Settling in: to arrange yourself and the things you own so you feel comfortable in a new place.
Approximately 2,100 times.
I calculated the loose stat between old school jams as I jogged down Santa Monica Boulevard a couple weekends ago. 350 days multiplied by 3 years, times 2. Yes, I must have travelled Santa Monica Boulevard, from Centinela West towards the beach and back, at least a couple thousand times now.
Going to work. Heading home from the gym. The typical coffee shop trek.
I’ve wondered countless times how the Vintage Board Games Store stays in business. (They must be selling drugs in the back…) I’ve seen one corner patch of concrete transform from used car lot to movie set to Christmas tree stand and back again. And I’ve considered dropping into DK’s Donuts more times than I’d like to admit.
As unsexy as it sounds, I have settled in. After 3 years, I have finally settled into my little LA bubble. I have arranged myself and my small collection of things in a way that provides some comfort in a notoriously uncomfortable place. I have settled into Santa Monica Boulevard like a pair of grandma pajamas, fuzzy slippers and Cabernet on the couch for Hulu night.
It’s because of this familiarity that I noticed the light, sketched outline of a “Gratitude” mural on the Marco Polo Imports building as I passed 12th Street the day before: “I wonder if that’s a new Beautify Earth project…” And I was now jogging there to find out.
10 Things I Learned from 30
After spending half of 29 fearfully anticipating the coming year, 30 was a deep sigh of relief. Life went on, and lessons continued to be learned.
1. Sunset pieces of your life to make more room for good.
I love creating stuff. But I also enjoy throwing it away. As a Software Product Manager, one of my favorite parts of the job is “sunsetting” software features by strategically deprecating them.
For example: Our product once had a tool called “College Recommendations” which suggested colleges based on self-selected student attributes, such as GPA, hometown, major, etc. From the outside, it appeared to be a totally fine piece of functionality.
So, why did I sunset it?
- Negative user feedback: Students were confused whether they should input their own details or others’ and rightfully so.
- Needs were already being met: With the launch of a new “College Matches” tool, students had an easier way of discovering colleges based on their profile and a simple, Tinder-like swipe.
- Low usage: Google Analytics showed that the tool was one of our least viewed and used.
- System flaws: Being built on old, janky code had caused countless bugs that took time and resources to address.
- Very little value: Because of all of this, it was almost costing us more to keep supporting it than we were making, resulting in zero net revenue.
As the site grew and scaled, it just wasn’t that valuable anymore. During 30, I realized the same approach can be applied to your life.
As you grow and scale as a person, are all of the people, places, things and ideas in your life still providing the same value – or do some potentially need to be retired?
- User feedback: What is your gut reaction to it? Does it bring you joy?
- Needs: Are your needs being met in another way?
- Usage: Have you worn that blouse in the last year? Seen that person since high school? Or supported that belief since third grade religion class?
- System flaws: Is there a solid foundation? Or would it require a fundamental rework to address all of the issues?
- Value: Is it still delivering value? Or do the costs outweigh the benefits? Can improvements be made to increase the value – or is it time to sunset?
I let go of a couple friendships, stopped comparing everything to Arizona (“But in Scottsdale the coffee shops serve beer…”) and walked away from a gym where my strength and fitness goals had gone to die. In return, more space was created for good things, like new friends, a sense of home and returning to my strong, motivated self.
2. Life is largely about running out of f*cks to give.
I’m just starting to see this and am unsure if it’s about having less of them or spending them more wisely… or both. I’ll check back in a decade.
3. “Your story sucks.”
In “30 Things I Learned by 30,” I included “#22 Cut ties with the stories you create that don’t serve you.” Yes, I learned it, but I hadn’t yet lived it.
30 was spent living it.
- The story that I was destined to be Julia Roberts in “My Best Friend’s Wedding” – the forever friend – was snipped away.
- The story I hid behind about ‘10 years of being single’ was consciously cut.
- The story that I was some sort of relationship guru who could protect myself with facts I read or heard was chopped.
In their absence, it made space for enjoying time with a great guy who is more than a friend, with no mention of my past or mating facts, and a personal effort to practice vulnerability. Because the best stories are about real experiences, not myths or facts.
And while self-sabotaging stories still regularly pop up – about everything from being fired to looking fat – I kindly remind myself, “Your story sucks. Find a new one.”
4. Avoiding fears drains your power.
“I just started feeling less powerful,” I said to my friend, Megan, shortly after finally driving again. “Powerful” wasn’t part of my normal vocabulary, but it felt like the only way to explain it.
Last year as driving incidences added up – from smashed side-view mirrors to running stop signs – I gave up. It started with a week off of driving, but as Uber rides and biking around town continued, the fear of driving only grew… until it became a yearlong avoidance.
Money was wasted. Time was lost. What started as a choice became, not only inconvenient, but deflating. I was held captive by my phobia, and when at the mercy of your fear, a feeling of powerlessness sets in. Slowly, the feeling spread to other areas of my life – from my career to friends. (“Sorry, I wish I could visit you in Redondo Beach, but I’m not driving right now…”)
When you begin feeling less powerful, you must determine what will put you back in the driver’s seat of your life. And for me, that meant climbing back in the driver’s seat of my car.
5. It’s possible to work out at 5am daily.
And eyelash extensions help.
6. Create what you crave, and respect other people’s taste.
I realized I was always kind of pissed.
“Did you read my last post?!” I asked my best friend after several beers last December. “I spend so much time on them, and I just want people to read them!”
There was a subconscious belief that if you loved me, you would love my blog, too.
It was natural. When you create something, you want everyone to appreciate it, like a 6-layer chocolate cake you spent all week baking for a family birthday party. You assume that it’ll be devoured the minute it hits the dessert table. As you continue to pass by and see only a few slivers taken, you’re confused and offended. “What’s wrong with my cake? Don’t you want some of my cake?! Here, have some cake!!”
But some people just don’t crave chocolate. Or maybe they’re diabetic or too busy chasing kids. Or perhaps all of the chocolate lovers are outside drinking, and it just hasn’t reached them yet. Besides, what if Aunt Margaret sat there pissed at you for passing up her gooseberry pie? Or Cousin Lisa for saying ‘hell no’ to her fruit Jell-O? That doesn’t sound very fair.
My friend, Joerelle, has regularly reminded me this year to create what I crave which has given me confidence in my content despite who consumes it. I’ve also realized that it is certainly not for everyone, including friends and family, in the same way that not everything is for me.
I write for me, and I write for you – the person who craves it too.
7. You don’t need to blackout at company happy hour.
It’s perfectly fine to have just a beer and/or tater tots. Not every Open Bar has to be a bender.
8. There’s a reason for injuries.
“It’s so dumb…” I’ve said a lot, rolling my eyes. Since January, each time someone asked how I hurt my shoulder, I briefly described the ‘evil wheel exercise’ that had proven to be very evil ab workout indeed.
Over 6 months of physical therapy, countless complaints and a new interest in listening to podcast interviews of former athletes, I realized that injuries serve several purposes.
Injuries strengthen our weaknesses so we can come back stronger. They damage our sense of self, but build our identity in other areas. They teach us patience and humility. They remind us that our bodies are more resilient and incredible than we gave them credit. They make us appreciate the feats we once accomplished, and a new admiration if we are fortunate enough to achieve them again. Injuries force us to work through the pain and prepare us for the next time life throws something our way.
Injuries might not be dumb. But they still, without a doubt, suck.
9. I am enough. You are enough.
On my most self-doubting mornings, when The 5-Minute Journal prompts me to complete “I am _______” I write enough. Because deep down, below the insecurities and anxious thoughts, I know it’s true. And it’s true of you, too.
10. Settling in can be sexy.
“Oh, I would argue it’s extremely sexy. What’s more sexy than being so comfortable, so cozy, that you really just have a sense of ease and peace. Those people exude sexiness.” – my best friend, Amanda, on settling in
The Beauty of Settling In
“Put her to work!” my friend, Ruben, said as I arrived in a light sweat on the corner of 12th Street. The pre-owned car lot had been reclaimed by paint buckets, scaffolding and a crowd of Do Good Bus volunteers who were busy bringing the “Gratitude” mural outline to life.
As I stood atop the lift with a paintbrush in hand, I felt incredibly happy. It was a feeling that I didn’t allow myself enough during 29, and I reflected on the things I had wanted from 30:
- I want to help people – in the same way people have listened, consoled and offered guidance to me
- I want to love people – old friends and new friends and family and some fun/unfazed guy out there
- I want to continue to grow each day – podcasts and paintings and traveling and SOML and meditation and events and reading and lots of writing
I had attained all of them. I was able to offer guidance to those wanting to start a blog and friends going through tough times. I was able to love my loved ones more fully and made room to like someone, as well. I grew through sprint classes, volleyball lessons, Olympic weightlifting and writing about what matters to me most.
I realized that a main reason why they were possible was because I was settled in. And not only to Santa Monica Boulevard.
At 30, you’ve finally started settling into life. You settle into the things that bring you joy and add them to your routine. You settle into disappointments; old worries collect dust with the understanding that new ones are bound to arise. You settle into your flaws and celebrate your failures a little more. You settle into what works for you, and the promise that it probably won’t always be that way.
Sometimes it’s once you’re settled in that life really begins. Sometimes it takes getting comfortable to appreciate discomfort. Often, it’s once you’ve gained your footing that you can really make moves. And sometimes, it’s once you’re settled in that you notice opportunities at your fingertips – and can appreciate their beauty.
It’s a beauty I would be happy to pass a couple thousand times, and for that I have nothing but gratitude.