls died because of a hazing incident..." and you know what?  I'm not going to say that it's never happened.  Even I've enjoyed a Lifetime movie or two surrounding the topic.  The fact is that my experience with sorority life has been far from anything horrific, in fact...it changed my college experience and my outlook on adult life...

I have two brothers, but I was only surrounded 24/7 by my younger brother, Paul.  For the first 5 years of his life it was easy to convince him to play dress up or Barbies, but once he realized that me doing his makeup wasn't what most boys his age considered "fun" the girl time halted. 

Growing up I always had lots of friends, but I never seemed to consistently stick with a group of girls.  My interests would change and we would grow apart...we never had something keeping us together. 

When I left for college, I was terrified.  Let's just say that my on campus visit to good old Rose-Hulman left me feeling like I was not going to be having my "Saved by the Bell: The College Years" experience I had always dreamed of.  After unpacking a carload of stuff and moving into my room, I clung to my parents for fear that when they returned I would be playing dungeon and dragons and watching significant amounts of anime.  While I had always been an intelligent gal, I still had interests in sports, fashion, and well...personal hygiene.  A few weeks into my first quarter I was ready to call it quits.  I knew I should have gone to Duke or Northwestern like I had wanted to...

But several weeks into school something happened - Rush.  I am so thankful I go to a school that does Rush in the fall...because I'm not sure I would have been giving good ole Rose a second chance come winter time.  Back in those days I was very good at convincing my mother that every social occasion required a new outfit, so the weekend before Rush she took me shopping back home in Indy where I meticulously put together several outfits for the impending parties.  I wanted to make a good impression and let these people know that I was definitely sorority material. 

After the first party it was evident which sorority I belonged in - Chi Omega.  It's funny, but I can still remember that party like it was yesterday.  One of those ladies ended up being my 'grandma' and two of them ended up being in my wedding party.  I was so afraid to get my hopes up...especially since I lived in a dorm where very few other freshman girls lived. 

I went to all of the parties, but had been feeling kind of crappy the last night of the Preference party.  That next morning, I went up to my RA, and promptly passed out on her floor.  There is nothing more embarrassing than being unconscious and waking up to large woman yelling your name.  I was transported to the hospital and ended up missing Bid Day.  At that point I knew that whatever sorority I had gotten in to must have revoked my membership after not showing up for Bid Day...but when I got to my door it was decorated with all sorts of red and yellow - the colors of Chi Omega.  The girls had made a sign for me to get better soon and plenty of people stopped by that day to check on me and tell me how excited they were to see me. 

It may sound funny, but that week was one of the best weeks of my life.  I firmly believe that my entire college experience changed from that one decision.  Never again did I have to worry about going to the Cafeteria alone, not knowing what to do on a Friday night, or not making friends.  For the first time in my life I had sisters, approximately 60 of them. 

I would be lying to you if I said it was all wonderful - there were definitely times when I want to settle an argument with those girls the old fashioned way just like my younger and brother and I would.  And I definitely have gone through some of the darkest moments of my life with some of these women.  I'm not best friends with all of them, but I can definitely count on them. 

The possibilities of sisterhood are endless - and it didn't just stop with my active sisters.  When I had my first job, there were plenty of sisters from my chapter whom I had never met before and got to know.  And when I moved to Memphis for a job I got involved with sisters from other chapters - and the best part was that it was so easy.  Knowing that we had both made the same commitment allowed us to instill instant trust and admiration for each other. 

I'm a firm believer that life is what you make it, and there have been times when I've learned that the hard way.  Even though I complain about Facebook sometimes, I'm so happy to get on there and see the lives of my sisters changing for the better.  I feel proud when they get a promotion or announce a pregnancy and I hurt for them when they are dealing with the loss of a loved one or are having a difficult time.  The fact is that these people are my family, and if I can help them I will. 

So before you imagine Tori Spelling as a young pledge who finds some murderous connection to the school dean because of her experience in sororities, realize that most women have a much different outlook on their time in sisterhood.  There are times when I need it more than others, but that sisterhood is something I can always depend on.  This year I get to go to the National Convention of Chi Omega with two actives that impress me every day and a wonderful friend that was in my pledge class.  It's a decision I'm happy I've made, and I wouldn't have it any other way!