Small-Time Adventurer!

I have officially finished the list of activities meant to challenge my sense of control this month! I finished AND added a cherry on top! Where I last left you, I had two more activities to complete: attend one more Meetup alone, and try rock climbing. Done and done!

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First, let’s talk about the Meetup. I joined a Meetup group that is intended to get people out and exploring San Diego, taking advantage of all it has to offer. The idea is to bring people together at a variety of local places doing a variety of San Diego-inspired activities. I liked the idea: after all, I do live in “America’s Finest City,” right? They host a lot of different events, including a weekly “Happy Hour” event. I forewent last week’s happy hour in order to spend time with my friend. Instead, I went to this week’s happy hour at a local wine bar near my neighborhood. I got there right on time (5pm), and was definitely the only one there for a solid 15 minutes. Eventually, the organizer showed up and we chatted. More people trickled in over the next 20 minutes, and by 6pm there were about 25 people there. However, I noticed a trend. They were all (mostly) middle-aged professionals and there were A LOT of men – somewhere in the ballpark of 5 men to every 1 woman. All the people were very nice, and I enjoyed our chats. A bunch of us started introducing ourselves and giving the others the “elevator speech” about who we are. As we made our way around the group, another theme emerged: an overwhelming majority of them were divorced and getting back on the dating scene. They swapped divorce horror stories with each other, and eventually it became clear that the Meetup was a way for people to, ahem, “get to know each other”  (if you know what I mean). By the time it was my turn to introduce myself, it was so clear that I was out of place. In this context, as a 27 year-old, never-married, gleefully unattached graduate student, I was a social anomaly. I gave my speech, everyone nodded politely, then one guy goes, “Gosh you look like a younger version of my ex wife. Just puttin’ that out there!”

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At some point I started talking with a man that looked closer to my own age. We were the youngest people there. We were chatting and then we joined in on another couple’s conversation nearby:

“You’re right, Craiglist IS creepy. Remember that Craiglist murderer a few years ago? Craaaazy…”

The Craigslist conversation eventually morphed into a discussion of the best and worst dating websites and dating/hook-up apps. Everyone in the conversation was an active user of at least one (but usually multiple) online connection services, including the younger gentleman I was chatting with. During the conversation, someone turned to me and asked, “So what sites are you on?” I politely explained that I wasn’t on any site or app, that I had used them in the past but for the past year or so I haven’t had any interest in starting a new relationship. “I’m just enjoying my own life right now, I don’t really want to get involved with anybody just yet,” I said. Another round of polite nods. Then the younger gentleman let out an audible “Hhhmmm” and, without a word, just straight up walked away from me!

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“Well, okay then. It was nice meeting you, too.” 

I stayed for another 20 minutes or so, making very pleasant conversation with a middle-aged woman who works at SDSU. While I did’t have an amazing time, I had a perfectly pleasant time at the Meetup. And I made friends with the bartender, so that was a plus! I think I may go to another Meetup with that group, but maybe not a Friday evening happy hour.

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I couldn’t stay too long, anyway! My friend Norman was coming to town!

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I invited my friend Norman, one of the best friends I have in the entire world, to San Diego for a weekend of adventure. I knew that the rock climbing challenge was going to test my limits and that Norman would be a perfect person to have with me. We also decided to do an extra ‘no control’ challenge to round out the list (more on that later). To do these challenges, I needed someone who would push me to stop being a baby and just do it already. That’s what the best friends are for!

Okay, let’s talk about rock climbing. Norman and I went to a local rock climbing gym in San Diego, Mesa Rim Climbing and Fitness Center, tucked away among office buildings in Mira Mesa. This is no Mickey Mouse organization, to be sure. We walk in, and this is immediately what we see:

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Cue: stomach-wrenching nervousness! This is some serious business! We signed a waiver and got a very thorough lesson in tying in, belaying, and general climbing etiquette from one of the staff. Then, we were left to our own devices to start climbing. Ah!!

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It definitely took some getting used to. I learned very quickly that you cannot rely on your arms to pull you up the wall – you have to use your legs to push you up. But finding the right little knob to stand on is tricky, and as you’re looking down at your feet to figure out where to place them, you shouldn’t look past your feet to see how high up you are. Here’s me in action, probably the awkwardest rock climber in the history of rocks:

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This was the beginner’s wall. It took me a couple tries, but I made it to the top!

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This was the not-so-beginner’s wall. I got pretty high, but I didn’t get all the way up. After about 2/3 of the way, my fingers weren’t strong enough to grip the rocks. I went full-on noodle hands.

At first, the hardest part (beyond the physical difficulty of pushing your body up a wall!) was letting go once you were finished! The first time I repelled down, I was white-knuckling the rope so hard my fingers were numb when I reached the ground! But after a few times, I learned to trust the equipment and Norman’s belaying skills. Overall, I really enjoyed this activity (so much more than rollerskating, which I still think is stupid!). I feel inspired to come back and get better at it. I want to improve my grip strength and keep practicing! I am definitely going to go back and keep trying it out. It was so much fun!

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So, what was the bonus challenge? Okay, I’ll give you a hint:

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Okay, so that’s not a very good hint. We went zip lining at the San Diego Safari ParkYep, we strapped on some harnesses and rode at 40 mph down a 2/3 mile zip line! It was SO AMAZING! We first went down a practice line, which was pretty fun. But the star of the show was a line called the “Flightline,” which starts you off at 130 feet above the African Plains exhibit. When they release your harness, you fly directly over the African rhinos! While standing on this metal apparatus and getting strapped in, I made the mistake of looking down and seeing how high up we really were! I was getting pretty scared. And then the guide told us we weren’t allowed to scream because we would disturb the rhinos! I thought, “Great, I’m already trying not to evacuate my bowels with this and now I have to worry about not disturbing the rhinos?!?!” Before the guide released my harness, I had to shut my eyes. I heard the “click clack” of my harness releasing and felt my body move forward. After about two seconds, I opened my eyes and immediately starting smiling ear-to-ear! I totally had one of those “Look Jack, I’m flying!” moments. Trying to be conscientious of the rhinos below, I just made a very high pitched “eeeeeeeeee” sound, which then gave way to ridiculous school girl giggling for the rest of the ride.  It was awesome!

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Pre-ride: I’m full of excitement/nervousness

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Post-ride: smiling ear-to-ear!

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And a celebratory brewski  to boot!

What an amazing weekend! I have had such an amazing time that it’s going to be hard to go back to normal tomorrow. But it was so worth it, and I have this month’s challenge to thank for all of this excitement. I’ve stepped out of my comfort zone quite a lot in the last few weeks, and now I would like some time to reflect on it all. What have I learned about letting go, going with the flow, and losing control? That’s a question I’d like to ponder for a bit. I feel like there’s too many lessons to write them all now. So until next time, go out there and do something crazy!

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Pleasant Surprises

Over the weekend. I checked off another 3 activities from my “Losing Control” checklist. Here is what I had left to complete:

  • Let a stranger decide my coffee order (I can set price parameters)
  • Let a stranger decide my food order (I can set price and basic nutrition parameters)
  • Let a friend of a friend (someone I don’t know well) buy my groceries for a week (I can give them a cash budget and basic nutritional guidelines)
  • Join 1-2 Meetup groups and go to at least one Meetup alone, with no backup
  • Climb a rock wall (I have to try until exhausted to get to top of the wall, so I need to earnestly attempt it at least  a few times)
  • Go rollerskating
  • Spend a half-day doing something that someone else plans, where I have no control over any part of the activity (I can ask how to dress)
  • Do Mom’s “Surprise Activity” with no questions asked (the point of this is simply not knowing what the activity will be or when it will be happening; i.e. “embracing the unknown”)

Over the weekend, I spent a half-day following Elisa around and doing what she had planned, I went to a Meetup, and I had a friend of a friend buy my groceries. 

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True story

I had originally planned to go to 2 Meetups this weekend, but I ended up not going to the Happy Hour meetup because I opted to spend time with a friend I hadn’t seen in a while who is still recovering from surgery. I didn’t feel so bad about not going to the happy hour, because the same group is having another happy hour event this Friday that I’ll go to instead. Plus, friends come first.

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#priorities

SO HERE’S HOW MY WEEKEND WENT: 

Most of Saturday was spent doing whatever Elisa had planned. 

And let me just say, Elisa was a great person to plan this day. She’s thoughtful and attentive, so I was not at all nervous for what she had planned for me. Around noon, she came into my room where I had been napping and told me to put on a bathing suit. I asked her what to wear over my bathing suit, and she told me some shorts. She then instructed that all I would need was a towel, sunglasses, and sunscreen.

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“Perhaps the beach?” I thought. 

But Elisa doesn’t like the beach! I asked if I would need tennis shoes or if sandals were okay. She muttered something about the hike not taking very long so sandals would be fine. We then got in the car for what she said would be a kind of long drive. What could it be??

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We were in the car for about 10 minutes when Elisa pulled up in front of an apartment complex that I had never been to. “Maybe one of her friends lives here?” I thought. As we were walking through the complex, we rounded a corner and Elisa said, “I hope its unlocked.” We rounded another corner and we were at a pool, which was, luckily, unlocked! Apparently Elisa used to live in that complex and the pool is almost always unlocked. Yes, we were technically trespassing, but who cares! It was 90 degrees and I love swimming!

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Hike and a long drive, my eye! That Elisa, she’s a trickster. We sloshed around in the pool for about an hour, then it was time to head home to shower so that we could go to our next activity, happening around 4pm. Dressing for this activity was a little tricky, because I wasn’t sure how casual/formal to be and if we would be outside in the heat. With Elisa’s guidance I ended up in shorts, a shirt, and some sandals. She mentioned we would need to leave a little early because of all the traffic. But alas, that too was just a ruse. We ended up at the mall 10 minutes away from our apartment. Apparently, we were going to the movies!

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To see The Giver!!

I had been wanting to see The Giver for weeks. And when we got into the theater, I was surprised to see another one of our friends, Margot! While walking to the concession stand after getting our seats, there was another friend, Allison! Elisa had arranged a group outing to the movies! And while the movie was a bit of a let down, the experience was a lot of fun.

After the movie, we went home to change for our last activity. The rules of dress were that I had to look somewhat nice but not too fancy and that Elisa and I had to swap closets to find an outfit. Our styles aren’t that different, but different enough. Unsurprisingly, we each ended up choosing things that were close to our own individual styles. But we also ended up looking a little matchy, which was hilarious. But I forgot to take a picture!

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We ended up spending the evening with some of Elisa’s very delightful and charming friends for a birthday party. It was a fun night with fancy snacks, good drinks, and sparkling conversation! I had already met about half of the people who were there, so it wasn’t too uncomfortable. And while I spent the evening with people that I don’t know very well, I still had a fantastic time. I may not have gone (or been invited) if it wasn’t Elisa’s job to plan my day. So thanks, Elisa!

All in all, it was a fantastic day. If you get the opportunity to have someone plan your day, go along with it. And don’t ask any questions – it ruins the surprise!

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On Sunday morning, I went to a Yoga Meetup.

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To be sure, I am not a yogi. I took one yoga class on campus two years ago. I’ve done yoga a handful of other times. Yoga is fine – it’s fun and I feel relaxed afterward. But sometimes the culture of yoga is off-putting to me. Don’t do a downward dog correctly, and you might just find yourself in the middle of receiving some unsolicited advice from a total stranger. To be fair, not all yoga classes or practitioners are like that. In fact, 99% percent of them aren’t. But either way, yoga has not been my go-to physical activity. So when it came to finding a Meetup, I knew that yoga would be a good challenge. I’m familiar enough with it to not be totally lost, but not familiar enough to feel comfortable with it. So I joined a local yoga Meetup group and signed up for one of their events: an outdoor yoga class in Balboa Park.

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I went to the class, set down my mat, and got ready. At first, there were only about 30 people there, but by the end of the course there were easily 50 people. The style of the class was very good – it was slow enough that everyone could keep up. The instructor also encouraged everyone to do whatever variation on the moves they wanted to get the most out of the class. By the end of the class I felt strong, peaceful, and energized. I think I’ll go back next week!

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On Sunday afternoon, I got my groceries from Elisa’s friend, Ellen.

One of the things I have to do this month is get a week’s worth of groceries from a relative stranger. Elisa helped me find a good person, her friend and coworker Ellen. I had met Ellen once before at a game night we hosted. Last week, she agreed to help with the challenge, I gave her a $100 budget and told her she could feel free to buy whatever she wanted as long as I could have 3 balanced meals a day (in other words, not $100 worth of Doritos!). We arranged for her to bring over the haul on Sunday afternoon. When she came over, I was amazed! It was way more than 1 week’s worth of food (not surprising given the budget, and apparently Ellen is a bargain shopper!).

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That’s Ellen with the groceries!

Ellen expressed that she too felt a challenge with buying my groceries. She mentioned it was a bit unnerving to buy food for someone when you have no idea what they like and what they’re used to. Do you buy bread? Regular, skim, or soy milk? Do they eat a lot of snacks? Do they cook? All of these questions crossed her mind at the store. As a result, what she thought would take about an hour took closer to two. But, as you can see, she did pretty well. I’ll be using up these groceries over the next couple of weeks, trying my best to cook and eat everything that Ellen has decided. I’ll be posting pictures with my culinary creations!!

What a busy weekend!! What’s next??

Now that I’ve done three more items on my checklist, let’s re-cap:

  • Let a stranger decide my coffee order (I can set price parameters)
  • Let a stranger decide my food order (I can set price and basic nutrition parameters)
  • Let a friend of a friend (someone I don’t know well) buy my groceries for a week (I can give them a cash budget and basic nutritional guidelines)
  • Join 1-2 Meetup groups and go to at least one Meetup alone, with no backup
  • Climb a rock wall (I have to try until exhausted to get to top of the wall, so I need to earnestly attempt it at least  a few times)
  • Go rollerskating
  • Spend a half-day doing something that someone else plans, where I have no control over any part of the activity (I can ask how to dress)
  • Do Mom’s “Surprise Activity” with no questions asked (the point of this is simply not knowing what the activity will be or when it will be happening; i.e. “embracing the unknown”)

I’ve only got one activity left, and I worry it will be the toughest! I’ll still be going to that Meetup on Friday, just for good measure. But I’ll also be going to a rock-climbing gym this weekend to round out August’s Losing Control challenge.

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I’m excited to see how the last activity goes, and then I’m looking forward to sitting back and reflecting on all of this. I feel like I’ve been learning a lot about letting go – because 9 times out of 10 everything works out fine, if not better.

Thanks for following along so far, I’m almost finished with August’s challenge and I am loving it!

Watch Your Feet!!

I’m two weeks into August’s “Losing Control” challenge, and during the past week I ticked off another two items off the list of 8 activities meant to challenge my sense of control. Here’s a refresher of where I am so far:

  • Let a stranger decide my coffee order (I can set price parameters)
  • Let a stranger decide my food order (I can set price and basic nutrition parameters)
  • Let a friend of a friend (someone I don’t know well) buy my groceries for a week (I can give them a cash budget and basic nutritional guidelines)
  • Join 1-2 Meetup groups and go to at least one Meetup alone, with no backup
  • Climb a rock wall (I have to try until exhausted to get to top of the wall, so I need to earnestly attempt it at least  a few times)
  • Go rollerskating
  • Spend a half-day doing something that someone else plans, where I have no control over any part of the activity (I can ask how to dress)
  • Do Mom’s “Surprise Activity” with no questions asked (the point of this is simply not knowing what the activity will be or when it will be happening; i.e. “embracing the unknown”)

I took the opportunity to do two more of these items while visiting my family in central California. My 6 year-old niece was visiting from North Carolina, and while she’s in town the whole world stops. We drop everything (or as much as possible) to spend as much time with her as we can. So I took the week off and drove up to spend a solid amount of quality time with my family. Luckily, this provided the perfect opportunity for Rollerskating and Mom’s Surprise ActivityI think my mom, the creator of the “Losing Control in August” challenge, planned it that way.

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Well played, Mom, well played. 

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ROLLERSKATING!!

Okay, I’ll say it. Rollerskating is stupid and dumb and awful and I hate it.

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I absolutely do not see the appeal of rollerskating. Where is the fun in strapping eight plastic neon wheels to your feet and rolling around in a circle looking like a total doofus whilst simultaneously trying to avoid cracking your head open? Now, I know plenty of people who find rollerskating quite enjoyable, people who relish in the neon disco lights and the feeling of sliding across the earth on wheels, people who savor every precious moment spent whirling and spinning in the rink. But let’s get one thing straight: I am not one of those people. In my book, rollerskating is right up there with going to the dentist, sitting in traffic, or paying taxes. Something you do under duress and only when absolutely necessary.

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But, hey, it’s all in good fun, right? In the name of the challenge (and because the 6 year-old was all about it), I dragged myself to rollerskating with my family. And, obviously, I lived to type about it.  I started out as my usual, ridiculous self: clutching to the sidewall and uttering every curse word I knew under my breath (I would have done it more audibly if it weren’t for the copious amounts of children there).

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(“F*%^# Sh$^%# D$&% C@#^$ B!@$#%”)

But while I’m on the subject of children – those gangly and bumbling kids were the worst part of the whole ordeal. While I eventually got my “skating legs,” and felt confident that I wouldn’t spontaneously plummet to the floor, the kids would whirl past me without paying attention. Other kids would just STOP right in front of me. I almost got bulldozed by a tween who wast texting (TEXTING!!) while on the rink. I eventually realized that what I hate most about rollerskating is not the act of rollerskating itself, but all the other rollerskaters corralled around me.

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Another thing that I (and my mom) noticed is that rollerskating is quite obviously a generational activity. The best rollerskaters on the rink, apart from the employees, the ones who were not just bumbling in circles but were actually rollerskating well, were all over 40 years old. When you think about it, this totally makes sense. Rollerskating and drive-ins were teen hobbies of the seventies and eighties. For my generation, teens of the nineties and early two-thousands, we had shopping malls and video games. Contemporary teens and tweens have iPhones (hence the texting torpedo I encountered who was clearly caught in the throes of generational dissonance). Maybe if I were born in an earlier era I would actually like rollerskating instead of just resentfully tolerating it. But then again…

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…nah, probably not. 

At the end of it all, rollerskating went fine. When I finally acclimated to all the kids and mid-age skating connoisseurs on the rink, I actually found it marginally enjoyable. The key word here is marginally. If my face in this picture, which is quite possibly the most ludicrously unflattering photo of me taken in the history of EVER, is any indication, I won’t be returning to the roller rink any time soon.

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MOM’S “SURPRISE ACTIVITY”

Before I arrived in Central California for my family time, my mom had already worked out what her ‘surprise’ activity’ would be. I got to my family’s house on Thursday and was told it would happen on Monday. By Sunday, my family had goaded the 6 year-old into believing I would be jumping out of an airplane, so that’s all she would talk to me about for a solid day-and-a-half. I have a dreadful fear of heights (and airplanes!), so my cute little niece’s prodding that I would need to “make sure the parachute is okay when you jump out” were like little thumbtacks stuck directly in the PANIC!! zone of my brain. As much as I wanted to believe that I would have handled it with stoic bravery if the activity had been skydiving or bungee jumping, I knew I would probably lose my shit if my mom expected me to jump off/out of a perfectly good bridge or airplane. And, in my nervousness, I made this clear to my family.

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They, of course, looked right through me with indifference. I was doing the challenge, so I better just buck up and stop fussing about it.

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I’m pretty sure my step-dad gave me this exact look. 

They certainly did a great job of dragging it out, too! First we had to drive to Fresno. Then we had to take the 6 year-old and the rest of the family to see Planes: Fire and Rescue. While it was a cute movie, I would be lying if I said that I didn’t have a twinge of distraction the entire time thinking about what terrible fate might be waiting for me. Before we left for Fresno, my mom told me she would be doing the activity with me, which did make me breathe a sigh of relief: there was no way my mom would go skydiving or bungee jumping so I felt pretty confident that those were out. But still, my mom knows how to scheme, and I wondered if she was mustering up some bravery to push us both into doing something we wouldn’t normally do. By the time we walked out of the movie theater and got into the car to drive to the secret activity, I finally admitted it out loud: “I’m nervous!” I proclaimed, though it didn’t do any good.

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After about twenty minutes in the car, I finally saw it…

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And I was all like…

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“Wooooaahh!!”

I WAS WICKED EXCITED!! Trampolines are a bona fide symbol of my childhood: my best friends all had trampolines in their backyards. I spent many a young afternoon jumping on a trampoline until my feet were black and my butt was sore from doing so many launches. The thought of an ENTIRE ROOM of trampolines?!?!?! I immediately got a big goofy smile on my face! As soon as we got in there, I instinctively started jumping all over the place. I was a jumping fool!

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Hence the blurry photo. (Caption: “Move it, kid!”)

Ironically, the person who had the most apprehension with the trampoline room was my mom! She had never been on a large trampoline before, let alone a whole room full of large trampolines. The 6 year-old was nervous about it at first (that’s her in the blurry photo), but eventually warmed up to it in true, fearless 6 year-old fashion. But my mom was a little on edge for the first twenty minutes or so. But eventually, she got the hang of it! By the end of the hour, we were both doing butt launches and jumping off trampolines into a giant foam pit! What a trooper!

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Way to go, Mom!

I put my control and my (sometimes shaky) faith in my mom to choose a surprise activity for me, and boy did she deliver! Way to go family, you’re pretty alright.

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SO, WHAT’S NEXT??

That’s another two activities that can be checked off the list! I’m halfway there!

  • Let a stranger decide my coffee order (I can set price parameters)
  • Let a stranger decide my food order (I can set price and basic nutrition parameters)
  • Let a friend of a friend (someone I don’t know well) buy my groceries for a week (I can give them a cash budget and basic nutritional guidelines)
  • Join 1-2 Meetup groups and go to at least one Meetup alone, with no backup
  • Climb a rock wall (I have to try until exhausted to get to top of the wall, so I need to earnestly attempt it at least  a few times)
  • Go rollerskating
  • Spend a half-day doing something that someone else plans, where I have no control over any part of the activity (I can ask how to dress)
  • Do Mom’s “Surprise Activity” with no questions asked (the point of this is simply not knowing what the activity will be or when it will be happening; i.e. “embracing the unknown”)

But hold on to your hats, ladies and gents. This weekend I’ll be checking off another three items from this list! Here’s my weekend itinerary:

Friday Evening: attend a happy hour Meetup outing alone for a Meetup group I joined yesterday.

(Note to self: try not to be the awkwardest person in the room)

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Saturday Afternoon: attend Elisa’s day-long outing, about which I know absolutely nothing.

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Sunday Morning: Attend a yoga in the park Meetup outing alone for a different Meetup group (which I also joined yesterday).

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Sunday Afternoon: Get my week’s worth of groceries from a friend of a friend.

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STAY TUNED!

Eat/Drink it Up!

Hello there! I have been losing control for about a week now, and while I haven’t yet had any life-altering discoveries, I’m well on my way to completing the list of eight activities that are meant to challenge my sense of control. Here’s a refresher on all the things I’ll have to do during the month of August:

  • Let a stranger decide my coffee order (I can set price parameters)
  • Let a stranger decide my food order (I can set price and basic nutrition parameters)
  • Let a friend of a friend (someone I don’t know well) buy my groceries for a week (I can give them a cash budget and basic nutritional guidelines)
  • Join 1-2 Meetup groups and go to at least one Meetup alone, with no backup
  • Climb a rock wall (I have to try until exhausted to get to top of the wall, so I need to earnestly attempt it at least  a few times)
  • Go rollerskating
  • Spend a half-day doing something that someone else plans, where I have no control over any part of the activity (I can ask how to dress)
  • Do Mom’s “Surprise Activity” with no questions asked (the point of this is simply not knowing what the activity will be or when it will be happening; i.e. “embracing the unknown”)

Last week, I started slow by completing the first (and easiest) two items on the list. I let strangers decide my coffee and food orders. I knew that I was allowed to set some parameters, so that was comforting. I also knew that, no matter what was chosen for me, at least it would be edible (no one would make me eat bark or drink blended grass). I was more excited than nervous for these, but I didn’t anticipate that they would turn out so AMAZINGLY DELICIOUS! 

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First up was coffee.

I went to my local Peet’s Coffee & Tea on my way to my office. Apparently, I walked in during the tail-end of a rush. The staff was looking a little frazzled. I went up to the counter, explained the challenge, and asked the barista to decide my drink for me. My explanation drew the attention of the manager, who was beyond excited about the challenge. She immediately said, “Oo, let’s give her one of the new featured drinks! The coconut macademia latte.” (Little did she know that I LOOOOVE coconut in my coffee.) Anytime they asked me about the drink (size, iced/hot, etc.), I simply shrugged casually and said, “It’s up to you.” When all was said and done I was left with a very delicious coffee drink and a very happy barista who said, “I wish all customers were like that!”


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I was so busy enjoying the drink that I almost forgot to take a picture!

Next up was dinner.

The same day, I asked my friends, Julia and Eric, to pick a place to have dinner. They didn’t tell me anything about where we were going, just that they would pick me up around 7:00pm. We ended up at the coolest little pub called The Field in downtown San Diego. It was a pretty neat place.

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pub1 upstairs

I was super excited that Julia and Eric took me here, because I probably wouldn’t have chosen it if the decision were up to me. I didn’t even bother looking at the menu, either. What was the point?? Eric and Julia ordered some Curry Chips as an appetizer – basically french fries covered in curry – and 100% amazing.

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**Mouth watering**

I explained to the waitress that I needed her to pick my dish and told her all about the challenge. I told her I was willing to try almost anything and that I promised I wouldn’t send it back. Like the barista, she was stoked. She said she really loved the idea and that she might try it herself one day! She asked me if I ate meat, and from there decided what she would order for me. She came back several minutes later with our food, and set down this dish in front of me:

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The dish is called a Whiskey Chicken Boxty. It is basically boiled chicken in cream sauce that is wrapped in a fried potato pancake then smothered with more sauce. The waittress explained that boxties are very popular in certain regions of Ireland and that, while The Field has several boxties on its menu, customers don’t usually order them unless they are familiar with Irish regional cuisines. Apparently, even people from Ireland don’t order them if they are not from the regions where boxties are so popular. This prompted me to do a little research about the dish. Boxties originated and are most popular in the northern midlands of Ireland, and are traditionally considered peasant food because they are made with simple, cheap ingredients. The dish is very integrated into the local culture, so much so that even poems and limericks have been made for them. Like this one:

Boxty on the griddle,
And Boxty on the pan;
The wee one in the middle
Is for Mary Ann.

So what was my verdict? I’ll let you be the judge:

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IT WAS THE BOMB!! I loved that Boxty so much that I made a new poem for the dish:

Boxty on the griddle

Finally made it to America

And that big one in the middle

Is reserved for hungry Erica. 

So there you have it! I let other people decide my food and drinks and ended up happier and more satisfied than I may have been if I had made the decision myself. The next time you’re out and about, consider letting the barista/server decide your order – you just might be pleasantly surprised!

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That’s two down, six to go!

Keep your eyes out –  I’ll be rollerskating this afternoon, so there will be more to follow in the next few days! 

  • Let a stranger decide my coffee order (I can set price parameters)
  • Let a stranger decide my food order (I can set price and basic nutrition parameters)
  • Let a friend of a friend (someone I don’t know well) buy my groceries for a week (I can give them a cash budget and basic nutritional guidelines)
  • Join 1-2 Meetup groups and go to at least one Meetup alone, with no backup
  • Climb a rock wall (I have to try until exhausted to get to top of the wall, so I need to earnestly attempt it at least  a few times)
  • Go rollerskating
  • Spend a half-day doing something that someone else plans, where I have no control over any part of the activity (I can ask how to dress)
  • Do Mom’s “Surprise Activity” with no questions asked (the point of this is simply not knowing what the activity will be or when it will be happening; i.e. “embracing the unknown”)

Losing Control in August

Time waits for no man!

I can’t believe it’s August already! And you know what that means – time for a new challenge!

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July’s Not-So-Smartphone challenge was a fantastic learning experience, and now that August has arrived I’m looking towards this next challenge with excitement and a healthy dose of fear. The past challenges have all been about giving something up – coffee, makeup, my smartphone, etc. However, this month’s challenge is going to mix things up a bit. This month, I’ll be altering my routine by adding different activities. All of these activities are meant to get me out of my comfort zone. If you have ever spent any time with me, you know that I am most comfortable when I am in control. So for August, I’ll be forcing myself into a range of situations where I feel solidly out of control or, at the very least, not in control.

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August’s challenge comes to me from my mom who, over the years, has seen me crave, demand, and depend on being in control over the situations that unfold around me. My need for control isn’t a new development, either. When I was young (5-6 years old), I was so risk averse that I didn’t want to play video games. Not because I was too cool for video games, but because I couldn’t control whether I would win or whether I was any good at playing the game. Those two unknowns were enough to make me not want to play at all. To this day, I tend to avoid situations where I don’t feel that I have some control over the process or the outcome. Instead, I stick with situations that I know I’m good at and where I know I have at least some kind of control. Some would go so far as to call me a “control freak,” but to me it’s just normal to exert myself and my will in my own life. But…I can see how that could get out of hand.

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I had a chat with my mom to get all the details for the challenge. In talking about the motivation behind the challenge, she expressed the peace that can come by letting things go beyond my control: “You tend not to be a risk taker. I mean, it’s not that you don’t take risks. But you really try to mitigate risks and control the outcomes. And I’m very much the same way. But recently, in the last 10 years or so, I have been putting myself in situations where I try to let go of control, and I think there’s a lot to be learned by doing that. It takes courage. And it can lead you to a more calm and relaxed place when you’re not worried about being in control or controlling the outcome of things. If you can learn to go with the flow, and take it as it comes, and not worry about the end result. I mean, of course there are times when you need to exert control because the outcome is important. But allowing yourself to not have that control when the outcome is not that important, or won’t result in your death or something, then it’s actually relaxing. Some wonderful and unexpected things can happen that you might not have ever planned for yourself or allowed to happen otherwise.”

I think she’s got a point. Don’t get me wrong – this challenge is definitely going to have its ups and downs – but I’m looking forward to seeing if there’s a nice zen light at the end of the control tunnel .

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So, what do I have to do challenge my state of control? Here’s what my mom had to say: “You’re going to have a series of activities to do. When you’re doing the activities, I want you to have a conscious mindset of letting go of control. Hopefully the activities will help you, but even then you need to be mindful of your desire to exert control over those activities. Plus in general, keep a mindset of letting go of control as much as you can even when you’re not doing the activities. If you’re in a situation where the outcome won’t be detrimental to you or your budget or whatever, then I would like you to step away from the decision making and just go with it.”

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So, what are these “activities” you speak of?

Over the next 25 days, I’ll have to complete all of the following eight activities:

  • Let a stranger decide my coffee order (I can set price parameters)
  • Let a stranger decide my food order (I can set price and basic nutrition parameters)
  • Let a friend of a friend (someone I don’t know well) buy my groceries for a week (I can give them a cash budget and basic nutritional guidelines)
  • Join 1-2 Meetup groups and go to at least one Meetup alone, with no backup
  • Climb a rock wall (I have to try until exhausted to get to top of the wall, so I need to earnestly attempt it at least  a few times)
  • Go rollerskating
  • Spend a half-day doing something that someone else plans, where I have no control over any part of the activity (I can ask how to dress)
  • Do Mom’s “Surprise Activity” with no questions asked (the point of this is simply not knowing what the activity will be or when it will be happening; i.e. “embracing the unknown”)

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I know to some this may not seem like much, but each of these activities will take me out of my control comfort zone in their own unique way. As much as I’m dreading them, I’m also excited to try them out. Having this blog is a big part of that courage!

By the end of the challenge, my mom and I both hope that I’ll find peace with leaving things outside of my direct control and influence. I hope I’ll have some practice being more flexible, and learn not to sweat the small stuff. I know my mom hopes that I’ll realize things don’t always need to be planned, measured, or charted out – that it’s okay to go with the flow. Learning to do that will not only make me stress less, but could also improve my life overall. As my mom said: “I hope you learn to embrace the possibilities that can come when you stop trying to control the situation – you may discover all kinds of new things.”

So fasten your seatbelts, things are about to get out of control!