This coming Saturday, I’ll be turning 27. Celebrations will involve doing marvellous things with people I love, including:

  • Running Seawheeze with Christina and Danielle who are coming all the way from Ontario to stay with me
  • Eating at least once per day at Heirloom
  • Shopping
  • Slumber parties
  • Hiking up the Grouse Grind
  • Laughing until it hurts.

Guys. I CAN’T FREAKING WAIT for the ALL CAPS-WORTHY LEVEL OF AWESOME that is about to happen. It is going to be all kinds of BOLD ALL-CAPS FABULOUS!

before seawheeze with danielle ashley and christina

Pre-race at Seawheeze 2014

But first, a look back on 26.

Think about the last time you made a big change. It might have been moving to a new city, leaving a job for a new opportunity, changing career paths entirely, or perhaps making a big purchase. Perhaps you weighed the pros and cons of the decision for hours in your head and on paper before biting the bullet, by which point, you’d convinced yourself it was the right thing to do. But in the days, weeks and months that followed, you encountered new challenges (some anticipated and some not so much) that made you second-guess yourself. Does that ring a bell for anyone?

This was me up until very recently. As those of you who read Eat Spin Run Repeat regularly know, I’d been dreaming of living in Vancouver for years. A few job opportunities presented themselves in 2014, and each time I turned them down because something just didn’t quite feel right. I decided to stop looking for another 8 months… and interestingly, start training for a half Ironman. I guess that’s a sign of some pent-up frustration that needed to be channeled into something constructive.

Then I got a call in February, two months after signing a 1-year lease on a gorgeous condo with one of my best friends, Jess. The timing was obviously not ideal (but it never is, right?) and unlike those other opportunities that I’d declined, everything about this one pointed to yes. In a matter of a few very blurry and overwhelming weeks, I packed up, moved into a new place, started my new job, and embarked on a new phase of my life.

As expected, the first couple of weeks were a bit crazy. Getting settled at work, unpacking, and learning my way around the city were all things I wanted to do right away. Just as I began to feel settled, things at work picked up quickly and I found myself leaving the office in the evenings feeling exceptionally stressed, wanting to do nothing but go home, eat dinner, and go to bed. I missed my friends from home. I missed being able to drive my car without using my GPS. I missed the confident feeling I felt in my old job that had come as a result of successfully completing a number of projects and being acknowledged for them. I even kind of missed the early risers at my old gym that I may not have conversed with, but they were there, and seeing them was just part of my daily routine.

Refusing to admit to myself or anyone else that things weren’t ideal, I put on a brave face and kept chugging along, making new friends, training for my upcoming half Ironman, and trying to get up to speed in my new job as fast as possible.

As you may have guessed, there was an inevitable breaking point and it was about 1 month ago. My digestive issues flared up again and I made an appointment with a new naturopath. I went in thinking we were going to do some food sensitivity testing, but what happened was quite different. There were a few preliminary tests, and after quickly going over the results, we just started talking – or I should say, she made me start talking.

Within about 15 minutes, she had me bawling. I mean, flat-out bawling my eyes out like a baby, soaking up every last tissue in the box, snot dripping out of my nose, making ALL the ugly crying faces. It’s a good thing I’ve been doing so much swimming or I just might have drowned in a pool of snotty tears.

As I walked out of her office and back to my car an hour and a half later, I felt like I’d been to see a doctor, a naturopath, a shrink, a career counsellor and a life coach all in the same afternoon. I also realized that my sobfest was the first cry I’d had since February. And you know what? With 5 months of tears out of me, I felt amazing.

Have a good cry - wash out your heart - if you keep it inside - it'll tear you apart

So what happened? 

Among many other things, including some testing of my nervous system and a look at my previous blood work, my naturopath got me talking about all of the life changes that have been going on throughout my 20s.

There have been a few medical issues (like finding out in 2013 that I had anemia for example) and some things that explanations have yet to be found for. But looking at the last year specifically, the major events have been moving (twice – one big and one small) and changing jobs. And while I hadn’t realized it along the way, she helped me see that the expectations I had for myself throughout this transitional time have been really, really high.

People find self-satisfaction in a number of different ways. For some it’s raising self-sufficient, successful children and doing things that make them feel like a good parent. For others, it might be a series of promotions that helps them climb the corporate ladder to their dream job. In my life right now, I feel most fulfilled and confident when the following things are happening:

  • I’m making a positive contribution to the lives of other people
  • I’m challenging myself to new athletic pursuits and excelling in them
  • I’m spending time with people I care about
  • I’m performing at a high level in my job

Starting at the top of that list, I feel I’ve made positive contributions to the lives of other people through what I’ve shared with this blog and the clients I’ve coached. A tick goes in the box for new athletic challenges too, because as most of you know, I’ve been training for a half Ironman since December. My first Olympic-distance triathlon in July was a fabulous experience, and everything about it made me feel like all the hard work I’d been putting into training thus far was paying off. I felt like I was on the right track.

But here’s where things started to fall apart. As you can imagine, training for triathlons takes a lot of commitment and time. I have mad respect for the mums and dads out there who manage to balance their training with being good parents, because after a long brick workout, I can’t imagine having to put on the parent hat and worry about the needs of a family. It sounds selfish, but looking after myself can be enough of a challenge some days!

Since recovery is just as important as training, some days it feels like I’m either training, eating, sleeping, at work, or moving somewhere between those 4 activities. The result has been spending less time than I’d like with people I care about, and that doesn’t feel so good. It’s only a temporary thing (since I plan to see ALL the friends and do ALL the socializing come September!) but it’s definitely played a role in my mental stress.

Last on the list is performing at a high level in my job, and talking to my naturopath made me realize that I truly am my own worst critic. As far as marketing jobs go, I work in a pretty darn technical position that requires a lot of attention to detail, troubleshooting, tight deadlines and geekery in a particular type of software. While I did this in my old role, the learning curve for my new one has been steeper than anticipated. There’s a certain level of inherent stress in the nature of the work I do, but when I couldn’t pick it up immediately, I let it stress me out even more.

Type-A personalities and high expectations

Those 5 words certainly describe me. While beneficial in many cases, they can also be detrimental. Having given this a lot of thought over the past couple of weeks, it’s clear to me now that a lot of the mental stress that’s causing problems is self-imposed. Rather than using my type-A-ness as an excuse for how I feel, I’m making it my next project to reduce that stress. There is no project plan, no lists, no deadlines (WHAT?!), only an intention to go with the flow a bit more often.

The biggest lesson I learned this year

…is patience.

Patience when it came to waiting for the right opportunity to jump on that would enable me to move out west (a choice I’m now confident was the right one to make).

Patience with expectations for my performance in my job.

Patience in settling into a new city, a new home, and a new daily routine.

Patience in developing my fitness for triathlon.

Patience in making new friends and building new social circles.

Patience in my desire to grow this blog, reach more people, and have a positive impact in people’s lives.

I’m a very goal-driven person. Anti-goal setters sometimes argue that being goal-driven means you’re living a life of constantly chasing the next new thing, and while my thoughts on that could be an entirely different blog post, what I do know is this: As important and motivating as goals are, so much of the satisfaction we get out of reaching them is what we learn through overcoming obstacles in the process.

26 was absolutely one of the most challenging years of my life so far. But with it behind me, I feel I’ve gained a lot of strength to deal with difficult challenges in the future. Much of that strength has come through learning to be patient, and as hard as it was (and is) while you’re in the thick of it, I’m so thankful for it all. I’m also super excited for all the new adventures to come!

Happiness is not a state to arrive at but a manner of traveling

And now the part you’ve all been waiting for: The giveaway!

Many of you are already familiar with the #BestLifeProject hashtag, an initiative Vega started earlier this year to encourage the world to live our best lives through moving, eating, recharging, connecting, and adventuring. The project is motivating thousands of followers all over the world to make every day one of the best, and I’ll certainly be using my lessons learned as a 26-year old to make each and every day going forward a little better than the last.

#BestLifeProject

I’m teaming up with Vega again with another fabulous giveaway in honour of the #BestLifeProject and my upcoming birthday. One lucky winner will receive the following, a prize pack of my personal Vega Sport favourites:

Vega BestLifeProject Giveaway - Eat Spin Run Repeat

You guys are a very wise and inspiring group, so here’s what I’d love for you to do in order to enter:

  • Mandatory Blog Comment Entry – Tell me about one lesson you’ve learned over the past year that’s influenced the way you live your best life.
  • Optional: Instagram Entry – Take a photo of you living your best life in any way (here are some examples). Upload it to Instagram, and tag @eatspinrunrpt, @vega_team, and #BestLifeProject.
  • Optional: Tweet about this giveaway – Something like the tweet below, or make up your own! Be sure to leave an extra comment here linking to your tweet.

I’ll leave this one open to Canadian and US residents until this Friday August 14th, 2015 at 8pm ET. If you want to get your shop on sooner though, you can still use the discount code EatSpinRun for 20% off plus free shipping in Vega’s e-store until August 14th.

Good luck! 🙂