Tuesday, May 23, 2017

My Favorite Travel Buddy

Retiree wine pourer at Sonoma Valley winery... says something about San Fernando Valley.
Me: "Ahh yes, the San Fernando Valley. Is that not* where the Xalisco boys initiated the black tar heroine trade?"
Retiree (with some enthusiasm): "Yes. My book club just finished a book about that. Dreamland."

I told you my newfound knowledge was going to be relevant to stimulating conversation. On a different note, I think I'm going to be very good at retirement. Although, let's be honest, I spent the last three weeks traveling and the three weeks prior working an average of two hours per day,* so I'm well on my way.

I still have to take over the world before official retirement, though, which brings us to my current state. I just finished over-packing two bags that probably won't fit in my New York sublet and am waiting for my mother to pick me up.* This seems the perfect time to write one last post from my favorite spot in Ann Arbor - my little porch. With a cup of coffee, Head and the Heart in the background, and an overly comfortable squirrel shamelessly ogling my breakfast. The topic for today: my favorite travel buddy.

I was twenty years old, and it was the first time Julie and I vacationed alone. Four days at a resort in Mexico. We spent the entire time on the resort, probably in part because neither of us wanted to go out and lose the other - more than likely, I would be the one who got lost.

One day, we indulged in massages. It was my very first massage. The women left the two of us in the room with instructions to de-robe and lie on the table. Until that point, I had been very conservative around Julie, always changing in the bathroom, but I looked at the table, and thought, "Alright, I guess I have to listen to them."

Julie, laying on her table, looked over and graciously corrected me: "Anna, you're supposed to put the sheet over your body."

Ahhh the wisdom of your elders. Eleven years is a large age gap, especially growing up. Julie and I were constantly at different stages, so very few aspects of our lives were relatable - until I graduated college, at which point, many of Julie's friends were beginning a different stage of their lives, getting married and starting families. Since both our other sisters were married, my flexibility made us ideal travel buddies, though there were still some differences. When our first dinner bill in Charlottesville was $100, I gasped in pain, and Julie smiled at how cheap it was compared to a dinner in Chicago.

Our trips have taken us to five continents, one of the seven wonders, countless restaurants and wineries, the Prime Meridian. At least we think. The landmark was closed when we got there, so we had to extrapolate where the Prime Meridian would be and straddle the imaginary line. We've missed a flight or two, underestimated distances, miscalculated directions, had near meltdowns due to lack of food. But we've laughed more,* grown closer despite being on opposite ends of the world, and found that our travel styles are nearly perfect complements.

Julie is happy to plan, and I am happy to let her do so. In February, when I casually suggested a potential trip in April, I was not surprised when three text messages later, she had booked a 7-day stay at a resort in Southern Thailand.

We share a relative disinterest in history. It's not that we don't appreciate history. We just don't appreciate paying ten pounds to climb a flight of stairs in a dilapidated structure that some guy named Henry inhabited at one point and would rather soak in the culture by means of meandering through a city, stopping at reasonable intervals for food and drink.*

We could spend an hour discussing whether we would rather have pizza hands or sweat cheese, along with all the nuances and unintended consequences one must consider when answering such impossible hypotheticals. But we can also talk about careers, love, and hardship. We're also happy to sit in silence and read. For about ten minutes. Then I share a new thought about cheese, or Julie updates me on her body temperature. Or a classic song begins playing, I sing off-pitch, and Julie hums.

When you spend so much time with someone, a squabble or two is inevitable. Like in London, when I thought we should get tea but couldn't grasp why it was exorbitantly expensive.

Me: We're in London. We should get afternoon tea.
Julie: Here are the options in the city.
Me: Why are they all 40 pounds? Why would I spend 40 pounds in the afternoon on tea? This is absurd. There's not even any alcohol.
Julie: I understand your frustration, Anna, but if you want afternoon tea, that's what it is.
Me (indignantly): Well, maybe I don't want tea.

We drank wine and ate cheese instead.

Or in Buenos Aires, when I ordered dessert and set the expectation that I was, under no circumstance, sharing. And then Julie asked for a bite. I think I eventually gave her a bite, though with great hesitation. I may still hold that once the expectation is set, there is no social obligation to share. Especially when it comes to matters of dessert.

Clearly, most squabbles revolve around food.

But food is also the source of much of our joy. From Peruvian ceviche to Malaysian street food to a well-balanced charcuterie board, we both begin thinking about our next meal after the last, and continue to reminisce on its goodness throughout our journeys.

Some things haven't changed over the years. A Seinfeld reference still seems relevant about every day. Cross-cultural massage etiquette still confuses me. For instance, in Thailand, they don't leave the room and expect you to de-robe in front of them. And then they sit you up and wrap the towel around you, repositioning your appendages and grunting. It's all very awkward.

But some things have changed. Netflix, for instance. We watched the first season of Los Chicas de Cable during our nights in Southeast Asia, and I have a new obsession with Spanish men and 20s fashion. We need to bring the top hat and low-waist dresses back. Also, if your name is Pedro or Francisco, I may shamelessly try to win your affections.

Our relationship has changed, too. Those trips, those hours and hours spent with only each other, have made us that much closer. I am very grateful to have another person who can share her experience, encourage me, and challenge me - all while making me smile.

My favorite part of having Julie as a travel buddy is that she's forced to like me the rest of my life. And when we're retired, and she's visiting me in my Sonoma home, we'll remember that day in Queenstown we stumbled upon a cozy inn, drank mulled wine and played an impossible game of LOTR trivial pursuit. Or that meal in Argentina, with steak, Malbec, and so many sauces, that was simply divine. Or that night in Penang we decided to stay up past our usual ten o'clock bedtime. We got the last table at China House, drank the most well-garnished lychee martinis, enjoyed hours of incredible funk,* and finished the evening running through the empty streets in torrential downpour. And we'll sip our wine and laugh.

* I said isn't. But is that not sounds sophisticated.
* Kind of an exaggeration.
* I lent Maleek to someone for the summer, and I'm already missing him, especially because he got in a brawl and has a brutal black eye. And I can't even be there for the path to recovery.
* And louder than anyone
* So every hour.
* They have funk in Malaysia!

Monday, May 8, 2017

Year One in the Books!

I've been thinking about this post the past week. My first year of MBA life came to a close, and I know my ten readers are on edge, clamoring for me to relay my insights and inspirations. Unfortunately, I could not document them immediately, as I began the break with an approximate sixty hour journey that would have been seventy hours had I not made the last minute decision to change my 7 AM flight to 4 PM. One thing the last year has taught me is that I do not do well with 5 AM wakeup calls. The trip included a night in San Fran, where I enjoyed tacos - because Ann Arbor's Mexican game is not strong - and catching up with a friend; a night in Shanghai, where I first applauded myself for not getting ripped off, then got dropped at the wrong hotel, then meandered around the dark streets until I found the correct hotel; and a lot of sleeping in uncomfortable positions. Finally, I landed in Chiang Mai, the beginning of my second tour de Southeast Asia during the hottest time of the year. The first four days, my body was heavily rebuking me for the last eight months - or, more succinctly, the last three weeks - of school by means of a horrendous cough and head cold. Thank you, Julie, for tolerating a level of snoring disproportionate to my size.

Now, sitting on the porch of our incredibly inexpensive but luxurious villa in the South of Thailand, listening to a tropical storm pass through, having finished Dreamland: the True Tale of America's Opium Epidemic, seems the perfect time to finally reflect. When will my newfound knowledge of the spread of OxyContin, prescription painkillers, and black tar heroin come in handy? I'm sure it will arise in cocktail conversation at some point. And when it does, I will be at the ready with a fifteen minute synopsis of how a small, enterprising Mexican town's new take on drug dealing coincided with the perfect storm of Big Pharma, the pain revolution, the deindustrialization and subsequent job loss in the Rust Belt, the rise of WalMart, and of course, health insurance, to wreak havoc on, not the ghetto where heroin once reigned, but the middle to upper white middle class, with Ohio being at the heart of it all.

For my next book, Julie suggested I consider a romance, a book peppered with phrases like, "throbbing manhood." I told her the only time my reading would encounter throbbing manhood is if it was a medical journal on erectile disfunction or STDs. I don't mix reading with pleasure.

Fair warning: this post may be more verbose than usual. The last seven weeks of school, Ross first year students participate in MAP - Multidisciplinary Action Projects* - around the world. It's a great way to experience group work, as you are on a team with three to five other students, tackling a consulting-type problem, although with much fewer resources and likely lower expectations on the sponsor's end. I realized during the project how little group work I have actually done throughout my career. I was the marketing department at VividCortex, and in client work, while I may have been on a team for the same client, there was generally a clear delineation of power and responsibility, so this project pushed me in different ways. Among them was my communication style, which, believe it or not, can be seen by some as, "too much talking." Shocking, I know.*

I think I did a fair job adjusting, though as I type, both my brain and fingers are relieved to be free from the shackles of stifling structure. They want to sing, dance, and break into the Phoebe run.* With that caveat, let's recap year numero uno.

I had a lot of firsts. First Wolverine football game. First Wolverine t-shirt and subsequent first time my parents seriously considered disowning me.* First keg stand - which, I'm surprisingly good at. Terrible at slap cup. Pretty good at keg stands. Finally, the fruits of those second period study hall Nalgene-chugging competitions with Bobby Doyle are showing. First time I made it to every class in a quarter - only one quarter, but I did do it.

I got rejected a time or two. By a venture fund, for peer coaching. Ross Diaries. The German immersion class. Pretty much any serious spot I tried to obtain. How am I not qualified to go to a country hailed for beer where beautiful tall blondes roam the street? Probably because I'm Polish. I've managed to get over it as I sit here with views like this.

I didn't get rejected from the bus, though, and you better believe Nips Navs will be vying for best white girl moves on top of that sucker every Saturday home game. I also will be helping direct Follies, the b-school version of SNL, where my sarcasm, knack for shameless humiliation, and song writing abilities can really shine. I think if I'm perfectly honest with myself, my talents are best suited there and not on venture funds.

I had to make some big decisions. I volunteered to ref the MBA2 games which are an opportunity to showcase the extent to which your athleticism has continued to deteriorate over the course of two years with the competitive vigor of a post pubescent teenager. Section two was going for a two point conversion, and I had already made a controversial call against them. The quarterback threw a dart, the receiver caught the ball in, questionably, the back corner of the end zone, bobbled it as he fell, and secured the ball as he came to the ground. To make the judgment more difficult, someone had thought it okay to step in between me and the end zone. I went with my gut. Incomplete. I then had five angry men in my face, demanding my first born child's birthright.

I also had to decide which internship to take.

I acquired some nuggets of knowledge. Although let's be honest, much of my homework was done watching NFL at Hopcat, my go-to sports bar that isn't quite as good as Citizen's, but has some phenomenal crack fries.

I had a few accomplishments. Like getting the arbitrary award of best laugh in section five.

I met some wonderful, lovely people. Ones who made me laugh, who encouraged me, who stretched my thinking, and who could belt out every nineties classic with me. I also met a few I care never to see again. But definitely more of the former.

The time has affirmed much. While the generation of Seinfeld lovers is fading, those who appreciate a reference to yada yada, the soup Nazi, or the Elaine dance are true gems. You should never be bummed about not being included. You should just invite yourself. And anywhere you go can feel a bit like high school, so it's best to smile a lot and not involve yourself with frivolous aspects of the experience.

I hate winters in the Midwest. They begin tolerable enough, but around day thirty of no sun, as my skin becomes translucent, I question my decision to leave the mild months of sun and chill in Virginia. Then I remember how much I love being closer to family.

Mostly, though, it has affirmed my decision to pursue grad school when I did. When I left Charlottesville, I quoted Andre Agassi's book, Open*: "Get yourself tired. That's when you'll know yourself. On the other side of tired." My six years had solidified that.

There were times that were harder than others. But even during the week in Winter A when I desperately wanted recruiting to end, and the week in Winter B when I seemed to be an endless stream of sobs, I never once questioned who I am, what I value, or why I'm here.

And I'm freakin pumped that it ain't over yet.

* Very high letter to syllable ratio with this acronym
* I'm also too sarcastic from time to time.
* May I just say, I think it interesting that in situations where one style of communication is less structured than another, it is generally assumed that the less structured style should adjust. I think both styles have their place and advantages. What if, instead, the structured communicator listened to the unstructured communicator and put a framework around what the unstructured communicator said?
Also, the Phoebe run is my ten second burst when I want to feel absolutely uninhibited. It has been done on many streets, many university quads, and a winery or two.
* I kid, I kid. I'm too cute to disown.
* Read it!

Saturday, April 8, 2017

On Being Chosen

When I first moved to Charlottesville, I had a crush on a coworker. Then I found out he was moving. Of course he was, because that's how it goes. But I still had a crush on him. Obviously nothing happened, and there was no reason for anything to happen - we were in two completely different cities, and my life in Charlottesville was just beginning. Still, when I saw on Facebook* that he had a girlfriend, I was sad. As I chatted with my roommate, trying to articulate the reason, I struggled. It wasn't because I was in love with him. It wasn't because I was lonely.

I was upset because he didn't choose me.

The single life has its highs and lows. Some days, you're empowered and plan to take over the world. Others, you enjoy the freedom to do whatever you would like. And others, you question why you haven't been chosen, feeling as if you're the last one waiting to be picked in gym class, and you don't know why.* You have a decent jump shot and you're pretty quick on defense. But there you are. Staring at the two captains, wondering, "What am I doing wrong?"

I think everyone wants to be chosen. Whether it's a job, a volunteer position, a relationship. And it sucks when you're not.

Then I think about Easter and the intensity of God's love. Tomorrow is Palm Sunday, the day that Jesus rode into Jerusalem, humbly on a donkey. His love for us - for me - took Him to the cross less than a week later, bruised and beaten, even as people believed He was a fraud. He took my sin, my faults, my insecurities to the grave in grace. When He rose on Easter Sunday, He made a way for me to have an eternal relationship with Him that permeates not only this life, but also the next.

In my darkest moments, staring at the team captains, wondering why I'm still not chosen, He reminds me that I was.

I bargain with God before I write posts like this, because sometimes I feel silly doing so. I mean, I'm 28 years old. How have I not figured this out yet? Why do I make the same mistakes? And why do I have to share it with the ten people who read my blog? I've already told all of them, anyways. So I use various excuses to justify my silence.

Last Sunday, God and I were having such a conversation in church, and I told Him, "I can't write this post because I don't have a good accompanying verse. I need a good accompanying verse." And moments later, the preacher quoted John 15:16: "You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit--fruit that will last--and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you."

Thank you, Jesus. I'm so grateful You did.

* Stupid Facebook.
* Unless it's volleyball, because I'm terrible at volleyball.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Happy 30th Birthday, Stephen!

Hey there, brosky. I started writing this from the porch of a Virginia vineyard, warmed by the spring sun, chilled by the winter wind, drinking a glass of Cabernet, which I think you would enjoy very much. But I have so much to say to you, I'm finishing it at my kitchen table back in Ann Arbor. The time in Charlottesville was refreshing, revisiting those strong relationships built over the years, escaping the grad school bubble for a bit. Don't get me wrong - grad school's still a blast, and I love the people, but you know how I feel about bubbles. They can be suffocating, and it's easy to get lost in them.

The big 3-0. That's huge. Let me know how it feels - I'm approaching it quickly, you know.

It's been a big year for the Navs. We've grown by four. Phil got married, and you'd love his wife. They make each other laugh, and they really seek what God wants. Sometimes I think he's more mature than I - but then he cracks a that's what she said joke - and then I laugh hysterically - and then I'm back to thinking he's more mature than I. Both Gail and Lydia had kiddos, adding more love, laughter, cuteness and chaos to family gatherings. Jericho is one and weighing in at roughly 40 pounds, and Ida Theyes is nearly as sweet as her sister, Mabel Jo, though that's a high bar to meet. And you've met Julie and Jeromy's Stephen already. I'm sure you're showing him the ropes up there. Aren't nieces and nephews the greatest? The devil's cruel, and it doesn't seem fair that they had to go through the loss, but they're stronger, which is a testament to their faith. And the fact that they're also more mature than I.

You know how mom had a verse for every child she had? Well, I occasionally have verses for different life stages - you remember my verse while studying for the GMAT? I was packing this summer and stumbled upon this list of verses tucked away. One in particular caught my attention: "Delight yourself also in the Lord, and He shall give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord, trust also in Him, and He shall bring it to pass." The thing is - my heart has so very many desires, Stephen. I want a meaningful career; I want to be near family; I want to have a family, so I wasn't sure which one He meant.

The prompt for Ross admissions was: What is your desired career path and why? I said I wanted to be in sports marketing with the liberty to be creative, think outside the box, and pursue an industry I was passionate about. Sports had a huge impact on my life, and I wanted to be part of giving that to others. Then I got to school, and those opportunities were few and far between. When people asked what I wanted to do, I caveated it: "I realize that's a limited scope."

Most jobs throughout the recruiting process didn't interest me, but there were a few that caught my eye. One was an internship with a creative sports marketing agency. It was a combination of all the things I loved - creativity, marketing, strategy, tech. SPORTS!

I wish I could say the process wasn't stressful, and that I didn't question or disappoint myself throughout. I fell short a time or two, and there were moments I knew I could have done better. But I also committed my way to the Lord, and I trusted in Him.

Last week, I got the internship. My Goldman. My Bain. My Proctor & Gamble.* And I'm so grateful. A couple years ago I wrote about the intricate story that God weaves. You know me - I love a good story, and I often create them in my head. I've created so many stories that have fallen flat and not gone the way I planned. The cool thing about God is, His story is still much neater than any I create, and once again, I've seen his intricacies throughout this process. The fact that I participated in case competitions earlier this year, so when the final round interview was a case and presentation, I had learned from others how to approach it effectively. The experienced friends who helped me perfect it. The man my parents befriended in DC who worked closely with the company.

Making decisions by yourself is both exciting and daunting. On the one hand, you can do whatever you want, and on the other hand, you can do whatever you want. I turned down another really neat opportunity for this, that in some ways made more sense. It was hard, but I knew I would regret not pursuing this one opportunity I had sought from the start.

Once again, God's answer wasn't a man. It wasn't moving back to Cleveland. It's a new adventure. I'm not going to romanticize this - surprising, I know. I am fully prepared for the possibility that it's not a good fit or that I won't enjoy living in New York. But I have the opportunity, and that was my heart's desire.

Mom gave me this devotional five years ago, and I still read it as often as possible, as I love the accompanying quotes. One of the quotes for your birthday is, "They have had their victories, and when the stress is hardest, it is wise to look back on these for encouragement." God has given me so many victories throughout my short career, whether it's promotion, a new job, a free education; this is another victory. He's given me victories in life, too, and my brief time in Charlottesville, watching basketball at my usual sports bar, dining with my closest friends, helping my favorite neighbor move, reminded me of that. I'm excited for what He has next. And, big brosky, I'm also excited to play horse with you someday. I've been working on my jump shot.

* Though it pays incredibly less than all three.

Monday, February 13, 2017

What My Parents Taught Me About Love

Confession: If a Facebook memory pops up, I read it. I had a lot of emo lyric statuses during college – ie "if you’ve never stared off into space, then your life is a shame." Come on, Anna, you’re better than that. Although that is a good song... More recently, they’re generally humorous. The other day I opened the memory, and my status five years ago was: “I have a hole in my sock, but I don’t mind, because I just got a pedicure.” Here’s where the story gets crazy. I looked down, and I had a hole in my sock. But I didn’t mind, because I had just gotten a pedicure. To make the story even crazier, this was the only pair of socks that had a hole in them, and my only pedicure in six months.

I relayed this riveting tale to a friend, and he responded: Wow, you haven’t changed in five years. How does that feel?

So, of course, I began to consider where I was five years ago. I was training for a marathon – my one and only race ever run. I’ll be honest; I take unnecessary pride in that fact. I was lonely, not sure what I was doing in Charlottesville, and I found solace in running as a cathartic outlet that I understood. People asked if training for the marathon was hard. It wasn’t. It was defined. I had a schedule, I followed it, and I exceeded my goal. But navigating life – jobs, dating, uncertainty about the future, friendships. That was hard.

Five years later, I still confront the same fears and doubts. But those confrontations are not nearly as intense. I still need reminders to wait, to trust that “God will give you the desires of your heart,” but that no longer comes during an emotional outburst. I have learned to remind myself in bouts of loneliness that, in the wise words of my father, it is better to have no man than a bad man, and when I doubt my future, I remind myself of the times God has been faithful to this point. Indeed, all, I am a relatively emotionally stable woman.

Some things, though, remain as true as they were five years ago. I still find solace in athletics, although now I turn to Crossfit. I PRed my deadlift for the first time in three years last week, and I failed on a back squat for the first time - normally I'm too scared to get to the point where I fail, so that was breakthrough.

I went home last weekend to celebrate my parent’s 40th wedding anniversary. I write about them nearly every year around this time, as their anniversary is always February 5th. They have taught me so much about love; below are some of my favorites.

Love is steadfast. My parents start each morning the same way. They proclaim Bible verses, and they pray for their family. Every time I come home, whether it's been a week or six months, I know I will be greeted with a huge hug, a kiss, and an I love you.

Love has faith. Always. Maybe this is in love, or maybe this is just in life.

Love is respectful. "Hun, please don't interrupt me." "I'm sorry, my dear. Go ahead." That is the extent of arguing between my parents. I'm sure they had their moments, but I cannot remember a negative comment made by either of my parents about the other. They don't even join when their children jokingly mock one of them. And we're hilarious.

Love supports the other person's passions. Like my mom scorekeeping for my Dad's little league baseball team for the 16 years he coached my brother. And now as he coaches my nephew.

Love is joyful. And laughs. I hope my husband still thinks I'm funny after forty years. Obviously, I'll still think I'm funny after forty years.

Love is a decision. Earlier this year, I spent some time in New Zealand with my sister and Mom. Julie had recently lost her baby at 24 weeks, and of course, Mom was there in an instant. I didn't have much to add by way of words of wisdom, since the most difficult moment of my life was that time I had to decide whether I wanted the brownie sundae or frozen oreo pie*, but as always, Mother oozed wisdom. She told of one day in particular with Stephen, my severely brain damaged older brother. I was a crying baby (although still adorable I'm sure), she was taking care of Stephen, and my older sisters came home from school in the whirlwind fashion children do. She allowed herself a moment of depression - and a relatively justified one at that. She and my dad woke up every day and loved someone who was never able to recognize that love in full. Who would in all likelihood never walk, never hear, never speak. She had a moment: "I could choose this. I could choose depression. Or I could choose to love." My dad fasted forty days, praying that Stephen would be healed. Even now, when they talk about the Big Mon, they don't talk about what he wasn't. They talk about what he was. This little guy trapped in a body that wouldn't work. And rather than tear them apart, that period of time drew my parents together. They chose love for each other and for their family.

Privilege is a common term these days. Spoiler alert: I have all the privilege - white privilege, middle class privilege, and on a good night, I even have hot girl privilege. But the privilege I believe to be the most valuable is my parents. When I consider the times I lost my way, the times I felt unloved or unworthy, the times I needed someone to ground me, I see my parents. I see who I want to become.

One of these years, I’m going to write about the wonderful man who is taking me to the NBA All-Star weekend for Valentine’s Day. Until then, I'm grateful my parents have provided such a beautiful example of love and commitment.

The most exciting aspect of five years ago is that if you had asked me where I would be in five years, it wouldn’t be sitting at a bar in NYC on a Monday at noon drinking Delirium*.

Where will I be in five years? Yikes bikes I have no idea. But I’m excited to find out. And hopefully I will have stopped keeping socks with holes in them.

* Oreo pie. Duh.
* To which the bartender said, wow, that’s an aggressive way to start the day.
Sidenote: the bartender just gave me a free pen. Made my week.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

All of My Thoughts about Recruiting

Caveat: I thought about writing this after recruiting, because what if a recruiter reads it and does not appreciate my humor and marks me off the list. Then I thought, if they don't appreciate my style, it's likely not a great fit. More than that, I think it's good to write about uncertainty in the middle of uncertainty, as the emotions are more raw. Finally, I very much appreciate the fact that Ross positions you to succeed in the job market, presenting you with a veritable smorgasbord of opportunity. However, that doesn't mean there's no stress involved.

Ooo this is nice. All these companies are here, fawning over me. Courting me.

Yay! Free food. Mmm and free beverages.

Am I interested in that company? No, no I'm not. I wish I was, but I'm not. And I'm bad at faking it.

That was a good night. I think we really had a connection.

How many ways adjectives are there for "great company"? Can I use the word awesome, or is that inappropriate?

Should I be stressed? Other people are stressed. Maybe I should be stressed. Shoot. I'm stressed. Why am I stressed?

Maybe I should have applied for more internships.

I didn't come here to just get a job. I came here to get my job. The job. The one where I can make the biggest difference. Why would I want less than that?

Ahhh I don't know if I can eat any more free food. Anna, who are you and why would you ever bemoan free food?

May I please have your grandmother's email address, so I can thank her for birthing your mother, who in turn birthed you.

O, sweet professor. You really want me to care about the efficiency of a cranberry plant right now?

Thank you, dear classmate who I speak to in passing, for reassuring me I will get a job now that you have one. As patronizing as that sounds, I prefer it to hearing you complain about how you don't have a job yet.

But seriously, where am I going to be this summer? How about next year? How about in five years?

Hey, everyone, how about instead of talking about interviewing, we talk about music, or how Grayson Allen is the biggest pre Madonna in college basketball, even by Duke standards. Or talk about Chipotle. I can always talk about Chipotle.

Hmmm. Maybe I want a boyfriend. No, Anna, that literally has nothing to do with right now. You just don't like uncertainty. And you want a back massage.

Why is it so gray outside?

Alright, God, close all the doors except the right one. And maybe keep a couple others open for the sake of my sanity.

Why didn't they like me? How could anyone not like me? I thought we had something special.

They didn't like me? Well, fine, I didn't like them, either.

Maybe I'll die alone and never contribute anything to society.*

Get it together, Anna. Go work out.

I woke up at 4:30 this morning. Normally when that happens, I go to the bathroom and return to bed. Since it coincided with the Australian Open men's semifinal between the recently rehabbed Federer and Wawrinka, however, I decided to watch. I joined the match after Federer had won the first two sets and was seemingly cruising to the finals. He dropped the third set 1-6. They fought through the fourth set, until Wawrinka broke to go up 5-4 and closed the set. Federer fought off two break points in the fifth and will be in the finals Sunday at 3:30 AM, which I may or may not watch live.

I know ya'll have missed the tennis metaphors*, so here goes.

Tennis requires a unique mental strength to succeed, different than that required in team sports. You are completely alone. No teammate will compensate if your shot is off, and no coach will calm you down, except for a brief look into the stands. And there's an opponent that's fighting the same fight. I think the pitcher/batter matchup is a similar battle, but if a pitcher is having an off day, the GM pulls him from the mound, and the offense can redeem the performance. Boxing certainly requires a similar mentality, but it moves so quickly that you don't have the time to think.

In tennis, you have 30 seconds in between points to think about what went wrong, what could go wrong, or how to compete in the next point. You have two minutes during changeover to regroup or unravel. And five minutes in between sets to dig deep, make strategic adjustments and finish strong, or panic. It's your choice.

If you watch the sport enough, or play it enough, you can see this internal battle raging. You can predict the momentum shifts. The single points that completely alter the tone of the match.

The toughest matches are won not because of strength or technique. They're won because you can dictate momentum. You know which points will cause your opponent to unravel, and when you're the person unraveling - when you've temporarily lost your shot or can't seem to convert - you know how to stop the spiral. To snap out of it. Point by point.

Life seems to be a constant sequence of momentum shifts. There are times when you are converting on all cylinders, times when you're a little off, and times when not a single shot seems to fall. How you react to those periods dictates your success.

Over the years, you learn to curb your internal momentum shifts. Every player has marquee matches, and the longer you play, the more you have. Those matches when you were steady, smart, and strong. And when you're in the middle of match, knowing the next point could determine momentum, you remember those matches.

So right now, in the middle of recruiting, when my mind can wander in many fruitless directions, dwelling on past errors or wondering what might happen in the third set when I haven't even finished the first, I remember those past victories. When I quit my job and began serving tables, when I joined a startup, or when I left that job without knowing if I had been accepted to graduate school.

Most tennis players have a ritual between points. It could be Nadal picking his wedgie - why don't you just get bigger shorts - or Federer brushing back his hair - don't ever cut your hair, Federer. I always took a moment to remind myself to compete. And in the middle of uncertainty, I hold on Philippians 4:6: Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And then I work out.

* I renounce that. Plus, I've already contributed this blog.

* As I wrote this, I realized it's been nearly two years since one has graced my blog, and new readers may never have experienced my favorite metaphor. What a shame.

* And frankly, I think under appreciated by the masses.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Home with the Navs

First. Remember last year, I thought adding elbow holes in sweaters could be the next fashion trend. I'm seeing sweaters with shoulder holes all over the place this winter. I should be fashion blogger. Until that transition...

Coming home for the holidays after living alone is always a bit of an adjustment. For instance: I can't do my own laundry, my meals are cooked for me, I have to continually be ready when Mom asks what I want from the grocery store, delicious treats are constantly calling, the 86'' TV sometimes hurts my eyes. It's difficult, but I press through. I do always forget to bring home my lufa which throws a major wrench in my shower routine.*

Everyone knows I love my family. We all have our idiosyncrasies, that I believe each has embraced, so no one will mind if I share them. It's a difficult task to provide a window for outsiders into a week with the Navatsyks, but that's not going to keep me from trying.

I stop by Gail and Mitch's first. Colt, the three year old tornado, is extremely excited to see me, and I savor the moment, because soon enough, he will be asking when it's time for me to go home. Or our friendship will end because he trips over a pillow while playing tag. Ahh, the volatility of toddler affections. Briella, who's 8 going on 28, runs into my arms and within a minute asks if I have started dating the quarterback yet. I tell her I'm going to wait until he's legal to make my move.

Gail and Mitch are taking their kids to Miami in a few weeks. Gail is considering recording their vacation, putting it on Youtube and monetizing it. After all, it's about time they make money off their good looks. I agree, and if I didn't have school, I would definitely manage the production. Of course, Mitch would make me delete half of what he says, so maybe a reality show won't work. Gail could make videos coaching Moms to have their children sleep through the night. Or Mitch could tour the country giving motivational speeches. If not Mitch, Briella could. She is reenacting her inspirational speech: "You go hard. You better have nothing left at the end of the swim!" she had spurred her teammate to a relay victory.

Gail and I discuss her most recent nail salon drama - anyone who has entered the world of nail allegiance knows that switching between salons is a difficult line to cross without consequence. She had a procedure recently and is recovering very swiftly, as I anticipated she would. By procedure, I mean boob job. Mitch's gift to both of them. Yes, for everyone scrolling through pictures on Facebook and wondering: they're not real, and they're spectacular. I had to cop a feel, obviously. And don't worry, I know you're scrolling, because we do, too. And Mitch rolls his eyes but secretly enjoys our commentary. For anyone scrolling through my profile page, here's the synopsis: I have big thighs and this blog where I ramble about my life as if people care. Don't try to make fun of my forehead. We all know it's glorious.

Personally, I plan on botoxing my forehead to preserve the beauty of the dome selfie, so I'm in no position to judge another taking advantage of the medical advances at one's fingertips. Plus, I think after you have four kids, you have the right to do whatever you want to your body, and as our President-elect once proclaimed, "It's impossible to be flat chested and a 10." If there was doubt, Gail's now a ten. The addition to the Hewitt household does offer a multitude of material, and if Mitch were not in a position of civic service, this blog post would be a running recording of commentary. I will simply say: he's not demanding his money back.*

Phil and Courtny are in for a brief 24 hours during which we watch the 45 minute compilation Philip made of our time roadtripping through Eastern Europe together. And Courtney watches the whole video and laughs, which is why he married her, because most people would probably leave after five minutes, though I don't know why, because we're hilarious. The opening scene is the two of us belting out T-Swift. There is a lot of made up history on our self guided tours, that's what she said moments, complaining about the speed limit, and one scene where I molest a gummy bear. Pure gold.

Philip's trying a new method to wake up Courtny - bacon. She seems a little startled and even annoyed the first time bacon slides under her nostril as she sleeps, but the second time, she is much more amenable, and even seems to enjoy the bacon. They're prepping for their 45-day honeymoonth. Forty-five days seems like a totally appropriate amount of time. Any more may be unreasonable.

We manage to squeeze in a Christmas tree sleepover with Caleb and Bri, and while Courtny and Phil opted for a bed, I lay under the tree and talk with the kiddos about school, their little brothers, and sports. I hope they skip that stage when they are too cool for their aunts.

Christmas comes and goes, and the Cavs beat the Warriors.

The day after, I join Mom and Dad for dinner. They seem to go out more since no one lives with them, and they may be my favorite couple to join as a third wheel, because as of now, they are the only ones who pay.* I had forgotten to get Dad a present, and I saw this as the perfect opportunity.

"Excellent. I'll cover some of the meal, and that will be your Christmas present, Dad."
"So let me understand. We go out to dinner. You pay for yourself. That's my Christmas present?"
"How is that my Christmas present?"
"Because, Dad. You get to spend time with me. And you love me." Merry Christmas.

I do go out with a few friends one night. Mom informs me the following morning that according to the track your iPhone app, I was at Pub Frato then a Hibachi restaurant and somewhere else in between. Good thing I nixed the strip club idea; that would have been an awkward conversation over coffee.

The Christmas tree down, her latest mission is to get rid of my Playmobile Victorian house from childhood. I'm not totally ready to part with it. I'm not sure when or why I will have any use for it, but there's so many pieces, it seems wrong to say goodbye. Incidentally, that's exactly why she wants it gone. I hold my ground, though, by simply not responding to her pleas for me to give her permission to throw it away*, and she's giving me until age 30 to remove it from the premises, lest it be removed for me. It was in two boxes, but if stacked properly, it can be condensed to one, which is a minor relief for her. Win, win.

The Amish woman Mom befriended is cleaning our house, which brings the cleaning lady tally to two. I'm not sure what they do, though mother did say that when my dad's car lights hit the ground just right, you could see bits of dust. She would later find a bit more dust when the sun shone directly on the living room table at 5:07 PM. I contemplate how I can get these ladies to my apartment and really show them some dust, when Dad comes down with big news.

"Jim Lyons called the other day and said he met a shortstop that was better than me. I went on a diatribe on how that simply wasn't the case. Today someone posted a picture on Facebook of the 1973 All Star team. I was the shortstop. I sent Jim the picture and said, 'I rest my case.'" Additionally, Dad has tweeted at Kimberly Gildoyle of Fox's Five at Five, telling her to part her hair on one side or the other because the part down the middle is no bueno. It's been bugging him for a long time, so the household's glad that's off his mind.

Before heading back to Ann Arbor, I have communion with Mom and Dad, something they have started doing daily. Dad prays for me as he always does: that I would be a leader, not a follower, that I would find favor in the eyes of those I work with, that the right doors would open and every other door close. I give both a big hug, grab one final treat and hop on the road, grateful as always for such strong roots. And sad that I have to do my own laundry.

* Simple solution: spend two dollars on a lufa to keep there.
* I ran this section by Gail and Mitch and have interpreted their silence as tacit compliance.
* Every other couple, please feel free to step up your game to compete.
* Thanks for teaching me negotiating skills, MO 503.