“I can’t believe I actually do this for fun now”: how I became the most unlikely runner ever

I’ve never been even remotely athletic. If you’re a regular reader of my blog, this probably comes of no surprise to you, after reading countless rants based around my artistic frustrations with no mention of any sporting pursuits. But throughout my youth, the only athletic endeavors I attempted ended in miserable failure or just plain disinterest. Why would I kick/throw/hit a ball around for no reason when I could be memorizing lines and blocking for a play? Why bother running unless I was late for choir rehearsal? What was the point of learning to do anything less than the required minimum in my P.E. class if my gym teacher, plucked straight out of a 90s sitcom, tracksuit and all, was still going to be biased towards those shining students who participated in extracurricular organized sports? It all seemed like a waste of time. Also, I am clumsy as hell.

When I was in elementary school, I tried out the community youth soccer organization. I lasted one day and then threw a tantrum when I got home about how ridiculous it was that you’re not allowed to use your hands in soccer. In P.E. class, I regularly ended up the last person left standing on my team during “trench” (the less violent version of dodgeball we were allowed to play in public school), not because I was good at the game, but because I was so afraid of being hit by the flying Nerf balls that I would hide and dodge them in the corner until every last one of my teammates got out. I also spent several pathetic years in dance classes, which I only survived because my sense of rhythm turned out to be better than my coordination. Then in middle school, I tried out a community volleyball league with my sisters, and it soon became clear that my coach’s supposedly endearing nickname for me, the “Digging Machine,” really just meant he was aware that digging was the only thing I was physically capable of doing during a game, and that I was mostly useless at everything else.

After the volleyball attempt, I shied away from any other organized sports as an adolescent. The only other remotely athletic thing I participated in was the marching band colorguard, of which I was a member for two years and captain for one of the two. The only reasons I joined in the first place were because A. I had given up on the clarinet because I hated the stupid thing, and B. I still wanted to hang out with my band geek friends on the weekends. Surprisingly, I turned out to be better than average at this specific form of choreographed flag-twirling. Now, I’m as shocked as you probably are that I was able to spin, throw, and catch a flag or rifle while simultaneously moving across a football field, but for some reason, my lack of hand-eye coordination did not translate to this activity. Mind you, this wasn’t enough of a confidence booster for me to try out any other athletic things, but hey, at least I had really strong arm muscles for a couple years in high school (which turned out to be really useful when I was painting/moving sets for theatre, my one true love at the time).

Since then, the only mildly athletic thing I’ve attempted has been yoga, which I enjoy mainly because it’s not competitive or fast-paced. Yoga is my kind of exercise, even though I’m not remotely flexible and sometimes get extremely worried about farting during class. (If you’ve ever taken a yoga class, you get it.) So, you can understand why, when I decided to start a couch-to-5K training program at the beginning of last summer, I probably had so little faith in myself sticking with it that it’s shocking I even started it in the first place.

If you’re not familiar with the couch-to-5K type of running plan, it starts you out by alternating brief running intervals with walking. Gradually, the intervals get longer, and you continue until you can actually run for more than 30 seconds without wanting to run yourself right off the edge of a cliff. Each run is about half an hour long and you only need to run three times a week — it is literally designed to take a lazy non-runner and train them to run a 5K by the end of eight weeks. I was skeptical, but after hearing testimonials from multiple people who had successfully done it, I decided to give it a try.

At first, I wanted to die. The intervals were tough, and every time my walking portions ended, I wanted to just keep on walking. After a certain point, though, it stopped feeling like a chore and started feeling like something I wanted to do because it made me feel good. After my first successful 20 minute run, I felt like a million bucks for running that long without stopping, and after that point, I actually itched to be running on my off days. I stopped looking at the training program as something I was just trying out, and started feeling like a runner. I finished the program and started tracking my distance and time each time I went out. I started getting up earlier and earlier to avoid the ridiculous midwest summer humidity. I bought moisture-wicking running clothes and fancy expensive running shoes from a store that videotapes your feet in order to find you the right kind of shoe (not even kidding). I looked forward to my post-run breakfasts of oatmeal and coffee on my parents’ porch. I fell in love with the routine and the sound of my feet hitting the pavement. I shocked myself.

If you had told me six months ago that, come fall, I would be running four miles every other day, I would have laughed in your face. But now I do that, and it’s part of my daily routine that I actually look forward to. Sure, it’s hard getting up and running on weekdays when I could be sleeping in for an extra hour and a half, but the feeling I get when I finish is worth it. I love the fact that the perfect song on my playlist can convince me to run an extra half mile, or that one simple run can turn an awful day into a great one. I am amazed that, even if the first mile of my run is rough, I can push through and feel energized and inspired by mile four. I like that the only person I have to depend on when I run is myself, and that every time I hit the pavement, I’m proving that more and more. I look forward to stopping next to my “stretching tree” at the end of every run and feeling that weird mix of exhaustion and exhilaration while I let myself finally rest. Mostly, I am so proud of everything that my own body can accomplish that I never thought it could.

Maybe I’ll be a runner for the rest of my life, maybe I won’t. Maybe I’ll eventually run a marathon, maybe I’ll only ever run 5Ks. I don’t know. But the important thing is that I now know I am capable of doing it, and that all it took was my mind sticking with it for me to get there. And that’s enough for me right now.

these feet were made for running.

obligatory feet pic from my first 5K at the beginning of October.

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stop posting on facebook about how your mom is the best, because obviously mine is

Mommy cuddle puddle.

Mommy cuddle puddle.

For someone who has decided they want to become a writer, I’ve sure been doing a crappy job of keeping this blog updated. Truthfully, I’ve been doing quite a bit of writing lately, but most of it isn’t material that I want to post here right now. So I decided to take this Mother’s Day, as I sit at the local coffeeshop, two lattes into my afternoon and hiding from the SNOW that decided to make an appearance halfway through May, to write a short post about my beautiful mom. I know nothing I write will be able to truly express just how important this woman is in my life, but I’m going to try anyway.

A few days ago, I was having a rough time, which is typical of my anxious self at this point in the school year. We’ve only got two weeks left, and my time isn’t really my own anymore. For every item I cross off my to-do list, three more get added to the bottom. I’ve also been making every effort to spend quality time with my girls before they graduate and move on, not to mention all my coworkers and friends who will not be returning next school year. It’s overwhelming, but it can’t really be avoided.

That said, I called my mom during one particular moment when I felt like the sky was falling. She’s always the one I call because she knows the ins and outs of my frightening brain when I work myself into what one can only describe as “a tizzy.” Coming off a long work week, a marathon day of meetings, and a couple moments of introspection about the state of my life, I sat on a bench on campus as the sun was setting, and I cried to her about all the little things in my life that sucked at that specific time. I was a fragile mess, but luckily, my mother is perhaps the only person alive who knows exactly how to put me in my place without sounding like a bitch.

“You realize you tend to think of everything that’s going wrong all at once when you’re feeling stressed, right?” she said, simply.

That’s my mom. She lets me word vomit all over her from two states away whenever I’m having a bad day, and she still manages to help calm me down with easy sayings like, “You’ll be okay. Go collect yourself and get back to work.”

As the oldest of three daughters, I’ve gone through a lot of firsts with my mom. We’ve had our ups and downs, but she is still the one I go to for pretty much everything. She’s one of the strongest women I’ve had the privilege of looking up to. I know I wouldn’t have made it where I am without a beautiful, ambitious, loving person like her as my support system. When I moved away after college, the hardest part was saying goodbye to her and knowing I would only be seeing her for holidays and special occasions during the foreseeable future. But I think we’ve survived the separation and it’s made all the moments I do get to spend with her that much more special.

Happy Mother’s Day, Momma. I can’t wait to see you in June, and I couldn’t be prouder to be your daughter.

home is where your teddy bear is

I’ve been pretty homesick lately. Homesick is really the closest word I could find to fit the way I’m feeling, but the truth is, I don’t really have a home to be “sick” for. Sure, my physical home back in Minnesota is a place that I miss often, but I miss my family more than the actual place. In the years that have occurred since I graduated high school and began a semi-nomadic life of moving from dorm to dorm and place to place each school year, I’ve struggled with the fact that I don’t really feel like I have a home anymore.

While that statement may sound more dramatic than I intended it to, it does bring up a central question that I’ve fought with for the past six years. What defines a home? For the first eighteen years of my life, my home was with my family. Growing up, even though we moved once, we lived in one northwest corner of our Minnesota town, and both houses felt unmistakably like my home. My parents, my sisters, and my pets were all there. It was comfortable. It still felt like home for the first part of my college career — I lived less than an hour and a half away, and when I came home on weekends and breaks, my room felt the same, my place at the dinner table still felt like mine. It was all still normal.

Then, as time began to remove me from the house I grew up in more and more, it became clearer that it wasn’t meant to stay my home forever. I started spending my summers at camp in northern Michigan and my school years at college, and I came home less. I still loved seeing my family, but the time I spent there wasn’t as comfortable, as normal as it had been. But still, I knew this was the natural progression for a young adult, and I enjoyed the time that I did have with my family. I talked to my mom on the phone a lot and kept up on the family events from afar. My final semester in college, I moved back home for my student teaching placement. I settled back into that house, I bonded with my youngest sister, who had been only twelve when I first moved out and was suddenly a full-blown teenager with opinions, a driver’s license, and a makeup collection. I settled into a routine: I drove to school in the morning, taught all day, came home, and hung out with my family. It was monotonous and my social life was pretty much non-existent since none of my friends lived in my hometown anymore. But it taught me a lot, and I will never regret getting the chance to spend that time with my family.

When I moved to Michigan for this job, it was a bit of a reality check. I suddenly realized I couldn’t come home for weekends, and even week-long vacations during the school year would be a struggle because the logistics of traveling home were difficult. I was worried about missing my home and my family and not having them near me as a safety net. Even though I was transitioning into a job with a built-in place to live and I was familiar with the area I was moving to, it was scary knowing I couldn’t just go to home when I missed my mom or wanted to spend a weekend snuggling my dogs. It started to hit me that this was what adulthood was like when you chose to move away from your hometown. Some people come to that realization in college; for me, it didn’t happen until I was 22, and I still struggle with it every once in awhile.

I’ve only been home three times since I moved here. Every time has been relaxing and reminded me what it is I love about being there. But I can’t spend more than a few weeks at a time there. I run out of things to do, I watch too much TV, and I get restless. It will always be my technical home, the place I was raised, the place where my parents live, but it doesn’t feel that much like mine anymore. I just keep reminding myself that it’s okay to feel that way. This quote from Garden State has been running through my head lately, because I think it describes exactly how I’ve been feeling:

You’ll see one day when you move out it just sort of happens one day and it’s gone. You feel like you can never get it back. It’s like you feel homesick for a place that doesn’t even exist. Maybe it’s like this rite of passage, you know. You won’t ever have this feeling again until you create a new idea of home for yourself, you know, for your kids, for the family you start, it’s like a cycle or something. I don’t know, but I miss the idea of it, you know. Maybe that’s all family really is. A group of people that miss the same imaginary place.

I do feel homesick for a place that doesn’t really exist anymore, but I keep trying to hang onto it…in little ways anyway. The other day I asked my mom to send me the teddy bear I’ve had since I was an infant. I didn’t bring him with me when I moved, and I haven’t ever needed him until now. Transitions are especially difficult for me emotionally, and I’ve been feel extremely uneasy about the concept of “home” because…I don’t know where my home is going to be after May. My anxiety has been at an all-time high and my emotions are all over the place. This campus is the closest thing I’ve had to a home over the past two years. I’m comfortable here, and while my family isn’t with me, I feel at ease when I drive around town and when I come home to my room at night. So my mom sent me my bear, and when I got him in the mail today, I felt this overwhelming sense of comfort. This one object, this little piece of home, of my childhood, was just what I needed. Do I feel childish for needing a teddy bear to comfort me when I’m 24 years old? Obviously. But I’m not apologizing for it. Sometimes you just need a teddy bear to get you through a rough patch, and this is mine.

ghosts of friendships past

It’s a strange sensation, losing a friend.

It can happen in a bunch of different ways, I guess. Sometimes you simply grow apart. You’re friends in grade school because you both like the same flavor of PopTarts and you have made up an entire saga about unicorns to play out on the playground at recess. Then, all of a sudden, you’re auditioning for the school musical and she’s joining the volleyball team. And from then on, you just see each other in English, exchanging polite smiles or working together on yet another PowerPoint presentation. You’re not enemies, but you’re not friends anymore either. It’s bittersweet for awhile, but you move on.

Sometimes, especially in the case of relationships born out of mere convenience, you start to see certain characteristics in a person that force you to grow apart. The girls who lived down the hall from you in your freshman dorm suddenly don’t have anything in common with you, and you realize they never actually did — you were just friends because you lived together. Your coworkers from your old job are harder to relate to because you don’t have work to talk about anymore. Your former biology lab partner suddenly has horrible taste in music and a fake, peppy smile that didn’t matter when you were dissecting a fetal pig, but now all of these things annoy you to no end. It’s not as hard to say goodbye to these relationships, because you realize they weren’t based on any sort of depth. You miss the friends, but you don’t miss the way they chewed their gum.

Other times, physical distance is what ends a relationship. Your best friend for years moves across the country, or you both go to separate colleges after high school. You make a conscious effort, Skyping once a week or writing old fashioned letters, but inevitably, you lose touch. You see her engagement pictures on Facebook, you catch up every once in awhile, but things will never be as they once were. You’ll never have coffee dates where you can actually get past the surface details of your own lives. “What have you been up to?” and “That sounds exciting!” are the center of your conversations, always. This is also bittersweet, but it’s a natural part of life and growing up.

But the most painful way to lose a friend is to watch it happen right in front of you. Slowly, this person you have come to connect yourself with, to love completely, begins to fade away from you. All of the things that you have become accustomed to — the secrets, the inside jokes, the knowing glances — disappear from your life. Who will you stay up until 2am with, doing nothing but staring at the ceiling? Who will distract you from Facebook while you sit at your favorite coffeeshop for five hours on a Saturday afternoon? Everything you do makes you feel alone, even the things you didn’t share with this person. Days pass, even weeks, without any text messages, any coffee dates, any significant words exchanged. The fault can’t be placed on only one of you, but you don’t know what words can be said to fix things. How do you say the things you can’t even say to yourself?

I guess it just strikes me how transient relationships are. Unlike in a romantic partnership, in a friendship the only thing you have tethering you together is this mutual bond of “being friends.” I mean, you have, in a sense, committed yourselves to one another, but you don’t have the explicitly stated exclusivity that husbands and wives or boyfriends and girlfriends have. But just because you haven’t stated publicly or in a romantic ceremony in front of your family that you intend to be linked to this person, it doesn’t mean losing them hurts less. This is especially hard when you have a best friend. You can spend all the time together that you want, you can love each other with your entire hearts, but in the end, when you lose each other, it still feels like as much of a breakup as if you had been romantically linked to that person.

I think the key is to look fondly on the past relationships you’ve had, the friends you’ve lost, the people you’ve distanced yourself from. Don’t let those losses become tinged with negativity, with grudges and unhappiness. Celebrate the people you’ve had in your life for who they are, who you were when you were with them, and the fact that, for however long, you were able to share something together. Relationships are a unique part of the human experience — if anything, cherish the fact that you’re alive, you can love, and you have loved. Those lost relationships are only proof that your heart is working.

how a cheap ukulele made me learn to love music again

I’ve been an artist my entire life. When I was a child, I painted without worrying what the outcome would be. I put on plays that didn’t have an ending and made my family watch them. I sang songs and built cities out of the set of wooden blocks in my basement. My parents surrounded me with ways to create, to grow as a young artist. I explored, I performed, and I learned.

As I progressed into adolescence, I discovered my love for theatre. As a shy, introverted kid, I was intoxicated by the ability to be someone else onstage. I loved the smell of stage makeup, the warmth of the lights beating down on the heavy costumes I had to wear. I found people who were like me in the casts I was part of, and finally it seemed normal to be the artistic kid, who chose late night rehearsals over sporting events, script memorization over making out in someone’s car, and cast parties over trips to the mall. Theatre was essential in helping me discover who I was.

I finally chose an art form that I knew I could cultivate well into my adult life when I decided to focus on singing. Choir was my safe place and voice lessons were my release. I knew this was something I could do for years and years and not tire of it. I chose my college and future career path based on this (which you probably read about earlier). I loved it. I had tried other instruments — the clarinet, the bane of my existence until ninth grade, and the piano, with which I had a love/hate relationship — but nothing compared to the power of the human voice. So I went on to study classical voice in college as an innocent, fresh-faced 18 year-old. I sang all the standard Italian songs and arias, I tried to fit my voice into the operatic mold that my school expected me to adhere to. I loved singing, but I realized that I loved singing for myself, and not for others. That was when I started falling out of love with it.

I’ve been struggling a lot lately with what it means to be an artist. Naturally, at a school like the one I work at, this question comes up a lot, both among the young artists I mentor and my coworkers/friends, many of whom have artistic backgrounds themselves. What does it mean to devote your life to an art form? How do you find a balance between artistic fulfillment and personal achievement? For me, artistic accomplishment and professional recognition were never the goal (which is probably why I chose the music education path, but that is a separate topic). Sure, it was great to hear from a professor that I had come long way on the Liszt piece I had been rehearsing for two semesters, and when I got a callback for the top choral ensemble at my school, I did feel like all my hard work was being recognized. But I wasn’t in it for the success of it all. I was in it because I loved singing.

I will always love to sing — that part will never change. But I lost sight of why for awhile, especially toward the end of my college career. As I began to realize that teaching wasn’t the profession for me (again, a topic I’ve explored previously), I also stopped using music as my form of release. As a college student, I sang. Every. Single. Day. I went to rehearsals, I practiced my voice repertoire, I sang in the shower. When I graduated, I lost that commitment to my art. I no longer had a “reason” to sing, because I wasn’t preparing for a recital or a concert. And I realized that all I really knew how to do was stand in front of a piano and sing an aria. And even then, that wasn’t what I was happiest doing. I think I knew all along, all throughout my college experience, that classical voice wasn’t where I fit. I wasn’t an opera singer. I would much rather sing something I connect to, that holds real meaning in my own life, than a bunch of French words I can barely remember how to pronounce.

About a year ago, I picked up the ukulele. I bought a relatively inexpensive one since I wasn’t even sure I would like it. I started learning basic chords and practicing strumming and singing along. I taught myself easy songs and I started listening to my own voice again. It made me happier than any form of music had in a very long time. I had taken quite a bit of time off from singing and making music, and suddenly, I remembered why I loved it in the first place. I played for myself, not for others, and I just did it for fun. That was what I had been missing. Such a simple, easy instrument suddenly added life to my musical identity again. I loved it. I still do.

But I do continue to fumble with what it means to be an artist for me here, right now, at this point in my life. I don’t stand in front of my studio class and spout out a bunch of German every week anymore, and I don’t have specific songs to practice and memorize. Nothing I work on is culminating in some big performance, where I will be publicly recognized for my work. I don’t do anything musical because I have to do it. I do it because I want to. Does that make me less of an artist? No. Does it still make me feel like I should be working toward something concrete? Absolutely.

I got a mandolin for Christmas. (If you don’t know me well, I’ll just tell you that the mandolin has been one of my favorite instruments for a long time and I greatly admire any person who can play it.) I am slowly but surely learning to play it. Sure, it would be great if I could eventually become good enough to jam with my friends here (because currently all my skills allow me to do is strum occasional chords on the uke and throw in some harmonies…) but I am in no rush. I’ll learn it as I go, it’s just great to have something new to work on. And when I get upset or frustrated or tired, I can pick up my uke and remember how it feels to love doing something. Music has become a much more personal thing for me, and I think I’m finally realizing that. And while I miss the discipline and focus I once had as a young voice major, I’m accepting that I can make music take whatever role I want it to take in my life. I just know it needs to be there.

soli deo gloria, or, what I learned from being a non-believer at a Lutheran school

My religious identity was ever evolving when I was growing up. My family migrated from church to church. First we were Catholic. I don’t remember this because I was a baby, but my parents were married in the Catholic church and I was baptized there. Then we were Lutheran for awhile. (My dad was raised Lutheran.) All I really remember about that was going to Sunday school, coloring in pictures of God’s creatures, and the Christmas pageant, which I’m pretty sure I cried all the way through or something. I hated church. I was too shy for church.

Eventually we landed at the Unitarian Universalist church in our town. This seemed like the perfect fit for my oddball family: a pluralistic approach to the search for spiritual growth and truth within a community. My parents were all over that shit. And it was good…for awhile. Sunday school still sucked, though, and I didn’t fit in with the kids in the congregation. They were too loud. They all went to a different school than I did, and I always felt like a tagalong. My parents gave me the option of sitting in on the Sunday service, but I got bored. Even as a pre-teen, I was beginning to think that church just wasn’t for me.

We eventually stopped attending the UU church, at least on a regular basis. It wasn’t that we didn’t like it, but my family just wasn’t a church-going family. Christmas and Easter, those were our church holidays, and I liked those because it meant seeing my grandparents and aunts and uncles and sharing church (and dinner) as one big family like we did every year. Church on those holidays was a tradition, but every Sunday, it was not.

When I decided to attend a Lutheran college, I think my parents were understandably anxious. They knew it was a good school with the right kind of music program for me, but they worried I wouldn’t fit in with the average Lutheran students, the “Religious Kids,” who went to church every Sunday and knew all the hymns. But I kept telling them, “I’m not going for the church, I’m going for the music.” And it was true. All I wanted was a place where I could sing all day and be around other people who sang all day, too. A school with five massive choral ensembles was my dream.

So I went to college. I made friends with some of those Religious Kids, and most of them only went to church when they felt like it (because what college student likes waking up early on a Sunday morning?). Nobody cared that I didn’t have any religious beliefs whatsoever. I studied music, and I sang in choir, which is what I was there for. Every once in awhile, my choir would be asked to sing on Sunday or at a morning chapel service during the week. Strangely, it was not uncomfortable for me, a kid who had really only attended church two times a year for most of her adolescence. I took comfort in the camaraderie of singing with a group of other people who loved music as much as I did. It didn’t matter that the religious texts of our music didn’t hold a spiritual significance for me. I connected with the thick, textured harmonies, the rise and fall of the soprano line, the firm weight of the bass anchoring the entire piece together. I was continually awed by the sound of many unique voices blending together in one song. I felt the most at peace when I was singing, and the fact that I was in church didn’t change that. My peers around me may have been singing to glorify God, but for a few brief moments, we were all singing together and that was all that mattered.

I don’t think religion will ever be a significant part of my life. I have gone most of my life without it as an anchor, and I am completely fine with that. But what I do need, I think, is a musical anchor. I need the reminder that music can take you somewhere else or give you relief from the stress of your daily life. I’ve been missing that in my life recently, and I look back on all of those college rehearsals, concerts, and church services with longing. With all of the emphasis that is placed on the well-being of others within my job, I sometimes forget to do things for myself. Sure, I spend time with people I love, I go to yoga, and I sing alone when I get the chance — all of these things can be a release. But there is something extremely special about the sense of community that goes along with a choral experience. A challenging piece of music, when finally polished and performed, is nothing short of magical. The focus connects you. Those collective breaths and sustained notes, the simultaneous internal counting of the difficult rhythms your section has pounded out time and time again in extra rehearsals, that ringing moment when the last note has been sent out into the air, leaving behind the exhilaration and exalted faces of the people who gave it life. I’ve worked in groups of artists many times before, but this feeling, this sense of accomplishment and artistic release, is the most rewarding one I’ve ever found.

So even though I may not have taken away any big moments of religious discovery in my four years of undergrad, I certainly did grow in my appreciation for musical and artistic fellowship. I am continually thankful for all of the friends and colleagues I’ve met over the years merely through a mutual love of singing, and I hope I can one day find another sense of community like the one within the choirs I’ve been a part of. That’s all the religion I need.

an analysis of my grown-up self through the eyes of my 10 year-old self

me, as a wee one, jumper askew and looking confused on the beach. standard.

Sometimes I wonder what my younger self would think of my older self. At 23, have I accomplished all the things I wished for as a child? I remember thinking I would be fully grown up and mature by the time I was a twenty-something, and I now realize just how ridiculous my expectations were as a wide-eyed, freckle-faced, string bean with bangs back in the day. Even so, this is what I imagine my 10 year-old self would say to present-day me…

1. You’re telling me that at 23, you’re not a veterinarian yet? Hang on, you’re NEVER going to be a veterinarian? WHAT ABOUT ALL OF THE ANIMALS WHO NEED YOUR MEDICAL ATTENTION? What, that Halloween costume two years ago was for nothing, then? I wore a lab coat and a customized badge that said “Dr. Maddie, D.V.M.,” how much more official can you get? Okay, at least tell me you picked something just as cool as a vet, like a ninja or a figure skater. You didn’t? Oh great. Well then, tell me exactly when you lost sight of all your hopes and dreams in the past 13 years.

2. You’re not married and you don’t have a boyfriend? I thought all adults were married. You were going to marry one of the Hanson brothers, when did that plan fall through? Did you actually start taking Mom’s advice and realize you can be an independent woman without a man? Have you abandoned all hope of living happily ever after like the Little Mermaid?

3. You LIKE asparagus now? Yuck. What about that is okay? VEGETABLES ARE THE WORST.

4. WAIT, you were a vegetarian for 10 of the past 13 years? WHAT PART OF “VEGETABLES ARE THE WORST” DO YOU NOT UNDERSTAND?!

5. You have your own computer and phone, so I guess that makes you pretty cool. Did you ever beat your high score on “Where in the World is Carmen San Diego?” Because if you didn’t, you’re not actually that cool. Or smart.

6. What is this crap music you’re listening to? There is no way some guy called Bon Iver is better than ‘N Sync. Why did you abandon your roots? bRiTnEy SpEaRs 4 LyFe!!!!1

7. I guess drinking several cups of coffee a day makes you a grown-up. Ew. You’re practically Dad.

8. I can’t believe you don’t sleep on a bunk bed anymore. Bunk beds are the best kinds of beds. You know that.

9. You don’t drive a convertible? Remember when Mom and Dad wouldn’t let you have one of those life-sized Barbie cars that all your friends had and you swore you would drive a convertible when you were an adult? Get on that.

10. I hope you still play outside and dance around the living room to Paul Simon with Dad and get excited when Mom lets you have sugary cereal on Saturday mornings and have a best friend you tell everything to and spend time with your little sisters and wear leggings because they’re way more comfortable than jeans. And even if you still do at least one of these things, I’ll know that you’re holding on to the best parts of being a kid. Even though you’re a grown-up.