This month has been all about making progress on both fronts. After weeks of effort and several rounds of review, M submitted his graduate school applications last week. They’re not due until February 1st, but it was a huge relief to get them done early. He won’t hear back from the schools for several more weeks, and I’m waiting until he does before I decide whether or not to apply. His program is the primary driver for the grad school decision, so it makes sense to wait and see where he gets in before I plunk down time and money on my application. His program would also take two years longer than mine, so I’d have plenty of time to settle in (working and establishing residency, if needed) before starting school…and I’d still finish before he does!
On the business front, from a legal perspective, our new wellness coaching and personal training business has been an official entity since we formed the company back in October. But it only existed on paper. We opened a business checking account in December and incurred a few small start-up expenses, but beyond that, we hadn’t done much. Lots of thinking and “Sounds great, let’s tackle that next year” but not a lot of doing.
Then, two weeks ago, a random email from a potential client arrived in my inbox. His wife’s birthday was coming up, and he wanted to hire me. Was I available to take on a new training client? Although I didn’t think we were quite ready, there’s really no saying “No” to your potential first client. So I said, “Yes! Of course…” and we were off.
Overnight, I worked up a summary of services, pricing sheet and temporary logo and sent back my first proposal. He liked what I had to say, selected two (!) different packages, and asked how to pay. My first client and our company’s first sale. My reaction was a mix of elation and anxiety, excitement and self-doubt. I was no longer talking about doing; I was actually doing. And all of a sudden, there was a lot to do.
Not unlike every other small business owner out there, we are our own marketing, compliance, IT support, product development, training, and accounting departments. (Fortunately, between the two of us, we held just about every one of those roles in our prior careers.) We, and we alone, are responsible for every decision, whether strategic or operational. After years of working for other people, it’s liberating to be in complete control. But it can be overwhelming at times. In dual roles as spouses and business partners, we are still learning how to work together and need to figure out what boundaries we each need between “work” and “not work.”
So far, we’ve navigated the early challenges with ease. We’re on the cusp of our website launch, and the end of this early blizzard of activity is in sight. My first several client sessions have gone well, and they’ve indicated an interest in purchasing additional sessions. I’m getting more comfortable in my new roles—all of them—and with my new professional identity. After years of driving to the office in the costume of a middle manager, I now walk to the gym dressed in workout gear and running shoes. After a lengthy sabbatical, I’ve returned to the ranks of the (self-) employed, but on my terms.
So much has changed since that August post, but two things remain: We are still in doubt, and we are doing it all. We have no idea where we will be in a year, how the business will grow, or whether either of us will be enrolling in school this fall. But I know that the early successes we’ve had this month are encouraging and energizing, and I’m running toward the future at full speed. –J.
For the past several months we’ve been debating our next move. Not where we will go tomorrow, rather where we will go in 2013 and beyond. Once we finish our self-prescribed creative sabbatical, where will we go? Who will we be? How will we focus our time and energy (because we have a lot of energy…)? Over the past month or so, we’ve effectively narrowed our search: in addition to being happy and centered together, we’re either going back to school in search of creativity, community, higher-learning and adventure, or we’re starting our own business in an effort to help others find wellness and fitness while we make a living doing something we love. There are many pros and cons to each of these, many risks and possible rewards.
We know that we love to live in our town on the New Hampshire seacoast, and after a successful town and campus visit this week, we’re pleasantly surprised to discover that Vermillion, South Dakota is a place where we could be happy as well. I’ve always trusted my gut to tell me the best way to go (after stuffing it with much research and analysis, of course), but in this situation, my gut isn’t sending out that special feeling. The decision is too complicated, and there are still too many unknowns.
We often go back to Rilke’s advice to “love the questions themselves” as a way to help us stay sane on this journey toward a future that is grey with possibility. But we’re analysts, we’re problem solvers, and we’re determined to find an answer. The only problem is that in this situation, there may not be an answer. The only way to know where we fit best is to travel down one path or the other until more information is available. But how can we start our own business in New Hampshire and move to South Dakota for grad school? They can’t possibly exist simultaneously…
Or can they?
Tonight, we realized that one of our most common enemies is actually an ally…TIME! Going to graduate school requires an application, an acceptance, funding, etc. The deadline for applying to USD is February for admittance in the fall. That’s six months until the application deadline and eight months until we need to make a decision on whether or not to make the move to Vermillion. That’s plenty of time to get our personal training certifications and launch our business in NH. By the time we know what options are available to us for grad school, we’ll know if business is slow, booming or boring on the wellness front.
By committing to both options, we’ll travel far enough down each path to make the decision easier when/if the time comes to choose one over the other. Best case, we are choosing between amazing grad school opportunities in SD and a successful startup company in NH. Worst case scenario, we’re not accepted to grad school and the business is a failure. Then what? Chattanooga, TN or bust! I heard Whole Foods is hiring there. – M
So we’ve been in our new apartment for exactly two weeks, and we’ve been going a bit nuts. In fact, we may have each lost our minds completely at one point or another. But we’re slowly reclaiming them, and along the way, claiming this space—and this life—as our own. We’ve unpacked, organized, purchased, assembled, recycled, and figured out exactly where everything will live here. Our new apartment is less than half of the size of the house we sold in May, and it’s the perfect size…perhaps even a little too big, if I dare say that. But it’s home. It’s also a bit loud (an adjustment to communal living in an old building) and quite scenic (the river and myriad sea birds are right outside our windows). We walk out our front door and cross the street to our favorite coffee shop and breakfast café. We’ve returned to our favorite New Hampshire farmstands at peak season for zucchini and cabbage and peppers. And although we last lived in this town just a few months ago (and for years before that), our time on the road has given us new perspective on things. Our standard running routes, which we tirelessly and willingly logged hundreds of miles on from the old house, now seem like new roads we’ve never run before since we’re approaching them from a different direction. We are having trouble finding a groove. Last weekend, we ran in a 5K race here in town and both posted PR times (personal records, or the best time we’ve each run in a race of that distance). And then today, I went out for a routine 4-miler, while M set out on his longest run to date, a (crazy hilly lousy) 17-miler. But there were no PR’s today; we both came up a bit short on both speed and distance. I think part of it was the weather—hot and humid and stormy–but part of it was also our mental state. Neither of us is centered. We’re off. We are unpacked, but we are not settled. We’re antsy. We miss the road. We’re not cut out for settling down. Or so I think. And then things happen to make me wonder if I should take a deep breath and (ugh!) settle down for a while. After we returned home from our runs and rehydrated and showered, it started to downpour, and my first mill rainbow appeared across the river. And then we walked upstairs and across the bridge to a fantastic new restaurant in our complex where we ate local brie cheese and beet salad and a smoked cheddar and butternut squash panini that were perfectly paired with a few local beers on tap. When we arrived back at our apartment, there was a package waiting by the front door: a new reflective running vest (so we each have one for the Reach The Beach NH relay event we just signed up for…) and a textbook we ordered online yesterday: Essentials of Personal Training, 2nd Edition. We both recently started studying to become personal trainers, part of a career switch and grander plan still in the early stages of formation. But even with that direction, we’re not settled. We leave next week for another stint on the road, two weeks across Michigan and the Midwest, visiting friends and checking out graduate schools. At this point, we are exploring our options. We have no idea what we’ll be doing in a year, and we’re not in a rush to figure it out. But we are on a mission, because if we don’t keep moving, we just might go insane. –J
Greetings from…New Hampshire! We last posted from Prague more than three weeks ago. So what have we been up to since then? Everything except blogging, it seems. We’ve continued to wander and travel, both internationally and domestically. We’ve attended weddings and birthday parties, dance recitals and backyard barbecues. We’ve hosted out-of-town relatives (a challenge when homeless…) and danced the night away at concerts in the city and to sounds by the sea.
All of that brings us to tonight, the last night of this month. It’s also our last night of voluntary homelessness and our last night on the road for a while. Tomorrow morning we will pick up the keys to our new apartment. Construction is complete, and the crew is putting the finishing touches on the newly renovated textile mill along the river that runs through our town. We will be the first ones to live in the space, and we’re looking forward to making it our own.
Several people have asked me, “Now that you’re not working, what do you do all day?” I used to try to explain how I spent my time, as if what I was doing outside of a corporate workplace had to be justified. I have realized over the past several months that there are so many things wrong with the question, and I rarely attempt to answer it anymore. But tonight, in reflecting on why we haven’t posted in weeks, I took stock of what I’ve been doing with my time this month, and by extension, my life. The answer is quite simple: I live…as fully and authentically as I can each day. I run, I hike, and I travel. I spend time with family and friends and strangers. I cook them dinner, babysit their kids, and help them move. I attempt to speak foreign languages and eat spicy foods and finish ice cream cones before they melt. I read books that make me laugh and watch movies that make me cry. I manage my finances, plan our meals, and research topics that interest me. I plot and scheme and daydream about my next gig. I take pictures, paint, write, and create. I eat and I drink and I breathe. I live deeply, sucking the marrow out of life. And since I’m wired to be analytical, I count things…
In the month of July alone, we logged nearly 5,000 miles by air, 1,000 miles by train, 2,300 miles on the road, and 200 miles on foot. We spent at least one night in 14 different cities across 3 countries and 4 different U.S. states. That brings our tally for the past three months of wandering to 26 cities in 3 countries and 10 states. We’ve spent nights in the homes of family and friends, in hotels and hostels, and at B&Bs and campgrounds. We’ve milked the hotel points we earned during years of business travel, and we’ve mastered the perks of our rewards credit cards and travel-related loyalty programs. The longest stretch in any one place was 13 nights at a friend’s house in Virginia. The shortest—a simple one-night stay—happened in many places…11 to be exact. Everywhere else fell somewhere in between.
After all that travel, beginning tomorrow night, we will again have a place to call our own. And we plan to spend at least a few nights there before we hit the road for our next adventure… -J
Since we’ve started our travel blog, a pattern has emerged with the timing of our posts: First, we hit the road, blogging three to five times per week about our trips. Then, after a few weeks on the road, we return to New England and go quiet for a while. Our silence is usually because our time in New England is filled with chores, errands, and visits with family and friends. It’s not all fun and games, though…someone has to wash my stinky running gear!
We followed this same pattern after returning from our last trip to Virginia and Tennessee. Now that we’ve been back in New England for a couple of weeks, it seemed about time to get back on the wagon and get some new posts published. Of course, we leave for Europe next week, which should make for much more interesting posts than picking up dry cleaning, going to the bank and organizing our gear in storage. Stay tuned!
For now, I wanted to put a little context around an activity that will color all of our upcoming travel for the next few months. Running! I know…I know…how is this different than any other trip? Well, it’s time for marathon training! It’s almost the end of Week 2 of my 18 week training plan for the Mount Desert Island (MDI) Marathon in Maine. The marathon is Sunday, October 14th, just a couple of days after my birthday, and we’ll be spending the weekend in Bar Harbor for the event.
The race is an important milestone for me, since it will be my first marathon since I started running in late 2009. In addition, it takes place in a location that is very important for J and me. We got married on Mount Desert Island in Northeast Harbor in 2011, and (as you may know from some of our prior posts) we returned to the area this year to celebrate our first anniversary. Not only is MDI beautiful, but it carries a huge amount of sentimental value.
Anyone who has run a long race or marathon before knows that you don’t just show up to compete. You have to train. And anyone who knows me knows that I like to train hard. It’s rare for a race to go by where I haven’t set and trained for an aggressive time goal (aggressive for me anyway), and the MDI marathon is no different. I’m pushing to finish the race in under 4 hours, with a target pace of 8:30 to 8:45 per mile. I’ve run faster than this in prior races, but never anything longer than a half marathon. Also, in addition to being voted the most scenic marathon in America and runner-up for best overall marathon, the MDI marathon is hilly. One blogger who ran the race reported his GPS watch showing 1,700 feet in elevation gain over the 26.2 miles and just as much in elevation loss.
I’m loosely following a Hal Higdon training plan. Higdon is a widely respected runner and author who has been helping runners succeed longer than I’ve been alive. I chose his Novice 2 plan, since it is a little more aggressive than Novice 1. I’ve not run a marathon before, so I stayed away from the intermediate training plans. In a nutshell, the plan increases your training mileage and the length of your longest weekly run week-over-week for 18 weeks leading into the race. There are some lower mileage weeks built into the plan for recovery after the longest of the training runs, and a taper period (period of rest and recovery) for the two to three weeks leading into the race. The plan also designates the pace of each run, with several runs being completed at the desired marathon race pace (“at pace”). The longest training run on the plan is 20 miles, and for me it will take place in late September about three weeks before race day.
So far, my adherence to the structure of the training plan has been less than perfect. I have gotten in all of my training, but it has required some substitutions and schedule changes due to travel and other activities. Here’s how Weeks 1 and 2 have gone so far, with the yellow representing what’s left this week:
I moved my long run up this week because we’re running a 5K race on Saturday (part of our goal of running a race per month in 2012). I also substituted some hikes for runs in Week 1 because we were in the White Mountains and the weather was fantastic. I was comfortable with these adjustments in the early weeks of the plan, since the mileage is in my comfort zone of 15 to 25 miles per week. As the plan continues, I need to buckle down. Given the demands of the plan, I don’t want to risk injury due to over-training . Also, since the plan is designed to provide enough rest leading into the longest run of the week and enough recovery after, it’s important that I stick to the prescribed schedule to avoid getting hurt or falling short on the important long training runs.
This will make for some scenic, interesting and challenging runs in upcoming Weeks 3 and 4, since I’ll be traveling in Germany and the Czech Republic! We will be visiting with family and friends for my cousin’s wedding before taking the train to Berlin, Leipzig, Dresden and Prague. I’m looking forward to seeing more of Europe, practicing my less-than-stellar German and, of course, logging some international marathon training miles! – M
After our week-long stay in Maine and a weekend stop in Portsmouth for our friends’ wedding, we’ve made our way to a friend’s house in the mountains of central Virginia. In a happy scheduling coincidence, our friend (who travels frequently) happens to be at the house for the first week of our planned three-week stay. It’s been nice catching up with him over shared meals and late night card games, and it will be nice to find a rhythm of our own once he’s on the road again. We arrived late Sunday night and have spent the week becoming familiar with the area and our new temporary home. The house is set back about a mile down a gravel road, with few neighbors to encounter and many acres of woods to explore. Each morning, I’ve taken my coffee outside and listened to the land come alive from my perch on the wooden swing. We’ve napped in hammocks and walked along winding paths. We’ve witnessed deer grazing in the front yard, turkey vultures and coyotes scavenging along the main road, and countless birds and butterflies and bats and other things with wings. We’ve also managed to keep our fitness routine somewhat intact, with some creative adjustments. When the weather’s been nice, we’ve brought our workouts to the back yard, and when it was raining, I set up my yoga mat on the covered front porch. We’ve explored sections of the Blue Ridge Parkway and hiked to a remote waterfall swimming hole. Today, we ventured to the next county in search of a safe running route and ended up finding a converted rail trail that was perfect for today’s training run. (We’re running a 10K here in Virginia on Saturday, and it’s been a little tough keeping up our mileage on the road.) We’re now back at the house, enjoying a quiet afternoon and watching storm clouds roll in from the west. I think it’s going to be a good night to hunker down on the mountain. -J
“Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose.” –Janis Joplin (courtesy Kris Kristofferson, et. al.)
And we now—officially, after months of planning and hoping and maneuvering—have very little left to lose. As of noon today, we sold the house and hit the road without an address. To clarify, we have a P.O. Box where mail will be forwarded, but we do not have a physical address. We are voluntarily homeless (which brings with it a number of sociological issues which J. plans to discuss in a future post, naturally.) (Insert shout out to anyone who has agreed to host us during the next three months…)
Over the past few days, we’ve both been singing Janis Joplin’s version of “Me and Bobby McGee” while working to move our stuff into storage, sell the house, and take the final step toward freedom. During this time, music has been a critical factor in our sanity and our motivation. We’ve bee-bopped around the house: packing, cleaning, moving, and singing. We’ve raged and hip-hopped and rocked and sung the blues. Throughout the process, the lyrics of “Me and Bobby McGee” proved to be especially relevant: “Freedom’s just another word for / nothing left to lose.” They were sung quietly while carrying trash bags to the garage, belted out in the shower while we scrubbed off the basement grime, and hummed while packing boxes of stuff we wondered if we really needed.
Yet Janis isn’t the only one who’s been keeping us company. Adam Ezra understood why we were “Takin’ Off Today.” Air Traffic Controller knew that all of the hoops we’ve been jumping through were “just a test / test 1, 2, 3…” And The Hold Steady explained that “we were young and we were so in love / and I guess we just needed space.”
But perhaps Modest Mouse captured it best: “I know that starting over is not what life’s about / but my thoughts were so loud I couldn’t hear my mouth.” It’s not often that you change most (or all!) of the key components of your life, but sometimes your thoughts are too loud to ignore. We’ve changed so much with our physical and professional and personal selves that this financial transition out of the house seemed natural. It was necessary to complete our journey into a place of total flexibility.
We have no idea what the future will bring, but for now, being on the road—traveling, reading, experiencing life and writing—is good enough… “good enough for me and my Bobby McGee.” -M&J
Today was the first day in weeks I’ve been able to take a deep breath and fully exhale. We had no plans except those of our own choosing, and no schedule to keep except to get a run in before dark. We slept a little later than usual, huddled under the covers in the guest room. (In a story too long and boring to tell here, we sold the bed we’ve been sleeping in at the yard sale last weekend, and we’re keeping the heat off so we don’t have to pay for another oil delivery before we sell the house next week. It’s really a circus of the absurd around here.) Once we finally rallied downstairs, we cooked up a delicious breakfast of lentil hash and eggs scrambled with sweet onions and cheese. We sipped cups of coffee and read the news and paid bills. We relished the return to quiet normalcy, to a day when we did not have strangers or appraisers or buyers pushing their agendas on us. We drove to Portsmouth to procure boxes and tape for packing, grab a few fresh veggies at the grocery store, and pick up a replacement screen canopy for our upcoming camping trip to Acadia National Park. We were back by early afternoon and each headed out for a run. Distance didn’t matter today; just getting out there mattered. Our next race is in Virginia on Memorial Day weekend, so we have plenty of time to train. What we needed today were fresh air and clear minds, and we found both. We capped the day with a delicious dinner collaboration, one so tasty that it will probably make its detailed way to my food and fitness blog soon. The short version: spicy apple tofu roasted over fresh asparagus and paired with sweet potato fries and a chipotle-lime aoili. Pick a word: delicious, fantastic, balanced, amazing. They all apply to dinner, and they apply to the rest of the day as well. I hope your Monday was as balanced as ours, but if not, there’s always hope for tomorrow. -J
We’ve been losing a lot of things lately: weight, earrings, and the lottery, among others. We’ve even been losing track of time, spending hours in a dusty basement sorting through boxes of stuff we’ve been lugging around for years. Last weekend, we took a break from purging to attend the Massachusetts Poetry Festival in Salem. This weekend, we held our first (and only!) yard sale to rid ourselves of extraneous possessions. How are all of these events related?
One of the sessions at the festival featured a reading of a favorite poem we hadn’t heard or read in a while. The poem is “One Art” by Elizabeth Bishop, and the opening stanza goes like this:
The art of losing isn’t hard to master;
so many things seem filled with the intent
to be lost that their loss is no disaster.
Bishop goes on to suggest that we should all “practice losing farther, losing faster”…and that seems to be the theme of our April this year. We started the month staring down a houseful of stuff, wondering how we would decide what to keep when we moved into our next place…a much smaller, cooler, easier to handle space, by design. Sometimes those keep-or-ditch decisions were easy, but often they were difficult, getting caught up in memories and emotions and absurd hangups on financial value or sunk costs.
But as the month progressed, we seemed to get better at losing. Every box we touched became easier to go through, every letter we read became easier to recycle, and every possession we evaluated became easier to part with. We sent hundreds of items home with new owners yesterday, with the intent that their useful lives be extended in someone else’s care. We then took most of the remaining items to a local non-profit with the same outcome in mind. A handful of leftovers wait patiently in our garage to meet their fate at our town’s recycling center.
It turns out that the art of losing is difficult to begin, but with a little practice (Write it!) it isn’t hard to master. –J&M
In honor of the festival and national poetry month, we suggest you check out Bishop’s entire poem, available on the Poetry Foundation’s website here: http://www.poetryfoundation.org/poem/176996
“Those who expect to reap the blessings of freedom must undergo the fatigue of supporting it.”
– Thomas Paine
Freedom from a mortgage and a job might not be what Paine had in mind, but the spirit of his statement fits! First things first, we are sorry for our silence this week. Who would have thought that being home would be more hectic than being on the road?! We received an offer on our house the day we returned home from our trip, and we’ve spent the past week setting the wheels in motion to move into a much funkier and more economical river-view apartment that better suits our lifestyle. So we spent most of our time this week organizing and resolving the things within our control, and now we wait for the rest of the pieces to fall into place.
Unfortunately, we’re not very good at a waiting, even after a lifetime of practice. When you’re a kid, it’s waiting for your birthday or waiting for Christmas or waiting for your friend to come over. Then it’s waiting to get your license, waiting to go to college, waiting to graduate. Once you start working, it’s waiting for the weekend, waiting for vacation, waiting for the next job or promotion. Waiting can take over your life. This realization brings to mind the quote most often attributed to John Lennon (though said by others before him): “Life is what happens to you when you’re busy making other plans.”
There is some truth in that statement, but is it all just waiting? What about preparation and effort to ready oneself for what’s next? Is preparation the same as waiting? The answer, of course, is no. Preparation involves taking an active role in the future and showing initiative, while waiting implies a being passive while other things occur around you. We’ve arrived at this juncture in our lives through preparation. We’ve done our best—sometimes failing and sometimes succeeding—to control the things we could and to mitigate risk from circumstances outside of our control.
And now, we wait. Better yet, we wait and we live our lives! This is a time to be active. To put worries to the side and run races, write poems, visit friends and family, and enjoy each other’s company (and of course, update our blog!). And as we wait for items outside of our control to be resolved, we can take comfort in the fact that we have prepared the best we could.
We stumbled across the quote below from a great adventurer and wanted to share it as an encouraging piece of wisdom that sums up the impact of preparation and initiative:
“Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth, the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favor all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamed would have come his way. Whatever you can do, or dream you can do, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it. Begin it now.”
– William Hutchinson Murray, The Scottish Himalayan Expedition (1951)