Last week, I turned 39. So it might seem strange that I’m already thinking about my next birthday.
When I was a kid, I couldn’t wait to age out of childhood. I was always more comfortable around adults, so naturally, I wanted to be one. I fantasized about being one of those cool older women, with gorgeous gray hair, rock climbing into my 60s, kicking ass and taking names.
What I didn’t anticipate was that I’d start having a midlife crisis in my 20s. By 30, my master plan of aging gracefully came to a screeching halt. I was freaking. The. Freak. Out.
What am I doing with my life? What’s the point of it all? What if I never figured “it” out?
The crisis, in many ways, continues to this day. Perhaps suggesting we have more of an existential, versus midlife, one on our hands. This can’t be it. This can’t be all there is. Accumulating baggage and trying to unload it. Accumulating more baggage, attempting to unload it. Over, and over, and over. An endless series of life lessons, distilled into messages that read like a crappy, floral-covered mug.
My 39th birthday was filled to the brim with love and celebration. It always feels deeply humbling and bittersweet to be on the receiving end of so much kindness. Face in the sunshine, puffy white clouds, heart full – full of gratitude, but also the knowing that every puffy white cloud casts a shadow. Darkness and light. Hope and despair. Two sides of the same coin, forced to exist together to hold any value.
And maybe that’s at the root of all of our crises. The idea that there’s anything to hold onto. A certain person. A certain age. A certain weight. A certain feeling. A certain bank balance. A certain outcome. In the quest for certainty, we miss out on so much.
So over the next 11 months, 3 weeks, and 3 days, as I wind my way towards my biggest milestone birthday yet, I’m going to try something different. I’m NOT going to sit here and type out a list of all of the things I want to make happen before I turn 40, which was my original plan.
I’ve already checked countless boxes. Hiked/run/biked all the miles. Surpassed my own To Do lists. If any of that held the Key to Existence, Oprah would have interviewed me by now.
The coming year will be as likely filled with promise as it is with heartache. There will be picture perfect moments with people who raise my spirits, and lonely nights with a bottle of wine that whispers, “You’re unlovable.” Suns will set and rise, and laughter will come and go, and instead of trying to hold onto any of it, this year, I’m just going to ride the waves.
In recent years, I’d heard testimonials trumpeting Tinder as, “No Longer the One Night Stand Dating App You Used to Love to Hate.” Nevertheless, given that I wasn’t a big fan of dating apps (or, let’s be honest, dating), I’d steered clear.
Two years ago, when I moved to Oregon from New Jersey, I’d been single for two years. Free from marriage, Corporate America, and east coast humidity, I decided it was time to fire up Bumble (a dating app similar to Tinder in its swiping, but where only women have the power to send the first message). Let’s see if the scene is any different now that I live 3,000 miles away from my hometown.
Arguably, it was far worse in my new, small town (as the story linked above will prove). In New Jersey, the most densely populated state in the U.S., you could go weeks without bumping into a familiar face. The likelihood of running into an ex or bad first date in Bend, Oregon, however: 113%. (Give or take.)
I quickly gave up and resumed my usual lifestyle: Friends, food, fur babies.
There was always the nagging thought that perhaps I’d “given up” versus consciously deciding to bow out of the dating scene.
“You’ve gotta put yourself out there!”
“It takes time to meet the right person.”
“Give him a chance!”
Despite honing my gut instinct over the past 38 years, the din of the masses still got to me. Maybe “they” all knew something I didn’t. Maybe everything I thought was right for me was just a way of protecting myself from getting hurt. Maybe I was going to DIE ALONE OH MY GOD I DON’T WANT TO DIE ALONE.
And that’s how I got sucked in -AGAIN- to downloading a dating app on my phone last week. This time, I bit the bullet and chose the infamous Tinder. I swiped right, I swiped left, and I periodically put down my phone to hide under a blanket.
As matches and messages trickled in, my heart raced. Not in the good way. More in the clammy, “it puts the lotion in the basket,” low-level dread kind of way. Okay, Jules. Maybe you’re just talking yourself out of a good thing. Maybe you need to just get a post-COVID date out of the way. Break the seal.
I fired back a couple of overly clever replies to two men. Ugh. No. I can’t do this! I don’t want to meet any of these people! Who knows who they really are?!
I’d been on enough online dates to know that, no matter how many photos and phone calls you exchange before the first meeting, you’re still going on a blind date. And does anyone really want to go on an endless series of blind dates?
Let me put it this way. The best online date pales in comparison to Netflix and pasta. And involves far more prep time.
Within 48 hours, and long before I could exchange more than two short messages with anyone, I deleted my Tinder account. I briefly entertained the fantasy that some of my matches fell to their knees, shaking their fists at the heavens, crying, “WHERE DID SHE GO? WHERE?!?!?!”
A few nights later, I shared drinks with a couple of girlfriends, and the conversation turned to our exes.
“I just got this random Facebook message from my ex’s new girlfriend. Look.”
She showed us her phone, which displayed a long string of messages: “I hope you don’t mind me reaching out. I know you dated [him] a while ago and I just have to know… did you experience anything like this? He’s gotten really emotionally and verbally abusive, accusing me of cheating and calling me all of these names and I just don’t know what to do.”
My friend was too afraid to say much in response for fear that this ex had created a fake account and was in fact the one messaging her. “Oh my god he’s been doing that to me!” the new girlfriend wrote. “Creating fake accounts…stalking me…”
“I still fear for my life from one of my exes,” I chimed in. “Everyone knows who to arrest if I go missing.”
“Yes!” my friend exclaimed. “Every woman I’ve talked to has a story like this!”
A familiar feeling rose in my chest. A mix of nausea, compassion, and curiosity. All of the “scary ex” stories always made me think, “What are we [as a society] doing wrong? This can’t be the result of testosterone overload. If our male counterparts could express hurt, sadness, and fear freely, would any of this happen?”
The very next morning, I woke up to a ‘New Blog Comment’ alert. Someone from Match.com, with whom I went on one date six years ago, had commented on a blog post from 2015. I had written a post about our first (and only) date and… apparently it didn’t land well with him.
I scratched my head. How did he even FIND this? I don’t think I ever mentioned that I had a blog, I always change or omit names, and I try REALLY hard not to say anything seemingly cruel… In fact, I had intentionally framed the post as, “This bizarre thing happened on a first date: what would you do to handle it?” to avoid coming across like I was maligning the man.
(In a nutshell: After our first date, this fella started sending me a cappella karaoke clips he’d recorded on his phone, and some other things I wasn’t quite sure how to react to, like a LinkedIn connection request and an article he’d written many years earlier [which he copied and pasted, in its entirety, into a single text message].)
After rereading the story several times, I definitively concluded that the post was funny – and harmless. Also, half the reason I’ve suffered through dating is for the stories.
Still, I cringed. I’m sure it can’t be fun to stumble on a blog post about you, even if it’s innocuous (…and six years old). More than that, though, I felt that same swirling concern. Why? Why do we exist in a world where hurt and pain (or simply bruised egos) become violence, cruelty, stalking, and aggression?
Here’s a situation where I spent a few hours with someone -a perfect stranger- six years ago, never saw him again, and now I feel unsafe. Perhaps the most disturbing part is that my inner monologue shouts, “Well. You blogged about him. YOU’RE ASKING FOR IT.”
Sigh. If anyone wants a pasta and Season 4 “Breaking Bad” binge, hit me up.
I almost don’t want to ask this, but: Any similar stories or concerns you’d like to share? Or, what do you think we can each do to create a safer, kinder world?
I promise this is the last in an unplanned, overly contemplative series (that began with, “My Mane Issue,” followed by, “A Weighty Issue“). Next week: Puppies and Pop-Tarts!
“Are you looking for jobs?”
“Hey, I know someone who’s hiring.”
“You could always do consulting.”
“Have you heard about Fiverr?”
Over the past two years, since quitting my corporate job, well-intentioned and wonderful people have asked all of the questions and suggested all of the resources you might expect if you were out of work.
I don’t mind one bit. In fact, quite the opposite. Having friends and family who care enough to take an interest in my life, and want to help me in any way, fills me with humility and joy.
What’s interesting to me, though, are the underlying, often subconscious beliefs we all seem to hold about working and jobs in general. They run the gamut from, “work to live” to “find your passion and turn it into a living” to “you must work until you’re 65 and then you can relax and enjoy life.”
After quitting my New Jersey-based corporate job two years ago, I hiked, explored, and saw friends every day. Oh, and moved across the country.
HANG ON. YOU’RE NOT 65. BACK TO WORK!
As the months ticked by and I failed to sign a contract committing myself to another Inc. or S-Corp, I could almost hear the wheels in people’s minds turning. What is she going to do? How much money did she save? Wow, that would make me so nervous…
Every time I felt like my inner balance was restored, my tank overflowing, I’d pull up a job search engine on my laptop. Project manager… Editor… Event planner… Work from home…
I was 37 years old. Eventually my hard-earned savings would run out. “It’s time to get serious,” I’d think. In fact, I even took a low-paying job at a nonprofit for a few weeks before pulling the plug. Just dipping a toe back into the 9-to-5 world made me feel suicidal (…I wish I was exaggerating about that).
One of my life’s central themes was playing out in a big way: Do What Everyone Else is Doing and Endlessly Spiral vs. F@$% THAT NOISE, GURRRRRRL!!!!!!!! THAT SHIZ IS CRAYYYYYY. PEACE. OUT.
Half the time, I was convinced I was stuck in an adolescent stage of development. Dramatic. Self-absorbed. Impulsive. Rebellious. Why was working for someone else SO hard? “Something’s wrong with me!” The other half of the time, I was sure I was a brave crusader. A fearless path forger. “You don’t fit into that box ’cause that box is bullshirt, friend!”
I was yet again doing the Comfort Zone Dance; the one with all the fancy footwork so you forget that nothing incredible ever actually happens there.
And as we all know, bouncing between shoulds and coulds is exhausting.
When I was just two years old, I would regularly go full-on Beyoncé, changing my clothes 4-6+ times a day. “You’d pull every outfit from the bottom drawer of your dresser,” my mom, Babs, often recounted. “It was impossible to stop you.”
A few years later, in first grade, I heard another student talk about his mom laying out his clothes for him.
WHAT?! I thought. You let someone else pick out your clothes?!
I stood on the blacktop while we waited for the bell to ring, utterly horrified. It never even occurred to me that other kids wouldn’t choose their own outfits, too. That was also the year I learned about ocean conversation and started paying attention to what I threw in the garbage. The following year, when kids ganged up on one poor soul for being “different,” I stepped in and shouted, “How would YOU like it?”
Man. I’m telling you. Seven-year-old Jules was a rockstar. And maybe a little bit of a brat.
By the time I was 17, I had gotten my GED, worked full-time, and had started taking college classes, not really sure I wanted to pursue a full degree. When I committed to a Bachelor’s in creative writing, I found a school that let me (mostly) design my own curriculum and worked my butt off.
It’s taken until just this past year to recognize -let alone embrace- that all of those breadcrumbs trickle down the same path. The path the says: You’re hardwired to go your own way. You should have never […gotten married or…] worked for anyone else.
I can’t tether myself to anyone else’s vision, expectations, or rules and expect to thrive.
It isn’t laziness. Now that I work for myself, I work harder than ever. It isn’t over-confidence. I swirl in a familiar cloud of self-doubt roughly 17,633 times a day. And it isn’t selfish. All I want to do in this life is protect other life.
And it’s okay if my rollercoaster existence makes people nervous. Uncomfortable. Confused. Threatened. Worried.
In fact, don’t tell anyone, but I’m pretty sure that’s why I’m here.
How have you found your way in the world? (Yes. We ask simple questions here at Go Jules Go.)
In my last blog post, I talked about my “mane” issue, and -not one to shy from barf-worthy wordplay- today I wanted to expand on the topic with a “weighty” issue.
In trying to free up space on my laptop last week, I discovered a video clip from January 2014.
I watched this platinum blonde bombshell in a tight red sweater dress with a mix of awe and regret. I was in love with her. This girl can have anything she wants. Is she even real?
At the time, I was 31 and my 10+ year marriage had just ended. I’d been laid off from my steady corporate job in New Jersey, was planning to move to Maine, and flirting with a Navy pilot who lived 3,000 miles away. I was also pretending I wasn’t in love with someone who didn’t love me back.
I(t) was a mess. Except not really. I felt more alive than I’d ever felt. Anything was possible. For the first time in my life, I wasn’t struggling with food. I had something far more appetizing: hope.
I wouldn’t experience that feeling again until five years later when, after many remarkable synchronicities, I quit my [next] corporate job, packed my car, and drove across the country to live in a town I’d never laid eyes on.
I also didn’t know then that, in just a few months time, Navy Pilot would erode my newfound self-esteem, followed by a series of events that would effectively seal the deal, and I’d settle back into a far more familiar place.
That is to say, carefully angled photos from the waist up.
I’ve always been chubby. I went on my first diet when I was 9 years old. By then, I would have given anything to look as cute as my best friends, The Twins, in their swimsuits. By 12, I heard loud and clear, “Boys don’t like fat girls.” By 16, I was anorexic.
When I was 33, I cold called a therapist and, trying not to cry, said, “My binge eating is out of control.” I saw her for three years.
If you made a list of all of the reasons people struggle with weight, I have 99.8% of them.
It’s still this giant mystery to me. I still feel like I haven’t cracked the code. The closest I’ve come is in realizing that I need to make friends with this so-called demon because she isn’t going anywhere. As news of the COVID vaccine circulation hit the airwaves, I actually thought to myself, “Better binge now while you still can.”
I recently watched a video clip (thanks, Flynn) about our ‘silent To Do lists.’ The bottom line: every bit of stuff we keep in our homes speaks to us. The dishes say, “Wash me.” The books say, “Read me.” And the clothes that no longer fit say, “You aren’t good enough for me.”
When we surround ourselves by things that don’t serve us -or people who don’t- we’re subjecting ourselves to silent, but very clear, messages that don’t serve us either.
I watched the girl in the 2014 red dress video and wanted to be her again. But would I really want to go back in time to that tumultuous place? Back to thinking some misogynistic creep was all I deserved? Back to going to sleep hungry every night? Sometimes it’s impossible to know which thoughts are serving us and which thoughts just bring us more anxiety.
Before we dive in: I’m so sorry about last week’s email notification debacle! (Wherein my subscribers got an email notification saying I had a new, password-protected blog post available.) You didn’t miss a post, but to make it up to you, this week I’m offering the greatest blog post I’ve ever written.*
The follicle foibles I mentioned two weeks ago have raged on, and I’ve now colored my hair as many times as I’ve moved in the last six years.
The first time I ever dyed my hair, I was in my mid-teens. I had grown up a natural blonde…
…but by the time I hit teen years, my hair color had faded into some sort of strange nothingness. It wasn’t blonde. Or brown. Or gray. Or anything. In trying to reclaim my roots (pun soooo intended), I wound up with a Chucky-esque, clown-orange hue. I eventually gave up, chopped off the offending remnants, and went au naturel.
That didn’t last long.
By 19, I was determined. I would be Jules. Jules Blonde.
Though I’ve stayed primarily blonde through my late 30s, you can rest assured I’ve tried going brunette.
“I don’t like it. It isn’t you,” my boss and mentor said, when, at 27, I decided to switch things up and come to work sporting a dark brown mane. By that point she’d known me as a blonde for five years.
Her name was Carol and I worshipped her. She had a barely tamed, reddish-gray, curly bob, wore boxy, black jumpers over patterned turtlenecks, chunky black orthopedic flats, and took no prisoners. She was a mid-level manager in a high-level pharmaceutical company, and for some reason decided that employing a creative writing major with zero corporate experience was a swell idea.
At 22 years old, I got a plastic ID badge, a 401k, and a fast lesson in office politics and Excel spreadsheets.
In those days, I didn’t know it was wrong to race into your boss’s office at 7:45am and holler, “I GOT A NEW CAR IT’S A BEETLE CONVERTIBLE COME LOOK COME LOOK!”
In those days, I didn’t know it was noteworthy to start a weekly “Cookie Day” and host potlucks in the dreary back conference room.
In those days, I didn’t know that writing ironic birthday poems, baking cheesecake, and hanging Despair.com calendars across your cubicle was endearing.
“I just have to tell you,” Carol said after a few months on the job, “I finally read what that poster said because I just couldn’t believe you’d have one of ‘those’ [motivational] calendars. I was so relieved.”
In those days, all I knew was that the people I saw every day from 9 to 5 had lost a sparkle in their eyes and I was naive enough to think I could bring it back with baked goods and bad great jokes.
After Carol’s hair comment, I didn’t stay brunette for long, and in returning to blonde, I saw that she was right. Over the years I worked with her, she made a few enemies and more than a few missteps, but she always saw me.
Not long after that, she died of cancer. It’s been over ten years and I still can’t really think of her without crying.
When someone sees you, it lives forever.
So. While I’ve enjoyed this latest pitstop [thanks to a botched bleach job] and treasure my friends’ kind words…
…I’ll be back to blonde myself soon.
Do you have a similar attachment to an aspect of your appearance?
This Friday, February 26, 2021, marks my 10 year blogiversary. It all started with a post about my puppy, Uncle Jesse.
In case you’re wondering, he’s doing well.
In 2011, after years in a beige-walled cubicle, I needed an outlet for my creative writing background. You know, something my mom could read for a chuckle. I didn’t expect that, within a year, I’d meet some of the most influential people in my life – creative, kind-hearted, hilarious humans who I’m lucky enough to call friends to this day.
Not sure what they’d call me…
This blog has seen me through divorce, dating disasters, job losses, career changes, a cross-country move, countless sweat-fests, ethical epiphanies, and more than a few woo-woo experiences. Most importantly, it documents my keen eye for talent.
I dare you to search “Darren Criss” (a.k.a. “Second Husband”) on this blog. …And noooo, I don’t find it all cringe-y that I jokingly called him “Second Husband” for two years and then ACTUALLY GOT A DIVORCE…
I originally called this blog “Go Guilty Pleasures!” and wrote light-hearted posts detailing my many (many) embarrassing obsessions. The presentation was silly, but brewing beneath the surface was my aching desire to help others feel at home in their own skin. No trolls, bullies, or bigots allowed. It wound up being fantastic training in diplomacy, improv (answering every comment with, “Yes! And…”), and memoir writing.
In fact, even after years of studying writing in college, I didn’t find my voice until starting this blog (at age 28).
A lot has changed over the years, and most of the old readership has faded away, but having this port to dock my creativity, during stormy and sunny seasons alike, has brought immeasurable joy.
But what have I REALLY gotten from having this blog? The bittersweet reminder that some things never change.
What I lack in posting consistency, I like to think I make up for in character consistency.
Based on a true story, The Dig is about a lady with lumps in her lawn. What, you want more? Okay. It’s 1939. A wealthy British widow (the lovely Carey Mulligan) hires an amateur excavator/archaeologist (played wonderfully by Ralph Fiennes) to dig up these odd, massive hills dotting her property; she suspects they could be covering up something of historic significance.
As I watched Fiennes methodically plotting his dig and carefully setting to work, I was struck by the sheer beauty of it. The tenderness, care, and focus on a future outcome rooted entirely in honoring the past.
So often now things seem rushed. Careless. Disposable. Selfish and singular. Flurries of social media posts, appliances that break before you take them out of the box, decisions made out of convenience versus the greater good. I’m as guilty as anyone of resting on my privilege, posting seven “look at my food!” Instagram stories in a row, and pressing ‘Buy Now’ on questionably-sourced products.
Why can we handle an archeological dig with such tender patience, yet treat each other and our shared future so carelessly? Furthermore, why can’t we apply the same loving consideration when we mine our own hearts and past(s)? Can you imagine the world if we approached it and ourselves with such reverence?
The cynic in me says, “We’re only careful when someone stands to make a fortune – either in money or fame or both.” But that doesn’t explain the characters in The Dig. Their motivations were based in truth-seeking and respect for the past. And, sure, a desire to be remembered for something bigger than themselves, but in this case, I’d argue it was less ego-driven and more altruistic.
As the movie played on and two more characters entered the scene – a young archeologist couple – a new question came to mind: Is it possible to find treasure without also finding sorrow and struggle?
Speaking of dirt…
It’s no epiphany, and perhaps just a sign of my aging conscience, but I watched The Dig and longed for simpler times and a purer future for us all. I love movies that make me cry. Think. Laugh. Preferably all in one film.
Hey! What’s up! How are you! Why am I using so many exclamation marks! I don’t know! There’s just something in the air!
I don’t want to keep you from your own celebrations, but if you’re looking for even more uplifting stories while you wait to pop the bubbly, I thought it’d be fun to share some of the REALLY cool stuff I’ve seen lately.
(I’ve cried enough while watching the news this month. I figured you might be feeling the same.)
If You’re Looking for #WomanPower or #Entrepreneur Inspiration…
My friend, Ericka, launched this cruelty-free beauty company right here in Bend, OR, and their waste-free, multi-use balmies landed on OPRAH’S FAVORITE THINGS LIST! I’m excited to interview Ericka in the future, but in the meantime, I can’t recommend her products enough.
If You’re Looking for a Feel-Good Movie*…
Check out “The Grizzlies” on Netflix, based on the true story of a group of Inuit high school students who live in a small Arctic town struggling with the highest suicide rate in North America. Cue: preppy, young history teacher from the city who takes the only job he can find and decides to teach them how to play lacrosse. I especially loved how they included an update on the actual students and teachers at the end of the film.
*I hesitate to post this for fear of promoting the simplification of solutions to systemic problems…but watching this movie made me want to BE AND DO BETTER, so I’m including it here**.
**I really hate having to qualify things that make me want to be a better human***.
***But unfortunately it’s important to do so because watching a movie isn’t going to help unless you take action afterwards****.
****I promise the rest of this post is free of footnotes.
If You’re Looking to Take a Trip Without Leaving the Couch
My French Chronicles just pulled together a wonderful two-minute video, “Bloggers with a View,” featuring quick clips from around the world (including Bend!). She’s got more collaborative projects in the works, so if you’re interested in participating, head over and say hi!
If You’re Looking for a Healthy Living Jump-Start Before You’re Seen in Public Again…
And whether you’re rockin’ your quarantine bod or better, why not clothe it in our new merch?
If You’re Looking for a Really Great Podcast Episode
I love Rich Roll. He’s smart, eloquent, sensitive, vegan, badass, and driven. In episode #567, he interviews Joe De Sena, founder of Spartan and a bunch of other crazy endurance events. Maybe it’s the Jersey girl in me, but I laughed out loud (along with Roll) listening to this Queens native tell his fascinating story.
If You’re Looking for…YOU
Okay I know I just insinuated that I was about to shut up, but real quick, I just want to give an insufficient, yet utterly heartfelt, thanks to YOU. If you made it to this point in my post, I’m going to assume you choose hope over all else. And even if you don’t? I love you anyway. So there.
I glanced to my right and let out an astonished chuckle. Shifting in my seat, I looked right again.
The clouds had lowered themselves in such a way that they were somehow part of the sprawling, high desert ground, the northern Nevada mountains peeking out over top. They looked solid yet ethereal. Upside down. A fairytale landscape.
I wondered how many fanciful reasons I could come up with for this sight.
Even the clouds gained weight in 2020…
A giant sky troll got mad and smooshed them down…
A GROUND troll started weight lifting and pushed them UP…
The clouds were hungover, couldn’t get out of bed, and like seriously why are mountains such show-offs anyway…
The mountains were taking a shower and didn’t want road warriors like me to see their, ah, peaks and valleys…
The mountains were getting ready for a grand performance and the clouds were their theater curtain…
Maybe it was the monotonous driving; nine hours with little more than radio static to keep me company. Or the stress of the past year. Or maybe this was just how my brain worked. Either way, a surge of energy swirled around my heart.
There was magic in this moment. Not just because the sight itself was otherworldly. But because it catapulted me into my imagination, a place where time was meaningless and the more something made me giggle, the more valid it was.
Those moments were commonplace in 2019.
When I got back home, I stared at my laptop wallpaper, where I proudly displayed my vision board. A cliché exercise, to be sure, but I’ll be damned if it didn’t produce some of that mountain magic.
In fact, over the past few years, I’ve had to update my vision board regularly because the images on it KEEP COMING TRUE. Usually not in the exact way I pictured, but that’s how the universe works. Wishes are granted through chance encounters, strangers’ smiles, and saying “yes” when all you want to do is sleep.
2020 robbed us of many things, including some of those opportunities to bump into each other, smile, and say, “Yes!” But now the cloud curtains are parting and reminding us that the mountains and magic were there all along.